John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Is He Sovereign Enough?

What a weekend! I flew to Little Rock Friday to do some training for a couple of churches there. I completed a 5-Hour Workshop on Saturday, then flew to DFW -- got in about 10:30pm, had to speak at two services, have lunch with elders, back to the hotel for about 40 minutes, Starbucks with search committee, dinner with one of their small groups, back to the hotel about a 14-hour day. Up early for breakfast with the worship leader Monday, then staff meeting, then lunch with other elders, then meet with leaders of Student Ministry and Children's Ministry, then dinner at home of Student Minister, then formal meeting with search committee. Back to the hotel -- another 14-hour day. Then up this morning for breakfast with the staff and off to the airport.

Needless to say, I'm pretty tired from the trip right now.

I'm sure you'll hear more about things as I process what I know now with Jill. For now, I'm struggling with one question that I'd like to hear your opinion on. Several people here in Atlanta who have given me "advice" on this -- and several of the people I met there in Dallas -- seem to believe that there is absolutely no way that God will allow a bad decision to be made in this situation.

They tell me that God has one guy in mind for this job and will not allow anyone else to be chosen. If it turns out that Southlake is a bad place for me and my family, God will not allow us to go there. And if it turns out that I'm the wrong guy for that position, God will not allow them to hire us.

I don't buy it.

To me, that looks like we're hiding behind God's sovereignty. It actually looks like we're twisting the idea of sovereignty into something it's not supposed to mean.

Unlike John Piper (who I really love -- even though I think he's wrong sometimes) and others, I firmly believe that there's a difference between God's permissive will and God's causative will. In other words, just because something happens, that doesn't mean God caused it. I do not believe that God caused the tsunami in Sri Lanka last year. In fact, I find it kind of offensive to think that way.

AND I KNOW THE BIBLE VERSES -- PLEASE DON'T FEEL OBLIGATED TO REMIND ME THAT YOU KNOW HOW TO QUOTE VERSES OUT OF THEIR HISTORICAL AND LITERARY CONTEXT.

God is sovereign. I affirm that. I have not fully made peace with the arguments of Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock and other Open Theism advocates.

But...I am no rigid monergist either -- what some people call a six-point Calvinist (the sixth point being -- if you do not affirm all five of the other points you cannot be a Christian).

I believe that many things happen that are not God's desire. People suffer, and I do not believe that is his desire. People are lonely and live in isolation. I do not believe that is his desire. Churches choose the wrong guy to be their pastor, and pastors choose the wrong churches to serve. This happens frequently, and I do not believe it is God's desire.

Clearly, God can, will and does redeem poor choices. But he does not force himself upon us. He is no puppet master. Our choices matter, and we can and do stray from his best for our lives.

Some will no doubt think I am denigrating the sovereignty of God. But I ask you: A God who feels the need to flex his muscles all the time, a God who cannot cope with our ability to choose something other than his will and his way, is that a God who is sovereign enough?