I happened to chat the other day with a fellow who told me about a curious little newsletter he owns and edits.
The newsletter is, in a sense, a game, with each subscriber playing the role of a character in its storyline. Every month the players send instructions for what they want their characters to do. Then Joe -- I'll call him Joe -- weaves all the characters and their exploits into a story. Dragons and castles and ladies-in-distress sort of stuff, I imagine.
"Do you ever kill off any of your characters?" I asked him.
"Sometimes," Joe said, "if they don't pay their subscription."
I got a laugh out of that, but Joe's line of work also struck me as an interesting parallel with how God and His creation may interact.
In this newsletter world the players make real choices, but the game goes the way Joe wants it to go because he arranges all their choices into a pattern he selects.
Perhaps God works with us in a similar way. We make our own decisions for good or ill and God arranges them like pieces of a collage into a pattern He chooses. Maybe that is how our free-will and God's sovereignty fit together.
And while I recognize the danger of carrying an analogy too far, let me stretch just a bit more.
A reader of one of Joe's stories might think that a character (let's call him Greylock) died because Beowulf killed him. Everything leading up to Greylock's death would be right there in black and white. Those who prefer not to see God's hand at work in the world could say, "Why do you look further for an explanation when it is staring you in the face? Greylock is dead because Beowulf killed him, for Pete's sake!"
And...well, they're right. Beowulf did kill Greylock.
And yet, if Joe lets you in on the secret, you would know that Greylock died because he didn't pay his subscription fee.
In the same way, I know the sun evaporates water from oceans and streams and lakes, and that the vapor forms clouds, and when the temperature drops sufficiently, the vapor condenses into droplets that fall from the sky as rain. That is the naturalistic explanation, and if I wanted, I could stop there.
But I know the secret behind the naturalistic explanation: God loves us, and "sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." So I can confidently thank God for the rain -- or for any of His other blessings.
Thank you Lord.
Copyright 1996, Brad Haugaard.
“What a blessed condition is a true believer in! When he dies, he goes to God; and while he lives, everything shall do him good. Affliction is for his good. What hurt does the fire to the gold? It only purifies it.”
–Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial