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If God is Sovereign, How Can Man Be Free? - RC Sproul

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  • If God is Sovereign, How Can Man Be Free? - RC Sproul

    This teaching really blessed me.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iokVMSaLhvU

  • #2
    Thanks Barry. This is the best message I have ever heard from Sproul. I had heard some in his earlier walk that I did not agree with.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Baruch View Post
      This teaching really blessed me.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iokVMSaLhvU
      If God is Sovereign, How Can Man Be Free?

      Failing for the opposing parties to define the nature of divine sovereignty leads to endless differences about all sorts of other doctrines.
      For the Calvinist/Reformed theology, divine sovereignty means the YHWH MUST control everything if He is sovereign. On the other hand, for those seeing some role for free will, divine sovereignty means YHWH has the power to control everything but may not choose to do so.

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      • #4
        I would suggest that God has both sovereign an well as permissive will.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Fisherman View Post
          I would suggest that God has both sovereign an well as permissive will.
          Hi Fisherman, It is so good to see you post. Thanks for the comment, and it is hard to argue against what you said.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Fisherman View Post
            I would suggest that God has both sovereign an well as permissive will.
            I agree with Lou, it is good to see you post, brother. :) I hope you are well.

            I used to think the same about will in general. There are many good lectures on the different Greek words translated as "will" and the nuances they convey. God formed Greece and Rome as the cultures in which He would reveal His Son to us. This is a mighty thing to ponder. We can assume the language was made for God to precisely express Himself to men. Yet many saw and did not believe. However, even today we have this wonderful legacy to study in all its fine detail.

            Sproul relates here that man has a will, but it is captive, not free: without grace we will always choose evil. Man is born of flesh, not knowing God; he serves his flesh, and his own desires. And we're told the flesh is at enmity with God.

            Another preacher said (paraphrasing), "Man has a will: he has a will to go to hell."

            All men are condemned already who do not believe in the Son of God. The Father's will is to give a people to be wed to the Son, and of those the Son will lose none. It is a marvel that God wills to save any of us.

            Once I began pondering these things it revealed to me that I had a dangerously high opinion of myself. I gather this rankles very many people, just as it did me.

            The upshot of what Sproul says is that God is sovereign: whatever comes to pass is His will. God is so mighty and wise that what man means for evil God means it for good. The greatest evil in all of history was the murder of the Lamb of God. Out of that came the greatest good. Bless the Lord.

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            • #7
              A. Pink holds to reformed (Calvinism) theology.

              “Nothing in all the vast universe can come to pass otherwise than God has eternally purposed. Here is a foundation of faith. Here is a resting place for the intellect. Here is an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast. It is not blind fate, unbridled evil, man or Devil, but the Lord Almighty who is ruling the world, ruling it according to His own good pleasure and for His own eternal glory.”
              Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God

              G. A. Boyd has these comments about the problem of evil which is applicable to the reformed doctrine of divine sovereignty.

              Sovereignty and evil

              “The core problem seems to lie in the classical-philosophical equation of power with control, and thus omnipotence with omnicontrol, an equation that forces the problem of evil to be seen as a problem of God's sovereignty. If it is accepted that God is all-loving and all-powerful, and if maximum power is defined as maximum control, then by definition there seems to be no place for evil. If goodness controls all things, all things must me good.”
              Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: The Bible Spiritual Conflict

              “If we further consider this divine panoramic view within which all evil is supposedly a "secret good" is held by a God who, according to Scripture, has a passionate hatred toward all evil, the "solution" becomes more problematic still. For it is certainly not clear how God could hate what he himself wills and sees as a contributing ingredient in the good of the whole. If all things play themselves out according to a divine plan, how can God genuinely hate anything?”
              Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: The Bible Spiritual Conflict

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              • #8
                As experiential creatures how would we know what God hates if there were no such thing in our experience?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Baruch View Post
                  As experiential creatures how would we know what God hates if there were no such thing in our experience?
                  Good question Barry. Also Boyd says:

                  if maximum power is defined as maximum control, then by definition there seems to be no place for evil. If goodness controls all things, all things must me good.”
                  While evil men might defined maximum power as maximum control, God is far above our understanding. This is why very few could see that Jesus was God. For Jesus was meek and not all controlling.

                  Most did not believe that Jesus was God because He did not apply maximum control, so they did not believe He had maximum power. But Jesus created everything that exists and nothing exists that He did not create.

                  I would think a better definition of maximum power would be to create everything that exists.

                  This is why God tells us in His opening statement; In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

                  That should prove to any thinking person that God is all powerful and is in control even though He may decide to be meek in many circumstances.

                  Edit: where do you take your Ford if no one seems able to repair a problem - you take it to Ford, the manufacturer. No one knows more about Fords than the creator of the Ford. Being The Creator of everything that exists proves that Jesus is above all and is all powerful and has all knowledge and power.

                  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Later we are told - 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

                  This proves that Jesus and God of Genesis 1 are the very same person and He is all powerful and all knowing.
                  Last edited by Lou Newton; October 23, 2017, 09:39 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Those are some good points, Lou.

                    I've recently been reading some of the arguments of atheists. When I ponder why there is evil and other difficult questions, I find myself pondering a happening that isn't revealed to us in much detail, the fall of Lucifer. I see in mankind the echoes or shadows of Lucifer's fall. The arguments and railing of men against God, or the notion of God, or the excellence or identity of God are, I imagine, very much like the arguments of the fallen cherub. Questioning the Most High's sovereignty, His designs and decisions and motives, and His loves and hatreds.

                    One person, in his vanity, had said when I gave glory to God for one of His beautiful works of nature, "I would have done better".

                    God does not owe us existence. He created us, and He still doesn't owe us anything, not life, not light, or fairness. But it pleases Him and is His nature to care and provide for us, and the wise give Him thanks.

                    God does not have to prove that He is unimaginably far above us. If we're honest and humble the immeasurably huge degree of separation is obvious to us. God did not owe Lucifer another moment of existence once he had broken the law. Instead, God chose to put the lawless one's folly on full display, and in contrast with God's own glorious perfections.

                    And yet God made Lucifer, knowing the betrayal would come, just as God made man knowing the betrayal would come. Did He not choose in His sovereign power to allow it to happen? How vast is God's plan to fully express just how holy He is? And to demonstrate His mastery over His creations, even those who rebel, and even those who are thoroughly corrupted by the Evil One. God does what He pleases, and none can stay His hand. Even the weakness of God is mightier than all.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Baruch View Post
                      Those are some good points, Lou.

                      I've recently been reading some of the arguments of atheists. When I ponder why there is evil and other difficult questions, I find myself pondering a happening that isn't revealed to us in much detail, the fall of Lucifer. I see in mankind the echoes or shadows of Lucifer's fall. The arguments and railing of men against God, or the notion of God, or the excellence or identity of God are, I imagine, very much like the arguments of the fallen cherub. Questioning the Most High's sovereignty, His designs and decisions and motives, and His loves and hatreds.

                      One person, in his vanity, had said when I gave glory to God for one of His beautiful works of nature, "I would have done better".

                      God does not owe us existence. He created us, and He still doesn't owe us anything, not life, not light, or fairness. But it pleases Him and is His nature to care and provide for us, and the wise give Him thanks.

                      God does not have to prove that He is unimaginably far above us. If we're honest and humble the immeasurably huge degree of separation is obvious to us. God did not owe Lucifer another moment of existence once he had broken the law. Instead, God chose to put the lawless one's folly on full display, and in contrast with God's own glorious perfections.

                      And yet God made Lucifer, knowing the betrayal would come, just as God made man knowing the betrayal would come. Did He not choose in His sovereign power to allow it to happen? How vast is God's plan to fully express just how holy He is? And to demonstrate His mastery over His creations, even those who rebel, and even those who are thoroughly corrupted by the Evil One. God does what He pleases, and none can stay His hand. Even the weakness of God is mightier than all.
                      Amen Barry.

                      God tells us in Ephesians that He planned it this way before He created the world:

                      Ephesians 1

                      4 Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before him covered with his love. 5His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!

                      So before God created man, He not only knew that man would rebel, but He planned for that rebellion and decided then to be born of a woman and shed His blood for our sin.

                      WHY did He do it this way. Because He wanted to do it this way. So we would all know that He loves us.

                      We can see God's plan in the garden. God put a tree of life in the garden which man did not choose to eat from. BUT God also put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden too.

                      Man was given a CHOICE, BUT God knew what Eve and then Adam would choose. And He had a plan to redeem them along with us.

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                      • #12
                        How can man be free if God is sovereign?
                        Baruch and Lou have plowed this issue as concerning sovereignty.
                        Another issue is humanity.
                        Human reason asks questions about unrevealed spiritual things.
                        Humans are curious.

                        Unrevealed things include two categories.

                        First, things we may know through observation and discovery.
                        There is not a need for these things to be revealed by God.

                        Second, spiritual things that cannot be know through observation and discovery and God has not revealed.

                        What is meant by divine revelation?
                        Divine revelation composes those spiritual things that may only be known by the act of God revealing them to humanity. Human reason, observation, or discovery cannot discover these spiritual things but only speculate about them.

                        Human curiosity uses reason to attempt to know the second category of unrevealed things - spiritual things God has not revealed. It is this category of unrevealed spiritual things over which there is much contention between those holding the various theologies of Christianity. Specifically included are the doctrines of Reformed Theology and Armenian Theology or as this post puts it, “How can man be free if God is sovereign?”

                        There are other such divisive issues, but this one is sufficient to serve my proposal.

                        Has God revealed everything He knows that can only be known to humans through divine revelation?
                        Of course not!
                        Has God revealed everything essential for His purpose in His plan to redeem humans?
                        Of course!

                        Then what should be concluded about what God has not revealed?

                        Just because humans are curious is it appropriate to speculate about spiritual things which have not been divinely revealed even if the arguments humans make are very rational?

                        Might it be that those spiritual things that have not been divinely revealed were intentionally not revealed by God?

                        For what purpose might God intentionally not reveal spiritual truth?

                        Could this divine purpose include trust, faith, obedience, humility, brotherly love and unity?

                        Just thinking.
                        Last edited by glen smith; October 28, 2017, 01:25 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks for a thought provoking comment, Glen.

                          You seem to place God's sovereignty over His creation as something that God hasn't revealed; maybe I just read into it. This is revealed throughout the Bible. Of course, when we consider it, it opens theological cans of worms such as what is God's will in the context of all He made, and sin and the problem of evil, and the typical objections of Romans 9. Just because a doctrine creates tension doesn't mean it should be avoided. We may abide in unresolved tension, and indeed we do, and its healthy outworking is patience and a transcendent trust in God as Most High, in whose hands are all things.

                          We, in order to understand the interplay of the will of man and of God, tend towards deconstruction. This may be a product of our worldview. We may preach the Gospel as: if you hear His voice harden not your heart, but repent and believe: or you cannot come unless the Father draws you, therefore now come. But in John 3 Jesus doesn't do this. He effortlessly handles the interplay of the natural and spirit with a fluid ease that conveys an inseparable intricacy: the will of God and the will of man. There we get a symphonic picture of God's sovereignty, God's efficacious working, the miracle of rebirth whereby a new spirit is quickened by the Spirit, creating a newborn with a different will to bond with and please his Father.

                          This topic is very important and worthy of the struggle. When man's will is given inordinate value, then there is a tendency towards harmful things such as lawlessness and will worship on one end, and performance Christianity and works salvation on the other. We are called to holiness and govern our affairs in accordance with the Holy Spirit, not follow our own will: and yet many churches practice this abomination. And we do not add one thing to our salvation. If we perceive that we must, then we are in perpetual torment; many brethren suffer such torment unnecessarily. One of the worst demonstrations of works salvation is Rome, whom I cannot call brethren en mass, against whom we Protest to this day, and from whose fruitless toils we have turned and Reformed, and are ever reforming.
                          Last edited by Baruch; October 29, 2017, 03:09 AM.

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                          • #14
                            Baruch, I suppose the excellent comments you provide are intended to demonstrate that there is recorded revelation in the Bible to resolve the issue between the doctrines used to illustrate my proposal, Reformed Theology and Armenian Theology. The problem with choosing any example is that there are those in Christianity who divide over the issue or believe the biblical record supports one side over the other.
                            My desire was not to make a case for one or the other or even if the Bible taught something other than those positions.

                            Baruch, you wrote, “You seem to place God's sovereignty over His creation as something that God hasn't revealed;”
                            Well, that was not my intent. It difficult to see what one did not intend that is clearly visible to others.

                            Let me say (1) what I believe about divine sovereignty and (2) what I believe about divine sovereignty regarding divine revelation.

                            (1) It seems to me the Bible reveals God is sovereign over all - of eternity, the spiritual world, and creation. Sovereignty is a characteristic

                            of God just as is His eternal existence, omnibenevolence, omnificence, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. There are some who

                            add omnicontrol to this list which is the Hyper-Calvinism view. Sovereignty over creation is discussed under the category of divine

                            providence. (2) To put what I tried to propose using the idea of divine sovereignty it might be said the sovereignty of God means He does not emanate revelation as a necessary characteristics but as a decision made of divine will. Revealing Himself stems from his personality. In other words, God may or may not reveal and determines what He will reveal, but it is His desire to reveal Himself.

                            My proposal was to make the point that not everything has been revealed and those trusting in God should accept revelation is partial and not speculate on what can only be known if and when God reveals it. The problem of evil is of greatest concern followed by “If God is Sovereign, How Can Man Be Free?”

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by glen smith View Post
                              Baruch, I suppose the excellent comments you provide are intended to demonstrate that there is recorded revelation in the Bible to resolve the issue between the doctrines used to illustrate my proposal, Reformed Theology and Armenian Theology. The problem with choosing any example is that there are those in Christianity who divide over the issue or believe the biblical record supports one side over the other.
                              My desire was not to make a case for one or the other or even if the Bible taught something other than those positions.

                              Baruch, you wrote, “You seem to place God's sovereignty over His creation as something that God hasn't revealed;”
                              Well, that was not my intent. It difficult to see what one did not intend that is clearly visible to others.

                              Let me say (1) what I believe about divine sovereignty and (2) what I believe about divine sovereignty regarding divine revelation.

                              (1) It seems to me the Bible reveals God is sovereign over all - of eternity, the spiritual world, and creation. Sovereignty is a characteristic

                              of God just as is His eternal existence, omnibenevolence, omnificence, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. There are some who

                              add omnicontrol to this list which is the Hyper-Calvinism view. Sovereignty over creation is discussed under the category of divine

                              providence. (2) To put what I tried to propose using the idea of divine sovereignty it might be said the sovereignty of God means He does not emanate revelation as a necessary characteristics but as a decision made of divine will. Revealing Himself stems from his personality. In other words, God may or may not reveal and determines what He will reveal, but it is His desire to reveal Himself.

                              My proposal was to make the point that not everything has been revealed and those trusting in God should accept revelation is partial and not speculate on what can only be known if and when God reveals it. The problem of evil is of greatest concern followed by “If God is Sovereign, How Can Man Be Free?”
                              Thanks for sharing, Glen. Sorry for my sloppy writing. I realize I posted the question, and then made some quick turns that were hard to follow.

                              I meant to say that God reveals that He is sovereign throughout scripture. Maybe there is no flat dispute among Christians which says God is not sovereign. But there is dispute about what a sovereign God means with regards to His creatures. I don't think division is necessarily a bad thing, as long as the Gospel is biblically taught, disciples are made, the flock tended, etc.

                              And I also meant to say that we might not master such a difficult topic, and we should be accepting of any tension resulting from the things we can't solve because, as you rightly put, God does not reveal everything to us. Some things He reserves to Himself, and it can be dangerous to go snooping into God's secrets.

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