12. Sovereignty

Sovereignty (Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, Victor Books, 1986,) p. 43.

  1. Meaning. The word means principal, chief, supreme. It speaks first of position (God is the chief Being in the universe), then of power (God is supreme in power in the universe). How he exercises that power is revealed in the Scriptures. A sovereign could be a dictator (God is not), or a sovereign could abdicate the use of his powers (God has not). Ultimately God is in complete control of all things, though He may choose to let certain events happen according to natural laws which He has ordained.
  2. Scripture. God has a plan (Acts 15:18) which is all-inclusive (Eph. 1:1), which He controls (Ps. 135:6), which includes but does not involve Him in evil (Prov. 16:4), and which ultimately is for the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:14).
  3. The problem. The sovereignty of God seems to contradict the freedom or actual responsibility of man. But even though it may seem to do so, the perfection of sovereignty is clearly taught in the Scriptures so must not be denied because of our inability to reconcile it with freedom or responsibility. Also, if God is sovereign, how can the creation be so filled with evil?

Man was created with genuine freedom, but the exercise of that freedom in rebellion against God introduced sin into the human race. Though God was the Designer of the plan, He was in no way involved in the commission of evil either on the part of Satan originally or of Adam subsequently. Even though God hates sin, for reasons not revealed to us, sin is present by His permission. Sin must be with God’s eternal plan (or God would not be sovereign) in some way in which He is not the author of it (or God could not be holy).

Sovereignty/freedom forms an antinomy (“a contradiction between two apparently equally valid principles or between inferences correctly drawn from such principles”). Antinomies in the Bible, however, consist only of apparent contradictions, not ultimate ones. One can accept the truths of an antinomy and live with them, accepting by faith what cannot be reconciled; or one can try to harmonize the apparent contradictions in an antinomy which inevitably leads to overemphasizing one truth to the neglect or even denial of the other. Sovereignty must not obliterate free will, and free will must never dilute sovereignty.