Ponderings: Too Much Sovereignty?

It almost sounds like heresy to say there can be “too much” sovereignty.  And I hope you won’t stop reading here and miss the point I am trying to make.  On the whole, I would agree with anyone who says we need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God more than we do.  We live in a time when “human capacity” is grossly overemphasized.  But I do believe there is a line we can cross where we put too much emphasis upon the sovereignty of God.

It happens when we say, “God doesn’t need me; God can do anything God wants to do.”  I had a person actually say this to me some years ago.  I came to discover that he was using a doctrine of sovereignty to avoid becoming a responsible member of his church.  He always said, “God doesn’t need me” as a way not to become involved.  It sounds so “right,” but it is so wrong.

The man, and others like him, confuse the power of God with the distribution of that power.  Think of it like a power plant.  It can generate all the power needed to electrify a city.  But no one constructs a power plant without also constructing power lines to get the electricity from the plant to the city.  When we say “God is sovereign,” we are talking about the power plant.  But when we go on to say “Therefore, God doesn’t need me,” we are forgetting about the power lines.

In the most technical sense, God doesn’t “need” any of us.  God is THE power.  But God has ordered the world so that the distribution of power is often done through people.  Of course, God can (and does) sometimes distribute power directly by the Holy Spirit. We all know that.  But a “direct strike” by the Spirit is more like lightning than electrification.  It’s power without any intermediary.  And it happens.

But God also mediates power through people, and I believe this is the ordinary and routine way that it happens.  In fact, from the time when God created Adam and Eve until now, the Christian story is that God works through people.  We must, therefore, reject any spirituality that over emphasizes sovereignty to the point of saying, “God can do anything; He doesn’t need us.”  Whenever we are not willing to be one of God’s power lines, the place we occupy remains dark.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Ponderings: Too Much Sovereignty?

  1. What a good way to look at it – the Power Plant. That’s beautiful. You and Jeannie are definitely distributing God’s power and love far and wide. I’m so glad I’m on the grid with both of you and for all of God’s love that you have shared with me.

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