A gold and purple crown

On Sovereignty

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The word ‘sovereignty’ can have several nuanced meanings which I would like to briefly discuss with the hope that it will help you to understand my perspective on free will and the God/world relationship.

Here in the UK we live under the sovereignty of the monarchy. This means that the reigning monarch (at the moment Queen Elizabeth II) has certain powers and authority in our country and all the countries over which she is Head of State.

We have a constitution, and although most of the power in the UK rests with our elected Members of Parliament, it’s still the Queen who has the power toΒ “appoint and dismiss ministers, regulate the civil service, issue passports, declare war, make peace, direct the actions of the military, and negotiate and ratify treaties, alliances, and international agreements.” (Source: Wikipedia).

So we see that the role of the sovereign in the UK is to make important decisions that directly affect the lives of his/her subjects.

The Queen makes decisions that affect us and impact our freedoms, but she does not control the details of our lives.

To understand the sovereignty of God we need to understand some things about His nature which are different to that of a sovereign monarch. The Queen is a being with physical and mental boundaries, whereas God is boundless. The Queen has limited powers that are God-given, whereas God has unlimited power by His very nature. The Queen exists in space and time, but God is beyond these limitations. The Queen sits on a throne, whereas God is everywhere due to His omnipresence.

The reason I am pointing all of this out is to highlight that the type of sovereignty God has is unique and different from any earthly sovereign, so it’s not possible to draw an accurate correlation between the two.

God is in control of all the details of our lives, whereas the Queen is not. God is the creator, sustainer, and animator of everything that is under His dominion, whereas a monarch possesses none of these qualities. God’s sovereignty, in my opinion, means that ultimately we do not possess free will, whereas on the human level a reigning monarch leaves us with certain freedoms.

I find it unhelpful when people draw an analogy between the sovereignty of God and earthly sovereignty, because the attributes of these different types of sovereign are completely different. This is something it’s important to keep in mind when trying to understand my worldview, and my belief that God’s sovereignty necessarily means we do not have free will.


For a more in-depth discussion of my arguments pertaining to the sovereignty of God over all events, you may be interested in my book entitled Ultimate Truth: God Beyond Religion, which is currently available with free worldwide delivery. Click here for more info and to watch a book trailer. Thank you for reading!

14 comments

  1. Thought provoking. I’m intrigued that you don’t believe we have free will. That is something I haven’t thought about for awhile, and I am not 100% clear on my own stance. Will need to look into it more.

    1. Okay, Summer! Free will is a favourite topic of mine and I think it’s a really important one for Christian theology. I’ve written a lot on the subject. There’s a free will category on my blog which you’re welcome to explore. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed your lunch break!

  2. I still can’t agree with you on this one Steve. You say, ‘God is in control of all the details of our lives’. Yes, but this does not negate free will. ‘God’s sovereignty, in my opinion, means that ultimately we do not possess free will’. In my opinion, no. I am in control of my childrens’ lives yet they are still free to obey or disobey me: they have free will. If we do not have free will then Jesus was not free to chose to be obedient to his father and die on the cross. Yet Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane makes it clear that there was a choice made. Choice is the fruit of free will, surely: God gave Adam and Eve a choice: the first Adam made the wrong choice; the second Adam, the right one.

    1. Hi Anthony! Do you ever pray that God will bless your marriage? Or pray that your children will grow up to be strong and healthy? Or pray for your career to succeed? And if you do pray such prayers, doesn’t this show that you believe God is in control of your life circumstances?

      I don’t really understand the point in praying about the future if God isn’t in control of the future. Seems very illogical to me.

      And I completely agree that if God is sovereign (in the way I described in the article) this creates problems in terms of the Christian worldview, and this is the main reason why I cannot embrace the Christian worldview. It’s very clear to me that God is beating my heart, circulating my blood, and ‘animating’ my life in general.

      You used the analogy of the relationship between you and your children, but the thrust of my argument in the article was that we cannot compare God’s sovereignty to human sovereignty. The relationship between you and your children is different to the relationship between God and creation, for the reasons I explained.

  3. Good post! Sovereignty is a very confused subject. God, being ultimately and infinitely sovereign, also means He’s not compelled to do anything. He can do whatever He pleases, not do whatever He pleases, but His essence is infinite goodness and other-centered, self-giving love, so His sovereignty is always in our best interest and for our highest good! He’s also in full control yet He can do this without being a micro-manager. He has chosen to give us autonomy within His sovereignty. For instance, He told us to manage the earth, multiply, be fruitful etc. Some of it may seem a bit paradoxical to us, but as you said, we don’t have the ability to fully grasp anything about God with our finite minds. The best we can do is offer weak analogies and metaphor.

    1. Thanks for reading, Mel!

      I certainly agree that along with God’s sovereignty comes His power to do whatever He pleases. But I actually disagree with some of the other things you said in that I believe God does micro-manage (as you put it) the details of our lives. My argument for this stems from my belief in God’s literal omnipresence, which I take to mean there is no atom anywhere in existence that is not a part of God (and yes, this view is rather panentheistic). I am unwilling to place boundaries on the being of God, which those who believe in free will have to do, for if there is freedom from God I believe this logically means God’s being is limited. Of course, this perspective raises problems in terms of the Christian worldview, in which free will is a vital component.

      I hope that you understand the argument, and as always I’m grateful for your thoughtful comment.

      Blessings! Steven

      1. We may be looking at the same thing from a different perspective. I certainly agree that God holds every atom together and there is no limit to His sovereignty. However, to me, it doesn’t necessarily follow that He has to micro-manage everything in order to be sovereign. If He is completely free, which He is, He is also completely free to give us whatever latitude He wants. That would be part of His sovereign choice. It just seems to me that His sovereignty includes the choice to give us a certain level of autonomy. I see this in Scripture. Also, I’m no determinist or Calvinist, so you can probably understand why I say this. πŸ™‚

        Anyway, as we both said, it’s impossible to fully understand an infinite God, so I certainly cannot be dogmatic about any of this. You could be totally right about this. Hopefully, we can learn from each other’s perspective and grow from it. Blessings.

        1. Hi Mel, where I would disagree is that I believe God is limited by His nature in certain respects. For instance, God cannot cease to exist (because of His aseity). Also, God could not create another omnipresent God – it’s just impossible. In a similar way, I believe that God always has been all that exists (because He is boundless), and everything in creation is just an expression of God’s being. I actually believe it’s impossible for God to give autonomy, because by nature He is everywhere, so nothing can be free from Him.

          I agree with you that in the Christian worldview there is a fall away from God, and the idea of judgment seems to depend on free will, although at the same time there are many scriptures that speak of God’s sovereignty over all events, so it’s somewhat confusing. I find, on the whole, that Christians are very unclear when it comes to questions of divine sovereignty and free will, which is one of the main reasons why I struggle to embrace Christianity these days.

          I agree that it’s impossible to fully understand everything about God, but I think it’s possible to use logic and reason to understand some things. I believe any understanding is totally dependent on what God reveals to our minds (that necessarily follows from my worldview).

          I always read your blog posts with interest, and am open to adapting my worldview should I find alternative arguments compelling – the truth is what I seek after!

          Thanks again, friend!

          1. I totally agree that God would not do something that’s contrary to His nature or essence. So, in that way, you could say He is limited. But I don’t believe He is necessarily limited to anything outside of Himself. That would make some law, like justice, higher than God. By His essence, God IS love. And other-centered-self-giving love is borne out in free relationships. It’s the kenosis of Christ the early church fathers talked about. If God limits Himself, that is a sovereign choice, not because He has to. Otherwise, it’s not self-giving love. This is the area where we probably disagree, and that’s okay. As I said before, I’m not dogmatic. We are both seeking truth. And I do respect your view and I learn from your perspective and posts. Thanks for writing! Blessings.

            1. Thanks, Mel. I’ll let you have the last word as I think if I were to respond I would end up repeating myself πŸ™‚ It seems to me you’re a very deep thinker, which I appreciate, as it makes you a kindred spirit πŸ™‚ Enjoy the rest of your day and I’ll look forward to your next post! Blessings, Steven

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