Friday, September 30, 2011

Does God Cause or Allow Bad Things?

That discussion is one of the great debates and questions of theologians. Does God cause or allow bad things? People who lean very heavy towards God's sovereignty will say that ultimately God causes the bad things. People who lean heavily toward man's autonomy will say God would never cause bad things.

Theologian Wayne Grudem defines God's providence as follows:

God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and, (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes. So that definition covers three aspects: (1) preservation, (2) concurrence, and (3) government.

The idea of God's sovereignty, control, and providence flow through the entire Bible.

A few of those Scriptures are as follows:

Dan. 4:34-35; Ps. 22:28; Ps. 135:6-7; Jer. 10:23; Ps. 139:16; Gen. 50:20; Prov. 16:4

Luke 1:52; Ro. 8:28; 1 Cor. 15:27

The book of Isaiah has a lot to say about God's sovereignty, written to people who have endured much suffering. In chapters 40ff, Isaiah regularly brings them back to the fact that ultimately, God rules. For example, in Isaiah 45:6-7,

6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other,
7 The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the LORD who does all these.

Likewise, John takes a similar approach when He discusses Jesus as our Shepherd in John 10:1-30.

I would challenge the person who want only a "NT" Scripture. Usually that request reflects an incorrect understanding of the Scriptures as they reveal the nature of God. Instead of looking at the Scriptures as old and new, it is probably more accurate to see the lens of Scripture like different sides of a gemstone - both sides reflect the beauty and authenticity of the gem. In other words, what the Scriptures show us about God in Genesis reveals the same God that Revelation talks about. That last verse I gave you - John 10:30, speaks to this (Jesus is the God of the OT).

It is easy to believe in God's rule when good things happen (we thank God for the rain, a healthy baby born, a new job or raise, etc.). However, we don't seem to credit God for bad things (a tornado that kills people, a stillborn baby, a job lost). However, simple logic would challenge, He is either over all or not over all.

I do not believe that God causes people to sin, nor do I believe that His best will is for bad things as a result of sin to happen. However, we live in a world cursed by sin - and man was given a will to choose right or wrong. When those bad things happen (disease, death, and the consequences of other's bad choices), we still can believe that God is sovereign over them all, they did not take Him by surprise, He chose to allow them, (see God and Satan's discourse in Job 1-2), and in allowing them, He will use them for His glory. Remember, God knew those things before the foundation of the world, and He is weaving them all together for His glory and our good (in light of His purposes - not ours).

Our minds can't understand how all of that works together, but we can trust Him. Kay Arthur used to teach, we are like a ring placed in someone's palm. With fingers closed, nothing can touch the ring unless it first goes through the fingers. So, we are in the palm of God's hand, and nothing can touch us unless it first is filtered through God's sovereign fingers of love. That is why Joseph could say with confidence, Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!

34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?"
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

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