In such a broken world, many question why God chose the means He did to achieve His purposes. We may even praise God for who He is, but we wonder if all the evil in the world was truly necessary. Pastor Lutzer considers whether evil could eventually contribute to God’s glory. What if we could see from the standpoint of eternity? This episode was originally published February 25, 2019 as “The Attributes of God | Week 6: Wise.”
“To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
- Romans 16:27
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Transcript: Hi, welcome to 5 Minutes With Pastor Lutzer. Today we’re going to jump into the deep end of the theological swimming pool, but when we come out, I expect that we will worship God. That’s my goal today.
We’re discussing the wisdom of God, and the text is taken from the sixteenth chapter of the book of Romans, verse 27. Paul ends the letter by simply saying, “To the only wise God be glory forever more through Jesus Christ! Amen.” God is the only wise God. Now, if you’ve been with us before, you know that I define wisdom as “God using the best of all possible means to achieve the best of all possible ends.” Well, let’s begin to think about some theology and philosophy.
In the 1600s in Germany, there was a philosopher by the name of Leibniz, and he wrote a defense of God—a theodicy, if you please. That means he’s defending God against charges of regarding the evil in the world, and so forth. And he concluded that God had before Him an infinite number of possible plans. And because He was a good God and a wise God, He chose the best plan that there was, and this is the best plan possible. Which would mean that this is the best of all possible worlds.
Now come with me to Lisbon in 1755, a couple of decades later, and you have the Lisbon earthquake. People ran into churches shrieking and crying out to God that they would be protected—and they weren’t. The churches collapsed. By the way, at some point in this series, it’s quite a ways down the line, but I am going to be discussing natural disasters and God. But for now, let’s simply say that this earthquake, in effect, divided Europe. Because on the one hand there were those who turned away from God, who said that clearly, faith in God means nothing, because all those who were in the churches, they were killed. And others said, “We better pursue God.”
But in the middle of this, there was the philosopher Voltaire, the French philosopher. And he was struggling with Leibniz’s idea that this is the best possible world. So he wrote a book entitled “Candide.” In the book, Candide has all kinds of things happen to him—all kinds of disasters and trouble. And there’s a theologian who always tells him, “Oh, this is the best possible world.” So with wit and sarcasm, Voltaire debunked the idea that this was the best of all possible worlds.
Now I want you to stay with me because, as I mentioned to you, this gets a little deep, but we’re going to be in shallow water very soon. The question is this: If God did choose the best of all possible means to achieve the best of all possible ends, was all the evil in the world necessary? Is this the best of all possible worlds? Well of course, and John Piper makes this point often, that if you look at this world in a narrow sense, of course this is not the best of all possible worlds. I don’t have to tell you about the evil, the injustice, sex trafficking, you name it. This world has huge evils. This is not the best of all possible worlds.
But as those who believe in a wise, eternal God, we have to believe that if we saw things from the standpoint of eternity, from eternity to eternity. Obviously, God had His reasons to allow this to happen. You say, “Well it’s because Adam and Eve sinned and they messed things up.” Someday I’ll discuss that with you more in detail. But even if I grant you that, God knew that they were going to sin. Jesus was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. There were no contingencies in God’s plan.
We have to believe—I know this is difficult—we have to believe that even the evil in the world will eventually contribute to God’s glory. Now if you say, “Well Pastor Lutzer, how can that be?” I have to tell you, I have no idea. We’ve reached the limits of our imagination, the limits of our theological knowledge. We do not know that. But we trust in God; a God who is so great, a God who is so wise, that even evil will eventually contribute to His glory. Are you willing to believe that today? Instead of railing against God, are we willing to say “God, we don’t understand all of Your mysteries. We know that You are the only wise God, as the apostle Paul said here, and all that we can do is to simply fall at Your feet and worship a God who is greater than we can understand.”
You know, in Romans 11, the apostle Paul said very clearly that the means of God, the knowledge of God, the purposes of God are unsearchable. But we’ve come to the limits of what we’re able to understand. But I want you to leave today worshiping God, even without explanations, without understanding it all. Let us back off and say “God, You are God, I’m not; I worship You today and believe that even evil will contribute to your blessed glory. Remember: in acceptance, there is peace. I don’t mean that we accept evil. We fight against it. But believing in a great wise God brings us peace. Let’s worship Him today. Today, go with God, and I’ll see you right here next time.