Does the Sovereign God Need Human Permission to Act on the Earth?

Feature Article Does the Sovereign God Need Human Permission to Act on the Earth?

There is a popular heretical teaching among some Word-of-Faith Bible teachers that the God of the Universe, the Judeo-Christian monotheistic God, has to ask permission from mortal men to operate on Earth. People like the late Rev. Myles Munroe, Evangelist Benny Hinn, Rev. Duncan Williams, and other Word-of-Faith teachers have popularized these heresies. Monroe asserts, "The only creature that God gave authority in the Earth, legally to, is a spirit in a dirt body. Any spirit without a body is illegal on Earth; even God Himself is illegal." There is nowhere in the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation to support this heretical teaching. When I hear statements like these, I ask whether the person is talking about the God Isaiah saw in his vision or a different God. Such blasphemous statements scare me.

Rev. Munroe justified his assertion by saying that because God is a spirit without a body, He cannot operate on Earth without permission from humans." He states, "'the law set up by His mouth was that only spirits with bodies could function on earth legally.' Munroe questioned, "if God is so mighty, omnipotent, omniscient, why couldn't (He) who made five hundred million planets and galaxies stop a skinny little woman from picking fruit to destroy his whole program?" According to Munroe, God did not stop Eve "because he could not." He continues his blasphemous teaching with the following, "How then does God get the license to operate on Earth? Myles answers his question with the following, "through prayer." He says prayer is "man giving God permission or license to interfere in earth's affairs." He continues, "Indeed, 'God could do nothing on earth…nothing has God ever done on earth without a human giving Him access." One will need a whole dissertation or a book to unpack such heretical teachings.

One has to ask how people who spend so much time dealing with demon possession and attacks turn around to say spirits without bodies cannot be on Earth without human permission. These kinds of misconceptions about the nature and character of God bring to focus the paradox of the stone: "Can God create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it?" The question now is not about a heavy stone but a powerful creature. The question is: Can God create a "creature" so powerful that He (the Omnipotent or Sovereign God) has to seek permission from them to act in His universe? That is the question that confronts us now. These heretical teachings flourish because they and their audience do not know or understand the Christian God's character or nature.

R.C. Sproul, the noted American Presbyterian theologian, once said, "The doctrine of divine sovereignty is an area in which virtually all Christians agree. We agree that God is sovereign, we all confess that God is sovereign." Sproul goes on to say that anyone who does not believe that God does ordain whatsoever comes to pass in the universe is an atheist (unbeliever) and not a theist (believer). Strong words from R.C. Sproul. I pray that God will teach us about His Sovereignty, as he did to Job in Job 38.

The third chapter of the Westminster Confession begins with these words: "God from all eternity did by the wisest and holy counsel of His own will, freely and immutably (that is, without the possibility of changing it) ordain whatsoever comes to pass;" These are words emanating from the various church councils. Let us go to the Scriptures and see what God's word says regarding the sovereignty of God. In Isaiah 46: 9-10, God declares, "… for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,"

He says His counsel shall stand, and not yours or mine. He declares the things not yet done from ancient times and the end from the beginning. I am unsure where people like Benny Hinn, Duncan Williams, and Munroe were from the beginning to permit God to act. None of us was there to permit him to create heaven, earth, and everything in it. The question is, where do they get all these heretical teachings?

First, there is nowhere in the Scriptures that God should seek permission from humans before doing anything on earth. What the Word-of-Faith teachers talk about falls under what is described in Biblical scholarship as "The Cultural Mandate" or "Dominion Mandate." The cultural mandate or the dominion mandate deals with the roles and responsibilities that were given to humanity at the beginning of creation, whereby they were to rule the rest of creation, receive praises from them, and offer them to God as their sacrifice.

Much ink has been spilled about cultural mandate since the beginning of the church. Nevertheless, there is nowhere in the writings of the church fathers, the present Bible scholars, or interpreters that we hear God needs to seek permission from a man to act on this planet. The thrust of the dominion passages are located in the following scriptures: Genesis 1:26-28, 9:1,7; Psalm 8:6-10, Hebrews 2:5-9, and James 3:7. A significant number of Bible teachers ranging from the beginning of the church to modern scholars have written about this topic: starting from Theophilus of Antioch, Athenagoras, Tertullian, Origen, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, and Karl Barth. And none of them have reached the conclusion that these heretical teachers are espousing.

The scriptures that the "dominion preachers, or dominion mandate teachers" cite out of context are Genesis 1:26-28. Genesis 1:28 reads, "And God blessed them, and God said to them, 'be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'" Other scriptures they use deceptively are Genesis 18:17 and Amos 3:7, where God reveals his plans to his prophets.

I will not spend too much time on Genesis 18:17 and Amos 3:7 since these are sleight of hand, or sophistry used by the heretics to deceive their devotees. Nothing in those texts says God obtained permission from Abraham or his prophets: informing someone about something does not equate to seeking permission. I will devote more attention and time to the Genesis 1:26-28 texts because of their relevance to the current topic and the Scriptures.

Let me begin by saying that false teachings abound in Christianity because many do not read the Bible within its context. Instead of interpreting verses of scriptures within their contexts, they take a verse out of its immediate context and build a doctrine with it. What I want to do here is to situate Genesis 1:26-28 within its proper context. God gave humans the right to rule over the earth, with its animals and plants. So, it is true that humans were given the power to rule before the fall of humanity, but humans' rule was subordinated to God's rule.

Genesis 2:16-17 establishes that human dominion must be exercised under God's greater dominion. Now instead of interpreting Genesis 1:28 in isolation, let us juxtapose it with Genesis 2:16-17. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a test to see whether man would rule in submission to God. The prohibition should have brought about the knowledge that humans are to do nothing apart from God. But what happened? Instead of filling the earth and ruling over it, humans disobeyed; by the time we leave chapter six of Genesis, humanity had instead filled the earth with violence and corruption that God had to cleanse the Earth with water.

Now you see God is in charge of the universe, not man. He tells humans what they can eat, and what they cannot eat, and see who pronounces judgment after humanity disobeys. God did not seek permission from Adam and Eve before pronouncing judgment on them. Why? Because He is in charge. Thus, the text read within its context does not say anything about God abdicating His sovereignty over the Earth to man; instead, it tells us who is in control of this universe.

Another thing that people who quote or claim Genesis 1:28 forget is that the text or that mandate was given before the fall of humanity. The great reformer, Martin Luther, commenting on this critical text, writes: "My answer is briefly this: It is an idle question about something no longer in existence. Moses is writing the history of the time before sin and the Deluge, but we are compelled to speak of conditions as they are after sin and after the Deluge. . . "For time and the curse which sins deserve destroyed everything. Thus when the world was obliterated by the Deluge, together with its people and cattle, this famous garden was also obliterated and became lost." Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 1-5. Humanity could have learned good and evil by submitting to God's command and refusing to eat from the tree. The goal from the beginning was human rule in submission to God's greater rule. While the fall does not entirely remove from human rule over the world (Gen. 9:1-2), human rule after the fall has been distorted or disordered by sin.

God's punishment or judgment after the fall was swift and just. Adam's role as the tiller of the ground is retained (Genesis 3:23). However, the ground now resists human dominion. It has now become painful to work the ground, and the ground produces thorns and thistles along with food. And sadly, it appears in the end; the ground will have dominion over man when humanity returns to the dust of which they were created. John D. Currid, in his commentary on Genesis, writes, "Once again, the judgment is related to the offense. Humanity had been given dominion over the creation when Adam and Eve were first formed. But now the ground claims victory—it brings humanity into ultimate subjection."

Genesis 1:26-28 gives the idea that God has granted humanity the authority to rule the Earth and care for it, but it doesn't mean God needs human permission to act. It's more about the delegation of responsibilities rather than granting permission. Furthermore, sin affected the original mandates God gave humans: distorting them after human disobedience. We must approach God with reverence, humility, and respect, recognizing His greatness and power. We must approach Him with a sense of awe and humility and acknowledge that we depend on Him for our salvation and well-being.