Monday, October 17, 2016

God's will

The Bible is not an easy book to understand. There are some hard sayings there. There was the time when Pharaoh would not let Moses and God's people leave Egypt. God sent plague after plague through Moses to try to change Pharoah's mind. The Bible says Pharoah's heart was hard so he would not let the people go and then it says God hardened Pharoah's heart. In the New Testament Jesus often spoke in parables which were hard for people to understand. Then, Jesus quoted Isaiah in the Old Testament to explain why they were so hard to get. It was because God did not want them understood  by everyone.

In Ezekiel, the prophet is pronouncing the judgement of God against Israel and Judah. In chapter 14, it seems like God deliberately deceives the people so they won't repent and turn away God's wrath.

It's an altogether too common theme in the Bible. The struggle between our will and God's will is not a fair fight. Our will if "free" comes with a warning. There is a limit to all human freedom. God did not set us free to do whatever we want with that freedom. That may not be fair and we don't like anyone impinging on our freedom.

Theologians have called what we read in the Bible predestination. It's been defined in many ways by various theologians but basically it means God calls the shots that matter. The great Reformed theologian John Calvin called it double predestination. God elects some people to be saved and others to be damned. He went further than the Bible does but he was not alone in his thinking. Many other theologians disagreed with Calvinism. One group of theologians absolutely disagreed with Calvin and said God will not violate our free will. If we choose not to believe in God it is our choice, at least. God respects that choice. Other theologians following Karl Barth said predestination was God's decision in Jesus Christ. So, all people are elected to salvation through Jesus. There was no double predestination.

Predestination is a thick woods to get lost in. In the difference between God's will and ours is a huge gap in understanding. It is a mystery but we can say something about it. Given all we know about human choices I hope humans do not get the final say about things that matter. Given all we know about God, I am more than ok with God's will be done. God has given humans enough freedom to show how much of a mess we can make of things. In Christ, God became totally engaged with our history - fallen and finite as it is. God is with us in our history of messes and mistakes. God's goal in our history is not done yet. That makes me hopeful for our world. God is not done with the good work he began in me either. That makes me hopeful for me. May God's will be done.

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