Roger Olson on God’s Sovereignty

From A Relational View of God’s Sovereignty

A relational view of God’s sovereignty begins not with philosophical a prioris such as “God is by definition the being greater than which none can be conceived” or “If there’s one maverick molecule in the universe, God is not God” but with God as the personal, loving, self-involving, passionate, relational Yahweh of Israel and Father of Jesus Christ.

This God is not aloof or self-sufficient in himself or impassible. His deity, as Barth taught us, is no prison. And as Jürgen Moltmann has taught us, his death on the cross is not a contradiction of his deity but the most profound revelation of it. And that because this God is love.

Does this all mean that God needs us? Not at all. This God could have lived forever satisfied with the communal love shared between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but he chose to become vulnerable in relation to the world he created out of the overflowing of that love. Is that just a metaphysical compliment unnecessarily paid to God or a truth necessary to the biblical story of God with us? I would argue it is the latter. A God who literally needs the world is a pathetic God hardly worthy of worship.

The key insight for a non-process relational view of God’s sovereignty is that God is sovereign over his sovereignty. The missio dei is God’s choice to involve himself intimately with the world so as to be affected by it. That choice is rooted in God’s love and desire for reciprocal love freely offered by his human creatures. None of this detracts in any way from God’s sovereignty because God is sovereign over his sovereignty. To say that God can’t be vulnerable, can’t limit himself, can’t restrain his power to make room for other powers, is, ironically, to deny God’s sovereignty.


  1. Thanks for posting this excerpt because normally I don’t read much from Olson. His previous mischaracterization and slander of Finney turned me off. But I even read the full blog and had to ask if you agree that his view of sovereignty most OT folks would fully agree? So what are his objections to saying he is OT?

    1. Olson believes God knows the future exhaustively. I don’t think he has detailed his specific reasons for believing such. He may be a closet Open Theist. The Isaiah picture of God’s sovereignty is that God has power to do what He wants, unopposed.

      1. Guess I’m curious how he squares what he said about God being relational.”Finally, in sum, then, a relational view of God’s sovereignty is one that regards God’s will as settled in terms of the intentions of his character but open and flexible in terms of the ways in which he acts because he allows himself to be acted upon.” This surely does mean to me a pre-scripted future?

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