Worldview Basics Pt.4: The Sovereignty of God
Anselm, the famous archbishop of Canterbury, once stated this truth,
Thus, even should a human being or a bad angel not wish to be subject to the divine will or governance, he cannot flee from it, because, if he wishes to escape from a will that issues orders, he runs beneath a will that inflicts punishment; and if you ask by what route he passes from one to the other, it is nowhere other than beneath a will that gives permission; and the supreme Wisdom changes his wrong desire or action into the order and beauty of the universal scheme of things to which I have been referring.
Since stumbling upon this fascinating quote during my reading of Anselm, I have been haunted by the truth that he so wonderfully conveys—the fact that the God of Scripture is all-encompassing in His sovereignty. Thus, we come to the third of the four most important aspects of creating and maintain a Christian worldview; namely, that of God’s sovereignty.
Wayne Grudem defines the doctrine of God’s sovereignty (or providence) in the following way,
God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.
It quickly becomes apparent why this doctrine historically has been at the vanguard of popular debate within the Christian church; there is much to consider with great implications! If indeed we stomach Grudem’s definition of God’s providence, what can we say this doctrine means for things such as: God’s relationship to evil, God’s relationship to human freedom, and other considerably tough questions like these? Rather than conducting a full-fledged treatise on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty— for many better equipped and definitely more intelligent than I have already done this—allow me to offer a list of several considerations in which the doctrine of God’s complete providence is biblical.
- For starters, the principle seems to adhere most closely with Scriptural testimony. Paul states, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11 ESV—emphasis mine). While this perhaps may not be definitive proof, it seems to me to be a logical place to being our inquiry.
- Scripture seems to indicate that God brings about, and is in control of, all natural events (Psalms 65:9-11; 135:5-7). In fact, Scripture even speaks about God’s relationship to seeming random happenings (Prov. 16:33). He even controls what the minute details of nature (Matt.10:29-30).
- God also governs human history (2 Kgs. 19:20-28; Isa. 10:5-12, 14:24-27; Acts 17:26).
- Perhaps alarming to many, God brings about human free decisions, even sinful ones (Gen. 45:5-8, Judg. 14:4, 2 Sam. 24, Isa. 44:28, Luke 22:22, Acts 2:23-24, Rev. 17:17). Though this, I desperately believe, is true, it doesn’t have to be intimidating. We may rest easy in the truth that an all-powerful God controls the ongoing of human history. In fact I think there are good ways to reconcile this belief, but that will be the topic of a future post (no time here).
- God is also the source of human faith (John 6:37, 44, 65, Eph. 2:4-10, 2 Tim. 1:9, Acts 13:48, 16:14-15, 18:27) and repentance (Zech. 12:10, Acts 5:31, 11:18).
- We also see that God works out all things for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). This means then that the providence of God offers a radical solution to the problem of evil. God works out the evil in this world for a greater good; first, for His own glory, but then also our good. Perhaps this principle is ultimately displayed in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:23-24).
- Moreover, the doctrine of God’s sovereignty saves us form falling into heretical dogmas such as deism and/or pantheism. The fact that God is sovereign means that he is not distant or unknowable as deism suggests. Nor does it allow us to fall into pantheism. Due to the fact that God is governing creation means that He is distinct from it. Otherwise it would not do any good to speak of any sort of god, for we wouldn’t be able to recognize Him, or it, or whatever because He would be indistinguishable from creation.
- Finally, the doctrine of God’s sovereignty also gives insight to important epistemological considerations which has immense apologetic value. Frame concludes, “This divine rulership is important to apologetics, because it destroys the unbeliever’s pretense of autonomy. If God creates and governs all things, then he interprets all things.” If as human beings we want to know anything truly, we must seek to think God’s thoughts after Him since He is the Creator and Sustainer of creation; He is the one from which all knowledge springs. This does not mean that unbelievers do not know anything or that they cannot utter true sentences, but it does mean that there is a fundamental flaw in their interpretation of the universe. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty destroys the autonomous foundation that unbelievers possess. On autonomous human reasoning, one does not have a foundation for things such as morals, they ultimate make themselves the standard.
Again, while this post will is not meant to be an extensive study on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, I believe it is a good place to begin thinking about it—there is no doubt much more than can, and perhaps should, be said. However, we must remember that the sovereignty of God is tremendously important to building and maintaining Christian worldview for the mere fact that God’s control of creation is extensive—it is the underlying answer to all that we experience.
“Does The Bible Affirm Open Theism?,” Frame and Poythress, , http://www.frame-poythress.org/does-the-bible-affirm-open-theism/.
Anselm. Anselm of Canterbury The Major Works. Edited by Brian Davies and G.r. Evans. , Cur Deus Homo?. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Frame, John. Apologetics to the Glory of God. Phillipsburg: P&r Publishing, 1994.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
 Anselm, Anselm of Canterbury The Major Works, ed. Brian Davies and G.r. Evans, , Cur Deus Homo?, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 289.
 John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God (Phillipsburg: P&r Publishing, 1994). 34
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 315.
 I am mostly indebted to this article by John Frame for my information in numbers 1-6 on my list. Though a basic article, it is a good introduction to the problems of Open Theism and applies directly to our discussion here. “Does The Bible Affirm Open Theism?,” Frame and Poythress, , http://www.frame-poythress.org/does-the-bible-affirm-open-theism/.
 Grudem, 315.
 Frame, AGG. 46.