The Purposes of God

How do you address hard questions? As Christians, we all want to be biblical, submitting ourselves to God’s will. But what about issues Scripture doesn't talk about directly?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about, "the purposes of God." If we assume God is absolutely sovereign, it should follow that he intends everything. He intends for certain people to be saved and others not to, he intends for challenges to arise to Christianity and for Christians to answer them, and he intends to communicate himself to humans in a particular way.

This last idea seems important for unraveling hard questions. When we as Christians formulate answers to tough questions, one thing we should ask ourselves is whether our, “answer,” makes sense in light of what God is trying to do in the world. Here are some examples.

We ask the question: Did God create the world using evolution or did he do it in six days?

Whatever you choose, faithfulness requires that your answer should also stand up to this inquiry: How does this method of bringing the world into being fit God’s character and purposes?

If you believe in theistic evolution, what purpose would God have for spending millions of years putting the world together when he COULD have done it instantly? If you believe in six-day creation, why did God allow so much scientific evidence that suggests evolutionary processes when he COULD have made instantaneous creation the only scientifically credible possibility?

We ask the question, is it better to vote for the political candidate who wants to turn my views into law or one who will create an environment that best highlights the differences between a Christian worldview and someone else’s (i.e. does not legislate Judeo-Christian morality)? If you want to vote for the guy who agrees with you, ask yourself; is it God’s intention for Christians to force non-Christians to act like Christians by making it illegal to do otherwise? If you want to vote for the guy who tends to allow people to do what they want, do you think it is God’s intention for us to sit passively by while someone else legally harms innocent people with the direction of their degraded worldview?

We ask the question, should I be open and honest about my sin with others or should I keep those personal matters to myself? If you think vulnerability is the greater virtue, you must answer this: does God intend for you to share deeply personal things that could make sin seem permissible and less serious? If you think staying aloof is better, you must answer this: is it God’s intention for you to seem perfect, causing sinners to possibly despair of ever reaching your, “level”?

I’ve purposely avoided giving my opinions on these questions, because I think there can be a lot of room for debate on these and a million other questions. My concern, instead, is that too many Christians do not ask what God intends to do. In other words, they formulate what they think is, “right,” without asking about God’s purposes, or his desire for how his children should live in this world.

Here’s an example. As far as I can tell, the majority of Christians do not practice animal sacrifices like the Old Testament, because they feel that the coming of Christ did away with the Old Covenant legal system. Fine, I agree with that too. But at the same time, many evangelical Christians agree with the death penalty. Their rational? The legal structure of the Old Covenant! Instead of asking what God’s intent for the justice system is in our day and age, I believe many of them tend to simply agree with a particular political party and then look for any Biblical rational they can find.

But what does God intend for Christians in the New Covenant world? As far as I can see, here are some of his key and clearly stated principles:
-The government (be it religious or heathen or secular) has been given authority by God to maintain order.
-Christians are to proclaim that ALL have sinned, ALL fall short of the glory of God, and ALL must obtain salvation by faith alone in the person and salvific work of Jesus Christ.
-Christians must evangelize to every tribe and tongue and nation, seeking to bring as many as possible to Christ.

In other words, I do not think Christians should support the death penalty. Nothing about God’s purposes for us in the New Covenant environment seem to allow that. Instead, we should advocate for life sentences, so that criminals have the greatest opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. After all, the proclamation of the gospel is our PRIMARY purpose in this world! To that end, we should be seeking opportunities to witness to those criminals, to let them know that Christ can cleanse them of all their sin in the same way that he has done for us!

So, my call to you is to challenge yourself in this area. Seek to answer hard questions in a way that is consistent with the character and purposes of God, so that our submission goes beyond submission to God’s RULES and toward God’s DESIRES for the weay we live our lives.

Note to fellow Seminary geeks: I'm working on being a bit more accessible in my posts, since I have intelligent but non-geeky friends who read this blog, but this idea of aligning ethical structure with God's purposes in the redemptive-historical drama has, I think, significant hermeneutical implications. The whole concept of submission to the authority of God is allowed to go beyond the LEGAL structure of the Bible and moves into an entire PHILOSOPHICAL framework of God's purposes for his creation. Of course, Scripture is still the inerrant centerpiece of that framework, proclaiming the salvatory act of Christ as the most necessarily important action in all of created history. However, this perspective allows us to also search for creative ways of submitting all areas of life to the King, even those areas not directly spoken to in Scripture. That's a big deal for topics like ethics, politics, proactive social services, and the goals for apologetic or interfaith dialogue groups.


Bits and Pieces

Goodness! I haven’t posted in a while. Here’s a series of small bits and pieces from my life lately. For the more TV-oriented among us, this might be a welcome relief from my usual verbosity!


My wife saved Christmas. Usually I hate the holiday. “Bah humbug,” becomes my favorite phrase, and I spend 50% of the time complaining about everything I can think of. Also, I’m not big on gifts, because nobody ever gets me the books I truly want. They think they can do better by surprising me with something I didn’t ask for. But they can’t.

So, my terrific wife saved Christmas by e-mailing my family and directing them to get gifts from my Amazon gift list for me! I got a huge stack of books from her and others that were exactly the ones I’ve been wanting but haven’t been willing to spend the money on. What a doll!

More than that, we had a great time with my family. I was so thankful for the way God organized everything to work out just right.


I just got over the flu. I haven’t had a real flu since I was in high school! In one night, I threw up 5 times. In the course of three days, my eyes were so sensitive to light that I couldn’t read, watch movies, play video games, or type on the computer. All the stuff I usually like to do to feel better when I’m sick! It was miserable. Also, my stomach hurt so bad I couldn’t sleep. So, I mostly just lay around in pitch darkness doing nothing.


I really enjoy teaching high school. Each week, my kids crack me up with their funny comments. Yesterday, someone handed Alex a sheet of paper, and his eyes got big. “I was elected to LEAD, not to READ,” he declared in a dead-on imitation of the Gubernator (well, the Simpsons version). They sure have a lot of personality!


I love Amazon.com, but it can be a bit fickle. I decided I wanted to do a bunch of book reviews, so that my, "reviewer rating," would get a lot higher. So, I went out and wrote 20 reviews of some of my favorite books. Later, I checked my profile... and I had dropped about 20,000 places! Later on it came back down, but it was a humbling experience.


Our baby is growing! I like to use my wife’s belly button to mark time. It’s still an innie, but we’ll be getting to the outie stage soon!


I had a friend about to graduate with his degree in theology tell me that you are not allowed to make use of hypothetical scenarios, rhetorical questions, or thought experiments in an argument. Apparently, these ignore the, “normative Christian experience.” And yet in the past few weeks, I’ve come across those very types of arguments by A.W. Tozer, St. Augustine, and the apostle Paul!


My wife and I are tentatively in the market for a new apartment. For a long time I have been pulling to move downtown, closer to our church. So, we found a place that was inexpensive, close, and situated in a beautiful old home in Louisville's historic Old Town. I was convinced this would be the place. So, we went to look at it. It was awful! It was basically an unfinished... no, a LESS than finished basement. It was just cracked cement floors and wall, peeling paint on the cabinets, and a dank smell. Utilities not included.

As we walked around, trying not to laugh, it really felt like a place you wouldn't store your books (well, I wouldn't) for fear that they'd rot. Samantha made a valiant effort to be nice to the guy showing it, but she lost out in the end.

"It's like a castle," she said. Pause. "Like a dungeon or something." Ha! That's my wife, telling it like it is. Our search goes on!


Go MSU Spartans!