In an article entitled Finding God at Work by Henry Cloud, Ph.D, on PurposeDrivenLife.com he states, “What stands out to me is the amazing delegation in it all. God really did give us the task of ‘subduing and ruling’ the earth (Gen. 1:28) and just like in the Parable of the Talents, he gives us the resources to do it and then gets out of the way to a large degree.” (Emphasis mine)
Ah, on the contrary, He gives us the resources and is intimately involved in all of it. That last italicized statement is a deistic statement, and deism is opposed to the scriptures that clearly show God is the sovereign King who rules over all things, that all of creation is held together by the power of His word. In an excerpt out of a book entitled The Reformation and its Aftermath (PDF) by Pastor Stanford E. Murrell, on page 127, he states,
“Deism argued that, like a well organized time clock, the universe is a mechanism that functions on its own. God had ‘wound it up’ and left it to run by itself. Therefore, logically, miracles are to be denied and theological concepts, like the atoning work of Christ and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, are to be rejected. The Bible is not unique and the supernatural is silly superstition. All that is needed is for the lumen naturae, the light of nature, to function. The light of nature is reason. Man must rely solely upon his own reason!” (Emphasis mine)
Though Cloud more than likely doesn’t believe the logical outcome of Deism, people reading his article may not have any understanding of who God really is from the scriptures (our final infallible authority), and in reading a statement such as the one he made, the logical image portrayed within these people’s minds of who God is and how He works is that He is less than powerful, less than able to save, and that by their own sheer will and strength and power, they must attain to God themselves. It’s called human monergism, that man must morally improve himself and “rise to the occasion” in order to obtain salvation, or rather, to save himself. There is no in between. This is the anti-thesis to Christianity. True, Biblical, Historic Christianity says we are unable to do anything ourselves and that Christ came to do what we could never do and then offered Himself as a ransom for the souls of those who believe in Him. Oh the rush and infiltration of liberal theology into the church! What a tragedy.
Theism and liberalism simply do not work together. They cannot. They are like oil and vinegar, repelling each other. You will either eventually have one or you will have the other. Many within the church have attempted to intertwine the two world-views into one, but what eventually winds up happening is that it will slide toward one or the other (most of the time, it slides toward liberal theology). They will either become more liberal (which in this case the god of this world has blinded their minds), or they become more theistic and scriptural (which in that case, the Holy Spirit has opened their hearts to see the truths plainly taught in scripture). I like to call these concepts theoretical theism/practical atheism. In other words, although confessing to believe in God, their lives play out something that is more closely akin to the practical side of atheism, living as if there were no God at all. Full out liberalism stems from a world-view where there is no God, an atheistic world-view, where man rules himself and this simply cannot work with the theistic world-view underpinnings of Christianity (one of the big problems I have with the emerging church adopting post-modern thought into the church).
Cloud, an obviously learned man with a Ph.D, though he isn’t a full out liberal teacher, and probably doesn’t exhibit much of the practical atheism I’m speaking of above, seems to have adopted some of these deistic, liberal notions (based on his statement), and he seems to ignore all of the other scriptures that make reference to God’s sovereign rule over all things, including evil itself. This is what the entire book of Job is about! That’s one of the main points of the story in the end! In addition to God’s sovereign rule over evil, if God is sovereign in the large things, how much must he be involved in the smaller things that make up those larger things? Are not large things made up of smaller things? Therefore, He is in control of every atom, every molecule, every particle, of absolutely every thing, including all of the large things that happen in the universe. Nothing in all of creation happens apart from His good pleasure and will. This is our hope in Christ. Kingdoms rise and fall, they are given authority and it is taken away according to His good pleasure and counsel that He takes with no one but Himself. And from this we take great comfort, because every act of men in all of history is designed for His glory and the good of those who love Him. For the wicked, their ultimate end is eternal destruction under the fury and wrath of an almighty and holy God. For the righteous, those called by God through faith in Christ to inherit salvation, it is for their ultimate good.
If we believe He is all-powerful, all-knowing, then it must follow (as it does from Scripture) that he is indeed intimately involved in all that occurs within the world, even evil acts, that all things may bring about the most glory for Himself. He is sovereign over every breath we take. He is indeed intimately involved in everything we do personally. God cannot be blamed for evil though. This is where the wit and reason of man fail. If God is not sovereign over all things, even evil itself, then we should have reason to fear, and I certainly would. You think there is chaos now? How much moreso if God lifted His hand of restraint on the wicked acts of men? If God did not have the ultimate sovereign rule over 9/11, I would indeed fear, as I should. Nothing happens apart from His will, even the most heinous of things. And yet He is indeed without sin, without unrighteousness. I have not the slightest idea how it all works, but I know what Scripture says. God is love, God is righteous, He is just, He is kind, He is patient, He is wrathful against sinners, and He is sovereign over all of His creation. And this is why I take comfort in His sovereignty, because all things work for the good of those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose, and ultimately, the most important reason, all things work for His glory, displaying the panorama of all His attributes.
But the ultimate picture of God’s sovereignty is seen in the most wicked act to ever occur in all of history, the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ. I’ll just take one instance though leading up to this, specifically when Jesus rebukes Peter for cutting off the guards ear in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:53. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” Here we see God’s total and complete sovereign rule over the delivering up of Christ to the cross. Yahweh, the great King pictured in Ezekial 1 and Isaiah 6, where at His throne are seen smoke and thick darkness, set aside His heavenly dwelling and sovereignly allowed sinful men to kill Him. And yet He was still in total control of the whole situation. But the ultimate reason Christ was killed, the ultimate cause was because of the sovereign, definite plan of the Father. The Father Himself had His own Son delivered up to the cross. Acts 2:23 states, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
This event, God’s “Big Day” of displaying His glory and justice, was totally in His control and sovereign plan. At any moment Jesus would have had at His disposal many thousands of angels to do wreckshop on all of the evil-doers delivering Him up to death, and yet in His sovereignty, He allowed them to do to Him what was purposed from eternity past, that the Lamb would be slained to purchase men for God from every tribe, tongue, language and nation. How much more sovereign can He be? And if He is sovereign over the worst act ever, howm much moreso is He sovereign over all other acts? God did not just sit back and see what would happen at Calvary, but the Father Himself was intimately involved in the delivering up of His own Son to the cross, pouring out His wrath on His own Son, intimately involved in every single action of every single person, even the wicked, even in Peter’s lying, to bring about His great glory on the cross, in His resurrection from the dead, and then to bring about the redemption of those who would believe in Him as a result of this magnificent work. He is the all-knowing, all-powerful sovereign God who from eternity past laid out every single act in history, every gust of wind, every storm, every earthquake, every evil act, and yet He is without sin in all these things. How can this be? We are to submit and bow our heads in awe. God is sovereign over all things, and yet man is responsible at the same time. How the two fit together, I do not know, but that’s what Scripture says. God has His design and good purpose in all of these things, that He may be glorified and that we as believers may partake of His majesty.
This picture that Henry Cloud has given us of God stepping back and letting man run the show is not only wrong, deistic and harmful to the cause of the kingdom, it is unscriptural, and scripture is where we must bow our heads in humble submission. Theologically, he has given us a picture of a God that is less than powerful, who doesn’t care for the daily needs of His people, but just sits back and lets them fend for themselves. Though he would not agree with that assessment (and I’m sure he doesn’t believe that, at least I sure hope he doesn’t), that is the end result of this type of theology and thinking. It results in a belief that God is just a helper or coach, instead of the sovereign almighty King that reigns in heaven. Scripture speaks differently though from what Cloud proposes. When we say God is sovereign over “all things” here is just an inkling of what is included in that statement, from Scripture:
“…The fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28).” (Excerpted from Piper’s article entitled Why I Do Not Say, “God Did Not Cause the Calamity, but He Can Use It for Good”)
We delight in God as the ultimate cause for all things that occur and yet at the same time He cannot be blamed for evil. He is sinless, absolutely perfect. And so His plan for all of history, laid out from eternity past, is without error. What a mystery it is indeed (I’m not trying to solve the mystery, simply pointing out the depths of the mystery from scripture), and yet we bow our heads in submission to His sovereign rule and to what the Scriptures say concerning these things. Concerning fortune and trials that come upon us, both the good and the bad, as Job said in Job 1:21, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” We delight in God alone, we delight in the knowledge of who He is from how He has revealed Himself in Scripture, not from how man wants to view Him. We shape our will and picture of Him to who He is, not vice versa. Men are sinful and blind, naturally perceiving that God just let’s man run the show of history. But from Scripture, just as Job did, we take comfort in God’s design in the trials, in the fact that God has the sovereign rule over Satan, all his activity, over sickness, over death, hell, salvation, damnation, all things. This strips of us of all pride and wanting to take credit for any aspect of our salvation as well as our lives. There is nothing outside of His will and all things will work out for His glory. He is trustworthy and good and if evil should befall us, we are to know that God has His good design in the trial, though it seems, humanly speaking, that all hope is lost and that He is not in control. Know that He designs the blessings as well as the trials to bring about the most glory for Himself and to refine the souls of those who trust in Christ for salvation, sanctifying them by His blood. This truth is what sustains me day in and day out, that God has perfectly designed each and every day, that whatever comes my way has been designed by Him to glorify Himself and draw me to Himself. What a hope!