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EDITOR:
Steve Van Nattan

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EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE AND
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

Does God give man first choice in anything?
AND,
Is John Calvin an effete snob?

By Steve Van Nattan

 

BIG JOHN

With every biblical doctrine there is a debate, indeed, sometimes a deadly war. The gentleman who stands across from me in this article is John Calvin. John was from Alsace Lorraine which is in France. He had the classic instinct of many Frenchmen to nanny anyone standing in front of him.

John had a friend named Servetus with whom he discussed and debated biblical theology. John, like many high powered theologians, had a narcissistic instinct to nanny other Christian thinkers, and Servetus was up to the moment. John never persuaded Servetus to come along and join the early version of Calvinism.

Servetus decided to visit Geneva, Switzerland one day, and not showing very good instincts, Servetus went to church on Sunday where John Calvin preached. Servetus sat through the long sermon and just stared at John showing no response. That was the end of Nanny John's patience. John went to the Burgermeisters of Geneva and convinced them to burn Servetus at the stake. John even ordered them to use green wood so that Servetus would die as slowly as possible.

Remember that story when you get into a confrontation with a Calvinist. They can be brutal and cruel to anyone who does not respond to their nannying.

How do you determine which Reformed men are dangerous? Answer: Mention the fact that John Calvin had Servetus burned at the stake. If they come up with an explanation, like Calvin did not actually light the fire, or Servetus asked for it because he was a heretic, or, "You have to understand that that penalty was normal practice in that day," you are dealing with a Reformed pit bull. He will not hesitate to destroy your character to other people in order to punish you. Been there, done that.

So, the ghost of John Calvin lurks in the corner as I seek to find the biblical answer for the question, "Does God give anyone first choice in anything?"

 

 

GOD ALWAYS GOES FIRST

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

God has been the absolute sovereign of Heaven and the universe from eternity past. This fact drives the astrophysicist mad because he cannot find the first matter, light, or space. The First Law of Thermodynamics tells us you cannot get something from nothing. But, God can. Evolutionists hate the Christian Bible, and its God, because he not only can make something from nothing..... that is exactly how this universe started.

So, God has created all things, including you and me. He therefore, by default, is in charge and takes full responsibility for all things.

Does this mean that you are not a full participant in your life and world? Are you a sort of divinely driven robot fulfilling your predetermined destiny at the whim and will of God?

That is not the way your God put this all together. God created Adam to have fellowship with him, and God visited Adam in the cool of the evening and walked and talked with him.

And, God delegated certain executive powers to Adam.

 

DOES MAN HAVE EXECUTIVE POWERS (PRIOR CHOICE)?

In the creation account, when life first started in our universe, we see God delegating responsibility to Adam. God told Adam to be fruitful and multiply. He gave him a wife, and by the gift of reproduction, Adam was given full responsibility to fill the earth with people. Only in the virgin birth of Jesus in Mary did God make an exception to this plan. Otherwise, God handed the responsibility of the filling of the earth to Adam and Eve. God could have created millions more humans and filled the earth himself. The plain meaning of the Genesis text is that Adam was delegated the power and responsibility to create the rest of humanity.

But, there is an even more poignant case of God giving Adam executive powers and responsibility:

Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

I am a biblical literalist. If the plain sense makes good sense, do not look for any other sense. Verse 19 says that God brought the animals he created to Adam. Also, God wanted to see what Adam would name them. And, like any good CEO, God did not second guess Adam on one choice of a name for an animal. When God gives you a choice to go left or right, he does not slap you for your choice. Of course, when God takes total control, he will tell you which way to go. God is then "pulling rank" on you, and you best go his way or be chastened.

Verse 19 also says that God wanted to see what Adam would name the animals. This clearly implies that God had not named the animals himself. He wanted the satisfaction of seeing what Adam named them.

Now, we dare not take that any farther. Does God today not have certain things planned? Is he waiting to see what I will choose in certain life situations? Has he given me the choice of whether I will order steak and eggs or an omelet? I cannot speak for God, so I am not sure at this point. But, I would be surprised if God cares whether I order chocolate or vanilla ice cream. I am made in the image of God, and I like surprises, especially from my kids. If God likes some surprises, I will not worry about whether he is still 100% in charge. The Calvinist sometimes (not all of them) claims that God plans every sneeze and wheeze of your life. You are acting out what he planned. Certainly, God sees a sparrow fall, but does he leave some choices to his children? Based on what he did with naming the animals, I believe he does.

When I let my boy pick his prize for learning the multiplication tables, I let him choose, and half the fun for me was seeing him earn the reward he wanted. Now, if he had wanted a Smith and Wesson revolver, I would have stepped in and exercised my own executive privilege. But he chose a Tonka truck car carrier. It became a landmark of his youth because it was a wish which his Daddy fulfilled just to see his joy.

I have heard of people who stopped and prayed to learn God's will when they chose between ice cream flavors before ordering. How about just asking God at the beginning of the day to give you wisdom in all your choices, assume God will answer your prayer, and then make all of those executive decisions without fear?

One thing the hyper Calvinist cannot get used to is that God gets intense joy out of responding to his children's desires.

Psalms 37:4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

The caveat here is that we must delight ourselves in the Lord in order to feel safe in making choices based on our delights. Remember this the next time some Christian you know says they are asking God for the finances to buy a luxury car, and keep you big mouth shut. God may just give them that car, and he will not need to consult with you first. My delight, subject to divine approval of course, would be one more old Lincoln. I am one of God's silly little kids who gets a buzz out of driving his living room down the road. If God lets me do that again, do I need some pious Calvinist nanny to give me permission? Not lately.

God is not pleased when your fear and love of him become obsessive compulsive scrupulosity. This is a disorder of the personality and mind in which a person becomes frequently panicked over decisions they have made in life. You become like the man with five watches. He is never quite sure of what time it is. Pick one watch, leave the others in the drawer, and you will KNOW what time it is.

Matthew 7:11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

What is implied is, if you are in close fellowship with your God, he likes to give you what you delight in. So, when he gives you choices, go where you delight to go, that is, if your whole mind and heart are right with him. If you are out of fellowship with God at any time, there is NO way you can trust any of your choices.

A pastor I knew went chasing ladies in his church and got into bed with six of them. He was finally caught, and he at once resigned from the church. He made a sort of confession from the pulpit, which was in order. Then, he told the people that he could assure them that the messages he preached while sleeping around were sound and could be trusted. He reasoned that God, because he is sovereign, made sure those messages were sound in spite of the preacher's sin. BAH! There is no way a man who is brazenly sinning like that can claim he had the will of God in anything in his life. I wanted to get into the sound room and burn all his sermons that had been recorded on cassette tapes. But, I decided that I would be acting in a lawless way to do that.

When the power of God left Samson, he did not know it until the Philistines put out his eyes and threw him in prison.

Question: Do you know your standing with God right now? Has the Chief Executive of your life stepped back, and you are acting on your own? How do you suppose this will end?

Psalms 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

David, who wrote this Psalm, could not be sure he was teaching the truth God's way until he was right again with God. One of the responsibilities of having executive privilege is always staying in close fellowship with the one who gave it to you.

 

WHERE DID JOHN CALVIN GO WRONG?

Calvin's problem was that he could not simply believe what he read in the Word of God. When the Bible said, "He is not willing that any should perish," Calvin tossed the blue bean bag down. The object that you see being thrown by National Football League officials is a blue bean bag. All officials carry a bean bag to mark the spot of a fumble.

Calvin simply concluded that God fumbled. Now, you cannot find a direct quote by Calvin where he faults God of contradicting himself, but the effect of his theology is just that..... God got confused. God simply could not take charge in eternity past, for my response to the Gospel, and then give me free human will and take the risk that I might go against his will. Calvin believed that God WAS willing to send some people to Hell, and God made sure that is what they would choose. You see, Calvin read John 1:1-4 correctly, and he believed it. God was there first, and he is absolutely in charge of all things that have to do with mankind, from beginning to end.

But, Calvin also read, "Whosoever will may come," and, "Choose you this day whom you will serve," and Calvin went into a lawyer's frame of mind and concluded there was a contradiction there. God could not elect men from before the foundation of the world, and then, give them executive power to determine their own destiny. So, in law, when this happens, the law is declared void from the day of its inception. The law will be voided and cannot be enforced.

Thus, Calvin had the noble responsibility of rescuing God from himself. Since God could not get it all quite right, Calvin went to work and wrote his Institutes, and he rescued God, and he thought he had put God back in charge. Every dedicated Calvinist you will ever meet believes that, though he would fiercely deny it.

What the Bible teaches is that God fulfilled his will in the end results of man's choices. God was not cheating by using his eternal omnipresence to look ahead and see what I would choose and then fix the system ahead of time by his choice. Both truths are 100% true..... God determined my destiny in eternity past, AND I chose to believe the Gospel in my lifetime, and I exercised my will to secure my destiny in Christ. You will only reconcile this by simply believing that is how it works. Calvin simply refused to believe both truths were the done deal.

Now, that may give you a knot in your undies, but that is what the Bible teaches. The key to this whole discussion is, do you believe God is big enough to know you from eternity past, elect you unto salvation, and then turn you loose to decide whether of not you believe the Gospel, particularly the biblical teachings about Jesus Christ? THAT is what John Calvin did NOT believe. So, he simply deleted your executive powers that God gave you. Your will is an illusion, and God told you to make various decisions in your life simply to coddle you in your need for attention.

What is the result of this flight from biblical truth?

Answer: One of three things happens:

1. Like Robert Schuler, a famous author and minister of the Reformed Church of America, who started out in the tracks of John Calvin, you jump ship and start preaching (and writing books about Self-love) and teach that man is the ultimate sovereign of all his affairs.

OR.....

2. You become so hyper-Calvinist that you stop telling anyone you are a Christian. You tell no one you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ out of fear of God's wrath. Am I making this up? NO! The leaders of the Trinitarian Bible Society, who distribute thousands of Bibles around the world in many languages, have taken the position that they cannot be ultimately sure they were elected to salvation. They believe their faith in Jesus Christ may simply be a wish for a better life, and if they declare their faith openly God could become very angry with them and assign them to the furnace room of Hell.

OR.....

3. You learn to rest secure in your election and confession of faith, and you never give the Gospel to anyone because, "If God wants them bad enough, he will get them. They have no choice. And, if they are not elect, anything I tell them will make no difference." Thus, the Savior who commanded them to preach the Gospel to every creature is totally ignored, and no one will ever know they are really born again, Indeed, maybe they are not born again.

Matthew 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Many Reformed people are NOT born again. A doctor friend of mine teaches the adult Sunday School class in the Reformed church he attends, and he told me his top priority is to see adult class members get saved. True Bible Reformation results in the confession of Jesus Christ before men. The Reformer who put some life back into the mess hatched by John Calvin was John Knox of the Scottish Kirk. "I am a watchman…. For that reason I am bound in conscience to blow the trumpet publicly."

Let us give the last word here to another Reformer who walked by Sola Fide. We apply this to John Calvin's theology of human reason:

"Human reason is like a drunken man on horseback; set him up on one side, and he tumbles off of the other side." Martin Luther

I was walking into the grocery market in Grant, Michigan one day, and I saw a man sitting in his car with the window down. He was obviously waiting for his wife to shop and come out of the store. I walked up to his car and said, "You look bored. I have something for you to read while you wait." I handed him a Gospel tract, and he looked at it and quickly figured it out. He then said, "You really need to give this to someone else. I am already a Christian." I responded, "Well, do you know anyone who is not a Christian that could use that message?" He stared at the tract for a few seconds, and then he said, "I sure do. I really should keep this and give it to an unsaved person."

That man was truly born again. Why do I say that? Answer: when confronted with the possibility of being a witness for Christ, his instinct was to give the Gospel to other people. If you do not have that God-given instinct, you are not born again. I have concluded that the massive works of John Calvin, trying to destroy the will of man as part of the Gospel, indicates that Calvin may very well have been a spiritual rebel. He used his will to destroy the principle of choice in man, and God gave man a choice so that he could, by faith, return to God and salvation. Calvin may very well be in Hell right now.

 

CONCLUSION

In the 1960s I served in the US Army during the Vietnam war era. I went through all my training, and I was made a clerk typist to work for the Chaplain's office in my brigade. One of my jobs was to keep my phone covered. The implication was that I would always be there to answer the phone. I was also the Chaplain's driver. There was no way I could be by the phone all the time and also drive the Chaplain around. We did not have mobile phones back then.

It did not take long to figure out a solution. I used what executive privilege the Army defined as mine, and I got busy and manufactured a phone cover out of cardboard. I wrote on the cover "This phone is covered at all times." The Chaplain saw it and laughed and told me to "cover the phone" and get the Jeep and drive him to the officers' PX for coffee and a donut. He always took me inside and treated me also.

Now, I could have gone up to the Colonel's office and asked him how to solve my problem of covering my phone at all times. He would have had some choice words for me for not figuring that out for myself. You see, the Colonel gave me my assignment as a clerk typist, and he expected me to make a lot of choices on my own. What if he came for a visit to my office and saw the phone cover, and he decided it was not appropriate? Well, he would then exercise his sovereign power over me and tell me to throw it away. But, he might also tell me to "carry on soldier." As a believer in Jesus Christ, God expects you to get on with life and accomplish the work he has given you. DO IT. Stop going to Command Headquarters and asking permission to polish the buttons on your uniform.

God has given you a will because you are created in his image. God has his divine will, and you have your human will. You are 100% responsible for your choices. That is your executive privilege given you by your Creator. To deny that God wants man to make choices as to his destiny, in life as well as in eternity, is heresy. It does not matter how nice a professing Christian is, or how well he defends other doctrines of the faith, if he denies God the authority to give man a will, that alleged Christian is a heretic. And, if he denies that God will judge us based on our choices, he is still a heretic.

I am sick and tired of heretics being exalted as great scholars and Bible teachers, and one of the most wretched is the heretic who claims he can decide for God who he can assign choice and free will. I use the word free, not in the Arminian sense, but free will is that freedom which God gives us humans within our understanding of freedom. To a man who can choose between a Ford or a Chevy, freedom of choice is glaringly obvious. To God, it is also glaringly obvious. If God is concerned that I not buy a Chevy, he will make sure I buy the Ford. To me, I had all the choice I can humanly muster, and I believe it was my choice. Everyone is happy with that arrangement except the heretic from Alsace Lorraine, John Calvin. Actually, I have a Buick, and I suspect that is just fine with God.

Do you choose chocolate ice cream instead of strawberry? Great. God just may not have chosen that for you before the foundation of the world. Like any earthly father, he gave you the income to afford to buy ice cream, he lead you to the ice cream parlor, he assigned an angel to make sure you missed a car accident, and you got to decide what flavor ice cream you wanted. The only question left to ask is, did God lead you to that shop so that you could confess your faith in Christ to someone there? That is also your job. Should you give a verbal witness for Christ, or should you leave a Gospel tract? That may very well also be your choice.

Relax. God loves you, and if he lets you make some of the choices in life, have fun, and praise him for the life he gave you.

Also, understand this..... Whether or not you like it, God is insisting that you decide if you will do his will in your life or rebel and go your own way. Even Jesus showed us that this was his deepest motivation:

John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

The question is, will you do the will of God? It is your choice.

 

 

 

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