John Stott on Sovereignty, Responsibility, and Calvinism

John Stott on Sovereignty, Responsibility, and Calvinism June 24, 2024

John Stott
John Stott Preacher of both Sovereignty and Responsibility By BlueMoses at en.wikipedia, CC BY 3.0,

Many people will abuse the sovereignty of God to minimise and deny our human responsibility. Others use our responsibility to minimise God’s sovereignty.  This is a major part of the argument between Calvinists and Arminians. John Stott showed us in this quote that you do not have to deny one to defend the other:

Predestination is said to foster apathy. For if salvation is entirely God’s work and not ours, people argue, then all human responsibility before God has been undermined. But again this is not so. On the contrary, it is abundantly clear that Scripture’s emphasis on God’s sovereignty never diminishes our responsibility. Instead, the two lie side by side in an antinomy, which is an apparent contradiction between two truths. Unlike a paradox, an antinomy is ‘not deliberately manufactured; it is forced upon us by the facts themselves … We do not invent it, and we cannot explain it. Nor is there any way to get rid of it, save by falsifying the very facts that led us to it.’ A good example is found in the teaching of Jesus, who declared both that ‘no-one can come to me unless the Father … draws him’ (John 6:44) and that ‘you refuse to come to me to have life’ (John 5:40).  Why do people not come to Jesus? Is it that they cannot? Or is it that they will not? The only answer which is compatible with his own teaching is, ‘Both, even though we cannot reconcile them.’

. . . Predestination is said to foster narrow-mindedness, as the elect people of God become absorbed only in themselves. The opposite is the case. The reason God called one man Abraham and his one family was not for their blessing only, but that through them all the families of the earth might be blessed. Similarly, the reason God chose his Servant, that shadowy figure in Isaiah whom we see partly fulfilled in Israel, but specially in Christ and his people, was not only to glorify Israel but to bring light and justice to the nations. Indeed these promises were a great spur to Paul (as they should be to us) when he courageously broadened his evangelistic vision to include the Gentiles.161 Thus, God has made us his own people, not that we should be his favourites, but that we should be his witnesses, ‘to proclaim the glorious deeds of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’.

So the doctrine of divine predestination promotes humility, not arrogance; assurance, not apprehension; responsibility, not apathy; holiness, not complacency; and mission, not privilege.

Stott, J.R.W. (2001) The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press (The Bible Speaks Today), pp. 251–252.

There are other teachers who also show us you can believe in both God being in charge and man still being responsible. We see this in the meeting between Wesley and Simeon, in several quotes from Spurgeon.

Read More

Arminians vs Calvinists a spectrum

Calvinism vs Arminianism: Both Wrong but Both Important

PIPER FRIDAY – Charles Simeon and John Wesley

Was Spurgeon an Arminocalvinist?

What about CS Lewis, John Stott and Hell?

John Stott (27 April 1921 – 27 July 2011) Round up of memorial posts

About Adrian Warnock
Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor. He worked as a psychiatrist and in the pharmaceutical industry on clinical trials. He has been a Christian writer since 2003 and is a published author. Alongside his career Adrian also served on a church leadership team. He was diagnosed with blood cancer in May 2017 and is the founder of Blood Cancer Uncensored an online patient support group. Adrian is passionate about helping people learn to approach suffering with hope and compassion. Adrian qualified in 1995 with an MB BS medical degree from London University (in the USA this would be called an MD). Adrian also has post graduate qualifications in both Psychiatry (MRCPsych) and Pharmaceutical Medicine (MFFM and DipPharmMed). He studied theology through courses organised by Newfrontiers. You can read more about the author here.
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