On Robots and Sovereignty

kinnon —  August 5, 2007 — 2 Comments

A battle rages A discussion continues on the very short post I wrote about Why I’ll Never Be Truly Reformed – a response to John Piper’s discussion with his young daughter of the Sovereignty of God in light of last week’s I35 Bridge Collapse.

My friend, Darryl Dash may be quoting Fuller President Richard Mouw this morning in response to that discussion (though I’m not 100% sure – Darryl’s at church right now. I’m not.) Mouw comments on Abraham Kuyper, the father of Neo-Calvinism.

In those circles where Kuyper’s name is still revered, laypeople credit Kuyper’s influence in their understanding of what it means to serve the Lord in the insurance business or journalism, as a state legislator or in the teaching of English literature. Even when these folks may not know much about the technical details of Kuyper’s theological system, they are quick to quote at least some version of his bold manifesto, set forth toward the end of his inaugural address at the founding of the Vrije Universiteit: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!‘”

Robotfrmistock1There are those amongst the brethren who have concocted a system where we are but robots – automatons in the cosmic script written by an apparently capricious god (who appears to have more in common with Allah of the Koran, than YHWH of the Bible).

This god’s absolute script-writing sovereignty leads to the reasoned conclusion that he is the author of evil. (Though some of the brethren do logical backflips to state this god is both completely and totally sovereign, yet is not the author of evil – and these same folk think it’s “dirty pool” to bring up any of the truly horrible tragedies of the 20th Century when involved in this discussion.)

In a comment response to my post, my friend Ed Brenegar writes,

Our actions have consequences, for good and ill. We are not God’s regional sales representatives. We are literally God’s presence in this world. That is what the church is, Christ’s physical presence defused through millions of believers, none who are in absolute control, but all who share the same responsibility. It is chaos theory as divine intention. God create this world so that we might live in worshipful, faithful sacrificial dependence upon his grace. When we don’t, bad things happen. For this reason, I think we are tremendously mistaken in thinking God acts sovereignly over this world as some puppet master who is capricious in deciding when to act and when not to. As a Reformed, Calvinist, Presbyterian Christian, I have to say that our elevation of God’s sovereignty as some high view of God has resulted in a God who is the author of evil. For this reason, whatever the biblical writers mean by sovereignty is not what we Reformed Christians are seeing.

Do I affirm as Kuyper has stated, that God is sovereign over all? Yes. He is sovereign – yet not a Robot Master. Let me quote my younger and wiser friend, Gideon Strauss (as quoted by David Wayne).

Neocalvinism…(starts) out from a few basic convictions. These include convictions shared with most Christians: That the world belongs to God, and that God structured this world in wonderfully complex ways, ways that are in the deepest sense good; that the world is broken and hurt by human evil, and that our evil reaches into every nook and cranny of the world, and yet, that there is hope and healing in the world because of the redemption worked by the Christ; that people really matter. Perhaps more than most Christian religious traditions neocalvinism emphasizes the need for Christian engagement in every sphere of human culture.

As much as I hate proof-texting, might I quote the Apostle Peter who says,

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (See also here.)

This Sovereign God gives us the ability to choose – whether to repent, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly…or even to build properly. And He is never, ever, the author of evil.

UPDATE: Read Joel Hunter’s post @ the BHT.
UPDATE 2: And Tim’s BHT comment is also worth reading. And Michael points to Greg Boyd in a response to Tim. I do like Greg’s Open Theism definition of God’s knowledge – “God overknows the future*.” In all its permutations, apparently.
*Told to me by a colleague who also works with Greg.

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

2 responses to On Robots and Sovereignty

  1. I am now recalling the work of Dorothy Sayers in this direction, in her book “The Mind of the Maker.” A novelist and playwright, Sayers had a dynamic and creative grasp of sovereignty that took human freedom into account. She was also one of the Inklings. It’s a great read, but since it was 20 years ago I am not going to attempt a summary πŸ™‚

  2. Quoting from the two quotes you supplied:

    “God created this world so that we might live in worshipful, faithful sacrificial dependence upon his grace. When we don’t, bad things happen…”
    “…God structured this world in wonderfully complex ways, ways that are in the deepest sense good; that the world is broken and hurt by human evil…”

    I want to push these ideas. Why is it that bad things happen when we screw up? Why is the world broken and hurt by our evil? Couldn’t God have made the world “child proof?” God is not the author of evil, but under whose curse do we live? Yes, it is a justly deserved and earned curse, but every bridge that collapses and every death finds its way back to curse of the YHWH of the Bible. Death is from the LORD even as life is.

    I would simply suggest, rather than trying to find a theological category or trying to get God off the hook, to let Him bear the weight, even as I believe He ultimately did on the cross.


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