The Logic of Control

Not to begin on a depressing note, but take a moment to consider the moment of greatest pain in your life. It may be physical pain, or emotional hurt, or overwhelming grief. What was that moment for you? Or do you have more than one? What did that moment bring out of you? For some, it drew us nearer to God, as we cried out to Him for rescue. For some, it drove us away from God; how could a loving Father let this happen to me?

Philosophers have long argued about the seeming contradiction between God’s omnipotence (all-powerfulness) and God’s goodness. On Sunday, Jurie opened the Word and showed us that while God is all powerful, He gave humanity control over this world. Without free will, or self-control, there is no love, because love is a choice. God is Love, and His will in creation was to have lasting, loving relationships with His children. Given control of the world, man chose to walk away from relationship with God to satisfy his own desires. Sin was born, and nothing has been whole since. In philosophical circles, this line of reasoning is called the “free will argument.”

When a Christian is having conversations with non-believers, the “problem of evil” (i.e., the seeming logical contradiction between God’s omnipotence and goodness) comes up frequently. Now in discussions with non-believers, one should always hesitate before drawing upon the Bible for support, at least overtly. After all, if a person doesn’t believe in the validity of the Bible, it’s unlikely to be convincing. However, in the case of the problem of evil, the problem lies with what we say about the nature of God. Therefore, in this case, it is important to use our primary resource on God’s nature – the Bible.

Take a moment to open the book of James, and read some passages with me. It’s important to know that James was the brother of Jesus. They grew up in the same household; they had the same parents. James likely knew the nature of Jesus – who is God with us – better than anyone. Here are some things James has to say:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. [James 1:12-18, ESV]

Here, James makes some important distinctions. Out of His goodness, God will not tempt us to sin. One component of the free will argument is that man sinned and “broke the world.” James is saying that sin is not God’s fault. On the other hand, look what James says about the good in the world. All the good in the world does come from God. If God is controlling everything, then everything good and bad must be His doing, but the Word puts an end to that thinking right here.

There is so much more we could unpack about the problem of evil and the free will defense, but we will leave with one final thought.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. [James 1:2-4, NIV]

The Lord didn’t promise a life without suffering; evil and sin are real and present until He returns. But He did promise that He wouldn’t leave us to go through it alone. He came and experienced it firsthand, not just dying a horrible death but living a hard, workaday life by the sweat of His brow. He identifies with us in our suffering, and He has promised us the power to persevere and to be at peace.

May you experience this peace today, even in the midst of the brokenness of this world and the hurt you may be experiencing in the moment. If we simply come to Him in faith, in His goodness he will provide peace that surpasses all logic and understanding.

Curious to dive deeper into this topic? View our recent sermon on this topic, as well as the live Q&A session via the videos below. Feel free to leave your own comments and questions as well. We would love to hear from you!

1 Comment

Montie Lloyd - October 29th, 2019 at 1:27pm

I have been thinking about the message from Jurie for some time now. And I admit that it has had an impact on my views about the question of whether God is in control of everything.

I also admit that for a while I felt like Job in that I sit with many friends in a circle and discussing the question of whether God is in control of everything and everyone contributes their portion of wisdom to the debate. And we sometimes forget that God has the first and last word on the matter.

Now here is some of my understanding:

1. Genesis 2:15-17 introduces God as a sovereign Ruler to man in that God gives instructions and a warning. And in Genesis 3:14-19 God actioned the sin of man (maybe tempted by Satan) by a clear judgment. This story convinces me that God is in control of everything. The story told in Job leads me to the same conclusion.

2. That conclusion is forged on a clear understanding that God is sovereign and ultimate control is in his hands.

3. However, it is also true that man has been given certain responsibilities and in that sense certain power to control things. We all experience the use of this power by ourselves as well as other people on a daily basis. We see much of this power be used by worldly governments, ruthless employers to name a few.

4. It is not a power given to us to judge the misuse or abuse of such power. This power to judge is the sovereign power of God.

5. So, God might not be in control of man's free will, sin or evil and its effects but the ultimate judgment still resides with Him.

6. Does this rule, control or ultimate judgment leave me to live a life of guilt? No, it does not because God in his sovereign plan provides for forgiveness to everyone that accepts and believes that Jesus died in our place and took the wrath of God on him as full settlement of our sin (missing the mark) so that we can live a life of victory.

7. So, in a sense living a life of victory takes my eye (that can fail temptation of looking for answers elsewhere ) away from the question of who is in control of everything to focus on God who I believe is in control of everything even giving me the grace of forgiveness.

Am I making sense of the logic?