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28 July, 2007 / theexpositor

Is God God…or not?

“Though I am not enamored with the use of paradox in theological discourse, I will not shrink from stating one now. Though there is much in the Reformed doctrine of God that differs significantly from the doctrine confessed by other Christian communions, the most distinctive aspect of Reformed theology is its doctrine of God. How can this statement be true? Though the Reformed doctrine of God is not all that different from that of other confessional bodies, the way this doctrine functions in Reformed theology is unique. Reformed theology applies the doctrine of God relentlessly to all other doctrines, making it the chief controlling factor in all theology.

For example, I have never met a confessing Christian unwilling to affirm that God is sovereign. Sovereignty is a divine attribute confessed almost universally in historic Christianity. When we press the doctrine of divine sovereignty into other realms of theology, however, it is often weakened or destroyed altogether. I have often heard it said, “God’s sovereignty is limited by human freedom.” In this statement God’s sovereignty is not absolute. It is bounded by a limit and that limit is human freedom.

Reformed theology indeed insists that a real measure of freedom has been assigned to man by the Creator. But that freedom is not absolute and man is not autonomous. Our freedom is always and everywhere limited by God’s sovereignty. God is free and we are free. But God is more free than we are. When our freedom bumps up against God’s sovereignty, our freedom must yield. To say that God’s sovereingty is limited by man’s freedom is to make man soverign. To be sure, the statement that God’s sovereignty is limited by human freedom may simply express the idea that God does not in fact violate human freedom. But that of course is a different matter. If God never violates human freedom, it is not because of any limit on His soverignty. It is because he sovereignly decrees not to. He has the authority and power to do it if He wants to. Any limit here is a limit imposed on God by us, but a limit God sovereingly imposes on Himself.

In Reformed theology, if God is not sovereign over the entire created order, then He is not soverign at all. The term sovereignty too easily becomes a chimera. If God is not sovereign, then He is Not God. It belongs to God as God to be sovereign. How we understand His sovereignty has radical implications for our understanding of the doctrines of providence, election, justification and a host of others. The same could be said regarding other attributes of God such as holiness, omniscience, and immutability, to name a few.”

R.C. Sproul from What is Reformed Theology, pages 26, 27

Daniel 4: 

34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,    for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
   and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;

35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
   and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
   and among the inhabitants of the earth;
    and none can stay his hand
   or say to him, “What have you done?”




  1. totaltransformation / Jul 29 2007 3 14

    Interesting post. It will take some time to digest.

  2. Scott Reiber / Jul 31 2007 23 06

    Dear Totaltransformation,

    Dr. R. C. Sproul, writes in the above article: “If God is not sovereign, then He is Not God. It belongs to God as God to be sovereign.”

    As you very appropriately comment “It will take some time to digest.” Please allow me to encourage you to look into the Scriptures concerning these things. Up front – I most certainly agree with Dr. Sproul as quoted above. Of course more important than any mere man’s agreement or disagreement is the reality that this is how God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. To give just one small example….
    Part of the great polemic against all idols, all false gods, which is brought by the Spirit through the prophet Isaiah is to this very point. In Isaiah 41:22f, God’s challenge to all false gods is precisely to the point of the issue of sovereignty: “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together. Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.” Do you see the challenge? Let these idols of men’s imaginations set forth their decrees, tell us the counsel of their will, their plan about what they will bring to pass. At least that is the challenge! These idols are challenged to declare —To announce events and their outcome. Or if they can decree nothing then let them do something either good or evil. But here we see that this matter of accomplishing one’s purposes in history is what separates the true and living God from idols, from all false gods.
    After this scalding polemic against idols, the Lord in Isaiah 42, proclaims His purposes and the coming of the Messiah. What a contrast! Verses 8,9, “I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Again in Isaiah 43:13, “Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?” The Lord God goes on to declare in Isaiah 44:6-8, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the Lord of hosts; I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people, and the things that are coming and shall come, let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.” This is a statement of ultimate and supreme Sovereignty ‘I have done these things and brought My will to pass and there is no one else, no god, who can do this!’ Then comes the very tongue-in-cheek statement about idolatry followed by another statement of sovereign purpose from God in verses 24-28. Or again in Isa. 45:20.
    Isaiah 46, takes up a similar theme of the burdening gods (v. 1,2) versus the burden bearing God (v.3,4); the man-made gods are burdens without saving sovereign power (v.5-7) versus the sovereign saving true God (v.8-13). Consider Isaiah 46:9f, “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.”
    This is our hope and security in the God who is God; The God who is sovereign, whose purposes are unalterable and who shall surely do all the good pleasure of His will. He is the God who is God.
    May the Spirit of Christ guide you into all truth as you study His Word.
    In the service of Christ the King,
    Scott Reiber

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