Sovereignty of God

Disasters, Calamities and Evil in the World: Is God Asleep at the Switch?

Japan Burial

I preached a sermon recently about why God allows disaster, and that sermon is the basis for this article. I present this to my Sharper Iron brothers and sisters knowing that many of you are far more learned than I, particularly in the realms of philosophy and apologetics. I do not claim to be in the same league as C.S. Lewis or other great thinkers. So I encourage you to enjoy this article for what it is, a relatively simple (but practical) explanation of disaster, tragedy, and evil in the world based upon key Scriptures.

As a pastor, one of my most challenging responsibilities is to comfort the grieving. People can suffer in horrific ways. But one need not be a pastor to observe or experience these sad realities: life has a way of educating us all.

The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan killed thousands and left multitudes in utter despair. Many of us are praying for the survivors and contributing toward relief to this once great nation now in shambles.

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Of God and Basketball Victories

On the evening of March 30, 2002, in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, the Indiana Hoosiers upset the Oklahoma Sooners in a “Final Four” contest of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Following the game, Indiana coach, Mike Davis, credited God for giving Indiana University the victory. “I have a lot of people praying for me,” he told the press, “God has placed His favor on me.”

Let me be the last to object to any praise going to God in the media. A man steps up to the microphone and declares that God factors into his view of the world, including the world of basketball—I’m with that! I lauded Mike Davis’ courage to proclaim his faith to the world on that occasion and I laud him still.

But I must admit, as a man of faith, that I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with the array of athletes and coaches announcing through a microphone their euphoric gratitude to God moments after an athletic victory over their opponents. My discomfort has nothing to do with bringing God into the sports world—he’s there anyway, kudos to those who acknowledge reality. My discomfort stems more from the message that seems to be subtly communicated by such public expressions of divine adulation.

I fear the message is conveyed that God plays favorites, dolling out victories like a cosmic vending machine to those willing to acknowledge Him publicly as the dispenser of their triumphs. I’m also troubled by the fear that thoughtful viewers may well ask why God refuses to hear prayers offered in behalf of losing teams? And why did, in this instance, coach Davis and his Hoosiers lose the championship game two nights later? Did their prayers fail between Saturday and Monday evenings? Did God’s favor, which rested on Davis’ head on Saturday, dissipate by Monday night? Did Coach Davis, his team, or some obnoxious Hoosier fan somewhere do something wrong on the Sunday sandwiched between those two game days?

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God Is Sovereign!

Of all of the theological issues that have arisen in the last couple of decades, the matter of what God is like has to be one of the most crucial. As A. W. Tozer has written, “[T]he most portentous fact about any man is…what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 7).

Of course, all orthodox Christians agree that God is a Trinity, three persons in one essence. But just how powerful is this God? Does He control all things, even the details of life? Does He even know all things past, present, and future? Some evangelicals seem to be unsure.

Other evangelical theologians are passionately arguing the negative: God is neither in full control of the world, nor does He even know the details of the future. According to these Open Theists,

God knows a great deal about what will happen….he knows everything that could happen and what he can do in response to each eventuality. And he knows the ultimate outcome to which he is guiding the course of history. All that God does not know is the content of future free decisions, and this is because decisions are not there to know until they occur. (Richard Rice, The Grace of God and the Will of Man, ed. Clark Pinnock, 134)

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