Monday, February 13, 2006

Question posed...Need response

Many times the issue of whether God allows or directly causes things to happen has been disputed. Some may say there's not a difference between them; if He's in control, then whatever happens was His will, right? Well, here's what initiated the thought process for me.

I was reading James 1:13, where in the latter part of the verse, James says "He Himself does not tempt anyone" (NASB). So God doesn't tempt people. The Bible says so. But consider Job. Satan asked God to have his way with His servant, and God allowed him to take things away. What about Jesus in the desert. He was definitely tempted. Was that God's will? We know it was part of Him embracing full humanness and exemplary in showing us how to respond. So it definitely served a purpose. And I believe God received glory in both the instance of Job and Jesus in the desert.

So I think this is sufficient evidence to show that there is a difference between God "doing" something and Him "allowing" something to occur. I believe He can receive glory from anything He decides (Rom. 8:28, Isa. 55:8-9, Acts 17:26-27).

Now the concept of His will...that's a whole other region of obscurity. Do things become His will after they have deviated from His best. Can His best ever include sin and its consequences? We all know He can repair and create beauty in the ugliest of circumstances, but what do you call that? His will? I have a hard time discerning where to use that phrase. Maybe we should ease up on that. What does Ecc. 5:2 and 6:11 say?


Daron said...

I believe God allows things to happen to us in order to test us. It's not that He directly causes them to happen. He's giving us a chance to turn to Him for help, which is His ultimate goal: For us to turn to Him and give Him everything, including (most of all) our problems. If life was perfect, we would technically have no reason to need God. Even though He is the Creator of our universe, very few people turn to God just because He is Creator. I mean, that is a major deal; however, how much does it take some people to finally turn to Christ to save them? Almost dying, losing someone close to them, going through substance abuse, and so many other things. And maybe that's just a part of the Fall of Mankind. Another thing is that we grow closer to God by going through trials and temptations. Otherwise, we would cruise along and not even worry about growing in our relationship with Him. That's just my viewpoint.

Benjamin said...

Interesting questions. First off, I do believe he allows things to happen. I think what you have to check is what the difference between testing our faith and tempting us to sin is. He doesn't tempt us, but I do believe he pushes us to grow and learn through troubled times and tough situations. Does he allow Satan to have “fun” with us in that time as in Job, yes, but it is at God's discretion and in his time that it happens, which leads into question two.

Also think of these times from this prospective too. We always tend to look at troubles in life as either a test, punishment, or a learning experience. God however is completely capable and justified in presenting these situations without any of those intents in mind. Wrap your mind around this! What value is worship if presented because God has provided everything just as we wanted? Compare that to someone who worships God despite the hard times in his/her life. Those hard times or troubles add value to the worship of the individual, because that individual is practicing worship out of a pure heart which acknowledges God’s honor and majesty whether it serves him/her or not. What if the troubled times are placed on us at times to add value to our worship and praise? From his prospective, worship is then all the sweeter, honest, and genuine. It doesn’t have to be to tempt us in this scenario. It’s not a test to see how we handle it, since a person in this position would worship either way. It’s not a punishment because the intent of God in this scenario isn’t one of correction but of glorifying himself. At this point, the troubled time is placed on us to benefit him alone.

Second question. What I don't believe is that our sin is part of a plan of God’s. That would require God to have sin as part of his will, which is a contrast to the definition of sin as I currently believe it (anything outside of the will of God).

God's will however isn't a plan, but instead what he wants from this point forward. Since God is eternal, and therefore is constant throughout time, before time existed, and after time is banished his will is unchanging because he knows what we are unable to see and know. We must experience time from within and therefore only know of this moment and things that happened before. If God's will is capable of knowing all that happens in all points and places in time because he exists outside of time, then his will would be stationary and permanent. Unlike our will which changes with new input and knowledge, his doesn't because there is no knowledge or information he doesn't already contain. Long story short, we often mistake his will as a plan because of the similarity due to the unchanging nature it has.

It’s tough for us as beings with limited points of view to understand how an all knowing God can know all the evil that happens in the world and not “plan” for it. To be completely honest, I don’t believe we’ll ever truly understand it until we experience existence outside of time ourselves. All I do know is that God’s will again is made subject to our free will out of his grace. His will can still be applied despite our sin without encompassing our sin (think about it for a while and let it soak). Let’s simplify that point with an illustration. A girl wants to become a professional ice skater. As she begins skating her will or determined goal is to learn, excel, and grow into that. Falling, breaking bones, tearing ligaments and muscle, and breaking equipment such as skates aren’t part of her goal or will. However, her goal or will can still be accomplished despite these events and even furthered by them though they weren’t part of the initial intent. The difference between this illustration and God is this. In the illustration, the girl is the one at fault for her shortcomings. God however isn’t. His will, just as the girls though can still persist and even be furthered through our mistakes.

As you hinted before, we can’t assume that since God’s understanding includes our sin, and his will exists despite it, that our sin was part of a “plan”. This is where mankind begins to alter God’s position and attitude about the subject. Just because he has knowledge of what we will do with our lives doesn’t mean he has planned for us to do so. Planning requires that he intended us to do so before we did. Knowing however only means that he had knowledge of what we do before we do it, and doesn’t mean that his intent is necessarily connected to that.

I don’t know how else to state my case without going into much detail and philosophy on things that inevitably are outside of our control and total knowledge. What would be even tougher is to backtrack and present all the scripture that forms my belief in God, his position on sin, his will, and what time and eternity really is. What I do know is that evil is the absence of God, so God cannot have his hand in evil without evil becoming not evil. Since God’s prospective on evil is unwavering then it’s not part of a plan involving him.

Barb said...

ace- i'm going to definitely meditate on this one today. look up the scripture you presented- and i'll get back to you. just wanted to thank you for releasing this question- b/c God is certainly showing me how important it is to understand and know what i believe. have a great day, love. i'll holla at ya soon about this!

barb said...

God is so cool. today in sunday school we talked about saying things are "God's will". i immediately thought of ya, ace. i've been meditating on this- and today i think i found somewhat of a response to share with ya. however, i believe it is quite a question- and luckily is not dependent on our salvation! God's will. i think we need to be very careful about how we say something is God's will. for example, say someone's child passes away- and they (the parents) aren't very close to the Lord- or maybe not close at all- right now would NOT be a great time to say "well, be comforted because it was God's will". obviously that is not known- and obviously that is not comforting. but i do believe that when we do what part of my life verse states " transformed by the renewing of your mind- then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is...His good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2b) when we find ourselves in this time of our lives- then God's will is very recognizable. so working to set ourselves apart from the world- in whatever way God desires- and striving to have a renewed mind- helps us discern His will. and also this is evidence for being in it! well- that's all i got for now- i need to go study some ochem- blah!!

J.W. Hendryx said...

One of the main objections of Arminians, Semi-pelagians and other synergists to divine election is based on moral rather than exegetical grounds. While debating these issues online over the years, I have heard many of them contend that the Augustinian view of God is morally repugnant since God could and would never force humans to do something against their will. And since God is holy, they reason, He could not ordain all things that come to pass, because this would make God the author of evil. Well, instead of this being an essay defending God's sovereignty and meticulous providence over all things (both good subjects in themselves but best left for another time) I wish to use their belief in God's inability to act contrary to His nature to make a point ... one that is fatal to their belief in libertarian free will.

We all know that the Arminians teach that man has a free will in the libertarian sense. What this means, simply is that they believe man has the ability to choose otherwise. That is, they affirm that human beings are free to choose between opposites ... to make choices uninfluenced any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. They believe the will, being neutral, can just as easily choose good or evil. On the surface this may seem reasonable but when you think about it for a moment it makes no sense because deep down we know, and the Scriptures affirm, that a person must always choose according to what he is by nature, otherwise how could the choice be rightfully said to be his own? Let us never forget that the nature of a person is not a thing he possesses. It is something he is. For example, When a person loves evil by nature, he will always make choices in line with what that nature desires most. Just as it is the nature of a dog to bark and a cat to meow so it is the nature of the unregenerate to be hostile to God and love darkness (John 3:19, 20).

The small but important point I wish to make in all this is simple, and I think it packs the most punch by asking a question. The question is, does God have a free will in the libertarian sense? i.e. Is God able to choose otherwise? (is He "free" to choose good or evil?) And if not does this mean human beings have more freedom then God does, since, to libertarians, human beings do have this freedom to choose good or evil?

According to the Arminians own testimony which affirms that God is holy and therefore cannot be the author of evil, it follows they must also deny that God is has a free will in the libertarian sense. By affirming one they must deny the other because they are mutually exclusive. When it comes to God, Arminians actually must acknowledge the compatibilist view ... that is, that God cannot make choices that violate His own essence; such as God cannot lie, be unholy or break His promise. These truths Arminians will defend with their lives. Because such is the universally acknowledged (Calvinist and Arminian) nature of our holy God. But since Arminians, at the same time, dogmatically confess that human beings have a libertarian free will and can therby violate their nature in a choice, does that mean Arminians believe that fallen humans have more freedom than God? Do we have the freedom to choose otherwise but God doesn't? Let me ask this again in another way. Since we all agree that God cannot make choices that violate his nature, do Arminians believe that God is less free than human beings are? Arminians define freedom as the ability to choose otherwise and since they claim that God cannot do anything to violate His essence, (but humans can) it follows that they believe human beings are in some way superior, in their natural abilities, to God. Simply put, the Arminian position is erroneously affirming that while God is bound to who He is by nature, human beings are not.

To the Augustinian, God created us after His image and, like God, we can only choose according to what we are by nature. Fallen unregenerate man is unspiritual and thus cannot choose Christ without God's direct merciful spiritual intervention to save him. We need a new nature, a new birth or regeneration if we are to see Christ's beauty and excellence and thus desire to trust in Him. Water does not rise above its source. Jesus says, a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bad fruit...Each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.(Luke 6:44) This language speaks of the fact that a nature of a thing determines what it produces. Jesus is not teaching a botany lesson to us he is making an analogy about the nature of man. Evil men have evil thoughts and cannot produce thoughts that violate who they are.

Lets take this another step ... The saints in heaven who are sealed in righteousness can no longer sin. So if Arminian theology were true, does this mean that when we are glorified on the Last Day that we are less free than when on earth? No, because in the Bible freedom is not defined as the ability to choose otherwise but means, rather, the freedom to be holy. When Christ says He sets men free, He sets them free from their bondage to sin. Like Romans 6 says, we were once slaves of sin but are now slaves of righteousness. This is what Christ means when He sets us free.

To conclude: That God and the glorified saints in heaven do not have a libertarian free will, and the fact that our possession of one would make us more free than they are...alone should be sufficient to reduce the Arminian view of freedom to absurdity ....and should, therefore, be abandoned.

As Luther said in his Disputation against Scholastic Theology,(71) The law of God and the human will are two enemies, which can never be reconciled apart from the grace of God. (5) It is false to say that the human will, left to itself, is free to choose between opposites; for it is not free, but in bondage. (74) The law makes sin abound, because it exasperates and repels the will. (75) But the grace of God makes righteousness abound though Jesus Christ, who causes us to love the law. (89) Grace is necessary as a mediator to reconcile the law with the will.

True freedom, by biblical definition, is holiness, not the freedom to choose otherwise. We should, therefore, not boast in our freedom but in God's grace in Jesus Christ, which sets us free.

George Whitefield said...

“Come, ye dead, Christless, unconverted sinner, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out, bound hand and foot with graveclothes, locked up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone placed on top of it. View him again and again; go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him, Ah! how he stinketh. Stop there now, pause a while; and whilst thou art gazing upon the corpse of Lazarus, give me leave to tell thee with great plainness, but greater love, that this dead, bound, entombed, stinking carcase, is but a faint representation of thy poor soul in it natural state;...thy spirit which thou bearest about with thee, sepulchered in flesh and blood, is literally dead to God, and as truly dead in trespasses and sins, as the body of Lazarus was in the cave. Was he bound hand and foot with graveclothes? So art thou bound hand and foot with thy corruptions; and as a stone was laid on the sepulchre, so there is a stone of unbelief upon thy stupid heart. Perhaps thou has lain in this estate, not only four days, but many years, stinking in God’s nostrils. And, what is still more effecting, thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the power of thy boasted free will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments (which, without doubt, have their proper place in religion); but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much vigor, will prove quite fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said ‘take away the stone” and cried “Lazarus, come forth,” also quicken you. This is grace, graciously offered, and grace graciously applied. Or as the Confession [Westminster Confession] originally puts it, “grace offered and conveyed.”

Matt said...

Lauren, in partial answer to your question, God sustains everyone by his grace, believer and unbeliever, alike. To the unbeliever this is an aspect of his common grace and you see much of this "common" grace of God in unbelievers whenever they know and understand a great amount of truth and act very moral and upright. But, you see less of the "common" grace of God in people like Adolph Hitler who, though, had a measure of God's grace and if he didn't would have been more horrible, still. So, you could rightfully say that a person is sinful to the degree of the grace of God that has been given to them. The more God withdraws himself (like Benjamin said: sin is the absence of God) the more sinful a person becomes. You see this in Romans 1 where is says that God gave idolatrous Gentiles over to a depraved mind. God didn't give them a depraved mind, that they already had, he simply withdrew himself so that they were left to their own lusts and vices. They were simply left to live their lives they way that their depraved nature wanted. Whenever God hardened Pharoah's heart, did he harden a heart that was naturally soft? No, I don't think so. Pharoah's heart, like all natural men, was naturally hard. God simply removed any softness that he may have given Pharoah. I think that we have many examples of this in our culture, today. Ours is a society that is quickly being taken over by people who live according to their depraved minds. God has, to some degree, withdrawn his sustaining, common grace from much of America.

This is similar with believers, I think, except different at a few points. Believers do not have depraved minds, but minds that are in the process of being transformed (Romans 12:2). Believers have also been given and sealed with the Holy Spirit, but we still carry around the flesh. Now, we can either walk according to the Spirit, or we can walk according to the flesh (Romans 8). I think that the degree to which we hear and listen to the Spirit is determined also by God's grace. If he has given me a great measure of his grace today, then I will hear and listen and follow the Holy Spirit. If he doesn't give me a great measure of his grace today, then I will listen and follow the flesh and become sinful. Not that God causes me to sin, but he orchestrates so that I will. He does that to believers for one reason: to make us more like Christ. When Romans 8:28 says that he works all things together for our good, which is to be like Christ (vs. 29), then it really does mean all things. Even our sin. This, though, is one reason why every morning we must continue to come before the throne of God and ask him for more and more grace, so that we may walk according to his Spirit and glorify him in all that we do. His mercies are, indeed, new every morning.

Now, this is how I think what I've just talked about relates to God's sovereignty: God sovereignly rules and accomplishes all that he pleases according to the amount of grace that he gives each person.