Thursday, June 13, 2013

Praying for rain

Last month, Scot McKnight plugged a new book he’s written, attacking Calvinism:

Here are some comments I left on his post:

Dr. McKnight said:

“If God determines everything (as in the meticulous sovereignty approach), then God not only permits but must determine that some young girls and boys will be abused while others will be spared, that some adults will suffer more in this life while others will suffer less. For this essay’s purposes, it is not relevant how tragic situations are explained (e.g., that we are all sinners who deserve these tragedies and even worse; or that God wants to make an example of humans as depraved). What is relevant is that—in this understanding of divine sovereignty—God determines everything, that God can do otherwise but chooses to bring about awful conditions and events.”

How does Dr. McKnight distinguish between the morality of God permitting child and God determining child abuse?

God knows that if he intervened to stop a child abuser, the child would not have been abused. Absent divine intervention, the child will be abused. Therefore, divine inaction ensures the abuse.

How, then, is ensuring the outcome morally distinct from determining the outcome?

Dr. McKnight said:

“That particular but pervasive understanding of God’s sovereignty is what might be called ‘meticulous’ (or ‘exhaustive’) sovereignty. In regards to this subject, there are only two real options: either God determines everything (meticulous sovereignty) or God does not determine everything. A well-known example of meticulous sovereignty can be found in various statements made by notable evangelical leaders in the wake of natural disasters, such as hurricanes from Katrina to Sandy. If one affirms meticulous sovereignty, then one must also believe God decided, desired, and carried out the weather conditions, the speed and direction of the winds, the deluges of water, and precisely which homes would be destroyed and which homes would escape.”

i) Jesus said God sends sunshine and rain (Mt 5:45). Doesn’t that mean God controls the weather?

ii) God answered Elijah’s prayer to end the drought by sending rain (1 Kgs 18:42-45). Doesn’t that assume God controls the weather? Indeed, doesn’t v.1 explicitly attribute the rain to God?

iii) According to Scripture, some natural disasters are divine judgments. Noah’s flood, as well as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, are paradigm-cases.

Confining ourselves to the subset of natural disasters that are divine judgments, does Dr. McKnight deny that God was behind these particular events? Presumably he doesn’t think the natural disaster which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was just accidentally punitive. Doesn’t its function as a divine judgment mean God was responsible for when and where that happened? That God directed the outcome?

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