Belief in the absolute sovereignty of God doesn’t separate Calvinists from Arminians—it separates theists from atheists. In this brief clip, R.C. Sproul proclaims a truth that every Christian should embrace.
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The third chapter the Westminster Confession begins with these words: “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and immutably”—that is, without possibility of changing it—“God…did…freely and immutably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;” semicolon. Let me take a breath there at the point of the semicolon. “God from all eternity,” according to His own holy and wise counsel, did “freely and immutably ordain, or foreordain, whatsoever comes to pass.” I paused at that point in the seminary classroom, and I said to my students, “How many of you believe that statement?” You have to understand, this was a Presbyterian seminary, so these fellows were pretty well steeped in the Augustinian tradition. And I got like a 70% vote there, that that large number believed it. I said, “Okay, how many of you don’t believe that statement?” And thirty or so hands went in the air. And I said, “Fine. Now, let me ask another question,” I said, “without fear of recriminations. Nobody’s going to jump all over you; we just would like to know. Feel free to state your position. How many of you would call yourselves atheists?” And nobody put their hand up. And I went into my Lieutenant Columbo routine: “There’s just one thing here I can’t understand,” I said. And I looked at those thirty who had raised their hand and I said, “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” I said, “I can’t figure out why those of you who raised your hand saying you did not believe this statement, didn’t raise your hand when I asked if you were atheists.” And they looked at me with a mixture of puzzlement, with the same kind of looks I’m seeing in your eyes here today.
I was saying, “Because, if you don’t believe this statement, you understand that fundamentally, at the bottom line, you’re an atheist.” And that was about the most outrageous thing they ever heard in their lives. I said, “Well, let’s understand that this statement that I’ve just read, that God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, is not a statement that is unique to Calvinism or to Presbyterianism. It doesn’t distinguish the Reformed tradition from other traditions. It doesn’t even distinguish Christians from Jews or from Muslims. This statement here distinguishes theists from atheists. And they were still puzzled as I continued this harangue. And I said, “Don’t you see? If there’s anything that happens in this world outside the foreordination of God—if there’s no sense in which God is ordaining whatsoever comes to pass—then at whatever point something happens outside the foreordination of God it is, therefore, happening outside of the sovereignty of God.”
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