Saturday, 11 October 2008

God ordains evil

Sometimes I come across ideas and theology that I find hard to understand.

An example of this is the fact that God ordains evil. It just makes me a little taken aback, and makes me think that somehow I must have got something wrong.

I was listening to a talk today by John Piper on Ruth (from Forum08), in which he was talking about how God ordains that evil should happen. We see various examples in the Bible. In the life of Joseph: his brothers intended his selling into slavery for evil, but God intended it for good. We see it in the appointing of a king by the Israelites - a sin, an act of rebellion against God as they wanted a human king to rule over them instead of the true King - God. Yet God allowed it, that through the line of Kings would come the King of Kings: Jesus Christ.

The ultimate illustration is the cross. God planned it all along - he planned for the evil that was to happen from the men that crucified Jesus would lead to his death, so that through it God could bring good - the redemption of many (better than good!!).

To say that God used the bad for good is absolutely fine. But to say he planned the bad to bring good is harder for me to grasp. Now I accept it because I know it to be true as that is how God has revealed it. I know ultimately that God is good so I trust that he has it sorted and so praise him!

BUT... what I find most difficult of all to get my head around is the fall. Did God ordain that? Was it God's plan all along for the fall to happen? Did he make creation intending for it to fall? That seems a bit twisted? Or did humanity really have free will in the beginning and really make the choice to rebel against God?

I honestly really find this one difficult, and it has caused me to doubt at times. I do trust that whatever is true was right, but I find it hard to understand that if God ordained and planned the fall, how we can conclude anything other than that God is evil, as through it SUCH evil has happened.

I can see your heresy alert going off, and I am expecting many tackles from those of you in Manchester, haha. But fear not! I trust that God is perfectly good. I trust that whatever the answer is, my mind is far smaller than the reality of who God is, and so I accept and praise God for whatever is the truth, even if I don't quite understand it!

Is the answer the annoying on that it is just an antimony? It is perfectly true that Adam and Eve completely chose what they did, and it is perfectly true that God ordained it and planned it to happen so that he could ultimately reveal his glory in the cross, even though to our feeble brains these two statements seem to contradict. But saying that God planned it is very hard for me to swallow - the reality of their choice seems to fall away! Argh!

I would appreciate anyone's thoughts!


opentoesandals said...

If the fall wasn't planned by God then he's not only not sovereign, but Satan's on an equal footing as him, which means we have 'dualism' where both good and evil are on an equal footing. Therefore there's no certainty at the moment as to whether God or Satan is in control, and ultimately we don't know whether God or Satan will win outright in the end. That's heresy, not what you've written!

Logically, the Fall had to be planned by God, but I don't know of anywhere in the Bible that explicitly says that it was.

The bad used for good rule applies here though:

Because there was a fall, we were children of wrath, enslaved to sin, Satan and the world. Then in the riches of God's grace he sends his Son to die for us so that the penalty of our sin might be taken on the cross, and not only that, we're clothed in Jesus' righteousness too! Not only are we legally right before God, but he looks at us as he would the Son! That's amazing, truly worthy of praise and glory - which is the ultimate aim of God in everything, to glorify himself!

Human "free" will and God's sovereignty is one of the biggest paradoxes of the Bible - we'll never properly understand it until we get God to explain it to us in new creation.

Bondage of the Will (!) is worth reading on that - it's got some interesting thoughts in it and is worth persevering through.

Scott Thomson said...

I understand that that would be true in all other situations (it leading to Dualism), but could it be possible that in the fall God, in his sovereignty, truly gave them the choice which they actually could have gone either way, and in it they chose to rebel?

I can fully see that through it God brought amazing good, but to say that God planned it (and thus wanted it to happen!) seems a little hard to swallow, because of the consequences of it (yes it had the amazing consequence of the cross, but it had lots of awful ones too).

I think that the answer probably really is that it is an antinomy (God's sovereignty and human responsibility), but with my feeble brain and lack of understanding I wish it wasn't, haha!

opentoesandals said...

I think we need to be really careful not to try and mould God into something that we're more comfortable with. Some things about him are really hard to get our heads round without making us feel a little bit uneasy, but we need to let the Bible speak for itself.

Having said that, I haven't found anything in the Bible that says that God isn't sovereign and that humans aren't responsible for what they do.

So, why does it change with the first sin, that for us to be responsible God cannot have ordained it? I'm not sure we can make an exemption for it unless the Bible explicitly says so.

How God being sovereign and humans taking responsibility actually fit together is obviously a paradox-but the Bible teaches it and we just have to trust it!

The Relay study module covers God's providence in a few weeks so I'm sure we'll get to it soon over on (shameless plug!)

Ralph said...

I'm gonna float something out here, I'm not sure if i actually think this or not...

A bit of an impossible question, but how do you think God's ordination of things works? Is it a case of him sitting down and planning out the world and then going and doing it, as would we do if we were planning something? Personally i think no. I think we run into difficulty when we try to apply our human perception of time, i.e. linear, onto God.

This might be a childish way to deal with the situation, but as far as i'm concerned God is at the beginning and at the end at the same time, otherwise how else could he be infinite? He transcends time itself and therefore it is not a limitation to him. If God is the same y,t and f and he is also aplha and omega then it's not like he has to wait for stuff to happen before he sees what's next - past, present and future must be all the same to him.

Is there a case then for saying that rather than 'planning' the fall per se, God knew what he created and knew that we would choose ourselves over him and so require redemption through the cross?

In which case, it was still man's choice to sin but as God is both before and beyond us, he saw it and solved it simultaneously - thus not compromising either his sovereignity or our free will.

I don't know - does any of that make any kind of sense?