In reading over a comment from someone on one of my previous posts, my husband and I got talking about whether God "causes" or "allows" bad things to happen. After talking around it for about 3 hours, we decided to go to bed - and I promised him I would use this blog as an outlet for my continued thoughts (because I probably could have kept talking the rest of the night!). Now, before you continue reading, let me warn you - what I'm suggesting will come across as offensive. But, as my dear friend, Jenn, always points out, God is constantly offending us - and I don't think that's a bad thing! With that said, though, please read my whole post before you decide I've jumped off the deep-end here! Ok, here goes - and please, tell me what you think on this!
Here's what I believe: God causes bad things to happen (versus allows). (NOTE: I'm discussing here whether you should use the word "cause" or the word "allow" - I'm not saying "cause" is necessarily the best word to use in this sentence. See, you need to keep reading!)
Here's what I'm assuming when I say that:
God is perfectly good, and there is no evil in Him (1 John 1:5).
God does not enjoy causing bad things to happen (Psalm 5:4).
God has good purposes in everything He does (Romans 8:28).
We are held responsible for the evil things we do because our purposes are not always good.
"Cause" means: to bring about. It implies a purpose.
"Allow" means: to permit something to happen or exist. It does not imply a purpose.
Why do I think it's important to say God causes bad things, verses God allows bad things? Saying God causes something to happen shows that He is in control. If was say He simply allows things to happen, I think it demonstrates a lack of control on His part. If I allow the door to remain open, I don't know what is going to happen as a result. If I cause the door to be left open, I do it to bring about a purpose I have already decided upon. There's a whole lot more I could say right now but, in the interest of keeping this first post readable, I'm going to stop there!
Having said that, let me tell you something I just discovered, as I tried to figure out how best to word this - a lot of people who are A LOT smarter than me have been discussing this very topic for centuries! Specifically, how do we deal with God's role in the occurence of evil. John Frame, in his book The Doctrine of God, says this about how we've dealt with this challenge in the past: "Some initial possibilities: authors, brings about, causes, controls, creates, decrees, foreordains, incites, includes within his plan, makes happen, ordains, permits, plans, predestines, predetermines, produces, stands behind, wills. Many of these are extra-scriptural terms; none of them are perfectly easy to define in this context. So theologians need to give some careful thought about which of these terms, if any, should be affirmed, and in what sense." Point well-taken - this is not an easy question to answer. While I'd like to fill in the blank in the following sentence - "God ______ bad things to happen"- the "blank" is apparently not very easy for us, as humans, to fill. If theologians through the centuries have not been able to decide on a specific term, I don't think I'm going to figure it out in one blog post! For me, the key is something else Frame says: "Somehow, we must confess both that God has a role in bringing evil about, and that in doing so he is holy and blameless. . . . God does bring sins about, but always for his own good purposes. So in bringing sin to pass he does not himself commit sin. "
What's my point in all this - God has a plan. Nothing happens by accident. And I am very glad to serve a God who is the ultimate authority on all things, good or bad.