So, it’s Sunday, I’ve just come back from Church and had a nice Sunday meal with my family. Then I went and had a peek on Facebook.
From a recently-joined theological group I read this question from a Calvinist:
Does anything happen outside the sovereignty of God? If so, what? (Scripture references please)
Funny enough, having spent a good year in an apologetic group filled with reformed folks very much acquainted with reformed apologetics (aka presuppositional apologetics — possibly the one and only thing I’ve made my own from the “reformed” camp), I can spot blatant logical fallacies with great ease.
So, whilst others are actually answering his question (giving him a leverage by ignoring the fallacy), my immediate response to the reformed brother is
Loaded question fallacy.
A good lesson I learnt is this: never answer a fallacious question without first pointing out that it is indeed fallacious (Proverbs 26:4-5). The built-in fallacy gives leverage to the questioner; whether it was planned or not, it will put them into an advantageous position, since you’ll end up trapped in the fallacious presuppositions they laid out for you.
The brother, asked, of course, why his question was fallacious. Well, it’s easily said.
He, being a Calvinist, has an utterly wrong definition of sovereignty that he’s bringing into the question. In Calvinistic jargon, sovereignty means control; where by control, in Calvinism, is actually meant that God “decreed all things that come to pass from eternity past”. Thus, even the word control is overloaded in Calvinism.
Anyway, that’s why he could phrase the question the way he did; but what he really meant is: «does anything happen outside God’s deterministic control?».
Thankfully, I can start by quoting a Calvinist on this issue when I say:
The problem is that the English word sovereignty does not mean control.
When you take the Calvinistic overloaded meaning away from the word sovereignty, the question ceases to have meaning altogether, because it simply makes no sense to ask if something happens outside of someone’s sovereignty. It’s just not an intelligible question.
Therefore, we must move to the actual question behind the question: «does anything happen outside God’s deterministic control?». Under the so called reformed worldview, all things that occur are under God’s strict control, in the sense that it was God’s perfect and good will that those things should happen.
Of course, I reject that definition of control, since it’s nowhere to be find in the Bible, and it also causes a logical short circuit of the entire biblical message.
How, then, answer this question? You see, the issue is this: I believe that God is both sovereign and is in control, and so does the Calvinist. But neither of those words mean the same thing to both me and the average Calvinist. If a rape or a murder happen, I would never dare to say that God decreed that from eternity past for His glory; that’s unbiblical and blasphemous. However, I will — at the same time — still say that God was and is in control.
God gave man true free will, and they’re free to exercise it to make a genuine free choice between good and evil, between God and not-God. That freedom will by definition result in evil being carried out, but none of it catches God by surprise at any time. God is still in control. The fallen world still runs by the rules He put in place.
God, with his every existence, guarantees that evil will never grow to a point of non-return. In some dispensations, like the Dispensation of Conscience, we see how man, left pretty much to himself, will result in exceedingly great wickedness (Genesis 6:5), to the point that God had to wipe out every living thing from the earth.
Likewise, in the present Dispensation of Grace, we see how “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (i.e. the Gospel — Romans 1:16) works, together with the Holy Spirit dwelling in His Church, as a restrainer of evil.
All the way through the dispensations of biblical history God was and is in control and sovereign. These two things simply do not mean what the Calvinists think they mean.
Had I answered simply “no” to the original question, the questioner would’ve concluded that I ought to be a Calvinist, even if I refused to. Had I answered yes, he would’ve accused me of not believing in the sovereignty of God. Only by exposing his fallacious presuppositions I can answer biblically and actually show that if anyone believes anything wrong about God, that’s the Calvinist.