This post by John Piper at Desiring God, deals with the issue of how the Christian should view the sovereignty of God - especially as it applies to evangelism & missions, history & the end times, and uncertainty or risk in general.
- It is impossible for God take ‘risks’ since He is absolutely sovereign and knows the outcome of all his activity. Instead, He makes ‘sacrifices’ that will certainly result in the ultimate good and delight of His church, in the glory of Christ.
- Any ‘risks’ we take of losing the smaller pleasures of this life (including the gift of life itself on this earth), are actually ‘sacrifices’ that we know will work for the cause of ultimate good. There is no real 'risk' for the Christian.
- Some people see whole history of the church from the First to the Second Coming of Christ, as resting ultimately and without any certainty upon the individual decisions that men make – especially that of the first disciples after Pentecost – with a real and frightening 'risk' of failure and defeat.
- This view is false to Scripture, built on false philosophical presuppositions, damaging to the mission of Christ in the world, and belittling to the glory of God. God can't and doesn't take 'risks'.
Read the post for more details :)
I know John Piper’s views on things reasonably well, so I can say I agree with everything he’s trying to say. However, I wish he had emphasised two (potentially balancing) points, which I know he believes:
- First, there is a very real sense that certain wills and decisions of man ARE NECESSARY for history to occur as it has, and also for Christ’s purposes to prevail in the future. It DOES rest upon the decisions of man, which spring from within himself (i.e. not robotically or coerced – we do it because we actually have decided to do it).
- However, if man’s decisions are necessary steps, it does NOT mean they are ultimate or foundational or self-determining steps, or that there is a possibility of them not occuring. They are merely links in the chain of God’s sovereignty – the whole chain is necessary, but there is NO possibility that it will not form.
- Following on from that, the paradox that God is sovereign and yet we are responsible can be defined more precisely as this: God can pre-determine human decisions, and yet they can still spring from within humanity without coercion and with personal volition.
- Secondly, this paradox – while being a paradox we may never understand fully – is able to be understood more and more as it is contemplated and pursued! I know this from personal experience, from the experience of others far wiser than myself, and from drawing analogies from science.
- For example, science has occasionally had to switch its whole understanding of certain aspects of the world to something completely foreign – Copernican astronomy, Newtonian physics, special and general relativity, genetics and microbiology, quantum physics, atomic chemistry, etc. People have always struggled to understand things which seem to contradict our experience or current understanding, despite the truth of these ideas. Yet those who commit themselves to understanding such models can reach a level of understanding where it actually DOES work in the mind (at least to a greater degree than before).
- I think the same can be said of the sovereignty of God and human ‘free will’. Just because it is a paradox which may not be completely understood, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue understanding of it.