Posted tagged ‘sovereignty of God’

Another Look at God In Light of the Evil in the World (Part 3)

February 18, 2019


I have been blogging on the problem of pain. (See the Introduction, Part 1 and Part 2). This is “the” problem, with a capital “P” for the Christian who maintains, based on biblical revelation, that God is all-powerful and all-good. If God is so powerful, why can’t He stop the evil? If God is so good, why doesn’t He stop the evil? Either God isn’t all-powerful, or He isn’t good, or (ultimately) the God of the Bible doesn’t exist.

I am working my way through the puzzle, putting the pieces in place. You will have to read through the previous posts to catch up (if you want to). The piece of the puzzle I want to explore next is the cosmic drama that is evident in the Scripture.

Jesus refers to the Devil as the ruler of this world. So the Devil most have some authority and jurisdiction over the world. If God is really God, the authority of the Devil to do what he does must have give by God. But why?! If the question isn’t simply rhetorical, there must be a purpose? Why would an all-powerful God allow restraints on His power to allow the rejection, opposition and counter-activity of being He created?

Before I try to answer that question, I want to dive into the evidence of this conflict that we see in the Scripture and look for clues as to why it would be allowed by an all-powerful God.

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Another Look at God In Light of the Evil in the World (Part 2)

February 10, 2019


I have taken a prompt from the explore God discussion series going on simultaneously in over 800 churches in the Chicago area to write up a summary of the problem of evil. More specifically, I was spurred on by the discussion of The Problem of Evil and Suffering on Veracity Hill between Kurt Jaros, the host, and John Peckham from Andrews University.

I think this is the most difficult problem to deal with in the modern western world for the theist, and specifically the Christian who maintains, as Scripture reveals, that God is both all-powerful and all-good.

  • If God is all-powerful, why did He create a world in which evil, pain and suffering exist?
  • Does that mean He really isn’t all-powerful?
  • Or maybe God isn’t good?
  • Or maybe the God of the Bible doesn’t really exist?

Many people who can’t resolve this problem in their minds (or maybe their hearts) end up rejecting the idea of God altogether.

I began the discussion in an introductory blog, and I laid some groundwork to address the problem in Another Look at God in Light of the Evil in the World (Part 1). I can’t rehash it all here, other than to emphasize that we should not be lazy in our approach to the challenge. As with science, we need to work through, if indeed there is a resolution to be had.

If there is a resolution the problem, we can’t do it justice by abandoning the premises we are given. We need to work through it.

For the Christian, those premises don’t just include the omnipotence and omni-benevolence of God. We need to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. I have come to believe that, if we hold on to and expand the premises we are given, and fill out the picture, some clarity begins to emerge.

One of the additional puzzle pieces is that God isn’t just good; God is love. In fact, God is love in His very nature.

Some people have trouble with the idea of the Trinity, three in one. We can understand God’s triunal (communal) nature in the context of love. As three in Person and one in Being, God’s very character is love from before time even began. (See The Plurality of God) God has community and relationship (love) within Himself.

And, Scripture says that He made us in His image. If we are made in His image, we are made to reflect His love. This is another of the puzzle pieces.

Love requires freedom. Coercion has no place in a loving relationship. Thus, for us to know love and to love God, we need to be free, and that includes freedom to reject God and what is good.

The Christian, who accepts the premise that God is good, rejects the idea that God is evil or caused evil to exist. Evil is not in the nature of God because God is who He is. Evil, then, must be a byproduct of the freedom God gave His creation. Evil is the rejection of God and what is good.

Pain and suffering aren’t, per se, evil, though evil produces pain and suffering. God created a world in which pain and suffering exist from the beginning. (see Part 1).

Finally, we find that God’s grand plan and purpose is that His creation would enter into a loving relationship with Him, not because it must, but because His created beings want to.

These are the basic puzzle pieces. (If you want to examine these premises more closely, you will have to read the previous posts and do some research of your own.) From here, we will go back to the premise of God’s power (sovereignty) and examine more fully how it can be that an all-powerful God (who is also good) can allow evil to exist.

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Authority from Above in Politics

October 15, 2018


As I was listening through the last four chapters of the Gospel of John this morning, these words impressed me:

He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” John 19:9-11 ESV

This was part of the interchange between Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect of the province of Judea, and Jesus. Pilate exercised the authority given him over the province of Judea in the Roman empire given him by the Roman authorities, but Jesus said, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”

I am reminded of God’s sovereignty. Jesus came to die. That was his plan. Pilate was just part of the plan. We tend to think of Pilate in negative terms as we look back at the story, but he was just part of God’s plan, like Judas.

These things remind, also, of President Trump. Though I voted for him, I have been hyper critical of him. Though Christians supported him in large numbers, Trump has not displayed the kind of fruit we should expect from a God lover; he might even be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Though Christians have also been divided over Trump the zealot, he prevailed and is our president.

Of course, Barack Obama was also our president. So was Bill Clinton. If we really believe the words that Jesus spoke to Pontius Pilate, these men would not have authority as presidents of the United States unless it was given from above.

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Self-Sufficiency Sufficient to Love God

July 2, 2018


“They [Adam and Eve] wanted, as we say, to ‘call their souls their own.’ But that means to live a lie, for our souls are not, in fact, our own. They wanted some corner in the universe of which they could say to God, ‘This is our business, not yours.’ But there is no such corner. They wanted to be nouns, but they were, and eternally must be, mere adjectives.”

The quotation is by CS Lewis in the Problem of Pain. As he notes, tt’s axiomatic that, if God exists, we are not God, and this isn’t our universe.

By “God” (capital G), what is meant is a “maximal being” – that is a Being having maximal qualities. Thus, we say of God that He would have to be all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, all-just, all-merciful, etc. All characteristics of which God is the standard find their greatest expression in God.

We are not talking about flying spaghetti monsters or Zeus-like personalities when we refer to God, capital G.

If such a God exists, and I believe this is more or less self-evident, than anything we call our own, including our own self-sufficiency, is mere illusion.

I find it interesting that many naturalists, like the late, great Stephen Hawking, agree that self-sufficiency is nothing but an illusion. We are all merely dancing to the tune of our DNA, says Richard Dawkins. Ravi Zacharias describes a lecture given by Stephen Hawking many years ago in which he eloquently laid out the evidence that we are determined (by natural influences) in everything we do. Hawking ended with the uplifting thought that, even though we have no control over anything that we think or do, we still feel as if we do – to which Ravi Zacharias says the audience audibly groaned.

For the naturalist, the conclusion, some say (like Hawking and Dawkins), is inescapable. We aren’t the captains of our own souls as we suppose, and our end is “predetermined” by naturalistic causes as our beginning and everything in between. Such a fatalistic view might be sufficient to undo us completely, but for our ability to imagine otherwise – even if it isn’t true – according to these naturalists. Some very small consolation!

For the Christian, however, we find our consolation in the very God whose existence belies our illusion of self-sufficiency and self-control. We find that this God made us in His image, which suggests we are made with some capacity for free will and self determination – even if it subsists within the sphere of God’s ultimate providence.

We find that God is loving and desires us to reflect Him and His love without coercion from Him. Even if our ability to govern ourselves is ultimately illusory, the fact that we believe we have this ability, is all that matters because believing it to be so, believing that we can choose other than we can, even if we can’t truly exercise this choice freely as God does, means that we can, nevertheless, reflect God’s love back to Him without coercion.

Love, after all, is not coerced. Love is the complete absence of coercion.

Though we may not be self-sufficient or self-controlling as we suppose, we can still reflect God’s love back to Him by virtue of the appearance (the illusion if you will) that we are or can be self-sufficient and self-controlling. Feeling as if we can deny God and go our own way, we freely exercise our will to submit to Him and to choose His way, and this act of love is genuine to the extent that we genuinely believe it and mean it.

Of Monuments, Saints Stephen and God, Our King Forever

January 8, 2018

Heroes Square Budapest, Hungary

I recently returned from a trip to Budapest Hungary. Traveling to foreign lands and meeting foreign people expands our horizons and opens us up to new perspectives, and sometimes helps us to understand ourselves better.

I didn’t know much of Hungary before we left, not nearly as much as I know now. We had the intimate advantage of a guided tour by our own daughter who is living there now. She regaled us with some of the rich history that is proudly displayed throughout the sprawling city.

Budapest is a City full of strong, stately buildings and monuments to its past, good and bad.  We have our own monuments to the past that are no less stately, though many centuries more recent, but viewing the unfamiliar Hungarian monuments got me thinking.

Why do we do this? Why do we erect such proud monuments to our past?

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God Chooses Us So We Can Choose Him

May 10, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 438054 Copyright: ingridhs

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide….” (John 15:16)

That seems to settle it. We did not choose Jesus. Jesus chose us. He also appointed us that we should go and bear much fruit and determined that our fruit should “abide”. There doesn’t seem much for us to do. God, the vinedresser, will do His work and cause us to beat fruit.  Right?

But then, why did Jesus direct his followers, “Abide in me”? That is a command, and a command requires a response. A response requires volition. Volition requires the exercise of the will, and that suggests we have a choice to make.

So whose choice is it?

So let’s be clear about this. We didn’t choose Jesus. He chose us, and he chose us to bear fruit… but then He asks us to do something.  He says that we must abide. We don’t bear fruit if we don’t abide:

“As the branch cannot bear fruit but itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

We can’t bear fruit apart from Jesus; we can only bear fruit if we abide in him.

But lest we think that we are left to our own devices, now that Jesus has chosen us, He makes it clear our abiding in Him isn’t enough! He must abide also in us.

Clearly, the relationship is reciprocal.

This is all well and good, but how do we abide in Jesus?

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Fathers commandments….” (John 15:10)

Taking it a step further, Jesus adds:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12-13)

After God chooses us and appoints us to bear fruit, we must abide in Him and allow Him and His word to abide in us. This requires doing on our part. We are not passive in this process. We must keep God’s commands, and that means loving others by laying down (laying aside) our own lives.

We must do all of this to beat fruit, which is what God appointed us to do.

And here is the kicker: if we don’t abide in Jesus, we die because a branch can’t live apart from the vine. It withers and dies when it is disconnected from the vine. It’s good for nothing but to be burned. (John 15:6)

So – Jesus chooses us out of the world, but we have to engage Him in that choice by exercising our own choice to abide in Him, by exercising our own choice of letting His word abide in us, by exercising our own choice to abide in love, which means following His example of laying down our lives for others.

Yes, Jesus chooses us … so that we can choose Him.

God Chooses Those Who Choose Him

May 2, 2017

depositphotos Image ID: 146437381 Copyright: SergeyNivens

A fellow blogger has written on Paul’s writing in Romans 11:1-6 and The Remnant of Israel where Paul says that “God did not reject His people, whom he foreknew”. Rather, God “reserved” for Himself “seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal” in the time of Elijah, and Paul says similarly of his time when he wrote the letter to the Romans, “there is a remnant chosen by grace”.

This “dialogue” Paul has with himself in the letter to the Romans continues the theme I have been writing on lately: God’s choosing us (before the foundation of the world) and the choices God gives us. How can they both fit into our theology? How can it be that God chooses us and we choose God at the same time?

Paul’s brief summary of God’s interaction with the nation of Israel has evidence both of God’s choice and the choices He allows men to make. God chose Abraham and His descendants who became the nation of Israel. The history of the nation of Israel is replete with virtually the entire group, but for some outliers, – some of the prophets, a few kings and other nonconformists –  continually running after other gods and failing or simply refusing to love God and His commands.

Most of them rejected God, but Paul says God did not reject them – not all of them anyway. God reserved[1] for Himself a number – a remnant.

Is this God responding to the choices made by the people of Israel? Or has God carved out (reserved for Himself) a number of the people who would not turn from Him because He reserved them for Himself? Were the remnant chosen by God? Or did God choose the remnant who chose Him?

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