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« No Broadcast Today | Main | Challenge Response: You Can't Trust the Christian Authors of the Gospels »

March 25, 2015


Too often the message is "Jesus is the answer to all your problems."

In alignment with the health and wealth crowd, this is obviously misunderstood to mean "God will remove all your troubles and provide for all your perceived immediate needs," often with the caveat, "if you have enough faith."

Rather the correct message is "God will show you how much you are to suffer for his names sake and this will provide long term the need you have to be conformed into his image." He can do this precisely for what you pointed out in this article, that he knows suffering because he suffered death for us.

If that message is discomforting, then it's a demonstration that the message is true:

a. We are not conformed into the image of a suffering God and need to be.

b. If it were not true then it would not be discomforting.

c. We are not to be comforted by this particular message. We are to be comforted by the promise of reconciliation to God through the gospel and the promise of resurrection subsequent to our pending death.

I'll offer up boot camp as an illustration to the last point. I once enlisted in the Marines out of a sense of duty to my country. It is MY country after all and I was intent to do my part to secure it for myself, my family, and my neighbors. That necessitated enduring boot camp, as well as constant training, daily and annual inspections, being subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and temporarily giving up the rights I was intent on securing. No one WANTS to do all those things, but they are necessary to accomplish the goal. Likewise, suffering in a fallen world in order to proclaim Christ in our daily lives is the way that Christians are sanctified and the Kingdom of God is secured.

IMO, many folks grow up in a theological tradition of "God is in control". In other words, everything that happens, down to the smallest seemingly random occurance, is done by God.

When something evil befalls them, they become angry at God about it. After all, doesn't He control everything anyway? Isn't it His will that everything goes precisely as it does?

They rightly blame God. After all, even their own "choices" are caused by God, in that very common belief system.

Of course, Arminian theology, Open Theism and Eastern Orthodox tradition doesn't look at the world this way. But quite a lot of this all controlling God stuff is taught in American pulpits.
Goat Head 5

It is especially hard for a rape survivor to hear well meaning Christians say, "God is in control", or "Everything happens for a reason", or "It was God's will that you were raped, for some greater purpose".

If I really believed that God was behind evil, I would remain a Theist, but certainly wouldn't be a Christian.

Goat Head 5

(Now, Wisdomlover, Brad B. etc. We already argued this out. I think your positions on these things are badly mistaken. However, it doesn't put you outside the camp or anything. Just, IMO, mistaken.)

Goat Head 5, four of the six people I linked to would disagree with you, including the one who was raped. In fact, it's knowing that there is purpose in everything that helped them through this. For Arminians, there can be pain that has no purpose, and I wouldn't find that comforting at all. I think Calvinism does a far better job with theodicy, and I recommend Randy Alcorn's book If God Is Good to anyone who wants to hear why.

Goat Head 5,

After all, doesn't He control everything anyway?

Doesn’t He? Can you name one thing…just one thing…that He doesn’t have absolute control over?

Goat Head 5,

By the way, while I cry and shake my fists at unbearable evil and suffering, I know that God is good. I know that even the granular nature of my senses, to parse pain and agony, are nothing apart from God.

They are, in fact, gifts from Him to rejoice over.

Another flavor of approach:

The Holy Spirit - God - inside of the Christian - inside of me - calls me towards Him, into Him. He beckons me, in His peculiar Speech - to abide in - to bear fruit. His fruit. He - God - enables me to do so, to do otherwise. Yesterday - in the light of day - able to do otherwise - hearing the Holy Spirit - God - making His claim upon me to choose the light - chose the dark.

God could have stopped me from choosing the dark.

But instead He shows me, calls to me, enlivens me, and I, able to do otherwise, choose at times His voice, His call to change and face Him, and at times the dark.

That He could at any moment overpower my will and drive me is not what we are speaking of when we say "God controls".

What we mean by God controls is whether or not God - the Holy Spirit - in me - in the Christian - calls me to choose the dark, beckons me to move farther away from Him, wills that I sin.

The Christian cannot say thusly of the Holy Spirit of God within him. He - God inside - wills otherwise - and we have that of the Holy Spirit / Christian interface expressly in Scripture.

The Power to stop me and drive me and control me is neither here nor there for should God will His own Image - and decree that image, that of Trinity's Self/Other void of the automaton, then that is His willed decree on the shape of Man such that other X's well within His Power to alter are not a part of His willed decree.

Should God will the Earth to be round, well that He can make it square at any moment isn't the point when it comes to the reciprocity within Trinity, within I/You, Self/Other.

Some cannot see that where possible worlds are concerned in Eden or in the Christian, we have that Image decreed such that the knowledge and sight and beholding of that decreed landscape is not a sight or landscape Man can thwart or evade by any choice he could ever make for both in disobedience and in obedience Man finds that the Self in Privation is there in God, in Trinity, just as, the singular embrace of One is too there in Trinity, just as the eternal sacrifice of all that is the Self is there in Trinity. Man cannot not

The Universalist need not consider me his friend as nothing said here means any of that. For, as in Trinity, the Self in Privation is wholly availed, though in God and in Man the product thereof is on necessity different.

Shall the Christian do evil and/or suffer evil - well there we are. God is able - and willing - to turn it to Good, for nothing Man chooses can get Man out of the decreed Image, landscape, of God.

The Holy Spirit did not call me, beckon me into, the dark. He has rather empowered me to do otherwise, called me to light.

When I sin, and Christians do sin - let me say that I did thusly able to do otherwise, against the light, in the light, and despite the light, of His Call, His beckoning to motion ever towards Him, to abide, to bear fruit.

It is no comfort to me that He could have driven me into the light - his automaton - for He has decreed quite another reality in Man - that of His Own Image there in Trinity. That is to say, it is no comfort to me (God's Power), that I can say, "He could have stopped me but did not, therefore the Spirit of God in me called me into the dark" for it is not God's Power with which I wrestle, but, rather, God's Will and Decree is that with which I must wrestle. His Will and Decree, not His Power, houses all the means and ends of love - of His Own Image. In fact, His Will is His Power is His Decree such that perhaps we can hint that God cannot drive me as His automaton given that He Wills otherwise.

But we need not even go that far, for His Will houses much which fails to rise to the level of such automaton-concepts and which is yet far past the end of our sightline.

We are safe - in Him.

When I sin against God inside of me calling me towards Himself and choose otherwise, it is not His Power with which I must wrestle, but rather, it is His - the Holy Spirit in me - Will and Decree with which I must wrestle.


" One is too there in Trinity, just as the eternal sacrifice of all that is the Self is there in Trinity. Man cannot not"

Should have been:

....just as the eternal sacrifice of all that is the Self is there in Trinity. The contingency God calls Man cannot not behold, know, see, both with the Eye and with the Knee - Christ - and all such vectors converging seamlessly in Him. A to Z or Z to A matters not. That Man is free to choose is both fully free and utterly decreed, willed, by God, and the Ends of obedience and of disobedience are there in Christ on all fronts. Obedience in Eden just is obedience in Gethsemane where the Self is concerned. To pour out, to be filled, to be emptied, to be glorified, all such is there in Trinity - and all such is, will be, there in Man. Insufficiency will face All Sufficiency - there is no choice Man can make to thwart the Necessary.

In other words, Calvinism makes claims upon God's Power, where Armenian (etc) makes claims upon His Will, His Decree. The compatibility of these is apparent. Divine simplicity emerges, and unintentional or un-decreed power finds incoherence.

Thank God that he is more concerned with my holiness than my happiness

How true Wayne. The focus seems to be on His Nature. Happiness seems to be merely the byproduct or effect of that. That is to say, as C.S. Lewis reminds us, Joy is the serious business of Heaven - but such is impossible for the mutable and contingent being called Man should he (Man) be found ultimately outside of God - outside of the immutable love of the Necessary Being.

Amy, God is not in control of my free will.


That's not quite right.

There is no free will in this or that contingent being but should God - the very source of being - decree it. He wills Man thusly - His Power ever able to retract. But we have His Will which is His Power which is His Decree which grants our very being. Divine simplicity finds no such thing as unintentional Power. As such our freedom (which is actual) stems from both His Decree and His Power.

swolf... God is sovereign and in control. Our free will is dictated by our very natures. We are not good apart from God. We cannot come to God apart from God changing our hearts. This is all in Scripture. She is not an atheist because of her rape (sorry about that occurrence in her life). There are many rape victims who are believers.

Example: When given the choice to eat hamburger or sushi... I will always choose hamburger. I cannot stand raw fish and will not eat it without gagging. I have "free" will to choose the sushi, but I never will. My choice is dictated by my nature. One day somebody convinces me to try sushi... Oh the joy... the greatest thing I have ever ate!!! Hamburgers pale in comparison! I will never choose to eat hamburgers over sushi again! My life has been changed! My tastes are new! The old man is dead!

This is what it is like when God changes your heart. You start to hate sin and love the things of God... which you could not do in your previous state... despite the illusion of libertarian free will. Sure, we all have free will... which is held captive by our hearts.

Scripture tells us many things here. It tells us we are loved, we are His beloved, we will have trouble, we will be great, we will be small, we can abound, we can be debased, the hairs on our head are numbered, we taste contentment at His Feet in all and through all. The only *unchangeable* in all of that is neither our selves nor our circumstances but is rather the singular fact of His Immutable Love. There is no *rest* elsewhere, and, we enter His Rest.

"God is not in control of my free will."

Why do you think that?

God is in control of God's free will isn't He?

Is that some sort of problem for God's freedom?


In fact, it is because God is in control of God's free will that it is free.

The free will is not a random and uncontrolled will. A random and uncontrolled will is just unfree in a different way than a mechanistically determined will is unfree.

What makes a will free is that is under the control of the agent performing the action.

So my will is free if it is under my control.

Is there a reason to think that my will is not under my control just because it is also under God's control?

WL seems on point.

To assert that my (actual) will's (actual) freedom is some sort of stand-alone essence which stands "apart-from-God" is to assert the *existence* of said freedom and of said will apart from God. Which is nonsense *both* when we speak of His Decree and of His Power. God alone - Actuality alone - can by will decree and by power sustain actual freedom amid actual ranges of motion amid actual ontological real estate within (actual) mutable and contingent worlds.


I think you are taking it one step further.

I was making the weak point that I might be in control of my will even though God is also in control of it.

I think you are making the stronger claim that I cannot be in control of my will unless God is also in control of it.

I agree with your stronger claim as well, and I think for, more or less, you reasons.

It seems that you are saying that unless God exerts His creative power, I have no will to be in control of in the first place. Unless God exists His creative power, my own control of my will cannot exist.


The books I would suggest are, "Young, Restless, no Longer Reformed by Austin Fischer, "God is not to Blame" by Greg Boyd and Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities by Roger Olsen.

Goat Head 5


"Can you name one thing…just one thing…that He doesn’t have absolute control over?"

Yes. The free will choices of Men and Angels. Oops. That's two.

Goat Head 5


Usually these things really hang on what is meant by "God is in absolute control".

What do you mean?

Hypothetical: An evil woman tortures her infant son to death.

In what way is God in "absolute control" of this event?

This is not some kind of "gotcha" thing. I'm really curious about what you mean.

Goat Head 5


"n other words, Calvinism makes claims upon God's Power, where Armenian (etc) makes claims upon His Will, His Decree. The compatibility of these is apparent."

Calvinism and Arminianism are in no way compatible. On many key theological assertions, they make mutually exclusive claims.

For example, Grace cannot be irresistible and resistible at the same time.

Sounds cool, but not possible.

goat head 5

"Hypothetical: An evil woman tortures her infant son to death.

In what way is God in "absolute control" of this event?

No need for hypothetical Although Gabriel was no infant, it might've been better for him to not have endured so much for so long. In his case, authorities were many multiple free wills in play here.

How bout this, hypothetical?

A father gives his son to a sadist to be cruelly abused and tortured.

In what way is God in "absolute control" of this event?


Yes, the stronger terms were what I was aiming at. Freedom, like any actuality, or, like any ontological real estate, as it were, come(s) about by both His Decree (Will) and by His Power (sustaining). If I have control of my own motions within this or that ontic-real-estate, as it were, the whole of it is non-entity but by His Decree, which is His Power. It seems to me that in Simplicity we do not have (as you noted too) that random and un-intentional Will of God - and - I would add - that His Power is also (cannot be?) un-intentional and a stand-alone from His Will/Decree. My legs with which I run are granted by Him, by His Will He Decrees it, and, by His Power He fashions and/or sustains it. Then - from there - for me to employ said legs for God, for Other, for His Purposes just is to glorify Him and His Purposes, to know Life and not Death, to be "Inside of Love/God", as it were, and, to employ said legs for Me, for I, just is to glorify Self and not God, to know Life-less, to be "Outside of Love/God", as it were. We find here no concern at all for any *possible* theft of glory within freedom of motion amid any *possible* world. There is no contingent any-thing who can out-reach God.

Because His Power is not random, is not un-intentional, we find in Simplicity that His Will is His Decree is His Power is that which grants this or that possible world's or possible ontological real estate's *existence* or *actuality*.

The freedom to motion amid Man/God, amid Self/Other, amid I/You there in the landscape of Privation and of Oneness just is all that we find in Trinity - and thus in Man's Decreed, Willed, Sustained, Landscape. This is how we find Faith in the Old Man as he, the Old Man, by Faith, is there in the OT knocking on God's Door, asking to come in, desiring Him in the midst of their fleeing from Him, and so on, ever conflicted, but, as the NT tells us, they could not enter, but by Faith longed for Christ's Day, by Faith longed for the Door to be opened. By Faith. But, Faith is in the same insufficient fate as is Free Will - Neither can force their way into God. Neither can fill up their own Self with God. Neither finds sufficiency by mere existence. No. God must open. God must pour out. In-Sufficiency must face All-Sufficiency. Hence the All-Sufficient emerges - hence *Christ* emerges - opens - pours - on all fronts and in all directions in Man's decreed landscape. Faith and Free Will shall say of themselves: "It was not I - But was Thee! - I waited - Thou saved - Thou came! I thirsted - Thou quenched!"

Don't mistake that for universalism. It isn't. Now, that last paragraph seems loaded with all sorts of problems and errors, but, well, that's another topic :)


On Calvinism and Armenian lines, by compatibility I mean their initial starting foci, not the errors that have come by yet further extrapolations from those initial (proper) opening foci. God's Absolute Power and God's Absolute Decree find seamlessness as we merge into the existence of any contingent ontological real estate, and so on, along the lines of my comments in this thread thus far is all that I mean to say. I don't mean to say more. I find in Calvin much truth in that on Power's control - or absolute ownership - of my freedom, and, I find in Armenian lines much truth of that on Decree and Will granting my (actual, true, real) freedom. Of course I find "eventual error further down the line" in each of those works (Calvin/Armenian). Hence my compatible lines take some of each and leave some of each.


Perhaps the "absolute ownership" in my comment to GH5 will add something which I'm trying to infer or draw out... or not....

It may be (or may not be) helpful to touch on some of these, none of which I fully ascribe to mainly because I’ve not fully unpacked all of them, though, they do – after a few reads – offer some perspective on the sort of “involvement” we may be (or may not be) speaking of when we speak of God and causation. There is this on divine concurrence and there is Feser on divine causation and there is then a bit more on divine concurrence and then there is this on divine conservation.


I slogged through the Feser "divine causation" post.

In his blizzard of terms I suppose I would be a Christian weak Deist.

For many, perhaps most, it is not at all comforting that God causes evil for some purpose.

Can someone cause and do evil without being evil?

goat head 5

Ok, Brad B.

In your non hypothetical, what do you mean when you say that God is in control of what happened?

Goat Head 5

Hi Goat Head 5, my only point in posting that non hypothetical is that in 9 years, God could have intervened for Gabriels sake but didn't.

Many wills...different wills could have been wooed to rescue Gabriel, to act in some way for Gabriel...surely God could have intervened in such a way that even your sense of autonomy would not be offended....Is God that impotent that He cannot convince a free person to freely act to rescue an abused child?

Brad B.

"in other words, Calvinism makes claims upon God's Power, where Armenian (etc) makes claims upon His Will, His Decree. The compatibility of these is apparent."

Obviously, no. So, in your opinion, why didn't God intervene?

Goat Head 5

Blast. Let's try this again.

.Is God that impotent that He cannot convince a free person to freely act to rescue an abused child?

Obviously, no. So, in your opinion, why didn't God intervene?

Goat Head 5

What about in my hypothetical?

The father who condemned his son to be sadistically abused, tortured and killed?

I should add that the child was innocent and did not deserve the fate he got.

Why didn't God intervene then?

Goat Head 5,

While your answer to WisdomLover is hanging out there, I’d add one more question:

Before man existed, God controlled everything. In other words, anything that happened was caused by God. He had absolute control.

The question:

When God created man, did He relinquish a portion of that control to man? Now He is no longer in control of specific events, namely those caused by man?


We agree that God is not the moral agent Who causes evil or causes men to choose evil. "Occasional-ism" was touched on in some of those links and that view holds that God is the only cause in-play - period - which is mistaken. Feser's link was given for overall context on the other links as it focused more on physical causes rather than moral agency, to sort of round out the background.


I'd be happy to continue answering your questions. But this needs to be an equal arrangement.

When you answer mine I'll answer yours. I'm interested in understanding what you mean when you say God is in "absolute control".

If you are uncomfortable with my hypothetical, reframe it however you like.

Goat Head 5


The death of Jesus was a singularity. Happened once. Won't ever happen again.

How does it pertain?

Goat Head 5


Where we seem to disagree is that free choices can be controlled by two causal agents at the same time.

This would seem to be an impossibility. Either you control your choice or I do. We can't both have complete or absolute control. Someone always has the final say.

But perhaps I am misunderstanding you......

Goat Head 5


If God is not the moral agent causing evil or causing people to choose evil, yet evil is chosen and done, are you implying that there are other moral agents apart from God.

Do these other moral agents sometimes choose courses of action that God would rather they didn't choose?

This would seem to contradict "absolute control".

Help me understand what you mean.

Goat Head 5

"How does it pertain?"

Apparently sometimes a good God wills evil upon innocent victims. An innocent child beloved by his father, but given up by that same father to suffer more cruel pain than any human being ever has or ever will suffer.

Of course, that father is the bringer of calamity.

"This would seem to be an impossibility. Either you control your choice or I do."

I see no reason to accept this.

"We can't both have complete or absolute control."

Only an omnipotent being can have complete or absolute control of anything. Where did this new complete-and- absolute-control requirement come in?

Why won't ordinary control do?

Goat Head 5,

When you answer mine I'll answer yours. I'm interested in understanding what you mean when you say God is in "absolute control".

What I mean by absolute control is that what God wants to happen, happens.

Now you can answer my question.

Goat Head 5,

The death of Jesus was a singularity. Happened once. Won't ever happen again.
Setting aside the significance of the crucifixion, the death of anyone is a singularity and can only happen once and won’t ever happen again. Jim, Hank, Suzie, and Laura can only be killed once.

Why can’t God work through killing nowadays?


What I mean when I say absolute control is that God’s will wins. While I see compatibilism as a very straightforward belief (i.e. I can make something so in concert with God making something so), I also know that much of what I will never comes to pass. Why? Because I obviously lack the kind of control that God has.


We're pretty much in agreement. No matter what gravity causes, and it causes many things all on its own, God is utterly in control of gravity. He has absolute ownership of it. He sustains it. Necessarily. Void of God there is no such essence as gravity. If He Wills, He can on Power pull the rug out from under it. Of course, His Will is His Decree is His Power....... Adding volition to that "theme" cannot (literally cannot) change such lines. On necessity.

There's more in the links provided in my earlier comment which I'm still exploring.........


Thanks for the answer. And now mine:

Did God voluntarily give up some of His control, His "say so", when He created both Men and Angels?

Yes. Yes He did. For us to be able to freely choose our actions, we have to be able to choose contrary to God's preference. For this to happen God has to give up His control over our choices.

And, yes, this would mean that God is no longer in absolute control of events caused by the free will choices of men. This would seem eveident, considering the amount of evil that occurs daily, things that God specifically says He hates.

I would maintain that the ability to freely choose is part of the imago dei.

Goat Head 5


I don't consider it necessary that God actively "sustains" the physical laws of the Universe. While this may be implied by a bit of Greek thought that Paul quotes while arguing a point, I don't see much in the Bible that either makes a case for this or rules it out.

Did God create it all? Sure. Could He have set it up to run itself, governed by the physical laws He created? I don't see why not. It would explain quite a lot that is difficult to reconcile with the "constantly sustaining" point of view.

Goat Head 5


"Why can't God work through killing nowadays?"

I don't know. Why can't He? Killing isn't always wrong.

Goat Head 5


"apparently God sometimes wills evil on innocent victims."

Aside from the case of Jesus, why would you think this?

This is like saying, "well, apparently, sometimes God wants infants tortured just for fun". How does this make sense?

Goat Head 5

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