God's Sovereignty and Richard Mourdock...

Have you ever heard anyone talk about the providence of God? Or about God’s sovereignty? It’s common for Christians to say things like, “God is in control,” or “God will work it out in the end.” These statements are true, but what do they really mean? And do we really believe them?...

Right now CNCF’s grad student/faculty reading group is reading through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin is very helpful in teaching us about many aspects of God’s character, one of which is His sovereignty over all things. Calvin defines “providence” as “not that by which God idly observes from heaven what takes place on earth, but that by which, as keeper of the keys, he governs all events.”

Notice that Calvin starts with a negative definition of what providence is, i.e. “providence is not...” Why would he do that? Well, throughout the Institutes, Calvin is always helpful and pastoral. We expect him to be cold, removed, and academic with his approach to theology, but that is never what he does. Instead, we find him constantly speaking to his readers as human beings—not as brains—and therefore dealing with their sins. This passage is one example.

So when Calvin says, “providence means not that by which God idly observes from heaven,” we should realize that our tendency is to believe just the opposite—that God does idly observe from heaven the things that happen on earth. Sure, we’re willing to acknowledge God’s providence in favorable circumstances. Maybe some unexpected money comes in to help pay for rent or tuition. Or maybe God opens up a job opportunity. Or maybe God has protected you in the midst of sickness, disaster, or danger. We often acknowledge such blessings with a phrase like, “It’s just one of those God things.”

But what about when we suffer? What if we don’t recover from sickness? What if someone very close to us dies? How about if someone sins against you in an awful way? What about natural disasters? Are those things from God? Have you ever heard anyone say that any one of the above bad circumstances was a “God thing”? I sure haven’t.

A helpful song that we often sing at the Fold is “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman. Some of the lyrics come from Job 1:21, where Job says, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” This passage (and the song, too) is good for disciplining a one-sided view of God’s sovereignty. It helps us to realize that God’s sovereign hand is at work in all of our life situations—the good and the bad.

Sickness? Yes. Car accidents? Yes. Sports injuries? Yes. Hurricanes? Yes. Earthquakes? Yes. Tsunamis? Yes. The LORD gives, and He takes away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

But when it comes to these things, our tendency is to say something more like, “These things just happen.” Or, “It’ll work out in the end.” Even if we muster up the courage to say something like, “God is in control,” we usually just mean that He’ll find a way to clean up the mess that is the result of a disaster that somehow managed to slip past Him. In other words, when it comes to a particular disaster/hardship/suffering, we really talk and act as if God “idly observes from heaven,” because we either believe that He’s apathetic or impotent. But God is neither.

Well, ok, so maybe we’ll accept God’s sovereignty over things like natural disasters, or car accidents, or anything like that…but what if there’s sin involved? We wouldn’t accuse the wind of sinning against New Orleans, or the ocean of sinning against southeast Asia…but what about 9/11? Maybe God controls the wind and the waves, but are we willing to say that the wicked actions of men are in God’s control? What if someone sins against you? Maybe you’ve been lied to, stolen from, abused, or even raped? Where was God when those things happened to you? Was He sleeping? Forgetful? Negligent?

Richard Mourdock, Indiana Republican Senate candidate, attracted media attention on Tuesday night, after he responded to a question about abortion and rape by stating that he thinks “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Praise God for this faithful declaration of the sanctity of human life!

The evil of abortion is in no way excused by the circumstances of rape or incest. If we believe that life begins at conception, then we believe that abortion is murder. But if we make exceptions in the cases of rape and incest, then we are saying that these children are less valuable than “normal” children. But why should the child of rape or incest have less of a right to live than the child whose conception was intended? In fact, shouldn’t we actually seek to protect the child who is already the victim of awful life circumstances? Why punish an innocent child for the sins of his father? Is it lawful to say, “You don’t deserve to live because your father was a pervert”? There is no justice in that.

So what does this have to do with God’s sovereignty? Let’s learn from God’s Word…

Joseph was hated by his brothers. They took him and threw him into a pit, and then sold him as a slave to a caravan on its way to Egypt. They then lied to their father Jacob by saying that a wild animal had killed their brother. After all this, when Joseph is reunited with his brothers, we expect Joseph to take revenge on their evil. They expected the same thing. But what does Joseph say to them? “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones” (Gen. 50:19-21).

Joseph had it in his power to punish his brothers in any way he pleased. He could have killed them, allowed them to starve, or even tortured their children…They were truly at his mercy. But instead of taking revenge, he showed incredible mercy by going beyond the simple act of forgiveness, to the point of promising to protect and provide for their children! Who does that?! Can we encourage the same kind of forgiveness and grace in people’s lives? Or must we continue to sell people into the slavery of guilt and bitterness for $500 per child?

We learn from Joseph that God uses the evil deeds of men to bring about good. Therefore we should marvel at the miracle that God can bring a human life into being through something as awful as rape. Rape is truly evil. Children are truly a blessing of the Lord. To kill the child conceived through rape is to allow evil to triumph over good. Instead of allowing something good to come out of a horrible situation, we have settled for rape + murder, and last time I checked, two wrongs don’t make a right. God is bigger and more powerful than that. He is not bound and restricted by the actions of men.

In fact God has used incest, adultery, and prostitution to save the whole world! Just look at the genealogy of Jesus Christ. What if Tamar had aborted her son Perez? What if Bathsheba had aborted Solomon? What if Mary had aborted Christ? Talk about inconvenient pregnancies! These women were victims of sexual exploitation, adultery, and teen motherhood, and yet God used their circumstances to bring to us a Savior!

So should we call the woman who has been raped to trust in God by faith to heal her body and her soul, and to give her rest and comfort? Or should we add to her emotional brokenness by encouraging her to murder her child, thereby enslaving her to guilt and hopelessness? It is monstrous and demeaning to women to suggest such a thing!

There is much comfort in knowing about God's providence, which is, as Calvin says, "that by which, as keeper of the keys, he governs all events.” There is much comfort in knowing that nothing is out of His control...in knowing that God does not sit by, idle or helpless, when evil deeds are being committed...in knowing that rapists and murderers will be judged for their sin if they do not repent...and in knowing that God can use even the worst sins for good.

Finally, let us rejoice in God's willingness to cover over our sins with the blood of Jesus Christ!

My comment will cause howls

My comment will cause howls of protest, but, I was raped as a little girl, starting at 4 or 5 years old. And, in my humble opinion I truly believe NO MAN has any right at all to counsel or give advice, or even opinion to what a women goes through after rape, especially if she is pregnant. Being a victim of incest my entire childhood I knew in my heart that if my father would have caused me to become pregnant I would have taken one of his guns and blown my brains out. Just the thought of carrying his child was the most revolting thing imaginable. Again, I don't think ANY MAN has any right whatsoever to decide or say what a female should do after she is raped and pregnant. I don't care WHO you are, men have no idea what it would feel like to have the rapist's child growing in you. How revolting a thought and it's just as revolting to have some man come along and preach what he thinks God would require of the woman. Get a grip, you are not God and you are not a woman so your opinion means NOTHING to me. How arrogant of men. I am so glad men are losing their power on this earth. So very glad.

Dear Anonymous, No howls of

Dear Anonymous,

No howls of protest here, just the words of another woman, which I hope will prove more palatable to you than those written above. (Full disclosure: My husband wrote the above blog post.)

What was done to you was wicked; there’s no other way to say it. It is another example of the evil bound up in the hearts of all mankind. When I hear of the kinds of things that happened to you, I can only say, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"

I am a woman, pregnant right now with my third child, and I cannot imagine what it would be like to carry a rapist’s child. Does that discount my opinion? In your eyes, probably. But thankfully, truth is not dependent on your opinion or mine, on your life experiences or mine, on the sin done to you or to me. Truth is found in the word of God.

God hates rape, including the incestuous rape of little girls. God also hates murder, including the murder of unborn children in their mothers’ wombs. They do not cancel each other out.

Like I said before, I can’t imagine what pain and suffering you have endured. But I can point you to Jesus, who, though sinless, was tortured and killed on our behalf. He alone can understand your pain and He alone can cleanse you of your own sin and give you life. Run to Him and learn of His healing grace!

With prayer and love,
Dani

To Anonmyous and Dani, by Anonymous2

Anonmymous,

As a Christian woman much older than you (and Dani, too), I cannot imagine what you had to go through. If I were your Mom and found out that my husband had been abusing you in this way, much less getting you pregnant, it would be difficult for me not to want me to shoot him on the spot. (This from a person who doesn't believe in having any firearms in the house.) I would get you and any other of your other siblings out of the house permanently as soon as possible.

Although I am pro-life, I believe that it is permissible for a woman or young girl to have an abortion if she is a victim of rape or incest, her pregnancy threatens her life, or her unborn child has congenital abnormalities incompatible with life.

If you would have gotten pregnant, a pregnancy could have possibly been life-threatening if it happened shortly after puberty, especially if you were small for your age and young, like 11 years old. First, we'd get the possible medical care/advice for you. Then, I'd have you talk to a Christian therapist/counselor and have her (or possibly him) discuss the pros/cons of keeping your baby or having an abortion. I'd also ask you to consult our priest (I'm Anglican; we're pro-life but do allow abortion in the exceptions above). My inclination would be for you to choose whether to have an abortion or to continue the pregnancy. Either way, I would back you 100%. If you chose to continue your pregnancy, we'd consider whether it would be best for you to raise your child or make her or him available or adoption. In any event, as long as I knew you were fully aware of the consequences of your decision, I'd support you.

God hates incest, but sometimes he knows when the price of bearing a father's child is just too difficult for a young woman.

Worthy to Live

Dear Anonymous 2,

It's easy to say what we would do in such an awful situation. But the horrible reality of incest is that a mother is often aware of her husband's sin, but either blinds herself to it or is afraid to expose it. It may be out of fear of her husband, or out of the fear of dealing with the sin and interrupting the status quo. In other words, there is shame in exposing the sin of your family, and it often keeps mother's from telling others about what goes on in their own households, and they often gloss over it for the sake of "keeping the peace." Please don't make light of the horror of incest and the satanic deception that goes along with it and works in the hearts of everyone involved by righteously proclaiming what you would do.

You seem to have a very fluid ethic for determining when a child is or isn't worthy to live. Two of your statements are particularly disturbing:

1) "I believe it is permissible for a woman or young girl to have an abortion [kill her son or daughter] if her unborn child has congenital abnormalities incompatible with life." Where do you draw the line in determining what is "incompatible with life"? When are we to determine that it's okay to put a suffering person to death? What about old people with cancer? Aggressive colon cancer is often incompatible with life, isn't it? If someone's prognosis is less than 9 months, should we just go ahead and euthanize them?

2) "Sometimes [God] knows when the price of bearing a father's child is just too difficult for a young woman." In other words, God knows that there are some situations where His grace really isn't sufficient, and the real solution is to commit murder?

Please don't direct women to heap their own guilt and condemnation on top of the awful things they've already suffered at the hands of wicked men. It is destructive to their souls.

Love,
Alex

P.S. We prefer that you use a real name to identify yourself, rather than "Anonymous," especially if you're going to be handing out grave counsel regarding the acceptability of murder. We need to be accountable to one another for our words.

Thank you for this,

Thank you for this, Alex.

-Jason

ClearNote Campus Fellowship is a ministry of ClearNote Church on the campus of Indiana University.