Is It ALL God’s Will?
When confronted with the practical reality of the problem of evil, believers who don’t use the God of gaps often do one of two things:
They jettison their faith.
Or, they attempt to “grab the bull by the horns.” In other words, they attempt to redefine the premise of the problem … they attempt to redefine “God”.
One of the more trending paths to redefine God is made through the redefinition of “omnipotence.” I don’t like the word “omnipotence”, so I’ll use “sovereignty.”
And I’ll define two types of sovereignty: 1.) specific sovereignty and 2.) general sovereignty.
John Sanders states that specific sovereignty
maintains that there are absolutely no limitations, hindrances or insurmountable obstacles for God to achieve his will in every specific circumstance of the created order … God has exhaustive control over each situation: Only what god purposes to happen in that particular time and place to that specific creature will happen.
General sovereignty assumes that while God doesn’t have specific sovereignty, neither is he unable to move the direction of history through the means of His people. There is a redemptive direction to history that is still being written. It’s a narrative that has God as the Main character, with sub-characters and powers moving together and in opposition to each other as they write chapter after chapter. In other words, God’s will isn’t always done, but neither is it always thwarted.
In both specific and general sovereignty, sovereignty is limited by the possible.
God can’t create a rock so big that he can’t lift it. Nor can he create free beings that He controls. If we’re free, God’s not in charge of us.
The question becomes, “Are we free?”
Many within the Calvinist brand of Reformed Theology would assert that our imputed sinful nature has taken our freedom away, so that depravity is the only possible path, and only God’s irresistible grace can save us.
Some within the Reformed movement assert what is called “compatibilism” or “soft-determinism”, which takes a couple different angles in attempting to affirm that God is both specifically sovereign and humanity is somehow responsible for our own choices. And as much as I respect the attempts to pull these two opposing sides together, I’m not at all convinced it’s possible.
There’s a philosophical and theological path to specific sovereignty.
The philosophical line of thought starts with the assumption that anything that’s limited is imperfect and anything that’s imperfect isn’t any different than man; thus, God has to be absolutely unlimited in his power to earn the title God.
The theological line builds on the philosophical line of thought by using various scriptural passages to assert that either because of the Fall or having nothing to do with the Fall, God is literally working everything together for His good. That everything (wars, rape, murder, divorce as well as redemption, eternal life, etc.) is His will and one day it will all make sense when we understand the weight of His glory.
It all comes back to the question, “Is there still some freedom found in humanity?”
C.S. Lewis once said that the greatest miracle of omnipotence is God’s ability to create beings who could oppose it.
That God in all his might has chosen to limit that power by creating you and me … creatures who have the ability to actually oppose His will and create our own little worlds where God’s purpose is NOT being accomplished. That sin and death were never intended … that His plans don’t always work out.
That the world isn’t the way God intended it to be. That even Jesus wishes that God’s kingdom would come here on earth, as it already is in heaven.
That it’s NOT all God’s will.
But, is it really that simply to say that the creation of humanity is God’s voluntary self-limitation? And that the whole problem of evil doesn’t reside with God, but with man?
No. I think it misses the point.
Although it may mean the limitation of His will, the creation of humanity isn’t the limitation of God’s power cause I don’t think God’s power is defined by what He can or can’t do.
Rather, God’s power is defined not by how much he can lift or move but by how much He can sacrifice, so that humanity becomes the opportunity for his power, and not it’s limitation.
God’s power is seen through the creation of solar systems, but it’s most clearly seen in the cross. And we become, not a part of it’s limitation, but when we embrace the cross, we become it’s opportunity, so that God’s power is increased every time we ourselves participate in His kingdom.
And while the problem may be ours, it’s still God’s power — in sacrifice and through us — that can solve it.