God Ordains Whatsoever Comes to Pass
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 ordained 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 large number believed it. I said, “okay, how many of you don’t believe that statement?” And 30 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 looked at those thirty who had raised their hand. 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 so don’t you see that if there’s anything that happens in this world outside the foreordination of God—that 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.