A Theological Nit to Pick in our Advent Book

Whenever we use someone else’s writings or curriculum, we have to consider that everything may not be exactly the way we would want.  In pre-reading Bartholomew’s Passage, the staff and I all came across one particular place where we felt that the author was expressing a view that we do not endorse, even though many Christians do hold that view.  It is on page 44, where our author is discussing some of the bad circumstances that occur in Bartholomew’s life.  He writes,

We’ll never know how many times God has stepped in to protect us, or guide us, or prevent some evil.  But sometimes He can’t. It seems kind of strange, but it’s His great love for us that sometimes prevents Him from helping us. He has given us a free will, to do as we please. We are not slaves to Him, He doesn’t force us to follow His rules. He only offers us the joy of abundant life if we do, and then He allows us to make our own choice.

But the price of freedom is that He has no control over some of the storms and tragedies we face.

We respectfully disagree with this way of describing God’s actions.  God’s love does not “prevent” Him from doing anything, and while we are free to make choices that we are responsible for, that in no way diminishes God’s power or control of all events.   

We would encourage you to consider skipping this section, or better yet, speaking what we believe to be a better understanding of what to think when bad things happen to us.  We believe, and have consistently taught, that God is in control, even in the bad things that happen.  Sometimes he has decided that the only way we will learn the lessons we need or gain the maturity he desires for us is to experience something bad.  And sometimes God’s reasons for those bad things may never be known to us.  But God IS known to us, and we know that He is perfect, He is good, and He never does anything without purposes that bring Him glory and make His children more like Jesus.  Perhaps this would be better:

We’ll never know how many times God has stepped in to protect us, or guide us, or prevent some evil.  But sometimes His plan for us means not stopping evil from happening.  It seems kind of strange, but it’s His great love and wisdom for that knows that sometimes we must experience evil to grow to become stronger in our faith.  Sometimes that evil comes when choose to disobey, and we learn through painful consequences.  Other times, evil comes when we are obeying God–just like it came to Jesus on the earth.  In those times we may not know why it comes, but we know God, and because we know what He is like, we can trust Him and His reasons.

There may be a further point or two in the rest of the book where we might say things differently, but they are not significant enough to make me take time to offer a corrective.  This one instance, however, is that important.  I hope you will note this, but not let it interfere with your enjoyment of the rest of the book!

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Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 4:25 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. I appreciate your comments on this matter. It is such a comfort that when bad things do happen in our lives (like losing a child or having one suffer), that even when we do not understand why this is happening, we know the One who knows why & we can trust Him. I have often wondered how unbelievers can stand up under sorrow & suffering without the comfort of knowing that all is in our Father’s hands. Now I have a question – I am reading Samuel to the kids in devotions – When Saul keeps trying to pin David to the wall with a spear, it says “an Evil spirit from God” overcomes Saul (in the NIV) – How do I explain that to my kids? does God send evil spirits?

    • Thanks for the question. The “evil spirit” is “sent” from God in the same sense that Satan is permitted in Job to do certain things to Job as a test. In Job, we hear Satan ask for and receive permission (while we know God was the one who started the whole thing and had his purposes to accomplish by letting Satan bring difficulties to Job). In 1 Samuel God is said to “send” the evil spirit. The evil spirit would want to do this, God allowed it, prompted it via circumstance, or something similar–just like in Job. In a similar way, God sends earthquakes, even though they are a natural phenomena that scientists tell us are inevitable. God is the ultimate controller of spirits, yet they also act in accord with their nature. Hope that helps.


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