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.
Today’s post is from Kurt Brandemihl. Kurt lives in Portland, Oregon and works as the Middle School Director at Sunset Presbyterian Church. He is also attending Western Seminary in pursuit of his M. Div. Kurt and I are not only co-workers but friends beyond that. The whole idea for this series came out of the study that Kurt and I are doing almost every Tuesday night. Because it was his idea to focus on this topic for our study he deserves the credit for this series taking place.
If I have learned one thing in this life, it is that God will not tie my shoes without me. – Doug Boyd
A very simple quote and yet within it lies one of the most profound mysteries in this life; how much of our lives does God care to control? Some might even ask in a more stronger sense; are there things God cannot control?
I grew up in an old-school Baptist church, and I mean King James reading, Banjo-playing old-school. While I am thankful for being grounded in the Word at a very young age, now as a “post-Baptist” in seminary I’ve begun to rethink much of what I was taught. For instance the degree to which God changes. I grew up thinking that God doesn’t change ever…in any sense…never…simply CANNOT happen sort of thing. It would have been more likely for Pat Robertson to have voted for Obama than it would be for my old-school church to think God would ever change. But if God doesn’t change in any sense then how can we have a relationship with Him that truly impacts/influences Him?
Why might you ask, would I rethink the good Gospel teaching of my youth? Well partly it came out of my own faith journey…walking through many dark valleys my theology just didn’t seem to work anymore. Funny how that is…we accept our theology until something challenges it. Also a ministry cohort introduced me to Greg Boyd’s book, God of the Possible a couple of years back. We used to sit around and argue about it for weeks on end. I felt like I was defending God against some heretic or something….How could God change his mind?!! Boyd introduces Open Theism which teaches that the future is partly open…that we genuinely partner with God (change His mind) in creating future events. He does a great job of pointing out many verses* in the bible that I had conveniently never heard about growing up…verses that talk about God changing His mind. Now anyone who believes in a literal interpretation of the bible must wrestle with what these verses say, to me there can only be two possibilities; 1. God is being in-authentic, giving the illusion that He changed His mind when He in fact never did or 2. God actually changed His mind.
Now all that being said…I am not an open theist. I have been on a multi-year journey trying to land in some camp when it comes to God’s Sovereignty. With the title “Senior Pastor” as something potentially in my future, I feel it’s important for me to land somewhere on this spectrum to be able to teach the Bible well. So I can’t tell you I am sure of the things Boyd says in his book…but it has helped me to make some sense of the tougher things in life. What I can tell you is that I fully dismiss the Calvinistic view that God controls everything…just runs into far too many issues; making God the creator of problems that He ultimately solves. What kind of relationship can we have with a God that causes us to have a relationship with Him? I believe strongly in Free Choice…that God took a risk in giving Adam & Eve the choice to prove their love and obedience to Him. A risk I might add that He lost greatly with. God didn’t have to create this tree…and if he really desired to control us I think he would have created a nice wall around that tree. Now whether or not He KNEW they would choose the fruit…that’s precisely where I am wrestling.
I haven’t got it all figured out but I’m enjoying the journey for the most part…looking down at my shoes I see they are still untied…
* Exodus 32:14; Numbers 14:11; Deuteronomy. 9:13–14, Deuteronomy 9:18-20; 1 Samuel 2:29-30; 2 Kings 20:1–6; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Jeremiah 18:7–11; Jeremiah 26:3; Jeremiah. 26:19; Ezekiel 33:13–15; Ezekiel 20:21–22; Amos 7:1–6; Jonah 1:2; 3:2; 4-10; Joel 2:13–14