Recently I saw Rick Warren on Fox News (the video clip is available here) and was extremely disappointed in his spurious remarks concerning the “will” of God. While I am indeed biased on the subject, having determined that Pastor Warren is not necessarily the most theologically sound pastor, I should hope that he would at least uphold the omnipotence and omniscience of God over every thought and deed of every human being whether it is for evil or good. It is not acceptable to say that things happen that are outside of God’s will in order to mollify the masses who have themselves at the center of their own universe. God is not at the mercy of human “free will”. Regardless of your theology of free will and predestination the Bible is unwavering in its preponderance of this truth, God’s purpose will be accomplished! (Psalm 33:10-11, Prov 19:21, Isaiah 14:27, Isaiah 46:10, etc…)

While the purpose of this post is not to vituperate Warren’s theology as a whole, I feel it necessary to expose these remarks for the sake of God’s glory and praise. God is not glorified in a creation that has itself as the pinnacle but rather those who recognize their utter depravity and repent of their acarpous thoughts and attitudes, and even this is a result of God’s working in us and is not dependent upon human volition but God’s Holy Spirit. It is a dangerous line to walk, that is proclaiming that God is at the mercy of human free will, and I for one refuse to capitulate the idea that because evil happens God is somehow powerless, looking down at humanity with complete impotence.

I will be fair and say that I do agree with Warren when he says that there are two reponses one can have in the face of evil, either get mad at God or grow closer to God, for this is knocking at the door of the truth of God’s purposing evil in the first place. If I were to have called into the show that day I would have asked Pastor Warren to explain the word’s of Job.

Job is such an interesting case because if anyone had right to be angry with God, seemingly, it was Job. In the very beginning of the book we are told that Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil”. This verse is even more poignant when we experience the pain which Job suffers in reading the rest of the book. In order to address those topics however, I would like to look at the final verses of Job which, I believe, capture the realities of human suffering and the power of God amidst them.

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted, Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know, I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Often times we hear people say that God can use all the evil for his purposes. While this is true, it is only half true, and gives us a great insight into the workings of God. Notice the very first sentence of Job’s personal indictment “I know you can do all things, no purpose of yours is thwarted”. This is an amazing statement for a few reasons. First, Job proclaims the omnipotence of God, “you can do all things”. This means that he knows God could both keep him from incurring the suffering or stopping it at any moment. Not only did God allow it to happen in the first place, Job suffered through it without ceasing until everything was taken away. Job didn’t just get a taste of it, he experienced the loss of all things we hold dear. This statement of his is even more telling when coupled with what follows, “no purpose of yours can be thwarted”. What an amazing testimony to reality of God’s workings. In this one sentence, we see Job declaring that God can do all things, both keep and stop from suffering but then he goes on to say that not only could he have done those things, he purposed it to happen. God can use all evil to our advantage is true, but only half true. The reality is that God purposes all evil to our advantage. “Should we accept good from God and not adversity?” Talk about throwing a wrench into the apologist attitude of Warren and the open theists!

Job continues to explain, “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things to wonderful for me, which I did not know”. It is here that we get a glimpse into the realities of human suffering and its intended consequence. Job did in fact proclaim the truth about God throughout his ordeal. The problem with Job was that he was simply coping with the problem and not looking ahead to the prize which awaited him. “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). After being covered with boils he says, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). While these are true statements, as I said they are mere coping agents, not saturated with the truth of God’s promises. This is evident in Job’s cursing the day of his birth (Job 3), or declare his hopelessness (Job 7). The reality is that he “uttered things he did not know”. Job’s response has now revealed this, God can do all things, God purposes evil and we don’t know what it is all necessarily for. Our inclination though is to doubt and curse. We can proclaim the truth “blessed be the name of the Lord” but if our life is not built on the promises of God, when the hot sun comes, it will scorch the vine that gives us shade as we curse our existance.

The final declaration of Job is quite possibly the most profound for it is here that we see the fruition of all the suffering. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job was upright, followed God, shunned away from evil but to that point he had merely ‘heard of God’. The goal of every Godly person should in some way or another be tied to this idea exclaimed in the Psalms “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). We have all been told by someone we know “oh you have to taste this (fill in the blank), it is so good”. The reality is that merely saying the words, and us hearing them, doesn’t really help us to experience the delectable, savory treat they are describing to us. It is necessary to taste it ourselves, without which we remain in ignorance. It is at this moment that Job has his epiphany, so to speak. All of the suffering has culminated into this proclamation “I had heard of you but now my eye sees you”! “Taste and see that the Lord is good”! The Lord is the feast of life, without which we will be spiritually malnourished. We can know truths about God and declare them without sin but we must be firmly established on the promise that God is enough, he is all we need for when the sun comes up we may be like the plant who spring up in the shallow soil, only to be burned and tossed away.

Oh that we might live in the reality that life is NOT of ultimate value, at least not THIS life. Every trial, every evil is purposed by God to proclaim His glory and our wretchedness. We should fall prostrate at the glorious truth that God has kept us from experiencing his wrath soley on the basis of His grace and nothing more. To be sure I am not saying that God DOES evil himself but it is no doubt willed BY Him for a purpose. He doesn’t merely work with it, he goes in with a plan and accomplishes it. This side of heaven it may not make sense, but I refuse to adopt a theology that strips God of his power in order to harmonize the mystery of God with our tendency to elevate our self-worth.