Posted by: Moses | October 22, 2009

Striving for Truth and Unity

The claims of God’s sovereignty in scripture are indisputable. However, many people struggle to reconcile the doctrine of God’s sovereignty with their conception of God as a loving being. For God to choose some and not others seems unfair and unloving to many. What is more, it seems even more unjust if God condemns people for opposing Him, but they never had an option to do otherwise if He ordained their actions. We like to think of God choosing to love Jacob through no merit of his own, but we do not like to think of His choosing to despise Esau on the same grounds (9:6-13). God chose to love Jacob and despise Esau even before they were born, and God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to oppose God (9:6-18). Sovereignty is a difficult doctrine, and much of humanity shrinks from it. As theologians we should realize this and be very intentional and gentle in our presentation of God’s truth to foster the growth of the whole body (Ephesians 4:15-16).

However, as followers of Christ we do not have the option to shrink from what the Bible teaches, and in Romans 9 Paul deals with this question of the ages: “Why does [God] still find fault? For who can resist his will” (9:19)? Paul answers his question by echoing Job and undercutting humanity’s right to ask such a presumptuous question of its Crafter: “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this’” (9:20)? Humanity has no more right to object to its design than a chamber pot has a right to protest to its potter of its ill use (9:21).

In one sense, Paul does not answer his question entirely. He does not explicitly solve the problem of evil and its origin or explain explicitly how a loving, good God can both create and send to Hell. However, Paul does redirect our focus away from such paradoxes back to our response. He drives home the fact that the universe revolves around displaying God’s glories: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (9:22-23)? Paul refocuses our attention on the glory of God and His display of patience, power, and mercy within His design. Both wrath and mercy display God’s glory. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “He is good,” but “He is not a tame lion.” A believer may find aspects of God’s sovereignty unsettling and confusing, but a humble student of Scripture will trust that God’s infinite wisdom and goodness is better than our finite imaginations. Perhaps we the finite will never fully comprehend the infinite, yet we can still respond appropriately as Paul did, worshipping and marveling even as we try to know the deep things of our God.


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