Calvinism and the Sovereignty of God
Lat week I talked about John Calvin, and how his religious beliefs (his theology) was centered on the fact that God is completely sovereign. And I talked about how God IS indeed, completely sovereign. God has all power, and God has all authority, and is ABLE to decree absolutely anything that He chooses. And what I also mentioned is that God has already decreed, everything that He is going to decree. What God has decreed, stands fast, and what he has chosen to be, shall be, and His word shall not change! And I also stated that I would show you how Calvin’s perception of God’s sovereignty, cause him to believe and to teach, false doctrines, that are totally against the word of God.
And so to begin this evening, let me read to you from an article on Calvinism, and the Sovereignty of God.
One truth distinguishes what is known as the Reformed faith, or Calvinism. That truth is the sovereignty of God.
Many people suppose that the heart of Calvinism is its teaching of predestination. When they hear of Calvinism or that someone is a Calvinist, they immediately think of election and reprobation.
Now certainly, it is true that the doctrine of predestination has an important place in the teaching of Calvinism, as it did in the teaching of John Calvin himself. Nevertheless, predestination is not the central truth of the Reformed faith. The heart of Calvinism is not the doctrine of predestination, or, for that matter, any one of the other Five Points of Calvinism. The central truth proclaimed by Calvinism, Calvinism that is faithful to its heritage, is the absolute sovereignty of God. Calvin saw the essential place that the confession of the sovereignty of God has in relation to the whole body of biblical truth: “Unless we fully believe this (i.e., God’s sovereignty) the very beginning of our faith is periled, by which we profess to believe in God Almighty” (Calvin’s Calvinism, “The Eternal Predestination of God,” p. 43).
The distinguishing feature of the Reformed faith is unquestionably its conception of God. What we believe about God matters most. Everything else that we believe stands connected to and is affected by what we believe about God. The most important question that any man faces is the question “Who is God?” It is true, as Calvin writes in the opening paragraph of his Institutes, that all “… true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God, and of ourselves” (I, 1, 1) But as he goes on to say; “… it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself, unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating Him (God) to scrutinize himself” (I, 1, 2) Not only is the knowledge of God of great importance, it is also the chief end of man. The opening question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” But man cannot glorify God or enjoy Him, if man does not know God. Man’s chief end and calling, therefore, is to know God.
Not only is the knowledge of God man’s highest calling, it is also his greatest good. Jesus teaches that, in John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Salvation itself consists in knowing God. Those who have eternal life possess a “right”, and saving knowledge, of God.
The God Whom we must know, is a sovereign God. Knowledge of God begins with the affirmation of faith, that God is, and that God is sovereign. Since God is, He is sovereign. If He is God, He must also be a sovereign God. If God is not sovereign, the inescapable implication is that He is not God.
This is the great issue that divides true religion and false religion! This is the great issue that separates the true church of Jesus Christ in the world, from the false and apostate church! This is the issue that distinguishes faith from unbelief: The sovereignty of God!
The confession of God’s sovereignty is gladly made by every believer. It is the teaching about God set forth in the infallible Scriptures, the source of our knowledge about God. And this is the truth confessed about God by Reformed Christians.
There’s that phrase “Reformed Christians”. As it stated in the beginning of this article, those who identify themselves as “Calvinists” also think of themselves as “reformed Christians”. It’s almost as if just a plain old Christian, isn’t good enough any more. You need to somehow, “reform” yourself, to be a proper Christian.
But aside that phrase about being a “Reformed Christian”, everything else sounds pretty much just like the bible doesn’t it? God is sovereign. Faith in God is our highest calling. Our main end is to glorify God. True knowledge of God is what bring about eternal life. All of that is quite scriptural. So then exactly where did Calvin go wrong, if he starts out so good?
Well, where he went wrong, is in his perception, of what it means, for God to be totally sovereign. Actually Calvin misinterprets the very meaning of sovereignty, and so do all so called “Reformed Christians”.
So, as I’ve said, sovereignty means, that one has complete and total power and authority, just like God has. It is not even possible, that anyone else can usurp even an inkling of that power and authority, away from that sovereign one. But what Calvin failed to understand, and failed to admit, is that the sovereign one, can at his own discretion, grant (or sublet) a portion of his complete power and authority, to anyone whom he chooses to grant it to, while still retaining all power and authority, even over the one whom he has granted a portion of that power and authority.
And isn’t Jesus Christ the perfect example of that? Jesus Himself said in Mathew 28, verse 18; “..All authority in heaven and on earth, has been given to Me.” The KJV says; “All power in heaven and on earth..” But the point is, that God the Father, “sublet” or “granted” that power and authority to His Son, Jesus Christ. And then, to show us, that even though “all power” (all authority) was granted to Jesus Christ, that God the Father still retained power and authority OVER Jesus Christ the Son, the bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:27; “For He has put in subjection all things under His feet.” (under the feet of Jesus) “But when it may be said that all things have been put in subjection, it is evident, that the One having put in subjection all things to Him, is excepted.”
And so obviously, God the Father, still retains all power and authority, over the Son, to whom He granted all other power and authority!
Now I’ve never actually discussed that precise aspect of sovereignty with a Calvinist, but they’d probably simply say that since Jesus Christ is God, that that grant of power and authority doesn’t count. But of course, that’s just an example of the fact, that certain power and authority CAN be granted to another, and it indeed HAS been granted to another.
And so this brings us to the point where Calvin really went off base. Assuming that Calvin would have claimed that Jesus didn’t count, because Jesus was God in the flesh, Calvin believed that since God is sovereign, that it is therefore IMPOSSIBLE, for Him to grant any authority to anyone else! And that is proven to be true, by the fact that Calvin believed, as do so many so called “Calvinists” believe today, that man CANNOT make even one decision by himself, but rather, ALL decisions that a person makes in his lifetime, have already been preordained by God! In other words, the is no “free will choice” that any man can make, because God has already made all the choices.
Most Calvinists believe that you can’t even decide what the next words out of your mouth will be, because God controls you to that degree! They believe, that it is the “sovereignty of God” that dictates, your every move and thought. That’s what they think that sovereignty means. they totally disregard the fact, that God has granted to mankind, the freedom and ability to make your own decisions. Much like God granted to His Son Jesus, ALL authority in heaven and on earth, God has granted to man, the power and the authority, to make his own decisions! But somehow, this very basic grant of human power and ability, is more than John Calvin could understand. And it’s more than the almost countless “Calvinists” or “Reformed Christians” can understand today.
It’s mind boggling isn’t it? The absolute most basic human right that God has ever given, is more than some can comprehend. God no sooner created man, in the form of Adam, than He gave Adam a choice to make. “You may eat freely from every tree of the garden, but NOT of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; FOR, in the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die!” (Genesis 2, verses 16 & 17) And that was his choice; Obey Me, or disobey Me. The same as our choice.
“In the day, that you eat from it, you shall surely die!” Not in the same lifetime that you eat from it. That wouldn’t even make any sense would it? No, it really wouldn’t. I mean, how many lifetimes do we think that Adam and Eve were given? No, that doesn’t make any sense at all. But, “in the day that you eat thereof”, in THAT day, “you shall surely die”. Did either Adam or Eve die physically, in the day that they ate thereof? No they did not! But they most assuredly did die! They died spiritually, in the day that they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Just as the Lord said they would. Their sinful disobedience, made a separation between them and their God.. (Isaiah 59, verse 2) ..Right then, on that day.
So then with John Calvin, his first misunderstanding, of the meaning of God’s sovereignty, not understanding that it is BECAUSE of God’s sovereignty, that God has the power to grant SOME power to His creatures, that led to his second misunderstanding, of the fact that God has indeed, granted to all human beings, the free will choice, of governing their own actions. We see it from the opening pages of the bible, and we see it throughout the bible!
Calvinist today, having been influenced by John Calvin, believe that if a human being can make his or her own decisions, then that somehow infringes on the total sovereignty of God. How absurd! Did Jesus Christ have the power to “overpower” God’s sovereignty? Of course not. The scriptures say that God the Father “is excepted” from all the power and authority that was granted to Jesus Christ. Have human beings, through the exercise of their God given freedom to make their own choices, ever had the power to override the limitations to our God given freedom of choice? Of course not!
For example, has any human being ever had the power, to choose, through his own God given free will, that he would take over the place of God, and rule over all creation? Of course not! Just like when God the Father granted power and authority to His Son, there was an exception, to all that power and authority. And so there are also exceptions to our free will power to choose. We have no power or authority to choose what someone else will do. We have no power or authority to choose what God will do. All we have the power and authority over, is to choose what WE will do! That’s the limit of our God given free will.
It’s just like Joshua told the sons of Israel, before they crossed into the land of Canaan, in Joshua 24, verse 15; “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY whom ye will serve; Whether the gods which your fathers served, that were on the other side of the river, or the Gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”
That was Joshua’s choice, and that needs to be everyone’s choice. But as Joshua put it; “..choose you this day!”