Christian, Stop Telling Me God is in Control

There’s a similar refrain I hear from the lips of many Christians these days, whenever the subject turns to the growing dumpster fire in DC and the resulting unrest in our nation:

“Relax, God is in control.”

The words are designed as a conversation stopper; an iron-clad, sanctified mic drop, exempting them from further discussion on the matters at hand and supposedly assuaging all my fears in four simple words. 

The only problem is—it’s not true, at least not in the way they might like it to be right now.

In these days, with so much that is untenable and threatening and worrisome, tossing off a quick “God’s got it” is a subtle bit of heresy:

It imagines that God engineers election outcomes the same way as football scores.
It exonerates people from any culpability for a vote they perhaps now feel was regrettable.
It nullifies any concept of personal free will, by giving God ultimate veto power over us.
It excuses inaction in the face of other people’s present suffering.
In matters of injustice and suffering and evil—it essentially passes the buck to God.

But the story of the Scriptures, is one of this same God, granting Humanity the power over their choices; giving them the ability to be co-creators in this world by the decisions they make. Though God is all-powerful, God does not exercise that power to coerce us. We are not mindless robots simply performing the tasks we are pre-programmed to—we are fully responsible for the stuff we do and say and think. 

What this means, is that saying God is in control, while doing little or nothing to alter the planet in any meaningful way is spiritual rebellion. It is a willing abdication of our calling to be makers of peace here. It expects that God will clean up whatever horrible mess we make—and that our prayers alone will serve as the sole request form.

I don’t believe this is true and it isn’t Biblical. I don’t believe Jesus spent three years imploring people to love their neighbors as themselves, to feed the poor, to protect the vulnerable, to love our enemies, and to bind up wounds of strangers—if God had already written the script and we’re all just playing the whole thing out in flesh and blood without getting to improvise and change lines.

And this all matters, because if we are indeed free to choose and responsible for our choices, and these decisions make tangible ripples in the world that alter the planet in realtime—then we had better get to work, Christians.

And that means far more than prayer and platitudes.

Praying for God to move, and remaining stationary isn’t admirable—it’s cowardice. It’s looking around at the frightened, hurting, wounded people in our midst and shooting up a quick 911 call to the Almighty and continuing on with our day, instead of rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty by stopping other people’s bleeding.

God is love.
God is good.
God is powerful.
But God is not forceful and God is not magic.
God works through the hands and words of the people who aspire to this love and goodness, and choose to exercise the individual power they have been entrusted with right where they’re standing.
Jesus is not beamed down from Heaven, he is incarnated in the flesh and blood of those who believe that other people are worth sacrificing for, that mercy is the greatest gift, that love is revolutionary.
God’s Spirit of redemptive power resides in the breathing churches of we who inhabit this place and seek to be sanctuary for those in pain. 

And right now, the ancient words of St. Francis are still the most dangerous prayer we can ever authentically pray: God, make me an instrument of your peace.

Because the truth, Christians friends: is that God is not in control of you. You are in control of you and God is asking you to be goodness and love in a way that tangibly changes the story we all find ourselves in. God is asking you what you’re willing to do to bring healing and cease pain and show compassion.

Your move.

 

 

 

 

 

 

254 thoughts on “Christian, Stop Telling Me God is in Control

    • The call to action and involvement in the world today by thinking Christians- commendable. Trivializing a complicated point of theology to do so- quite unfortunate as you become a shrill small voice instead of a still small voice. Your call to action is so needed but not the casting of the first stone by “one who has no sin.”

      • I absolutely agree with Bill’s comment. I found this to be alarming discount dollar-store theology. Explaining an all-loving and all-powerful God’s involvement in the world is an issue that has perplexed many great theologians and Christian thinkers for years. Further, it dismisses the reality of God’s sovereignty, which certainly *is* biblical. Respectfully, the quality of Mr. Pavlovitz’s thinking is, at best, undergraduate (I’m being kind here).

        • Chris and Bill,
          I feel that some allowance has to be made for blog format here. Sovereignty and “in control” are significantly different, and to go into such detail on the two will require an additional post (if not a whole book chapter) when John’s post is just a brief call to action regarding a damaging cliche.
          While the word “sovereignty” does not appear in this post, I feel that the spirit of it is there. God is absolutely the ruler of the cosmos, and no force can remove God from that throne, but God grants us the power to make decisions that shape the course of world events, and we’ve been trying to pass the buck with this “God is in control” business.
          I don’t always agree 100% with John’s views, but on this, I think he’s dead on: the “God is in control” cliche is a cheap grace imitation of the doctrine of sovereignty, and it ought to be nixed before it does any more damage.
          Also, let’s be real, y’all: no respectful statement has ever begun with the word “respectfully.” That’s more a cue for an ad hominem argument.

          • Tom the Bar Chaplain,

            My response to you has less to do with your answer than your nom de plume. I think bartenders often take a chaplain role. Are you one or the other or both? Thanks for making me smile.
            Peace,
            Lynn, the healthcare chaplain

          • Well put. John is a prophetic voice in calling out the apostate and disgraceful money-worshipping Evangelical movement. He is not a theologian. There are a lot of quibblers who seem to follow his work, who might be termed legalists or semantics depending on the vessel. Ok, I’m baiting them a bit with the language but I say Keep up the Good work John, the name of Christ is being trampled into the manure by the right wing.

          • God is in control of the whole universe,When it come to the world first of all you have to know the three things that it consist of and that is the LUST OF THE FLESH,LUST OF THE EYE AND THE PRIDE OF LIFE.These thing Satan is in control of and this is the same word as Kosmos Greek FOR world.For God so loved it because his creation was raped in it from the fall that He gave his only begotten son,And this was the only way out of that system .As Christians God is in control of our life read Isaiah 41:10,Psalm 46:1,Phil.4:6-7,1 John 4:18,Psalm 94:19,Lk. 12:22-26,Psalm 27:1,Rev 1:17…….

              • I feel sure Danny Samuel would say that God knew before there was a universe that you would make that post. Such belief, of course, conflicts with the idea of free will. If a creator knows in advance exactly how His (Her? Its?) creation will behave, how is that different from creating the entity TO behave in that manner?

                • Not at all the same, Marvin. Knowing something will occur does not mean you cause it to occur. I could give many examples and metaphors, but with a little thought you can easily see that God being timeless does not negate free will of his creation.

            • If The Lord’s creation was raped in the Fall, how did this happen? Did God have His back turned for a moment, or did someone sort of slip it past him really quickly before he was aware of it? How could this “Fall” be possible without God knowing, permitting, and approving of it? You seem, by what you have written, to think that God was impotent to prevent it, which has implications for the type of god in which you believe.

        • I believe it is your thinking that is undergraduate. John is calling out the immature theology of Christians who view God as a kind of magic talisman who is always on their side. He is describing the kind of Christian who seems to believe that Yhe Great I- Am causes their football team to win.

        • I find the Biblical description of God as a jealous, angry, and vengeful God a contradiction to an all loving God. In fact, those are considered faults in any human being. But, didn’t God call on Moses to act to free his people? It required actions, which is the point John P. makes. Sitting around and praying, saying it’s all in God’s hands, ignores the responsibility we all have to act.

        • It is amazing to watch tribalistic American Christians hurl their stones at one another.
          Bill and Chris accuse John of “casting of the first stone by “one who has no sin.” But, of course, John’s verbal stone is no worse than their own, and Jesus Himself cast plenty of stones at similar hypocrites such as the Pharisees & Sadducees. There is clear disagreement, and the question is: who is correct?

          Chris seems to presume some type of Aquinas-esque intellectual superiority when speaking of the profundities of Christian theology. But having a mind as great as Chris’ does not really matter, and the fact that he overlooks such a simple truth is what is amazing about tribalistic forms of Christianity. They speak in glorious theological terms of the speck in their brother’s eye while ignoring the log in their own.

          Who was in control when the “Christian” Efrain Rios Montt was receiving financial & political support from Robertson, Falwell and Reagan while carrying out genocide in Guatemala? That was not a casting of stones but smashing the heads of women and children with a hammer before throwing their
          bodies down a well. I am quite certain that Jesus was not responsible for killing 300,000 Mayan peasants. No, the people who committed the genocide were in control, and it is this horrible type of tribalistic Christianity that Pavlovitz condemns.

          Americans have millions of people in their jails because criminals were supposedly in control of themselves when they committed crimes. It’s more than amazing when American Christians use the God is in control excuse for self-absolution. And given that would-be Christians in the U.S. Congress have recently called for the carpet bombing of civilian areas in the Mideast shows how little they have learned about politics or repentance.

          Pavlovitz and the atheists further down the blog correctly identify the meaninglessness of such would-be theological profundity when, at the same time, these American Christians overlook the most simple and important truth of their professed Jesus: “The second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” These Christians worship an American God of War which feeds their lust for wealth and respectability. It is not Jesus who is in control of their wars and killing. And neither is He in control of the people who continue to choose policies which cause climate breakdown and which destroy His creation. I am sure the millions of American prisoners wish their Christian wardens would apply the “God is in control” excuse equally. But these tribalistic Christians use the excuse as a conversation stopper every bit as effectively as their white American president uses the “fake news” canard to divert attention from his locker room talk. Now maybe Chris can explain the ontological argument to us.

      • Hmm. I don’t see his article the way you do at all. It resonates with me perfectly…and I, too, find it difficult to listen to those who do nothing when they say “God’s got this. We can all just relax.” Not so.

      • I disagree with the assessment that there’s something “shrill” about the Pavlavitz’s message, here, no accusatory casting of the first stone. This blog post address a serious problem with Christians who see Trump as ordained by a God who is a convenient invention, one who has “anointed” Trump to “save” the world, and, in all the chaos, we’re supposed to believe that this God has our backs. This is a desperately critical time, and I, for one, am rather impressed by Pavlovitz’s restraint.

        • My response to those who say that Trump’s election was ordained by God is simply this: if you believe that, then you must also believe that God ordained the election of Barack Obama . . . TWICE. Otherwise, you are asserting that God is only “in control” on a part-time basis!

      • Then again, might it not possibly be the case that all of that ‘complicated theology’ has arisen as a result of Christian theologians insisting on asserting two ideas that are fundamentally at odds with one other (i.e., that God is “in control of everything,” yet people are also ‘free’ to respond (or not) to God as they choose?

        I’m not a Calvinist, but let’s give Calvin credit here for at least grappling with that irreconcilable tension through his theology of double-predestination! (I don’t buy it mind you, but at least it doesn’t gloss over the fact that Christianity has historically made wildly contradictory assertions!

    • Well said, John. Biblical prophets always smoked out the summa-Calvinists who use the God is sovereign to legitimatize their own corrupt use of power to victimize and oppress. It has happened since the 16th century when Calvin and his ilk burned or drowned anabaptists, centuries longer in medieval Catholicism, and even through Israel and Judah’s worst so-called “God chosen” leaders. When a prophetic word is spoken, those who are not interested, visionary, or courageous in being part of living out the kingdom of God today default to the “God’s got it” default.

      • Larry, I think you’re on the money, if you’ll pardon the metaphor. One of Sara Vowel’s books makes reference to a massacre of Native Americans by a devout group of colonial European Americans who reasoned that if it weren’t God’s will, He wouldn’t allow it. People can justify any atrocity by citing some Bible verse and the doctrine of a benign God in control of all, doing what is ultimately best for, well, white people.

    • Thank you! There is a thread of fatalism that runs through Christianity. I’m sure the reason for this thread being woven into the fabric of Christianity is varied, but it serves no good and needs to pulled out.

      I have never used the phrase, “God is in control,” when I pastor a sick person or someone who is mourning the death of a loved one. It is a pat answer that doesn’t engage in conversation, which is necessary to walk with people through their journey. These pat answers are given so pastors don’t have to deal with their own discomfort with the situation or their inability to answer tough question. I’ve discovered that people rather have silence and presence than trite and pat answers that never address the heart of the matter.

      Of course we pray for the changes we wish to see happen in our lives, the lives of others, of the nation, and in the world; and then we become the change and do what is necessary to make sure those changes happen. Prayer and action is one in the same.

    • I noticed he used zero scripture to back up his opinion I guess he has never really thought about the lords prayer … Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven

      “Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.”
      ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:11-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬
      http://bible.com/116/eph.1.11-14.nlt

      • Oh please. This is hyperbole. How convenient to sit back and abdicate all responsibility for your neighbor’s suffering. Such an old and tired argument. So many Christians just love to justify apathy as long as things are going well for them…quote as much S rupture as you like but remember to retread the New Testament and see Jesus in action. What did He ask of us? What did He do?

        • Oh, Lulu, thank you for your reply to Brett (and others who follow in his stead). And Joe Catholic!

          Lulu, your answer, “Oh please. This is hyperbole. How convenient to sit back and abdicate all responsibility for your neighbor’s suffering.” is most helpful for me as I hear scriptural platitudes and answers that neither reach the pain or the problem, but are an easy out for those who might not want to reach into the deeper questions of faith and life. As the little boy who when told by his mama that Jesus was with him when he was alone in his dark bedroom, “but I want someone with skin on”, those of us who are grieving benefit most from real compassion and caring.

          Don says G_d is in control of everything, from football games, the weather and elections. I won’t argue theology, but say that I believe in a G_d that is more mysterious than concrete, one who would never send a tornado or allow a war to prove a point. I don’t believe in the bible, I believe in G_d.

          To the compassionate questioners!

          • If you do not believe in the Bible, how can you know God? You can NOT know God, unless you know the Holy Spirit, and let him live in you. Through the Holy Spirit, you can understand GOD’s word, the Bible, which you can then learn about God. To toss aside scripture, as if it’s irrelevant, is dangerous.

            • There are plenty of folks who don’t believe the bible is the “word of God.” Common sense tells me, though, that I did not create myself, so clearly there is a power greater than me…and greater than you. And this power has provided instructions within the honey bees, the acorns, the birds of prey….all living creatures know exactly how they are to live. Why would we be left out of that equation? Honey bees know (imagine!) how to make honeycombs in perfect little hexagons. Spiders make incredible webs, and they don’t need a set of blueprints to make them. WE have a conscience that guides us, (a.k.a. Good Orderly Direction, or GOD). THAT I can work with. Believing something simply because I was told it was true throughout the years in parochial school is not reason enough to believe it.

      • That’s great Brett, thank for citing the Bible. Now, can you also cite the meaningful ways in which you, like the Jews of the Bible, help our world be a better place for everyone?

        • Jesus commanded us to make disciples…and the world will not be a better place until the second coming and Jesus will reign. The Bible IS God’s Word and is absolute truth. If something disagrees with the Bible…the Bible trumps it and is absolutely correct. Yes we are to love our neighbor as ourselves…but the first is to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind. And when trouble comes…cancer, etc…the one thing we know is that God id faithful…because in eternity there will be no more sin…no more sickness…no more war.

      • Scripture? Uh okay let’s look at the entire Bible. God floods the earth because humanity messed it up, but I guess God intended that to happen?
        In Judges the people go through a cycle of falling away and being redeemed, but I guess God was in charge there too.
        The Babylonian exile, the fall of Jerusalem, the holocaust, nuclear weapons aimed to destroy everything, but… God’s in control- which seems to imply that God is complicit if not outright responsible for evil.
        I would consider the story of Joseph, who didn’t say God created the evil that had been done, but that God worked amidst the evil to produce good.
        The thing about grace is that we can deny it meaning we can work against God’s will.

      • I am reminded that the writer of Matthew [25.31-46] states that you are expected to DO THINGS in order to please God. He spells out a laundry list of stuff you need to DO. I would say that the gist of it is that you should look into the face of any unfortunate and see God looking back at you, but Mat didn’t get into that kind of metaphor.
        Here it is:
        http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=363897974

    • “Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people!” (Exodus 32:12 NLT).In his unfailing mercy, “the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people” (Exodus 32:14 NLT). Our prayers CAN change what God decides to do. Prayer is powerful.

  1. I’m glad people who fought for equal and civil rights over the decades and centuries didn’t say “Don’t sweat it, God is in control.”

    Perhaps God IS in control… of people with good consciences and voices… who speak up…

    • The missionary statement for my former parish used to be “we are the hands and feet of Christ in the world.”

      Seems to me I can pray that God is in control of me, my thoughts, words, and deeds. I can pray that God is control of the thoughts, words, and deeds of others but available evidence forces me to conclude that since God chose to create us with free will God also chooses to respect our exercise of that same free will.

      People who love God, be they Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, can also choose as individuals for God to be in control of their thoughts, words, and deeds, but again available evidence forces me to conclude that there are a great many Jews, Christians, and Muslims who do not ask for this.

      On the other hand, those that do are a mighty force for good in this world.

      • But Jews & Muslims are not guilty of the greatest sin of Christiandom. They do not proselytize. They are not missionaries. May the almighty forgive your arrogance & the destruction this practice has had on the peoples upon whom it was forced.

        • Forced?? by Christian missionaries?? Seriously? When Muslims require you to turn Muslim or die? Jews do not proselytize or send out missionaries because you must be born in to the Hebrew nation. They were however the first missionaries for Jesus as Messiah. The Almighty does not have to forgive us for our arrogance in becoming missionaries because we humbly bow to His will to “Go forth into all nations preaching the Gospel and teaching them” and the destruction was usually to the lives of the missionaries. The most destruction done in God’s name has been by crusaders of the medieval days and by present day Muslim extremists. and also, by the way, the greatest sin of Christendom is NOT to go when you are called. Not to believe when you are given the opportunity and NOT believing is the one sin you get Hell for. Refusing to believe, for whatever reason is the only sin you go to hell for, because by that action you have CHOSEN Hell over Heaven, Chosen Satan over Jehovah and Chosen disbelief over obedience. For self enlightenment, Try reading the Books of John the apostle and the letter to the Romans in The Book. Read the book of Miriam in the Koran and try to find the book about Mohamed’s mom in the Koran, Count the number of times Mohamed is listed in the Koran versus the times Jesus is mentioned. Which is listed as the Word of God?

          So whereas Christians do have to pray for forgiveness of their daily sins, and they can be guilty of arrogance, You have to actually know what is in God’s Word before deciding someone is going against what God actually says. Prayer DOES change the mind of God and God IS in control.

          • How easy it is for Christians to forget the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, when Christians murdered tens of thousands in the name of converting people to Christ…

            Be proud in your faith, but be careful that you don’t forget the many atrocities committed by man in His name.

            • Amazing how easy it is for us spirits temporarily inhabiting human bodies to forget that every religion, religious movement, culture, etc. has been guilty of having committed evil of some kind or another. And we must not forget that evil is also committed within these groups themselves. In our human manifestation, how many times have we hurt another, raged against another, annihilated another (whether emotionally, psychologically or even physically); whether by thought, word and then manifested in action?! None of us human beings are without fault. Most definitely not myself. Therefore, we are all capable of doing the most horrible of acts. We have history before us. We are still adding to this history as we go about our daily lives. It’s very easy to blame others – whether singly or collectively. I personally believe that we will get NOWHERE thinking and acting in this manner. I myself have been and still am guilty of this. I have to consciously make the decision to not allow my passions and prejudices to inform my actions. It is not easy, but I believe if we are aware of our own weaknesses and “negative tendencies”, we can then choose those “positive tendencies” that are also inside of us. It is easy to think we all have the “high and mighty ground”. But we don’t. None of us does. I am not a Christian, but I try to remember what Jesus said (and I’m paraphrasing here): The greatest commandment is this: Love God and your neighbor as you love yourself. For me, loving God, myself and others means being honest about both the light and dark within me and hopefully choosing love. It’s not easy, but I now believe life wasn’t meant to be easy, but to be lived to the best of our ability…and maybe enjoying some of those “easy moments” when they become “available”. Just my 2 cents worth. Peace!

          • Do not fall for the rewriting of history. The crusades were a result of the barbaric spread of Islam by the Ottoman Empire. They went forth to free and protect Christians being slaughtered and persecuted by islam

          • When you say Jews must be “born into the Hebrew nation,” you are incorrect. Jews DO accept converts (I have known a few people who have so converted); they just don’t seek converts.

          • I’m not convinced that prayer changes God but it does change us. If prayer changes the mind of God then God can be manipulated by the whims of anyone and God becomes a idol of our making.

      • Thank you for your intelligent comment. God gave us brains. Free will. I wish I could copy and paste your comment to my wall.

      • People who live God, submit to him, and do his will. So, yes he does control us, but only with our consent, and on a case by case basis. You have multiple chances to submit to God’s will every day, in multiple situations. If we did that in every situation, we would not sin again. However, no one that I know , is capable of that due tonour sinful nature. However, unless you are born again, you cannot know what God’s will is, because you do not have the Holy Spirit speaking within you.

    • If god is in control of the people that speak up as you stated… that violates free will in my opinion. Hypothetically if what you say is true and god is speaking through people and they don’t know it they are surreptitiously used as tools/mouth pieces? Why does an all powerful god need a mouth piece/proxy… can’t this god speak for itself? If god can’t then god is not all powerful. Why always proxies?messengers/angels/son/holyspirit… just sayin’ 🙂

      • To the persons that claim that God is not in control, here aare just a few Scriptures that speaks very clearly to the reality of God’s sovereignty. Imagine, fallen, sinful, and finite creatures have the nerve to say that God isn’t in control. If HE isn’t, then please tell me who is??

        Proverbs 19:21

        Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

        Jeremiah 29:11

        For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

        Romans 8:28

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

        Joshua 1:9

        Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

        Isaiah 45:6-7

        That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.

        Matthew 19:26

        But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

        Isaiah 41:10

        Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

        Isaiah 55:8-11

        For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

      • Being in control is different for God than for us. When we want to be in control we feel we HAVE to micromanage. we cannot see ahead so we have to react with every action. God has already seen the outcome of every free choice we make so His actions from His plans are more subtle than taking over our choices. He is in control. but He uses us as His hands for OUR benefit. It is a blessing to help someone. So if someone is having trouble in a state or country where you are incapable of going, Dont despair: God IS in control. If you live in an area that needs help…wake up, listen, God will be calling on you to make a difference. Why doesnt God speak to us directly? have you not read the Bible at all? When He spoke directly to Adam and Eve, they took advice from a serpent. When He used Moses as a mouthpiece the people wanted to know why they couldnt have their own guy as the mouthpiece. Then God sent His Son to tell us what He wanted and He and His disciples were hounded to their deaths. Then God gave His word to men by inspiration so his words could be written and saved for all generations to know and share and keep. And people decided to change it enough to make them feel good and clear a copyright to make lots of money. God is going to speak to you one day face to face, but you will have already chosen which way you believe by then and He will be telling you how well that went.

        • D,
          I think like you think, God is outside of time, space, and matter. And the Word he gave us is true. I believe and in this belief is my faith. That God truly is in control. He gave us what we need to know for now, from one end to the other.
          And he told us to give unto Caesar what is due to Caesar, this I believe includes voting, protesting, and diligent choices regarding our government. So do what you do according to what you believe, and in the end, the shaft will be separated from the wheat.

          • Exactly. God was compassionate to save us out of our sins. He doesn’t make good people out of bad people. He makes dead people (dead in their sins) alive again. There is not one particle in this universe He does not have a name for, or is actively thinking of at all times. He is infinite, and therefore He can’t be anything but sovereign. Nothing was made apart from His hand. If there were something greater than that, then I could question His Sovreignty. But there is none greater. Why is that fearful to some? James 1:17 tells us EVERY good and perfect thing comes from the Father of Lights, and in Him there is no shadow or turning.

            This about salvation, a word being discussed less and less and night draws near. Compassion without salvation is giving a man a hug as he goes over the waterfalls in a raft. It’s not compassion at all. It’s hatred of God posing as superficial love. He desires that no man PERISH. That’s in the Bible too. Or that Christ died because only the good die young and he was a good teacher?

            He does so that God could have fellowship with us again. A sovereign act at enormous personal expense.

            I pray that God will send His Spirit of repentance as upon us all, that we may be cured of our blindness and see what’s at stake here and place ourselves in His Hands, where no one snatch us from.

            God bless you all.

  2. John, what you are seeing and struggling with is a simple but very hard to accept truth. There is no god. The God in your mind is made up of your own desires hopes and values, as such I have no doubt that he is a very good God but he still isn’t real.

    • Lilith, I ask this question out of a sincere and respectful desire to know the answer.

      If you don’t believe in God, if you believe what John P (and presumably the rest of us) writes about Gd is a figment of his own imagination, why do you read this blog?

      • Gloriamarie,
        I can’t be as respectful as you! Lilith’s words are the mirror image of a fundamentalist religious person telling us what we must believe. It bothers me that those who want to be respected for their lack of belief in G_d, should give the same respect to those who do believe.
        Thank you!
        Lynn

    • Gloriamarie, Lillith is probably reading this for the same reason I am. Because those of us who’ve learned to rely on our own strength and value are always amused at the things ‘god-fearing’ people think and say. I’ve been through many hardships since childhood. I was raised with a strict catholic upbringing, which I chose to abandon at the age of 12 when I realized that gods were no more real than santa or the tooth fairy. The one thing I have learned is how powerful my own inner strength is. There have been no others there in my times of need, including made up fairytale beings. Therefore I have relied on only myself and my own strength to get through life, with it I know I can make it through anything that happens to me. Reality is a wonderful thing!

    • Lilith,

      John P. wrote this piece I imagine, in order to talk about grief and here we are discussing scripture, the bible and semantics. Way off the point. Whether we believe in G_d or not, we are human and unless we are sociopaths we do grieve. It is no more helpful to tell a believer that there is no g_d than to tell her that there is one right way to believe. My reaction to your words, much the same as to Brett’s or Don’s is that they are shaming and even cruel.

      I put the two groups (the religious “certaintists” and the atheist supremacists) in the same boat, one without compassion, perhaps filled with unacknowledged fear and swimming in elitism.

      I have plenty of days where I think there is no g_d, and then there are many more when a Divine Spirit is most definitely present. Did I make it up? Maybe. Maybe not. But if it helps me, please don’t shame me.

    • God is real. That he exists is a fact. Being a Christian isn’t based on a series of intellectual beliefs, but an ongoing supernatural experience of relationship with him. I was a non-believer like you until twenty years ago when God revealed himself to me in the most profound and undeniable supernatural way and since then I’ve experienced his love and power on a daily basis. I’ve seen miracles happen through my own hands and words that would have been impossible without God’s power working through me. God is real. Fact. But we as Christians can’t tell you what to believe. Only God revealing himself to you will change your mind. If you’re so confident there is no God, I challenge you to pray out loud for God to reveal himself to you . . . if he exists!! May you soon come to know the joy of experiencing the love of a very real God.

      • If what you say is true, then no belief is necessary. If god is a fact then no need for belief, the fact of God becomes science.

        I know facts, belief pertains to that which cannot be proved.

        • Your comment reminds me of a story told by the late Joseph Campbell, professor of comparative religion at Sarah Lawrence, and author of the “Power of Myth.” In the PBS series by the same name, where Campbell is interviewed by Bill Moyers, Campbell tells of a story from when he was a visiting lecturer at Fordham (a major Jesuit institution). One evening, he was sitting in the sauna after a workout at the school’s gym. Another man entered and said, “Excuse me, you’re Joseph Campbell, aren’t you?” “I am,” said Campbell. The man introduced himself as Father So-and-So, a professor at the school. They made some small talk, and then the priest/professor asked him, “Are you Catholic, Mr. Campbell,” to which Campbell replied, “I was, Father.” The priest continued: “I don’t suppose, Mr. Campbell, that there is any way I could ever convince you, absent empirical evidence, of the existence of a personal God.” Campbell replied, “If there were, Father, what would be the value of faith?” Whereupon the priest abruptly stood up and remembered a meeting he was late for, and left. 🙂

  3. John P., blessings upon you and yours.

    Thank you. I have long thought that to say “God is in control” was a hallmark of an immature faith or faulty Christian formation. Becuase if God were really in control, nothing bad would ever happen and we would all be little automatons.

    I find no evidence in the Bible that God is in control. I find a lot of evidence that God allows human beings to make whatever foolhardy choices they want and God allows human beings to reap the consequences.

    Yes, I do know that God has taught me some incredible things as a result of abusive parents, rape, sexual molestation, abusive Christians, natural disasters, etc etc but to say God is control is the exact same thing as saying that God wills evil upon people. That is just plain heresy, if not apostasy.

    To say God is in control is the same thing as saying “the devil made me do it.” Both imply that a human being has no choice in a situation which is not true. We can choose to love God with every fiber of our being and demonstrate that we do with an outpouring of love for every human being. We love our neighbors as ourselves. We love our neighbors as God first loved us.

    God is love. God wants us to be loving people. Jesus shows us what it looks like to love in a radical manner. Let us follow Jesus.

    • You find no evidence in the Bible that God is in control? Seriously?

      “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” – Exodus 4:11

      “The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.” – Proverbs 16:33

      “…having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” – Ephesians 1:11

      Etc., etc., etc.

      Scripture presents God as in absolute control of every detail of His creation, positive and negative. Obviously this is not an idea that sits well with a lot of people (as you can see from this blog post), but it is disingenuous to pretend you “don’t see it” in the Bible.

          • Thank you for the clarification, Tracy, because I was wondering to whom you were addressing this.

            Perhaps I should amend my words. I see no Biblical evidence that God is in control. I see Biblical evidence that God chooses not to be in control to allow us the exercise of that free will which must be part of the Imagio Dei or we would not have been created with it.

            • I’m not sure sure what Bibles all of you read, but the one I read is very clear that Almighty God is Sovereign over the universe……even as He permits men to make their evil choices! If God wasn’t in control, did you know that Satan would wreck havoc on the world in a manner that the human mind could not comprehend? Thanks be to God that HE is in control, and that the “Restrainer” (The Holy Spirit) is here on earth and holds back evil in all of its full capacity!

    • Gloriamarie,
      I can’t be as respectful as you! Lilith’s words are the mirror image of a fundamentalist religious person telling us what we must believe. It bothers me that those who want to be respected for their lack of belief in G_d, should give the same respect to those who do believe.
      Thank you!
      Lynn
      And I agree 1000% with what you say here.

  4. Forgot to say… about prayer…. People seem to think to pray for someone or something is to have magical outcomes.

    Oh, yeah, I have found myself praying that the handicapped parking space is available and that the electric go cart is free for my use. But even as I do that, I laugh at myself. Do I expect God to rearrange other people’s lives for my convenience as if I were so much more important than they?

    The thing about praying those kinds of prayers is not the outcome. That’s the wrong thing to pray for. But praying like that changes me, because it reminds me that I am dependent upon God for so very much.

    As for intercessory prayer, sure, I pray God to help a lot of people every single day. But there is more than one way to help someone. The Holy Spirit might nudge this or that in the person I pray for. I don’t really know what happens to other person when I pray. All I do know is what happens to me when I pray.

    What I know about prayer is that it changes me. Prayer makes me better equipped to chose the path of Jesus. Prayer makes me a better person, more loving, more compassionate,more tolerant, more aware of how far short I fall of the mark I wish to reach.

  5. Thank you and yes. In fact so many of the NT parables are about taking action- from the talents to the Good Samaritan to Peter walking on water. prayerbis what keeps our actions filled with humility and grace and love.

  6. “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” ~ Teresa of Avila

  7. Thanks for verbalizing a great deal of the disgust and frustration I feel with the sanctimonious Christians I know. Especially annoying was when I attended a prayer vigil in my community after 9-11 and one of the more fundamentalist preachers of the community used that phrase, “remember, god is in control” to which I could only respond to with “bullshit” — in my mind, of corse, but I wish I’d have had the nerve to speak up. God is in control offers absolutely no comfort to a suffering person. If this is how God controls he’s an ass hole, too.

  8. This says everything I believe and everything I have been taught. I was taught you pray for God to show you, you, how to make things better, not to pray for God to make it better. I believe we have all the tools if we are honest but it seems to be easier to say, God got us into it because after all God ordained this, so God will take care of it. That is not what I read, God gave me free will, but also is there to help me thru the minefields of free will and that includes the minefields others caused by their freewill. God won’t let me or anyone else off the hook for the choices we make. So once again, I thank you for saying in a more eloquent, concise way what I believe. Be well……………

    • Kathleen, you wrote ” I was taught you pray for God to show you, you, how to make things better, not to pray for God to make it better.”

      I was taught to pray for God to make it better. When I was in the RC private school, whenever there was a siren outside, the nuns and layteachers would halt class and we would pray the “Hail, Mary” on behalf of the siren and what it occasioned.

      I know I pray for God to make sick people better who sometimes die. But praying for God to make things better gives God a whole lot of latitude that I believe is beyond my ability to comprehend.

      So many people believe in a cause and effect relationship in their prayer. If someone prays X and X happens, then they attribute it to their prayers. I don’t believe in such magical thinking.

      When I pray for God to make a person or a situation better, I hold that person or situation in my mind and step into The Presence. I sit in silence, holding that, and then I relinquish it into God’s hands.

      Sometime ago now, I noticed that among many Christians, but especially evangelicals and various Pietists, that there is an emphasis upon cognition in a way I don’t see supported in the Bible. An emphasis that Y will not happen unless someone deliberately gives consent to it. Seems to me that sort of approach makes a human being in control.

      Also seems to me that the Holy Spirit works within us in ways too deep for mere human cognition to fathom. Seems to me what is more true is that our lives as Christians is a process of discovery that which She wrought within us when our attention was on something else.

      • My grandfather said, if we ask that God give us the strength, and we do what we know is morally correct, we can get through this life. He used to say that was no guarantee that it would be easy, no one is guaranteed easy, but we will be ok. He used to tell us that God wants us to make things better, that should be our main concern. So I have always prayed that God help people through the darkness and please be there for them and I always add that I promise to be there too. I have never believed in the magic wand. I always wonder how people who do, explain to a grieving parent that perhaps their prayers weren’t as sincere as the family down the street, who that child lived but their child died. I think it is how we deal with all of this that counts. Hey I could be wrong but that’s where I am at. Peace………….

          • Thank you, As you can tell, my grandfather was a tad unusual for his time. I thank him all the time even though he as been gone a long long time.

          • Are we to assume then that you do not accept perhaps the most quoted verse in the bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” John 3.16 There is a whole lot of sentimental mush being spewed out on this site without and serious analysis to see if it make any theological sense.

              • Fogive me for failing to put a question mark on the end of what an astute reader would understand to be a legitimate question. So I will restate it with the hope you will now answer the question instead of avoiding it with an ad-homin attack: “Are we to assume then that you do not accept perhaps the most quoted verse in the bible???”

                • Sorry, but if you are going to be snarkily insulting in your first sentence, that really tells me you are a troll because astute writers end a question with a question mark while astute readers know a period concludes a declarative sentence.

                  As for your inane question, there is not conflict between saying that were God in control there would have been no need for Jesus to die on the cross because John 3:16 proves that God does not control our free will or any action we choose. Nor does God prevent the laws of nature from triggering disasters.

                  So, all your question proves is this: God is not control.

                  • Oh righteous one… did you notice you took the conversation into the gutter when you characterize my statement as: ” trollish ” It’s quite evident your hot temper clouds your reasoning. Good luck with your atheistic conclusion that God lost control! ha, ha, ha

            • Mayesvara it may be just”sentimental mush” to you but for alot of us it is spoken from our hearts……Hearts of love and compassion.
              I’m sorry that you choose not to see that.

              • Religion without philosophy is just sentiments. Unchecked feelings… even those that come from the heart can be very blinding and deceptive. Just ask anyone who got divorced. With the exception of a few, most people here are just spewing uncheck feelings and speculating without supporting what they say theologically. Of course I guess that is to be expected because that is exactly what John P. does most of the time as well.

                • I ‘m not spewing unchecked feelings if you can trust me on this I have been through alot in my life I would have to say equal to a divorce….I have lost half my family due to free will of people ,with traumatic out comes all three murdered ….Ya maybe I haven’t researched the philosophy enough who knows hey but I was just saying how I felt from my heart.

                  Take care and peace!

          • “If God were in control, Jesus would never have died on that cross.”

            Gaaaaaah. This is getting awfully close to downright heretical. God planned for Jesus to die on the cross before the foundation of the world. Why do you think Jesus kept foretelling his death while on earth? Lucky guessing?

            • No. Jesus knew that a perfect person could not live in this world without being killed. That is how He knew He was going to die. It was John Calvin’s idea that God sent Jesus to die on the cross to “pay the price” for the sins of man. It is called the Substitutionary Theory of the Atonement. This theory did not even exist anywhere in Christianity until a mere 500 years ago in Europe when John Calvin invented it. Here is a little church history for you to clarify the matter at the beginning of this talk. Just click the triangle to start:

            • This is the dumbest statement I have ever heard from a purported Christian! It is becausse God is in control that Jesus died on the Cross! Romans 8 & 9 makes it clear that God was in control going back to eternity past when “He foreknew those whom He would save”. Simply incredible to read such crazy notions!

          • Gloriamarie.

            –you say, ‘If God were in control, Jesus would never have died on that Cross.”

            You believe that God did not send his Son to die for us.
            Ouch.

            • Putting words in other people’s mouths is a form of lying and you are lying when you say that about me.

              It is also the act of a troll because you could just as easily have chosen to ask a question but, just like a troll, you sit in judgment as if you can read my mind and heart as if you were God.

              God choose to respect our free will. Jesus came to give us a choice.

              If God were in control you would not have been abused. Nor would I.

              To believe God is in control is to say God wills evil, which is just about the very first heresy.

              • The Biblical illiteracy on this posting is astounding! To say that God is NOT in control is absolutely the most asinine statment I think I have ever heard from professing “Christians!” Simply amazing!

                • Bravo Wayne! You also deserve the same accolades that I just sent to Lisa! Glad to see not every person on this site drank the John P. koolaid! This is one of the most PROUD group of misinformed Pseudo-Christians I have ever met!
                  Bravo!
                  Well Said!
                  Hallelujah!

              • Gloriamarie, Do yourself a favor and find a good therapist to deal with you projections, anger issues and inability to stay on topic in a coherent way.

      • Gloriamarie,

        I could not have said it better. I echo your thoughts, especially the part regarding cognition over mystery. G_d is so much greater than we could ever imagine, even perhaps so much different as well. As a chaplain, when tragedy strikes, I usually see G_d in the caregivers, those who respond, those who hold the wounded close, etc. etc. To use the bible as the one and only answer, and depending on interpretation, most likely a single vision look at faith, G_d, religion, etc….. well it doesn’t quite cut it for me.

        Thank you!

  9. Thank you, dear brother. Once again, your words are exactly the words the world needs to hear. I also recognize the cognitive dissonance between “God is in control” and “God gave us Free Will”. If God *is* in “control”, why are so many Christians merely Sunday Saints and Monday-Saturday Sinners? Why isn’t everyone a Christian? Why is there any pain, illness, suffering or struggles? Why is there any divisiveness between peoples? Why aren’t we living in Paradise right here on Earth?
    And most importantly, why can’t those people who say “God is in control” see the fallacy of that statement? For the precise reason that they want to pass the buck. They don’t have to do anything. And that, children, is a BIG “no-no” in the practice of following Jesus. If God is in control, we would have NEVER needed the Christ to come to Earth. We’d never have all the bad things–and if, as a Christian, you can say with full belief that God “lets bad things happen”, so as to remind his people that he is in control, then HE is as big an asshole as you are. He’s no better than any human being and is therefore unworthy of worship.
    Let’s stand and sing our closing hymn, “There Are None So Blind As Those Will Not See”.

    • Exactly, Kathy.

      Venturing a guess that you are 100% correct when you say “And most importantly, why can’t those people who say “God is in control” see the fallacy of that statement? For the precise reason that they want to pass the buck. They don’t have to do anything. ”

      Such people are let off the hook fo taking responsibility for their thoughts, words, and deeds and whatever is the result of their inaction, no matter how wrong or evil, God willed it. Which is the deepest heresy there is.

  10. Dear John Pavlovitz:

    God is in control.

    That said…

    ‘It was also given to [the beast] to make war with the saints and to overcome them’ [Re 13:7].

    ‘Relax, God is in control’ cloaks in pious language an call for passive acquiescence to the powers Saint John depicted under the images of the beast, whore and false prophet.

    This abandons Christ for anti-christ and the Kingdom of God for the kingdom of darkness. This is a political attack on God’s Kingdom, the church, and the believing citizen.

    Blessings!

  11. As an admirer of the Deists, I agree with their idea that God gave us reason and free will to make this world better…but it’s up to us. God made the world and is now off to make other universes.

    “In it but not of it” is not my motto. We ALL are of it, and make it, and are called to fix it when it breaks. Every time I hear that phrase I have to wonder what the speaker has been smoking.

      • I’m sure that’s the case, Gloriamarie, and I stand corrected. What often seems to be novel to many Christians, and why I keep mentioning the influence of Deism on the Founders, is that this country was not founded by Christian ideologues. It was colonized by people for many reasons. The Pilgrims may have been unyielding authoritarians for their faith, but the Georgians, for example, were far more interested in business than piety. Our hallowed Founders? As I’ve repeatedly said, Deists. Children of the Enlightenment, beneficiaries of the early 18th century philosophers of the Age of Reason, followers of the novel idea of universal human rights and of the exaltation of human reason as the vehicle of compassionate stewardship of the earth. How appropriate the name Enlightenment seems, compared to the rigidity and constraining faith of some of the colonists, who have grown inordinately in the mythology of the Christian Right.

  12. Love love love this John! This exhortation is authentic, practical and profound. Your ability to unearth the safe, sanctimonious status quo, always impresses me. I would so go to your church if I could! Thank you for cutting through the ‘crap’. It is refreshing.

    A friend from Canada,
    Micki

  13. Beautifully said, and I loved the Teresa of Avila quote.

    In my humble (& limited experience), God can do miracles but mostly chooses not to. However, praying for a handicapped parking spot is exactly the kind of prayer I’ve seen answered. It’s very silly, this kind of answered prayer, but also sweet. I think of it as grace, and if I pay attention, I find I am surrounded by it.

    • Emily wrote “I think of it as grace, and if I pay attention, I find I am surrounded by it.”

      We all are, I believe. I also believe we are best-served to look for it and to share it with others. Instead of all our bickerings and trying to score petty points of off each other.

  14. The only thing I see God controlling is sin. He did because we couldn’t eradicate it ourselves. Sin controlled us until Jesus took the problem into himself. Now we have the Holy Spirit to help us and the issue is now “self- control” as it says in Galatians, it is a gift of The Spirit. We have the responsibility to steward the gift and practice self-control which does not come through human strength but human surrender.
    Eugene Peterson says it well in “The Message,” He states, “When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile, we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. Who or what is really in control?

  15. Another winner by John P. The faithful think they are being good and faithful but it is a tragic undercutting of human responsibility and potential. We have received great responsibility , supposedly made “in God’s image”. We are it. We have been given freedom which gave us great responsibility. Fear of freedom is normal (See Erich Fromm) but has to be overcome to fulfill our human potential. We are not pions on God’s chess board. This ‘God is in control” is supposed to work as a sleep inducing pacifier and you know, in certain tough situations it may help to quiet down. But please , this is not to be taken literally!!

    • Amen, if God was in control the planet would not be raped and pillaged for it’s natural resources, just to name one of a million things that people are allowing to happen. Peace………….

      • I love it when the fundies say, and they do: “The world has an endless supply of everything humanity will ever need, no matter how many of us there are and no matter what we do to destroy the Earth. God has promised that there will always be enough of everything we will ever need until He brings The Age to an end.”

        Tell that to the hungry sailors who found that the last dodo bird on the island had already been killed!!! Dodo birds were meaty and tasty—and quickly extinct.

        • P.S. I guess when you believe that Jesus is coming back any second, you can afford to sit on the side of a hill waiting and make pronouncements like that. But what if the Eastern Orthodox Church is right.? They do not believe in a rapture or second coming of Jesus. The second coming of Jesus has already occurred, and it was a coming in spirit only—the Holy Spirit.

    • “God Is in Control” was convenient theology for the Medieval European Kings, nobles, and Priests who supported their whims and wanted to make sure that the serfs they worked like slaves were under proper control and doing their assigned duties. I think one of the great pities today is that we never stop to learn and think about where our current day theology originated historically. In my opinion, “God Is in Control” was designed to prevent this:

  16. I have a blog entry waiting in the wings along similar lines but it is, unfortunately, too angry and rant-y at this time. I appreciate your ability to voice this strongly without being harsh or sounding bitter. I need to work on that. Unfortunately, my faith has taken a serious beating the last couple of years.

  17. I used to hear “God works in mysterious ways”.

    Then I read this:

    Happy Presidents Day! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:
    1. Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
    2. Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to google.
    3. Millions of Americans are exercising more. They’re holding signs and marching every week.
    4. Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone’s forgotten he’s kind of a jerk.
    5. The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
    6. Likewise, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying record growth in sales of anti-depressants.
    7. Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
    8. Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
    9. Tens of millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
    10. Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
    11. Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.
    12. Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.
    13. White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead. (See #6)
    14. White people in record numbers also finally understand that Obamacare IS the Affordable Care Act.
    15. Stephen Colbert’s “Late Night” finally gained the elusive #1 spot in late night talk shows, and Seth Meyers is finding his footing as today’s Jon Stewart.
    16. “Mike Pence” has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
    17. Melissa FREAKING McCarthy.
    18. Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
    19. As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
    20. Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now as popular as the Kardashians.
    21. Massive cleanup of facebook friend lists.
    22. People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” increased by 10,000% after the inauguration. (Yes, that is true. 10,000%. 9th grade Lit teachers all over the country are now rock stars.)
    23. More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important. Like, super important.
    24. Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone.
    – Susan Keller (Copy and paste to share.) sharing here, and thank you for this Blog, m
    Maybe God IS working in mysterious ways…

  18. John Pavlovitz drops and explodes a nuclear weapon right in the middle of one of the greatest man-made fantasies in Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical life:

    “God has a highly detailed plan for each person’s life.”

    Well, if that is the case, I guess John Calvin was right. We are all just individual robots who each day completes a preprogrammed sequence of God-ordained, predestined keystrokes that constitute a thing called “human life on Earth.” No one has any free will. No one has any free moral agency. And if I stab my next door neighbor with a chef’s knife, I was not the one who inserted the knife into his body. It was God. It was part of his highly detailed programming for my life. John Calvin was such a sh*thead. The more I read about the man, the less respect I have for him or anything he ever had to say.

    I would like to point out one other thing to the folks here and make it clear as crystal. It has been my experience that the most dangerous, extremist, and cruelest elements of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism have arisen from Calvinist and related Reformed Church roots. For example, Rousas Rushdoony was a died-in-the-wool Calvinist. Whenever I go on-line to surf for assorted current events information on the Christian faith and run into something cruel, inhumane, or truly bizarre, I say: “This guy has to be a Calvinist.” I will then look up his name on-line, find information about him—and sure enough—I learn that he has Reformed Church roots or is some sort of renegade Presbyterian. It is just so predictable and so pathetic!!!

  19. Amen, especially reminding us that free will is a gift from God inherent in our physical existence in this world, with it being our choice whether we develop our spirituality or squander it.

  20. John, I think you quite possibly saved my faith from the brink with this post. I will read this again and again and again until it is my very bones. More grateful to you than I can possibly express. Speak on! The world is desperate and aching for these truths.

  21. This is quite dumb! Indeed, our God is very much in control……even when human beings go to the polls to vote. He alone is sovereign, and I trust Him…even if I disagree with the results of an election. When Obama was pushing the dirty perversion of homosexuality down the throats of our people, and when he was advocating the perversion of the so-called “gay marriage”, God was STILL in control!

    Those on the far left need to grow up, stop whining and having a hissy fit, and get on with the business of living your life to the glory of God, assuming you know Him and His Son!

    • Did y’all read my long post above about Calvinists? You can usually spot one because they use the word “Sovereign” to refer to God in their Christian faith lingo. I have never heard any nonCalvinist talk about a “Sovereign God.”

      Note Wayne’s attitude. These neoCalvinists seethe with hatred for their fellow man AND his sins. Does anyone doubt that Wayne would gladly kill LGBTQ people, as Rousas Rushdoony would do, if legal and given the opportunity?

    • What I find fascinating is how often those who cannot accept the reality of the existence of homosexuals complain about it being pushed down their throats. That is a constant theme. Are people picking up this verbiage from a specific so-called “pastor” or do people who need to have someone to feel better than also have a burning desire to have something pushed down their throat? I have not seen this phrase used in such a consistent way with other issues.

    • Those on the far right need to get on with their own lives and stop spending so much time and effort whining about how others choose to live theirs.

  22. When I have vented my recent frustrations, this is indeed what I have been told, that God is in control, and to just pray. That has not set well with me. Thank you John for reminding me why. I need, we all need to DO something in this world. Jesus said that they (the world) would know that we are Christians by our love, not because we tell them. There are no qualifiers on giving that love. We were told to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. I would think that we need to love sacrificially, that is going to take us out of our comfort zone. If it was easy to do, I don’t think Jesus would have told us to do it. Instead He chose to tell us to love because it will cause us to grow in grace, compassion, and selflessness. So I think we need to get to loving folks.

  23. Hit the nail on the head with this one.. as WE ARE the hands of the divine on earth.. We are her hands, and feet, her eyes and ears, we are her compassion, we are even at times, her justice. I Call on the Gods for help with things that are beyond my abilities, but everything else.. is ours to do. The Great Mother is just like our Mother on earth, in that they expect us to act like grown ups ! This lay it all in the lap of the Gods, is a cop out that avoids our own responsibly. Think the world is a mess ? Fine, then get out there and clean up the part you can and it will be less of a mess.

    • Someone after my own heart and God’s, she does call on us to do the work that needs to be done here in earth. I believe she will ask us why we didn’t do all, not just what’s convenient but all we can. Stretching ourselves way beyond our comfort zone.

  24. How do you always know what is in my brain and on my heart, then take it out and write it?

    You are healing many, many wounds from the past. Thank you.

  25. There are hundreds of scriptures from God about being in control. His words are a comfort to Christians.

    “I AM the LORD and there is no other. I form light & create darkness, I make well-being & I create calamity, I AM the LORD, who does all these things.”

    “Kingship belongs to the LORD, he rules over the Nations.”

    “For as the rain & snow come down from heaven… so shall my Word be, that goes out of my mouth, it shall not return empty, but it will accomplish that which I purpose, & shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

    “The heart of Man plans his own way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

    “Many are the plans in the mind of Man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that stands. ”

    “I AM the Alpha & the Omega.”

    “The LORD makes poor and He makes rich, he brings low & he exalts.”

    “The LORD kills & brings life, He brings down to Sheol and he raises up.”

    “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed , so shall it stand.”

    • Yes. But none of that says that everything in a person’s life is preprogrammed like in a software package. If you were addressing John’s main post with this list, you did a very poor job of it. The list is also verses out of context.

  26. Boy, talk about a reading into something..lol! I agree that we are called to action, not just to pray. God uses people to accomplish his will, but that doesn’t mean that he needs us to accomplish it. His will is accomplished with or without us, he just likes to include us because he loves us. Telling you that God is in control is not a phrase used to shut someone down in discussing the issues, nor is it a subtle statement to release us of our duty to do what God asks us to do, it is simply encouraging you to have faith in Him, and to not worry about situations in the world that may seem hopeless.

    Its easy to worry, when you don’t believe that God has control, even though it does no good to worry. But if you realize that God is in control, then when bad things happen, you know that it is something that God allowed. You know that he only works for the good of those who love him, so if he allowed something bad to happen to his beloved, then it is for your own good.

    If you don’t believe that God is in control, then its even harder to act on issues you are passionate about…being that, often times, some situations in the world are soo overwhelming, that your little bitty contribution as one single person in a sea of billions of people, almost seems ridiculous and pointless. Its hard to believe it even makes a dent. BUT, with God in control, you KNOW your small contribution WILL make a difference.

    • “But if you realize that God is in control, then when bad things happen, you know that it is something that God allowed. ”

      IOW, Lisa W., are you saying God wills evil? Because I can’t go there.

      “If you don’t believe that God is in control, then its even harder to act on issues you are passionate about…”

      I 100% disagree with this statement. Knowing God is not in control because God respects our free will gives us all the more impetus to act on issues on which we are passionate. People act on things they are passionate about every single day at Gloriamarie’s Progressive Stuff at https://www.facebook.com/groups/gloriamariesprogressivepetitions/

      All are invited to check it out.

    • Lisa,
      You appear to be one of the only few on this blog that is making any sense at all. Gloriamaria seems to think that the reason why Jesus died on the cross was because God lost control, even though he clearly states that He GAVE his son for that trial. Duhh… Then she further makes the ridiculous assertion that God has no control over Nature even though he created nature. Dr. Frankenstein lost control of his creation… but God NEVER looses control!
      The assumptions these people make on this site reveals their atheistic beliefs where they apparently feel THEY are in control. NOBODY has even said we have nothing to do, or no responsibility to share kindness and Christ like behavior towards others… but regardless of how much we may do that… at the end of the day God’s ALWAYS in control. The torrid analogy about leaving your car unlocked is further nonsense. If you are stupid enough to do that then the laws of nature will deal with you accordingly and those too are under Gods laws. No Gloriamarie… GOD is NEVER EVIL. We may not like or even understand the more difficult things life brings to us… but that doesn’t mean God lost control. Misery comes because we are way too self absorbed and think we are so smart… but who is actually dedicating their life to God? Really? If we violate the laws of nature God set up then there are always consequences and the laws don’t care about your silly Opinions Mr. John P. To see EVERYTHING as the mercy of God is the proper understanding. SO I keep asking: If God is NOT in control… then who the hell is? John P.? He certainly positions himself to know more then God and the Supreme Lord will send a whole list of sycophants to allow him to think that way. Just like the prodigal son insisted for his inheritance early even though his father new it was not a good idea. Reluctant sanction is very different from having one’s positive blessing. Eventually the prodigal son realized his utter foolishness and ended his pompous behavior after exploiting the good will of his father and he came home. This blog is all about John P. bloviating his own reckless OPINIONS about his Interpretation of Biblical theology. They are JUST HIS OPINIONS. Sometimes his insights are good and meaningful… but in this case anyone who can’t humbly admit that GOD is ALWAYS in control, at every moment… is just a veiled atheist with their heads filled up with a lot of New Age solipsism. Don’t expect most of the people on this blog to concur with you regardless of how clear this point is. Based on the comments that show up here seem to confirm that few at best have any recognized theological training. Even a wise person comes to grief giving good instruction to a foolish disciple.

  27. Absolutely. I argue this all the time. I often say, “If this is your attitude, then leave the keys in your car when you go to the grocery. Leave your windows and doors unlocked when you go to work. Let your toddlers roam the mall alone when you go shopping. If you rely solely on ‘God is in control,’ then go all out.” Of course, they say, “That’s not the same thing.” But of course it is.

  28. This post specifically is addressing God’s call on Christians in the immediate social/political climate. Nevertheless, the foundational narrative is the same, and it is the Christian narrative that is different from any other belief system. It is a narrative that culminates in salvation. So the question is “Do American Christians need a political saviour?” As my three year old grandson Haven says, “Yes or no. You choose.” 🤔 Thank you, John, for your insightful and courageous defense of the Gospel.

  29. I have a sincere question for those on here who consider themselves progressive Christians. John P. says, “God is love. God is good. God is powerful.” So my question is, how do you know that God is any of these things?

    If you believe the Bible to be merely the words of fallible men, then what exactly is the standard or authority by which you make propositional statements about the nature of God? Is it just based on subjective experience? I honestly want to know.

    • Jon. No one here is buying the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical “bads” you have to sell. Your brand of “Christianity” is hollow, corrupt, and doomed to the ash heap of eternal history. That is all I have to say.

  30. Dear Mr. Pavlovitz,

    If God is not in control, why do you pray? What are your sources that God is not in control? The church has survived Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Rome and the rest of human history. So Trump is what dooms it all? Mr. Pavlovitz, the worst thing in human history is without question the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. His blood wiped away the sins of the world. Christ was without blemish but died the death of a criminal. That should be our definition of injustice for the rest of human history. But God was in control there, too. Because by His Son’s blood, He defeated Death. Pilate crucified Christ, but God was not helpless to stop it. That is the definition of love for the human history. Are persecuted Christians saying that God is not in control?

    Mr. Pavlovitz, what do you have faith in, besides your own words?

    • Anonymous. No one here is buying the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical “bads” you have to sell. Your brand of “Christianity” is hollow, corrupt, and doomed to the ash heap of eternal history. That is all I have to say.

    • Anaonymous,
      Bravo to you too!
      Charles and all his poorly informed friends are just spewing emotional nonsense with NO theological foundation. Pay no attention to them. They are just barking dogs while those who are actually aspiring to act in a Godly way know for certainty that GOD is ALWAYS in Control!
      Sadly there is nothing that can be done for those who insist in drowning in their own sophistry.
      Fools resent good council.
      md

  31. In reading this particular post, it reminded me of my graduate studies in ChristianApologetics. What I clearly see through the comments by many, is that they lack an understanding of the Scripture concerning God’s sovereignty, and they have embraced something that is called the

    Philosophy of Open Theism, which states that God doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the future any more than we do, so He has to constantly be changing His plans and reacting to what the sinful creatures do as they exercise their free will. God isn’t finding out what’s going to happen as events unfold. He is continuously, actively running things, ALL things, here and now. But to think He needs our cooperation, our help, or the exercise of our free will to bring His plans to pass puts us in control over Him, which makes us God. Where have we heard that lie before? It’s a rehash of Satan’s same old lie from the Garden, you shall be like God (Genesis 3:5). Our wills are only free to the extent that God allows us that freedom and no farther. “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35). No one’s free will trumps the sovereignty of God.

    Furthermore, Psalm 46:10 directly disputes what John is saying here:

    “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

    Amazingly, the Hebrew word for “Be Still” means to RELAX! This truth directly and irrefutably contradicts John’s cry of “stop telling me to relax, God is in control.

    • Bravo again Wayne… you actually sound like a well educated Christian. It stands out quite obviously on the background of all the other knee-jerk like narcissistic reactions that seem to prevail on this thread!
      I stand behind you 100%
      md

    • Wayne. No one here is buying the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical “bads” you have to sell. Your brand of “Christianity” is hollow, corrupt, and doomed to the ash heap of eternal history. That is all I have to say.

  32. The article can address a real problem, but with the same words it can support heresy too. It depends on the heart. The heart of the writer, and the heart of the reader.
    “doing little or nothing to alter the planet in any meaningful way is spiritual rebellion.”
    This phylosophy could also be a real rebellion against God (which is idolatry, as you know), if it urges action even when God tells you to keep calm and wait, or pray or believe.
    I don’t expect you to get my point, but you had better know, that the notion of that God is in FULL control of History is written in the Bible in dozens of verses. You must include those words in your faith, otherwise you are creatting a humanist, independent religion.
    Now just one example: James 4:15. Nevertheless this could be combined with the free will feeling on our level.

    • Nith. No one here is buying the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical “bads” you have to sell. Your brand of “Christianity” is hollow, corrupt, and doomed to the ash heap of eternal history. That is all I have to say.

      • So if Christianity is doomed, why do church populations increase when persecution increases? I would love to hear you explain how conservative churches saw the greatest growth in the past few years.

        You are relying on the Bible for any knowledge of God and then turning around to call the Bible a liar. Charles, I pray for you. I pray that the Lord see you in your anger and soften your heart, because this hatred of God will not lead anywhere we want to be.

        • Whenever people feel the need to justify their own superiority and the need to dominate other people, religion is the go-to choice. After all, that’s what it was created for.

  33. Are the “God is in control” people also willing to allow women to make controversial reproductive choices? To look the other way while people of same gender pledge to love each other forever? Or do they actively seek to legislate away these sins? What justifies their sudden complacency? Or are abortion and the gays the only things they are willing to use votes for? Sorry, all you aliens, children, hungry, poor or preexisting condition people… God is in control.

  34. I really can’t agree with this. Surely “Relax, God is in control” is only a précis of Luke 12:22-31. As such it would be hard to call it heresy. Are you sure that people who say this mean what you think they mean? Those verses don’t exonerate you from culpability, nullify free will or excuse inaction at all. In fact, they demand action (“Sell your possessions and give to the poor”). But they *are* intended to assuage fears. Isn’t that all anyone means by “Relax, God is in control?”

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  36. If there was a god who was in charge, it would certainly not be a god worth worshipping. No, I’m afraid this is all on us.

  37. Amen, Amen, John!
    Thank you, as always, for your stand.

    My reaction:

    As a Player in this Earth Game;
    With a Body, as well as Power, Volition, Choice…
    to BE and to ACT in this Physical World.

    I am oft asking:
    What Game am I playing?
    Whose Game am I playing?
    and
    How is it Going?
    What are the results?

        • It’s always lovely to find a kindred spirit who can help to soothe another’s soul.

          You’ve definitely blessed me as well.
          Lynn

      • Lynn,
        I am having a convo about John’s blog on my Facebook, in response to a question, i wrote this – maybe useful too – IDK : )
        Feel free to ignore – in life! Wendy
        >>>

        Here is my perspective:

        Spiritually we are in contact with God, we are filled with God, we are ONE with God.
        Meanwhile, on Earth in bodies – in this physical reality, if anything is gonna get done, the ones with bodies are gonna be doing it.

        Jesus saw Abba Doing and Jesus Did.
        Jesus heard Abba Speaking and Jesus Spoke.

        Jesus, in the body
        was being and doing God’s will on Earth,
        as it is/was already in Heaven.

        For ME
        I mean to play this Earth Game, Like Jesus did = with God.

        I believe Jesus, and we,
        to do this
        we must play our OWN Game
        Be Captain of our OWN Ship/Life.

        WHEN we are Captain of our OWN Ship/Life:
        When the Admiral (Abba) says – I need you to sail over here and do xxx.; we CAN Choose to go do xxx (or not 😉

        BUT, when we are Not Captain of our OWN Ship/Life:
        we are oft washed away by:
        – every wind that blows,
        – every feeling we feel,
        – every thought we think,
        – every desire, impulse, instinct, drive our body may have,
        – every judgment someone throws at us…
        the old Baptists used to say: the world, the flesh and the devil – any of that could be in charge, if spiritually, I am not.

        SO when the Admiral (Abba) says – I need you to sail over here and do xxx.;
        Rarely CAN we actually Choose to go do xxx – certainly not in any kind of expeditious manner.

        Being able to CHOOSE to play our own game,
        makes us available to play God’s Game, here on earth.

        Of course, we learn by playing.
        Trusting that spiritually:
        we are already loved,
        we are already precious children of God,
        we are already seated spiritually in Heavenly places…

        We are free and encouraged to Just PLAY!
        And thereby mature into BEing the Captain in this world (that we already are spiritually)
        My honey Michael likes to say: All Mammals Learn By Playing!

        YMMV
        : ) Wendy

  38. God is always in control. Yes he controls elections, football scores, and the weather. If you are a Bible believing Christian you certainly know this through His word. However, you and I may not always like what is happening in our world, never, ever think God is not aware because he most certainly is.

    • Ditto to you too Don.
      (See above comment to Mr. Catholic)
      It gives me hope to see that not everyone has indulged in John P’s stupidity laced kool-aid!
      May the lord be with you!
      md

  39. Mr. Catholic,
    Well spoken and thoughtful words, unlike the majority of the reckless comments spewed on this site by veiled atheists who espouse the heretical idea that somehow God lost control of his own creation!
    Bravo good man.
    md

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  41. Great statement at the end: You are in control of you and God is asking you to be goodness and love in a way that tangibly changes the story we all find ourselves in. God is asking you what you’re willing to do to bring healing and cease pain and show compassion.

    I hear God is in control all of the time. I believe that is true. I also believe that such a statement becomes a vacuous truth that justifies recklessness.

  42. Thank you for your comments. I am one of those people who says that God is in control but not for the reasons you state above. I think that I speak for most people that when I refer to God being in control it is to calm my fears. I do not need to be afraid because God is in control. It helps me to be brave and determined. Then I can continue to do my work as a Christ follower. Doing His work of serving and helping wherever I can. Joanna

  43. God planning thing and people being responsible for the things God has planned go together. They are not opposites. E.g. Jesus’ death. When Jesus was put to death on the cross, those who did it did exactly what God’s “power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (Acts 4:28). God was “in control”. But God being “in control” did not diminish the responsibility of the people who killed Jesus. They are still described as “wicked men” (Acts 2:23) morally responsible for what they did. The Bible teaches that God can plan what is going to happen and yet people are still responsible for the wicked things they do.

    So, I think it is wrong to say that God is not in control.

    However, it is also wrong to think that God being in control means that everything is going to be nice. God being in control could mean that he raises up a president who has no regard for truth as an act of judgement on western civilization which has been saying for years that there is no such thing as truth.

    • Well said, Kevin!! One thing we tend to forget in an argument like this is that God exists outside of time. He knows the whole story from beginning to end and therefore he is most certainly in control because, although we have free will, he knows ahead of time how we will react to a particular circumstance and will intervene now and then when he desires the story to move in a certain direction.

  44. Consider this. God did not create robots, there is no purpose in that. God would want a person/soul that comes to him by his own free will. (Thus the process of the first and second resurrections). If God wanted predestined robots there would no point in going through this process we call life.

    But that treatise is easy for me since the bible was a convoluted series of stories, albeit great stories. I can only imagine where our civilizations would be today had all the silly religious wars and practices not held us back.

    Her is a great way to look at it. If today, there was no record of a religious past or the ‘Big bang theory’, we would go to the scientific explanation of existence. That is interesting because of the tools we have, we can explain things as opposed to creating mystical mumbo jumbo, like declaring the world is flat and the sun and stars revolve around the earth, etc.

  45. I can understand what the author when he talks about the freedom of will every man has and that God cannot force us to do something. But I think what the author is missing is that our choices is not just about doing good or doing evil. What the author is driving is that,we, as humans can control our actions and be good just by our choices alone. And that, my friend, is what the enemy want us to think. No one is good. There is only one that is good. And we can’t be good without Him. Hence, and as what the Bible is saying, we should deny ourselves, repent our sins, accept Christ, pray for and be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will guide us in everything we do. I’m repeating here, we cannot be good just by ourselves. So, where does our freedom of will lies?We have to chose the leading of the Holy Spirit everyday. God bless.

  46. These theological questions and understandings have been wrestled with throughout history. And for good reason, as the outworking in our lives goes back to these basic belief systems.
    Might be that one way to look at this and grow in our understanding, is to refrain from using a blanket statement, that God is or isn’t in control. How do we define control? Does it mean micromanagement and determination of every last decision on earth? Or does it look more like influence, supervision and determination of the ultimate plan? Could the All powerful, First and Last, Eternal Creator also choose to limit certain decisions and realms of authority and choices to entrust them to His creation? Is it possible that He has recognized the incredible value and amazing possibilities, as well as risk…by setting the course of the universe in this way? Does it somehow make Him less powerful that He is not sitting with the video game controllers deciding and forging every move, every moment, and every decision?
    To pull individual scriptures out of the Bible, place them in an order that makes sense to us and build a theology that God is a certain way, can be damaging and dangerous. These ideas do have consequences in how we live, how we perceive our role on the earth, our realm of responsibility and the incredible portion we have been entrusted with, as His beloved children. Do we as dearly beloved and chosen children enter into the good works that are prepared for us? Do we apply faith and with patience enter into our inheritance? In studying the Bible and how God has worked and interacted throughout history…looking at the whole counsel of God, revealed through His word, and crying out to not only know the acts of God, but also His ways…there is overwhelming evidence that God neither ultimately ‘controls’ all aspects of His creation, nor is He in any way deficient in His power, authority or overall plan. For some, this thought is too scary, or maybe the idea puts a sense of too much responsibility upon us. Or maybe we have simply assumed or believed certain things, without looking a bit deeper.
    Does God rule over all? Yes, indeed! Has He turned over a big portion of authority to us? You had better believe it…and the living out of this has enormous consequences in these days that we live in. Will we be a generation that enters into our inheritance, or because of faulty thinking and unbelief shrink back from the promises of God and His inheritance? Much to ponder, and much is at stake. What a mighty, awesome, wise, loving, just, holy, true, merciful, mind-blowing God we serve!

    • Sheyap,

      Thank you for this: “Might be that one way to look at this and grow in our understanding, is to refrain from using a blanket statement, that God is or isn’t in control.”

      There is so much that cannot be defined or understand if we use only one word or phrase with scripture pulled from here and there. When I think of how biblical scholars and theologians have examined, reexamined these concepts, I rest a bit easier knowing there is not one right answer.

      Thanks!

  47. John, I’m sorry, but while I understand your point, much of what you say violates orthodox theology and our understanding of God’s sovereignty. God is always in control, at every moment, and nothing escapes is will (what he allows to happen). And, absolutely, we have several biblical examples of God exercising coercion to bring about specific outcomes. He ABSOLUTELY has veto power over free-will whether he regularly exercises it or not. Please be careful what you suggest as you have an a specific audience that hangs on your every word in spite of what the Bible says.

    • That’s really not the point, Aaron. When I say something about how awful it is that war is happening or a toddler dies after being run over by his father, to hear “God is in control” does not help. UNLESS it is the grieving parent who says it. If I am crumbling in front of you and I am simply searching for care, compassion and/or understanding, a hug, a simple “It’s awful isn’t it?” will do more for me than “God is in control,” because for me at that moment, God is not.

      The whole concept of theodicy is very real, how can God be all loving and all powerful while bad things are happening in the world. Theologians have been studying, hashing and rehashing this concept for centuries. It’s not an easy one. My personal take on theodicy has changed over the years. I’m glad we can have different views. I can accept yours for you, but not for me. That means I will respect you as long as you or others do not push your views on me.

      There is much to be learned and I’m sure I will be at this until I die.

      • Lynn, it absolutely is part of the point because John makes it a part of the point in the words he uses. You can’t have it both ways. Lynn, I understand the point that it’s not helpful to some to hear those words. So say that, and only that, instead of infusing in incorrect theology…

    • Aroaron, You also earn a bravo with just a few others on this site who realize without any doubt that God is ALWAYS in control. Period. He may work thru us by giving us the the opportunity to serve Him for OUR benefit,… but he doesn’t NEED our help for anything, ever. He is always completely independent. And NO… He is not playing like Almighty Bruce…. overwhelmed by prayers etc. He has set the world up to run on it’s own to respond to our behaviors based on how well we either comply or defy his instructions.
      In any case not many people on this blog seem to understand this very fundamental point and that’s not just sad…it’s scary that there as so many who say the believe in God, but apparently think he lost control of his own creation. dats really warped reasoning! Something the Atheists say! Bravo to you cause you got it right! -md

  48. Thanks again, John.
    Our problem is often that we don’t use the heads God has given us. Every parent knows that eventually, we have no control at all over our children. And more to the point, the more we control them, or try to, the more we kill the love relationship. Control is the opposite of LOVE. We rarely can have both, at least, for any amount of time. To think of a God of Love being a Controlling God is just crazy. Yet, we try to juggle both. It doesn’t work.
    The story of ‘Adam and Eve’ tells us this. If we’d have the good sense to ask the Jews (they wrote the story, right?) they’ll tell us that in the controlled ‘garden’, the two kids just couldn’t grow in love. In love, God put them in a uncontrolled place where they had to fend for themselves and hence, have a very real chance to grow and understand, even though (like children), they would complain and yearn for a ‘perfect’ life where they wouldn’t have to do a thing. (Don’t we make our ‘heaven’ into just this kind of place?)
    No, I’m with you. Being controlled by God just doesn’t make any sense. Not if we assume a loving God. For better or worse, I’ll put my money and life on LOVE. Those who count on God’s control are wasting their lives, even though I sometimes envy their ability to be concerned about only the most trivial.
    Thanks.

  49. Marilyn Nelson, in a poem-
    “Abba Jacob said:
    There’s a big difference between
    the mentalities of magic and of alliance.
    People who spend their lives searching for God have a magical mentality:
    They need a sign, a proof,
    a puff of smoke, an irrefutable miracle.
    People who have an alliance mentality
    know God by loving.”

  50. I believe in God, but do not believe he is a puppeteer. I don’t understand, though I want to, how peopleperceive a world without a creator, without One more powerful and eternal than humanity. I personally need that belief and humility to keep me balanced. Some things are possible for me, others not. I believe God has the power to control, but does not do so. This makes me responsible for my life, for others, for the earth, for creatures, for time, for use of that which has been given to me. I think the discussion demonstrates that there is indeed a fine line. If you want to pass the buck, sit back and absolve yourselves with saying, “God Is In Control. ” That just sounds like Greco-Roman mythology to me. I’d rather be in this discomfort zone than accede to that attitude.

    • Patricia,
      I agree with you completely about preferring residence in the land of questioning and discomfort than one of platitudes. Your response gives me comfort. Thank you.

      Whether G_d has the power to control and chooses not to do so, or is without power, or even without existence, I rest easier in knowing that men and women have pondered these questions for time eternal. Theodicy is a difficult one.

  51. Perhaps people say “relax, God’s in control” because they DO NOT want to get all bogged down in a political argument with YOU. I don’t “regret” my vote, at all and the implication that, suddenly, pain and suffering is worse, because of my vote just makes me want to turn and run away from any discussion with you. I’m very active living the life Jesus called me to, thank you very much. Bless your heart.

  52. The God you are all debating doesn’t exist. Nor do the Gods of any other religions. They are all the biggest scam ever put over on the human race, and the cause of more pain, suffering, war and death than any other reason.

  53. God DOES exit, no question. Once I would have been as dogmatic about his non-existence as you are until God showed up in my life uninvited in a profoundly supernatural way that defied all rational explanation. He’s been doing that now on a regular basis for the last twenty years. True faith in Him is not founded on some theological debate but on real supernatural experience of Him and His love and guidance on a regular basis. God is real, as real as anything in my life. Has “religion” caused suffering, war etc. Absolutely! But what needs to be understood, and isn’t, is that doing things in God’s name under the banner of Christianity doesn’t make the perpetrators Christian. A belief in the existence of God doesn’t make one a Christian. A further more radical step is necessary. The Crusades were carried out in God’s name but I have no doubt that those involved were not Christian. En masse, Christians would not be capable of such atrocities. Many such crimes are laid at the feet of Christians but if people really understood what makes a person a Christian, they would realise that the crimes were not carried out by Christians but those choosing to do them in God’s name . . . a very different matter.

  54. This article mentions the obedient act of doing good works for other people and that’s commendable.

    But God IS in control and our first act as fledgling Christians should be to acknowledge that fact and obediently strive to follow all of Christ’s commands. We will stumble and fall. We will damage our own testimony at times. But obedience must be the foremost thing we strive for.

    Feeding the poor and helping the weak is what will result from obedience to Christ’s many commands. He commanded far more than loving each other. He demanded cheerful giving, respect for all human life (how many of the people calling out the “Evangelical right” on this blog are pro-choice?), sexual morality, proper treatment of the temple of God (our bodies), fiscal responsibility, living within our means, giving of ourselves in every way possible.

    When enough of a society is Christian and a majority of those Christians follow all of Christ’s commands, the poor will be fed and the weak will be nurtured. Families won’t crumble due to financial or sexual reasons (these two account for a vast majority of family splits). Drugs won’t run rampant.

    God can only be in control when we obey His commands. Chastising other Christians who strive to first: obey and second: produce results, is not one of God’s commands. Having unreasonable faith is. Vocalizing that “God is in Control” is an act of faith, not a bandaid on a problem. It’s also a phrase that only bothers those who don’t have faith.

  55. John,

    You are right that we should not use of this as a cliche and well said for challenging people to get off their backsides and help those in need. If I meet a someone in need of food then the right thing to do is give them some food. It is not enough to simply say “God is in control”. We need to SHOW love and compassion. That is the heart of the command to love thy neighbour.

    But I do find the reality that God is in control comforting. There are times when I feel powerless to help someone either because the problem is beyond my expertise or because they are too far away geographically. This is the case with some of my friends that I pray for regularly. And even those I can actively support, I still pray for them. If we have no freedom then God is a monster responsible for every act of violence and wickedness on the planet. If God is not in ultimate control then we are all doomed by that wickedness and violence. God is love and he is just. We need to hold all these truths in balance.

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    • I believe we all have free will, I believe it is one of God’s greatest gifts to us – but, most of us have given it away, squandered it, lost it…

      We can get it back. But, we have to spiritually choose to, and spiritually act to get it back.

      YMMV,
      Blessings, Wendy

  57. Great summary of what I independently come up with myself. After a six month struggle regarding free will and God’s sovereignty, I came up with a conclusion that God is not in control of everything that is consistent with the Bible and logical.

    God controls through divine intervention at times, but rarely. He simply does not control our actions because we have free will, not just partial free will. It is the independent free will of people that is the source of bad things caused by people.

    Take suicide for example. Is it God’s will plan for people to commit suicide? What I always hear is “God is good” and “God has a plan” for it. Suicide cannot be God’s will or plan. To argue that is to imply God is not good, which is incorrect. Another perspective is suicide is good because God willed it. Again, that’s not an acceptable argument. Suicide is possible by pure free will. It happens in the world and it’s bad. However, God can make good come out of it.

    God works in this world by speaking to people. However, God’s work usually only happens through people that obey him. He has given us the rules in the Bible and may also speak to us individually through prayer and meditation on his word. No one is perfect like Jesus, so no one has fully obeyed God.

  58. Great post – explains complex matters in a straight forward way. God, with full foreknowledge and control of the final outcome, is a delegator of and self limiting in his sovereignty in order to give us the responsibility of free will. The challenge for Christians, living in an evil world, is how we choose to exercise our free in a manner glorifying to God. Jesus told us, “in this life, there will be troubles but He has overcome.” So we can expect bad things to happen to us, even though he is in control of our final destiny. So glad he did not create me a predetermined predestined robot.

  59. Thank you, John. You’re too kind to call it a dumpster fire. It’s more like an out of control wildfire.

    Most American Evangelicals voted for a man who is the antithesis of the Christian faith. Predictably, he has acted consistently with his revealed character and done incredible damage to the country and the world. Of course, people are frightened, as they would and should be during a wildfire.
    Now the same people who brought this calamity on us say, “Relax! God is in control”.
    It sounds pious, but they’re blaming God for their bad choices. You who voted for Trump hurt all of us. When are you going to admit it, and quit using God as your excuse?

  60. I enjoy reading thoughts on God, Jesus, religion and the philosophy behind it. But the comments trouble me. So many confident posters are working from a non-critical point of view.

    As I understand it, God is all powerful, all knowing, is everywhere in the universe at all times, existed before time began, and will continue beyond forever. He is vengeful, jealous, loving, and answers prayers–typically around bedtime. The men in my local church gather in the front, place hands on each other’s shoulder, and murmur together. This is supposed to cure somebody’s cancer.

    Of course, all of that is illogical–but logic isn’t everything. That description of God also flies in the face of the laws of physics. In fact, we mere mortals cannot imagine what a being would have to be like to “have no beginning and no end.”

    No matter. Although it’s impossible for humans to imagine anything about God, somehow the man in the pulpit says he knows what God wants, what God wants us to do, and what God will punish us for doing. My preacher apparently knows the mind of God.

    But the other guys? Their religious leaders are wrong, all wrong. Apparently the only preacher who understands God is the one who lives in my zip code. Boy, I’m lucky I chose the right church!

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  62. There is a very simple, non-sectarian phrase that sums up the core of Mr. Pavlovitz’ message: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. The whole blog article is about how “Relax, God is in control” is the opposite of this simple idea and contrary to the teachings of Christ, who was by all accounts a hands-on kind of guy, whether he was healing sick people, feeding hungry people, or opening a can of whoopass onto the people who defiled the temple by making it about money.
    Instead of getting all bent out of shape over the definition of “in control”, how about just reading the message for what it is: a call for empathy over apathy and positive action over passive inaction from the Christian community. You know, kind of like what Jesus would probably have done.

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