Almost all believers agree with the sovereignty of God. Where we disagree is over the extent of God’s sovereignty. It ranges from the Open Theists, who argue that there are a whole host of things God doesn’t even know, right the way through to Hyper-Calvinistic determinists – who believe that God is the author of sin and actively predestines folk to Hell.
Many Calvinistic, Reformed theologians believe in double predestination and God’s sovereignty even over sin. However, unlike the Hyper-Calvinists, they believe in an asymmetrical relationship between God’s causative will to good and evil. God’s election and regeneration of believers is a result of direct, active causation. That is, God actively and directly intervenes in the world to bring about good and to save a people for himself. By contrast, God’s predestination of others to reprobation and his sovereignty over sin is a result of passive, indirect causation.
As a result of our sinful nature, and the reality of sin in the world, it requires God’s direct intervention in grace to bring about good. All that is required for God to permit sin – without being the author of it – is to remove his gracious guiding hand. As a result of the fall, we naturally err towards sin and thus God simply needs to allow us to follow our deepest desire at any given moment. It requires God’s active intervention to stop that from happening and to lead us into that which is right.
Even God’s indirect, permissive causative will stems from a decision that God takes not to intervene. That is, he decides not to stop something from coming to pass even though he could stop it. In this way God is utterly sovereign over all things in the world without being the author of sin. He is in control without directly being its cause.
Now some have a problem with this view of God’s utter sovereignty. However, there are several reasons to defend it.
If God is not utterly sovereign, his promises may be derailed
One reason to defend this view of God’s utter sovereignty is that if we do not, there is no guarantee that any of God’s promises may come to pass. RC Sproul has argued that if even one single atom is outside of God’s control we cannot guarantee that it would not be the cause of a chain of events that would lead to the complete derailing of God’s plan. The entire course of history has been changed by tiny, seemingly insignificant events. The decision of one moment can have huge ramifications. If God is not sovereign over every square inch of the universe, every atom and every thought or decision throughout the course of human history, we can have no confidence that any of God’s promises will come to pass.
If God is not utterly sovereign, there is no point in praying
If there are areas over which God is not utterly sovereign, our prayers are nothing but a waste of time. There are things we may pray for, or about, over which God has absolutely no power to effect change. A major problem for Synergists and those who reject God’s sovereignty in salvation, is why they should bother praying for anybody’s salvation? If God doesn’t cause anybody to be saved, if they are sovereign over their own choice to be saved, what point is there in praying that God would save them? He can’t. Only they can decide to follow him and it is a matter over which God has no control whatsoever. But this issue presses to any area over which we deem God not to be sovereign. If he isn’t sovereign over sin, for example, we cannot pray to him to stop evil because it is entirely out of his hands. Any area we consider ourselves entirely free is just another area that we cannot pray about because God has no ability to alter it.
If God is not utterly sovereign, our own salvation is in serious doubt
If we have free will to choose God or otherwise, what is to stop us waking up one day and deciding not to follow him? We all know how prone to sin we remain until glory, if we can sin with such frequency even now, what is to stop us sinning by entirely turning our back of God? If God isn’t utterly sovereign, even in salvation, we have no guarantee that we will be saved. The Biblical promise about confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart and you will be saved is immediately undercut because we can simply stop believing. God’s promise of salvation only holds because it depends on his unchanging character and his election of his people. If it depends in any way on us, we would certainly lose it. If you struggle to believe this, read the Old Testament and see what happened throughout the history of Israel over and over again.
If God is not utterly sovereign, Jesus’ death on the cross was nothing more than a coincidence
If we believe God is not sovereign over sin, or salvation, how do we account for the crucifixion? This was God’s plan of salvation and was a gross act of sin on the part of the people committing it. We know so because that is precisely what Peter calls it in Acts 2 when he tells his audience to repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of sin – specifically their sin of crucifying the messiah.
But if God is not utterly sovereign, how did that plan come to pass? He has no control over the sinful decisions of people, including those who crucified Jesus. So how could this be his plan whilst he simultaneously has no control over how Jesus would even get to the cross? That Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sin as God planned was just a complete coincidence as God had no control over the decision-making of those who sinfully crucified him. God’s plan came to pass entirely by accident. This brings into question how far this could even be called a plan at all and, similarly, how God could forgive sin in Christ when it is just what happened according to the free will of those who crucified him?