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Reflections on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Chapter 2 – part 1)

For the first part of this blog, please see “Reflections on the Suffering and Sovereignty of God (Intro & Chapter 1)”.

Diving right into the deep end, Chapter 2 of Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, entitled “All the Good that is Ours in Christ: Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others do to Us”, is one of the most profound, and hard to grasp, of the whole book – and, after multiple re-reads, it is quite possibly my favorite.

In it, professor Mark Talbot addresses some of – given the nature of my friend’s comments the earlier blog – the most natural questions to ask when discussing this issue. Mark says; “Scripture declares that the Judge of all the earth will always do what is right (see Genesis 18:25). God is, as Moses sings, ‘the rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.’ He is a ‘faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.’ (Deut. 32:4, NIV). God never does evil.”

The Scripture is clear on this – God does what is right, perfect, & just – he is faithful, does no wrong, and never does evil. Then I think back to my upbringing, and my own fatherhood so far with my sons: as our children are young, we protect them from all sorts of dangers – we are direct and forthright about telling them what to do and what not to do, but we do expect them to eventually grow out of that, and in order to do that, sometimes we – knowingly – let them make their own mistakes. Sometimes even now I’ll see him trying something that I’m pretty sure will NOT turn out as he hoped, but since there seems to be little long-term danger in it, I’ll sit back and watch, so he can learn for himself – so he can mature. In those situations, I am not actively doing anything wrong – I am not forcing my son’s hand, or coercing his will, but I am still overseeing and even – as much as a finite human can be of another human’s actions – mostly in control of the situation as it unfolds. I will indeed maintain the situation so no ultimate harm befalls my son, yet it is my decision to allow what takes place, and in such a case, I even see the long-term good in it, even though I could never bring myself to DO the thing to him, myself. Though any human analogy has it’s faults, there is much truth in this. Regarding this, Talbot adds, “…this is not to say that God does not create, send, permit, or even move others to do evil, for Scripture is clear that nothing arises, exists or endures independently of God’s will.”

The first verse he uses to support his case is Hebrews 1:3: “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” The word here we translate as “upholds” means ‘to bring or bear or produce or carry’. Wayne Grudems states that this word is commonly used “…for carrying something from one place to another, such as bringing a paralyzed man on a bed to Jesus… bringing wine to the steward of the feast… or bringing a cloak and books to Paul.” “Upholds” doesn’t mean to merely ‘sustain’, as Talbot makes clear “God the Son holds each and every aspect of creation, including all of its evil aspect, in his ‘hands’…and carries it…to where it accomplishes exactly what he wants it to do.”

So, though it is absolutely true that God never does evil, the level of control, involvement in, and power over evil that the Bible seems to give to God goes much further than most Christians are comfortable allowing. Our God is far bigger than we know.

So, is God involved, and if so, how, in creating, sending, permitting evil? That’ll be Chapter 2 – part 2, coming soon.

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Filed under: Books, Doctrine, John Piper, Reformed, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Theology

Can Salvation be Lost? / Can Christ lose a Christian?

The following is an excerpt from Douglas Wilson’s book “Easy Chairs, Hard Words”

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“Okay,” I said, getting to the question that was keeping me up nights. “Can a Christian lose his salvation?”
Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Reformed, Salvation

Reformed-Charismatic Bloglove for Late March

Wow…too much bloglove to even comment…read, quickly!

HOW TO LISTEN TO A SERMON from The Blazing Center

WHO IS THE KINGDOM FOR from The Gospel-Driven Church

THE CHARISMATIC QUESTION from Pulpit Magazine

THE BONDAGE OF GUIDANCE from Together for the Gospel

THE FAITH THAT ISN’T from Cerulean Sanctum

HAVING ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER from Challies.com

and lastly…

Audio & Video Messages from the Resurgence Conference: TEXT & CONTEXT

Blessings as you read!

Filed under: Blog-Love, Bloggers, Charismatic, Resurgence

Reflections on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Intro & Chapter 1)

An online discussion among some of my friends a couple of months ago brought to mind the importance of grappling with God’s sovereignty and the issue of suffering. Given that the most powerful book I’ve ever read that Biblically addresses this issue is Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, (which is also available as a conference DVD set) edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor, I’m going to take time out over the next few weeks to reflect on this book chapter-by-chapter.

For starters, it would probably benefit everyone to read my older post GOD IS IN CONTROL, as it relates directly to this topic, but for those who can’t find the time, here is the most relevant excerpt:

…the human authors of Scripture had so high a view of God’s sovereignty as to even recognize evil as being ultimately from the hand of God. For instance, in spite of that fact that Satan was the one immediately bringing violence upon Job, Job himself stated, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Job spoke truthfully, as well, for immediately afterward the author adds, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Also look at Isaiah 45:7; “I form light and create darkness, I make comfort and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Or Lamentations 3:38; “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come?” Though at first this may sound unnerving, there is also comfort to be found here, for since God is ultimately sovereign over all and even the devil is “the God’s devil”, there is no meaningless or purposeless evil, for God ultimately has allowed it and will use it for the good of His children.

That is what I find most comforting in Piper’s (dare I say God’s?) view of God’s sovereignty and suffering: there is absolutely NO meaningless suffering or evil, even if we – in this lifetime – never fully understand the purpose of it now.

On to SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (Full Book), chapter one, most of which is summarized in this post on Piper’s website. I was struck by one quote in particular here.

Piper wrote, in response to a quote by David Wells on the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, that by them, “our vision of God in relation to evil and suffering was shown to be frivolous”. He later expounded:

“Against the overwhelming weight and seriousness of the Bible, much of the church is choosing, at this very moment, to become more light and shallow and entertainment-oriented, and therefore successful in its irrelevance to massive suffering and evil. The popular God of fun-church is simply too small and too affable to hold a hurricane in His hand. The biblical categories of God’s sovereignty lie like land mines in the pages of the Bible waiting for someone to seriously open the book. They don’t kill, but they do explode trivial notions of the Almighty.”

Reading this, however, my first thought is that it is not enough to simply address the issue of evil and suffering Biblically – in fact, that is not the issue whatsoever. It is not necessary to teach someone how to deal with evil and suffering if they have a big enough (Biblical) picture of God to recognize His hand in it. I heard once of a church that addressed the issue of suffering from the pulpit, telling their congregation that “God didn’t know” and that “He couldn’t stop it anymore than you could.” That’s just one example of where addressing the issue, but from a less than Scriptural viewpoint, can do more harm than good. Yes, at the moment it may feel better, but in the long-run, how is such a weak, impotent God worth worshiping?

So, how do we keep from painting ‘trivial notion(s) of the Almighty’? I say, by emphasizing two truths: God’s goodness (shown in His love, grace, mercy, etc.) AND his sovereignty (shown in his power, judgment, and authority). Biblical truth is a collection of ‘tensions’ – it is when settle for only one part of the big picture that we begin sliding towards heresy and cultism. God’s sovereignty without His goodness leaves us with a brutal dictator – unloving and unlovable, not unlike some Muslim’s view of Allah, who we must slave to please, always aware that pleasing Him is impossible. However, God’s goodness without his sovereignty leaves us with a cuddly bunny-rabbit deity – ‘Buddy Christ’, if you will – who is a pushover, and too ‘nice’ to make any long-term impact on our lives, let alone the world around us. Both ‘gods’ are deities of our imagination, however, not the God of revelation.

More to come as I move on to Mark Talbot‘s chapter, “ALL THE GOOD THAT IS OURS IN CHRIST”…

(Let me encourage you all to personally read this book and not only my commentary, because what might strike me as important in it may not be what catches you, and there is far too much in here for me to cover it all!)

Filed under: Books, Doctrine, John Piper, Reformed, Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Theology

Belated Blog Love, and much of it…

Just cleaning house on some goodies…

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF SPIRIT BAPTISM? by Adrian Warnock

Also Adrian directed everyone to the online lectures from New Frontiers’ conference in the USA.  I assure you that you will find much to challenge & encourage you there: NEW FRONTIERS CHURCH LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE.

2 excellent PDF’s of essays by Jesse Phillips: SUBSEQUENCE, & ARE THE SIGN GIFTS NECESSARY: A DEBATE.

An interesting essay by J.I. Packer on JOHN OWEN ON THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS.  I may not agree with it all, but it’s an interesting study, none-the-less.

In other New Frontiers news, Terry Virgo posted an excellent blog on KNOWING HIM AND KNOWING ABOUT HIM.

Lastly, C.J. Mahaney shares his favorite BOOKS ON THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

I think that catches me up…whew.

Filed under: Blog-Love, Bloggers, Books, C.J. Mahaney, Calvinism, Cessasionist, Charismatic, Conference, Continualist, Contraversy, D.A. Carson, Debate, Doctrine, Emotionalism, Holy Spirit, John Piper, Pentecostalism, prophecy, Reformed, Terry Virgo, Theology

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