What do we mean by God’s ‘sovereignty’?

104486Roger Olson just published a brilliant (and quite entertaining) post that explores what we mean when we talk about God’s ‘love’ and God’s ‘sovereignty.’ Both Calvinists and Arminians hold presuppositions that influence their understanding of the meaning of these words and how they interrelate. For example: it could be argued that Arminians prioritize God’s love and then from that basis seek to understand what God’s sovereignty is, while Calvinists prioritize God’s sovereignty and then from that basis seek to understand what God’s love is. Both views are ‘biblical,’ but start from different places and explain some parts of the Bible in light of other parts of the Bible (assumed to be more foundational).

His post, which I highly recommend, is here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/08/a-conversation-between-a-calvinist-and-an-arminian-about-gods-sovereignty/

I posted the following response, based on some research I’ve been doing on the Ancient Near East and reflections flowing out of that:

[to Roger Olson]

Brilliant! (and entertaining!)

A question. Do you think there might be development in Scripture (through the OT, then into the NT) on this issue? What I mean is that in the ancient near east people generally believed that ‘the gods’ were in control of everything (as their cosmology and their theology were mutually determining). Within that context, it’s not difficult to imagine God accomodating himself in Scripture to speak into that world. Scripture’s cosmology shares features with common ideas in the ANE (e.g., Scripture speaks of the earth having pillars, of there being storehouses for snow, hail, and winds, etc.). It’s not that the OT teaches this cosmology per se, but it assumes much of it as God accomodates his revelation (and in the process, of course, transforms many aspects of that cosmology from within). So, my question is: I wonder if a particular view of sovereignty seeps in from this ANE view of the gods/the cosmos? Scripture (at least in the OT) does not challenge everything about this, but asserts that GOD (not ‘the gods’) is sovereign over all things. Then, with Jesus, we have to ask afresh what we mean by ‘GOD’ and what it means for THIS GOD (the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ) to be sovereign.

Just thinking out loud . . .

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