Friday, April 21, 2006

God's Sovereignty and Man's Evil Acts

There have been some great questions raised regarding God’s sovereignty and man's evil acts in the post entitled Tozer’s Famous Quote. I thought I would try to give some of my thoughts in a new post. The questions centered on hurts that we experience in this life such as assaults, broken relationships, and pretty much any evil act of man that causes pain in our lives. Does God bring these about in our lives to discipline us? Can/Should we attribute these hurts to God? And does this make God a utilitarian?

My belief is that God does bring these into our lives to discipline us and love us. And we can and should attribute these events to the sovereignty of God. To explore this I want to give a few scriptures in support.

Scripture is full of passages where God’s sovereignty is seen even in the evil events of mankind. First we see in Genesis where Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. What the brothers did was an evil act yet God takes credit for intending the entire thing. Speaking of the brother’s sinful act, scripture says,

Gen 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Another passage that always intrigues me about God’s sovereignty has to do with David’s sin of numbering the people. First we can see a scripture where David realizes that the numbering of the people was a sin and he takes responsibility for it.

2Sa 24:10 And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.

Next we see a scripture that Satan was involved and provoked David to number Israel.

1Ch 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

Then last but not least we see that the Lord caused the entire event.

2Sa 24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

When we put it all together we see that God, in order to chastise Israel, used Satan which caused David to sin.

Does this make God the author of sin? Not according to scripture, nor does it make him a utilitarian because God never actually sinned, it was David and Joseph’s brothers who sinned. Nowhere does scripture show God as directly doing anything evil, but rather bringing about evil deeds through willing actions of moral creatures. Scripture never blames God nor does it excuse human actions because of His sovereignty.

For the believer this is an encouragement. To know that nothing can come into our lives outside of God’s plan for us. Even if evil and pain come into our lives, scripture tells us…

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

There is my feeble attempt to shed some light on an extremely deep topic. Any other thoughts you have are welcomed.

God Bless,

Doug

7 Comments:

At Friday, April 21, 2006 5:18:00 AM, Blogger Modern Day Magi said...

Ha,
I was back reading some that i had missed and paraphrased Rom 8:28 at the Tozer post.

Even in the face of evil in our lives we must remember that it is all for His glory and that we should give thanks at all times, especially when we are strugging. After all it is easy to be thankful when everything is going well for us and we are full of our own joy. When times are hard we need to rely on the joy of His Spirit.

MDM

 
At Friday, April 21, 2006 7:16:00 AM, Blogger T A Blankenship said...

Doug,
You did a great job in this study. The sovereignty of God is awesome, because He is an Awesome God, and Savior.
When man tries to rule over God, God overrules. That is how we as Christians can look at the world with all that is going on in sin, evil, and wickedness, and still rest assured God's will is being accomplished, and for His glory.

 
At Friday, April 21, 2006 8:14:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan G. said...

Great post! I think The Book of Job gives us wonderful insight into this topic as well. Clearly, God is in control and His will supercedes all, thankfully.

 
At Friday, April 21, 2006 9:48:00 AM, Blogger Simon said...

I'm with jonathan g. here. The book of Job is vital in our understanding of difficulty. I think you have to be careful talking about suffering as discipline, that is pretty much what Job's friends did. Sometimes it is discipline, other times a test, other times just for our good. The speeches of Elihu in Job wrestle with this idea.

I love the way in Job when God speaks he doesn't explain anything, even though he could. All he says is: "I am greater than you can imagine, and thats enough"

Blessings,

Simon

 
At Saturday, April 22, 2006 8:17:00 AM, Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

Great thoughts, Doug. There are times when bad things happen as God's disciplining work and then there are times when they happen as the result of sin in the world.

I believe in either case, it is God's desire to draw us closer to Him and make us more like Christ through these circumstances.

 
At Monday, April 24, 2006 4:43:00 AM, Anonymous missmellifluous said...

Thankyou for posting this as a response to my questions, Doug. I
must appologise for taking so long to get back to the post - we're
in the land of the long weekend down here.


Your answer raised a few more questions for me, I hope you don't
mind me posing them.

When you say that:
"When we put it all together we see that God, in order to chastise
Israel, used Satan which caused David to sin,"
isn't that an example of God acting in a very Utilitarian way? I mean, he is in fact using Satan to bring about his own intentions. This implies that God is happy to use a morally reprehensible means to achieve a good end.

This does not sit well with me, because if this is so, it makes a mockery of Christ's death by undermining the seriousness of evil. It is like conceeding that evil is ok if it leads to a good end and God is not directly responsible. The Cross demonstrates that God abhors wrong doing and all that seperates us
from Him, which the Bible calls sin.

It seems more likely that God allows Satan to have some degree of control over the earth; however, this control is extremely limited and is for a short duration of time. Like in Job, God says to Satan, "You may go this far and no further." God has ultimate control as Satan is on a short leash.

I know that all wrong doing, hurt, evil and pain grieves God
greatly. I know this for a number of reasons:

1) The Cross shows how far God would go to deal with sin himself
and bring us back to a relationship with Him.

2) Lamentations 3:33 states that, although God does allow these
things to happen "He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men."

The same chapter says that God does discipline his people - as a
father disiplines children, for their good out of love - however, it does not say he inflicts evil upon them or even uses others to bring about these events.

Is it possible that Satan, still rebelling against God, is trying
his hardest to thwart God's plans for salvation - I am thinking of
the stories of Joseph and David that you gave as examples - yet God, being omnipotent over rules Satan's feeble attempts and uses the events for good instead? Is it possible that God in his sovereignity knows these things will happen before they do, allows Satan his short length of rope for a short time?

Another question I had is, is it important to distinguish between
things which are a temptation, things which are a discipline,
calamities, and also evil acts as God's role may be different in
each of these situations? If yes, how then do we distinguish?

Sorry this post is so long!

 
At Monday, April 24, 2006 3:43:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Missmel,

Thanks for you response, you’ve given me a lot to think about, but I will do my best to address some of the points you made. First of all let me explain that when it comes to the area God sovereignty and man’s moral responsibility, I do hold that it is one area where His ways are Higher than ours, so I don’t expect to give you a 100% satisfying answer because if I could do that I would be named theologian of the century :-). With that being said though I do believe that Scripture teaches that God is sovereign over all things and man is morally responsible for their actions. This is why I try to use scripture more that philosophical arguments when talking about this topic. Now to your questions

You said..

“When you say that:
"When we put it all together we see that God, in order to chastise
Israel, used Satan which caused David to sin," isn't that an example of God acting in a very Utilitarian way? I mean, he is in fact using Satan to bring about his own intentions. This implies that God is happy to use a morally reprehensible means to achieve a good end.”

I do not see this as utilitarian because I do not believe that God is the one doing the evil act. If you want to change the word “caused” to “allowed” in my sentence you quoted, I don’t have any problem with that. But even if we do that, He is in fact using a morally reprehensible means to achieve a good end, but He is not the one doing the morally reprehensible act. Man does have a will, which he (man) uses to fulfill his evil desires. God uses man with His evil desires to accomplish His (God’s) plans.


You said,

“This does not sit well with me, because if this is so, it makes a mockery of Christ's death by undermining the seriousness of evil. It is like conceeding that evil is ok if it leads to a good end and God is not directly responsible. The Cross demonstrates that God abhors wrong doing and all that seperates us
from Him, which the Bible calls sin.”

I don’t believe this does makes a mockery of Christ’s death, nor does it undermine the seriousness of evil. First of all, Christ’s death was a sovereignly predestined act where God used certain men’s evil acts to crucify His own son. You can find this in Acts, 4:24-28. The very fact that God was sovereignly in control tells us just how serious God is about sin, because He did that to His own son.

You said,

“It seems more likely that God allows Satan to have some degree of control over the earth; however, this control is extremely limited and is for a short duration of time. Like in Job, God says to Satan, "You may go this far and no further." God has ultimate control as Satan is on a short leash.”

I agree with this statement. But let me pose a question. Did God have to allow Satan to inflict evil on mankind? The answer is no, God could have put Him in hell at the satanic fall, but he did not. He sovereignly allows Him to have some control over the earth. Does this make God a utilitarian? No! But He is accomplishing His purposes and plan with this world by using Satan's evil acts.

You said,

Lamentations 3:33 states that, although God does allow these
things to happen "He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men."
The same chapter says that God does discipline his people - as a
father disiplines children, for their good out of love - however, it does not say he inflicts evil upon them or even uses others to bring about these events."

I would argue that Lamentations 3 argues my position. It says,

Lam 3:32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
Lam 3:33 For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

The statement in verse 32 says He does cause grief. When it says that he does not afflict willingly it means he does not find pleasure in it. Regarding how the father disciplines, you mentioned that he does not use others to bring about these events, but this is exactly what Jeremiah was writing about. God had used the Babalonians to take Israel captive in order to chastise them.

You said.

“Is it possible that Satan, still rebelling against God, is trying
his hardest to thwart God's plans for salvation - I am thinking of
the stories of Joseph and David that you gave as examples - yet God, being omnipotent over rules Satan's feeble attempts and uses the events for good instead? Is it possible that God in his sovereignity knows these things will happen before they do, allows Satan his short length of rope for a short time?”

I agree with this statement, but again it is God using the evil acts of Satan and people to accomplish His purposes.

In closing you said,

“Is it important to distinguish between
things which are a temptation, things which are a discipline,
calamities, and also evil acts as God's role may be different in
each of these situations? If yes, how then do we distinguish?’

I’m not completely sure what your question is here but I will do my best to answer it. We do distinguish between those things, and possibly even how God is involved in bringing them about, but what we don’t distinguish between them is that God is sovereign over all of them, and nothing happens without His divine purpose or plan coming into effect.

Pro 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

I hope that helps. I don't consider myself the authority on this topic.

Your Brother,

Doug

 

Post a Comment

<< Home