Are We Selling God Short? (Part 2)

This blog was written by Tim, my husband.

This article, https://www.christianpost.com/voices/fri-2nd-embargo-for-noon-we-are-pro-life-evangelicals-for-biden.html?fbclid=IwAR1tf4aIvz53xyfDypNs7SAi9QaEL-ri4jvg1ws7bFRIw-9UPN2RTFp0WXA, and this statement, https://www.prolifeevangelicalsforbiden.com/, were recently written by a group of pro-life “evangelicals” who are, nonetheless, urging people to vote for Joe Biden. Like them, I am (along with Denise) personally against abortion. We want every child to be born into a loving family, and if that family cannot handle the important duties of raising children, then we want the child to be adopted into an equally loving family. Nevertheless, this article and statement mostly made me think deeper about certain theological issues that are raised by the whole issue. So, read the article and statement, and I’ll only add two things.   

First, as a lawyer, I echo the statement that even if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe, there isn’t all that much that will change. It means the decision will be left to the states, and most states simply aren’t ready to get rid of abortion. Having worked in the federal courts, I simply don’t see the clear connection between putting someone conservative on the Supreme Court and “ending abortion.” It’s far more complicated.

Second, and for all my friends who are followers of Jesus, I encourage you to think deeply about the theology you’re embracing when you think that it’s crucial for you to vote for a particular President in order to advance God’s Kingdom and purpose, and particularly to vote in order to see one biblical thing accomplished at the expense of all others.  

As we mentioned in this blog before, if you’re a Christian, you undoubtedly believe in Divine Providence (or what one might call His wise and purposeful sovereignty), which is simply the belief that God is in control of all things to accomplish His plan. That’s an important part of Christian theology, most arguments against it are strained, and I simply disagree with any even unstrained arguments that tend to diminish God’s knowledge and authority over all things. In sum, Divine Providence is an important pillar of our faith.

Indeed, think about what it looks like if you don’t believe that. It means that you think God is constantly surprised, and possibly even confused by what’s happening in the world. There are actually people who believe this (they’re sometimes called “open theists”), but I think you’ll recognize that such a notion seems at least superficially unbiblical and is definitely unsatisfying. In fact, we followers of Jesus often say these things out loud – God is in control; God knows everything; God is all powerful; God is morally perfect. God is, as Saint Anselm described, the perfect being or the “greatest conceivable being,” and perfect being theology is on par with scripture for giving us insight into God’s nature. If God weren’t perfect, we’d simply have little reason to worship Him. And, as I’ve frequently said after years of study, I’ve come to reject all arguments that tend to dimmish any of God’s perfect characteristics. In sum, a God who is surprised or shocked at human events isn’t much of a God.

But if you do, in fact, believe in Divine Providence, then you have to recognize that God is in charge now just as He has been in charge all throughout human history until now. Indeed, He has allowed abortion – just as He has allowed wars, famine, murder, and pandemics – for what we can only fathom to be His incomparably good reasons. That’s not to say that God is bad or evil, or even that he is remotely pleased by anything considered evil. It’s simply the likely inevitable outcome of creating free willed creatures and actualizing a world that produces what He wants in the way of an eternal Kingdom for those creatures. The discussion of why certain bad things happen in the world when we have an all-powerful and perfectly good God is called by theologians the “problem of evil,” and if you’ve never looked into it, I encourage you to do so, as it’s a primary reason that people choose atheism. In sum, whether articulated as a logical or a probability issue, the problem of evil should never stand in the way of your belief in God. Similarly, following notions of God’s Divine Providence, you can find equally cogent arguments by Christian scholars as to why God might have allowed abortion to happen and not need anyone’s help with eliminating it.  

The point is that if you believe in Divine Providence (as nearly all Christians do), then you quickly move off track when you think that without your help – for example, without your vote for a particular person for political office – God cannot get done what He wants to get done. The fact is, God doesn’t need your help, and the future is as unsurprising to God as the past.

Interestingly, and for whatever reasons, it appears that it is only in America that we tend to discount God in such a manner. Indeed, as we mentioned in our last blog, prominent Old Testament scholar Knute Heim (who has ministries on something like four continents) once told me that thinking that God needs our help to achieve His kingdom and purpose is a uniquely American notion. Something about our independence I suppose.

Personally, I’m a Molinist, which means that I believe that by using His middle knowledge, God gave up neither divine providence nor libertarian creaturely freedom, and created a universe (or actualized a world out of all possible worlds) in which a certain amount of suffering was inevitable. That means that I still have the ability to choose to do what’s right, but it also means that I know without doubt that whatever happens in the world has been allowed by God for an incomparable good that I might never fully understand. His plan is to grow His kingdom, and I have to leave it to God to best determine how to do it.

Nevertheless, even if you are one of those Christian folks I mentioned (the “open theist,” above) who thinks that personal free-will actions can somehow change God’s overall plan, then you’re still in the same boat as people like me, who affirm libertarian free will but also absolute Divine Providence at the same time. The question that must be answered is what, as free-willed individuals, we’re to do on a daily basis to adhere to our Biblical worldview. To an open theist, I think the answer would be easy. On any given day, the open theist would try to make decisions that follow clear biblical principles. When the question becomes casting a vote between one person versus another, then it seems most rational to vote for the person who, overall, generally advances biblical principles more than his or her opponent, since nobody can fully live up to Jesus’ example. This position would be based on a number of things, including the notion that as a perfectly Holy being, God treats all sins the same. To the open theist, the statement I linked, above, would seem to articulate fully why he or she should vote where the balance is tipped in favor of one candidate better following the Bible than the other.

By the way, I note that the first comment to the linked story (when I first read it) says that “the blood of tens of millions of murdered babies cries out to God for justice.” But even open theists believe that God is perfectly just and thus are likely to believe, as I do, that justice has already been provided in His plan for these babies. Again, to think that casting a vote a certain way is the only way to “bring justice” to the issue is to, once again, diminish another attribute of God that is central to the Christian religion.

If you’re not an open theist, however, and, like me, you’ve already grappled with how to reconcile Divine Providence and libertarian free will, then you’re still in the same position. Divine Providence should not keep you from doing the right thing on any given day (as on the Molinist view, the plan can be still be affected by, for example, specific actions or petitionary prayers), but having libertarian freedom should in no way make you think that you’re God’s only way to achieve his purpose. It’s a bit complicated, but the result is really the same in the sense that you have an obligation to act in a biblical way on discreet issues every day. Accordingly, as a Molinist, and when choosing between two people for office, I similarly would likely vote for the one who tends to foster overall biblical principles the most. I understand that, for whatever reason, God chose a world in which sin (including abortion, but also lying, hypocrisy, and hating) exists, but I still feel an obligation to do my individual part to follow the Bible in my own actions, whether or not it has any bearing on God’s overall plan. I would much rather God tell me, “Good job following your heart and the biblical principles even though the result is not what you wanted,” than ask me, “Whey didn’t you follow biblical principles? Did you think that I didn’t have everything under control?” 

The upcoming election provides special circumstances, however. In any normal election, one might see a mix of pros and cons, biblically speaking, for any particular candidate. But in this election, I see one candidate trying to reach Christians by speaking to only one issue (abortion), while disregarding, if not willingly flouting, every other biblical principal I can list. Indeed, in previous blogs, I’ve written that the Republican candidate actually espouses a life credo that is identical to that found in Laveyan Satanism (a sort-of opposite Golden Rule). Such is his disdain for God’s creatures. Personally, I would never base my vote for a person on a single issue when doing so literally means discarding scores of other, equally important biblical principles like poverty, racism, hypocrisy, dishonesty, conserving the planet, and hatred. Indeed, to do so would be akin to striking a Faustian bargain with the devil, which, as you know from reading the legend of Faust, inevitably ends with the corruption of one’s soul.

In the end, and as we mentioned previously, we simply shouldn’t sell God short. Everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen is under His control. Whether we like it or not – and certainly whether we understand it all – it’s all a part of His plan to create a Kingdom into which you – by being created with God’s purpose in mind – are invited.

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