How Big is Your God?
[One of the books released in 2016 that will undoubtedly make it onto my end-of-year best-books list is Scott Christensen’s, What About Free Will? Reconciling our Choices with God’s Sovereignty (P&R, 284pp.). In Chapter Three, titled, “How Big is Your God?” Christensen describes God’s sovereignty in these terms.] Continue reading . . .
[One of the books released in 2016 that will undoubtedly make it onto my end-of-year best-books list is Scott Christensen’s, What About Free Will? Reconciling our Choices with God’s Sovereignty (P&R, 284pp.). In Chapter Three, titled, “How Big is Your God?” Christensen describes God’s sovereignty in these terms.]
When the Bible unfolds God’s supreme control it speaks of a glorious choreographer who causally determines the course of history in a way that is not conditioned by anything his creation or creatures do. Rather the whole panorama of the cosmos is entirely dependent upon his meticulous guidance. His foreordination of all things was forever settled before the foundations of the earth were laid and nothing can change this fact. He neither established his plan by consulting the future choices of his creatures nor does he alter it by considering what they have already done.
The Scripture is replete with passages that paint just such a portrait of God. As the psalmist says, “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. (Ps. 103:19). And again, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3). Moses declares God’s ownership rights over the vast expanse of the universe: “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it” (Deut. 10:14). Note the comprehensiveness. It includes the earth and all its material substance, every living creature, and the whole host of humanity as Psalm 24:1 indicates.
We can be certain nothing stands outside the overarching hands of an omnipotent God. The Apostle Paul is emphatic at this point: God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). In other words, nothing escapes discussion and planning by the Godhead in the divine boardroom, nor the Trinity’s thorough execution of those plans in the theater of play. The “all things” Paul speaks of is qualified in the previous verse. It refers to “things in heaven and things on earth” (v. 10). This speaks of the two all-encompassing domains of God’s rule. In other words, God’s sovereign execution of his blueprint for history is comprehensive and exhaustive.
As R. C. Sproul often quips, not a single atom or “maverick molecule” is out of place in God’s universe. He determines the outcome of every occurrence extending from the broad panorama of history (Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7; see also 1 Kings 12:15; 1 Chron. 29:10–12; 2 Chron. 36:22; Pss. 33:8–11; 135:6; Isa. 14:24; 40:13–17, 21–26; 41:2–4; 44:6–8; 45:9–10; 48:3; Jer. 18:1–11; Lam. 3:37–38; Dan. 2:44; Acts 2:22–23; 4:27–28; Rom. 4:17; 11:36; Eph. 1:11; Rev. 3:7) to the minutest detail of everyday existence (Ps. 139:16; James 4:13–16). Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt. 10:29). Solomon says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Prov. 16:33). Nothing happens by chance; even the throw of the dice is determined by God.
Paul pours a sobering thought upon the Athenian philosophers who were known to be inebriated in the arrogance of their intellectual powers:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we are indeed his offspring.” (Acts 17:24–28)
Not a single breath we take or a twinge of the tiniest muscle in our body or the faintest hint of activity within could support signs of life without the hand of God resting directly upon our frail little frames. We are wholly dependent upon him for the fact that we move, breathe, think, hear, speak, see, touch—for the fact that we live—period.
When the Bible speaks of God’s actions, it is clear they are made freely and unconditionally. No outside forces determine or even influence the choices he makes. That which he decrees he also executes. He is both architect and builder. The Sovereign Lord boldly proclaims through the prophet Isaiah:
Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isa. 46:9–11)
An indelible portrait of Yahweh was revealed earlier to Isaiah: a potter reserving the right to mold the lump of clay as he pleases (Isa. 45:9). The clay finds no voice to reprimand the potter for making it as he did or to pretend the divine craftsman never sat at the molder’s wheel in the first place.
God’s Lordship is supreme. The ruler Nebuchadnezzar entertained stratospheric thoughts of exaltation about himself (Dan. 4:30). But soon he acquiesced to this earth grounding truth. The humbling revelation occurred only after the ruler was brought down by God below the horizon of the grass—to the level where the cows eat (vv. 31–33) and insects play. The now lowly king declares:
For his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan. 4:34–35)
[So, let the question again be asked: How Big is Your God?]