God’s Sovereignty, The Shack, and Three Edifying Reminders

old cabin in the woods

01/08/2022

Why are there Bad Actors if God’s in Control?

Randy Alcorn retweeted a quote from Jerry Bridges:

If there’s a single event… that can occur outside of God’s sovereign control then we cannot trust Him.

This sparked someone to ask this question:

So, what does this mean in light of tyrants like Hitler? Also, how does human will play into this? It seems that, in spite of the fact that God has given us human will, there are many in our world who use it woefully. Can our human will blockade God? I think it can, at least within the sphere of the perpetrator’s influence. My immediate thought is that God, and God alone, can comfort us and walk us through the shadows when someone else’s ‘human will’ is out of control. Perhaps the real problem is that all of us have ‘human will’ in the first place. Given that precious gift, it is up to us to use it wisely.

A Reply Job’s Friends Might Give

To this a former pastor whom I know gave this lengthy, confusing, rambling, and disjointed reply:

In my view, there are two expressions of God’s sovereignty: one that believes God causes all things – and another that believes God allows all things. In the later camp we find N.T. Wright, who uses a creative expression for God’s sovereignty: ‘God running the world.’ In 2008, BeliefNet ran a fascinating on-line debate between N.T. Wright and Bart Ehrman that touches on the concern/question. In essence, N.T. Wright acknowledges the reality of human will and free choice (that sometimes goes in tragic directions) — but nevertheless, upholds that God is running the world. An excerpt from that debate follows, along with a link to the original posting and ‘full’ debate.

The question is raised, ‘How can there be all these horrors if there’s a good and all-powerful God in charge of the world?’ My comment is that in the Gospels, Jesus claims, ‘This is what it looks like when God is running the world’. This is one way of saying ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’. I think what was going on during Jesus’ public career actually was the inauguration of ‘God being in charge of the world’ in a new way. It doesn’t look like what we would want, with God abolishing disease, war, hatred, natural disaster, etc., all at a stroke. Thus, the Gospels constituted, and still constitute, a challenge to all expectations, particularly in that they link the story of Jesus’ kingdom-inauguration with the story of His crucifixion-resurrection.

Somehow, they’re saying, this is what it looks like when the good, all-powerful, and all-loving God is in charge of the world. Near the heart of Jesus’ proclamation lies a striking redefinition of power itself, which looks as though it’s pointing in the direction of God ‘running of the world’ in what you might call a deliberately, almost studiedly, self-abnegating way. Running the world through an obedient, and ultimately suffering, human being, with that obedience, and especially that suffering, somehow instrumental in the whole process. What ‘we’d want God to do’ – to have God measure up to our standards of ‘how a proper, good and powerful God would be running the world’ – seems to be the very thing that Jesus was calling into question.

A Reply Job Might Give

Wow! My pastor friend used lots of letters for his word salad. Are you confused? Not to worry. To all of this mumbo jumbo, I jumped in with a short and concise contribution:

“God does not intend to bring about everything He values, but He never fails to bring about what He intends.” – John Frame

I love John Frame. He’s one of my favorite authors. In addition to this quote, here is a link that perhaps will help you think through and better understand the issues raised in this discussion.

 

John Calvin Would Endorse “The Shack”?

If you think the troubles facing the Southern Baptist Convention began just in the past couple of years, you need to think again. This article, titled “SBC Pastor Endorses Theology of The Shack, Compares It to Calvinism”, is from 2017.

Allow me to be perfectly clear for your edification. The theology of “The Shack” is NOT the theology of Calvinism. In fact, the theology of “The Shack” is NOT the theology of any truly biblical church, any truly biblical denomination, or any truly biblical “-ism”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one cannot read the book or enjoy the movie, but beware of taking too seriously the theological premises of the author. Christians, if you attend a church with leaders who endorse the core theological propositions of this book/movie, I will personally help you find a new local congregation to join. Simply reach out to me.

Unlike what the book/movie promotes, Christian teaching is that:

Love and Justice are NOT at odds.

Jesus is THE way to salvation.

There is one God/three persons, NOT one person/three roles.

God is NOT limited by humans.

God IS holy. Holy, holy, holy actually.

The character of God is unchanging, NOT malleable.

The list of errors in “The Shack” goes on, but this short list already makes the point.

Here’s a quote I’ve seen, and I like it: “A thing – like ‘The Shack’ – may look Christian, sound Christian, and smell Christian, but a Christianized facade, even one that powerfully evokes emotive responses, does not make something Christian.”

Incidentally, when I initially put up this post to warn Christians of the heretical views contained in this book/movie, within minutes I received four links to watch the movie on-line. (I immediately deleted these solicitations so that others wouldn’t need to be troubled with them on my social media pages). I’m guessing these were automated replies, although I don’t recall receiving automated replies like that before. How crazy! This sort of marketing ploy could help spell the end of social media for some people. (We can only hope).

 

Train Up Your Children in the Way They Should Go

Parents, you are charged by God with the honor of raising up your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Entrusting this duty to taxpayer funded pagan schools is a failure of monumental proportions. Abdicating your responsibility to “youth programs” at a church (or with a parachurch organization) does not cut it either. What is it that keeps you from homeschooling, doing family devotionals, praising and worshiping God together with your kids? Whatever the obstacles, fight to overcome them. Think about this: If you cannot be faithful in doing the work of making disciples of your own progeny, what makes you think you can do it with someone else’s?

I commend to you this article titled, “Don’t Farm Out Your Child’s Discipleship to the Youth Pastor“.

 

A Happy Example for the Rest of Us

A dear friend posted this on social media:

“I just want to thank God for my daughter this morning. She is one of the kindest, sincerest, loving, giving, God loving gals I know. She loves children and is an awesome momma. She is faithful and loyal. She is my best friend, and is always looking out for her momma. Love you so much!”

I believe you now have a personal challenge today to publicly encourage and build up someone you love in very similar fashion.

 

One Final Upbeat Thought

Bringing this blog to a close:

Ever wonder why it is so easy for us to get addicted to things? It is because God created us to love Him with everything we are. When we don’t or won’t, it’s natural for us to make substitutions with things like food, or alcohol, or drugs, or sex, or electronics or something else. ‘And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”’ – Matthew 22:37. Lord, help me be addicted to You. Please remove all the defects of my character. You are greater than me and I need You. Every hour I need You! – Phil Graves

Peace to you.

 

POSTSCRIPT

The blog above was first published on the original version of this website.  Since then the site has been completely reformatted and upgraded.  With this change, the blogs needed to be re-uploaded to correct corruptions that occurred with the transition in 2023.  While doing this, some additional information was added at the conclusion of many of the older blogs in a “postscript” section that might not have appeared in the first draft that was published on the first website.  Think of this new content as “bonus material”.

 

Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall; Men Couldn’t put Humpty Together Again

A very dear friend wrote something that led me to respond:

Thank you for posting this. I’ve shared my experience of being there on that day only, maybe, half-a-dozen times. I mostly don’t talk about it, or even think about it. Your beautiful words remind me why. I can’t read what you’ve posted without tears… even all these years later.

Here’s a small portion of what he’d shared:

So much on my mind; today is a milestone that will never be erased from my memory. On Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, I woke up to my phone ringing, pulled from enjoying a dream I was having. That dream became a nightmare, as the events of that morning unfolded mostly right before my eyes. I watched as the second plane flew into the tower. The sound was horrific. We saw the towers burn for awhile, and eventually disappear from our skyline. I visited the site in the days following. The smell was overwhelming.

I was afforded an opportunity to come to the 15th Anniversary. (Anniversary… odd term. It doesn’t seem to fit the occasion; an anniversary usually implies happiness – good things. There was nothing good about this particular occurrence). I stepped off the PATH into the new WTC, and was blinded by its pure marble whiteness, like someone tried way too hard to erase what had happened there. We went to the Museum. My kids didn’t understand why their dad was reduced to tears at the sights of shredded steel beams and a decimated fire truck, but they held my hand, and hugged me, and rubbed my back when I fell to my knees to pray.

It’s been years. It doesn’t feel like that long to me. I’ll see the images on TV again, and my breath will once more catch in my throat. And I will whisper, “Oh, my God,” as I have every time for decades. I will remember how many people died inside and outside of the buildings. I will remember how many of them I knew. In Loving Memory. 9/11/2001. I am a New Yorker. God Bless America.

 

Many blessings to you,

Pastor Troy Skinner