Thursday, August 30, 2007

Denying God's Sovereignty

You may have already seen John Piper's biblical and well-reasoned thoughts on the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis:
    We prayed during our family devotions. Talitha (11 years old) and Noel and I prayed earnestly for the families affected by the calamity and for the others in our city. Talitha prayed "Please don't let anyone blame God for this but give thanks that they were saved." When I sat on her bed and tucked her in and blessed her and sang over her a few minutes ago, I said, "You know, Talitha, that was a good prayer, because when people 'blame' God for something, they are angry with him, and they are saying that he has done something wrong. That's what 'blame' means: accuse somebody of wrongdoing. But you and I know that God did not do anything wrong. God always does what is wise. And you and I know that God could have held up that bridge with one hand." Talitha said, "With his pinky." "Yes," I said, "with his pinky. Which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge, knowing all that would happen, and he is infinitely wise in all that he wills." ... ... The word "bridge" does not occur in the Bible. There may be two reasons. One is that God doesn't build bridges, he divides seas. The other is that usually his people must pass through the deadly currents of suffering and death, not simply ride over them. "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you" (Isaiah 43:2). They may drown you. But I will be with you in life and death.
Unfortunately, that kind of confidence in the sovereignty of God doesn't sit well with some. Dr. Roger Olson, professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, had a rather terse response:
    A well-known Christian author and speaker pastors a church within a mile of the collapsed bridge. To him and his followers, God foreordained, planned and indirectly (if not directly) caused the event. A popular Christian band sings "There is a reason" for everything. They mean God renders everything certain and has a good purpose for whatever happens. The pastor and the band are Christian determinists. Both happen to adhere to a form of Protestant theology called Calvinism. This theology is sweeping up thousands of impressionable young Christians. It provides a seemingly simple answer to the problem of evil. Even what we call evil is planned and rendered certain by God because it is necessary for a greater good.
At least I can give him credit for seeing the truth, even though he denies it. He continued:
    What if God is in charge but not in control? What if God wishes that things could be otherwise and someday will make all things perfect? That seems more like the God of the Bible than the all-determining deity of Calvinism. In this world, because of our ignorance and sinfulness, really bad things sometimes happen and people do really evil and wicked things. Not because God secretly plans and prods them, but because God has said to fallen, sinful people, "OK, not my will then, but thine be done -- for now."
It was interesting to note that he failed to come up with a single scripture verse to back up his outrageous claims. Dr. Olson concluded:
    The God of Calvinism scares me; I'm not sure how to distinguish him from the devil. If you've come under the influence of Calvinism, think about its ramifications for the character of God. God is great but also good. In light of all the evil and innocent suffering in the world, he must have limited himself.
To say that God "limited himself" is to say that he isn't concerned with his own glory. Couldn't that be considered heresy?

Pardon me for asking, Dr. Olson, but when was the last time you actually read the Bible? In case it's been awhile, allow me to suggest a few passages that deal with God's sovereign control over his creation: Genesis 1:1, Genesis 50:20, Exodus 4:11, 1 Samuel 2:6-7, 2 Samuel 12:15, Job 2:10, Job 5:10, Psalm 37:23, Psalm 115:3, Proverbs 16:4, Proverbs 16:33, Proverbs 20:24, Isaiah 13:11, Isaiah 46:10, Jeremiah 14:22, Daniel 2:21, Amos 3:6, Matthew 10:29, John 3:27, Acts 4:27-28, Romans 8:28, Romans 9:14-16, Ephesians 1:11, Philippians 1:29, Colossians 1:16-17, James 4:14-15, and 1 Peter 4:19.

Anyone choosing to believe that we live in a sinful, fallen, depraved world over which God has no control is the ultimate determinist. Think about it. If God is not in control now, and if everything that happens is not part of his ultimate plan, then what possible hope can there be for the future?

Yet they will continue to say that we Calvinists are the ones out of line with scripture. Go figure.


Eric said...


Thank you for your well-reasoned, biblically-based response to this nonsense. As is typical for those who deny God's sovereignty, Dr. Olson can't back up his conclusions with scripture. I do find it interesting that he didn't even try. Usually Arminians like to yank verses out of context and cause them to mean something the original author never intended. I suppose that Dr. Olson's lack of scripture says more about his argument than anything else.


Chris said...

Michael Horton interviewed Roger Olson several months back on "The White Horse Inn". His self prolamation of being an Arminian came with a spin on what he felt was a misunderstanding of Arminius. Suffice to say, it would appear that Olsen has followed the logical pathway of Arminianism and embraced open theism. At least he is true to his system because this is where Arminianism must lead.

To elaborate on what I mean about consistency to belief, I fought in Iraq for a year and have met many "token" muslims. The Bin Ladens and other radical islamic types are the only ones true to their faith. The "peaceful" muslims are sell outs and are viewed as such by the purists who know that the koran teaches world domination under allah. In this way Olsen is also a purist as an Arminian. As luther told Erasmus in "The bondage of the will", he (Erasmus) had rightly gotten to the core of the problem. It was not popery in practice that was near as bad as popery in theology. The belief in ultimate human self determination (free will) is the root of all kinds of bad theology. How can a Christian read Romans and still act like Jack Horner; "I stuck in my thumb and pulled out a plumb and said "What a good boy am I".

May God grant reentance to the prideful as He did with me! Sproul once said there is nothing worse than a converted drunk except a converted arminian. It is like being born again...again! Soli Deo Gloria, Chris

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