God Is Not In Control

In anxious times we look to hold onto something certain. We seek guarantees and we want to believe that someone is in control. Christians find themselves saying things like, “God is sovereign and in control of this situation.”

But this is not a faithful representation of how Scripture portrays God’s sovereign kingship. This mindset has some unfortunate consequences. If we grow anxious, we may feel guilty about having a lack of faith that God is in control. Or, we may question God or blame God when bad things do happen.

According to Christian Scripture, there is a distinction between (1) God’s identity as sovereign king over creation, and (2) the manifestation of God’s sovereign kingship within creation.

God created the world as his temple, his dwelling place, and he created humans as his image-bearers within creation. His rule over the world was to be manifested by humans overseeing the spread of shalom and blessing. God charged humanity to rule over creation, subduing it, bringing about its flourishing and enjoying its rich abundance.

Everyone would clearly see God as sovereign king over creation and the reality that he truly was inhabiting his temple when God’s image-bearers were doing what he told them to do.

But humans chose not to do that. Humanity rebelled, and Sin and Death entered creation and we have seen chaos and destruction ever since. The world now looks to us like a place over which God is not reigning.

While God remains sovereign king, God’s sovereign kingship is not being manifested in the creation that is his temple, because his image-bearers are not manifesting it. As Paul says in Romans 8, creation has been subjected to futility in the hope that it will also be released from the slavery of corruption when God also transforms his people into complete image-bears that manifest his rule. Until then, creation groans and suffers pain (Rom 8:20-22). And we do, too.

God was not content with this situation so he came into his world, took Sin and Death into himself and broke their enslaving grip over his world. And God has promised that he is bringing about a future new creation that will be completely free of the devastation and chaos caused by Sin and Death. All those who call upon God in Christ will inhabit that future world and enjoy a reality characterized by shalom and blessing—the wonder of universal flourishing.

We do not have guarantees in this world, except that God will one day transform his creation. There are no guarantees that everything will work out as we want it to. We will experience suffering, pain and loss.

In Hebrews 2:5-9, the writer portrays this situation. Humanity was created with glory and honor—God’s image—and God subjected the creation to humanity. But we do not currently see everything subjected. This means that creation is in a condition that is out of control. Humanity is not fulfilling its charge to subdue creation and to bring about its flourishing.

“Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him (i.e., Jesus, the true human)” (Heb 2:8)

But in Christ, God has provided a future hope. The future world is one that is purified of Sin and Death because Christ is already ruling over it. That future world is the new creation that this world will one day become. By faith, Christians are to see this reality and hope in it.

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor” (Heb 2:9).

Jesus is crowned with glory and honor, which means that he is the true human, ruling over the future world as God’s true image-bearer. That future world is the one over which God is both sovereign king and the one in which God’s sovereign kingship is being manifested.

The nature of Christian hope is not that God is in control. Christian hope is that God is on his way to his world to redeem it, and we pray that he will come soon to do so. Our hope is in God’s promise that all those who call upon God in Christ will inhabit the new creation, the one in which we will find our true rest and our enjoyment forever.

9 thoughts on “God Is Not In Control

  1. Brian Fulthorp

    Reblogged this on συνεσταύρωμαι: living the crucified life and commented:
    Really great post here, Well worth the read. IMO.

    According to Christian Scripture, there is a distinction between (1) God’s identity as sovereign king over creation, and (2) the manifestation of God’s sovereign kingship within creation.

    God created the world as his temple, his dwelling place, and he created humans as his image-bearers within creation. His rule over the world was to be manifested by humans overseeing the spread of shalom and blessing. God charged humanity to rule over creation, subduing it, bringing about its flourishing and enjoying its rich abundance.

    Everyone would clearly see God as sovereign king over creation and the reality that he truly was inhabiting his temple when God’s image-bearers were doing what he told them to do.

  2. Pingback: God Is Not In Control — Faith Improvised – Walking In White Shoes…

  3. Ryan

    I agree with all the eschatological hope statements, but I think we can also find hope and peace in knowing that God is in control. God with omniscience acquiesces or does not acquiesce (thus intervening) to every natural disaster or to every pestilence. I think God intervenes in these sort of situations more than we will ever know. Do you not find hope in that? Do you not find hope that if God acquiesces to the world wide spreading of virus, then he has a perfect reason? Is this not a example of God’s sovereign kingship being manifested?

      1. Ryan

        Yes, many philosophers and theologians agree with such a theodicy that we were taught? Can you point to where you have written more about theodicy? Because I don’t think that what you have said in this post really addresses the conundrum of the problem of suffering.

      2. timgombis

        Inevitably, to touch on one topic raises all sorts of other questions, and I try to limit my posts to about 500 words. No posts can address all topics and this topic raises thousands of questions, as you note. Suffering is a reality because humanity has chosen chaos over obedience to the one true God. God is on his way to retake his world, as Revelation portrays and as Paul talks about in Romans 8. One day, there will be no more suffering. But in this world, it’s a reality.

      3. Ryan

        Dr. Gombis, I agree with your comments, but with your comments I still think that one could say that God is in control. Maybe the scriptures present a much more complex and different reality, but as you know there are plausible philosophical arguments that can be made along with scripture. I’ll keep pondering this. Thanks for discussion.

  4. David Baker

    I think you make too much of a leap from the fact that we do not yet see God’s kingship fully manifest to effectively saying he has vacated his throne pending his return… The first can be true without necessarily reaching the conclusion you then leap to, which to my mind is a non-sequitur.
    We would want to be careful, I would have thought, before ditching 2,000 years’ understanding of God’s providence in a 500 word blog post!

    Here is my tuppence in response!

    https://www.christiantoday.com/article/does.god.cause.pandemics/134591.htm

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