God’s Sovereignty Can Be…Well, Controversial

It’s no secret that fleshing out the doctrine of God’s sovereignty will take you into controversial waters.  My book Behold Our Sovereign God is no exception.  After all, an exploration of that doctrine can hardly be helpful if subjects like predestination and God’s relationship to evil are avoided.

So I didn’t avoid them.  Chapters 2 (“From the Mouth of the Most High”) and 4 (“The Rights and Righteousness of the Potter”) are probably the most controversial parts of my book.

To be sure, simply loving controversy is not a noble thing.  The Bible warns against the pursuit of dispute.  We should not be those who just love a good battle, who thrive on stirring the pot among fellow believers.  We should love peace more than debate and prize unity more than causing division.

But consider John Piper’s words on p. 121 of his book The Pleasures of God: “Can controversial teachings nurture Christlikeness?  Before you answer this question, ask another one: Are there any significant biblical teachings that have not been controversial?  I cannot think of even one, let alone the number we all need for the daily nurture of faith.  If this is true, then we have no choice but to seek our food in the markets of controversy.”  (See the excellent article by my friend Jim Hamilton entitled “Do You Love Controversy of People?“)

In controversial teachings, then, there is nurturing to receive.  There is food for the soul, light for the mind.  We should want to understand what God reveals to us in his word, which must include what he reveals about how he rules the heavens and the earth.  God’s sovereignty is a significant teaching in the Bible, so it must be addressed, though controversy is inevitable.  Nevertheless, that doctrine (as with any other one) exists not for controversy but for doxology.

So let us sing with Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!….For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever.  Amen” (Romans 11:33, 36).

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