Is God really controlling everything?

Question: There are several Christian cliches that really bug me. One of them is when Christians say, “God is in control.” This statement can mean two different things. It can mean that everything is within the limits of God’s control or that God is controlling everything. The first is true, while the second is false. The first definition is true because God is guiding the overall course of history, and He can intervene however and whenever He chooses. However, God is not controlling every detail of our lives. People who say that God is in control of all things are implying that He is responsible for all the bad things which happen. You see, if God is in control, then He is the one killing babies, He is the one spreading sicknesses, He is the one causing war. Right this instant, someone is in pain, and if God is in control, then He is the one causing that pain. If God is in control, then He is the one responsible. Please, don’t blame God. The Bible teaches us that God is not in control. That is why we pray: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven….” We need to pray God’s will shall be done on earth, because right now His will is not being done here. Demons are causing all kinds of evil, many people are living in rebellion to God, and many things are happening outside of the will of God. For example, God wishes that all people would be saved, but they are not. A day will come in the future, when every knee bows and every tongue confesses Jesus Christ as Lord. Then He will fill all and be in all, with His perfect will being done throughout heaven and earth. During the present time, God is not controlling everything. That’s the problem: things are out of control. Praise God He does intervene in this world at times. Think about that: If God was controlling everything He never could intervene in the affairs of this world. Intervention would be meaningless if God was already controlling everything. Yet, the Bible reveals to us a God who frequently intervenes in the affairs of humanity. He answers prayer. He acts whenever and however He chooses. Yet, He intervenes selectively. He does not control everything. Hence, we must act. He wants us to be His vessels, His voice, and His hands in this world.

Answer: When God called Moses to go and bring His people out of Egypt, Moses complained that he was slow of speech and tongue. God said, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11). Jesus taught us that our heavenly Father takes care of birds and flowers (Matthew 6:26,30) and that not one sparrow will fall to the ground without the will of our Father (Matthew 10:29). The Bible also teaches that every casting of the lot brings a decision from the Lord (Proverbs 16:33) and that a decision that Joseph’s brothers meant for evil God meant for good (Genesis 50:20). God tells Ezekiel, in regard to the idolatrous elders of Israel coming to him for a word from Yahweh also, “If the prophet is enticed to utter a prophecy, I the LORD have enticed that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand and destroy him from among my people Israel. They will bear their guilt — the prophet will be as guilty as the one who consults him” (Ezekiel 14:9,10). All this is to say that God does not seem embarrassed to take credit for some pretty nasty things and that He seems to be concerned about the smallest details of life. I do not by this mean to imply that He takes moral responsibility for evil decisions or tragic occurrences, because He puts all the blame on mankind and the fall for that. Nevertheless, He represents Himself as controlling all that occurs, good and bad, and establishes His sovereignty in the world. We may have a qualm about Him causing all things and yet not taking moral responsibility for evil, but as Paul says, “One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?'” In other words, why does God not take moral responsibility but put it squarely on our shoulders when no one is able to resist doing whatever He purposes for them to do? Paul’s answer: “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” (Romans 9:19,20).

Randall Johnson

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2 thoughts on “Is God really controlling everything?

  1. The question posed here is better than the answer in my opinion and actually provides a much better answer to the question as to whether God is in control or not!

  2. I would say the “question” sits more comfortably and is more appealing than the answer given – but I don’t think it is right. The verses in the answer given should give the questioner some cause to think. But I also don’t think the answer is very complete. I’m not about to complete it but I think there are some theological problems with the questioner’s thinking:

    First off, the question rightly talks about God’s rule and reign and the ongoing “coming” of God’s Kingdom in this world. But I think the questioner is wrong to equate this with control. God doesn’t want to control us, he wants us to choose to do things his way. That’s the difference between being a son or daughter of God and being a slave. God wants us to love him and so choose to obey. Not obey because he controls us. So you see, God’s Kingdom is where his rule and reign are freely received, not where he has “complete control”. (John 14:15)

    Secondly, they seem to assume that God would never cause anything “bad” to happen. And if he does, that he is at fault. The bible clearly says otherwise! God sends the good and the bad! God only promises good to those who turn to him and obey him – and even in that he doesn’t promise us just good – he says we must suffer for him. Did God not send the flood? Did he not destroy Soddom and Gomorrah? Does he not discipline? Does he not rebuke? Is he not free to give and to take as he sees fit?

    Lastly, they make a correct distinction between being “in control” and being “controlling”. But the problem is with the way this distinction is made – it is not between “the limits of God’s control” and “controlling everything”. It is between “having control of” and “controlling every detail”. Let me explain. The sea is under God’s control because he set limits on it (Job 38), it still has a chaotic element to it, but it is under control. In the same way, evil in this world is very much under God’s control – he limits it. To suggest otherwise would be to allow evil free reign – it hasn’t got it! It has all the freedom that God has given to it.

    Hope that helps!

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