Lipscomb on Divine Sovereignty

The seeming popularity of Neo-Puritanism (John Piper and the “new Calvinists”) is concerning to me, but it is also–in some senses–welcome.  Of course, I am concerned about its apparent belligerence and its theology of unconditional election along with a rigid TULIP. However, I welcome a renewed emphasis on divine sovereignty in the context of an Open Theism that is uncertain about whether God can direct all things for good.

The Stone-Campbell heritage, in terms of divine sovereignty, has significant roots in Classic Arminianism (though it would not necessarily have such on other points in that tradition).  Whether we are talking about Alexander Campbell who denied “chance” in the world or Robert Richardson’s series on providence that resonates with Classic Arminianism, we have some valuable roots that express a high view of sovereignty without a Calvinistic (Reformed) eternal decrees determining events in the world. (I know that needs nuancing, but that is not my point here.)

A case in point is David Lipscomb himself. Hear this section from Salvation from Sin (pp. 46-47) in the light of current discussions between Calvinism, Classic Arminianism and Open Theism.

     The nation that God had used more than all other nations to punish and destroy the rebellious nations was in turn punished with a more fearful destruction than any others. [Commenting on Jeremiah 50:23-29, 38-40.] It is folly and deception for a people to think that because they are used to punish other nations and are successful in war, therefore they are better or more favored of God than the nations they conquer. The wicked are the sword of the Lord. As God deals with nations, he deals with families and individuals. God intends to accomplish certain ends and purposes. He created man for a great end. He will use him to accomplish that end. If man is obedient and faith, God will work in and through him, and, in accomplishing the work, will exalt, bless, and honor the man as his faithful servant and beloved child; but if he refuses a willing obedience, God will overrule his rebellion to work out God’s purpose or end, but, while doing this, will crush the rebel down to ruin.

      Man’s liberty is not very wide, yet broad enough to show his character. He must serve either God or the evil one; he can make his choice. He must accomplish the ends of God in the world. The choice is given him of doing it as an obedient servant and of being blessed and honored with God, or he may rebel, and, in rebellion, be destroyed while accomplishing the end. God must rule. The good of the universe and his own honor demand it. The soul that rebels against his authority must perish. God forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, and ‘will by no means clear the guilty.’

     God has the right to rule and direct all persons and all things for his own ends and purposes; all must serve him or be brought to ruin. He is able to direct and control them so as to bring about his desires and purposes. None need gainsay or oppose; none in heaven or on earth ‘can stay his hand or say unto him, ‘What doest thou?” (Dan. 4:35)

There are parts of this that the Reformed person will not like (but not much), but there are more parts that the Open Thesist would not like. It is a high view of sovereignty that places God at the center with the divine mission, purpose and goal as the agenda of the cosmos. There is no risk that God will not accomplish his purpose, according to Lipscomb. That is sovereignty in Classic Arminian style.

8 Responses to “Lipscomb on Divine Sovereignty”

  1.   David Lawrence Says:

    Not much with which I would disagree. Under covenant a child of God has the freedom to obey or disobey. If the former, he receives covenant blessings; if the latter, he receives covenant curses. Lipscomb appears not to have the unregenerate under consideration here. I would certainly agree with his statement that God works with nations and families (under covenant). Augustine’s and Jonathan Edwards’ discussions on freedom are relevant as well as WCF 3:1. As one respondent says, most importantly is what Holy Scripture teaches on these matters.

  2.   konastephen Says:

    Great post and great quote! Note: I don’t think all ‘neo-Calvinists’ are as bent on the TULIP as you may think. Mark Driscoll, for instance, dismisses some of the more traditional dogmatic claims of Calvinism. Hoping to unwind from a long history of debate, issues like ‘unconditional election’ are being muted by more narratival and corporate accounts of church and of God’s sovereignty, even among the Calvinists. But, yes, this Lipscomb quote offers a safe way through the Scylla and Charybdis of High Calvinism and Open Theism…

  3.   rich constant Says:

    I GOTA question on this one
    i see a lot of ambiguity in this type of thinking about whether God can direct all things for good.
    the reason is, “a basic tenant “any way to me.

    Psa 2:6 Yet I have set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion.
    Psa 2:7 I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee.
    Psa 2:8 Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
    Psa 2:9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

    ya know the “rod of iron that god” used in the time before he seems to give to the lord?

    is it god or is it his king that is directing the good? also has the good not changed sense Christ overcame death?

    Act 2:30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
    Act 2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
    Act 2:32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

    also the casting out of the deceiver from the presence of the father through the “one righteous act ” rom 5:18

    Rom 5:17 For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ.
    Rom 5:18 So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life.
    Rom 5:19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.

  4.   rich constant Says:

    OK sorry ….again.
    seems to me that our lord is the one in control, now not the father.
    for so many reasons.

    •   rich constant Says:

      of coarse the agenda has not changed but by way of true empathy for the created?
      new Adam that gives life through the Spirit “for the purpose of”
      giving glory to the father.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I would not draw such a sharp distinction. The “one who sits on the throne” has invited the Lamb to sit with him (Rev. 4 & 5). I don’t think the Father has been dethroned.

      •   rich constant Says:

        Jesus speaks of “delegating authority”,my point being just as a compared to what…GOD HAS PROVEN THAT he is faithful to his words,ROM.3 through the redemption of the new man from death etc.
        I am not as you seem to think throwing the baby out with the bath water:
        and then …. 🙂

        acts 1;7

        psalm 2:8,9
        as compared to
        heb 1:13
        psalm 110


Leave a Reply