I Believe In Divine Sovereignty -- By: Thomas H. McCall

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 29:2 (Fall 2008)
Article: I Believe In Divine Sovereignty
Author: Thomas H. McCall

I Believe In Divine Sovereignty

Thomas H. McCall*

*Thomas H. McCall is Assistant Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

I. Introduction

I believe in the sovereignty of God. I believe that Scripture, in various genres and by way of diverse speech-acts, plainly and forcefully declares that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Scripture clearly teaches this truth, and the Christian tradition—East as well as West, patristic and medieval as well as Reformation and modern—has with gladness of heart affirmed it as well: the God of Anselm, Irenaeus, and John (Chrysostom, Damascene, Calvin, or Wesley) is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

With the great company of the saints, I understand any acceptable doctrine of divine sovereignty to include (at least) these elements: (a) God is omnipotent, (b) God is a se, and (c) God is providentially active in governing and judging the world without being in any way threatened by it. So far, so good: I hope that no orthodox Christian could find much with which to disagree or complain. Nonetheless, the doctrine of divine sovereignty is often a flashpoint of theological controversy, and much of this controversy concerns the proper explanation of (c)—God’s providential governance of the world is the point of no small disagreement and contention.

In this essay I discuss one very (recently) influential theological account of God’s sovereign governance of the world. I argue that, completely contrary to its noble intentions, such a formulation of the doctrine of sovereign governance actually undercuts another key component of the doctrine of divine sovereignty: aseity. I suggest that, given the problems with the common view, other alternatives are worthy of further exploration.

II. Divine Sovereignty As Divine Determinism

Some theologians (mostly in the broadly “Reformed” tradition) promote and defend a doctrine of divine sovereignty which may be summarized as S and which includes both

S`: God is sovereign over any event E if and only if God determines that E occurs1


S``: God is sovereign over any agent A if and only if God determines all of A’s actions2

as essential to the doctrine. Especially within the resurgence of recent Calvinism among evangelical Christians, belief in S is as dearly cherished as it is wide...

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