Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes?

Last night at the dinner table, John and I were breifly discussing a coverstaion in which a friend .... (let's call him Drew) ... said that "God is in control of everything." (The context was actually in reference to John MacArthur's theodicity which was posted about over here.) Drew had gone to the Ligonier's conference and was saying how great it was. (The pastor who wrote the above link also went to the conference and wrote about some of the things John MacArthur said there.) John was asking Drew earlier yesterday what he thought of John MacArthur's statements. Drew affirmed the idea that "God controls everything." This is what we were discussing at the dinner table.

My little girl was listening to the couple of sentences we said - wherein we gave no opinion and did not pontificate about the statement "God controls everything," - but were just reporting that someone else said it. She then said with conviction:

"God doesn't control everything ... or else we would always do what we're supposed to."

In other words, she was saying that if God was all-controlling, then she would always lean over her plate, never hit her brother, never lie or steal ... and always finish her dinner.

What would you say to her if she were your daughter (or if she were a child under YOUR tutelage)?


  • I would inform her that what "Drew" actually said is what "Drew" has said since reading Jerry Bridges' TRUSTING GOD several years ago -- to wit: Nothing happens without God's permission or direction (it's called sovereignty).

    By Anonymous "Drew", at 3/23/2007 2:00 PM  

  • I would agree with what "Drew" just wrote but if I really were a Determinist I would simply tell her that which I was determined to say at that moment. (grin)

    By Blogger Kc, at 3/23/2007 2:17 PM  

  • Drew,
    You didn't answer the question. How would you answer her trouble over her not doing everything that she is supposed to do? ... that God permits her to sin, even though He doesn't want her to ... or is he in control of her and her sin?

    Do you then see a "permissive will" as well as a "perfect will"?

    Would you present the perfect/permissive will idea if asked "Why can I sin when God says it is His desire that I don't?"

    Permissive will= Nothing happens without God's permission
    Perfect will= God doesn't want me to sin (even though He is not going to strike me dead if I do)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/23/2007 2:19 PM  

  • KC, You're funny. teeheehee ;~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/23/2007 2:20 PM  

  • Yes.

    To "cut to the chase", though, I leave it to John 6:37 and John 6:44. That said, "proof-texting" is not God-honoring, so I hasten to recommend R.C. Sproul's WILLING TO BELIEVE, wherein Dr. Sproul catalogues the "positions" wrt the instant issue (the unstated, actual issue) of more than a dozen of the most godly and intellectually brilliant theologians dating back to Luther. As is Dr. Sproul's customary practice, he delineates via WILLING TO BELIEVE the full spectrum of "positions", allowing the Truth to be self-evident.

    To the best of my knowledge, all of us, regardless of how comparatively adept we may be, are ill-equipped to honor our Lord in discussing these issues. Please don't permit any (baseless) aversion to Dr. Sproul to dissuade you; he's merely the messenger!

    By Anonymous "Drew", at 3/23/2007 3:22 PM  

  • I would say:

    "That is a really excellent point. I am glad you are able to see that. But it is a bit more complicated, because although I cannot always stop you from doing things you should not do, God could. Thus, you are only able to do those dreadful things because God allows you to."

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 3/23/2007 3:53 PM  

  • God has His will and that will will be accomplished. That's what makes Him sovereign.

    God has willed that we have free will...to follow Him or not.

    Does He have a "permissive" will?

    If He does, it is His will to do so, therefore it falls within the scope of His perfect will.

    Does He micro-manage every little detail of everything in the universe?


    In accordance with His will, certain things happen because of the laws (physics, chemistry, math, etc.) that He has set forth.

    I get to choose whether to jump off of a cliff. I do not get to choose whether (sans parachutus) I hit the ground.

    Other things happen because of the fallen nature of the world and have nothing to do with His will.

    He is not willing that any should perish...but some do.

    Does He then lose His sovereignty and control?

    I thnk not.

    He has willed not to interfere with certain of our choices in order that our love for Him would be a response, not a requirement.

    So what do you tell a little girl who wants to know?

    Well, there's always, "Run along, Dear. Children should be seen and not heard."

    But that's probably not the right way to handle it.

    Phew! I'm sure glad I don't have to deal with those matters any more.

    Or do I?

    By Blogger Joe, at 3/23/2007 7:42 PM  

  • Rose asked, "What would you say to her if she were your daughter?"

    I would show her that her premise (God doesn't control everything) is not proven by her objection (or else we would always do what we're supposed to).

    I wouldn't chide her of course for her naivity, she is only a child, and even full grown adults have difficulty separating their impression of what "in control" looks like from what in control actually is.

    I would explain that before God ever made the world and before Adam ever sinned, God planned the salvation of mankind, which meant that (at the very least) God knew full well that Adam would sin, but created him anyway. I would show from the example of Abimelech, that God has in the past kept men from sinning - and therefore could have done so with Adam and thus "avoided" the fall - but that God did not, since he had already ordained the salvation of man before man ever fell.

    I would perhaps pause there to let this truth sink in - that we are typically small minded and myopic and by default we naturally interpret things according to our carnal, earthly and infinitely limited perspective, and in doing so we forget that God is not a man, and not bound by the laws that govern His creation - that God is "holy" meaning, not merely pure and good, but also infinitely alien in His separation from creation. That there are two orders of life - the Creator, and His creation, and that we were made only in His image, and not in His "substance" - that we resemble God but are not "like" God.

    This would be our momentary meditation in order to drive home the point that anytime we presume that God has to follow the rules that govern us our speculation is skewed at best - for if we are going to second guess God, we must do so from His perspective and not from our own.

    I would then return to the incarnation of Christ as the primary example of the difference between what a man might think of as the "perfect will of God" (which would be much like that naive muse, "or else we would always do what were supposed to do") and the fact that God it was God's perfect will that Christ would suffer for sin to save a fallen people before Adam had ever sinned and even before God bothered to create the universe and Adam in it.

    I would use this undeniable truth - that God ordained these things beforehand to demonstrate that God's will is not centered on man's perfection, but on God's glory. I would show that the child's error was in thinking that God was primarily concerned with everything running smoothly, when in fact scripture makes no such claim but rather teaches that above all else God is glorious, and all of creation was made, not to run smoothly, but to proclaim His glory - and that sin was part of that plan from the very beginning, however it came to pass.

    Then I would explain to the child (jokingly of course) that God didn't fit into her box, and she would need to either find a new God or a bigger box.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 3/24/2007 7:02 AM  

  • Drew,
    (BTW, don't assume that you are "drew" - John has many contacts throughout the course of a single day.)

    Your answer is much too complicated for an eight year old girl. Your answer gets into election for some reason (hobby horse?) and my daughter's question had nothing to do with that. She was just asking about God controlling her actions.

    Have a good one. BTW, I don't know much about RC Sproul, so I don't have an aversion.

    I did read a very interesting quote from him last week, though.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/24/2007 11:03 AM  

  • Matthew,
    I like your answer. It is more down on the level of an eight year old - almost 9!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/24/2007 11:04 AM  

  • Joe,
    What a refreshing comment!
    This is what I think also:
    He has willed not to interfere with certain of our choices in order that our love for Him would be a response, not a requirement.
    Why else would he have put the tree in the garden? I think he was looking for loving trust and obedience from the people there.

    Thanks for your answer!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/24/2007 11:06 AM  

  • Hello Daniel!
    This girl is eight, almost nine. Does that change your idea of how you would answer her? Although I am close to being able to follow what you have laid out here, I am not sure that she could!

    Here is what was said to her:
    "Like any sovereign - which means 'king' or 'ruler' - God has delegated responsibility. He has given you responsibility over your life and actions. However, He is the outcome controller. In other words, dear, nothing is beyond His control, and it is all going to get to the result that He wants, even though the path to that big result ... and how you fit into it ... may vary ... based on your decisions and actions.

    That is pretty much the gist of what we said to her. I think it is a good balance between presenting the sovereignty of God and the idea of responsibility to my child. IMHO

    Thanks for yor comments! I am sure your children are being taught to be very deep thinkers indeed.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/24/2007 11:16 AM  

  • Rose, my answer would not have satisfied my six year old, she loves to drill down far too early in the conversation, and I would get bogged down long before I ever made a point. My nine year old however would have understood the main points, and what was blurry I would have underscored - kids are kids after all, and we should anticipate that things which confuse adults are going to sometimes confuse children too.

    Although my six year old said something quite profound today as we finished our study on Romans 7 - she said, "Dad? Does that mean that when Adam sinned Adam could no longer obey God from his heart, but when Jesus came he made it so that we could obey God again?" - We hadn't been talking about Adam, but rather we had been talking about how Romans seven, and what it means to be in bondage to sin, and then to be set free from sin.

    I am often amazed at how a child's faith can articulate something profound with a clarity that learned adults grapple with and never achieve - which is to say, children often understand far more than they are able to articulate, and are able to articulate for more than we imagine they understand.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 3/24/2007 10:41 PM  

  • Whew...selahV

    By Anonymous selahV, at 3/24/2007 10:43 PM  

  • Howdy!

    I would tell her that even though we're always supposed to do the right thing, and are responsible for our actions, that God still uses the wrong things to bring about what is best for His children and His glory.

    Then I would explain that God is good, and that if God wills or allows evil to happen then He always has a good purpose.

    And then I would quote Luther, "The devil is God's devil."

    By Blogger Jeremy Weaver, at 3/25/2007 12:55 AM  

  • Daniel,
    children often understand far more than they are able to articulate, and are able to articulate for more than we imagine they understand.


    Jeremy Weaver,
    "The devil is God's devil."
    That is a very interesting thing to tell a child. I have to keep thinking about that one. Thanks for visiting.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/27/2007 1:47 PM  

  • "the devil is God's devil"


    Sounds crazy - like something John Piper would say!

    By Blogger Jon Lee, at 3/28/2007 1:38 PM  

  • Rose: Go to the local pet store, Wal-mart or garage sale and pick yourself up a cheap aquarium. fill it with dirt. good soil, composted. Add some earthworms and a group of ants. Dig down into the dirt and place a turtle aquarium complete with sunning rocks. Allow the ants to tunnel and create their homes. Give the worms time to wiggle about and create their tunnels. Allow your daughter to feed her precious turtle. Then tell her she is the God of her little ant/turtle/worm world. Let her see that although those little guys can act and do on their own, there is an outside--powerful provider (her)--who is ultimately in control of their destinies. And should she decide to take them down to the local dump and destroy their world, she could. But instead she is compassionate and allows them to work in their worlds as they see fit. That's how God is in control of our world. All the time. Just a thought. I'm sure the analytical and highly educated can tear this little illustration to shreds. But this is how I'd explain it to my grandchild who is nine. selahV

    By Anonymous selahV, at 3/28/2007 3:13 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 3/28/2007 6:01 PM  

  • Hello Rose.

    The thing about 'God's devil' sounds familiar.

    Is this a quotation of some popular Christian writer? Is it C.S. Lewis?

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 3/28/2007 6:02 PM  

  • John Lee,
    Jeremy said it was a quote of Luther. It is a strange quote, I agree. Yes, it does remind me of Piper.

    I like your idea! Thanks for it.

    Hello DF,
    JW said it was Luther. Luther didn't write a lot of best-selling paperbacks, did he? ;~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/29/2007 11:58 AM  

  • Your last comment sounded familiar.

    What would Jonathan Moorehead say about that sort of thing?

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 3/29/2007 1:34 PM  

  • Rose: you're welcome. I have a hard time trying to put in words such a deep concept to a child. Shucks, they can hardly figure out multiplication tables at age nine. I try to think like Jesus would if He were answering these theological concepts for a child. I think He'd take them to a vineyard or garden or something. Ya know? His imagery with words was second to none, superior to all. House on the sand. I am the Door. I am the Shepherd. White-washed tombs. Cast the first stone. Board and speck. Amazing. selahV

    By Anonymous selahV, at 3/31/2007 10:59 AM  

  • I would say, You are right.
    God, in his sovereignty has chosen to give you a brain, and he expects you to make wise decisions. It's like asking, "can God make a rock too heavy for him to lift?" If we were puppets, it would counteract his very nature.

    By Blogger ROD WILLETT, at 4/14/2007 9:49 AM  

  • Rod,
    Thank you for the comment! My husband often has told me of the "rock too heavy for God to lift" thought.
    I appreciate what you had to say here.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/18/2007 9:14 AM  

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