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The Sovereignty of God

Posted by truthtalklive on August 16, 2007

Dr. R.C. Sproul www.ligonier.org joins Stu to talk about one of his favorite subjects and to take your calls. Got a question for one of America’s foremost theologians? Your chance to talk with Dr. Sproul live on todays broadcast.

For pastors in the Charlotte area of North Carolina. You’re invited to Reformed Theological Seminary’s breakfast with R.C. Sproul on Friday, September 7, 2007 at 8:45 a.m. at the Charlotte Marriott Southpark. This event is free but seating is limited. To register send pastor’s name, church name and contact phone number to: pastors@ligonier.org . Your confirmation will arrive via return email.  

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29 Responses to “The Sovereignty of God”

  1. Tammy said

    I asked this question on the radio, however I did not get to hear all of the answer because my battery on my cell phone was low and cut me off and I had my radio down.

    My question is; When God told Adam and Eve that they could eat the fruit of any tree there in the Garden of Eden but they could not eat from the tree of Good & Evil. Then the snake tempts Eve with the fruit,why did Adam not stop her? He knew they were not to eat of that fruit, but yet let her and then he ate it. Why?

  2. Anonymous said

    Because it’s allegory.

  3. Brad said

    No, not b/c it was allegory – b/c it was sin.

  4. Anonymous said

    Sorry, Brad, but I am right.

  5. Perky said

    to Anonymous…

    1Co 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    Pro 30:5 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.

    Be of Good cheer! 🙂
    Perky

  6. Brad said

    Anonymous,

    How do you know you’re right, and that it’s allegory?

  7. Mel Duncan said

    I enjoyed being on with Stu and talking with the Truth Talk Live audience. Intersting discussion going on here.

    Tammy, I think the easiest way to answer that is to say that Adam had already resolved to sin himself first by letting his wife sin, and then second by taking the fruit from Eve in his hand and then lastly and completely by eating up it himself. That’s often how it is with us isn’t it? The gross sin begins with a small compromise along the way.

    Anonymous, my guess is that you don’t really believe the Genesis account is allegory, I suspect your issue is you think God needs your help in explaining things? Am I off base?

  8. Tammy said

    Thanks Mel, I can diffinetly relate to your answer.

    But still, because of what happened the world gets to go to pot.

    However, I do thank GOD for the suffering he went through when he sent his son Jesus to take our place on the cross. I owe him my life, because he paid for a dept that he did not owe and I owed a dept that I could not pay.

    GOD Bless you all..
    Tammy

  9. If it’s an allegory, then where is the argument for it being so? Allegory is a very specific literary form. How does that text display that form? What are the characteristics of a Hebrew allegory and how does Genesis 1 – 3 fit that description? Saying “I’m right” is intellectually irresponsible.

    To answer your question, Tammy, in Reformed theology we believe that the Fall was decreed.

    Now, before a non-Calvinist/Arminian replies to rebut that notion, I’d remind them that they teach the same thing. The difference between us is that we Reformed folks teach that the permission of God is not “bare.” They, in contrast, teach that it is “bare.”

    Scripture does not tell us why, Tammy. All it teaches here is that they formed a desire on their own sufficient to themselves, for Scripture attributes our actions to our motives and desires. It may have been in the notion that they wanted to be “like God.”

    Now, on its own, considered by itself, that’s not at all a “wrong” desire, for that is, in some sense God’s intention for mankind, for we were created in His image. What they failed to do was realize that they were *already* like God, righteous and upright, equipped to comply with His commands. So, the serpent deceived them by inferring they were not like God, and they acted to be like God. So, we could say that the fall was a case of “the road to hell being paved with good intentions.”

    The text is also a bit fuzzy on Adam being there. He was with her, but that could mean he was nearby, not that he was in her immediate presence. However, one of the certain points of the text is that he should have cast the serpent out of the Garden. He was to cultivate it.

    The serpent in the Garden is like the “abomination that sets up desolation” in later texts. This is a constant theme in Scripture, where a false god takes up residence in the hearts and minds of men, the place where God should rule. At one point, an idol is put into the Temple. Then we have the image in Daniel’s prophecy.

    If you haven’t read, it Tammy, I would highly recommend this book to you:

    http://www.monergismbooks.com/humannature5592.html

  10. Anonymous said

    If not allegorical, then what?

  11. Anonymous said

    “Anonymous, my guess is that you don’t really believe the Genesis account is allegory, I suspect your issue is you think God needs your help in explaining things? Am I off base?” – Mel Duncan

    Yes, you are off base.

  12. Anonymous said

    Brad, because it demonstrates the absurdity of trying to discuss these topics with fundamentalists such as yourself, I was being a smart alec.

  13. Mel Duncan said

    Anonymous,

    Curious was Jonah and the Whale allegory?

  14. Anonymous said

    Mel,
    You’re welcome to join us on Truth Talk Live ANYTIME!
    My hat’s off to you for handling some heavy-duty questions in record time. Look forward to being with you and the ministry on September 7th in Charlotte.
    Thanks,stu

  15. If not allegorical, then what?

    A. Historical.

    B. However, embedded in it is typological language. Typology and allegory are not convertible. Allegory is a specific literary form. Ezekiel 17 is an allegory. Genesis 1 – 3 does not match those characteristics. It isn’t enough to see a sacramental pair of trees in the garden and a talking snake and say “allegory.” Rather, we should look at the text (and all texts) using the principles of grammatical-historical exegesis.

    C. The GHM does not favor any particular theological tradition, liberal or conservative.

    D. I’d add that liberals like James Barr don’t exegete the text much differently than a conservatives like Kurt Wise. The issue isn’t the content, that is, the result. The issue is the authority they give to the text.

    E. So, let’s take a quick look at the text.

    What we have in Genesis is a seven day creation. I’m inclined to agree that these are seven literal days. However, the key to interpreting the text is not to read it in a vacuum. Genesis is very much a “catching up” book for the original audience, the wilderness generation.

    They are poised to enter the land of Canaan, the land of promise. The point of the book is to tell them they have a divine right to that land, a right going all the way back to creation.

    The key to understanding the narrative is, in part, in reading it in parallel with the narrative of the ark’s construction and the building of the Tabernacle. As my friend Steve Hays writes:

    Let’s start with the flood and move back. In the flood account we have a triple-decker ark with a window and a roof (6:16; 8:6,13). The animals occupy different decks. During the deluge the ark has water above (rain) and below (floodwaters).

    Now, let’s compare this to the world. In the creation account, the world has windows (7:11) and a roof (1:6-8; 14-16). It has water above and below (1:2,7). The world has three decks: sky, earth, water (cf. Exod 20:4). Animals occupy different “decks.”

    So when we ask what God was doing in Gen 1, I think we need to distinguish between direct and indirect action, and between literal and literary levels. When does the action denote a direct creative deed, and when does it depict the work of a carpenter? In the latter case, the account is picturing God as a cosmic carpenter—a godlike Noah. So when does the action apply directly to the creature, and when does it apply directly to the architectural metaphor, and indirectly—via the metaphor—to the creature? The answer would depend on the implicit presence or absence of architectural imagery.

    Even a literary metaphor has a literal referent. But we must ask when the creative act is direct or indirect: does it fasten onto the literal referent or the figurative feature that represents the literal referent? Which level is in view?

    Suppose we ask why there was light one day one, indeed, why there was a day one with a diurnal cycle before the sunlight on day four? The literary answer would be that a carpenter cannot install skylights until he has put a roof on the house. But there was sunlight before there were skylights.

    If we ask what stands behind the metaphor, perhaps the imagery has reference to the divine dispersion of the rain clouds (e.g., Job 38:8-9), which would further link it to the flood account (Gen 1:14,20; 8:6-12; 9:12-17).

    In addition, there are pervasive parallels between the creation of the world and the construction of the tabernacle. Cf. G. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission (IVP 2004).

    Let us now compare the Fall with the record of Balaam (Num 21-24). The name of the Tempter is a pun: the word for “snake” (Heb.=nahas) in Gen 3:1 is from the same root word used by Balaam to put a hex (Heb.=nahas) on Israel (Num 23:23; 24:1). The angel who opposes Balaam is named “Satan” (22:22). The same sword-drawn angel (22:23) recalls the cherubim who guard the Garden (Gen 3:24). The brazen snake (Num 21:9), as well as the “fiery serpents” (21:6,8) or “seraph-serpents” (another double entendre), recalls the Temper (Gen 3:1) and the fiery cherubim (3:24). The talking donkey recalls the talking snake (3:1ff.). And an imprecatory theme is common to both accounts.

    o the modern western reader, the whole business of the talking snake may be the most unbelievable element of an unbelievable story. And this is because, as children of the scientific age, we think of a snake as a natural animal, nothing more and nothing less. And so, when we read about a snake in Gen 3, and what is attributed to this particular snake, we think of the snake as a natural animal, which intrudes an instant incongruity into the account. And that is because we’re judging the account by our own frame of reference.

    But, of course, it was never meant to be understood in such terms. And one problem with reading the account this way is that it fails to explain how Bible writers could go so quickly from a serpentine figure to a satanic figure.

    What we need to keep in mind is that, in the ancient world, and in many parts of the world in our own day, a snake is more than a natural animal. A snake is supernatural emblem and occult object. It is an object of idolatry. It is used in witchcraft and divination.

    This raises the question of whether the Serpent in the garden is a real snake. The grammatical construction of Gen 3:1 could either be partitive or comparative. If the latter, he’s classified with the beasts of the field; if the former, he’s in a class apart. If the comparative sense were intended, we’d expect him to be classified with the creepy crawlers (e.g., reptiles) rather than the beasts of the field (cf. 1:24).

    The curse is sometimes taken to entail a literal metamorphosis (Gen 3:14), and that cannot be discounted (e.g., Exod 7:8-12). However, this may only be a figure of speech (e.g. Ps 44:25; 72:9; Isa 25:12; Mic 7:17). And, indeed, 3:15 clearly trades on the figurative imagery.

    Since Satan is a consummate shape-shifter and master of illusion (2 Cor 11:14), the ambiguity may be deliberate.

    Why such similarities? To draw attention to the historical correspondence between the apostasy of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and the apostasy of Israel in the wilderness. Israel recapitulates the Fall.

    The Garden is depicted as a Tabernacle. God makes a covenant with Adam, the high priest, with Eve his assistant. They tend the Garden as the priesthood under Aaron cared for the Tabernacle. God meets with them as He met with Israel in the Tabernacle. The wilderness surrounds the Garden as the wilderness surrounds the Tabernacle. The two trees prefigure the Ark of the Covenant, with the Law beneath (knowledge of good and evil) and the mercy seat above (tree of life). The Tabernacle and Temple both reflect the Garden, particularly the Temple, which is decorated inside to represent it.

    We understand the Fall to be literal, because Scripture, particularly Jesus and Paul say that is the case. For example, Paul draws an analogy between Jesus and Adam in Romans 5. Those represented by Adam fall in him and are imputed with his sin and guilt. Those represented by Jesus are justified by faith and imputed with His righteousness. If the latter is literal, so is the former.

  16. Brad, because it demonstrates the absurdity of trying to discuss these topics with fundamentalists such as yourself, I was being a smart alec.

    Anonymous, if you’re going to say “it’s an allegory,” then you need to provide a supporting argument. Please, let’s not call the discussion “absurd,” when YOU are the one that has yet to provide a supporting argument for your position.

  17. Anonymous said

    Mel, I dunno, ask Genembridges!

    I guess if one thinks that the Adam and Eve, or the Jonah and the whale stories are describing historical events, then having someone referring to them as allegorical will get one’s neck hair up, but we don’t think that, do we?

  18. Anonymous said

    Genembridges, the Adam and Eve story fits the definition of allegory as I read it:

    http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/allegory

    Here’s my point: Let’s say that you are eavesdropping on a conversation where two people are discussing why Jack, from the Jack and the Beanstalk story, didn’t behave differently than the story says he did.

    you can:

    a) not say anything, or

    b) butt in and say “it’s allegory” or

    c) butt in and explain the Jack and Beanstalk jackology

    I chose b.

    And your reply #15 was great! That is way over my head, but it gives me something to think about. Thanks!

  19. In an allegory, Anonymous, the characters act in humanlike ways, they go against the grain.

    In Genesis, Anonymous, the serpent speaks – but acts like a serpent, for the serpent is no mere serpent. It acts precisely according to type. Adam and Eve act like humans.

    And where’s the supporting argument for taking an ENGLISH literary form and judging a HEBREW literary form from several thousand years ago by that standard? You’re basically using Animal Farm and Jack and the Beanstalk as your standard, but that’s an illicit move. They come from a different genre and a different culture. The appropriate standard would be the section of Ezekiel to which I pointed you.

    An allegory is a story in which one central point of comparison is intended to be brought out, but in which around this one point there is intentionally and ingeniously woven a web of detail-comparisons in the two processes placed side by side. Ezekiel 23, not Animal Farm would be an appropriate comparison from which to make your case if it can be made at all.

    You’ve made a category error, for you’ve confused typology with allegory. Ancient Near Eastern symbols prefigure historical events and people. Therefore, Biblical typology prefigures or figures onto real historical persons and events. The presence of symbolic or typological language does not automatically select for declaring a text an allegory. That’s a very common mistake. The mere fact that the Bible describes speaking animals (e.g. serpents, donkeys, dragons) in and of itself does nothing to argue for or against allegorizing certain portions of Scripture like Gen. 1-3 or Gen. 1-11 or any other text of Scripture.

    Kurt Wise:

    Genesis lacks many characteristics of non-historical Hebrew literature. Characteristics common in Hebrew allegory, such as storytellers, interpreters, interpretations, and a non-physical-world focus are absent from the Genesis text. Most of the terms of the text (like birds, plants, stars) do not seem to be symbolic. The characteristics of Hebrew poetry with its parallelism of juxtaposed couplets and metrical balance are also absent from most of the text.

    Genesis does have many of the characteristics common in Hebrew historical narrative. It contains genealogical lists, for example, as well as narrative with interspersed poetic lines, an emphasis on definitions, frequent use of the direct object sign and relative pronoun, a list of sequential events separated by the special Hebrew phrase called a waw consecutive (waw is pronounced vahv and is usually translated “and” as in “And God said…” or “And the earth was…”), plus an abundance of geographic, cultural, and other verifiable details. Included are a number of other features that in Western literature may indicate non-historical, even poetic narrative (such as numerology, figures of speech, textual symmetry, and phenomenological language) but that are commonly found in Hebrew historical narrative.

    The historical texts in Genesis contrast with non-historical narrative. For the most part, seamless connections join the various Genesis accounts, including those widely accepted as historical. But the short, non-historical passages within the Genesis account — for example, Adam’s response at seeing Eve (Gen. 2:23) and the song of Lamech (Gen. 4:23-24) — as well as poetic renditions of Genesis passages found in other places in Scripture (such as in Ps. 104) contrast sharply with the historical flavor of the Genesis text, including the creation account.

    Scripture itself refers to Genesis as historical. The remainder of Scripture (Exod. 20:11; Neh. 9:6; Acts 17:22-29) and Jesus Himself (Matt. 19:4-6) speak of Genesis — including the creation account — as if it were to be taken as history. Likewise, most of the Jews and Christians through time have understood the Genesis account to be historical. Since the Genesis account is historical narrative and reliable, its clear claim of a six-day creation should be taken seriously.

    Your problem, Anonymous, is apparently that you reject the miraculous. You see a “talking snake” and think “that’s not possible,” but that’s because you read the text in an overly wooden fashion and are using Merriam Webster’s Dictionary for your defintions of allegory.

  20. Anonymous said

    “Your problem, Anonymous, is apparently that you reject the miraculous. You see a “talking snake” and think “that’s not possible,” but that’s because you read the text in an overly wooden fashion and are using Merriam Webster’s Dictionary for your defintions of allegory.” – Genembridges

    Well, talking snakes are not possible are they? I do reject the miraculous, but it’s not a problem. Thanks for your concern.

    As for “Scripture itself refers to Genesis as historical”, what does that prove? It proves my point about the absurdity of discussing these things with fundamentalists.

    Thanks for the reply. It’s apparent that you are much more knowledgable than I am about theology and typology, etc. than I will ever be, or than I have the desire to be.

    Your problem seems to be that I don’t take the Biblical story of Adam and Eve literally, that I make use of Merriam Webster to help myself understand words and their uses and I like to point out the futility of arguing with fundamentalists to themselves.

    How can I help?

  21. Amado said

    Interesting …

  22. Perky said

    like I wrote earlier ..its really so simple ya see..

    1Co 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    Pro 30:5 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.

    and for those of you that do want to know and understand His word then this is how u get started …:)
    if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

    And then His Spirit will show you the things of GOd and His sovereignty. Wow amazing how simple God is.. and He will show you ..

    Be of Good cheer! 🙂
    Perky

  23. anonymous said

    Perky,

    I beg to differ with you in one regard. No one of us can really understand God. He is too large for our little human minds to understand. We can surely know in part, but not in full.

  24. kandace said

    To Tammy:

    All answers are speculative at best, but I’ll try to answer. I don’t know if you have children, but I’m sure you’ve observed some adult telling a child what not to do and the child does it anyway.

    Scripture does not give a timeline of events.
    Perhaps, Adam tried to tell Eve not to talk with the serpent. In any event, Adam accepted the forbidden fruit from Eve.

    Even if Adam and Eve did not take from the forbidden tree, someone else would have done so because God wanted worshippers from their own volition. In other words, the tree represents God’s freedom of choice for mankind.
    If there is freedom to choose good, there must be freedom to choose evil or else mankind would be no more than robots.

    The blessing is that God did not doom me to hell because of Adam and Eve’s choice. He sent Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for my sins so that I could be free to choose to worship Him of my own free will.

    The question for you, Tammy, is not what Adam and Eve did, but what will you do with Jesus Christ?

  25. Well, talking snakes are not possible are they? I do reject the miraculous, but it’s not a problem. Thanks for your concern.

    Notice the question begging assertion embedded in this statement.

    As for “Scripture itself refers to Genesis as historical”, what does that prove? It proves my point about the absurdity of discussing these things with fundamentalists.

    Of course, that wasn’t my only argument. Rather, I argued on the basis of literary style, genre, etc. By way of contrast, you say, “It’s an allegory,” but provide no epistemic warrant. What this illustrates is the absurdity of discussing these things with atheists who don’t bother to acquaint themselves with the opposing position and can’t substantiate their own when pressed.

    Your problem seems to be that I don’t take the Biblical story of Adam and Eve literally, that I make use of Merriam Webster to help myself understand words and their uses and I like to point out the futility of arguing with fundamentalists to themselves. On the contrary, I’m merely trying to hold you to a minimum of academic accuracy. When you can do this, get back to me. You’re welcome to come to our blog at any time.

  26. Even if Adam and Eve did not take from the forbidden tree, someone else would have done so because God wanted worshippers from their own volition.

    Since Scripture records no other humans at this time, who might these persons be?

    In other words, the tree represents God’s freedom of choice for mankind.

    Where is this in the text? It’s not there, Kandace. Genesis 1 – 3 is meant to be read in parallel with the narratives on the ark and the Tabernacle. The trees represent the justice and holiness of God – His Law (Knowledge of Good and Evil) and His mercy and grace – the Tree of Life. They do not represent “free will.” It seems you have been in the thrall of Dr. Vines and his successors for too long.


    If there is freedom to choose good, there must be freedom to choose evil or else mankind would be no more than robots.

    So, if that’s true, then are you suggesting that God is a robot since he cannot do evil?

    Robots do not have wills.

    Where does Scripture define freedom in libertarian terms? That’s what you are doing. You’re saying “ability limits responsibility.”

  27. Anonymous said

    “What this illustrates is the absurdity of discussing these things with atheists who don’t bother to acquaint themselves with the opposing position and can’t substantiate their own when pressed.”
    – Genembridges

    I presume that you refer to me as an an atheist and in which case you err. So are you guilty of the very thing of which you accuse others?

    I do not believe that the Adam and Eve story describes historical events therefore I refer to it as allegory. This really seems to bug you. Sorry. I get your points about literary styles and so forth, and I congratulate your (apparent) academic success but so what? The important difference in our reading of the Bible which we both strive to illustrate is that you take the stories literally where I take them metaphorically. (If I misuse the literary term I apologize and I accept beforehand any admonishments that you deem necessary. I won’t even exercise my Meriam-Webster bookmarks!)

    My position requires no substantiation: that talking snakes are not possible. Same goes for Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the Whale (fish?), Tower of Babel, etc.

    Your position requires that we rewrite the laws of nature.

    You might want to get off your intellectual high horse and admit that there may be sincere Christians who disagree with your point of view (and who may lack your intellectual abilities and education).

  28. Anonymous said

    Genembridges, thanks for the invitation, but you guys at Triablogue are way over my head. I think that I’ll just sit still and listen over there.

    I post at this blog only because I feel that Stu Epperson’s radio program is fair game for me to comment upon here. There needs to be a few of us here who oppose the mainstream (as put forth on the radio show and here) or it wouldn’t be interesting reading the blogs. Sort of an online Jerry Springer type of thing I guess.

    Truth Talk Live is like the old medicine shows. When after listening to the sales pitch and watching the true believers line up to make their purchases, there are always a few who decline to drink the stuff.

  29. kandace said

    Grenebridges,

    How do you know how Genesis 1-3 is intended to be read? There is a reason why the book of Genesis is assembled the way that it is.

    I have read many sources on Genesis but I have never encountered your interpretation. At least, I attempted to answer Tammy’s question. What about anybody else?

    Response #25 alluded to people who are not a proper party to this discussion. I am not a slave to any man’s interpretation if that is why you chose to interject them into this issue.

    It is important to discuss a topic in the spirit of Christian love and good will without the implication of demeaning anyone’s character.

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