For today’s post in my Praise and Prose series, I’d like to discuss how our use of language might change in order to reflect the truth that God is in control of everything that happens which Christians (and people of other faiths) describe as ‘sin’ and ‘evil’.
First, I will present a series of scriptures from the Bible that reflect the fact that God is in control of both ‘evil’ and ‘sin’ and I will then make a few relevant points in relation to our use of language.
But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?
I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.
Now the spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
(1 Samuel 16:14)
And if a prophet is deceived into giving a message, it is because I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet. I will lift my fist against such prophets and cut them off from the community of Israel.
The first passage I quoted was Exodus 7:3-4. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, but subsequently punishes the Egyptians for actions He has caused. The fact that God hardens people’s hearts is an indication that He is in control of those aspects of our lives which the Bible describes as transgressions. But if God has caused them, are they really transgressions?
We could try to come to an understanding of how it’s possible to believe in the Christian worldview and that God is in control of our transgressions. But how are we to make sense of sin, judgement, and salvation, if we do not freely transgress, and if all of our transgressions are brought about by God?
In my book God’s Grand Game I spend a chapter discussing what I call ‘modes of mind’. One of the modes of mind that God sometimes gives people manifests as a feeling that they are acting freely, even though in reality they are merely puppets in God’s hands. The reason why I use the word ‘game’ in my book’s title is because this word reflects the playful nature of God giving us the illusion of free will, when in reality we are not free.
According to what I have just stated, our sins could be a part of God’s grand game. This is the only way I can make sense of the scriptures that I have quoted in relation to Christianity. But I must note that most Christians insist that we sin freely, and their whole worldview rests on this idea. They do not believe God is in control of their sins at all.
The scriptures I have quoted indicate that God is sovereign over all events, which I believe is the absolute Truth. So perhaps we should stop saying prayers that indicate satan is in control of certain thoughts and behaviours, when really God is in control of all our thoughts and behaviours.
It’s possible that within the grand game, satan exists, and is playing out a role in which he can be seen to influence our lives. But we should not deny the reality that anything satan does is really under God’s control. A way of praying that would be true to reality would be one that denies satan’s free will and acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all events.
So, instead of saying a prayer such as, “Lord, bind satan!”, we might instead say, “Lord, use this difficult situation which you have caused in order to bring peace and joy”. Instead of praying for “the enemy” to be defeated, we should ask God to restore peace and healing where God has caused suffering and strife.
There is no such thing as a sin committed freely, because God is in sovereign control of all events. So, instead of praying for forgiveness, we might instead ask God to help us make sense of those experiences which He has caused in relation to which we may feel guilty. We might speak about our lives as though they are stories directed by God, rather than as though they are a constant battle against sins which we freely commit.
For a deep-dive into the divine sovereignty vs human free will problem, I recommend picking up a copy of God’s Grand Game, which is currently available for free. To find out more and get your copy, visit the Books page.