Friday, February 24

God's Design?

I'm supposed to be working on another post on the decrees of God. I've got it half done, but instead of finishing it this morning, I stuck my nose in a discussion that's been going on in the blogworld: Yes, the God and cancer controversy.

I've been resisting, resisting, resisting.....and then I just couldn't resist any longer. If you've been oblivious to the skirmish, read all the links in the post at Smart Christian linked above, including and especially this one by John Piper that started the whole kerfuffle ball rolling by saying that when someone has cancer, it is God's design. And here is a slightly an editted version of my comments from this morning:
I think you missed it a bit with your description of the first view. It isn't that God is the author of cancer--depending, at least on what you mean by the word author. If you mean by author that God goes around zapping people with cancer, then that isn't what Piper is saying. Here are his words:
It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design.

Piper still believes that cancer comes by means of God's permission. It's because Piper sees that God has reasons (or a purpose) for allowing it that Piper uses the word design. God has specific purposes for allowing cancer into a person's life, and that makes the cancer part of his design for their life, and in that sense, cancer is designed for us by God.

And as long as someone believes that God knows the future, is powerful enough to prevent things like cancer from occuring, doesn't have some sort of automatic hands-off policy in his creation, and isn't capricious, I don't know how they could think otherwise. Does God choose what to allow or not? And if he chooses, does he make his choices for a reason (or reasons) or for no reason?

Someone who says that God "only uses" things like cancer must either think that he can't prevent it, or he didn't see it coming. It's as if cancer shows up unexpectedly, catching God off guard, and then God has to scramble around after the fact to try to salvage something good from it. Where is the comfort in that? Where is the hope in that?

As someone who lost her husband to cancer while she was still in her 40's, I can tell you that if a minister had come into the hospital room and said, "Well, we live in a fallen world, so things like this just happen," I would have had to restrain myself....seriously....and I'm a nice person. At the time that my husband was getting palliative chemo treatment, we did have an fill-in pastor that said something just like that in a sermon--accompanied by a big sigh that was probably meant to sound sympathetic--and it was the most discouraging thing anyone ever said during the whole year and a half battle we had with the cancer. There was no hope, no comfort in that statement. How could we trust in a God who had allowed us to suffer what we were suffering but didn't have a good design for it?

Whew! But how could I not be passionate about this?

And as long as I'm already hot under the collar, let me add. The reason I took so long to comment on this is that it really annoys me that everyone wants to defer to the opinions of people who have experienced cancer on this question, as if how God works in the world, and what sort of message really gives us hope is something that can only be understood through experience.

Noop. You can understand this by using your noggin. God is good, he is all-powerful, he knows the future, he is purposeful. And Romans 8 tells us that God is working in everything purposefully for the good. Cancer is part of the everything God works in. Cancer is part of the everything God works purposefully in. Cancer is part of the everything God works purposefully for the good in, and that purposeful good result--that design--is our increasing conformation to the image of God's Son.

Next up: The decrees according to Wesleyanism or Arminianism, and then this week's Round the Sphere post. I've got my blogging work cut out for me. On top if that, I'm just a little sick, and I'm working up a doozy of a sick headache, but I'm hoping ibuprofen will help.

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