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Wed Jun 19, 2013
by Odd Thomas
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Tue Jun 18, 2013
by Megan Almon
Introducing: “Know the Bible” series
Mon Jun 17, 2013
What is Scripture?
Mon Jun 17, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
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Sun Jun 16, 2013
by Josh Mcpherson
A Letter about 9/11 - God's Sovereignty and Mystery
This is a continuation of a letter written in response to an email from my friend, Elizabeth, asking how God could allow such evil. This letter was written September 19, 2001, and different parts will be posted leading up to the 10-year Anniversary of 9/11.
Providence and Choice
You might ask if all this talk of choice and freedom undermines the Christian belief in the providence of God. On the surface freedom and choice might seem in conflict with God’s providential governance of the universe, but it doesn’t. Multiple Bible passages depict human choices and actions, and many more depict God’s sovereignty over all of creation. The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 5:2 contains a good summary: “Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly: yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently” (emphasis mine).
Why Does God Intervene at Some Times But Not at Other Times?
If God lets human choices make a difference, then why does He intervene? A blanket policy of non-intervention might be a tenable resting place for you. But God muddies the waters by intervening here and there. The Bible is replete with such instances and church history testifies to this intervention. Many of us want to believe and interpret events in that line… “I prayed and God answered my prayers and such and such happened.” So the question gets much harder: since God does intervene in some instances, why not in the instance of the WTC attacks or the rape of my friend?
Since God does intervene in some instances, why not in the instance of the WTC attacks or the rape of my friend?
And now we’ve bumped into the realm of mystery. When Job demands an answer from God and makes his case to his three accusing friends, God is silent for most of the story. Only at the end does God answer out of the storm (Job 38-39), and his answer leaves Job humbled and nearly speechless (Job 40). God is God, known in part but ultimately inscrutable, and His ways are too transcendent for us to know.
Do We Always Get Answers?
The prophet Jeremiah asks why the wicked prosper (Jeremiah 12:1). The prophet Habakkuk raises a similar cry (Habakkuk 1:3), as do various psalmists. Do they receive answers? Do they get satisfaction? No. The Transcendent Creator apparently doesn’t feel compelled to answer creations. Sometimes He answers, sometimes He doesn’t. What He does reveal in story after story is that He, personally, is good. Humans do evil that causes unimaginable pain and heartache, but He is good. Awash in tragic circumstances He doesn’t comply with our demands for answers… other than to give us His goodness. He is good.
There may be many general things we can affirm about Him, but very few, if any, certainties about why He does or does not act.
Mystery is hardly a satisfying place to bump to a stop. But the Bible depicts a God who is not constrained by formulae or schematics imposed by the best scholars. He may act a certain way in many instances, but not all. He may often bless faithful people, but He also blesses faithless people a lot. He may assign difficult, suffering trials to some believers for reasons we do not know, but He also assigns difficult circumstances to those who wouldn’t think of God if their lives depended on it. There may be many general things we can affirm about Him, but very few, if any, certainties about why He does or does not act.
But mystery is not the stopping place, at least not in toto. We won’t really leave mystery, but mystery also conducts us to another place, and that is the Incarnate Son and the Cross. More to come on this next week...