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Fog of War

• Greg Boyd

There is a very common understanding in many Christian circles that everything happens for a reason, we can’t understand what comes to pass because God’s ways are higher than our ways, and ultimately every single act, no matter how consistent or inconsistent with the God revealed in Jesus, is a direct result of the power, control, & sovereignty of God. In this message Greg dissects John 9:1-3 confronting all these ideas head on showing how dangerous poor theology and inconsistent exegesis can be.

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Since the idea that God meticulously controls every last detail and orchestrates each and every event in our lives became popularized, countless people who have faced the tragedy and malevolence of existence have, in good conscience, chosen to walk away from the faith. Making sense out of a God who would arrange and use such atrocities as the Nazi concentrations camps, childhood abductions, abuse, and diseases to teach us a lesson is a seemingly impossible task and has left many disenchanted and confused. Many Christians with good intentions trying to describe the world around them revert to passages like Romans 9 and John 9 to justify this all controlling teaching.

If the book of Job can teach us anything, it’s that we don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to suffering and why what we experience actually comes to pass. There is a very ancient idea that suffering is a result of the anger of the gods that Jesus appears to be directly refuting in the John 9:1-3 section of scripture. Although Jesus refutes the assumption of the disciples that either the blind man or his parents did something to deserve this punishment, the second part of his commentary is still problematic in that it seemingly attributes the infirmity that many suffer directly to God. People have used this passage many times to attribute all the suffering, infirmities, and evil in the world to God’s hand, either directly or indirectly.

Greg offers 3 arguments against this understanding:

  1. First off, we learn in Hebrews 1 that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. Elsewhere Jesus says “if you see me you see the Father.” So a conclusion about God that doesn’t look like Jesus has to be wrong. God is not glorified by acting in ways contrary to the life Jesus lived. To hold this view honestly, then we’d have to conclude that every single act of evil, every person gassed, and every child sold in to slavery somehow functions as a mechanism to display God’s glory. But in the New Testament we learn that the devil is the one that came to steal, kill, and destroy, not Jesus. Jesus freed, not afflicted the sick.
  2. In all other accounts in the gospels of Jesus encountering infirmity, disease, & suffering, never once does he attribute it to a way to bring glory to God. Jesus affirms either explicitly or implicitly that these outcomes he encounters are the result of the oppression of principalities and powers contrary to will of the Father. It’s fundamentally poor exegesis to use one verse to refute the many other teachings of Jesus and other New Testament authors. To accept this teaching would result in this strange interaction where Jesus would be freeing people from God the Father’s oppression (via evil agents he predestines to act out certain narratives).
  3. And lastly there is issue with the translation of “so that” that Jesus appears to use when describing why the man is blind. The original Greek does not have the “so that” phrase, but was rather added during translation because they assumed Jesus was legitimizing the disciples question about why what happened did. But in actuality, it seems that Jesus is saying neither! This happened, and now let the works of God be manifested. Then of course he goes on to heal the blind man. There is a pretty common pattern in the gospels of people asking Jesus questions in which he answers by essentially telling them this is the wrong question, and they should rather be focused on much more important ideas, like, “What am I doing right here, right now to usher in the Kingdom Of God?”

 

Complex questions about why exactly things happen usually can’t be answered, but not because God isn’t communicating clearly. Rather because of the sheer complexity of creation and how many decisions by free agents are interconnected to one another. We live in the fog of war, and many of our actions have unintended consequences because of this war-torn creation we live in. We have to get better at saying “I don’t know” and acknowledging the complexity of creation while also being able to affirm what we do know about God revealed in Christ. This is what provides legitimate hope. If Jesus didn’t or wouldn’t do it, we need to affirm that God wouldn’t either. We need to let go of the blame question.

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Topics: Free Will, God's Will, Kingdom of God, Spiritual Warfare

Sermon Series: Loose Ends


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Focus Scripture:

  • John 9:1-3

    As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

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5 thoughts on “Fog of War

    Kevin says: Wednesday August 8, 2018 at 11:06 am

    So, the devil is way more powerful than i thought; he has corrupted God’s creation and brings havok, chaos and pain and we are left to poke holes in the darkness? So, satan is basically controlling everything we experience and all that God does is bring good out of evil? I don’t like being in this position.

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    Paloma says: Thursday August 9, 2018 at 4:10 am

    Thank you! My husband and I have been listening to you for about 5 years, since we left an insane and toxic church. We haven’t found another one but at least you have help us to continue trust in Jesus and the God that he came to manifest!!
    We really appreciate you and your ministry!
    Dave & Paloma

    Reply
    Elaine Pequegnat says: Thursday August 9, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    A number of years ago, I read a commentary on the Gospel of John. In examining John 9, the writer referred to all the other times in the book of John where the “all’ ‘ina” phrase was used, and showed that it never meant that the previous phrase (in this case, being born blind), was the reason for the clause that followed (Let’s do something to glorify the Father.) At the time I read that, it was such a huge relief because I had struggled with this very passage, refusing to trust a God who would chose that someone suffer for all those years just so He could do something miraculous.

    Reply

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