Dr. Roger Olson, professor of theology in George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University, has written, “The God of Calvinism scares me; I’m not sure how to distinguish him from the devil.”
In article oddly bereft of biblical reasoning for a theologian, Olson asks, “But what if God limits himself so that much of what happens in the world is due to human finitude and fallenness? What if God is in charge but not in control? What if God wishes that things could be otherwise and someday will make all things perfect?”
In charge but not in control? Is that sort of like “I love you, I’m just not in love with you”?
And then there’s this:
And God says, “Pray because sometimes I can intervene to stop innocent suffering when people pray; that’s one of my self-limitations. I don’t want to do it all myself; I want your involvement and partnership in making this a better world.”
Unfortunately, I don’t have his “Making stuff up as I go along” version of the bible, so I was unable to verify the context. (An aside: doesn’t “I want your involvement and partnership in making this a better world” sound like a recycling campaign?) “Sometimes I can intervene”? And other times he’s unable? How does that work?
“It’s a different picture of God than most conservative Christians grew up with, but it’s the only one (so far as I can tell) that relieves God of responsibility for sin and evil and disaster and calamity.”
Ah, he wants to “relieve God of responsibility for sin and evil and disaster and calamity.” Isn’t that special. First, I don’t think that reformed theology saddles God with responsibility for sin and evil. But that’s a different post. The problem with Dr. Olson’s argument is that his God isn’t found the bible.
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Job 1:21 “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Isaiah 45:7 “I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things.”
Romans 9:14-23 “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.
Dr. Olson concludes, “In light of all the evil and innocent suffering in the world, he must have limited himself.” To explain the mysteries and hard questions of human suffering in a manner that is comforting to him, Olson reshapes the image of God. He exchanged the Sovereign God of the Bible for “God to Me.” And frankly “God to me” scares me; I’m not sure how to distinguish him from the devil.