Calvinism’s Sovereignty over God’s Sovereignty
Updated: Sep 16, 2022
I'm not Calvinist or Reformed or Protestant, and if I was alive in the the Reformer's/Calvinist’s day, I would likely have been jailed or drowned or murdered in some other fashion. John Calvin murdered up to a hundred people for opposing his beliefs or daring to challenge him on doctrine (four of those for instance were Anabaptists who disagreed with Calvin on certain doctrine, whom Calvin had murdered and then quartered, each piece strung up around Zurich as a warning to those who would oppose him, see here for further reading). Zwingli would say that the Anabaptist/Baptists like to practice immersion, so let’s immerse them! Nothing separates you from people like 20 feet of water with a large rock tied to your ankle. It also separates you from necessary oxygen to breathe. You get my point there, but I am an avid proponent of the sovereignty of God, so much so that I see many, many of these "reformed" people as unscriptural and plainly heretical.
Calvinists say that other systems limit God's sovereignty or control. Apparently when those systems assign to man free will, they limit God's sovereignty. Instead of God being in total charge, man is partly in charge.
This is alluded to in the following statement by John MacArthur:
“No doctrine is more despised by the natural mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. Human pride loathes the suggestion that God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything.”
Calvinists Version of Gods Sovereignty Has God Ordering and Controlling Evil
If “God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything,” — does He also “order” and “control” evil?
That would be a ridiculous concept you might think but not for the reformed Calvinist, including MacArthur who has that also in mind concerning the quote.
Though it may be a popular belief among Calvinists, it’s a misconception of Gods sovereignty and blasphemy of His character. In a podcast on God’s Omnipotent Will, the following statements made by Lauren Dyck and pastor Mike Hovland (Grace Bible Fellowship) are consistent with that idea:
“God even takes credit if we want to say it that way, for what Satan did…” (Hovland)
“God, in His decretive will, even though He does will evil, He does it for good reasons, but we don’t always know those reasons, some of those reasons belong to the secret things.” (Hovland)
Here is Lauren quoting the Reformed Calvinist Mike Riccardi:
“God is not less glorious but more glorious because He ordains evil.”
None of these quotes by the way have been used out of context. They were the theme of the podcast and also simple grammar to be understood, the basis of a serious misunderstanding of God’s Omnipotent Will and Sovereignty.
I would hate to be in the shoes of someone who says that of the Thrice Holy and Just and Righteous God, who hates evil, sin and wickedness, Who says of His Son, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity” (Heb 1:9), and ordains or wills nothing sinful or evil or erroneous. The theme of God hating sin, evil, doctrinal error and wickedness is throughout Scripture; He doesn’t ordain or control or order any of it. He abhors all of it and then “judgeth according to every man's work,” “without respect of persons,” — therefore, “pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:” (1 Pet 1:17). He holds all people accountable for their works, whether saved or unsaved.
God cannot be tempted with evil nor does He tempt any man with evil:
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:” (Jam 1:13)
That passage refutes the blasphemous idea that God wills and ordains evil, and that He is somehow glorified in that. Nothing in Scripture lines up with the “sovereignty” of God as proposed in the quotes above, but is consistently opposed. This egregious Calvinist philosophy purveys “another Jesus” (2 Cor 11:4).
Let’s consider this Calvinist error in a more practical manner. When someone shoots up a grocery store or an elementary school murdering let’s say 21 innocent unarmed people, majority of which were young children, did God order that and control that and rule over that, since He ordained it and now He is glorified in it? That would be in the affirmative according to John MacArthur’s quote, and that of Lauren and Mike. They would say yes. They would say God is glorified when innocent children are murdered, sort of like when they are murdered before their birth (what difference does it make, one evil or another, right) — that much is clear based upon their quotes above. I guess this Calvinist idea doesn’t seem so awful when we consider this same system of “theology“ promotes the philosophy that God willed and ordained majority of people in the world long before they were ever born, in fact before the foundation of the world, to simply be born as eternal reprobates for a single purpose which was to glorify Him in their eternal damnation. They have no chance of conversion, regardless of their desire for it.
Hovland also stated:
“Through the wickedness that God has decreed and ordained, He’s going to reveal His glory” and “In God [His will] there is no such thing as choice.”(quoting the Reformed Calvinist Herman Bavinck)
So the cowardice murderer had no choice, what he did was “decreed and ordained” by God and now God is glorified by the murder of innocent blood, just like He was when Cain murdered Abel, or when millions of innocent helpless unborn babies are murdered by their mothers, or with the systematic extermination of His chosen people, the Jews, the apple of His eye, by the left-wing liberal God-hating Hitler, right?
Do Calvinists not think their theology through from even a common sense perspective? They certainly don’t understand God‘s sovereignty or know how to rightly divide Gods truth.
I cannot think of a more repugnant, detestable and abhorrent “doctrine” than this. It’s criminal to put this on God, to whom it is an “abomination” when “hands . . . shed innocent blood,” (Pr 6:16-17).
Considering the “natural mind”—what MacArthur mentioned— this Calvinist “doctrine” is wholly despised and abhorred by the “spiritual mind” (1 Cor 2:9-16; Rom 8:6-9) while derived only from the “natural mind” (1 Cor 2:14) or the “carnal mind” (Rom 8:6-9), which according to Rom 8 is an unsaved mind.
Reformed Calvinist Herman Bavinck
On a separate side note, a sort of digression, I would like to mention a bit concerning the zealous Reformed Calvinist Herman Bavinck, who is quoted by Hovland above. Bavinck didn't like the Anabaptists and their Biblical doctrine, not that this should be surprising when it comes to Reformers or Calvinists, but its worth a mention. Many, Bavinck including, hold to the dangerous soteriological error that regeneration precedes faith, that infants and others may be regenerated, grow up, and go to heaven, without ever consciously coming to a recognition of their lost estate and consciously, for the first time, repenting and believing the gospel. When Reformed Calvinists like Bavinck affirm “against the Anabaptists . . . that believers did not have to know, and could not always know, the time of their regeneration” (Reformed Dogmatics, Herman Bavinck, J. Bolt, & J. Vriend, vol. 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, 2008, p. 74), they place themselves on very dangerous and heretical ground.
This is the man of whom Hovland gives a shout out in the said podcast concerning his commentary. He says they rely heavily on Bavinck concerning God's will:
“You’ll notice we are relying heavily on Bavinck."
Note that its not God's Word that is heavily relied on, but a mere man, one that supports their system of theology. True born again believers should be Bible-centred, not man-centred, even those who hypocritically claim to be sola-scriptura. He goes on to declare:
"I spent a good chunk of the afternoon reading Bavinck on Gods will. Just a little shutout to Herman Bavinck theology — if you don’t have that four volume set, it’s very very good, very deep, very helpful. Relying also on a little bit of MacArthur and Mayhue, who rely also heavily on Bavinck.”
That is dangerous advice. I would also be extremely confused concerning God's will and what the Bible says about it, were I to be zealously embracing heretical men like Herman Bavinck.
There is No Conflict Between the Biblical Version of Gods Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will
Because God is in control, possesses all power, He can accomplish what He wants in any way that He wants. God uses His power to accomplish His will. That doesn't mean God determines everything. The Bible doesn't read that way. I'm not saying that God couldn't determine everything. He has the power to do anything He wants to do. However, everything can be in His control without His controlling everything. If God is not controlling everything, that doesn't mean He isn't in control. God is in total charge. Many verses teach this. However, it's also easy to see that He exercises that sovereignty, that charge or control, by also allowing man free will. Many, many verses teach this. Here is a few among thousands: Pr 1:20-32; Isa 1:18-20; Matt 21:28-32; 23:37-39; 1 Cor 2:8; Rev 22:17; Lk 13:1-5, 23-24; Jn 3:15-21; Rom 1:18-19; 2:1-5; Heb 2:1-4; etc. These passages make it extremely and perspicuously clear that man has a free will, even when lost (e.g. -20; Matt 21:28-32; 23:37-39; Rom 2:1-5; 1 Cor 2:8; Heb 2:1-4). But they are a few among thousands!
Consider just one example among these. In Lk 13:23, because of how things were going in Jesus' ministry, someone asked him, "Are there few that be saved?" If the Calvinistic view of total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace were true, the system that flows out from a wrong view on Gods sovereignty, and that man has no free will, Jesus should say, "There are few because God chose only a few and Christ died for just a few. Men are dead and they are unable to respond unless God first regenerates them to believe." But Jesus didn't. He made it sound like few were saved because men weren't striving (agonizing) to enter the narrow gate (v. 24). If He wanted men to strive, all He needed to do was to regenerate a few more to do so. And how much actual striving is necessary when grace is irresistible. No resistance doesn't sound like striving. And if God is a God of love, which He is, then He would elect all to eternal salvation and not eternal reprobation.
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” (Matt 22:29).
This is just one example of how what Jesus says and teaches clashes with a Calvinistic view of soteriology. The points of Calvinism don't glorify God more than how He wants to be glorified. God doesn't get glorified more by misrepresentations of Himself. I contend that Calvinism has become (of course only hypothetically or in a Calvinistic thought experiment) sovereign over God's sovereignty. I want actual sovereignty, not a made-up kind that poses as glorifying God more. Salvation is of the Lord. That, I have no doubt. It can't be more "of the Lord" than the Lord Himself makes it.
Worse than the misrepresentation, Calvinist view on Gods sovereignty is blasphemous.
To Oppose Calvinism’s False Sovereignty has Nothing to do with Pride
There is nothing prideful about having a true Biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty, even when it opposes Calvinism’s twisted and blasphemous version of it. God is sovereign in His sovereignty. We don't determine what His sovereignty is. He does. If we make His sovereignty different than how He has revealed it in Scripture, then in fact we are sovereign in His sovereignty. That would be kind of odd for someone who says he supports God's sovereignty, wouldn't it?
We don't make up a theological term based on our own thoughts, our own reasoning, or our own predisposition, and then force that understanding on Scripture. God wrote the Bible. Through the Bible He has revealed to us Who He is. We don't do better by revising what God wrote to make it fit what we want it to mean. We can't get more sovereign than the sovereignty that God describes in the Bible. That’s about as sovereign as it can get. We haven't glorified God more than others because we make his sovereignty "more" sovereign than He actually has. In other words, we need to limit our understanding of sovereignty to what the Bible says about sovereignty. Adding to the Bible on the topic of sovereignty doesn't honour God. It does say that God somehow hasn't been up to the task of presenting His own sovereignty clearly enough in His Word, so that the Bible isn't really sufficient in its presentation of sovereignty.
What we believe about sovereignty must come from all of scripture and not proof texts. Even the word sovereignty itself is part of the system, because it's not a word in the Bible. Our understanding of sovereignty should arise from the Bible. When Calvinists lay out their system and plug the verses in, they can make some of them make sense, if thats all you were left with. But that is falsely dividing Gods Word and privately interpreting or wresting scripture, the hermeneutics of false teachers (2 Tim 2:14-15; 2 Pet 1:19-20: 3:16-17). As we read their proof texts in their context, they don't have to mean what a Calvinist says they mean. They will only mean that if Calvinism itself were true, and many passages are taken completely out of context. But we know it’s not true because of what the Bible teaches on election and Gods foreknowledge and then in contradiction to the TULIP.
The Calvinist Logical Fallacy of Arminianism
Calvinists throw out the logical fallacy that one must be an Arminian when they oppose elements of Calvinism. Logical fallacies are deceitful and dishonest arguments. Its a man-centred argument that fits well into Calvinism and Reformed Theology. Just because Calvinists follow the teachings of men, fulfilling what Christ stated in Mk 7:7, “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men," doesn't mean that others do the same. True born again believers follow the Word of God. Period. I’m not a Arminian and actually know little about what James Arminius believed. But of what I do know about him, some I disagree with (such as placing too much emphasis on man’s free will). People have made the claim that he believed in the corrupt and false gospel of losing salvation, but he did not actually teach that. He did not take a clear position on the matter, and also did not believe a sinner could receive Christ apart from the grace and miracle-working power of God. Salvation of course is eternally secure, not because Calvin taught it (which he didn't base upon the gospel or Scripture but upon his and Augustine's corrupt beliefs on election and predestination) but because it is what many clear passages of Scripture teach. I believe James Arminius was much closer to biblical truth than John Calvin and he definitely had a different (non-violent) spirit towards his opponents. He was willing to pursue doctrinal controversy and had a great zeal for the truth, and the mean-spiritedness and petty jealousy that often characterized his opponents did not mar his life.
No born again believer ever needs to choose between two fallible men. The only infallible source for faith and practice is the infallible Bible itself, not some fallible man’s systematic interpretation of it. I believe a sound and solid Biblical position opposes both Calvinism and Arminianism. I understand that this position of the so-called “middle ground”—the Biblicist position— gets ridiculed and smeared, including by Mike Hovland and Lauren Dyck, but its actually the right and perfect position when you find it in the Scriptures, from whence it derives. Wouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t it be, if we are true Bible believers? One that is actually based upon Scripture and not another man’s philosophy? Indeed.
Free Will and God’s Sovereignty
Calvinists divide between natural will and free will, free will only possessed by professing believers (what they would consider true believers, but many are certainly not). They say the unbeliever does not enjoy free will. There are verses they use to surmise this point, and I see how they get the point if those were the only verses that applied to their view, but there is much more. A browbeaten person might, usually a professing Christian—because the Calvinist will not do this with an unbeliever—someone who does profess faith in Christ, might finally relent. He recruits Christians to his position of Calvinism. When they eventually become a Calvinist, they finally have the key that opens the scripture, as if it is inculcating a hermeneutic.
The two concepts, my volition and God's sovereignty, are compatible in the Bible. My will doesn't erase God's sovereignty. It doesn’t mean God isn't in charge. Although we may feel a tension, God doesn't. It is a moment to test our faith. Will we not just take God at His Word? Or must we show off a false humility in order to alter the meaning of scripture in compatibility with our own logic or reasoning? Don’t be sovereign over His sovereignty.
I address this subject more in the following two articles and give examples from some of the same individuals mentioned above:
A Rebuttal of an Article on Calvinism's Doctrine of Election and Free Will - Part 1.
Debunking the Calvinist Error of "Foreknowledge = Predetermination"
One does not need to believe the Calvinist version of God’s sovereignty to have comfort and confidence from the Comforter in difficult days, or to know “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28). “His purpose” is to save those who genuinely come to Him in repentance and faith (2 Th 2:13-14) and thereafter fulfill His will and bring Him glory, whether in good times or in suffering, and eventual eternal glory.
I call on anyone who has received or obtained or borrowed the false Calvinist view of Divine sovereignty and soteriology to repent. Leave it behind. Forsake it. It is a cultic view formulated to allure its adherents as prey. Your acceptance of an utterly corrupt, false view of Divine sovereignty and soteriology does not bode well for your justification or glorification.