Such was the question asked on Living Lutheran this past Monday.
Actually, the question was this:
Do you believe that God is in control of everything? Do you believe that sometimes there is an evil force that is battling God — especially times when there are bad times in our country? — from Megan, an ELCA member and student at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.
That's actually two questions, but I thought them worthy of commentary on my own blog. (Does this mean I wasn't necessarily satisfied by the response of the ELCA clergy who handled Megan's question? Yes.)
First: Is God in control of everything?
No. God is not in control of everything. If someone or something has control, then that entity is literally making each and every thing happen. God is not the great puppet master ordaining each and every event. God gave up control when He instituted free will, not only with humankind but with creation as well.
I prefer to say that God is in charge.
I'm a parent. I have no control of my children. That might sound a bit sacrilegious, but it's true. I don't dictate to them how they are supposed to live, what they are supposed to wear, how they are supposed to spend all their free time, or who they choose to be friends with. Does this mean I don't exert some amount of influence in their lives? Certainly not. I do seek to guide and help my children make good choices. I am there when they get hurt physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I help them try and take negative things and make them positive. If I can intervene before something bad happens, I do so. Do I sometimes let hurtful things befall them so that they learn consequences? Yes, but it's usually things that will do no permanent damage. That's what parents do. They work to guide their children toward growth and maturity. They do not control things. They are in charge.
Second: Do you believe that sometimes there is an evil force that is battling God — especially times when there are bad times in our country?
Yep. Sure do. There is a reason all that talk about the Devil and demons is there in Scripture. It's a reality that goes beyond the evil that we as humans create with our actions both individual and corporate.
Oftentimes, I have heard well intentioned folks say that talking about the Devil and demons gives us an out to excuse certain behavior or to cease working to curb evil. We should therefore minimize our talk of the Devil and focus on our behavior both individually and corporately.
While this sounds good on paper, the reality is that you cannot fight evil on a purely human level. There is definitely a spiritual component to the battle. I am heavily influenced by C.S. Lewis in my thoughts here. In his book Mere Christianity, he offers some very good insight into this reality. I urge folks to read it.