Sunday, February 18, 2007

Truth In Balance

We attended the new members' seminar at Clifton yesterday. As we walked through their statement of faith with Bruce Ware, one of the elders, I was reminded of an important truth: Scripture sometimes affirms facts that seem to be incompatible with one another. It tells us that both are true, but not how. While the Bible is content to leave two truths in tension, we humans tend to want to resolve the tension. This tension can be frustrating, like one of those praise-and-worship choruses that ends on a funny note. The Bible says "both-and" while we want to say "either-or." The doctrine of Divine Providence presents such a tension. Consider Article IV from Clifton's Statement of Faith:
"God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any wise to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures." (Isa. 46:9-11; Prov. 16:33; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; Jas. 1:13-15) [Italics mine]
Is this what Scripture teaches? Take a look at some of the Scripture passages cited above:
"Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'...I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it." (Isa. 46:9-11)

"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." (Prov. 16:33)

"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:13-15)

The first two passages affirm that God ordains all things that come to pass, yet the last passage tells us we should never say that God is to blame for our temptation and sin. So which one is it? The answer is the first one and the second one. If we choose the first truth at the expense of the second, we rob God of his holy separation from all sin. If we choose the second at the expense of the first, we rob God of his sovereignty. The Bible teaches both. Therefore, we must say that somehow both are true, and resist the desire to resolve the tension. We must hold the truth in balance: God is sovereign over all things and we are responsible for our sin (he is not). Therefore, when we investigate the Scriptures, Clifton's statement on God's providence seems to be accurate.

This principle of "truth in balance" prevents us from taking our reasoning beyond the bounds of Scripture. It keeps us from going too far. I recently heard a guy give an imbalanced presentation of God's providence. (Mom and Dad, you were there.) While affirming that God ordains all things good and bad and uses them for his glory, the teacher should have taken greater care to affirm that God is never "the author or approver of sin." We must believe that although we cannot reconcile these truths in our minds, they exist in perfect harmony in the mind of God. God is gloriously sovereign and gloriously separate from sin.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Josh, I am reading this after posting myself this am on what God is teaching me about His sovereignty. This was also a point of discussion in SS yesterday. I really appreciated your post.