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Volume 17, Issue 3: Doctrine 101

Not That Sovereign

Patch Blakey

Many Christians believe that God is sovereign. They believe that God can control the weather, heal disease, provide safety for folks when they are on long trips, grant healthy deliveries of babies, give doctors wisdom to treat ailments, provide food, work, and rest, mend broken relationships, give courage and protection to those in danger, change hearts, bring disaster on the wicked, exalt the righteous, lead single people to the person they will ultimately marry, limit the actions of the devil and his demons, lead people to a saving knowledge of Christ, and much, much more. Yes, they believe that God has authority over all things that come to pass—almost.

We know that these dear Christians believe that God can do all these things because we hear them pray for Him to do them. It would be ludicrous to ask someone to do something that they are incapable of doing, even if that someone is God. But the one thing that these same Christians believe that God cannot touch—that it is inviolable for Him to tamper with, that He has foresworn not to invade—is man's free will. This is apparently the big "King's X" in the universe which God has strictly bound and forbidden Himself to violate. Man's free will is like the Garden of Eden to God; He has placed a guard against entering man's free will just as the cherubim kept man from entering the sacred spot of the Garden after the Fall. Yes, these Christians believe that God is sovereign, but not that sovereign.
So, what is the point then of praying to God, asking Him to intercede in people's affairs, if He cannot transgress man's free will? Why ask God to fatten an anorexic young girl since He would have to violate her free will to do so? Why pray for a young teenager who is pregnant out of wedlock to be deterred from getting an abortion if that is what she has set her mind to do? Why pray for a missionary's safety while he's ministering to bring the gospel to violent tribesmen if this would violate their free will? Why ask God to have Congress pass a bill that would protect heterosexual marriage if this would require Him to tamper with their politically correct thinking? Why pray for God to save a homosexual knowing that He isn't about to change that person's heart against his own free will?
It seems that many Christians are willing to allow God the latitude to give doctors greater skill than they naturally possess in order to perform some serious surgery or treatment that will result in the restoration to health of some beloved family member or friend. But isn't this also a violation of God's self-imposed restraint into the free will of men? But someone may say that the doctor would like to have this increased ability. Did they ever ask the doctor before they prayed for God to act in this way? Most likely not.
Did God tamper with man's free will when He kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden after the fall, and placed the cherubim as priests at the entrance back into the garden? The garden was a pretty cozy spot that didn't require much labor to obtain food, other than picking it. But God forced Adam to work by the sweat of his brow by physically removing him from the Garden. Maybe Adam should have filed a complaint with the free-will police.
Didn't God bring the Flood on the entire world, killing all of mankind and sparing only eight? "For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (2 Pet. 3:5-6). God took the lives of all but eight people in the Flood. Did all these people want to drown? Was this action by God against their free will?
Didn't God bring plagues on the nation of Egypt, ultimately killing all of their firstborn, both of man and beast? "And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle" (Ex. 12:29). Was this in accordance with the free will of the Egyptian people? Did they all want their firstborn children and cattle to die?
Wasn't the land of Canaan previously occupied by seven nations, and didn't God give the land of Canaan to the Israelites? "Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession" (Deut. 32:49). Did God ask the Canaanites if they wanted to be cast out of the land of their heritage? Was this action on the part of God a violation of the Canaanites' free will?
But perhaps some will concede that a sovereign God certainly may and can take life and land against the free will of their possessors; however, He still can't save them contrary to their free will. Yet Scripture testifies even here, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). Fortunately for those Christians who believe that God is sovereign, but not that sovereign, He is far more sovereign than they are willing to believe, even in saving them contrary to their own free will.

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