For a word that does not appear in the Bible, the new Reformed Theology makes much of God’s “sovereignty.” Reformed Theology has carried on an imaginary contradiction between God’s power and man’s will. R.C. Sproul said, “Our freedom is always and everywhere limited by God’s sovereignty.” Sproul presents a problem that does not exist. There is no contradiction between God’s sovereignty and man’s will. Sovereignty does not mean programming decisions. Second, God’s power and man’s will are complimentary. Consider these things.
Does God control everything? No. There are things man clearly controls according to the Lord. Man controls what he does with God’s revelation. John 5:40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. Man controls where he puts his trust. Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. Man controls who his friends are. 1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. Man controls his emotions Proverbs 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. Man controls his (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) rejoicing: 16 Rejoice evermore, prayer life: 17 Pray without ceasing, gratitude: 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. We could literally go on and on.
One of the strengths of the Reformed Theology is the false dichotomy of man’s free will and God’s sovereignty. The two are not mutually exclusive or even contradictory. While a king may be sovereign he is not personally controlling any individuals’ decisions in his realm over which he is sovereign. According to Websters 1828, Sovereign means Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion; as a sovereign ruler of the universe.
There is no debate that God is all powerful, but power is not the same thing as control. Notice the instruction to obey sovereign powers. Romans 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. Did you notice that a sovereign power can be resisted? Did you notice that what God ordained can be ignored? Furthermore did you notice that sovereign power means judgment of decisions, not control of decisions?
God’s sovereignty is seen in judgment not control. Romans 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. And this judgment, Revelation 20:12-13 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
According to the Bible, man’s will and God’s sovereignty have a cause and effect relationship, not contradictory relationship. God’s judgment is a result of man’s wandering will. God will pass all man’s work under His judgment because man has made his own decisions. Is it really that difficult to understand a person is not guilty until they have broken the law? And that judgment is only necessary because of broken laws?
In Reformed Theology, the false doctrine of God’s sovereignty leads to two particularly ungodly strains of defilement. One is the impractical nature of Reformation Theology that cannot understand the point of prayer, evangelism, preaching, etc., since all things are programmed of God such that even when God’s will is clearly not done it is somehow still being done. Now that is a contradiction and absurd. Another is the smug pride of Reformed Theologians that accuse their opposition of arrogantly trying to understand God.
As Andrew Fuller says, “A fleshly mind may ask, “How can these things be?” How can Divine predestination accord with human agency and accountableness? But a truly humble Christian, finding both in his Bible, will believe both, though he may be unable fully to understand their consistency; and he will find in the one a motive to depend entirely on God, and in the other a caution against slothfulness and presumptuous neglect of duty.”
Notice how Fuller identifies the “truly humble Christian” as someone like himself and the arrogant Christian is the one who would dare ask “How can these things be?”
A basic problem with Reformed Theology is in the Biblically sounding statement that “God controls everything,” but as we’ve seen the Bible neither says that nor even teaches it. What God did say is that all of man’s work would pass under His judgment. Sovereignty is not control, it is judgment. Sovereignty is the final word on any decision whether good or bad, not the programming of decisions.