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Friday, October 11, 2013

Not To Us

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory,
For the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!
Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"
Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases (Psa 115:1-3).
I have suggested in the past that God is Sovereign, even in suffering. I've claimed that God does what He does for a reason, and I've claimed that all He does He does for His glory.

Interestingly, there is no small resistance to these claims, even among believers. There is no small contingent among genuine believers that will argue that God has limited His Sovereignty (and they still call it "sovereignty") in order to preserve Man's Free Will (as if this is, in itself, more valuable and, therefore, more important than God's own will). God's is routinely thwarted and He does not always (I'd have to assume "often" rather than "always") accomplish what He intends because Man's will prevents Him ... because, as we've established, He has a prior commitment to Man's Free Will over His own. Further, the reason for this prior commitment, for this high valuation of Man's Free Will, is that love and obedience, in order to be of any value, must be given willingly.

Now, I have to be honest here. I can't find this in any Scripture that I've seen. I've looked and looked and don't see anywhere that suggests that God is only pleased with love and obedience that is voluntary. But, hey, who am I to say?

Despite this popular trend favoring Man's Free Will over God's Absolute Sovereignty, I, like the psalmist above, still see Scripture as claiming that God is all about His own glory and that He does whatever He pleases, suggesting both that God is the Absolute Sovereign -- His will is never ultimately thwarted -- and everything He does He does for His own glory. So it begs the question.

You are a believer. You are a God-lover. You are a follower of Christ. Here's my question. If (and you're not admitting to the truth of this claim -- just a "what if") it is indeed true that God is absolutely Sovereign, that He does do whatever He pleases, that whatever happens He ordains (without, mind you, necessarily being the motive force behind it), and does all with the assurance to His followers, "Don't worry! Everything that happens occurs for My glory", would you be satisfied? Would you say to God, "Oh, good, that's a perfectly good reason and, even if I don't see it, I am pleased with it"? Or would you say, "Oh, I don't know, God. That seems ... wrong somehow"? Would you concur with the psalmist here (both in his claim that God alone should receive glory or that God does whatever He pleases), or would you choose to argue with him (the psalmist, not necessarily God)? Is it good and acceptable to you if God's will is always accomplished (even if that will includes evil or calamity) and always for His glory? Or is that in some sense unacceptable to you? Is God's will accomplished for God's glory an insufficient reason for unpleasant or evil things to occur? Or is that good enough?


Josh said...

You seem to assume that "what God pleases" is to control everything. You are stating what God pleases, but strongly stating that giving "Man Free Will" (as you like to put it) couldn't be what he pleases.

I would like you to explain how God can ordain, but not be the motive force behind.

Also, you have said multiple times that God ordains evil. I feel like these verses make this difficult:

“The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He," (Deut. 32:4).

"Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor," (Hab. 1:13).

My final point. Why do you have a problem with God limiting his control to allow free will and yet have no problem limiting his control by becoming man and coming to earth?

Stan said...

You seem to assume too much of what I believe. I assume God does as He pleases ... because that's what the text says. I cannot imagine where "to control everything" is at issue in that. I do not believe nor have I ever claimed that when the Scriptures hold that God works all things (not some -- all) after the counsel of His will that this means that God is busy manipulating every molecule.

I claim that God ordains evil because the Bible claims that God ordains evil. Again (as so many times before in our conversations), you need to avoid pitting Scripture against Scripture. You need instead to offer a method whereby your opposing Scripture agrees with Scripture. It is, for instance, unavoidable that God predestined Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews to murder His Son (Acts 4:27-28). Joseph was certain that his brothers intended evil and in the same act God intended good (Gen 50:20). And it is God who says, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil" (Isa 45:7). Offering verses that contradict Scripture doesn't tell me how Scripture is right. Is it your claim that Scripture is wrong?

It is not limitation that is at issue. It is the forthright statements of Scripture. There is no sense in which you can place "limited" in the same thought as God "works all things after the counsel of His will."

But, look, I think you have a mistaken idea of what I believe the Bible teaches about the Sovereignty of God, and that is the primary problem. Who knows? Perhaps I'm mistaken when I see you arguing that God is not Sovereign or Omniscient ... except, I suppose, for the fact that you agree that you are arguing for a sovereignty and an omniscience that is different than historical orthodoxy. But let me be clear. I do not hold that God makes everything that happens happen. Why would He have to? (Seriously ... you need me to explain how God would be able to ordain without actually being the motive force? I can do that myself by offering my granddaughter a cookie knowing what she will do if I offer it or baiting a trap knowing I will catch an animal in it without actually being the motive force in either case.)

Stan said...

And I assume, from your objection, that your answers to the questions I've posed in the post are in the negative. If everything is for His glory, you would not be satisfied. You would object (you do object) if that indeed is God's intention (as He has stated). You do actually disagree with the psalmist that God alone gets the glory and God does as He pleases. (Note: If God's aim is to elevate Man's Free Will in the manner you suggest, then Man will indeed receive glory for choosing to do the right thing.)

Josh said...

Alright lets take a stab at this.

Acts 4:27-28 As I interpret this verse, God predestined the crucifixion and used the people and their choices to carry out this task. God used the choices of groups of people, Pilate, Herod, and Satan to carry out his plan. (1 Cor 2:8)

Genesis 50:20 : God continually redeems evil for good. What people intend for evil, God can wisely use for good.

Isaiah 45:7 : This is a specific instance referring to God's judgement of Israel. God didn't create evil from all time, but in this specific case uses evil as a way to historically judge his people. This can not be expounded to mean that God ordains and creates all evil.

As to your original post.We are to give God the Glory. This is because of his steadfast love and faithfulness. Also this Psalm is being used to show the life and activity of God, over the futility and lifelessness of idols. By stating that God does as he pleases, one of the main points is that he "does" in a way an inanimate object "does not" do as they please. It is showing the futility of idol worship.

As to your questions: Should God receive Glory and can God do as he pleases: yes.

Does everything occur for His Glory: no

Is God's will always accomplished: no

I guess these answers would show you where I fall on the rest of your questions.

As to us misunderstanding each other, this may be the case. How do you define ordain? I guess I assumed you meant that this was the assurance that everything God intends comes to pass. All of time is like a blueprint/book where everything is settled ahead of time. We live our lives like the characters of book, but all our choices have already been determined, we just haven't experienced them all yet.

One final question I have. How does your position avoid moral relativism? If everything is inevitably done for God's Glory, mustn't it be assumed that it is good, or at the very least not evil. Is there really evil and good? How can we be assured that God is good?

Stan said...

Thanks for the stab. It was, however, just a stab. The question at hand: "Does God ordain evil?" Your answer: "No!" Yet the text in question and your description of it is "God predestined the crucifixion and used the people and their choices to carry out this task." Thus, God predestined evil.

Mind you, I'm not disagreeing with you. That is the point, in fact. God predestined (destined in advance) the murder of His Son using the choices people made. Unfortunately, that's exactly my position and precisely the position you are arguing against.

You have a minor problem with your explanation of the Genesis 50 passage. It does not say that God managed to pull out the evil that Joseph's brothers did and use it for good. It says that God intended it for good. That is, before they did it He knew about it and allowed their admittedly evil plan to be carried out so that He could carry out His counter good plan. If God only managed to pull out good from their evil, then there could be no "intent".

On your Isaiah explanation, I won't debate whether or not it means "for all time" or "for this instance". Regardless of how you understand it, there is a case in which God creates evil or the text is meaningless.

As for "ordain", I use a bizarre method of definition -- the dictionary. Websters Dictionary says (among other things, obviously) that it means "to decree; order; establish; enact; to predetermine; predestine." That would be my understanding of the term. I would note that none of this requires "to force, cause, coerce, impel, hijack, propel" or any other such thing. If you place a snowball at the top of a hill and let it go, it will roll down the hill and gather snow until it reaches the bottom. There is no sense in which you forced, coerced, impelled this ball down the hill or made it gather snow. That was all natural forces. You ordained it and even set it in motion (in this example), but you didn't actually supply the motive force.

I'm afraid I don't see how "You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good" demands moral relativism or "everything is good". It means that God takes genuine evil and uses it for His good purposes. In simple human terms, we can understand that. "No pain, no gain" means that genuine pain is useful for producing gain. That doesn't make the pain less painful. It means that an intelligent being can harness the genuine pain for a good purpose. Or, how about a biblical example? The murder of God's Son was not less than evil because God used it to produce my salvation.

And you do understand, I assume, that the God your view holds is not the God of the Bible, the God of historical orthodoxy, the God of any Christianity prior to the advent of Open Theism (roughly sometime in the 19th century). This God of yours cannot exist until you correlate rather than contrast Scripture with Scripture.

Josh said...

First point:
God predestined the redemption of his people through the crucifixion. The evil choices of free will beings crucified Christ. God knew that Satan would take the bait and influence people to kill Christ, and thus Satan was wisely used by God to accomplished His work. The distinction is important. God accomplished good, through the evil that already existed through free choices.

As far as I can tell, the difference between my view and yours, is in mine the cast and crew could have been different. In yours the cast and crew were predestined for all time to kill Christ.

Second: God can intend something evil that happens for good, by allowing it to happen. God allowed Joseph's brothers to do evil, and he intended to, and in fact did, bring good out of it. I find no problem with this interpretation.

As a side note, many biblical version use the word "meant" instead of "intend". I'm not sure how this changes the implications, but undoubtedly we would both assume it strengthens our respective cases :)

Punishment for sin may appear evil, but is in fact justice. This is the point of Isa 45:7. It does not show that God ordains evil, it shows that God is just and punishes the sins against him. Also, the term used in most versions is calamity and not evil.

I think I completely agree with your point about how God uses evil for good.

Maybe we are talking past each other on this issue. Would you say the Bible says that everything is ordained or predetermined by God?

If yes, how can anything that happens be evil? If no, then I think we are talking past each other.

Stan said...

In your view, then, God predestined the crucifixion, but didn't know until it happened who would do it? "Whew!" He said, "Am I glad someone came through on that plan of Mine because if they didn't I couldn't have pulled it off!" You're right. I subscribe to Omniscience and with that view He knew in advance what their choices would be.

On Joseph, apparently your Bible reads different than mine. That would certainly explain a lot. Mine says, "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good", where the choice of the brothers was definitely evil by intent ("meant evil") and God "meant it" (where "it" refers to the evil they intended) for good. So your version of the Bible removes God's intent for the act while mine indicates it is the act that God intended in order to produce good.

You're still not dealing with the Isaiah 45 passage. Does God ever cause "calamity"? You say no. The text says yes.

And, yes, quite clearly we're talking past each other because you would ask the question, "Would you say the Bible says that everything is ordained or predetermined by God?" when I've repeatedly quoted the baseline text that God "works all things after the counsel of His will." Until you can find something outside of "all things", I have to say, as I've always said, that everything is ordained by God ... because the Bible says so.

And although I've explained to you how something can be truly evil but can be used by God to produce good and, therefore, "ordained" by God (which I also explained to you at length), you still won't get it. How, if God ordains it, can anything be truly evil? Because of Man's free will. What's the question?

Look, I have my Bible and I have the texts I have to live with and I have the historically orthodox position of the Church on both Sovereignty and Omniscience (which, by the way, work hand in hand). You have ... not. I've tried to explain it to you in posts and conversations and you cannot or will not get it. Perhaps we ought to just call it quits. You are delighted to jettison one of the few things the Bible seems abundantly clear on and the Church has always agreed on for a new version and I'm not. Lacking common ground with which to discuss, then, perhaps we ought to shake hands and go home.