While each of the chapters in Paul Young's Lies We Believe about God is only six or seven pages long, each raises questions that prompt us to consider--and challenge!--our beliefs. Whether you end up agreeing or disagreeing with him, reading through Young's musings on twenty-eight assertions about God is a valuable exercise. In this third post in our series on this thought-provoking book, we'll consider Chapter Three, "God is in control."
"God is in control"
Does God's sovereignty imply that He has has a master plan which dictates everything--from the fluttering of a butterfly's wings to the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections--that happens in His creation? Once again, it's easy enough to find verses which support that notion. Perhaps more important, it's easy to understand how such a view could be a great comfort to people who go through desperately hard times. If our suffering is part of His plan, it must surely be good, even if we can't understand where that goodness lies.
But when my late wife Teri was afflicted with ALS, an invariably fatal disease, we didn't think that way. The God who is fully revealed in Christ Jesus is not the author of evil; He did not plan for the rape and murder of small children and the thousand and one other horrors that afflict humanity daily. God's sovereignty was evident to Teri in the fact that the Lord was with her in her suffering; that He is Emmanuel, God with us all, He who will ultimately work all things for good.
"There is an impassable chasm," Young writes, "...between a God who takes ownership for the Creation along with the havoc we have produced, and One who authors the evil itself. The first you might lean to trust, the latter...twisted lip service at best." Referring to the Cross, he adds, "That God would submit to our darkness and then transform this dark machine into an icon and monument of grace speaks volumes about the nature of God, but it does not justify evil."
One of Young's great themes, which stems from his focus on the Triune nature of God, is relationship. Think of Jesus' prayer in John 17:21: "...just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us..." Thus, Young writes, "What if there is no 'plan' for your life but rather a relationship in which God constantly invites us to co-create...And what if this God, who is Love, will never be satisfied until only that which is of Love's kind remains in us?"
"When God chose to create humans--a high order of being who could say "no"--we were created inside the same love and relationship that has always existed. Control does not originate in God, but submission does. Domination does not find its source in God, but other-centered, self-giving love does..."
Anyone who desires to delve more deeply into this topic after reading Young's insightful musings would do well to read David Bentley Hart's The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? , which is one of the best books I've read on the Problem of Evil. It debunks the deterministic understanding of God's sovereignty, weaving together logical arguments with powerfully persuasive supporting texts from Scripture.