“If Jesus is the paradigm of providence, then God is fundamentally opposed to sin, evil, and suffering. Jesus is NOT REVERSING WHAT GOD HAD PREVIOUSLY BROUGHT ABOUT (for example, disease and suffering). If Jesus is God manifest in the flesh, then never again can Christians justify destroying people...the teaching of Jesus stands opposed to the theology that EVERYTHING HAPPENS JUST AS GOD DECREES IT SHOULD AND THAT GOD’S PURPOSES ARE NEVER FRUSTRATED” (John Sanders, “The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence” (Second Edition). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007, page 116).
I started reading John Sanders’ work several months ago; but life got in the way (as usual) and threw me off the trail. I put down Sanders’ book with the hopes of returning to it soon. After several months, I am returning once more to Sanders’ book, “The God Who Risks.”
Reading his quote above about sickness and disease renewed my passion for the problem of evil. How do we deal with the fact that evil exists in a world created by a good God? According to Sanders, “Jesus is not reversing what God had previously brought about.” I think Sanders’ words parallel Matthew’s words in his Gospel:
“Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, ‘this fellow does not cast out demons EXCEPT BY BEELZEBUB, THE RULER OF THE DEMONS.’ But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: ‘EVERY KINGDOM DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF WILL NOT STAND. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:24-28, NKJV).
Jesus was considered to have casts out demons by the ruler of the demons. And Jesus said that, should He do that, He would then be dividing the demons, not uniting them. In other words, He would be tearing down the same thing He was supposed to be building up!
Jesus is not casting out demons by demons here; He is simply entertaining the accusation of the Pharisees, and showing them how nonsensical it is. Their accusation of Christ would be the equivalent today of a football player from one team running to score a touchdown FOR THE OTHER TEAM! That makes no sense! If two teams are playing a football game, then doesn’t it make sense to believe that each player wants HIS OWN TEAM to win—not the OTHER team?
When Jesus engages their accusation, He does so to show them that no one in their right mind would do what they are claiming He’s doing; but the reason why they’re making such ridiculous claims is because they will claim He is ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE SON OF GOD! Even when such claims are nonsensical, the Pharisees will resort to them in order to continue their denial of Christ’s Messiahship.
Surprisingly, though, the Pharisaical spirit lives on in the twenty-first century...except today, it’s not literal Pharisees making such claims about Jesus—instead, it’s Christians who are making such claims. Our Calvinist brothers and sisters do this when they claim that, like Sanders said, God sends Jesus to reverse evil and disease THAT HE DESIGNED for His greater glory!! It is foreign to the idea of God. God is consistent in His nature and in His Word, and the idea that God would come to earth and “undo” what He did from the beginning is absurd. But if Christ were undoing what God had designed, then He would be working against the will of His Father...and now, Calvinists have created a fight amongst the members of the Trinity. This then, becomes unbiblical, as the Trinity members always have one mind and one will. Never is there a deliberation between them. They all act in agreement, all the time. Because they all act in agreement, the Trinity shows us a case of “A House United,” not divided. For if they be divided against one another, the Trinity as we know it would not stand.
There is more of Sanders to come; so stay tuned...