I have been thinking about a concept that many people use when talking about God. Better yet I have a question that I would like to ask and postulate some of my thoughts about it: Does God try?
What I mean is, does God try to be heard, try to get things done, but is ultimately hindered in what He wants to do? Is it the case that God tries to speak to us, but we just do not listen? Does this mean we just need to learn to listen better? Or is it the case that God tries to accomplish some work, but Satan or humans thwart it? Is God in heaven wringing His hands hoping that His plans will work out, that humans will corporate with Him? Is this the image of God we have in the Bible?
I would argue that God doesn’t try to do things if trying means attempting to do something not knowing if it will succeed or fail. God knows what will happen, He knows what will come of His actions and decisions, they are what He wants to happen ultimately. This doesn’t mean He takes pleasure in every little things that happens, or that each thing in and of itself is ideal, but put in their context and considering the Big picture, they are ideal. What I am saying is everything God does and allows is good because of the end result. Sin isn’t good in itself, but God uses it for good, turns it into good in a sense.
My question is, if God “tries” doesn’t that mean He isn’t sovereign? How could a Sovereign, Omnipotent, and Omniscient God try? For God isn’t it, like Yoda, “do or do not, there is no try”? It seems to me that the clear picture of God in the Bible isn’t a God who tries, but a God who does what He wants. It seems to me a God who “tries” and who can fail, isn’t the God portrayed to us in the Bible. Who would want to serve a God who can fail? How do you know He hasn’t failed? How do you know what He tells you is true? If this God told you that the future might be something, there is the case that He will fail to make it happen like that, and thus there is a chance He is mistaken. Do you see the problem with saying that God “tries” to do anything?
What does this mean for us? Well first that means God isn’t trying to be heard by us, if He wants to be heard, we will not stop Him. I think we do hear, but refuse to heed, but even then who can refuse God when He doesn’t want to be refused? I mean this God can have you drop dead, or contract a disease, and can even give you a new heart, He doesn’t seem like the type that is stopped by us.
Now don’t go taking this to places I never took it. Does this mean we no longer hold any responsibility to hear and respond to God? Of course not, just because God can make Himself heard if He wants, doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t be listening. This brings up a side point to me, I think too many times we do not focus on our own responsibility and instead think our responsibility changes depending on other people. That is, we naturally think we are responsible to respond to God’s call in our lives, but when we hear that “God will be heard when He wants to be heard” we all of a sudden forget our responsibility and think it changes just because God is shown to be Sovereign. Isn’t this kinda crazy? Just because someone else can do your job for you, does that mean you should just stop trying? If someone can run a faster mile than you, does that mean you just drop out of the race and stop running? If there is a chance you will fall down on the race track and someone else will have to come pick you up and carry you across the finish line, does that mean you don’t run in the first place? Or that you are now no longer
I only bring this up, because I think to say that “God tries” is diminishing of His name and character, and is a false teaching about how God is. Now this flows into a much bigger discussion because the Bible uses two types of languages about God, one in that He cannot be resisted, and another that He is resisted. That is why man people have supposed that God has 2 kinds of wills about the world, one Sovereign, which is not resisted, and the other Moral, which He allows to be resisted. But that is a discussion for another time.
What do you guys think? Here is a great article on it called “Does God Try” check it out!
I think it is possible for us to resist the Holy Spirit, though in the sovereign sense it was already decreed we would do so. But as a philanthropist I venture the observation that when it comes to specific verbal revelation in Scripture, God never tried to say anything to anyone. What this has to do with philanthropy is with what I call the “solicitatory will of God” how are we to respond to requests made of us by others for money, time, help, attention, social presence; does God have a specific personal will for us in these cases? I have to say He can, but He normatively does not; if this were not so, I’d go crazy
So does this mean you are not easily persuaded by people who tell you that God told them you are to give them money? It reminds me of the stories of Bible College where guys would get girls to marry them by telling them: “but God told me we were to get married”. I am surprised more girls didn’t respond: “my God wouldn’t have forgotten to tell me that!”
I think the whole discussion comes down to which point of view are you talking about. Can you resist the Holy Spirit? Well in a way ya, we do it all the time. But if God really, really wanted to do something, was putting all His effort into doing it, can he fail? Can you resist that? I would argue that Scripture is very clear and plain and unanimously says NO! If you have done something contrary to what God’s moral will for you is, well ultimately He decreed it in some way. Remember many people forget that ultimately this issue is something we can’t fully comprehend. But I think the Reformed view on this, is the most Biblical explanation we can come to, or at least the most I am aware of: “God is Sovereign, man is responsible, neither decreases the other, God’s Sovereignty doesn’t decrease man’s moral responsibility, nor does man’s moral responsibility decrease God’s Sovereignty. We ultimately do not know how this works in every circumstance, but we know that God is always Sovereign, and man is always responsible for his actions. I think Edwards Freedom of the Will is probably the best thing I have ever read on the subject. He explains what the will really is, and what freedom vs. responsibility really is, so that it is much easier to understand.
Notice I use the term: man is responsible, not man is free. Man’s will isn’t free in the sense that it equally desires all things all the time, so that it always makes purely neutral / unbias decisions. Rather it always chooses the thing it most wanted to choose at that time considering everything going on at that moment. So man is a responsible moral agent, who is free to be responsible and make decisions according to his own will, but his will is not FREE in the sense that there is never desires or influences exerting pressure on it.
Anyways, great point Howard, I can see it being very difficult trying to make wise choices and follow “God’s will” the nice thing is God has given us a huge amount of responsibility to do our best, with the promise that He will ultimately work everything out for His Glory and our good (if we are truly His children). Knowing this doesn’t make us lazy, but bold and not afraid to make mistakes while trying to do the right thing! Keep up the great work!