Monday, May 14, 2007

Proxies and Responsibility (Part 1)

There is a very simple thing that tends to mess up the thoughts of many Christians. Generally (because I don't want to get too deep into the aside) it is because of a stray argument prominent in Greek philosophy that has been grafted into Christian theology.

The argument generally goes like this... God is in control of everything, right? Everything, yes. And God is the one doing the things that we do that are His 'will', right? Yes...every good and perfect gift comes from Him. God knows everything, right? Yes, God knows everything past, present and future...because he has decided how things will work out according to His good and perfect will. So, why is it that bad things happen? Because God is a just God, and He is merely bringing the consequences to our sin. Wait, I thought you said that God was in control of everything? Yes, He is. But then doesn't that mean that He controls our nature? No, we are in rebellion against God and in a state of sin. So, he doesn't control everything then? No, He does. But then why doesn't He control the fact that we sin? Oh...well, that is our responsibility. We are responsible for our sin, and thus deserve death, but God didn't cause that though He is in control of everything and planned everything according to His will? No, He caused that so that He could redeem those He chooses from damnation. So...the fall and redemption of humans is in the plans and will of God? Yes. But though the fall is in God's will...He isn't responsible for our sin? Right. And though the fall of man into sin is part of God's will, He will only 'save' some people whom He pre-picked? Yes, that's right.

So...there are a few huge problems with this breakdown. And I'm sure that my classical theology, John Piper loving, friends and brothers will object to the way that I phrased it...probably because though this is essentially their breakdown...they perceive this phrasing of it as sounding hostile. But, so be it.

The issue with this is that in that picture of the world and humanity's workings...we are proxies of God's will and plans for His creation. But unlike a proxy...we are also responsible for a very specific portion of our by-proxy-actions: sin. And that is a huge problem because it begs the question of God actually being in control of everything or not. If God is completely in control...then He is also completely responsible for everything that He plans or allows in His perfect will to take place. But this is where classical theology will talk out of the other side of its proverbial mouth.

They will claim that God can be in control of everything, and that He holds all of creation in His hands (and plans), and that nothing escapes the will of God, and say that anything that we do that actually is good or Kingdom furthering is actually God doing it....but then when we do wrong, that is our fault....and when bad things happen, that is just God's divine justice. Frankly, you just can't have it both ways. God is either in complete control of everything (as the classical theists claim), chooses to command some things but not all things, or God controls nothing.

This contention comes into play because the Hebrew and Christian scriptures do clearly show God commanding some things, and also clearly show some things that are in opposition to God. Should we play on the assumption that because the Bible shows God in control of some things that we thus conclude that He controls ALL things? Or should we stop at the face value of what the scriptures say and just understand that God is indeed in control of some things, but other things in His creation happen outside of God's direct command?