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The Sovereignty of God


How many times does “sovereignty of God” occur in Calvin’s Institutes?
The God who isn’t sov. simply isn’t God.  Yet what is meant by “sov’y” or “almightiness”?
God is omnipotent, but what is meant by “power”?  All Christian truth must be understood ultimately in the light of the cross!
Cross: there is no limit to God’s vulnerability.  Resurrection: no limit to the effectiveness of God’s vulnerability.
In speaking of God’s power we must understand that God is person: his power is the effectiveness of his person.

p25 God remains hidden until he gives himself to be known in revelation.  The hidden God is revealed, while the revealed God remains hidden to all but the eyes of faith.

Note Luther’s Theologia Crucis.

(CREATOR AND LORD)  [see next lecture on doctrine of creation]

Errors to avoid in our understanding of God’s sov’y:  What can God do?  What not?  In what sense is God unchangeable (immutable) ?  In what sense not?
What is meant by God’s “repentance”?

What are the theological subtleties pertaining to
-process theology?
-omnicausality?  (Note the sophistication of the Aristotelian causa, and the use made of it to  help with theological difficulties; e.g., the “cause” of justification:
–     final cause
–     efficient cause
–     meritorious cause
–     instrumental cause
–    formal cause.)


Note the theological issues pertaining to God’s eternality.
Eternity isn’t timelessness.
Eternity isn’t time endlessly extended.
Eternity isn’t “infinite” in the sense of vague or non-finite.
God’s sovereignty, omnipotence, immutability don’t render prayer superfluous; rather, they are the condition of prayer’s efficacy.
p31 Note the relation between Christ’s resurrection and his ascension.
p32  Outside of Christ we experience God’s wrath but can’t identify it (since Christ alone reveals the truth of God.)
p32  Note the connection between Word and Spirit:
Word alone yields a rationalist inference, an abstraction, an idol (inferred god=idol)
Spirit alone yields religious sentimentality, wish-fulfilment, fantasy , frenzy.
Scrip. carefully balances Word and Spirit, the objectivity of God’s deed/utterance and the subjective appropriation of it.  One-sided objectivism and subjectivism (scholastic orthodoxy and religious invention) alike miss the truth that faith is the between: a form of knowing (God) in which the knower is transformed.


God’s holiness is the crucial category in all of S.
[1] God’s Godness, that which constitutes God uniquely God.
[2] God can’t be measured by anything other than himself.
[3] God’s character is without defect or deficiency.
[4] all aspects of God’s character are gathered up into a unity.

Note the features of holiness experienced that are exemplified in the theophany of Exodus 19:
[a] an awefulness that evokes a sense of dread: “And the whole mountain quaked greatly…    Go down and warn the people…lest the LORD break out upon them.”
[b] majesty, unapproachability: “Take heed that you do not go up into the mountain or touch the border of it…. lest they break through to the LORD… The people cannot come to Mount Sinai .”
[c] urgency, vitality, energy experienced as “consuming fire”: “The LORD descended upon it in fire; and the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln.”
[d] mystery, the transcendent, the supernatural, the “wholly other”, incommensurable, “beyond”:  “Lo, I am coming to you in a thick cloud.”
[e] fascination, a sense of being compelled, terror yet inability to ignore: “Do not let the priests and the people break through to the Lord.” (Cf. the shepherds in the Xmas narrative.)

p33 Note the difference between mercy (love meeting sin) and indulgence or toleration.

”           ”           ”            adoration and admiration

”           ”           ”              propitiation and expiation

p34 Note [1] why the absence of wrath would be a character-defect in God [2] why God’s holiness and wrath can’t be known apart from his love in JC.


Reverend V. Shepherd