Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is God Really In Control?

Over how much in this life is God really in control? I'm not asking over how much God could control... but how much he actually does control. Over how much of your life, your day, even your actions right now is God in control? Did He cause you to visit this blog post right now or was that your idea ... or maybe just a happy accident? (Thanks for visiting, by the way.)

After all, doesn't Proverbs 16:9 say, "The mind of a person plans their way but the Lord directs their steps."

It's the famously core question of free will and predestination that leaves honest and aware biblical students confessing the great paradox that Scripture intentionally and unapologetically teaches both... although reason seems to indicate that they are mutually exclusive realities. Just one more tantalizing thing that reminds us of our mortality and the unfathomable bigness of our God.

Still... the question remains; and it's invasively practical. Especially in the present day, in which we are ever more fiercely committed to independent choice and the "right and responsibility" of personal free will.

Psalm 24 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains - the world, and those who dwell in it.” It's all his. The clouds that water and drown. The sun that sustains and burns. The winds that refresh and destroy. It's all firmly in his possession and under his control.

This one got me... Psalm 74 says, “Yours is the day; Yours also is the night. You have established all the boundaries of the earth; You have made summer and winter.” As a former Chicago resident, it's hard for me to imagine how such a brutal, painful, unforgiving, unrelenting season as the Midwestern winter could be God's innovation. But there it is.

Then there's the often quoted Romans 8:28, which says, “And we recognize that everything works together for the good of those who love God, being the called ones of purpose." At first blush, it's a Hallmark statement designed to fill the hurting with comforting, warm feelings of hope. But then we see that word, "everything"... and it becomes a statement dripping with scandal.

Everything works together for the good of those who love God? What about our Christian friend who was raped in her own apartment, on her own bed, with her own Bible sitting on the nightstand right next to her? What about the young child who is continually beaten and told that he's worthless shit by his own father? What about the teenage Christ follower in Southern Sudan who's body is gang-raped by a band of militants right before they mutilate her sex organs with knives and machetes?

Everything? ... Really? ...Come on!

There are no Hallmark warm fuzzies in those words when we think of the many extreme evil circumstances that still roam and rule our earth today.

A few chapters later, Paul presses his point of God's total sovereignty into even more practical and challenging waters. Romans 13:1-2 says, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God."

Remember, Paul was talking about Rome, here. Famous for their regional injustice, life-sucking taxation, public crucifixions, and advocacy or tolerance of such murderous movements as the one Saul (later called Paul) was participating in against Christians before Jesus appeared to him on that grace-filled road to Damascus. And he is saying that as tyrannical as it was, it was "established by God."

Where does this leave us in our current methods of justice work? As Christians, how do we participate in Christ's work of redemption amidst our day's corruption in the same way he worked in the climate of his own corrupted age? Does standing with the exiled, weak, oppressed, tortured, and murdered mean standing against the government that does all these things? What of Israel's very physical and forceful example of standing for justice? In what way to we oppose? Certainly we pray against evil, don't we? How does that fit into Paul's theology?
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was totally expecting you to create a new conceptual breakthrough in this area, John (LOL). Hard to do much but rehash the dichotomous truths as they are and simply leave it there. Simple as that. Or complicated as that.

Love ya Bro

Bob H