Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fairness, Grace and God's Sovereignty

I have some further questions/comments on fairness, grace and God’s sovereignty. Is it really true or valid that “all men are created equal”? I wonder. We are not even born with equal opportunities or potential. It is possible though that our souls are of equal value in God's sight- although I can't say I know that for sure from the Bible.

The passage about “different articles of gold and silver, wood and clay” in 2Timothy 2 20:21 seems to suggest otherwise, although the most reassuring part to me is that " If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work “. This suggests or indicates that there is something we can do as Christians to commend ourselves to be better used by God.

As far as the 'we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' in the US constitution, I think the authors did not mean it literally since slavery was alive and well at the time, and women could not vote, or possibly they were merely articulating the ideals. - Calorius


Very well put, Calorius. As always, I enjoyed your writing which is often sprinkled with wisdom, wit and some very apt metaphors. Incidentally, I believe that if we assume this posture of undeserving servants, we will not only never pity ourselves or be envious of others (worldly wisdom, as James calls it) but instead only rejoice when God bestows blessings on those around.

Follow up question: even though God can do whatever He wants, does He or has He, done so historically? Thanks to you I can’t get the whole “the owner of the some-tin is the chopper and not the hungry man!” thing out of my head!! I can still imagine Super OD saying something like that. So having established what our attitude should be toward God i.e., humble acceptance of His will rather than a sense of entitlement, we ought to be careful not to extrapolate that lesson incorrectly to our relationships with one another. By that I mean, we are instructed to be fair minded in our dealings with one another.

In the OT, it was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. In the NT, we are admonished to do unto others as we would them do unto us. Love your neighbor as you love yourself....etc. God is not bound by these laws, He created us; we are. Part of accepting His governance in our lives is to promote justice, an extension of fairness on this earth.This has application to other areas of our lives. For example, I used to think when the Bible talked about humility it meant someone who let him/herself be stepped on. Now I think I understand what it really means. A humble person is someone who accepts God’s will in his or her life. This is humility in relationship to God and what He permits in our lives. This is what characterized Moses, David, Paul and ultimately Jesus. They accepted God’s governance and will. They did not think His ways unfair.

Contrast this with Aaron, King Saul, the false apostles, and the Pharisees, all of whom kicked against God’s chosen path. Interestingly, the devil in the garden did not threaten Adam and Eve with violence or coax them with the physical attractiveness or nutritional value of the fruit; he simply injected dissatisfaction with God and a sense of being treated unfairly. Once they bought this false theology, it was an easy path to disobedience after that. To be humble is to accept God’s wisdom and will in our lives. It leads naturally to obedience. To be proud is to reject His wisdom and will for our lives—to believe that the God of the universe is being unfair to us. That attitude leads naturally to dissatisfaction with Him, a blunting of our worship, and ultimately to acts of rebellion— did not the devil follow this exact prescription to his downfall?

I posit that the underlying defect to be found in every backslider and behind every act of a Christian who lives in sin or in any brother or sister who has grown cold toward His Maker is a dissatisfaction/disappointment with God. An unspoken grudge, a feeling that he or she would have done it differently from the God of the universe. It is something we are all to guard our hearts against.One last thing related to this issue of gratitude vs. entitlement. I have realized in my reflections on some of the attitudes of the flesh that some that seem different on the surface but are really mirror images of one another.

One example is self-pity vs. boastfulness, which seem like very different sins on the surface of things. However, if one reflects on these a little more deeply one realizes that they are actually the same exact thing. The boastful man feels better than his neighbor because he has stuff that his neighbor doesn’t. The envious self-pitying man, similarly, is envious only because his neighbor has and he doesn’t. The only difference is in who is identified with the “having” and who isn’t. Reverse their positions—give to the envious what the boastful have—and you will find an automatic reversal of attitudes. The formerly boastful man will now become envious of the once envious and the formerly envious self-pitying man will become boastful toward the now materially deprived. Both are at the core materialistic and this what the Apostle speaks against.

I suspect there are other such examples—vices that for lack of a better name I will call symmetrical vices. Attitudes of the flesh that seem different on the surface but on deeper reflection are the same at the core. Okay enough from me. - Gaius Columbus


Happy New Year, guys! I've read everything with much interest. I have some comments.

Calorius, I think “all men are created equal” and we will all die equal. As has been said and sang about before, no one goes on his final trip to the cemetery with a U-Haul full of green paper and all the accolades attained in a lifetime. It is an essential truth that "naked and from the dust you came and to the dust ye shall return'. In that sense, "all men are created equal"

I'm glad that God doesn't practice our concept of fairness. If He did then the sun and the rain would only be for the righteous and not for the evildoers which includes most of us on earth. It is always easier to see how the other guy is the evildoer.

If God was like man, there'll be limit to forgiveness. We think it fair that our legal system will punish repeat offenders more severely. And so, instead of looking at all the people we think were treated unfairly, and there're many examples in the Bible, lets look at all the examples, ourselves included who have been granted us underserved favors. The greatest favor of all is salvation by the merciful God. The concept of fairness does not arise if we hold to the truths that:

God is sovereign

He knows what He is doing (and we don't)

He looks at the broader picture including eternity (we cannot even see beyond our nose tips)

At our Sunday service last week, our pastor spoke about 35 people accepting by faith the work of our Lord Jesus Christ at the funeral of a 25 year old man killed in a car accident. The mother of this young man had also lost her other son three years prior in a car accident. Someone asked me, “Could God choose the death of this young man to win his friends?” I do not know for sure but it is very possible. One day we will understand. Is this a fair trade off? In our eyes it isn’t, particularly to a grieving mother. If we believe that God knows all things then He is within his rights to permit the death of this young man. In carnal thinking I take it to be big loss but in the long run what matters is eternity and salvation of souls.- Gaius Chicago


Some deep thoughts and as always lot of wit from Calorius. I do need to say that I agree that life is not based on merit. I was talking to one of our class mates today and we reflected on the career paths some of us have taken since leaving college, we quickly realized that some of the most talented guys in our group are very ordinary now and some of the ordinary guys are very exceptional now. I can't explain all this but I think it is a combination of several factors.

One is that we live in a world of sin and therefore are not exempt from the effects of a world system dominated by Satan and sin- the two things are very different incidentally. Thus my race may limit my potential, my looks may land me a dream job etc. Then there is our deliberate choices and our abilities to read situations and take opportunities. Again some people are more adventurous, some are more hardworking, some can read situations better, some have a higher IQ and test better, interview better etc. I grant that there is some inherent unfairness here as some are more gifted than others- but we have discussed this and I will not go into that.

My main point though is where is God in all this? I find my answer in Acts 17:26,27. You see God's purpose in every man's life is first and foremost to reveal Jesus Christ to that person- yes even Saddam. Thus in every situation we find ourselves in God is present and so are Satan's demons and the struggle is for your soul and your life. What we consider as unfair may be God's way of reaching a man. Let me illustrate it with a personal point in my life.

I always felt that moving to America was something that I orchestrated, but I have since come to realize that God allowed it to happen to teach me obedience to Him and to reveal His Son to me in ways that I could not have imagined if I had stayed in Ghana. Rom 8:28 makes it also clear that nothing touches a Christian without Gods permission (even when you get a traffic ticket) and I believe that that even applies to us when we sin and find ourselves in difficult situations. Sometimes God is good enough to even allow us to see His foresight in this life- once in Arkansas I had a minor traffic accident and I can't tell you the number of times that God has since spared my life in the same scenario over and over again.

My little accident years ago made me aware of the situation. At the first instance I was annoyed that something that was not really my fault was blamed on me. Look at it this way, why does God always ask us to love Him? Is there something special about us? No! Our love for Him is what unlocks Rom 8:28 and brings us freedom to be what He has made us to be. Thus what we see as Gods unfairness is really His way of teaching us obedience and delivering us from the power of the flesh and sin. So I may be as hardworking and as industrious as Calorius, but my circumstances may not be the same. I may be afflicted with a certain disease for which I pray like Paul with no effect and like Uncle James may even die "prematurely" but for me the realization that God is the one who knows what is best for me brings in the humility that Gaius Columbus excellently expressed.

I don't see it as unfair but rather as God, the Potter, molding me. The unbeliever may find this to be rubbish. I think the American unbeliever was born here because that is his best chance of knowing Christ but were the people of Darfur born there because that is their best chance of knowing Christ. Is this unfair or not? I don't know. The Darfur thing troubles me as do several other things in this world. I can ask God when we meet Him. Which of us deserves anything that we have, including our very lives anyway? I have a feeling that when we get to heaven all of this will be very, very peripheral. - Alien Warrior


Blogger Calorius said...

Al, nice try attempting to blame your driving mistakes on God's providence. We all know how you drive. I'll never forget my first time in your car in Accra.

January 11, 2007 at 5:26 PM  

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