The sovereignty of God: an Arminian perspective

This article was posted over at Arminian Perspectives by Kangeroodort. In the article he discusses the differences between Calvinists and Arminians on this issue. He asks a question that I have asked in the past. In fact, when I first started to study Reformed Theology this was one of my first objections.

Kangeroodort said

Is a God who can only control His universe through cause and effect bigger or smaller than a God who can allow for true contingency in His creatures and still accomplish His will?

Likewise, Arminians consider that this view magnifies God’s power, in at least two interrelated ways.

1. God was able to create a being who was not merely “determined,” but an actor who also “determines” things, a being who is free and in His own image. He of the only true sovereign will was able to endow man with a will that really has the power of decision and choice.

2. God is able to govern the truly free exercise of men’s wills in such a way that all goes according to His plan. A God who created a complex universe inhabited by beings pre-programmed to act out His will for them would be great. But one who can make men with wills of their own and set them free to act in ways He has not determined for them, and still govern the whole in perfect accord with His purpose is greater.” [page 43, italics his]

This was my position. I can still understand the argument. After all, in what way is God more powerful…when He controls everything or when He allows his creatures to have free will and He is still able to have His will accomplished? The answer seemed obvious. It makes so much sense, doesn’t it? Well on the surface it does. But there is so much more to this. The biggest problem I now see with this position is that it does not accurately account for the depravity of man. The depravity is total meaning that it permeates our whole being to the point of enslaving our will. Click here to read a more thorough discussion of Total Depravity. When we understand the true condition that our will is in we can understand that we can not have free will.

A.W. Pink explains it this way in Ch. 7 of The Sovereignty of God. He said

To will is to choose, and to choose is to decide between two or more alternatives. But there is something which influences the choice; something which determines the decision. Hence the will cannot be Sovereign because it is the servant of that something. The will cannot be both Sovereign and servant. It cannot be both cause and effect. The will is not causative, because, as we have said, something causes it to choose, therefore that something must be the causative agent. Choice itself is affected by certain considerations, is determined by various influences brought to bear upon the individual himself, hence, volition is the effect of these considerations and influences, and if the effect, it must be their servant; and if the will is their servant then it is not Sovereign, and if the will is not Sovereign, we certainly cannot predicate absolute “freedom” of it.

All men have free will but they are only able to make choices within and in cooperation with their nature.  For unregenerate people that nature is the sinful nature inherited from the Fall.  For regenerate people that nature is the new nature given to them at the point they are made alive and freed from the bondage of the sinful nature.  The new nature is one that seeks after God and can respond when the Gospel is proclaimed to them.

Post from Everyday Christian

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3 Responses to The sovereignty of God: an Arminian perspective

  1. Adam Murrell says:

    Another problem I see with the Arminian definition of sovereignty is that God’s will is not being accomplished despite claims to the contrary. The Arminian tells us that God desperately wants everyone to spend eternity in heaven and pleads with sinners to accept him yet the majority will spend eternity in hell. How then is God’s will being accomplished if He has not ordained the ultimate outcome of everything?

    The Arminian concept of sovereignty is nothing more than a riddle steeped with contradiction.

  2. Jordan Dotson says:

    Good points everyone. I think too that at the bottom of it all though is an unwavering commitment to man rather than God. To believe one view over the other has imense impacts on our view of God and man. These two differences change the view of sin, the work of Christ, the means of salvation, etc. Every bit of salvation and the relationship between God and man is changed completely. The arminian perspective is nothing short of the sinful heart’s response to the notions of its own depravity and lack of will. In a sense, we are all “arminians” by nature – for whose heart has ever wanted to submit to authority and admit its own captivity to sin? The fallen heart does not want to give up the illusions of control. One doesnt need to be born again to think that they are the “captins of their destiny” – we see this sort of thing with unbelievers all the time and unfortunately it is often brought into the Church. And so, at the bottom of it all is a deeply seeded commitment and faith in the ability of man rather than the work of Christ and His infinite wisdom and power as God. Alongside that is the unwillingness to submit to God and completely admit and understand that He is God – completely sovereign is what it means to be God. And, just like the article points out, a warped view of sin and its radicle affects on our nature is part and parcel of the arminian view. By God’s grace, we understand these things and so, let us also not forget to extend grace to our arminian friends and remember that God can and will draw many out of that thinking in His time.

  3. Michelle says:

    One thing that you have forgotten to consider: prevenient grace – grace is not just for “saved” people. It is extended to all humanity. So depraved man is given grace, and he is made responsible and becomes response-able, not because it is in his nature, but because God gives grace. Grace makes freewill possible. Grace is free in all and free for all.

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