Today we present a guest post by friend of “The Five Pilgrims” Adam Dean:
As Christians, it can be tempting to use arguments such as “God has used wicked leaders in the past!” or “God is big enough to handle my voting for candidate x” in defense of our choices in voting. In this series of articles I would like to examine some common fallacious arguments from God’s sovereignty and provide a better framework for understanding how Christians should think about God’s sovereignty in relation to voting and politics.
Let’s start with the first argument mentioned above. Examples ranging from David to Samson to Nebuchadnezzar are used to show that God can use people who messed up in really big ways or even pagan rulers who completely rebelled against God to do His will. Proponents of this line of thinking will tell us that God chose or “voted” for these people, and if God can do it, why can’t we?
Unfortunately, this is a very dangerous way of thinking about ethics and decision making. In the first place, this argument blurs the creature/Creator distinction. God, as God, has the right to do as He will with His creation, but we as His creatures are bound by God’s commands to us as His creatures. This is part of why God could order the death of nations surrounding Israel (including the women and children) without blackening His justness or holiness, especially given that all of those people had sinned and were thus worthy of death, but we cannot just run around killing other people simply because they are sinners. We are not God, and not all that God does is right for us to do.
This does not, of course, imply that anything that God does is unjust, merely that we are limited as the creation and He is not as the Creator.
In the second place, this argument cannot logically end anywhere short of justifying any and all evil imaginable. Allow me to explain. If the fact that God is going to use something evil for good justifies doing that evil, then by definition, all evil is justifiable. Two examples from Scripture should be more than enough to convince us of this.
In Genesis 37, we read the story of Joseph and his brothers who almost killed him but ended up settling for beating him up, throwing him in a pit, and selling him into slavery. As we follow Joseph, we see that he rises to greatness in Pharaoh’s service and ends up saving his people from a famine due to his position. As Joseph says to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
So, can we conclude from this story that Joseph’s brothers were morally justified in selling him into slavery because of the good that came from it? Hardly. This would be a monstrous idea that has no basis in Scripture. Conspiring to kill innocent men, beating them up, and selling them into slavery is nothing short of wicked. I doubt any Christian would dare to claim that beating up your brother and selling him as a slave is ok, but according to the logic of the argument from God’s use of evil, we would have to conclude that it’s not just ok but good.
An even more compelling example is the betrayal and murder of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us that this was foreordained by God (Acts 2:23, 4:27-28; see also 1 Peter 1:20, 1 Cor. 2:7) and, of course, God used this for literally the greatest good that has ever occurred. Clearly, however, murder (the unjustified premeditated killing of another human being) is completely wrong; the murder of a completely innocent, perfect human even more so. Worse still, we’re talking about the murder of the God-Man, our Creator in the flesh. Scripture also unequivocally tells us that those involved were responsible for their evil (Luke 22:22).
We cannot honestly suggest that murdering Jesus was justified regardless of how much incredible good it brought about. To do so is absurd and contradicts clear Scripture. But again, if evil is sometimes necessary or justified because of the fact that God will use it for good, we are left with no choice but to affirm that even this would have been good. These two examples ought to be more than sufficient to convince us that this argument should not be used. Numerous examples also abound of God using pagan nations to punish Israel and then punishing those nations for their actions against Israel.
I think two other points should be mentioned in brief. The first is that this argument requires calling evil “good.” If we argue that it is “good” to do bad things because God will use them for good, we are literally calling evil “good.” Scripture speaks clearly to this issue. See Isaiah 5:20, for example, which says “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (See also Proverbs 17:15).
The second of my final points is that this argument disregards direct Biblical commands. In Romans 3:8, Paul sharply condemns those who accuse them of suggesting that they do evil so that good may come. Here we have a clear statement of Biblical ethics: to do evil so that good may come is an abomination. This is closely related to what Paul has to say later in chapter 6, when he replies with indignation to the idea that we might sin so that grace might abound: “God forbid!” (Rom. 6:1; the entire rest of the chapter explains that, since we are no longer slaves to sin, it is unthinkable that we should desire to sin any more, no matter the reason).
Clearly, we should not dare to wield God’s sovereignty in this manner, as an argument to defend doing something we know to be wrong. Evil is evil; it is never justifiable for any reason. God’s sovereign use of evil to bring about His good and just plan for history is not a license to engage in evil ourselves. God’s use of evil men for His purposes does not justify in the slightest our attempts to put them into power anymore than His use of evil deeds justifies our engaging in them.
In the next article, I will examine more arguments relating to God’s sovereignty and our actions.