Does God Do Bad Things?

A lot of people like to separate God from the horrible things we see in this world. We reject that God would ever do anything hurtful. In fact, one of the arguments against God is to say, if there’s a God, how could He allow all the horrors in the world?

We struggle with the pain of this world and the idea of a completely loving, good, just God. That struggle leads some to atheism. Some, who cannot reject God outright flee to some form of human free will, which elevates humanity to a point that can nearly thwart God’s plans. Some claim that God doesn’t have a plan. He set the universe in motion and then sat back. Of course, those folks would have a hard time with Jesus and the plan for redemption, wouldn’t they?

Actually, all the scenarios above would have a problem with the Bible.

The fact is, God does the things we consider bad. Take a look at this verse from Isaiah:

Isa 45:7  I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Some will quibble with this and try to explain it. But, it speaks for itself. And, it goes on in verse 9:

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?

Paul references this argument in Romans 9:20:

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

The context of this chapter Paul is writing relates to God’s sovereignty in redemption.

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:18

The context is how God raised up Pharaoh to show His power. Think about that. He raised up Pharaoh, and then hardened his heart so that he’d reject God and be destroyed. You read that right. It’s in the Bible.

Also in this chapter in Romans Paul notes that God loved Jacob, but hated Esau. Before they were born. Before either of them had done anything.

though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— Romans 9:11

Again,

For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Romans 9:15

Of course, this is a really hard thing for us to grasp and understand. It’s hard for us to admit we’re clay and we will submit to the will of the “potter.” We’re generally arrogant lumps of clay that believe the lie that we are meant for so much more than to glorify our Creator God.

This talk of God’s sovereignty has caused some to split the will of God into parts. They call it the “permissive will” or the “ordaining will.” God may permit evil things to happen, he may even ordain that they should take place, but He doesn’t cause them.

Isa 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

I was talking to someone about this and they mentioned Job. Satan did the things to Job, right? Well, yes. But, he actually asked God to do them, and God gave Satan the ability to inflict the suffering, with limits. This suggests that Satan could not have inflicted the boils and suffering on Job without getting permission.

In other words, God did to Job what happened to Job. Someone might say that God permitted it, but how is that different than God doing it? Just for quick reference, look up at that verse from Isaiah that I’ve quoted twice.

Also, you could read Job and find that God challenges Job (though he never sinned in cursing God) by reminding him that he knows nothing of God’s workings and he has no understanding of God’s ways.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

That is the phrase that saints throughout time come back to. It’s in Job, in fact. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

What does that really mean? Are we referring to His name? I like how F.B. Meyer would put it, “When you read ‘name,’ think ‘nature.'” And no, that doesn’t mean some Wiccan, ‘Mother Earth’ thing. Think the Nature of God. Blessed be the Nature of God. Who He is.

When someone travels to another country as an ambassador, they arrive at the embassy to represent the name of their country of origin. They represent the nature of, perhaps, the administration in charge of that country’s government. If they act horribly, they malign the ‘good name’ of that country.

When we say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” we’re declaring that God’s nature is perfect. He may hurl a storm at us. He may cause an earthquake that kills thousands. He may direct a foreign country to overrun another, causing disaster. He may direct a serial killer to slaughter people. Yet, we say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Why would we do that? All of those things I listed sound sadistic and terrible. Would God actually ordain that a small child should be tortured and killed?

The cold, hard answer is yes.

That’s actually hard to write. It’s hard to think.

But, do we have another option? Do we know better? Is our justice, love and righteousness better than God’s? Our justice system is filled with bribes and favoritism. Even in the best of places. We’re actually relieved when a somewhat good verdict happens. If our justice system was perfect, we’d have no suspense about its outcome.

And why is that? Because we don’t know everything. We have limited knowledge. The person who is up on charges may actually be innocent. Or they may be guilty and we think they’re innocent. We don’t know.

But God knows. God can direct the evil in this world because He knows what is ultimately good. We don’t.

So, when I confess that God causes the calamity and ordains the evil deeds of dictators and wicked men (and women), I can also say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord, for His ways are not my ways and His wisdom is higher than mine.”

Some revolt from this idea because they claim love would demand God stop all the pain, prevent all the hurt. The same person should revolt at the whole book of Job. And then move on to being disgusted with the whole Bible. There are people like that. They’re called Universalists. Or Atheists.

Let’s take a look at our demonstration of love. Popular culture boils love down to a physical activity, or physical feeling. We ‘fall in’ and ‘fall out’ of love regularly. Human love is only remarkable when it looks more like God’s love–when it is sacrificial and altruistic. Unfortunately, we don’t see that too often. It’s rare.

Because our ability to love is hemmed in by hurt and self-interest. We remember the hurtful things people do and we find it impossible to love our enemies, much less die for them.

But God so loved the world that He …. what? He gave His only Son. This is the infamous John 3:16. It depicts the love that Abraham had for Isaac, his only son, whom he took to Mount Moriah to sacrifice before God–which was an inexplicable request, one that should have had the patriarch turning from God.

But Abraham said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” didn’t he? No need to look it up, I’m putting those words in because they depict Abraham’s attitude of faith. By faith he took Isaac up for a sacrifice, trusting the nature of God who could bring Isaac back from the dead.

I don’t need to talk about our righteousness compared to God. Our justice reflects that we don’t have any righteousness. Our lack of true, consistent love shows that we don’t carry any claim to righteousness.

So, if we are so bad at justice and love, how can we then turn and be judge to God when He says that He causes calamity, He is the Lord?

Rather, we should be humble and admit we don’t know everything. We must submit to the Almighty, trusting in His nature of Justice, Love and Righteousness. He will ensure all things will work out for Good.

I’ll leave with this last thought. The whole reason there is evil in this world is because of our rebellion against Him. He would have no evil to direct for His purpose but for our sinful rebellious hearts inherited from our father Adam.

In fact, that’s why He sent His Son.

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8

God loved us enough to pay the price to defeat the works of the devil and purchase us out of our slavery to sin. And yes, He directed the evil that killed His Son. He drove those nails. He caused that greatest of evil in all of history. He did this, He is the Lord. And we can respond in thanksgiving, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

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What is the Unpardonable Sin?

There’s a debate among evangelicals known as the Armenian vs. Calvinist debate. For those who don’t know Christianese, it relates to Free Will vs. Election. If I’m still getting the head-tilts of confusion I’ll explain this way: Free Will holds that Christ died for everyone’s sin, paid the debt for each person. It is each person’s responsibility to accept that gift of their own Free Will to be saved. Election refers to the divine plan for the elect, those who were chosen by God’s sovereign Will before Creation itself.

Both sides point to many of the same passages. They just interpret them differently.

Rather than parse out the two sides, I’m going to keep this short and address something that is at the center, the real question, IMO: Did Christ die for someone’s sin of not believing in Him as Lord?

I’ve heard John MacArthur, among others, claim that if Jesus bore the wrath of God for the sin of every human on earth and across time, but every human didn’t receive Him through faith, then those people would have to pay the penalty of God’s wrath for their sin. This would be, according to MacArthur, double-jeopardy. Two punishments for the same sin.

I’ll note that MacArthur is attempting to apply our understanding of legal justice to a God who is outside of our Created realm, time, and concepts of justice. I suspect our ideas of justice–when compared to God’s understanding–are about as accurate as a young child’s understanding of what his or her parent does for a living.

When I was studying the book of John, however, I came across this passage:

Joh 16:8  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

Joh 16:9  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;

Now, some will say that their sin remains because they didn’t pick up the free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf (the Free Will argument). Or, that Jesus didn’t pay for their sin because they were not of the elect (the Election argument).

Before I move on, I’ll quote another passage:

Mar 3:28  “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,

Mar 3:29  but whoever blasphemies against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

This is the famous “unpardonable sin” passage. Jesus clearly states that “all sins will be forgiven the children of man…”

I’m sure there are various interpretations of this, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t delve into them. The plain meaning, to me, is that Jesus’ sacrifice will provide the basis for forgiveness of all sin, all blasphemy, except blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

What does that mean? That’s the clincher, really. What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Remember, God is One, so we shouldn’t fall into modalism, or defining each member of the Trinity like a separate God.

The Holy Spirit is the work of God in the world. The Pharisees were trying to say that Jesus miracles–specifically casting out a demon–was the work of Satan. They denied the nature of Christ as the Son of God, and His work as the work of the Holy Spirit.

My reading of this is that the unpardonable sin is unbelief. They rejected Christ and all His work as the work of the devil and for such a sin, there is no sacrifice.

Here’s another applicable passage:

Heb 6:4  For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,

Heb 6:5  and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,

Heb 6:6  and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Many find this to support the Free Will position, which holds that people can lose their salvation. Instead, I feel this supports the basic premise that our judgment will be based on the sin of unbelief, not the underlying sinfulness of our race.

To understand how this works with the other two passages, I look at a few key phrases: heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come.

The heavenly gift is Christ, the bread of heaven that is true food to us. Those who have “tasted” of Christ would be like those who hear the gospel and respond (like in the parable of the sower).

The Holy Spirit would refer to the work of God among His people, not the indwelling of the Spirit in the life of these people. This would refer to those who say “Lord, Lord, we did all these things in your name!” and yet be told to depart from Him as workers of lawlessness. They share in the work of the Holy Spirit without being truly sealed by His indwelling.

The goodness of the word of God refers to understanding the scriptures. Many false Christians affirm that the Bible is good, but ultimately will not sacrifice their own comfort or advancement in its defense.

Similarly, the powers of the age to come means they understand God’s promise of the resurrection and the new heaven and new earth.

These are those who ultimately “fall away” as the seeds that start to sprout, but are choked out, burned and do not prove to be true converts. They fail because they do not believe God.

Our salvation ultimately depends on one thing: Believing God. This was the basis for Abraham’s righteousness, and it is the basis of ours, as well. We, of course, have far more information about God than our spiritual ancestor.

When someone holds to earthly applause instead of becoming an outcast for the testimony of Christ, it says what they believe about God. If someone is loath to surrender a popular ritual or even some religious ordinance because there is too much sentimentality or tradition attached to it, it says something about their belief in God.

Essentially, when we become the judge of what is right and wrong, rather than humbly submitting to the words of Christ, we join Satan in saying, “Did God really say?” We refuse to enter the Promised Land because we reject the idea that God will deliver the giants and warriors into our hands and allow us to occupy the land. We leave Ur, but settle in Haran.

We need to ensure we listen to the voice of the Lord when He calls us out of Haran to the wilderness. We need to travel forth into a land of godless warriors, pitching our tent and laying claim to a promise that is entirely absurd by earthly standards.

If we fail to do so, if we defame God’s character by rejecting His promise and His way, we reveal that we don’t believe Jesus is Lord. We reveal we don’t believe God’s power.

Can someone who has passed through the Red Sea, eaten of the heavenly bread, drank of the water from the rock, followed the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, then reject God’s nature of goodness, holiness, faithfulness, mercy and grace?

If they do, they have likely committed the unpardonable sin and there is no additional sacrifice to cover that.