Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Does God Ordain Evil?

"I think it's very wise for us ... to realize [that] God doesn't allow stuff, God orders stuff."

"[He] ordains hard things to happen in our lives."

"But no, it's not that He allows it. He ordains it."
- Podcasted sermon from my former church, January 14

Does God ordain evil?

I was listening to the podcast of Sunday's sermon at my old church and my former pastor said that God ordains evil. That God does not simply allow it, but that he ordains it - in order to shape our character.

God gives me cancer in order to shape me into His likeness? God kills my child in order to shape me into His likeness? God throws millions into concentration camps in order to shape them to His likeness? God slaughters parents in front of their children and children in front of their parents in order to shape them into His likeness?

Doesn't this position ascribe evil to God? Perhaps my pastor misspoke himself, which clearly can happen from the pulpit. But can I not choose to love God or turn from Him? If I cannot choose God (certainly our choosing God follows His grace toward us), or not choose God for that matter, then freedom is an illusion, the reality of which the grace of the cross fails to return to us.

Certainly our character is shaped by the evil we suffer, but that shows God's redemptive power within a broken creation, rather than that God has chosen to act with evil toward me in order to shape me.

This idea, for me, brings up the question of whether we cooperate with God in our salvation. And doesn't our cooperation with God simply make sense in the light of our daily lives (and, again, we cannot cooperate without first receiving His grace - it is all dependent upon His grace first)?

You can serve God. You can be rewarded for your service to God. You will be dressed in white robes that are your righteous deeds. Did you do those things purely by your own strength or innovation or force of will? Of course not. God gave you grace. But you have a choice in how you respond to His grace. His grace allows that choice.

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