Sovereignty, suffering, and a little comment on the Brexit

Been a while since I have posted, and no real reason and no excuses. Certainly cannot blame God – ‘he stopped me blogging’ will not quite stack up!! A little trivial example but we can so quickly suggest God’s deep involvement in our activities. So with that as a terrible backdrop I am putting a few things together in this post that all suggest an involvement from heaven that might be beyond what is justifiable.

A few days ago I read a tweet along the lines of ‘Power and patriarchy means that to have a God in control we have to insist on a God who controls everything’. I have not quoted it exactly as it is from memory, but that was the content more or less. I would change the wording a little as ‘control’, even in the sense of ‘in control’ is too strong. However, it remains that too often we resort to a God of power and a sovereignty backed up by (all-mighty) power as being the means by which God will achieve ultimate order.

I think on a number of fronts there is a divide between two gospels, or at least two divergent approaches to the one gospel, that makes for a small and uncomfortable overlap where working together can be achieved, and by uncomfortable I mean on both ‘sides’. One of these fronts is on the sovereignty / love approaches. Language is one of the primary means by which meaning is expressed and the words ‘God is sovereign’ almost always carry with them the concept of a God in control by nature of his might and power. The love stream rejects such a view of sovereignty, and can even question whether God is ‘in control’ certainly in the sense of everything reflecting his sovereign will. (I will come back to this below.)

I did eventually learn how to spell the surname of the man with the first name ‘John’ who had a connection to Geneva, but even having mastered that I never did quite get to the point of submitting to the contents of his Institutes – hey at least I bought my own copy!! So not being a great fan of that theological approach, it will be no surprise that the people over at the Gospel Coalition have not really won me over either. It is amazing that given how sincere and godly they are that my approach and their’s are poles apart. Here is a short clip on suffering. I respect their faith, indeed what might be seen as their unquestioning belief which is founded on their approach to Scripture. To be able to say that the death of a one year old brings glory to God even if we cannot understand that shows a level of faith that is incredible. I simply question if this is reflective of biblical faith.

That God works in the midst of suffering is a given – the cross tells us this. That Scripture over and over connects suffering, time and glory is another given. Maybe when I have no answer I, even in my despair over Syria or the continual bombings in Iraq since ‘we’ went to bring about a new order, think that maybe in the age to come God will put things right for those who have been caught up in that suffering, whether they have faith in him or not. I like to think there has to be some answer from the cross for those people.

Rom. 8:28 is quoted in the video:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

This verse is applied by Paul to believers – not just from the phrase ‘those who love God’ but from the wider context of the Spirit within us groaning (parallel to the Spirit’s groan within creation). We can have a confidence that whatever comes our way as we respond to God, he will enter into our situation as a redeemer, there is in that sense a level of eternal purpose and value. We are those who God values as being instruments for a good outcome for the whole of creation. This does not mean that God sends those ‘all things’, nor that those ‘all things’ are either good nor are they the ‘will of God’. Translation wise we can either translate it with ‘God works all things’, in the sense of he is involved within our space regardless of what comes up, or that, as above, the ‘all things work together…’ We can go either way as the verb has no direct subject, either way it seems that Paul’s point is not about a sovereign God who ordains all things but a God deeply involved with us even in our weaknesses. So I con’t go to the place where the video goes. No that path from divine sovereignty is not the one for me.

Suffering in Scripture is predominantly about suffering for the Gospel’s sake, and that is not through being confrontational in our presentation but accepting that to live godly we have to stand with the oppressed against the power of the status quo. Death does not bring glory to God, how one handles the issues surrounding death are where glory is brought to God or not. Death is a statement not of the will of God but of the state of creation, but when we look to the cross we see that death is not the final word – there is hope beyond.

So a final little angle. The ‘brexit’ vote. Right or wrong? Not being one who sees any substance to a ‘revived Roman empire’ and consider that is missing the whole issue of imperial rule that far from being defeated by withdrawal only empowers it. To resist sovereignty with sovereignty!!?? And as one who sees ‘one world government’ and the like as the very thing Jesus came to undo then so as we can work for a new future now, all the fear of losing a Christian heritage does not connect with me at all. (I also think we confuse a so-called Christian heritage for an imposition of Christendom values.)

For those who are coming at this with a sovereign hat on… if that hat is placed on God’s head then we have to be careful not to resist his will – as if we could!! What if the EU us all about the rise of antiChrist? To resist his rise might be to resist the will of God. To aid his rise does not seem right either. Paralysis, normally spelt fear, anxiety and let me repeat what others have said so as I am not alone in my paralysis. And for those who insist on ‘take back our sovereignty’, how far do we take it back – Scotland, maybe Orkney needs to go free from the loss of sovereignty too? Or are we to look to find a new place to serve in a wider context – all for the sake of the other?

Well the vote will take place in a few days time. Before and after the vote God will work within whatever is given to him for the sake of his world. If we suffer as a result let it be for the sake of the Gospel, and let us not lay the suffering ticket at God’s door.


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