Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and T.A., Is it true that in God’s sovereignty, He has predetermined all the details of our lives, including where we will live, who our parents will be, what our personalities will be, and what we will physically look like, even to the point of predetermining our genetic makeup?”
Tom: Dave, this is an issue—something that’s being popularized in a very popular book today. But Acts:17:26 does say, “…and hath made one blood of all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation.” But that seems to fall short of our genetic makeup, doesn’t it?
Dave: Well, Tom, if what this questioner says is true, then God is the cause of everything that happens on this earth. God is the cause of all evil. I can blame God for everything. It’s not my fault. You don’t say, “The devil made me do it.” Now we say, “God made me do it.” And that is horrible. That is not true, and it’s not biblical. So I’m not accountable, I’m not responsible. God is to blame for everything.
No. God didn’t “create” me. He created Adam and Eve. And certain things have happened. The human race has not only become corrupted by sin, and habits have been passed on from one generation to another, and even new ones invented—evil becomes worse. But the evil practices have corrupted the human race. Disease has entered: venereal diseases, for example; many serious illnesses—some of them because of wrong choices, bad habits.
Tom: Children are born with HIV.
Dave: That’s not God’s doing. HIV—it’s not God’s doing. Now, maybe a virus of some kind, or something even smaller than a virus that God has there just to discipline the human race for its evil, but it is not His desire that any should perish, the Bible says. He takes no pleasure—God says, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that the wicked should turn to me…repent, come to me.”
Isaiah 55, God calls out, “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come to the waters. Let the wicked forsake his way, the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return unto the Lord, and he’ll have mercy upon him.” But now, you’re asking the man—the wicked man—to return or repent from what God has caused him to do? Isaiah begins “God says, I have raised children; they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his owner, the ass his master’s crib. My people don’t know, they don’t consider….” And he goes on and he says, “Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Now, if you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land, but if you refuse and rebel….” It hardly sounds like God is the one who causes them—their genetic makeup, who has predetermined and decreed every act, every rape, every murder, every evil thought—and then He rebukes man for it and calls him to turn unto Him? But He has predestined him to do otherwise?
Tom: Dave, I was wondering, in looking at this question, it raises this issue: What part does chance play in our lives? Or probability? Or things that happen? I know Ecclesiastes:9:11 talks about time and chance happen to us all.
Tom: But then there are believers. There’s …can we make a distinction between God’s involvement and directing of the life, the path, of a believer vs. somebody who’s not a believer?
Dave: Yeah. Let’s take that whole verse: Solomon says, “The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happen to them all.” Now, obviously, the race many times is to the swift. You train, you practice, you… And the strongest wins. However, what it’s saying is “time and chance could play a role in this.” “A bird is taken in an evil net in a time when it knows not,” he says.
Okay, so that tells you right there that time and chance could have a role—not necessarily, and you may have some control over this, with forethought and preparation, and so forth. Furthermore, God does intervene. I mean, you can give instances—I can give many instances in my life where God has intervened. My own foolishness got me in trouble, but the Lord rescued me, and the same is true with many others. He’s not obligated to intervene. He only intervenes when it suits His purpose, or perhaps He can teach us a lesson—draw us to Himself.
So that does tell us that everything is not fixed. It is not predetermined. The fact that God knows what we are going to do tomorrow does not cause us to do it. This is because He’s omniscient—that He knows what we’re going to do before we do it doesn’t mean we have to do it because He knows we’re going to do it. Of course, we have to do what He knows we’re going to do, or He would be wrong, but the fact that He knows does not make us do it.
Tom: Right. And then, Romans:8:28 says, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose…” So no matter what happens in our lives, God is there to work it out for His glory and for our benefit.
Dave: It doesn’t mean everything will be rosy. It doesn’t mean we won’t have made mistakes. But He can turn our mistakes into a blessing for us. But we will still suffer the consequences of those mistakes, if He so pleases.
But, Tom, one thing we know: We are responsible for what we do. We are accountable to God and to others. And even mistakes: We fall asleep at the wheel, or whatever—God didn’t foreordain that and cause you to do it. And there are consequences to it. But He is able, then, to cause this, then, to work out to our blessing if we love Him, and if we’re the called according to His purpose.
Tom: And as you said, He can intervene at any time He wants, for His glory, for His purpose, for His plan—because we’ve committed ourselves to Him. That’s what we desire more than anything…
Dave: But he doesn’t make a practice of constantly intervening. That would destroy life as we experience it, and we do not…
Tom: We wouldn’t learn; we wouldn’t grow; we wouldn’t take care of those areas of our lives that need to change.