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Sovereignty // Jeff Patterson

This post is a part of the Sovereignty of God Blog Series going on throughout the months of July and August. You can read about the series and see a schedule of the posts here. You can subscribe to all the posts here.

Jeff is a fellow seminary student with me at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Jeff blogs at detheos.com (and uses Twitter as well) and is also the Associate Pastor at Willamette Christian Church in West Linn, Oregon. Jeff was the teacher’s assistant (TA) for my Theology I and II classes during my first year of seminary.

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A Story of Sovereignty

Discussing sovereignty is like two out of shape ex-ball players arguing about baseball. And not the real game, but rotisserie baseball – a fantasy league. Being self-proclaimed experts on the subject, we can’t actually get in the game. Look at us: we’re old, fat and slow. Our arms are tired, and if you’re like me your rotator cuff scrapes when you throw. Our problem? We’re not free and able. When it comes to God, He is. God is absolutely free and able.

Many talk about God as if He’s merely trying to overcome sin and Satan. (I won’t label these theological positions.) The Creator means well, but either He set it up so His power is limited, or He doesn’t really know what to do. After all, does He really know the future? Is He experiencing the present like we are, on His tip-toes peeking over the horizon, straining to see what’s next?

If evil exists, then where’s God? (That’s the real issue at play when we talk about sovereignty, right? We don’t see the purpose in all this pain.) If God is here … is He good? Powerful? Does He know what’s going on? Does God permit sin, cause evil, or even author it? Where is He in this story of ours?

I won’t be able to answer all of these questions (or any of them, depending on how you look at it). Statisticians talk about needing a representative sample in order to arrive at overall conclusions. When we look at our lives and the stories of tragedy, injustice and sin do we have enough experience to make verdicts on God? (Coming back to that in a moment.)

Dealing with Suffering in real-time

As a pastor I deal daily with people who experience great pain. Not in the physical sense primarily. My own pain is from a fractured vertebrae, an ever-present reminder of my frailty, first experienced 15 years ago this month. And a foot I ran over with my Jeep Wrangler (long story). Others have far worse ailments, including shattered hopes, unrealized dreams, broken families. Those are the greater pains. Tragedies engulf us. Innocent people killed in the crossfire of senseless violence. The dreaded biopsy result of a young mother with children. The little boy enduring radiation while his friends are playing t-ball. The weight of their suffering collides with my heart like a tree bending beneath a hurricane. We are dealing with broken people, a jacked-up world, and really deep hurts. The list is seemingly endless. What resources can we draw from to make sense of all this pain?

Again, the problems are many — not for God, needing to explain Himself — but for us in passing judgment on the Creator. Where were we when He set all this in motion? We lack a representative sampling of data to draw conclusions. At least not enough from our experience living in affluent suburbia (or anywhere else). What do we have? God’s Word. Both written and Incarnate. The Designer has left the Story of His glory for us to know, experience and be satisfied with Him. What’s more, He entered this Story. The Designer willing to become part of His design, to experience the full brunt of the brokenness of our existence. Who suffered more evil that Jesus? Who deserved more good than He?

The crux: God has entered our suffering

So much talk about sovereignty (or theodicy) seems to miss the chief argument. If His attributes were to be aligned (goodness, power, knowledge), we see all three to be all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing. I’m not imposing presuppositions here — for those are the very perfections God asserts Himself (Mark 10:18; Psalm 115:3, Matthew 19:26; Psalm 147:5, Ephesians 1:11, et al). We don’t make a solid case based on our finite (read: tiny) experience; it must come from God’s words, the Scriptures.

If those are the three legs of this 3-legged-stool (that never wobbles), then the intersection at the top — where the world sits — is the greater truth. (Don’t miss this.) God has entered His Story. All stories have depths of conflict and triumphal resolution. In comes the Hero, the conflict and resolution all centered around Him. The worst of the evil? He received it. The harshest rejection? He felt it all. He was willing to empty Himself of glory, to take the lowest place possible — a slave, condemned to die — and walk through this furnace of suffering as we should. In total submission to the Triune God, the second Person of the Trinity became the one worthy of being called the name above every name (Philippians 2:1-11).

This all-good-and-powerful-and-knowing God, who is above all holy (altogether separate, distinct, and well, whole) saw that it was not enough to be outside the suffering and evil overtaking His  fallen creation. At an intersection of transcendence and immanence we see a God who cares. Enough to take our place, bear our shame, and reassert His claim as the Sovereign King of the universe. Compelled by love and for His one glory, He must draw near. He must enter this mess, and He must make it beautiful. How? (I state it again, if only for my own reminder.) By entering our suffering. By turning evil on its head. The greatest evil ever devised was used (permitted, designed, caused) to accomplish the greatest good this world has ever known. God overcame evil on the cross. Plus, the Creator forced evil to serve the overcoming of itself. He made evil commit suicide in doing its worst evil.

The apex of God’s revelation of Himself is the suffering God-Man on a cross, forsaken, beaten, spit upon, and in our place taking the full wrath of God. Oh what depths of judgment vented on Him! Those present sufferings in the physical realm from human hands were but a drop in the bucket of the cup of the Father’s wrath. Joy and love mingled down in His blood, He took death (the inevitable goal of evil and sin) and threw it away like a rag doll. Death could not defeat Him. He conquered the grave. He is the Man — the God — no one can kill. Jesus is the Hero. The Good, Knowing, Sovereign One — totally free and able — did all this on purpose (Acts 2:23). The Author wrote Himself in the script, right next to us.

Entering the Story

I first encountered this Story as a willing participant about a dozen years ago. Having suffered that broken vertebrae – it became the greatest act of mercy I’ve experienced to date. Before I could say God is sovereign (by theology), I knew He in total control by personal experience. God literally broke me, ruining my life for His good. Oh, how awesome it is to live with the sharp pains of grace shooting up this spine. (They are not meant to be compared horizontally with yours or anyone else’s. They were designed to make me yearn for Christ. Not having control is a good thing for us.) They remind me how little I do suffer, for Christ has rescued my soul, repaired my spiritual spine, and made me His. I’m so vain I thought this Story was about me. I can know shout with the writers of Scripture as they proclaim this Story is about the free and able One. The Author has many pages in this beautifully woven Grand Story. If we could only turn the page from our short paragraph we could see His purposes (Isaiah 55).

Fewer people could die. Death could be banished. Hunger erased, all thirsts satisfied. Evil, that which displeases God and prefers all things contrary to Him, should be gone. But how? When? What is it that we are assessing? The God-Man taught us to pray to “Our Father,” proclaiming that His will should be done, done here as it always is done up there. For His is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory (Matthew 6:5-13). He has a plan, the Story’s in motion, and He’s directing it. When we look at the plot, do we not like the conflict before we get to the resolution? How then would we hope for the re-creation of all things? (Colossians 1:15-21) The Creator has a design in all this. Before asking Him to get us out of this, can we ask Him, “what should we get out of this?” Can we hear His voice as He shouts to us in our suffering? “He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity” (Job 36:15).

Author-Story

Every author writes stories full of conflict, before the resolution. Why would it not be the same with The Author? If we take out the pain, the suffering, the frustration, will the end result make us happier and more whole? No, it will leave us with with all white-space on these pages. Nothing would be on the pages of this Story, and we would have boring, nothing-ever-go-‘wrong’ lives. In the end I doubt we will tell God it wasn’t worth it. But without the remembrance of the Story that gripped us so deeply we had to worship.

Alas, the Sovereign King has come. All things exist for Him and by Him (Eph. 1). He calls for our allegiance. He offers our protection — in the ultimate sense (Romans 8:28-39). He longs for our affection. The Father, Son and the Spirit have done everything necessary to make Their joy ours. It will be worth the wait. The pain will be seen as what it is: temporary, short-lived. For those who trust in Christ alone — the innocent (Him) in place of the guilty (us) — our pleasure is eternal life staring at God forevermore. We’ll learn of all the kindness He showed us through the Son, never exhausting of a new facet to behold (Ephesians 2:7). The free and able One will right every wrong and unleash His love on our undeserving hearts. Truth is, we deserve far worse. In a few short seconds this life passes and we inherit the world. The weight (and wait) of suffering will be far outweighed by the glory to be revealed (Romans 8:17ff).

I wish I could explain how valuable this pain is, for it makes God my Treasure. I pray He is yours. Enter His script, and let’s together worship the only One worthy. He alone is sovereign. He wrote the Story.

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  • godsidekurt

    “The greatest evil ever devised was used (permitted, designed, caused) to accomplish the greatest good this world has ever known.”

    So that makes God a masochist doesnt it? I am sorry but all of it falls apart if God is the one how CAUSES evil to BRING (force)supposed free beings to submit to His plan.

    • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

      Kurt-

      Would you then say that the crucifixion of Jesus was not ordained by God and happened by chance?

      • godsidekurt

        Tyler –

        Are you claiming Jesus didnt have a true choice in going to the cross?

        • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

          Nope I didn’t say that.

        • http://www.everynationtxstate.com Peter Dusan

          The very quote that Kurt is wrestling with is astounding me. I thought, “surely he won’t use suffering as an argument for sovereignty!” Yep, he did, and it is a paradox. (not a contradiction). It is a beautiful and true paradox!

          “The greatest evil ever devised was used (permitted, designed and caused) to accomplish the greatest good this world has ever known. God did not just overcome evil on the cross. The Creator forced evil to serve the overcoming of itself. He made evil commit suicide in doing its worst evil.”

          God used evil against itself. Kurt, God didn’t use evil to play silly games with “free” beings; God used evil to free ENSLAVED beings from its grasp!

          Does God create problems? That is something we should really think about! Indeed, he created YOU, and he created ME! Then, WE subsequently created the problem. Indeed, there is mystery abounding in that. There is overwhelming mystery in how God “allowed” the problem to surface–I agree. Yet, there is greater mystery in how God solved such a great problem.

          Without “allowing” for the problem (You and I), we would not know the Glory of His mercy!

      • http://www.deTheos.com Jeff Patterson

        Aha, just figured out how to reply to nested comment. See my comment below…

        I purposefully did not use technical words in my post (such as Open Theism, Libertarian Free Will, Compatibilism, Calvinism, etc.). While helpful in theology, I find that many have incomplete views on those labels (myself included!) and thus it blinds us from considering the underlying arguments.

        Jesus had every choice in going to the cross (Heb. 12:1-3ff). Consider the “happy tension” between the Father’s command and Jesus’ will:

        ” … 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” – John 10:17-18 (NIV)

  • http://www.deTheos.com Jeff Patterson

    @godsidekurt,

    Not sure exactly what you mean. Masochism refers to gratification from receiving the infliction of pain or humiliation.

    Am I understanding your usage of that word?

    Perhaps we could say that in some way the Son delighted in the sufferings He received — for the worth of His reward — at least within the boundaries of Scripture: Hebrews 12:2-3 says,

    “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.


    I used the words “used” (or permitted, designed, caused) so we could reflect on God’s directing all things towards His intended ends — ultimately. Is that not what happened on the cross? (Acts 2:23) Humans are responsible, for it was wicked and a horrific doing. In the end God governed and intended the crucifixion of His beloved Son (Isa. 53:10). The cross was not Plan B, and God is not responding to our moves (as in chess), but initiating His plan and will (Eph. 1:9-11; et al). These are the Scriptures we should magnify, for they complete the story and give us a glimpse of God’s greatness and plan.

    Not saying that God created evil in the sense that He is the One directly doing evil. But can we agree that He allows it in some way? (Hopeful our theological arguments [“argue” used in a helpful way] center on a powerful God who can do all things, and we are seeking to find out how prevalent His sovereignty is shown.)

    I see Scripture pointing the direction that God controls all good, as well as all “bad,” things in this world. (The definitions of each must come from the Triune God, though I’m sure we could all agree on a really long list that are decidedly horrific.)

    One could say that God wrote (allowed) evil in the Story so that it could self-destruct through its selfish ambition. If God cannot use evil for His good, what can He use?

    Welcome others’ thoughts, and put out this thought for discussion: Is libertarian free will a truth taught in the Scriptures or a presupposition we bring to theology?

    • godsidekurt

      Whatever words you want to use to say it doesnt really matter, the bottomline is you are saying God created a problem and than also provided a solution to that problem. I am wrestling with that theological understanding of Gods Sovereignty…

      • http://www.thegodtheyneverknew.com Preston Nesselrotte

        Godsidekurt – I am with you on this whole issue and that is Tyler is promoting nothing more than the idea that Evil has some intrinsic value. Yet this type of thinking soon falls apart. The thing Calvinist seem to miss is Evil has NO intrinsic value – that is why sin is so senseless, so empty and cruel – it has absolutely no value! This type of thinking goes something like this – In order to appreciate marriage, we must therefore have the pain of rape or divorce to appreciate the sanctity of marriage or In order to appreciate life we must therefore have murder. If what Tyler is saying here is true, then God is the author of His own unhappiness – as the bible is full of examples whereby sin is bringing heartbreak and grief to the heart of God.

        I often like to say that if this doctrine is indeed true, then this makes God the god of Munchausen syndrome. This is a mental disorder whereby a parent will intentionally cause a child to be deathly ill just so the parent can come racing to the rescue – starting to sound similar???? This is the doctrine of Calvinism and regardless how their theologians try to dress it up – in the end it still makes God out to be a tyrant and a lunatic.

        • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

          Just to be clear, I didn’t write this post Preston. I am taking part in the conversation though. I would say that from our perspective, you are right, evil as no value. I think God can see far beyond our perspective.

    • http://www.thegodtheyneverknew.com Preston Nesselrotte

      Welcome others’ thoughts, and put out this thought for discussion: Is libertarian free will a truth taught in the Scriptures or a presupposition we bring to theology?

      I would ask you this then Jeff: Does the Bible truly teach predestination (in the Calvinistic or Reformed sense of the word) or is this something Calvinist and Reformed theologians bring to the table as as a presupposition?

      BTW – I just love how you simply say God is not responsible for sin, yet according to you He is the one “controlling” it. Are we really being intellectually honest here Jeff? Reformers often dismiss this notion by trying to sweep it under the rug by making statements such as this – as if to try to dismiss the logical outworking of this type of theology. Yet, logic and reason run us head on to this conclusion and making statements such as these simply do not dismiss what your promoting here and that is God IS the author of sin. Let’s not avoid the 600lb gorilla in the room by simply stating its just not there!

      BTW – to answer your question I would simply say read the following scriptures. I think they are pretty clear on the matter of freewill:

      Exodus 35:29
      The Israelites, all the men and women, whose heart moved them to bring material for all the work, which the LORD had commanded through Moses to be done, brought a freewill offering to the LORD.

      Exodus 36:3
      They received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning.

      Leviticus 7:16
      ‘But if the sacrifice of his offering is a votive or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what is left of it may be eaten;

      Leviticus 22:18
      “Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘ Any man of the house of Israel or of the aliens in Israel who presents his offering, whether it is any of their votive or any of their freewill offerings, which they present to the LORD for a burnt offering–

      Leviticus 22:21
      ‘When a man offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a special vow or for a freewill offering, of the herd or of the flock, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it.

      • http://www.deTheos.com Jeff Patterson

        Preston,

        I’ll be taking the questions — Tyler was gracious enough to allow us to dialogue on his blog. But you can blame me for the post. :-)

        Had to chuckle when I read the 5 verses you quoted. The thing about theology (biblical or systematic) is that word searches are not enough to get to the. In all five “free will” has an adjectival usage (rather than a noun). “Free will” is found in our English Bibles, but is libertarian free will what God is talking about in those 5 references from the Pentateuch?

        Do I believe in free will? Yes … case in point: I’m writing this comment.

        Do I believe the Scriptures teach Libertarian Free Will? Not really. It is a massive assumption we bring to the table. We are not robots, and there is a “happy tension” in a middle ground, being free in a limited sense (limited by our nature and bent, by out passions/desires).

        As for Predestination and Election, they are certainly Pauline words (and truths Jesus taught as well). I won’t pit God’s choice against our responsibility as humans. The Bible doesn’t, God doesn’t, and I won’t either.

        God has the freedom and ability to choose. His will is completely free (as opposed to ours which as the taint of the Fall).

        Again, perhaps we’re talking past one another.

        • http://www.thegodtheyneverknew.com Preston Nesselrotte

          Jeff

          In response to your issue with libertarian freewill – let me add this then. As with many doctrinal issues (Predestination/Freewill, Atonement theories etc) the bible does not express these concepts in direct or clear language, but require sound use of hermeneutics and diligent and honest biblical study. Therefore, I would submit to you the following paper on “Freewill and Conscience” and how you cannot have one without the other. I think this will provide you with sufficient depth on the topic at hand. God Bless and thanks also for your comments.

          Freewill & Conscience – by Jesse Morrell
          http://tinyurl.com/lu2rek

          The Incipiency of the Will by Harry Conn
          http://tinyurl.com/kojhju

        • http://everynationtxstate.com Peter Dusan

          Preston,

          I’m sorry if you heard me making a personal comment toward you; I’m pretty sure that none of my comments were pointed at you–I was speaking in hypothetical to defend God’s judgment, not to attack you. I didn’t mean to be besmirching (I think?)

          Indeed, might does not make right, but RIGHT MAKES RIGHT. “The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God” (James 1:20), but God’s wrath is righteous. Also, his sovereign withholding of wrath in mercy cannot be counted as unrighteousness.

          God’s eternal and infinite understanding for how he mercifully uses finite man to accomplish His will is staggering. This is mysterious. Preston, ought we allow some things to remain mysterious, instead of judging God, or besmirching his sovereignty? (did I use besmirching right?)

          This is the very issue that Paul thought mysterious as well:

          “32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

          33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

          34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
          or who has been his counselor?”
          35 “Or who has given a gift to him
          that he might be repaid?”

          36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

          (Romans 11)

          Preston, I’m not saying that we should therefore discount all reason. But, let us allow our reason to remain subordinate to His.

      • http://www.everynationtxstate.com Peter Dusan

        Preston,

        If God allows for something, does that mean he is “responsible” for it? If you make a rude and unloving remark to your wife, and God doesn’t immediately eliminate you from the earth, does that make your transgression his fault?

        Does God possess the “free will” to choose how to discipline you for your actions? Could he lovingly use the pain of your sin to lead you to repentance? I think he can. Now, he does choose to eliminate some people from the earth (be thankful for every gracious moment), but he also chooses many means to accomplish His sovereign will.

        I believe in “free will.” I believe that God is free to use what he wants to accomplish what he wants. Also, I’m glad that I wasn’t incinerated earlier today when I was rude to my wife in the airport.

        PS–You cannot reason from this that I am saying that we have to know what “being rude” is to know what is means to love our wives properly. That is your deduction. I don’t gather that from Jeff’s blog. I gather that God, in his sovereign mercy, chooses to use our mess against our mess–and that does not bring value to the mess!

        • http://www.thegodtheyneverknew.com Preston Nesselrotte

          Peter – The issue here isn’t “God allowing something”, but actually orchestrating the whole mess and then blaming man for the mess he has orchestrated. For example, you being rude to your wife was not your doing. Again God knows the destiny of every person, not merely before the person has made his choice in this life, but from eternity (past). And since He knows their destiny before they are created, and then proceeds to create them, he must have desired you to be rude to your wife after all. So don’t feel so bad Peter, you’re simply fulfilling God’s will – no reason to feel guilty your just doing what God made you to do.

          BTW – your comment about God zapping me or incinerating me – Wow! Thanks for besmirching the Nature and Character of God and making God so arbitrary. Where did you ever get such a distorted idea that God was holding himself back from sending lightening bolts down on us. Again, I see no picture of the God your painting here in Christ. Jesus said when you see me you see the Father. Sorry I just don’t see God as the cosmic Ralph Kramdon saying “Why I outta!!!!” Indeed God dispenses justice, but he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, friend. Besides, I had no idea that according to God’s Character and Nature that “Might makes Right” – I had always thought God was Good and Right, not because of his attributes, but because of his Moral Character, but that’s just me.

  • http://www.thegodtheyneverknew.com Preston Nesselrotte

    Tyler

    Are you then admitting that according to God’s perspective that evil does have intrinsic value? Are you really willing to say that the sodomy and rape of a 5 year boy has a purpose and somehow in the end glorifies God? Are you willing to admit that a woman who is being beaten and abused daily by her husband brings a sense of fulfillment to the face of God as it is fulfilling his eternal decree???

    Curious as to what your response will be………

    • http://manofdepravity.com Tyler

      Those would be extreme examples of evil and certainly I would never say to a person being affected like that, “God knows this is for good.” All I’m saying is that we have a very limited perspective, one that cannot reach God’s perspective. That is my only point. I’m not trying to draw it out further than that.

      • http://www.thegodtheyneverknew.com Preston

        If I may let me add another point here to the discussion.

        According to most orthodox definitions of God’s sovereignty, it is a result of God’s absolute foreknowledge. Therefore, everything that occurs on earth is for his glory and purpose. Why? Because it ties back to his foreknowledge.

        Renown Reformed Theologian, Lorain Boettner sums up this position best in his paper “The Foreknowledge of God”. Whereby he writes:

        Foreknowledge must not be confused with foreordination. Foreknowledge presupposes foreordination, but is not itself foreordination. The actions of free agents do not take place because they are foreseen, but they are foreseen because they are certain to take place. Hence Strong says, “Logically, though not chronologically, decree comes before foreknowledge. When I say, ‘I know what I will do,’ it is evident that I have determined already, and that my knowledge does not precede determination, but follows it and is based upon it.”

        Since God’s foreknowledge is complete, He knows the destiny of every person, not merely before the person has made his choice in this life, but from eternity. And since He knows their destiny before they are created, and then proceeds to create, it is plain that the saved and the lost alike fulfill His plan for them; for if He did not plan that any particular ones should be lost, He could at least refrain from creating them.

        We conclude, then, that the Christian doctrine of the Foreknowledge of God proves also His Predestination (and Sovereignty??). Since these events are foreknown, they are fixed and settled things; and nothing can have fixed and settled them except the good pleasure of God,— the great first cause,— freely and unchangeably foreordaining whatever comes to pass.

        Therefore back to my original question to Tyler (and anyone else in the discussion). If indeed you agree with the above definition – then clearly you must agree that Sovereignty is a result of God’s Omniscience. Therefore, everything (and I do mean everything including rape, murder, child molestation, etc) is all for his glory and purpose. If not, then this somehow means God is not all “powerful” (according to the Orthodox definition). Thus back to my question:

        “Does all evil ultimately bring God glory as it is clearly a product of his foreknowledge and resulting predestination”?

        As a side note: Personally, I only see two logical possibilities on this subject. One must fall into one of two camps here, The Reformed Orthodox view or the Open View (ie Open Theism). The Classical Arminian view is just illogical altogether. I personally reject the reform view as it violates both right reason and our God-given conscience (not to mention it violates the demonstrated Nature and Character of God/Christ). The reformed view is indeed logical, but it is altogether appalling and the maligns the character of God.

    • http://www.deTheos.com Jeff Patterson

      Preston,

      It seems that my answers will be suffice for you, because there will always be an anecdote to counter what I’ve laid out here in a very brief position paper. The question is: “Is God sovereign?” OR, “does God govern all things?” I say yes, and give scriptural support for that position.

      Would I ever tell a rape victim that the wickedness they received was a good thing? Never!

      Nor would I try to comfort anyone with nonsense about God not knowing what’s going on, that He couldn’t protect them.

      There is a mystery in this, and I see it as part of our roles to explore that mystery, rather than ignore it, or imagine that it doesn’t exist.

      The Author-Story argument is what I’m laying out here — in part — in dealing with theodicy.

      See John Frame’s The Doctrine of God, chapter 9, “The Problem of Evil,” a brief summary of which can be found here. I think it’s very good, logical, and moves us past our limited viewpoints.

      • http://www.thegodtheyneverknew.com Preston

        Jeff – I would also suggest you read Greg Boyd’s “God of the Possible” or “Satan & the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy”. Both of these tackle Calvinist position head on and does so in a very hermeneutical and biblically way.

        I have to question why one such as yourself would not be openly honest with your theology with someone who has been so damaged or hurt by sin. Why not?? If it is indeed true, then why should one be ashamed or hide that which is so plainly true? In my opinion, it is often because Calvinist or Reformed theologians know deep down that this type of theology is repugnant – as it violates man’s sense of justice (you know the one we were endowed with by our Creator).

        Sin is meaningless and that is the whole point of sin. I would never tell someone who was raped at the age of six that God had predestined not only the event to happen, but that he purposely created his/her attacker and that their pain and suffering was to “mysteriously” bring God glory. The very fact you wouldn’t either is very telling about your own theology and beleifs. For me I am much more comforted that sin is indeed so random and has no value whatsoever. This view in my opinion requires one to cling to Christ knowing that the world we live in was never truly meant to be and it is only through Christ this world makes any sense at all.

        • http://www.deTheos.com Jeff Patterson

          Preston,

          I’ve read at least two of Boyd’s books, including God of the Possible, and Letters from a Skeptic (the first one I read).

          I’ve concluded that his underlying assumptions are too strong for me. Further, he magnifies problem texts like a microscope would, rather than a telescope. Paul wanted to magnify Christ (Phil. 1) as with a telescope (making Christ seem more like he really is: BIG!). Boyd and others seem to make problem texts bigger than they really are (like with a microscope). Plus, most of the arguments center on OT texts, while we have fuller revelation as we move along through the rest of the revealed Writ.

          Boyd’s passion, pastoral insights and seemingly godly trajectory are to be mentioned as well. He seems like an authentic man, husband, father and leader. I wouldn’t dare attack his character (or his education), but I found his arguments uncompelling. Smarter than me? Yes. Able convince me that God is not all-knowing? Not really.

          Sin is meaningless, but is that the “whole point” of it? Perhaps the “whole point” of sin is to miss the mark of God’s glory, to reject God and defeat His purposes, to rebel against His authority, and to attack His reign. In subtle and crafty ways the Devil and our sin natures take us on a path of idolatry, to worship the creature rather than the Creator. It becomes — in us — a question of preference, where we choose this or that over what is best: the all-satisfying triune God.

          What better way to “use” sin than to turn it on it’s head and make it serve in its own execution/suicide? Jesus did that at the cross, making a public spectacle of all His enemies (Col. 2:13-15). Perhaps we can say that God controls sin in that way? He uses it for His glory, and our good, ultimately. The effects of sin are very real, but the power of God is far greater.


          I’m in meetings the rest of the day, pastoring and then heading to Jr. High camp for a day+, so likely won’t be able to chime in much any more. Thank you for the comments!

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