The doctrine of God’s sovereignty as it stands is not disputed by very many at all. The Bible clearly teaches it. Virtually all agree. The rub comes when we try to define what we mean by God being sovereign.
For some, saying that God is sovereign simply means He holds the office of being over all – but that He is not actually in some way connected to all that transpires on planet earth. Something like a king or “sovereign” over a nation having ultimate authority, but in reality everyone under his rule is really just doing their own thing – operating on their own.
To others, the idea of God being sovereign means He is so involved in everything, that He ends up being the direct cause of everything. Perhaps even bleeding over into a form of Christianized fatalism. So in fact, no one actually makes any decisions at all – and all that comes about (in the most uncomplicated way) is simply what God wants.
And then there is the whole spectrum that lies between these two points.
When we consider God’s sovereignty, our investigation also requires that we examine the nature of man’s autonomy (or lack thereof) and how human will relates to God’s sovereignty. Where are the cut off points? What are the limits of God’s sovereignty (if there are any) and what are the limits of the human will (if there are any) and how do these relate to one another or intersect ? If indeed they do. Is anyone truly responsible for what they do if in the end they are all just doing God’s sovereign will? How then are human beings morally responsible? If they in fact are. And where do things which seem to be direct contradictions to God’s expressed will in His Word fit into the picture?
But every thinking man (not to mention every thinking Christian) has wrestled with these questions and those that surround it at one time or another, and to one degree or another.
Again, heavy stuff.
Without being overly reductionistic or dodging the questions, nor being dismissive of the weight of the questions involved, Mitchell L. Chase’s “Behold Our Sovereign God” deftly and sensitively tackles this massive topic, in amazingly manageable style. I highly recommend it.
Make no mistake, this is not an exhaustive theological treatise examining the minute facets of this important doctrine. But it is a very clear, concise and theologically sound attempt at wrestling with the key issues, in everyday language. Its accessibility to the average reader lends it to being a terrific introduction to the topic without being either overwhelming or overly simplistic. At a slim 134 pages, it can be read very quickly – and in my estimation with great profit.
Chase has a pastor’s heart. So his treatment of the questions that surround God’s sovereignty and human tragedy is laced with gentleness and concern for the suffering. This is not an exercise in telling the bewildered and injured “just buck up – God is sovereign! So everything’s OK.” Instead, he labors with us to both rest in God, and face the Biblical tensions that are inherent in asking some questions we cannot have as satisfactory-as-we-might-like answers to now.
Let me leave you with just a few quotes to whet your appetite for the book, and in order to grasp how he deals with some very difficult concepts.
“So what should we do if our fallen minds insist that God cannot ordain evil without being evil? The short answer is this: remind ourselves that our reasoning doesn’t always line up with the logic of God’s inspired Bible. If we see the Bible’s teaching and then make implications it clearly forbids, we should let it correct us. Our deductions aren’t inspired, but God’s are.” (p. 55). Lucid Books. Kindle Edition.
“But, according to his divine plan, “God ordains that what he hates will come to pass.” (p. 56). Lucid Books. Kindle Edition.
“if God ordained the worst evil to bring about the greatest good, then lesser evils are not beyond his decree or his ability to work good from them.” (p. 74). Lucid Books. Kindle Edition.
“That God cannot stop a germ or a car or a bullet or a demon is not good news; it is not the news of the Bible. God can. And ten thousand times he does. But when he doesn’t, he has his reasons.” (pp. 82-83). Lucid Books. Kindle Edition. Quoting John Piper.
The full title of the book is: Behold Our Sovereign God: All things from Him, Through Him and To Him”. Which subtitle you’ll no doubt recall comes from Romans 11:36.
A terrific volume for all Christians. Buy it and read it.