Is god sovereign and do we have freewill

Experts in ancient Greek culture say that people back then didn’t see their thoughts as belonging to them. When ancient Greeks had a thought, it occurred to them as a god or goddess giving an order. Apollo was telling them to be brave. Athena was telling them to fall in love.

Now people hear a commercial for sour cream potato chips and rush out to buy, but now they call this free will.
At least the ancient Greeks were being honest

Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

My new friend Michelle has, on a blog post, posed some questions she would like answered. Should you visit her, say I sent you and be nice :-P.

It is not her questions that interest me but this comment  by Rev. Smith

The shortest and simplest answer to your question about god’s sovereign nature is this.

God is sovereign and He loves you, nothing will ever come into your life that He does not either decree or allow. Did He decree your rape? No but He allowed it. That is the only truthful answer any Christian like myself can provide.

Do I know why he allowed it? No and I am truly sorry for what happened. He will use it for something though. It is His will, His plan and we shouldn’t question it.

That is what it means to be sovereign. Even Satan himself has to ask God’s permission before he can act (Psalm 103:19).

I hope this helps,
Rev. Smith

I am not going to repeat my opinion on religious leaders, politicians and thieves but those who are frequent readers here know where this headed.

And the Rev is telling Michelle and any Christian who believes in this god that he allows such horrendous things to happen to you so that some good may come out of it in the future. Don’t complain. It is all god’s desires. It will be alright in the future, all will be forgiven!

This reminded me of an exchange in Brothers Karamazov between Ivan and Alyosha. I beg your leave to share it here. A kid has been mauled by a general’s dog while the mother is watching helpless and crushed for there is nothing she can do about it. Ivan closes this dialogue thus

‘Listen! I took the case of children only to make my case clearer. Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its centre, I will say nothing. I have narrowed my subject on purpose. I am a bug, and I recognise in all humility that I cannot understand why the world is arranged as it is. Men are themselves to blame, I suppose; they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, though they knew they would become unhappy, so there is no need to pity them. With my pitiful, earthly, Euclidian understanding, all I know is that there is suffering and that there are none guilty; that cause follows effect, simply and directly; that everything flows and finds its level — but that’s only Euclidian nonsense, I know that, and I can’t consent to live by it!

What comfort is it to me that there are none guilty and that cause follows effect simply and directly, and that I know it? — I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have believed in it. I want to see it, and
if I am dead by then, let me rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair. Surely I haven’t suffered simply that I, my crimes and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody else.

I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer. But then there are the children, and
what am I to do about them? That’s a question I can’t answer. For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I’ve only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so unanswerably clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It’s beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony.

Why should they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future? I understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand solidarity in retribution, too; but there can be no such solidarity with children. And if it is really true that they must share responsibility for all their
fathers’ crimes, such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension.

then Ivan continues

I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: ‘Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.’ When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs,
and all three cry aloud with tears, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear.

But what pulls me up here is that I can’t accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my own measures. You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps, may cry aloud with the rest, looking at the mother embracing the child’s torturer, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ but I don’t want to cry aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protect myself, and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It’s not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with
its unexpiated tears to ‘dear, kind God’! It’s not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony.

And I stand with Ivan in refusing to be there in that harmony. And to tell Michelle that some good will come out of her misfortune is to ask her to believe that the god she believes in, is a monster. I don’t know what type of believer would say with a straight face that this god is good or that it has given some people freewill.

And I must ask with Ingersoll, if the reports we have are of a good god, what would a fiend do?

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

30 thoughts on “Is god sovereign and do we have freewill

  1. Excellent post, my friend. I, like you, stand with Ivan on this. Since god doesn’t exist, it can be neither good or evil. What is, is. After that, I do not know. And, I do not know far more than I do or ever will. These thoughts give me some peace of mind, much more so than a belief in an invisible bogey man ever did. I checked out Michele’s blog and will follow it. She’s my kinda blogger and I like the questions she asks and how she thinks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ollytozer says:

    Really good post. I personally find religious leaders’ defence of God intolerable in these situations. I know of a lady who was recently dealing with the death of a close family member. When she contacted the Church to help with her grief and answer questions, they told her it was the devils work, and this upset enormously. It seems to me that they can’t claim knowledge of God’s reasons for all the good things they believe him do, and claim ignorance of his reasons for allowing bad things. Frustrating.


    • makagutu says:

      Hello Olly and welcome.
      Religious leaders and sometimes followers defend their god regardless of how bad the situation is to any person of common sense


  3. john zande says:

    The Rev seems to think his god is a voyeur, then. That’s pretty sick. The excuses just keep getting worse and worse.


  4. a god that is so impotent that it *must* use harm to benefit humans is nothing more than any other god invented by humans. If I were omnipotent, omniscient etc, I certainly could figure out how not to starve children so some delusional idiot can feel better about him/herself or “learn” something. I’d rather die and be damned than expect some other being be tormented ostensibly “for” me. Rev. Smith is nothing more than a sycophantic asshole.


  5. ejwinner says:

    “And I must ask with Ingersoll, if the reports we have are of a good god, what would a fiend do?” Hear hear! Ingersoll is great (Hitchens borrows a lot from him).

    Dostoyevski’s own arguments for religion (running throughout his texts) all boil down to the need for tradition as providing moral standards. The analysis works psychologically, given his historical/social context, but it no longer has much philosophical value, since we know now that people can actually reason through ethical problems without religion, and people can commit to tradition and community without accepting either institutional pressures (of which Dostoyevski himself remained suspicious), or esoteric mystical foundations.


    • makagutu says:

      I agree with you ej. I only reference him in this case because the story Ivan is telling has similarities to this of Michelle and as he says In the end, he is not accepting god’s ticket. He can’t have it neither can I

      Liked by 1 person

  6. shelldigger says:

    In my mind those that would stoop to such nonsense are just as fucking despicable as their gods.

    How these people can claim to be human, claim to have compassion, claim to love… lies all. There is no place for the religion, or those who would make such excuses for it, in my notion of a better world.


  7. Peter says:

    Theologians at times refer to what they call ‘tensions’ in the Biblical text. You might know then better by another term ‘contradictions’. The relationship between human freedom and God’s sovereignty is perhaps one of the most difficult of these. So much so that theologians might refer to it by another term – a holy mystery.


  8. Peter says:

    Actually with what he had to work with ‘Rev Smith’, did a fair job. He want some way to defending the indefensible.

    The problem comes down the Bible position that everything which happens on earth is God’s will. Theologians have long recognized the logical conclusion that therefore all the problems in the world are God’s fault.

    They therefore propose two sides to God’s will, ‘active will’ whereby God decides something should happen and ‘permissive will’ whereby God does not cause the event but simply fails to restrain it. Most bad events would be classified as coming under ‘permissive will’. Often there is effort sought to soften the blow by arguing that God compensates in some way either in this life or in eternity.

    This is the best the Christian apologist can do because the only alternatives are either to say God can’t stop suffering or that God chooses not to do so. Christians opt for the latter and then seek to explain why this could be the case and God still be good, loving and just.


    • makagutu says:

      This is a very interesting insight.
      It is the compensation in eternity that Ivan signs out of and I agree with him completely.
      Theologians and apologists have set themselves a difficult task. Don’t you think it would be easier if they called their god down once every often to answer for himself.


      • Peter says:

        The argument is that God has provided the Holy Spirit to guide Christians into all truth. The problem is either the Holy Spirit is giving conflicting messages – or more likely people mistake their own inner voice for what they think is the Holy Spirit.


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