I continue with my response to Art Sippo regarding Romans 9. Sippo wrote,
This is based on a philosophy of Voluntarism stemming form Ockham’s theory ‘absolute divine power.’ According to Voluntarism, if God is bound to act by a moral standard, that standard sits in judgement on Him and He is not truly sovereign. ‘Good and evil’ in this system are defined purely by the will of God, not by the actions that God requires of men. Since there is no essential goodness, God can dispose of any person without regard to what they have done. The Bible real [sic] knows nothing of this demonic idea. Instead, it preaches the existence of essential goodness and evil and promises rewards and punishments accordingly.
Actually, it is based upon the clear testimony of Scripture, not a theory of Ockham. It is hard to know exactly what Sippo means here. Is he postulating that good and evil exist outside of God as abstract principles to which God is subject? What is their origin, if this is the case? Is God actually bound by the same laws He has for men, or does His law reflect His essential nature while He is not bound to the same context as the creature? Obviously, Sippo is not accurately representing the real situation when he writes that from the Reformed perspective God “can dispose of any person without regard to what they have done.” If by this he means God is free to do with His creation as He wishes, I would gladly affirm this; however, the context is not a theoretical one, but a soteriological one, and hence Sippo is presenting an egregious caricature, for while God’s mercy and grace in granting life to the elect is surely ground solely in His sovereign pleasure, His disposition of the wicked is ground in His holiness and their sinfulness. This is such a basic element of Reformed teaching that one is forced to wonder what Sippo thinks he gains by such misrepresentation. But at this point I remember that he is not seeking to convince me, or anyone who believes as I do. He is speaking only to his constituency, no one else.
Far from being demonic, the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God to act as king over His own creation is present throughout Scripture, and the Bible makes sure to assert that this freedom extends to that area where God is most glorified, that of the salvation of His people in Christ. I note some of the primary passages below.
Genesis 20:6: Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.
Exodus 34:24: I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God.
Deuteronomy 2:30: But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done.Joshua 11:20: For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Ezra 11:1, 7:27: In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing…Praise be to the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem…
Job 14:5: Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.
Psalm 65:4: Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!
Psalm 115:3: Our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him.
Psalm 135:6: The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.
Psalm 139:15-16: “When I was woven together in the depths of the
earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me
were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Proverbs 16:33: The lot is cast in the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 20:24: A man’s steps are directed by the LORD, how then can anyone understand his own way?
Proverbs 21:1: The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.
Isaiah 10:5-7: Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me…but this is not what he intends, this is not what he has in mind; his purpose is to destroy, to put an end to many nations.
Isaiah 43:12-13: You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, that I am God. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?
Isaiah 45:7: I form light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster (lit: evil); I, the LORD, do all these things.
Isaiah 46:9-10: Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, and what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
Jeremiah 1:5: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
Lamentations 3:37-38: Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
Daniel 11:36: The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of-things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.
Matthew 11:27: All things have been committed to my by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and one one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.
Acts 4:27-28: Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the
Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
Acts 13:48: When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life