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January 4, 2021 12:01 am
Nothing in this world can occur apart from God's sovereign decree. Today, R.C. Sproul considers the relationship between God's absolute sovereignty and man's freedom.
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Today on Renewing Your Mind.
If God is totally soft and if people are fallen, and some parish. How can God who is sovereign allow evil in the world.
How can God allow people to parish. Those are the most pressing questions Christians have asked for central my drink and some blood has been spilled and trying to reconcile God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. RC scroll was known for his clear teaching on the subject as we enter the 50th year of ministry. When your we are pleased to feature some of Marcy's most popular and requested to this message is from chosen by God. In this session of our study of predestination on focus our attention on the sovereignty of God. One of the reasons why I think it's important that we really begin here with our study of the doctrine is that here is an area in which virtually all Christians agree. We agree that God is sovereign, how we understand the sovereignty of God may differ from Christian to Christian, but certainly we would all make the confession that God is sovereign. I like to tell one of my favorite stories that took place in the seminary where I teach a couple of years ago I had announced in my theology class that the following week I would be lecturing on chapter 3 of the Westminster confession of faith which deals with the eternal decrees of God and the students didn't miss the implications that they realize the we would soon be entering into this volatile arena of discussing predestination, and since the evening class and theology was open to the public they want and invited all their friends, particularly their friends who were not inclined toward the reformed doctrine of predestination. So I had a tiger by the tail. The following Monday night when we started and I began by reading the first line of chapter 3 of the Westminster confession of faith and I'll read that now for your benefit, so that we can recapture the glory of what happened in Mississippi. The third chapter of the Westminster confession begins with these words, God from all eternity. Did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and immutably. That is, without possibility of changing it.
God did freely and immutably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; I'm a take a breath there at the point of the; God from all eternity. According to his own holy and wise counsel did freely and immutably ordain or for ordain whatsoever comes to pass, because at that point in the seminary classroom and I said to my students how many of you believe that statement I have to understand this was a Presbyterian seminary.
So these fellows were pretty well steeped in the Augustinian tradition and I got like a 70% vote there. That large number believed I said okay. How many of you don't believe that statement and 30 or so hands when in the air and I said fine I let me ask another question is about fear of recriminations. Nobody's going to jump all over you. We just would like to know. Feel free to state your position.
How many of you would call yourselves atheists, and nobody put their hand and I went into my Lieut. Columbo routine is just one thing here. I can understand. I look at those 30 you and raise their aim.
I said do you mind if I ask you a personal question is that I can't figure out why those of you who raised your hand saying you did not believe this statement didn't raise your hand. When I asked if you were atheists and they looked at me with a mixture of puzzlement, but with the saints, looked something in your eyes here today and I was so because if you don't believe this statement. You understand that fundamentally bottom line, you're an atheist, and that was about the most outrageous thing that I learned a lot so let's understand that this statement that I've just rent that God has for ordain whatsoever comes to pass is not a statement that is unique to Calvinism or the Presbyterianism, it doesn't distinguish the reformed tradition from other traditions. It doesn't even distinguish Christians from Jews or from Muslims. This statement here distinguishes theists from atheists and they were still puzzled as I continued this harangue and said that you see that if there's anything that happens in this world outside the foreordination of God that if there is no sense in which God is ordaining whatsoever comes to pass. Then, at whatever point something happens outside the foreordination of God. It is therefore happening outside of the sovereignty of God understand what we talk about God's ordaining things. Their different ways. The God ordained things to come to pass. This doesn't necessarily mean that God jumps down into the planet and make something happen through a direct and immediate personal involvement on his part. But the trick I guess in the statement has to do with the word or day all that statement means is that God is sovereign over anything that happens now.
I need to continue with the Westminster confession of faith says remember I gave you a; after that; the confession was quick to add. Though God ordains whatsoever comes to pass.
Yet he does it in such a way as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures nor is the liberty or contingency of secondary causes taken away, but rather established so were not talking about a rigid determinism that illuminates free creatures but we are affirming a sovereign God who is sovereign even over free creatures that is the point that the confession is making now.
This brings us to the thorny problem that came up at least briefly in one of our discussion. If God is totally soft and if people are fallen, and some parish. How can God who is sovereign allow evil in the world.
How can God allow people to perish.
If God knows in advance. For example, that a certain person is going to be born is going to live their life and parish everlastingly and how how could a good God let that happen. The dilemma was set forth philosophically by Jon Stewart Mill when he said if God allows this evil situation to exist. It can only mean one of two things. Either God does not have the power to stop it. That is, he would like to have a world where there's no suffering, no pain, no evil and no one is ever lost, but he just can't pull it off. If that's the case, then God is not omnipotent. But if God is omnipotent and evil still exists and people still perish, then God is not loving now that argument in one form or another, has been set forth as a criticism of Christianity.
Again and again and again since Jon Stewart Mill formulated it the way he did in his Christians. How would we respond to that that we struggle over that very question that very problem. I think philosophically we can demonstrate that Jon Stewart Mill's dilemma.
Here is what we would call a false dilemma.
It commits the fallacy of the false dilemma because he doesn't consider every option that is involved here and there some great big assumptions going on here in this argument that aren't brought to the surface, but will try to do that in a few moments, but to set the problem even more graphically for you. Let's consider for a moment the relationship of a sovereign God to a world that is fallen because two things that all Christians agree on one that God is sovereign and to but the world is fallen, but we all agree on that.
Certainly there's no dispute on that point between Calvinists and Arminians, Augustinians and semi-Palladian's. We all agree that God is sovereign and we all agree that men are fallen. It's the question of the relationship between a sovereign God through a fallen world that now grasps our concern and our attention.
There are basically four ways in which God can relate as a sovereign God to a fallen world number one God could decide to give no one who was fallen an opportunity for salvation that would really enrage Jon Stewart Mill because this would indicate that God is not loving at all course the thing that Jon Stewart Mill is really thinking about is that this God whom he believes to be loving and must be loving is also a just God and he's a righteous God and his love is always an expression of his righteousness, his love is a just and a holy love and I just and holy God is never required to love a rebellious creation to the extent of extending mercy to it. He could love fallen man and punish fallen, whom he loves as an expression of his justice. More on that later. Let's keep our I know on the four things that God could do. He could decide that I will provide no opportunity for anybody to be say before we go any further, let me ask you this question. If God decided not to save anybody with everything wrong with if God decided to punish the entire human race for the human races. Rejection of God and rebellion to God.
The only objection we could give at that point is that God is just and that's hardly an objection recognition. Imagine the attorney standing up into the courtroom and saying objection, Your Honor, I don't like that decision because it's just how far would that government God would be perfectly justified to exercise justice against an unjust creation but is he lurking behind all of this is somehow the assumption that God if he is really going to be a good God must be merciful as I've often said the must insist one of the greatest pitfalls in Christian thinking as soon as your mind tells you that God must be merciful or that God ought to be kind. As soon as you think for a second that God is obligated to be merciful of Bella go off in your head and alert you to the fact that you're not thinking about mercy anymore because by definition. The big difference between mercy and justice is that mercy is never, never, never obligatory mercy by definition is something God doesn't have to do it something that God does voluntarily freely. But as soon as you think he owes us mercy and I think about mercy anymore. Justice can be owed, but mercy is never obligatory. Do we get that we have to understand the principal SECOND thing is he could provide an opportunity for everyone to be saved after their six things that we could do here. I'm try to shortcut this for the sake of time, and I just put in parentheses here or they could create an opportunity for some people to be say, but bottom line God could give the world an opportunity for salvation and set up in such a way is that everybody or some of the people at least had a chance to be say, but there's no guarantee that anybody would ever be. Say swimming by opportunity. God is an equal opportunity Redeemer and that set them in this scheme. The third option is that God exercising his power and his sovereignty could include into the human situation, not only providing an opportunity for salvation, but by so lurking in the hearts of fallen people ensure the salvation of some poor.
Let's put it this way ensure the salvation of everybody, that is, God can intervene for everybody ensuring their salvation that is in his sovereignty he could so guide the steps of a person, and so influence inwardly their hearts as to actually bring them to faith now again this God have the power to do this he could do that for some more he could do that for for everybody else. These are different options that God had, or has were trying to get at in this course is what in fact, has he done now does the Bible indicate that God has provided no opportunity for anybody to be say that we can eliminate that one as Christians can't wait right off the bat. There's no argument there. We all agree that this is not the biblical view that God has made no provision whatsoever for salvation. No, how about the idea that God intervenes in everybody's life and ensures the salvation of everyone. What we call that view universalism and there are Christians who believe in universal, but the debate historically between semi Pelagianism and Augustinian is him is not a debate over universalism. Those two viewpoints.
Both agree what that only some people ultimately are saved their particular arrests rather than Universalists.
The Bible seems to teach. I think clearly that there are those who are lost ultimately lost in at the last judgment will be lost as our Lord indicate some will be sent out into outer darkness forever weeping and gnashing of teeth. So we believe that there are some people who will never be redeemed so this one has to be eliminated. So what were left with are these alternative either God gives an opportunity for all or only some Lord God does more than simply make an opportunity available. He actually comes in and intervenes and ensures that some people are say this is the position of Augustinian that God ensures the salvation of the elect, or of those who were predestined to be set, the non-Augustinian views fall under this category. One of the other. Either that God makes it possible for everybody, or some to be say everybody has the opportunity for some have the opportunity before we debate about which one is actually the case. Let me ask this question. Could God ensure the salvation of everyone. If he so saw the sea of the sovereign power to do it a keep in mind that one of the most frequent objections to the Augustinian view of predestination is that God intervenes in the life of certain people and ensures their salvation. But he doesn't do it for everybody and the objection from the non-Augustinian view is God. That's not fair. If you're going to do it for some then you want to do it. What for everybody but to see that the person over here has the same problem.
If this person believes that God has the power to bring everybody to salvation.
And he doesn't really that argument falls on the head here because all God does in that case is given the opportunity to fallen men to be saved in this one God does more than give the opportunity he assures that some people will be say in this schema. There is no assurance that anybody will be say. In fact, as I think we will see later. It assures us if we take seriously the biblical view of fallen man in his attitude towards God enters God's grace would assure to my mind at least, that nobody would be say, but others were getting at is that one of the chief objections of the reformed Augustinian position is that it's not gracious enough. When effective, so much more gracious because God doesn't just say okay here's the cross choose it if you will, and leaves people to themselves. But God applies the work of Christ, the Holy Spirit works in people who are dead in sin and trespasses in order to bring them to faith and to ensure that the death of Christ is never in vain that Christ will see the travail of his soul and be satisfied the Scripture speak of God the father giving people to God the son.
So what we have here is that the one scheme what it has going for us is that, at least theoretically, the opportunity is given to everybody.
Anybody who believes in the gospel can be saved. However, there are millions and millions and millions of people who never hear the gospel, who in fact don't have the opportunity that only we can really talk about here is that some have the opportunity, some who were not predestined have the opportunity to be say that is this right will be everyone who hears the gospel at least has an opportunity to say, but God is not made sure that everybody in the world hears the gospel. Could God make sure that her by the world hears a gospel could God put it in the clouds. They wanted to yes but he doesn't. And so we are left with that problem but God does not do everything that God conceivably could do within the bounds of his own righteousness he does not do everything conceivable to assure the salvation of the world, but why not have no idea why not.
I know that he doesn't. That much is clear. And I know that there's no shadow of turning in him. I know that God is under no obligation to save anybody and I know that God does save somebody and God reminds his people of one crucial principle of divine sovereignty.
We will look at that more closely later on in this course were God reminds Moses and then later the church through Paul of his divine prerogative. I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy. God never goes. Mercy will quickly if God only save some people.
We have to understand that we have two groups of people in the world.
The saved and the unsaved, but they are all part of a group of sinners all fallen.
All are in rebellion against God. What God does. According to the Augustinian view is that he sovereignly elects and chooses and redeems some in the rest he passes over. So what you have in this schema is that one group gets mercy.
What does this group get justice who gets injustice. Nobody gets injustice, no mercy is not justice, mercy is not injustice and injustice is not injustice but injustice and mercy are not the same thing there both outside of the category of justice hears justice. And over here we have not injustice and non-justices of two types mercy and injustice. One form of non-justice is mercies or anything sin for wicked about mercy. Mercy is probably good for anything. Sin for wicked about injustice. Yes, injustice is a violation of justice.
Injustice is sin. Injustice is evil. Now, if God gave mercy to this group, and injustice. This group then God would have his integrity compromise.
But God gives justice to one group mercy to another. Nobody has ever been a victim of injustice at the hands of what a wonderful explanation of God's sovereignty. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Monday. I believe Webb, thank you for being with this RC was always gracious, but he was always clear when explaining matters like this, where the Bible is clear. We are featuring some of Dr. RC Sproul's most popular series this week.
Today's lesson from the series chosen by God.
We like to send you all six messages there on two DVDs and you can request them with your gift of any amount to look at her ministries. Our phone number is 800-435-4343 that you can also go online to make your email@example.com whenever the doctrine of predestination is discussed, it brings up questions. For example, many wonder if it makes God the author of sin and evil does he make people sin.
If you have a question like that or any other theological question, let me recommend ask Ligon near 24 hours a day, Monday through Saturday. Trained team members are standing by to answer your questions in real time you get started by going to ask.Ligon near.org but we are returning to the basics this week in the part of that is is having a wide understanding of who God is. Tomorrow will hear a message from RC series fear and trembling, and I hope you make plans to be with us Tuesday for Renewing Your Mind