As I begin my series on God’s control of all things, including evil we must consider the evidence (as found in His book, the revealed Word, the Scripture, if you don’t agree, check the evidence). When I refer to evil I am speaking about both moral and natural evil. By moral I mean sin, such as lying, stealing, adultery, and all other ways in which people refuse to love each other and obey God. By natural evil I mean hurricanes, floods, disease- all the natural ways that death and suffering afflict mankind. What I am considering in this series, is that God rules the world in such a way that all sin remains in His ultimate control and therefore within His ultimate design and purpose.
I have read a book on a movement, mostly in America, called ‘Open Theism’ this group denies that God has full foreknowledge of the entire future. The denial of God’s foreknowledge of human and demonic choices is a mattress for the view that God is not in control of evil in the world and therefore has no purpose in them.
However, I believe that the Scripture teaches Go is in control of everything, including evil, and thus any view that suggests evil is out of God’s control, not only is wrong (or unscriptural J), but it offers no hope for a world that at times seems to spiral out of control with evil.
Let’s examine the evidence:
Does God control Calamity?
Let us consider the evidence that God controls physical evil, however keep in mind that often physical and moral evil meet, many of our pains happen because of other people or demonic forces decisions.
In Scripture humans life is seen as something God has complete authority over. He gives and takes away life. We do not have life, nor do we have any complete right over it. So it makes sense then that for God to give life is a gift, and to lose it is never an injustice on God’s part, whether it is taken at age 2 or age ninety-two.
Remember how Job reacted to losing his children at the initiation of Satan? He did not say that Satan was the ultimate cause of it. Instead he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” In case we might say that Job made a mistake, the author adds these words, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (v22). And “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10).
In Deuteronomy 32:39, God said, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” When David impregnated Bathsheba, the Lord punished him by taking his son (2 Samuel 12:15, 18).
What about Disease?
When Moses afraid to speak God said to him, “Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:11). In other words behind all disease and disability is the ultimate will of God. Not to say that Satan is not involved- he is probably always involved in one way or another with a destructive purpose (Acts 10:38). But his power is not decisive. He cannot act without God’s permission.
That is one of the points made clear in Job’s illness. The text makes it clear that the disease came upon Job by… “So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” Job’s wife encouraged him to curse God, but he said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?(Job 2:10)” again, the author says, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2v10). That is to say, this is the correct view of God’s sovereignty over Satan. Satan is real and may have a hand in our affliction, but not the final hand, and most defiantly not the decisive hand. James makes it clear that God had a good purpose in all Job’s afflictions, “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11)” So Satan may have been involved, but the ultimate purpose was God’s, and it was “compassionate and merciful.”
We learn this again in 2 Corinthians 12:7, where Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh as being a messenger of Satan, and yet it was given to make him more holy: “So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.” Now Satan’s goal is not Paul’s humility, therefore the purpose is God’s.
There is no reason to believe that Satan is ever out of God’s control ultimately. Mark 1:27 says about Jesus, “And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And in Luke 4:36, “And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” In other words no matter how real and terrible Satan and his demons are in this world, they remain subordinate to the ultimate will of God
The point of the teaching I think is in us to cause humility and hope, humility since we are so small and God so great and some things are far beyond our understanding and hope, since no matter how crazy things get, they are never out of control of a all-wise faithful, good and great heavenly Father
In the next Blog: God’s control of Natural Disasters and all other kinds of Calamities.
I am indebted to John Piper for my clarity and articulation in this: See Desiring God by John Piper.