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Deistic Doubt
Does God Care?   

I recently saw a survey that indicates only 27% of Catholics believe that God controls what happens on Earth. Among Protestants, 41% believe God controls everything, and among "Born-Agains" 57% believe that God is in control of everything that happens to us.

Half Don't Believe God Intervenes

This is shocking, folks! But, not for the reasons you might think. Although it may mean I see the glass as half-empty, these statistics demonstrate that almost half of the most ardent believers in existence today - those who say they are "born again" - do not believe that God is active in the affairs of mankind.

Deism's Disinterested God

Welcome to the world of Deism. "What is Deism?" you ask. Deists are those who believe in a God. But, they don't believe that God interferes with or intervenes in daily life. Rather, God is the master watchmaker who wound up the clock of the universe and then left the premises. Webster puts it this way: "Deism" is the belief that God exists and created the world but takes no part in its functioning."

What a sad state of affairs! Men who have come to the point that they believe there is a God, but who don't think he cares - a God who did his creative work and left for higher ground, safe from the decaying, broken universe which kills its victims in a hostile environment.

Revisionist historians even relegate our country's Founding Fathers to Deist beliefs as well. This is not an article where we will debate this matter. But, I thought you should know that this is the case.



Recesses of the North

Many deists believe God exists somewhere out there in the farthest recesses of the North far away from His creation. Isaiah 14:13 says of Satan,

"I will ascend to heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars of God. And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north" (NASB).

Job 26:7 says, "He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing."

Parallel Universe

It is even possible that God exists in a separate place in a parallel universe.

2 Kings 6:16 commands, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

So, here we have God's throne possibly existing in the recesses of the northern part of the universe. We have the earth hung on empty space in the north as well. And we have invisible warriors fighting for God's servant Elisha on planet earth which is suspended upon nothing in the north. Interesting. What do we make of this? I'm not sure. But, these are Scriptural beliefs.

Deists&Scripture

At least those who bother to read these passages are deists who believe that Scripture may shed light on God's nature and existence. Others believe no such thing.

Verbal Inspiration?

Still, we are not here to argue whether or not the Bible is God's Word that reveals God's nature. Readers may find information about verbal inspiration in many places starting with Josh McDowell's book on apologetics (evidences), Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

Instead, our question deals with whether or not God intervenes in our lives on a daily basis. For that we start with Scripture as our source of information.



The Incarnation

Perhaps the greatest proof that God intervenes in our lives is found in the incarnation itself. When God became a man He gave us the greatest demonstration possible of his personal involvement in the affairs of the world.

C.S. Lewis' Creature among His Creatures

The esteemed English Literature Professor, C.S. Lewis, suggests that, "When God becomes a Man and lives as a creature among His own creatures in Palestine, then indeed His life is one of supreme self-sacrifice and leads to Calvary. A modern pantheistic philosopher has said, 'When the Absolute falls into the sea it becomes a fish.' In the same way, we Christians can point to the Incarnation and say that when God empties Himself of His glory and submits to those conditions under which alone egoism and altruism have a clear meaning, He is seen to be wholly altruistic." (Lewis 1996, 44).

McDowell's Ant Analogy

The famed apologist Josh McDowell surmised along similar lines that if you wanted to communicate impending danger to ants, one must become an ant to effectively communicate with them. Voila - God becomes a man to communicate to us our danger of extinction. He suffers the penalty for our sins and offers us eternal life (McDowell 1999, 286). Yeshua becomes the human "prophet" of whom Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 18:18 - a man to communicate impending dangers to us.

GOD sends his own Prophet

Finally, the Lord knew that humans were terrified to hear God's thunderous voice or to see his consuming fire any longer as had the Israelites in the wilderness. Deuteronomy 18:16-17 describes mankind's fright in seeing and hearing God in this manner. So God determined in the future to "raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him" (ESV).



GOD Controls Nature

Now, is God in control of nature? Does He have anything to do with earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other destructive forces? When we see videos of powerful, destructive waves racing through Indonesia during the 2004 tsunami, was God controlling that?

While this is not an article dealing with tragedy or the subject of good and evil, here are a few Scripture passages suggesting that God does control nature:

"I form the light and create darkness. I bring prosperity and create disaster. I, the Lord, do all these things" (Isaiah 45:7).

"Is it not from the mouth of the most High that both good and ill go forth?" (Lamentations 3:38, NASB).

"He loads the thick cloud with moisture. The clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen" (Job 37:11-13, ESV).

Prophetic Signs of Nature

Weather events fall into a prophetic category called "signs of nature." These can be the "birth pangs" about which Jesus spoke in Matthew 24:8. Christ warned that these birth pangs would intensify and grow more frequent as the time of his return drew near.

Laws of Nature

However, deists believe that our earth is only subject to the laws of nature, nothing more. In other words, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, and floods are impersonal acts of nature, not acts of God. However, from Scripture we know that this is only true in that creation itself groans and suffers from the curse brought upon man and our universe.

Romans 8:22 says, "For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now" (ESV).

Pets in Heaven?

Wildlife, pets, and vegetation are all subject to the death and decay of the Second Law of Thermodynamics - that all things decay and die. These are the "laws of nature" referenced by deists. Romans 8:21 says that "the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (ESV). If ever one wants a verse that suggests our pets may one day be made alive again, this may be it! "Yes to Fido and Boots!"



GOD's Sovereignty

Here are some other Scriptures pertaining to God's Sovereignty:

Atoms&Molecules

Colossians 1:17 says that "in Him all things hold together." Many of us believe that atoms are held together by God. If He should let go, the universe would disintegrate. This means that the God who holds together trillions of swirling galaxies is also the God who holds together the nuts and bolts of an airplane or the screws inside a bomb.

Timing of our Deaths

None of us will die until God decides our work is over and it's time to take us home. "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:16).

No such things as Untimely Death

Those of us who agonize over taking the right health supplements and obsessing over which exercise routines work best should memorize Psalm 139:16. Furthermore, think about this: For the Christian there is no such thing as an untimely death!

Unfair Deeds don't hinder God's Plans

In addition to the length of our lives, God is also in control of the co-worker who tries to sabotage our work or take our jobs from us. Unfair acts against us do not undermine God's plan for our lives. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" asks Paul in Romans 13:31.

GOD causes everything to work for Good

Furthermore, no matter what happens we may be sure that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (NASB). This does not suggest that God takes our messy lives and makes something out of our chaos. The New American Standard version says it correctly according to the Greek: God "causes" all things to work together for good. Be sure to memorize this passage in this way.

Inverse of Romans 8:28?

R.C. Sproul suggests that the inverse of this verse is true, too. God "causes" nothing to work together for good to those who hate God, to those who are NOT called according to His purpose. This is a true tragedy for those who live aimless, worthless lives. Even their best deeds and behaviors don't count in the long run. We need to continuously pray for the unsaved because of this. They deserve our pity, not our resentment.

Pray for Everything because He Controls All

Finally, because God controls everything He tells us to pray about everything, too. But, how do our prayers work if God already predetermines everything? I haven't a clue!

However, I can tell you this. We are creatures who live in only three and one-half dimensions (height, width, length, and one-half dimension of time since we cannot go backwards in time yet). We are limited to our five senses and just a few dimensions. But, God inhabits eternity and is not subject to linear time (Isaiah 57:15). He declares the end from the beginning, from ancient times things not yet done (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Pray even though God is Sovereign

So we are told clearly to pray that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We are told to pray for our daily food. We are told to "Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7, ESV). We are taught to trust God even if He destroys our flesh: "Even though He slay me yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15).

Do not be Anxious

He tells us, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).



Rocky Roads

Remember that just because God controls all does not mean things necessarily work out neatly for us.

- After King David was anointed he spent many years running from a crazed, jealous leader, King Saul.

- Things didn't go smoothly for Moses, either, after delivering God's message to the Egyptians.

- Joseph learned that things don't always go the way we think they should. He suffered rejection and murderous intent from his brothers, and spent years locked away in jail due to false accusations. Yet, he was clearly in God's will and later saved thousands of lives during a severe drought and famine.

One of the most famous quotes ever came from Joseph's dire circumstances:

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…" (Genesis 50:20).



Weather&Painful Events - Remedial Judgments?

We need to remember that God often uses extreme signs of nature as remedial judgments to call a nation to repentance. Examples are the plagues upon Egypt, the drought Elijah called upon the land under King Ahab (1 Kings 17-18), and the prophet Haggai's reprimand of those who lived comfortably in their paneled homes while the temple lay in ruins (Haggai 1).

Prophetic Voices

So how do we know if an event is a result of a cursed world or a remedial judgment? Two things give us a clue:

1. The timing of an event.

2. Its magnitude, along with anointed prophetic voices who "connect the dots" for us.

In our time, men like David Wilkerson of Times Square Church, Dr. David Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries, and William Koenig, an evangelical White House correspondent, may be some of those prophetic voices we should hear.



Office of Prophet different than Gift of Prophecy

Please note that these are not men who hold the office of Prophet such as Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets who acted as God's spokesmen. Rather, these are men who may have the New Testament Gift of Prophecy such as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14.

Grace Canels God's Discipline?

For those deists who insist that God does not deal with nations today because we live in an "age of grace," we suggest that they scrutinize the text of Jeremiah 18:5-11 and 2 Chronicles 7:14.

2 Chronicles 7:14

2 Chronicles 7:14 reads, "If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

The usual counter is, "But this applies only to Israel - not to the church," extreme dispensationalists and deists proclaim. Okay. So let's turn to Jeremiah 18:7-10:

Jeremiah 18:7-10

"At one moment I (God) might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it. If that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it. If it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it" (NASB).

This is a strong text giving us proof that God does intervene in the affairs of nations today!



All Scripture means All Scripture is our Example

Finally, 1 Corinthians 10:11 warns us that "all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (NKJV).

Chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians warns us against idolatry as befell the Israelites in the wilderness.

2 Timothy 3:16 teaches that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (ESV). We believe that "All Scripture" means all - including the Old as well as the New Testament.



How God Speaks to us Today

Last, remember the four primary ways in which God speaks to His church today so that you don't fall prey to impersonal, deistic thinking:

1. Through His Word - "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go" (Psalm 32:8). Read Scripture daily.

2. Through those in authority over us and from wise counsel - "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution" (1 Peter 2:13). "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed" (Proverbs 15:22).

3. Through our circumstances - "The mind of a man plans his way. But, the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

4.Through prayer and a sense of peace - "whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…" (Philippians 4:6).



Our Father Loves Us Dearly

Now, please listen to me carefully. Burn this on the frontal lobes of your brain. We don't serve a disinterested, deistic God. We don't worship a God who wound up the clock of the universe and left the premises. Our God loves us dearly and cares about everything that happens to us.

Why? How do I know this?

"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16, NKJV).

_______________________________




References:


Blackaby, Henry and Richard. 2002. Hearing God's voice. Nashville, TN: Broadman&Holman.

Bridges, Jerry. 1988. Trusting God. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Harper, Jennifer. 2006. Americans believe in God, with conditions. The Washington Times. 12 November. www.washingtontimes.com.

Lewis, C.S. 1996. The problem of pain. N.Y.: Touchstone.

McDowell, Josh. 1999. The new evidence that demands a verdict. Nashville: Nelson.

Reagan, David. 2006. America the beautiful? McKiney, TX: Lamb&Lion Ministries. www.lamblion.com.

Ross, Hugh. 1996. Beyond the cosmos. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Sproul, R.C. If God is good, why do I suffer? (CD). Orlando, FL: Ligonier Ministries. www.ligonier.org.

Wilkerson, David. 2003. The vision and beyond. Lindale, TX: World Challenge Publications.


Tsunami Photo Credit - NOAA Website




Authors Valorie Mays Emilio holds an M.A. in History from UCLA having specialized in early church history. Ken has his M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. They believe they are just a "vapor" that appears for a little while and must make the most of their days remaining (James 4:14&Eph 5:15).







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