God’s Glory

An interesting twitter discussion has arisen between Mark Lamprecht Wes Widner and Jacob Hall.

Friends of Mark’s have a six year old son who has developed a brain tumor and on his blog, Mark posted John’s facebook entry about Faith, Sovereignty, and God’s glory. Go take a look at John’s response to this situation and the thanks people are expressing for the faith that he and his wife are showing in this trial. here is some of it, but go read it all.

First of all, I’m unsure about what kind of faith is being talked about. I’ve never been sure that it is God’s will that our Gideon be brought back to full health.

Now, when I say that, I’m not saying that I don’t think God could do that nor do I want you do think that I don’t desire that. I just don’t think that is the way God always works. However, I do know that God does work all things out for Him to get the maximum glory.

Now, many of you may ask “how can God get glory unless he heals Gideon?” My response would be that he definitely gets glory by healing Gideon, but He gets even more glory when we have our full satisfaction in Him and Him alone!

God isn’t all satisfying and worthy of my praise because he makes us healthy and wealthy. He isn’t worthy because He heals my little boy. He is all satisfying because He is God and He always does what is right! He is all satisfying because he rescued me from my biggest problem.

Our greatest problem isn’t poverty, lack of self-esteem, or brain tumors. Our biggest problem is we have sinned against a holy righteous God. He has saved me from my sin, and for that reason alone he is all satisfying. He is enough.

Yes, we have faith in our God, but our faith is that He will do what’s right and what is best…even if that meant taking Gideon from us.

Mark then posted the link to the blog entry on twitter as follows:

How would you react if your 6 yr old had a brain tumor? Would you glorify God? One family’s responsehttp://bit.ly/3IV3Xh

Wes responded with this:

@hereiblog Glorify God for what? Giving the strength and comfort to endure it or for giving the brain tumor? One isn’t glorifying.

Jacobhall jumped in then with this:

@kai5263499 Your view of God is totally skewed. He is worthy of Glory regardless of the situation.

then Wes:

@JacobHall86 Not if he kills innocent people for no reason. Sorry, that’s not the picture of God the bible paints.

then Jacob:

@kai5263499 Noone is innocent. That is the picture painted in the Bible. You assume with Pelagian views. None are Righteous.

Now look up at the two portions of Wes Widner’s entries that I bolded. do you see it? Wes has decided that he knows what brings God glory and he knows who is innocent and he knows when there is “no reason” for a death.

I have some questions.
Why does Wes have such a high view of himself and his own knowledge?
Why does he not approach this topic with a little more humility?
Why doesn’t he even give lip service to the possibility that God has something in mind in this situation that is far higher than our poor power to deduce as we rock along here in our finite bubble of right now with our limited intellects and our limited set of emotional responses?

Does Wes think God doesn’t at least have the ability to control this boy’s tumor?
If so, then what else doesn’t God control in Wes’ world?
If not, then isn’t allowing it to happen functionally the same as causing it?
Wouldn’t God remain culpable for the illness?
If that is the case, then isn’t it better to believe God to be fully sovereign over every aspect of this situation and every other situation in our lives?
Isn’t it better to fully trust a sovereign God who loves us, sent his Son to die for us, and promised us good things, with our illnesses and their outcome?
Isn’t it true that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, even in the midst of loss, heartache and pain?
Isn’t that what makes God look most fantastic to this lost and dying world?

just asking some questions here.

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Choice, Sovereignty and an example

John Piper recently explored free will, God’s sovereignty and Paul’s example. fascinating stuff.

One of the most influential passages in the Bible that God used to open my mind to his sovereignty over my will is Philippians 2:12-13.

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

So my working and willing are necessary. They are real. But they are not first or ultimately decisive. God’s willing and working is decisively under and in my willing and working. The word “for” is crucial. I work because he is working in me. I will, because he is willing in me.

Believing this precedes understanding how it works. God says it. I believe it. Now I am spending a lifetime learning what it is like to live this way.

go read the rest (its short).

two on suffering

first courtesy of Vitamin Z we get this comforting bit that we will never be able to fully explain the problem of evil but that we can trust God anyway:

So how do Christians explain the problem of evil?

The reality is, we can’t provide an exhaustive theodicy or explanation of the existence of evil.  Our minds cannot fully fathom “why.”

But, in his recommended book, Return to Reason, Kelly Clark, explains why Christians need not feel intellectually compromised if they cannot explain the existence of evil.  Here is how he concludes the discussion.

The Christian theist need not be troubled by is his ignorance of a theodicy.  This ignorance is not insincere, questionable or obscurantist.  Rather, it is quite consistent with his theistic beliefs.  The Christian theist will believe that God has a good reason for allowing evil, although  he does not know what it is or know it in any detail.  He believes that God has a good reason because of God’s redemptive incarnational revelation.  It is not rationally incumbent upon the theist to produce a successful theodicy; the theist, in order to be rational, must simply believe that God has a good reason for allowing evil.  A God who shares in our pain, who redeems our sorrows and our shortcomings, who wipes away ever tear, is surely a good God. (page 89).

and then Halim Suh is making plans. He is thinking about what he wants his friends to tell him when suffering comes in his life. It is so very helpful to have right theology and right thinking about suffering firmly in place in your mind before the suffering hits. before the cancer diagnosis, before the layoff, before the horrible accident etc. etc. Here are some of Halim’s prospective advices to himself. Go read the rest.

Yesterday in our book group, we were discussing suffering. Honestly, I haven’t endured a lot of suffering, yet, in this life. Especially not the tragic, life-changes-in-a-moment kind of suffering. But, only the Lord knows if it is coming. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would want people to tell me if I do go through a crisis – and these are things that I think I would need to hear:

Tell me that there is a God in heaven, who made the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. Remind me that my crisis, my suffering, is not a surprise to Him, and that it has not happened outside of His control. Tell me that my God has a purpose in everything – my suffering included. Remind me that He is the God who sees everything – not one thing has ever escaped His attention. He sees me now.
….
Tell me that there is a Savior that suffered – a lot more than I can ever imagine. No matter how much suffering I am enduring, remind me that Jesus suffered so much more, infinitely more. Tell me that He can comfort me because He knows my pain. He knows my suffering. Tell me that my Jesus is there.

Tell me that God loves me with a fierce love – the kind that rips open seas, that drowns armies, that throws hailstones from heaven, that shuts up lions’ mouths, that saves from consuming fires, that heals the lame, that feeds the hungry and that conquers death. Remind me that my God loves me like that. And that this God doesn’t change, nor does His love for me change. So, if He has ordained suffering in my life, He is still loving me – although I may not see it or understand it.

Halim is one of the staff at Austin Stone Community Church.

powerful stuff

Timmy Brister posted this video “Choosing Thomas” and like he says it is worth the next ten minutes of your time.

somewhat related, Randy Alcorn talks here about the absolute necessity for Christians to have a well developed theology of suffering to avoid falling into serious error when something like the events in the video above come into our lives.

I wrote If God Is Good because the question of suffering and evil is the most commonly raised and perplexing problem there is. It’s unusual to have serious prolonged interactions about believing in God, with either believers or unbelievers, without them raising it.

I am also deeply concerned with how radically unbiblical viewpoints are being assimilated into the thinking of evangelical Christians. In If God Is Good, I wrote four chapters critiquing the attempts of misguided theologians to resolve the problem of evil by minimizing the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, or love.
….
I also wanted to address the issue of mystery and faith, and our need to trust God even when we can’t see his purposes. That used to be a central part of faith, but somehow it seems more difficult for modern Christians. I argue that while the nature of faith is to trust God for what we do not see, we may base our trust in him on many things we have seen—His Word, His creation, and how he has shown himself in others in our lives and throughout history. I point out that if you write down the worst things that have ever happened to you and then write down the best things, there is often, especially when sufficient time has passed, a shocking overlap of the lists, confirming the workings of God’s sovereign grace.

suffering as a tool to edify the church

Challies has another great post today. This one discussing Ligon Duncan’s exposition of how God uses suffering in our lives to build up the church. Go read the whole thing.

So I guess this is something we ought to keep in mind in those times that God calls us to suffer. Our suffering is not pointless; it is not meaningless. At least in part, our suffering is mandated by God so we can strengthen and edify our brothers and sisters in Christ so that they, and we, may strive toward Christian maturity. “Your suffering does not just belong to you. You are members of a body. Your suffering is for the body’s maturity as much as it is for yours. Your suffering is there to build up the church of Christ. It is there for the people of God to be given faith and hope and confidence in the hour of their trials. Your suffering is also the body’s suffering because one of God’s purposes in suffering is the maturity of the whole church.”

Jeff Mangum talked yesterday at the Austin Stone from I Corinthians 15 about the hope of the resurrection being a sure hope. As a result of the certainty of the resurrection and heaven to come we can endure any hardship that this temporary world has to offer. He talked about how the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation emphasizes that following the way of Christ is fraught with uncertainty and difficulty. Nonetheless, we are called to suffer for Christ in this life. He talked in particular about invitational suffering and how the American Church as a whole refuses to acknowledge this aspect of God’s plan for us.

The idea that God would call us to suffering in order to bring glory to His name is completely alien to the modern American church where the Godly live prosperously and comfortably without pain and illness. In the modern American church job loss, illness, poverty, rebellious teenagers etc. are proof of poor choices or worse God’s judgment on the sufferer’s life.

Ligon Duncan and Jeff Mangum might actually be onto something. Maybe God can actually be magnified in our weakness. Maybe when we mature through suffering we can help the whole body become more mature at the same time. Maybe………

or maybe they are reading a different Bible than the rest of us and God really wants us to be healthy and happy all the time with all the toys and distractions that our selfish hearts desire. Maybe we should just name today’s desire and claim God’s power to make it so and forget all that stuff about suffering for the Name of Jesus, about no student being better than his teacher, about denying self taking up the cross and following. Yeah, that’s right…. Where’s the remote?

The Meaning of Man’s Will

R. C. Sproul has a three part series on what it means when we say that man has free will. Fascinating stuff. This is the kind of stuff that keeps a person from swearing off the internet altogether.

Here are the links:

part 1
part 2
part 3

and here is a bit of the introduction:

The term free will as applied to man is often glibly declared with little or no understanding of its meaning. There is actually no unified theory of man’s free will, but a variety of competing, and often conflicting, views about it.

The question of man’s free will is made more complicated by the fact that we must examine it in man, in terms of how the will functioned before and after the fall of Adam. Most important for us today is how the Fall affected man’s moral choices.

It was St. Augustine who gave the church a close analysis of the state of freedom that Adam enjoyed before the Fall. Augustine’s classic concept of freedom distinguished four possibilities. In Latin, they are:

1. posse pecarre–referring to the ability to sin.
2. posse non-pecarre–referring to the ability not to sin, or to remain free from sin.
3. non-posse pecarre–referring to the inability to sin.
4. non-posse, non-pecarre–referring to the inability not to sin.

Considering Adam before the Fall, Augustine argued that Adam had possessed both the ability to sin (posse pecarre) and the ability not to sin (posse non-pecarre). Adam lacked the exalted state of the inability to sin that God enjoys (non-posse pecarre). God’s inability to sin is based not on an inner powerlessness of God to do what he wants, but rather on the fact that God has no inner desire to sin. Since the desire for sin is utterly absent from God, there is no reason for God to choose sin.

Before the Fall Adam did not have the moral perfection of God; neither did Adam have the inability to refrain from sin (non-posse, non-pecarre). During his time of “probation” in the garden, he had the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. He chose to exercise the ability to sin and thus plunged the race into ruin.

As a result, Adam’s first sin was passed on to all his descendants. Original sin refers not to the first sin but to God’s punishment of that first transgression. Because of the first sin human nature fell into a morally corrupt state, itself partially a judgment of God. When we speak of original sin, we refer to the fallen human condition which reflects the judgment of God upon the race.

and here is the first paragraph of part 3.

But what about man’s will with respect to the sovereignty of God? Perhaps the oldest dilemma of the Christian faith is the apparent contradiction between the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man. If we define human freedom as autonomy (meaning that man is free to do whatever he pleases, without constraint, without accountability to the will of God), then of course we must say that free will is contradictory to divine sovereignty. We cannot soft-pedal this dilemma by calling it a mystery; we must face up to the full import of the concept. If free will means autonomy, then God cannot be sovereign. If man is utterly and completely free to do as he pleases, there can be no sovereign God. And if God is utterly sovereign to do as he pleases, no creature can be autonomous.

and where he gets to the meat of the coconut here:

I leave the question of explaining the Fall of Adam by virtue of the exercise of his free will to the hands of more competent and insightful theologians. To blame it on man’s finite limitations is really putting blame on the God who made man finite. Biblically, the issue has been, and always will be, a moral one. Man was commanded by the Creator not to sin, but man chose to sin, not because God or anyone else forced him to. Man chose out of his own heart.

Consequently, to probe the answer to the how of man’s sin is to enter the realm of deepest mystery. Perhaps all we can do in the final analysis is to recognize the reality of our sin and our responsibility for it. Though we cannot explain it, certainly we know enough to confess it.

wow. These are from the book How Can I Know God’s Will by R. C. Sproul and here on this page are downloadable MP3 lessons on it.

stormy seas? no problem

Courtesy of John Mark at Sweet Tea and Theology, here is a great quote from John Newton (the author of the hymn Amazing Grace)

I heartily sympathize with you in your complaints; but I see you in safe hands. The Lord loves you, and will take care of you. He who raises the dead, can revive your spirits when you are cast down. He who sets bounds to the sea, and says “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further,” can limit and moderate that gloom which sometimes distresses you. He knows why he permit, you to be thus exercised. I cannot assign the reasons, but I am sure they are worthy of his wisdom and love, and that you will hereafter see and say, He has done all things well. If I was as wise as your philosopher, I might say a great deal about a melancholy complexion; but I love not to puzzle myself with second causes, while the first cause is at hand, which sufficiently accounts for every phenomenon in a believer’s experience. Your constitution, your situation, your temper; your distemper, all that is either comfortable or painful in your lot, is of his appointment. The hairs of your head are all numbered: the same power which produced the planet Jupiter is necessary to the production of a single hair, nor can one of them fall to the ground without his notice, any more than the stars can fall from their orbits. If providence, no less than in creation, he is Maximus in minimis. Therefore fear not; only believe. Our sea may sometimes be stormy, but we have an infallible Pilot, and shall infallibly gain our port.Letter IX, Dying in the Lord by John Newton. Nov. 27, 1778.

emphasis added

aren’t there times in life when the only available comfort is that God is “Maximus in minimis”, that we can fear not only because we trust completely in our infallible Pilot?

What a great word. by the way, this movie was similarly great and to me, the best parts were Wilberforce’s conversations with John Newton.