CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

It Is Time to Stop Telling God What He Can and Cannot Do

Jan 25, 2017

At the heart of sin is idolatry, and at the heart of idolatry is putting something or someone in the place of God, including yourself. Countless millions of non-believers do this every day of course, but what is really regrettable is the fact that so many Christians do exactly the same.

Plenty of Christians sit in judgment on God and see no problem in telling him what he can do or what he cannot do. They have the audacity to put God in the dock and inform him about what he is allowed to do and what he should not do.

potter 1This is the height of impudence, stupidity, and gross wickedness of course. As Isaiah said 2,500 years ago (Is. 29:16):
You turn things upside down,
as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,
“You did not make me”?
Can the pot say to the potter,
“You know nothing”?

Yet that is just what we find so often happening with arrogant Christians actually presuming upon God, telling him what he can and cannot do. The examples of this seem almost endless. Many of them contain an element of truth, but also much falsehood, making them all the more dangerous. I have written at length about these various examples, so I will add a link to a full-length article with each one.

Let me offer just a few of them here.

God would never want us to rejoice over the defeat of enemies
Yes and no. While we have to show grace and humility in victory, and not simply view all opponents as enemies, the Bible actually speaks repeatedly about God’s enemies, their overthrow, and celebration and exaltation about this. Often we find God’s people rejoicing when God steps in and defeats their enemies.

David often delights in God and his vindication when his foes are defeated and his accusers are silenced. Plenty of the psalms (songs of worship for ancient Israel) are devoted entirely to these realities. In Revelation we read about God’s judgment over his enemies and the worship that breaks out in heaven because of this.

A classic example of this is found in Exodus 15. God had just routed Pharaoh and his armies at the Red Sea, triumphing over them in massive fashion, while saving his people in a miraculous way. So here we find the Song of Moses and Miriam. What is it all about? It is about rejoicing at the defeat of Israel’s (and Yahweh’s) enemies. As v. 1 says:

I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.

See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/01/19/divine-justice-overcoming-evil-is-good-news/

God wants us to support socialism
We hear this all the time: God cannot support the evil capitalistic system, but he does support socialism. Um, not quite. God does care about the poor and the disadvantaged. But the question is, what economic system has traditionally done more to lift the masses out of poverty than any other? That system, for all its faults, is the free-market economy.

The free market is based on such basics as private property, hard work, personal responsibility, and obtaining the fruit of one’s labours – all things affirmed in Scripture. Socialism is about the state confiscating the wealth of others and redistributing as it sees fit.

Not only is this nowhere enjoined in the Bible, but whenever it has been attempted it has been an abject failure, further harming the poor while benefiting a few elites. Even when God miraculously provides for his people (not the state), God expects his people to work for it. As I just recently read in Exodus 16:4:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions’.”

While public safety nets for the deserving poor have a role to play, overwhelmingly Scripture speaks about our responsibilities to work hard and be productive, not to lay back and depend upon state handouts.

See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/04/06/markets-and-morality/

God would never condone something like the death penalty
We hear this so often from believers who actually think they are wiser and more moral than God. Um, simple question: Who ordained the death penalty in the first place? God actually. And where has it been rescinded in Scripture? Nowhere actually.

God established capital punishment back in the early chapters of Genesis (9:5-6), well before the law was given in Exodus 20, so it does no good to say it was part of the Mosaic law and done away with in the New Testament. Paul fully assumed that the death penalty was still binding in his day (Acts 25:11) and even says it is a primary part of why God created the institution of the state (Romans 13:1-7).

Yet I hear so many people who actually seem to think they are more merciful and more loving than God when they insist that the Christian must never support something like capital punishment. Sorry, but I will run with what God has said on this, not fallen man.

See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2007/10/11/on-capital-punishment-part-1/

God will never violate human free will
This is another one of those matters which contains some truth, but not all the truth. Yes, generally speaking God respects us and the autonomy (within limits) he has given us. We are responsible moral agents who can make decisions about all sorts of things.

Normally God does not override or interfere with our freedom, but a brief look at Scripture will discover that often God does intervene for various reasons. His norm is for human beings to make choices and be responsible for them, but sometimes we read about God achieving his purposes even through our choices.

The classic case here is Joseph who was abused and misused big time by his brothers. Yet God was involved in all this bringing about his desired ends. Thus Joseph could tell his rather worried brothers in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/01/18/theology-gods-sovereignty/

God does not want us to judge
This is one of the biggest furphies going around today, and there seem to be as many Christians running with this as non-Christians. “You cannot judge anyone” these folks will insist, usually by mangling Matthew 7:1. Indeed, this may be one of the most abused passages in all of Scripture.

These folks insist that God alone can judge, and we must never do so. Never mind all the passages that tell us to do exactly that: judge. We are told repeatedly to judge, assess, discern, evaluate, make distinctions and exhort and rebuke when necessary.

Jesus himself told us to “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7;24). Paul judged the Corinthians involved in sin and was shocked that the Corinthians did not. As he said in 1 Cor. 6:2-3: “Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!”

Elijah judged the Baalists, Isaiah judged the idolaters, Jesus judged the Pharisees, Paul judged the Judaisers, and we too are to judge all things, including the beliefs and behaviours of fellow believers.

See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2008/10/08/thou-shalt-judge/

God supports all forms of love, regardless of the sexual expression of it
This has become a mantra of late not just for the ungodly but for those folks claiming to be Christians. ‘Love is all that matters’ we are told, and God would never look down on anyone in their expressions of love. Thus all sexual lifestyles are OK, as long as love is involved.

This of course is so patently unbiblical that it is amazing that anyone who says he is a Christian is pushing this nonsense. But it is happening all over the place as the world’s perverted sexual ethics are replacing the clear teachings of Scripture.

Biblical love is certainly not lust, nor is it mere feelings and experiences. Biblical love is about willing the highest good for the other person, and that includes obeying God and his word when it comes to sexual morality. Human sexuality is confined to heterosexual marriage – end of story.

Any other sexual activity is a violation of God’s will and good intentions for us. Biblical love is an obedient love. As Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

See more on this here: billmuehlenberg.com/2008/08/12/on-biblical-love/

Many more examples of this could be offered here. Many of you would have your own to add. But it is time Christians stopped telling God what he can and should do. It is time they let God do the talking, and we do the listening – and obeying.

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8 Responses to It Is Time to Stop Telling God What He Can and Cannot Do

  • Bravo Bill! Good stuff, however what about Peter and his “Not so LORD!” I’m not criticising your article, just adding the dimension of (since the Fall of man) innate idolatry of ones’ own will. Peter certainly loved his Lord but he needed converting from that old idolatrous nature and to accomplish that Jesus took him thru the Cross-Resurrection pain shame and destruction into His new true life. I would suggest that too many preachers teachers and run of the mill Christians haven’t seen and believed the love of God displayed only in the propitiation of the Cross. Keep on facing us up to His holy Word brother!

  • Yes, agreed with every word again Bill,

    Enacting Godly discipline is love too is it not? There seems to be more Christians in this day and age who do not read or study God’s Holy Word than ever before or even have a loving relationship with the Lord Jesus. It’s great that you continually warn believers and non believers in this fashion because there is even the hope of heaven for a criminal who turns in repentance even moments before the death sentence is carried out as we so graphically see evidence of in the film “Dead Man Walking”! This may even be the case for some of us in the way we live our lives in defiance of our loving God who’s first commandment is love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself as love is the fulfilling of the law of God. Was wondering where pluralism fits into your summation Bill, because it is pluralism that Islamists are dead against when in actual fact they make Muhammad God’s Messenger elevating him and even themselves to a position of god particularly as there is no acceptance of sin or wrongdoing though there is forgiveness and reward supposedly when a Muhammadan reaches heaven. For what is this reward? For killing innocent people, which God’s law is clearly against? Misinterpreting God’s Holy Word and leaving Jesus Gospel out of his great plan for salvation? How can Muhammadans call us brothers and sisters and what wealth do they possess that western governments so value their way of life and agree to let them into the country to destroy communities and impose their destructive systems that are very inferior to our own, that God is not a part of and which do not improve civilization because Muhammad was a barbarian?!

    Not many people I have spoken to know that Dimitrious Gargasoulas is a recent convert to Islam. This seems to be the same culture or lifestyle of these young offenders in jail who keep rioting and pulling down the very structures around them that were created for their safety, I think Rick Warren is right when he says that we take safety too far because we value comfort over discomfort, truth doesn’t sit well with many people and we see many people going to great lengths to avoid it today in Western Society, please let us face up to the facts and learn from the mistakes of the past, may creation seek the creator who is the God of all comfort, who will keep us from harm to give us hope and a future. This is not hard is it Bill? Thanks again with blessings!!

  • Yes, that’s right. And includes to stop using one’s so-called victimhood as a tool to gain the sympathy for others. There is an emerging brand of ministry which seeks to “expose” “domestic abuse” within ‘christian circles’. There is no such thing. Such ministries are really just unhappy with something in the past, for example, a pastor rebuking him or her (most of the time it is a her), and then starting up some counterfeit ‘christian’ ministry to lure people away from the true Church. Examples include A Cry for Justice, and Spiritual Sounding Board.

  • Thanks again Bill. How can people “work hard and be productive” if no-one will employ them? It is federal government policy to have 5% unemployment, so that financially comfortable people can blame “dole bludgers” for the ills of society, which ignores the fact quite a lot of bludging is done by people who have jobs. And a person with one hour’s paid work in the last fortnight is not counted as ‘unemployed’.

    And please don’t say, they should do voluntary work as this leads to paid work, because it doesn’t. There is a government organisation which relies on 1600 volunteers to do its essential work in numerous facilities across the State I live in, equivalent to 60 full-time jobs, saving the government 2 to 3 million dollars a year. When these people apply for paid positions in this organisation, the post-application feedback is, they have “insufficient experience working in this environment”.

    Christian employers don’t behave any differently from secular employers, in my experience. A decade ago, I was offered a job with a Christian magazine which wanted to use my editing and grammar skills, the result of my tertiary education. So, they had a moral obligation to pay an income above the HELP repayment threshold, but the income they offered was below this, so would’ve left me in debt to government. I initially overlooked that, because I really wanted the job, but then I couldn’t find anywhere to live. I drove over 200km, visiting 25 real estate agents, covering 45 suburbs; cheapest rent for a house was $260, for a unit $250. I couldn’t compete in the rental market on the income offered, and the employer would have known that to start with. And to top that off, on returning to my native state, I received an e-mail from the ‘lady’ who was to have been my supervisor on this Christian magazine, calling me ‘proud’, ‘self-righteous’, ‘vindictive’, and someone with ‘no clue’.

  • Sorry for being off-topic but the most vital Australian parliamentary inquiry yet: religious freedom in Australia and elsewhere. This may be the one that hits closest to home:
    http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Foreign_Affairs_Defence_and_Trade/Freedomofreligion
    http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Foreign_Affairs_Defence_and_Trade/Freedomofreligion/Terms_of_Reference

  • Correct again. When Jesus said to love our enemies it did not mean we were to get all emotional a gushy about them. Love means doing good and promoting homosexuality is most certainly not good.

  • THANK YOU THANK YOU! I am dealing with some of these very issues right now…especially the judging one. My church is very big on WE ARE NOT TO JUDGE…but that just means ANYTHING goes in the church anymore. GOD has given us certain guidelines and there IS such a thing as SIN!!! We must call it out when we see it…especially in the church!
    THANK YOU!

  • Hi Bill, this is a belated comment on this posting. If nothing else, it highlights the absolute necessity of immersing oneself in The Word. Just today (Saturday Jan. 28), I saw in the media that The Church of England in the U.K. reaffirmed that marriage is between a man & a woman. This will inevitably lead to more battles for the Church over this issue. If it comes to taking a personal stance, then I declare that I serve The Living God, He doesn’t serve me! Once again Bill, good solid teaching, blessings, Kelvin.

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