Saturday, January 12, 2013
Struggling with a Sovereign God
Romans 9:14-18 (ESV)
The concept of a sovereign God who knows all things is acknowledged but not understood. His absolute authority over all things is also acknowledged but not fully applied. Thus, the Christians claim that God has nothing to do with bad things and is fully engaged in the good. He is in power when good things happen but has no power over the bad things.
Let's face it: we are human and cannot limit God to our abilities. We can neither limit Him to our knowledge or our ability to affect our environment. Much of what happens to us comes beyond our power and without our knowledge. This is not true of God.
God is aware of every tragedy before it occurs. He could stop every evil. Yet, He doesn't do so. He knows why but we are left without that knowledge. Thus, many people try to judge God from what they can see. They lack the full knowledge of everything and have a limited ability to make any evaluation of what has been permitted.
So, many preachers tell stories which cannot connect the dots. They speak of God as if He isn't aware of what is going on. He is like those who believe erroneous stories from their emails. Therefore, He believes the stories but doesn't really know what is going on. He acts but only from the limitations put upon Him. These preachers tell stories that are convenient to their messages but do not present an all-powerful, omnipresent, omniscient, benevolent God.
This is not how the Bible describes God. He is always loving but some of the things He permits show no love. He gives permission for Satan to hurt Job and sift Peter like wheat. He is attributed to an evil spirit coming upon Saul. These things make no sense to those who want God to pass a human ethics test. So, they make Him unaware of the bad things and absent in the tragedies. Then, they call upon Him in prayer as if He is fully aware of all situations and able to solve all problems.
For some reason we just can't understand why we can't understand God. We don't understand why we can't understand an infinite God with a finite mind. We search for a reason in everything that happens. We come to conclusions which may not be true but satisfy most people.
Yet, sometimes we just don't know why things happen. We don't know why God allowed Adam and Eve to sin. Why did He allow Cain to kill Able? Why didn't He stop David from sinning with Bathsheba? Why didn't He stop Herod from ordering the murder of the babies two years and younger in Bethlehem?
Sure, some stories make sense. Joseph was sold into slavery so that he would precede his family to Egypt and ultimately save them. We get this one but most of the time we don't have enough information to fully understand what God is up to.
Why can't we simply say, "I just don't know why God allowed this?" Many times this is the best answer.
We should not pick and choose when God is sovereign. We should not diminish His power or His knowledge. We must say that we know He is good and will take care of the innocent though taking care of them ultimately may not be caring for them on earth. Sometimes He takes them home with Him when we say they should have had more time on earth.
Thus, I have to come to these conclusions: I am not God. I do not have the right to judge God. He does not need my permission to do anything. I do not have to understand everything He does. I simply trust that everything that happens comes within His permission. And yet His love never fails.
So, I pray to an all-mighty, omniscient, omnipresent benevolent God. . . or I wouldn't pray at all.