2

Is the concept of God's sovereignty disputed outside of Reformed theology, and is God's sovereignty a label for God that is exclusively used in the context of Reformed theology?

  • 2
    Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for taking the site tour. You might want to focus your question more specifically. There are an awful lot of Christian groups and denominations outside of the Reformed branch of Protestantism. It's highly unlikely that "God's sovereignty" is exclusive to Reformed theology, though it might be defined differently by other Christian denominations. It's also quite possible that there are some Christian denominations that dispute the concept of "God's sovereignty" in general, or the Reformed definition of it in particular. – Lee Woofenden Mar 20 '17 at 23:33
  • 1
    Most forms of Christianity acknowledge the sovereignty of God since it is inescapably biblical. But different traditions often define it differently. – P. TJ Mar 21 '17 at 16:46
9

While the idea of God's sovereignty is closely associated with Reformed theology, other traditions also deal with it. Here are a few examples from prominent authors from various traditions.

Lutheran: Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, 170:

Scripture describes God a) in His supreme majesty, as independent of anything outside Himself, or as absolutely sovereign in Himself, Rom. 11, 36 Viewed in this manner, God is not moved by anything but by Himself; or we may say, in Him cause and effect coincide.

Arminian: Miley, Systematic Theology, v1, 340:

God, who commands our prayer and promises the answer, is sovereign in the natural as in the spiritual realm.

But Miley argues that in Arminianism, "the principle of freedom" takes a central place, instead of sovereignty as in Calvinism (522).

Dispensational: Chafer, Major Bible Themes, 4, "The Sovereignty of God":

God is supreme over all. He yields to no power, authority, or glory. [...] When the history of the universe is completed, God's purpose and plan will have been wrought out according to His will even to the last degree.

Catholic: Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 183:

In the narrower liturgical sense one takes sacrifice to mean an external religious act, in which a gift perceptible to the senses is offered by an ordained servant of God in recognition of the absolute sovereignty and majesty of God.

Admittedly, Ott and Denzinger (The Sources of Catholic Dogma) seem to limit their use of the word sovereign, and often apply it when discussing the Catholic Church, not God.

Eastern Orthodox: Vladimir Lossky, in Ware, The Orthodox Way:

The Holy Spirit is the sovereign unction upon the Christ and upon all the Christians called to reign with him in the Age to come.

Search reveals no other uses of the term in Ware's book. I also checked Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, but didn't find this term applied to God.

Modern/liberal: Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, 278:

In order to the realization of our personal continuance in union with him and, at the same time, of the perfection of the church, there is predicated an exercise of the sovereign power of Christ that puts and end to the propagation of the race and to the mingling of the good and bad, so that by one sudden leap the church, heretofore subject to a wavering growth, becomes perfect.

No other uses in this book, and none in Ritschl's Instruction in the Christian Religion.

Summary

The term sovereignty is of course extensively used in Reformed theology, but it's also used in other traditions. The authors cited above disagree on what God's sovereignty actually means, but for the most part they are willing to use the word.

That said, it seems to be used more in traditions more closely associated with Calvinism, whether because of shared history or because of historical debates – the Lutheran and Arminian authors cited above use the term more extensively than the others.

  • The Catholic Liturgical year ends with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, in which the sovereignty of God and specifically Christ over all Creation. In Eastern Orthodoxy, as well, there is the title and icon of Pantokrator (All-Powerful) which emphasizes the omnipotence of Our Lord. The actual word "sovereign" isn't used, but I would argue that they are direct analogues. – Wtrmute Mar 22 '17 at 16:17
  • @Wtrmute Thanks for the Catholic example. I'll expand the section on Eastern Orthodox as well; I found a source that includes that specific word but don't have it immediately handy... I agree that all-powerful is very similar to sovereign, but I don't want to assume that they are equivalent in anyone's thought, because it may be that some want to avoid using sovereign because of some connotation, or its association with Calvinism. – Nathaniel Mar 22 '17 at 16:28
  • @Wtrmute I've updated with the example I found in Eastern Orthodoxy. Regarding the Feast of Christ the King, I don't see the word sovereign used in what I think is the corresponding reading – am I looking in the wrong place, or are you saying that sovereignty is implied? – Nathaniel Apr 3 '17 at 14:08
  • If not by the readings, the 1925 Encyclical which establishes the feast says: "...and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations." (§1) and "it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire" (§13). – Wtrmute Apr 3 '17 at 14:41
  • @Wtrmute Okay, thanks. I appreciate the clarification but in the interest of brevity I'll stick to only quoting uses of the specific term sovereign in the answer... this sort of info would be great to include on an answer to a question on Catholicism's view of God's sovereignty. – Nathaniel Apr 3 '17 at 14:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.