christianity philosophy theology


It’s a common charge that believers simply (or simplistically) attribute ‘good’ and ‘evil’ to God or the devil depending on the results.

  • Good happens to us: God did it.
  • Good happens to enemies: Devil did it.
  • Bad happens to enemies: God did it.
  • Bad happens to us: Devil did it.

However, the providential monotheism of Judaeo-Christian belief holds that God is able to use even ‘evil’ events to achieve ‘good’.  One interesting example is the prophetic interpretation of God using the Assyrians to punish Israel and take them into exile – and at the very same time holding the Assyrians responsible for their evil assault.  Or take the actions of Judas.  He did evil in betraying Jesus, but for the biblical authors this was no surprise.

This is nothing other than the simple belief in a God who is sovereign over history, and ((in true jujitsu-like fashion)) brings about results through the genuinely free actions of created beings.  The more real the freedom of the creature, the greater the sovereignty of the Creator.  Because anybody can bring about a result through manipulating, say, a machine.

Again, this of course is not a post about God’s existence, but merely aims to distinguish the superstition of a lucky-charm god ((Which, admittedly, believers of all kinds and all times are tempted to make God into.)) from the providential monotheism of Jews and Christians.

7 replies on “sovereign”

I feel like I land in a similar place, in that I think the biblical account portrays God as omniscient, sovereign and predestining (!?) and humans as having genuinely free choice and actions.

But I’d say that how those things work together is incomprehensible to the human mind at a logical level, like the Trinity and Jesus’ 100% deity and humanity. But if I’m reading you right, you’re saying that it DOES make sense at a logical level? Or am I reading you wrong?

Or could you just explain what you mean by: “The more real the freedom of the creature, the greater the sovereignty of the Creator. “?

Hey Rhett,
Yeah, I think it’s logical, but I’d be more comfortable saying that we can conceptualise it rather than fully comprehend it? :)

The ‘more freedom – greater sovereignty’ thing is best clarified by the following sentence? (“…anybody can bring about a result through manipulating, say, a machine.”) Whereas God brings about his results through the genuinely free choices and unfolding processes (though of course free as well to act less subtly in particular cases!).

“geez, your gravatar image is like a mirror of mine!”

…Are you saying that I look like Di or that Sarah looks like you!? :-)

By the way, what I was trying to say is really said much better by Douglas Moo in his Romans commentary…

“We need, perhaps, to be more cautious in our formulations and to insist on the absolute cruciality and meaningfulness of the human decision to believe at the same time as we rightly make God’s choosing of us ultimately basic. Such a double emphasis may strain the bounds of logic (it does not, I trust, break them!) or remain unsatisfyingly complex, but it may have the virtue of reflecting Scriptures own balanced perspective.”

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