Hardly a week goes by without some faithful person saying to me “God is in control.” It sounds so comforting. And it’s what I want to believe. It means my responsibility is small. The big and small challenges in this world are all in the palm of His hand. He is so powerful He can stop all this chaos in a moment.
But, when I look around at human society, I see conflict and suffering in every corner. The evidence clearly seems to indicate that our loving God does not control human events!
Is God really in control of what happens in the world?
If God is ‘in control,’ why do things go wrong; why do bad things happen?
Do concepts such as predestination and “the hand of God” still have some degree of currency in today’s modern society?
If the claim that “God’s in control” does not sync with perceived reality, what is a better explanation of this apparent contradiction.
Or, is it just one of those unexplainable ‘mysteries’?
Please share your thoughts below.
A related question or topic is, even in the absense of the human fall, did God intend his children (humankind) to experience and endure suffering? Is human suffering a NATURAL part of the human path towards spiritual maturity? Could it be that the reason that God chooses NOT to control human outcomes, and that He/She allows “bad things to happen”, is not only to give his children the freedom love, but also because experiencing and overcoming suffering is a prerequisite for spiritual maturity?
“Control” implies responsibility. Although because of His divine love God may feel that He is ultimately responsible for the depraved actions of those who commit atrocities, in fact, He is not. For true love to be something real, there must be a free creative response. Without this agency human beings would be little more than complex robots. However this raises the question of the limits of a God who is thought to be almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, etc. He is unlimited. How then can there be such a thing as genuine freedom? And if human beings are not free agents, how can there be responsibility? How can there be real love? How can there be the abuse of freedom that results in crime? Clearly freedom and responsibility must be real for people. And yet, if we allow such a statement, it means that the Almighty can’t realize His desired role in… Read more »
I appreciate your perspective, Tim. However, I have to say that all this emphasis on human responsibility has always left me feeling pretty hopeless. I can certainly sympathize with all those who say, “God must have a reason” and “its in His hands” and related statements, because such a belief can give you strength and hope. Trusting in humans–including me–to wake up to their full responsibility and end all this misery… well, good luck with that!
If we approach life with an “all-or-nothing” outlook, then there will be no one who can have hope. I inherited some good things from my parents. I added to those and made something better. I see my children doing the same.
So far the discussion has focused on the the lack of interference by God into the erron ways of humanity. I agree with the emphasis of human accountability to foster individual responsibility as a check on the abuse of our free will from a loving Heavenly Parent. However, what about the extreme forces of nature that destroy life and limb? Disease, famine, birth defects, etc. are not necessarily the result of human initiatives but still have disastrous effects that a Parental God should address. Many atheist see an uncaring God or no God to justify divine inaction. As believes, does this examplify God’s impotence?
You raise an important point. Unfortunately, religious scholars have told nonbelievers that God is somehow responsible for everything and involved in everything. “God’s in control.” Well, we have dealt to some extent with the human side, but as you say, what about other things that we blame on God? I would divide your examples into two parts: Nature and damage. In terms of nature, the seas NEED hurricanes and typhoons to churn up the waters and put oxygen into them for the life in them. The earth needs volcanoes and earthquakes. They are a necessary part of the design, although perhaps a better design could have been come up with in the beginning. And in terms of damage, things such as disease, famine and birth defects are probably not part of God’s design or doing but rather the result of spiritual and genetic damage associated with our sinful lives. Famines… Read more »
Great points. Man has become so angelic. We tend to think of a God as being “almighty” and “omniscient” and even “omnipresent” in material, linear terms. In reality, as you point out, he is “almighty” in his incredible ability to let go of his vast and deep heart and risk it to something greater. We are in awe at his creative abilities but his heart is more amazing than that. In terms of “omniscience”, the Bible is full of instances where God was frustrated and disappointed with man. The Bible could literally be re-titled: The Book of God’s Unending Frustrations with Man. Either the Good Book is insincere or God really didn’t know that man would Fall (Gen 3; 6:6) and disappoint him so many other times. Jesus often expressed the same disappointment in the lack of faith and response of those around him. “Disappointment” necessarily implies that they didn’t… Read more »
This is a very deep subject. I have thought a lot about this. I have become much more in tune with the suffering of other people and I can’t really handle dealing with all the suffering in this world. Not only that, but history has unbelievable tragedies, pain, torture, despair, disease, etc. Sometimes I want to ask God why all this has happened and is happening. I cannot understand why it appears that sometimes God intervenes in events and people’s lives and other times He appears to not be involved. I can only return to the one truth that guides my faith. That truth is that God is the loving parent of all mankind. Based on that, I have to believe that He has the best interests of all of His children at heart. Why he cannot do more or chooses not to, I do not fully understand. But with… Read more »
I think God is as much in control of each of us as we are in control of our own children. He simply refuses to usurp our free will. It’s a painful, lonely road for God. Hard for us to comprehend. Thanks.
Thanks for your consice comment that has resonance with my personal experience with God. Indeed God’s relationship with humanity is as simple as the parent child relationship. Isn’t every parent’s challenged with the connudrum of how much freedom to give a child vs the child’s freedom to explore and learn from their mistakes. The story of humanity’s beginning in the Garden of Eden was a lesson for God and mankind. Mankind learned that freedom can be a curse when individual responsibility is immature. The sufferings of the world can be blamed on our ungodliness not on God. At the same time God learned (or was reminded) that human freedom is presious for love to flow between child and parent but the trials along the way are painful. Blessed couples can take solace in our common bond with God as a parents.