Greg Griffey has written a wonderful sermon that appears on his blog. I wanted to include here a quote from that sermon:
A prominent Southern Baptist pastor wrote a response to the April 16 events at Virginia Tech, offering his idea of God’s nature – an idea that I once subscribed to. His response consisted mainly of sympathetic gestures, a call for prayer, and an acknowledgment of the ambiguity surrounding the “whys” of such a horrific event. The pastor affirmed our limitations as human beings at understanding the relationship between God and tragedy, then concluded with these words: “But what we do know is that God is still in control.”
Upon reading his concluding remarks on my computer screen, I slammed my hands on my desk, shouting, “NO!, NO!, NO!”. I was infuriated at the idea of a God who is allegedly “in control,” but refuses to inhibit such horrific human suffering. Do we not experience enough pain, I thought, that we have to believe in a God who is in complete control, and at the least allows or permits human suffering?
Theology purporting a God who is in complete control is not new, of course, and it is an idea that continues to permeate much of America’s religious landscape. The religious upbringing of my childhood included a God who grants humanity freewill, and yet still occupies a place of total sovereignty. In other words, there was nothing that God could not do. Life and all it consisted of was uncertain, but we knew one thing for sure: God was in control.
I must admit that believing such a thing theoretically has the ability of granting one a large degree of security. We do not have to understand if God is in control. Right? We do not even have to think if God is in control. Right? And furthermore, worry and concern regarding the environment, war, and the fate of future generations are totally unnecessary if God is in control. Right? When insecurity gets the best of us, all we have to do is remember that “God is in control.” Or do we?
If God is indeed in control, then it appears to me as if God is doing a very lousy job! The difficulty for me arises when we assert that God is in control while also asserting that God is love. For to say that God is in control is to say that God can do whatever God wills and/or wants, including the inhibition of human suffering. And to say that God is in control of tragic events is not saying much about a God who is love!
These days, I prefer to think of God not as a noun, but as a verb; a loving, yet not all-powerful force, in whom we live, move, and have our being. As one Internet blogger suggested, God is “the power that lights the bulb rather than the bulb itself.”And as Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki (one of my favorite theologians) implies, maybe this power, this force, is simply a “power of presence.” God is with us – that in and of itself is powerful!