Updated: Jan 28
O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour, Daniel 5:18.
The word "sovereign" is a buzz word. When a person calls God sovereign, he is usually signaling that he subscribes to John Calvin's teaching that the God reserves to himself the choice of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Whereas, if a person says, "God is sovereign, but...." he is signaling that he disagrees with John Calvin's teachings on election.
The King James Bible does not use the word sovereign in any capacity other than in the dedication to the King: "GREAT and manifold were the blessings, most dread Sovereign, which Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, bestowed upon us the people of England, when first he sent Your Majesty’s Royal Person to rule and reign over us." In using that word, they elevated James to the same rank as Nebuchadnezzar, they did not equate him with God.
The Oxford English Dictionary has many definitions for the word but the definition that best fits the sense in which the translators referred to James is: One who has supremacy or rank above, or authority over, others; a superior; a ruler, governor, lord, or master (of persons, etc.). Frequently applied to the Deity in relation to created things. And yes, it is frequently used to refer to the Deity, but not in the word of God.
In A. W. Pink's classic work The Sovereignty of God, he early demonstrates that all of God's creation is subject to God's beck and call. He noted that when the Lord wanted to preserve his creatures and to save them from the flood, all animals marched to his his orders and assembled themselves at Noah's disposal. Jesus Christ displayed his deity when he commanded the winds and the waves to be still. Pink erred egregiously in labeling God as sovereign. In King James Bible speech, James I of England was sovereign but he had no such power or authority to command the winds and waves, or to make animals march to his orders.
There is nothing in all of creation that God cannot bring under his will. The question at hand in the debate usually entitled "Sovereignty or Free Will", is whether or not the almighty God, maker of heaven and earth restricted his right and obvious power to control the will of man. Did he grant to man the extraordinary privilege of resisting the will of God? What a strange name to give such a debate! In King James Bible speech that debate is like saying, "Does God have the same rights and unrestricted powers of James I of England or did he give man free will?" How absurd! It is a non-sequitur.
Whether or not the theology of John Calvin as it applies to the will of man versus the will of God is indeed a true bible doctrine can not and should not be spoken of in regards to whether or not God is sovereign. If we want to know and explain the hidden things of God, it would be wise to stick to the word of God and to not fish about with secular words reserved for earthly kings.
For the record, I do not subscribe to the Calvinist Doctrine of Election. For those who do I would suggest that you read the writings of Will Kinney at www.brandplucked.webs.com. I do not agree with Will Kinney on the subject of Calvinism, (neither am I a traditional free will advocate). What I do have is the highest respect for a man who stays within the words of the King James Bible while making his arguments. Yes, he does use the word sovereign to describe God, but his arguments as to whether or not God allowed free will rest on his applications of verses found in a King James Bible exactly as they are written. I respect that. I have often referred to his scholarship on other King James Bible issues. We do not disagree on any single word in the King James Bible. Were we to wrestle, it would be over how those verses are to be applied.
Being convinced of the integrity of the King James Bible will not settle every argument. What it does is to bring all both sides of the argument onto the same platform. A person who brings other bibles or translations into an argument is like a chess player who when being defeated walks over to another chess board and borrows pieces to bolster his game. Such a person can never be defeated in chess and a person who shuffles translations and texts around when discussing theology can never be convinced of anything. He can always find a variant text to support his view. The scripture is not his source for his doctrine. The scripture is merely a tool with which to bolster his preconceived ideas.
To say that God is sovereign is to make him equal to Nebuchadnezzar or James I. I firmly believe that he is a lot greater than being just sovereign.