To an Arminian, sovereignty is not determinism, but rather dominion. God has dominion over the whole of creation, and acts as freely in doing so.
Calvinists do not have a high view of the sovereignty of God, but a narrow view of the sovereignty of God, by insisting that sovereignty be equated with Determinism. Calvinists are enamored with Calvinism, but what if God should hold a less flattering opinion? Is God not sovereign enough to choose His own paradigm? Or do Calvinists think that their own sovereignty should trump God’s sovereignty?
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “Arminians teach that God is frustrated by the free will of his creatures. He decrees to save as many as possible, but the numbers are comparatively few. He plans and wills the salvation of all, but his goals remain unfulfilled. In fact, since God granted man free will, it is theoretically possible that no one would have even been saved.” (The Doctrines That Divide, pp.212-213, emphasis mine)
What if that was God’s choice. We could each have robot wives, but how does its value compare with actually having real relationships? There is a trade off, and perhaps God sees less value in Calvinism. If we’re going to talk about sovereignty, then actually let God be sovereign, and choose His own system.
Calvinist, Phil Johnson: “God is not going to be frustrated throughout all eternity because He was desperately trying to save some people who just could not be persuaded. If that’s your view of God, then He’s not really sovereign.” (For Whom Did Christ Die? The Nature of the Atonement, emphasis mine)
But what if, in God’s sovereignty, that’s the kind of creation that He wants? What if God feels that He gets more glory by working in the midst of free choices, rather than simply by creating Stepford Wives?
Michael Brown: “I see God’s amazing brilliance and power in bringing about what He does in the midst of free choices that people are making, where He accomplishes His will exactly the way He wants to accomplish it. What is His will? That He has a people for Himself who love His Son.” (Line of Fire, 12/4/2009, emphasis mine)
There is undeniable value in that, and if Calvinists stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it, then they should be left to their own ignorance.
But, again, if God subjugated it that way (because He wanted Free Will), then it is sovereignty in action.
- You’ve got to love that wording, ‘subjugated’, as if God didn’t arrange by His own will, for salvation to be through faith by His grace.
- Sovereignty simply means that one can do what one wants. If God wants to give mankind a free will, who am I, O man, to question His sovereignty?
So if the hamster should choose to go right or left, now you are no longer in control of it? Aren’t you watching it? God is certainly watching mankind. If you want to pick it up, you pick it up. If you want to set it down, you set it down. The hamster is still under your control, without determining its actions.
Calvinist, Peter Pike: “Granted, most Arminians will say that human will is contingent on the will of God (in which case, it is no longer ‘free’ will but ‘contingent’ will). So even Arminians who claim to have free will in reality recognize that they do not. However, what they say is that they do. Indeed, they act as though they do, for they say that God cannot violate your free will. Why can’t God violate your free will? Because He doesn’t want to violate your free will. But if you look at this carefully, you’ll realize that what it is saying is that God is sovereign, but He doesn’t want to be sovereign. Arminians claim that God loves us so much that He gives us free will. What this effectively does is take God out of the picture completely. It says that God sovereignly grants us freedom to act apart from Him. Therefore, God has granted us autonomy, in the Arminian scheme of things.” (Peter Pike and The Illogical Arminian, emphasis mine)
Actually, Arminians agree that man has a limited free will. 1st Corinthians 10:13 states: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” This clearly shows that man does not have an unlimited, unrestrained, unbounded and absolute free range of choices. God gives man a free will, to choose from within a limited range of options, clearly excluding those options which we are unable to handle. So what does this do to the Calvinist’s entire sovereignty argument? Also notice that God provides a “way of escape.” Does this mean that because God increases our range of options, He forfeits sovereignty?
Using Peter Pike’s hamster analogy...
On Judgment Day, no one will be sneaking away. The Bible says: “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) This means that God is sovereign because He gets the last word. He is still in control. Philippians 2:8-11 states: “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The Calvinist’s insistence upon Determinism, as the only way to mitigate against the loss of sovereignty, is further shown to be absurd in the following illustration from The Society of Evangelical Arminians:
A king and slave can still have a relationship because the king does not determine every thought and action of the slave. But if you were to imagine a king who did do so, then that would not be a real relationship. Imagine the king having a little gadget that enabled him to implant every thought the slave had. And imagine that the slave was only allowed to say to the king only what the king told him to say. So imagine...
King: Hello Percy, how are you today?
Then, the king inputs these words into the slave’s brain and will:
Slave: Good sir. How are you today? I must say you look rather magnificent.
King: Well thank you Percy. You are a very discerning slave. What do you think is most magnificent about me?
Then the king types in these words that the slave automatically thinks and respond with as a result.
Slave: Well sir, that’s hard to say. There’s so much. But if I have to pick one thing, oh I guess I would say it’s your amazing intellect. I mean, I could go on and on about your incredible wisdom.
King: That’s enough Percy. My fingers are getting tired from typing. Perhaps later I will implant in you pleasure at recounting that which I consider my own great wisdom when I am feeling up to thinking it all up and typing it all out for processing into your brain and emotions. Go clean the castle now.
Then the king types in these words:
Slave: Yes, sir. It will be my pleasure sir. I will love cleaning the castle and I will love recounting your great wisdom whenever you bring it to pass. You’re great!
Determinism robs God of genuine relationships and genuine praise. It would mean that God is just going through the motions. That’s the kind of sovereignty that Calvinism would leave God with.
Calvinist, Peter Pike: “Herein lies the problem. In Arminianism, the sinner decides whether or not to believe. As such, God is out of the picture. By definition God is thereby not sovereign over salvation.” (Peter Pike and The Illogical Arminian, emphasis mine)
How is God “out of the picture” when He is the One who initiates the choice through Prevenient Grace? We can argue about whether Prevenient Grace is resistible or irresistible, but there is mutual agreement on the whether there is most definitely a preceding grace of God. According to Scripture, Jesus is said to seek, draw and knock, while the Holy Spirit kicks, pricks, convicts and opens unregenerate hearts to receive Him. So how does that translate into God being “out of the picture”? In this context, God is right in the center of it. But the Calvinist argument is that if God doesn’t go so far as to actually make the decision on behalf of the person, then He is not “sovereign” in it. So as you can see, Calvinists simply equate sovereignty with the essential components of Calvinism, and then insist, “you reject God’s sovereignty,” when what they actually mean is that “you reject Calvinism.” Yes, we reject Calvinism, but we still do believe in an aspect of divine sovereignty, though not from the rigid, deterministic, Calvinistic sense. We believe in a different kind of sovereignty, one in which God prompts the divine appointment, and gets the final word.
Question: Does God have the “sovereign” authority to choose whether or not to providentially govern His creation using either the Calvinist or Arminian approach?
Answer: If the answer is yes, then for God to hypothetically choose the Arminian paradigm over the Calvinism paradigm, is not a forfeiture of sovereignty, but an expression of it, and that’s what Calvinists don’t seem to realize.
Question: Does Calvinism’s teaching on divine “sovereignty” honor God?
Answer: Satan wants to be in control of everything, and every man, because he desires to have a sovereignty that is greater than God’s sovereignty. God on the other hand, allows man to choose between good and evil, as He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan being the control freak that he is, would deny man the right to have a free will. Satan would want to always force man to do his will by forcing man to always do what is evil, where God does not force man to do good or evil. Calvinism would have us think that God is like Satan, by teaching that God does not want man to have a free will, just as Satan does not want man to have a free will. Satan would never say, “Come now, let us reason together,” as God beckons.
Question: Does Calvinism’s teaching on divine “sovereignty” benefit God?
Answer: Calvinism offers God nothing more significant than play time with robots, whereas Arminianism is a more grown-up paradigm, in which God can deal with real, genuine, independent relationships, by means of Free Will. Calvinism could offer God no such thing, and is mere vanity.
Question: If Calvinism amounts to a worship of raw naked power, completely irrespective of character, then how do Calvinists deal with the fact that Jesus shunned power?
Answer: Those who worship power have to bypass worshiping Jesus because He gave up all of that to become a man to die for us. The devil is the one who puts power above everything else, not God. The devil offered Jesus all the power and glory of the kingdoms of the world, but Jesus wasn’t interested. That means that God is so secure in His power that He can relinquish some of it for His generous love.