Knowing the Will of God
I have to return to one more thing that came up in Jeremy’s comments. It was this : “The same distinction that appears in other discussions related to God’s will has to arise here also. There’s God’s sovereign will, which we only know for sure when it actually happens, and there’s God’s revealed moral will, which we can tell just by knowing right and wrong. ”
Maybe this was just a bit sloppy and unclear because it was in the comments, I’m not sure, but I have a few things to observe about the last part of that sentence, “….which we can tell just by knowing right and wrong.”
The truth is that man is very faulty in knowing right and wrong. All that subjectivity, you know. Perhaps what was meant was that we can just tell from the revelation of the Bible. That wasn’t clear.
I am not sure we can’t know God’s Sovereign Will to a certain extent. It seems to have a partial revelation in the scriptures, especially in prophecy. We seem to have a picture of the final outcome and certainly one of how He wants us to be, in Jesus. So I don’t know that it is accurate to say that God’s Sovereign Will is a complete mystery to be unfolded when it has played out.
I think we can know quite alot right now. If only we will. I do think we are constantly surprised as we go through this walk with God; there are so many times it is not quite as we picture, but that is “seeing through a glass darkly” I would think. Our humanity distorts a bit, and limits our vision…. but does not obscure completely. We just have a lot of adjusting to do.
Coming back ’round to the American Revolution retrospect:
“I think a very good case can be made that the American Revolution was an unjust war. The kinds of oppression these people were claiming was not worthy of a rebellion.” (-Jeremy)
The case wouldn’t be made on this premise. Some kinds of oppression are acceptable and some are not? I don’t think this is what is meant. Perhaps degree is meant? Still, the line doesn’t par up with the original premise. If all government is God-instituted and should not be rebelled against ( and I saw no exemptions to the rule given), then where do the extenuating circumstances come in? When is it ever right to oppose oppression? If there is not a clear indicator of when God approves the opposition, is not man acting on his own recognizance and God’s view is hidden from man? This is what does not seem Biblical to me: the idea that man cannot seek and find the Will of God whether to support or defy a government. That we have a sort of scratch and see card to find whether we were doing God’s Will or not, after the fact.
I know that is not what Jeremy said, but I think that is what it leads to. It is not a matter of faith, either, because in order to have faith you have to know what you are believing in. It is substance anchored into the unseen to human eyes, but not unseen spiritually.
Law is a very tangible thing in the idea that it is clearly delinated. Law is concrete. And that is what government is, the body of law…even if it is only the will of the despot. So we take its measure by the measure that God has given, the law of Moses, and we see whether it is just or unjust as a whole. ( That includes the imperfections that man must allow for).
If I am wrong, advise me, but I believe a large reason for the American Revolution was the uneven application of the Colonists rights as Englishman to have fair representation in their government. Maybe I am mistaken on that. But within the English government was the hard won rule that Englishmen had certain rights,( in many of the contemporaneous documents I read it was a main source of protest).
There’s that word again. No political discussion seems to get around it. Rights.
…”if anyone had a right to claim oppression, it was the slave population imported from Africa”. (-Jeremy)
Oops. Jumping ahead of ourselves here. The trouble with some of the line on oppression and justice vs. injustice is sometimes mans collective understanding of it. It takes time for ideas to filter through society and actually get applied. This right to claim oppression did come in its time. It took time for the idea that God created man with certain unalienable rights to become applied to those men ( and then women) who were undeniably human…. as hard as some tried to dispute the fact for purposes of their own.
But that evolution does not apply to God’s Word, and it has been my own contention that it is the inexorable power of God’s Truth that breaks through the stubbornness of man to mold government to his own selfish design. I think man will excuse slavery every time if you simply leave it to his “rationality” and “sense of right and wrong”, because sinful man likes to dominate others and subdue them to his own will. We all do that left to our own devices…to greater or lesser extent. I think we have learned to have a hatred for slavery.
It is God’s revealed will that showed us something better than following what “seems right in our own eyes”. Including abolishing slavery.
Which is why it is so important to figure that out.
“There’s nothing Christian about the United States, and there never was, because such a thing is impossible.”(-Jeremy)
I’m sorry, but that’s just plain wrong. The United States has been highly influenced by Christianity. Numerous Western nations have been, but the US structure and beginnings as a sovereign state especially bear its mark. There is lots that is Christian about the USA. Maybe this was one of sloppy areas, with imprecision in the vocabulary. We are a secular nation, but much of our principles of government and as a culture were rooted in Christian tenets.
2 thoughts on “I’m Not Done Yet…”
Aren’t we just as bad at interpreting the Bible as we are at figuring out right and wrong? I wouldn’t identify what the Bible says with right and wrong, because there are some things the Bible doesn’t talk about at all that are certainly matters of right and wrong. The same goes for prophecy, though the main issue there, as I said when the Blogdom of God discussed this issue, is that what prophecy has revealed is such a small part of what happens that it’s one of those minor qualifications that I consider understood without having to mention it every time.
What I was saying is that some things we really can know for sure without even appealing to scripture, because they happened. It doesn’t tell us why, but it tells us that it was part of God’s sovereign will.
There are degrees of oppression. If a teacher is slightly favoring one kid over another, it might be worth a hard word from the employer or parent now and then, but it’s not worth firing the teacher. Other offenses of this sort can be much worth and are worth firing the teacher. The same is true of how immoral other kinds of unfairness or injustice are. I’m not quite sure how the degree of unfairness of a government relates to the degree of legitimacy in standing up to that government (from careful and respectful disagreement to harsh words to lawbreaking to physical opposition to attempts to overthrow the government). I’m inclined to think that one of the two following is correct. 1. Only another government or set of governments is morally allowed to overthrow a government. 2. Only the highest level of authority that is competent and unwilling to be just can oppose the unjust people at the top of a government. This is how just war theorists justified the American Revolution on the issue of legitimate authority (though it doesn’t by itself handle just cause).
Anyway, these are two separate issues (the degree of injustice a government commits and what citizens are ok doing in response), and I’m not sure how they’re connected.
There is lots of Christian influence in the United States. I’m resisting the implication that that makes the United States as a whole Christian. I’m particularly resistant to the implication that the United States government is Christian in any way.
Last things first: it is very different to say that “There is lots of Christian influence in the United States” as sort of a by-product of various things and to say that the very fabric of the government system is Christian influenced in its components. I am saying the latter. We are a secular nation, yes, but we have incorporated in our laws and mores, as expressed in our government, Christian tenets.
“There are degrees of oppression.” True. But discussion of how to handle degrees is different from that of the decision to recognize oppression. Recognizing it in one case while not in another, whether one is judging the degree or no, isn’t equitable. It is arbitrary.
I would dismiss idea #1 as being too hypothetically weak in making personal responsibility to act dependent on finding that “advocate” government. I think peer is important, but it does not trump all else.
I am unfamiliar with war theory.
I do not see your view: “these are two separate issues (the degree of injustice a government commits and what citizens are ok doing in response), and I’m not sure how they’re connected.”
How can these two things not be connected? I guess the Bible term is “filling the measure of sins”. A matter of degree is reached before action is warranted.
“Aren’t we just as bad at interpreting the Bible as we are at figuring out right and wrong? I wouldn’t identify what the Bible says with right and wrong, because there are some things the Bible doesn’t talk about at all that are certainly matters of right and wrong”
I guess I would say:”Only when we wanna be”. The principles are there, even if every detail is not spelled out. If we were so completely off in the capability to understand…then the whole book is pretty pointless for use in ethics, don’t you think? The Bible provides an objective standard… our needs and desires do not. Plus, the Bible gives God’s view, which is a correction for our distorted and limited one. I still say it beats all our own efforts to come up with a standard based on our own views. Problems with interpretation notwithstanding.
” because they happened” just seems weak. Given all the rewritten history. If you are going to discern God’s Revealed Will… you’re going to be heavily dependent on written scripture, as a divine expression. All the other is going to be on the sidebar -due to human subjectivity.
If not, then everything is going to end up in relativist terms and you are going to be stuck saying that you can’t know God’s Will with assurance and you can’t judge your times since nothing happens without it being God’s Will… and you are just stuck in the idea of “kismet”.
I think the need in this discussion is to somehow reconcile that while God has a Sovereign plan, we have a responsibility to find our place in it… and how that relates to our response to injustice. The ‘What’, ‘When’, and ‘How’ of action. One of your commenters brought up Bonhoeffer, and that brings up the question of the Nazi example in how Christians whould deal with government. The problem with unjust government is that they decide to utilize their citizens to accomplish their goals. Christian citizens do not excuse themselves with ” the government made me do it”. But what should they do?
That is the question.
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