Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kyle Roberts: God is in Charge, but Not in Control

Kyle Roberts, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, is no longer a Calvinist. Why? Because of natural disasters like the one that hit Japan earlier this month. Form his article "Tsunamis: Or, Why I'm No Longer a Calvinist":
Many Calvinists find comfort in the conviction that God has absolute control over every aspect of life. Some argue that if God isn't scrupulously directing the tough times, including national tragedies and global catastrophes, why should we expect him to direct the good times? This is a fair point. If God wasn't "in control" of the tsunami, why should we suppose him to be in control over the precariousness of a child's birth or an arduous, frustrating job search? It's all or nothing. Right?

Is it really? Does providence only count if God is a micro-manager? Can God be a macro-manager and still be sovereign over the present and the future? Can God be in charge of the whole but not in control of every single detail? I think so. And I think this is the general thrust of the scriptural witness.
Ah, yes. The "God is in charge, but not in control" argument. Roberts offers further clarification of his position in the comments section:
God "could" intervene in such things, but from another angle God "can't," because he values freedom to such an extent that he will not constantly interrupt it...that is, he values both human freedom and creational, natural freedom to such an extent.
Um...a little scriptural support here? What about God's freedom? Are we to believe that the freedom of the Creator is less important than that of his creation? I'm not sure where this notion comes from that God isn't constantly interrupting human freedom; the pages of scripture are filled with examples to the contrary. Just ask Saul of Tarsus.

Roberts comments further:
[T]here were tsunamis and earthquakes for millions of years before morally culpable homo sapiens arrived on the scene. So no, it doesn't make much sense to say humans are morally culpable for the natural suffering that arises from them (except when humans elevate and intensify that suffering through social evils, such as vast economic disparity and inadequate housing conditions).
Ah! Here we go. "Millions of years." "Economic disparity." At least now we know where Roberts is coming from. But regarding his statement about humans not being morally culpable when it comes to natural disasters: What about the Flood?

Now, if he is suggesting that we cannot know exactly why God sends tsunamis to a particular location, I would agree. But I do know that death came into this world as a result of sin (Romans 5:12), and that all of creation was "subjected to futility" because of Adam's sin (Romans 8:20). I think natural disasters certainly fall into that category.

There is one question Roberts avoided entirely: When the tsunami hit the Japanese coast, was God in control of who lived and who died? Scripture teaches that "it is appointed for man to die once" (Hebrews 9:27), and that our "days are determined" (Job 14:5). That's a HUGE question that must be addressed if one is going to make the claim that God is merely in charge of his creation and not actively controlling it.

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Jeph said...
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