How we see God’s sovereignty matters

What you believe about God matters. For instance, if you equate God’s sovereignty with Him micromanaging and controlling every single event in human history then you will struggle and even question His motives during times like these. God caused the Coronavirus pandemic is the ultimate conclusion we must make from this faulty theology.

Why would God cause needless death and suffering? The simple answer is that He doesn’t cause these things. We cause them, our poisoned environment causes them, there’s a whole host of other reasons why bad things happen in this world…but none of them are because God caused them. At least, this is not Classic Christian theology. This deterministic idea of God’s sovereignty finds its origin in Stoic and Gnostic philosophy, not divine revelation, as I’ve said before in my post, “Why We Still Need Reformation”:

This humanistic doctrine seems to conflate His omniscience or omnipresence with causation. It supposes that if God foreknows something then we are fated to do it, or because He holds all things together He controls our every action. This commits a fallacy in modal logic (Dr. William Lane Craig explains that fallacy here).

God, at the core of His essence, is love (1 John 4:8). And love requires free will. God could not be love if we have no free will.

Sovereignty means that one has supreme and ultimate power; it doesn’t mean meticulous control.  And, in God’s supreme and ultimate power, He chose to give us freedom of choice (See my post, “Sovereignty Through Love.”) This would be much like a good king having sovereignty over His kingdom. While he has complete authority and power over his subjects, he doesn’t meticulously control their every movement.

Furthermore, it’s clear from Scripture that God gave us control over this earth:

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen.1:28 NIV*)

16 The highest heavens belong to the Lord,
    but the earth he has given to mankind. (Psalm 115:16 NIV* )

God gave us responsibility for taking care of this planet. So, the question we should be asking is, “Why would WE let this terrible thing happen?”

One thing we’ve proven as human beings is that we’re very good at blaming others, including God, instead of taking responsibility for our own actions. This goes back to Adam and Eve, and the M.O. hasn’t changed since:

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen.3:12-13 NIV*)

But we see in this account that God held Adam and Eve totally responsible for what they had done. Not to mention, it would be quite sadistic and cruel if He caused them to do this! This is why this form of theological fatalism is incoherent and untenable with God’s nature.

There are several other reasons why bad things happen in the world which I won’t go into here, but there’s one thing I want you know right now that’s critically important in times like these. While God is not the author of evil, nor pandemics, He does use these times to help us grow as human beings.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom.8:28-29 NIV*)

Think about it. How many times have you learned a valuable lesson or grown stronger in faith because of trials you went through? The hard truth is, we grow as human beings by overcoming difficulties and trials.

There’s an old saying, “Adversity reveals genius, but prosperity conceals it.” This is true. Think of the innovations and medical breakthroughs that will likely happen because we’ve had to overcome this current pandemic. And, ultimately, God uses these times of crisis to help us fully mature as His sons and daughters.

Ironically, saying that sovereignty means having meticulous control is a very weak form of sovereignty. It’s like an insecure husband totally controlling every movement of his wife because he’s doesn’t trust her and is afraid she’ll run away.

Beloved, God is not insecure! Love thrives where two free persons choose to give of themselves for the other. This is exactly how God loves.

God’s sovereignty is superior because He honors us by giving us free choice while still accomplishing His eternal purposes.   Frankly, I would not worship a God who is so petty and insecure that He must control us like automatons. That’s not love. And, thankfully, that’s not God!

So I say, look up. God is at work in you and in me! And He will help us get through this crisis, just like He has every other crisis in the past.  A better question for us to ponder than “why” during times like these is “what.” What is God doing in me in these current circumstances? What are my opportunities for growth here?

Our theology will either work for us, or fail us, during times like these. And when it does fail, know the problem is not with God; the change needed is from us. Make sure what you believe actually works.

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 39 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
This entry was posted in Doctrine, Reformation, Sonship, Theology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to How we see God’s sovereignty matters

  1. Mark Seeley says:

    2 Chronicles 7:13-15
    13 Whenever I hold back the rain or send locusts to eat up the crops or send an epidemic on my people, 14 if they pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing, then I will hear them in heaven, forgive their sins, and make their land prosperous again. 15 I will watch over this Temple and be ready to hear all the prayers that are offered here,

    I have seen this plastered over Facebook the last few days. How do you reconcile passages like these with what you are saying? People read and quote these verses and then very reasonably assume God caused this epidemic.

    You’re welcome for the set-up! 😉
    Mark

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Mark! 🙂

      There’s two major problems that come to mind right off the bat with using this passage for the Coronavirus pandemic.

      As you know, this is a classic case of reading the Bible indiscriminately, as if Jesus never happened. I wrote in greater detail about the difference between the Old and New Covenants in “Clarifying New Covenant Confusion,” but suffice to say here, Israel was bound by covenant to obey God’s laws or bad things would happen to them (blessings and curses). The two parties of that covenant were Israel and God. But the New Covenant is between Jesus and His Father, and He fulfilled this covenant with His death, which is why there are no curses with this Covenant. If we read Galatians we would know this. The bottom line is, you cannot apply 2 Chronicles to us this way. Not to mention, we put ourselves at odds with Jesus’ teaching in Mathew 5, that this Father provides the rain for the just and unjust alike.

      The second problem is not properly interpreting the language. Oftentimes, when God said He did something, it simply means He allowed it to happen or removed His protective hand and those afflicted the consequences of their foolish behavior (cf. 2 Sam.21:1; 1 Chron.21:1). This would be the case with Israel.

      But even today, as Paul said in Galatians 6, there are consequences for what we do. We will reap what we sow. For instance, if we decide to create wet markets and slaughter bats and snakes in a very unclean environment, then we handle them among a very high concentration of people, we will spread deadly viruses and diseases that will eventually infect the world. Blaming God for this would be like pouring gas on your house, setting it on fire, and then saying God caused it! Kind of crazy when you think about it.

  2. Well done, Mel! God’s sovereignty can be a really hard subject to talk about and often encased in paradoxes. It sometimes requires us to hold concepts in tension, which we’re usually really bad at. We like our cut and dry answers, our black and white understanding, our ability to imagine ourselves in control, even in control of God Himself. Some of this stuff going around on social media, this “repent and God will do this,” scenario demonstrates that truth. As if we can manipulate God, as if our behavior now completely controls and influences His? Isn’t this kind of like a form emotional blackmail?? Should we really be trying to blackmail God?? I’m chuckling here, but it’s all basically the opposite of accepting that God is sovereign.

    I really like how you said, “God, at the core of His essence, is love.” I don’t think we can begin to understand God’s sovereignty until we can get a good feel for His nature. We ask questions like, “why does He allow evil,” but what we really mean is, “what are His intentions towards us??”

    • Mel Wild says:

      I totally agree about people wanting to control God with their prayers. It’s actually pretty immature, spiritually speaking. And what you said here is important for us to think about:

      “I don’t think we can begin to understand God’s sovereignty until we can get a good feel for His nature. We ask questions like, “why does He allow evil,” but what we really mean is, “what are His intentions towards us??””

      Very true. We must start all understanding with God’s intentions toward us, which Jesus pretty much answered in spades! And we understand God’s nature by understanding His love toward us. And this love is not like our fickle,self-interested, conditional love. It’s completely other-centered and self-giving. And, as Dr. Henry Cloud said about this kind of love: “Love cannot exist without freedom, and freedom cannot exist without responsibility.”

      God is indeed in control, but if He controlled us the way some Christians think then He could not be love and we would never grow as human beings. Actually, we could not even be human.

      But when we understand this GOOD Father’s relentless love toward us, then we then can begin to understand why He allows what He allows to happen in our lives. And a major part of maturing as a human being is to stop blaming others for our problems, taking responsibility, and learning how to overcome obstacles, which is part of what makes us feel the most alive anyway.

  3. Enjoyed reading the detailed and interesting post. Thanks Mel !

  4. Pingback: God is Sovereign and Works All Things | See, there's this thing called biology...

  5. Lily Pierce says:

    Thanks for this, Mel–a timely response to those who say we need to repent for X to happen or that this God punishing us. Agreed that, though He doesn’t orchestrate the bad things in our lives, He can certainly use them for His glory/our growth.

  6. Pingback: Free will, freedom, and our union with Christ | In My Father's House

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