Calvinism, Recovery Process

Abuse Survivors Question the Idea That Nothing Happens in Your Life – Even Abuse – That God Does Not Permit

 There is nothing that happens in your life that God does not permit – – even abuse?


We got in a heated discussion in the comments on the last post regarding the determinist belief that nothing happens in our lives that God does not permit. For people who have been abused, that is a tough pill to swallow. For abuse survivors, please be careful. This discussion could be triggering.

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This determinist belief seems to contradict the idea of a kind and loving Father who protects His children. Gail asked Pastor Wade Burleson specific questions and I thought it would be best to put them in a new blog post to keep this topic together.

Here is Gail’s comment to Wade which I also sent to him in an e-mail:

Wade,

I just listened to one of the sermons that Oasis linked on the other thread. I have a few questions & observations. I will be quoting some of what you said to clear up any confusion to those who didn’t listen.
“Every affliction in your life is of the Lord, all of it is.”

I was molested at five years old by my father, by another again at seven the list doesn’t stop there, for time sake I will be brief. Do you believe child rape is a affliction?

I do not understand what you meant when you said “affliction is of the Lord” but “not from the Lord.” What does that even mean?

“Nothing happens in your life that God either permits, promotes or prohibits”
Okay, so God could have prohibited my abuse? Or He permitted it? Wow, that sounds like God was implicit in what tore me to shreds as a girl.

Can you understand why your words cause turmoil inside of me?

I trust that you meant what you said in your sermon, that you are learning, growing from this interaction also with Oasis.
Would you consider that perhaps you miscommunicated with her? You keep insisting that you are not in the wrong at all, that she has her perception which makes it her reality, which implies at least to me that she is not telling the truth.
I will be out the rest of the afternoon, if I don’t respond I am not ignoring you, just have a full day.

Wade responded back to my e-mail and gave me permission to post his response to Gail’s questions:

I can sure understand that there are triggers for anyone who has undergone abuse. I would like to answer Gail’s questions, and feel free if you would like to use them.

(1). “Every affliction in your life is of the Lord, all of it is”

God says “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7). The word disaster is better translated (in my opinion) “affliction.”

However, there must be some caveats and qualifications with any understanding of this Isaiah passage of scripture. The Bible never contradicts itself – ever. We also read “For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone (to do evil); But each one is tempted (to do evil) when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust (James 1:13-14). So when I (or anyone) says God “affliction is of the Lord” it NEVER means He causes, designs, authors, or creates EVIL.” Not at all.

“Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). God only creates good. Man and fallen angels create evil. When I say “Affliction is of God” I mean God is able to take what man creates (evil) and orchestrate good from it. Evil is not good, nor is good evil – rather, God is able to turn what man meant for evil into good. God is never responsible for evil. He is only and always the author of good.

(2). “I was molested at five years old by my father, by another again at seven the list doesn’t stop there, for time sake I will be brief. Do you believe child rape is an affliction?”

Rape is evil. Rape is a crime. The rapist alone is responsible for the unspeakable horror. What I believe is that somehow, someway, God will produce good from evil. For example, the punishment of the rapist at the Judgment will be a good thing. The ultimate healing of the victim of rape through the love, mercy and kindness of God will be a good thing. The question that you seem to be asking is simple: “DID GOD CAUSE THE RAPE?” My answer: “GOOD GOD NO.”

I do believe that God allows evil to occur (that He doesn’t cause) because He will ultimately bring about an eternal greater good.

My example would be the beheading of the Coptic Christians in Lebanon. Did God cause this to happen? No. Will ultimate good come from it? Yes.

“For we know that God works all things together for good to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

(3). “I do not understand what you meant when you said ‘affliction is of the Lord’ but ‘not from the Lord. What does that even mean?”

It simple means that God does not create, cause or author evil (‘from the Lord’), but God will allow and permit evil because of an ultimate greater good that is coming, including the display of His holiness and justice in the punishment of the sinner and His mercy, goodness and kindness in the redemption of the victim.

(4). “Can you understand your words cause turmoil inside me?”

Yes. Absolutely. There’s wisdom in simply being there for someone whose been abused in the beginning, showing love. However, if I didn’t believe that ultimately the only hope of real recovery from deep, intense scars of past abuse is the knowledge that good IS COMING (the abuse is NOT GOOD), but good is coming, then I would remain silent about these things forever. I only speak of what I see Romans 8:28 to teach when asked. I never offer it until asked.

(5). “Would you consider that perhaps you miscommunicated with her (Oasis)?”

Of course. I also have no hesitation in apologizing. I just need to be shown (because she said it was in writing), and in my opinion, I have never – ever – said “God designs sexual abuse.” I have only and always said “God designs good” and I do not believe in any form or fashion sexual abuse is good.

Wade also added the following:

I am out for the rest of the week. This is all I can offer. I would suggest that those who would like to read further what I believe to go to the link “The Prince of Evil Overcome by the King of Good.” http://www.wadeburleson.org/2013/10/the-prince-of-evil-overruled-by-king-of.html

photo credit: [As seen on my run.] via photopin (license)

211 thoughts on “Abuse Survivors Question the Idea That Nothing Happens in Your Life – Even Abuse – That God Does Not Permit”

  1. Lydia, I do accept that God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ and he was God in the Flesh. He was God and man here on earth. That is why and how he knows what we go through from God’s perspective and ours. These things I do accept. How God knows all and sees all is yet a mystery. We go through Jesus Christ to be forgiven of the Father. He is our intercessor. I am not at a point where I see women traveling with Jesus. I see many instances where he spoke to and had great discussions with women then he moved on. Women definitely proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah they were waiting for. I have begun to see texts that are taken out of context, which gives them a whole new meaning.

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  2. “I am not at a point where I see women traveling with Jesus.”

    It is not a “point to be”. I don’t make things up. Here is the reference:

    After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. Luke 8

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  3. Lydia,
    I never, ever thought you made things up. I have been studying these things and trying to undo the brain washing with God’s help since we talked of these things months ago. A couple of weeks ago I went with a friend to a church with a female pastor. I never thought I would do that and enjoy the sermon too, but I did.

    I have been questioning women’s roll in the church and making some men mighty uncomfortable, but I want their answers to help me discern. I also want women’s answers and input.

    Right now I am grieving the loss of a dear friend to cancer and the loss of a grandson, which both happened yesterday. I will look at Luke 8 another time.

    I

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  4. I am so glad you are studying these things. It is so freeing. I think there is some communication breakdown between us especially after that thread you mentioned. I got the feeling you did not want us to discuss it because of the sort of comments you were making.

    Boy do I understand grief. The last 10 years it has been constant for me with horror after horror. I don’t mention it online because it makes me uncomfortable and I guess that has to do with my upbringing which was somewhat Edwardian in nature. And because I have had my fill of Christian platitudes so why invite them? (If one more person says that it is all a part of his plan, I might do something I will regret. :o)

    The grief had just about gotten to me and I remembered a book I read years ago called “Man’s Search for Meaning”. I dug it out because when I first read it, I was not really prepared for it. It was written by Victor Frankl, a Viennese Psychiatrist who survived Aushwictz and then wrote a book about those who survived why they survived. He then developed a therapy based upon his findings he called Logotherapy. But it is not really a therapy a therapist would use. It is much more personal than that and it has God’s intentions for us at Creation written all over it. Beautiful!

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  5. A Mom,
    You said, “As AnotherTom graciously pointed out, Augustine & all determinists say humans don’t have the power to do righteous actions.”

    It wasn’t my intent to address what Augustine or determinists teach. I’m not sure whether or not Augustine, Calvin, or others would say that humans don’t have the power to do righteous actions. But I personally think that all people sin, and that there is something about human nature that makes people who are not born again by the Spirit of God incapable of being able to live a sinless life. They are “not able to not sin.” Believers, who do have the Spirit of God, are able by His power to refrain from sin. They are “able to not sin.” Reformed theologians may use these same statements to imply things about human ability / free will, that really wasn’t what I was discussing. I was just commenting on the general relationship of humans to sin and evil. In short, everyone has sinned, and God doesn’t stop us, so we all have to address that in some way. It’s not just an issue that Reformed folks have to try to explain.

    That’s also what I was getting at when I said ““whatever reason we want to give.” Not that it doesn’t matter why — just that the existence of evil and why God allowed it is still a question whether a person is a determinist or a freewillist. I’m trying to make it clear that I am not arguing in favor of determinism, nor am I arguing against it. My point is that the problem of the existence of evil, and the fact that God in some sense permits it to exist, and yet God can’t be blamed for evil really had nothing to do with determinism. Yes, the answers given as to the “why” might be different for a determinist vs. a freewillist, but the question itself isn’t caused by a belief in determinism. An atheist doesn’t care at all if we say that evil exists because God gave us free will — they will just point out that it was still God’s choice to give us free will, knowing that we would use it to do evil, and He didn’t stop it. Free will may help answer where evil comes from, but it doesn’t answer why God allows it.

    All this goes back to the question at the title of this post (basically, does God permit people to do bad things that harm people?), and my original question about it (What alternative is there?). All the comments people have gotten into about determinism seem to me to be totally beside the point of the original question. Saying that God allows evil is not a deterministic teaching — it is something that we really just can’r avoid if we believe that God is powerful enough to have prevented evil from ever existing and yet He didn’t stop it.

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  6. Lydia,
    I always appreciate your deep thinking and desire to keep the big picture in view.

    All theological wrangling and interpretive frameworks aside, I just can’t get away from what seems to me to be the Bible’s teaching that God specifically intended the death of Jesus (an evil act by evil men), and that He had a good purpose in mind by doing so. All the rest is commentary or an attempt to understand the wherefores. In my mind there is no need to be able to explain it. It is enough to take God at His word that He is good and in no way responsible for evil, and also take Him at his word He sometimes, in some circumstances, fully intends some of the bad things that happen to us at the hands of others, with a good purpose behind it. I don’t have to comprehend that any more than I do many other aspects of God’s nature that are beyond my understanding. If that’s unsatisfactory for others, or seems like a cop out, so be it. That’s the current state of my faith, and I’m okay with it. I’m not demanding that anyone else share my view =, nor do I have a problem if they see it differently.

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  7. @AnotherTom

    I appreciated this very much. There’s no question that satan prowls and evil men perform evil acts of their own free will, but none of that changes the reality that God has authority over it all. And those who believe all bad things are completely controlled by satan would do well to consider who created satan in the first place. And it certainly wasn’t done in ignorance.

    God saw all of this before the foundation of the world and will work all of it to his glory. This can sometimes be small comfort in our immediate circumstances, but the fact that God’s actions often defy human logic is exactly what we should expect from the creator of the universe. It’s not always fun or enjoyable, but he never promised us a certain feeling. He promised that he would be victorious over all our pain. Revelation tells is how this will end. It seems obvious who’s really in charge.

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  8. Another Tom,

    I appreciate what you’re saying and thanks for driving us back to the heart of the question. A couple of comments on the comments of others:

    In regards to Acts 4, Jesus’ death was not just a lucky guess by God. The very detail in which it was prophesied in the OT rules that out. Bones out of joint. Pierced hands and feet. Three days in the tomb. No bones broken. Thirsty. Buried by a rich man. It was designed – and carried out to perfection by the free will of wicked men. Jesus was the lamb “slain from the foundation of the world.” And he was slain by the free will of men exactly as God had determined. How that reconciles is beyond me. But there’s hope for me in my troubles that maybe what men mean for evil God means good to come from. That’s words from the abused Joseph.

    I have to stand up for Calvin, making me the most unpopular guy in the room – I don’t think he beheaded children. He may have been influential, but he couldn’t even hold communion every week as he desired. Servetus – yeah, shouldn’t have done it. And no I don’t have an altar to Calvin. But the record should be corrected about beheading kids.

    Driscoll – did I not make it clear I don’t like him? But Paul said in Philippians that whether in pretense or in truth, he rejoiced that the gospel was proclaimed. I’m glad Driscoll is out of the pulpit. Should have been long long ago. Shouldn’t darken one ever again in my opinion. But I’m glad in spite of his massive faults and the damage he did to the body of Christ, some were brought to Christ. I can rejoice that other preachers and leaders I vehemently disagree with are used for good somehow. It doesn’t mean I like them or wish them well – only that I’m glad whenever and however people hear the gospel and come to Christ, even when it seems impossible they would given the messenger.

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  9. Another Tom & Karen,
    I appreciate both of your comments. I never thought of God this way before, but as I read your posts, I could see God in a sense as the Supreme Prophet. He did know what would happen before all creation and had reasons for certain things to happen. Jesus is a given. He is the sacrificial Lamb that saves all that come to Him. He is the Most High and Solid Rock.

    Tom, I used to be a God said it, I believe it and that settles it thinker. Then I started figuring out there were misinterpretations by men who wanted things for their own perspective and really isn’t it good to get beyond the milk of the Word and into the meat. I take God at His Word and believe that He inspired men to write His Word. My problem is where men have improperly translated His Word and I want to know as much as I can about God in truth. In the OT, God definitely used some already evil men for more evil. He gave them over to their own choices through life and caused them to harden their hearts even more. In the NT, Judas is a prime example of evil doing. Why he didn’t ask for forgiveness, I don’t really understand. Peter denied Christ 3 times and still turned out to be one of the greatest of Jesus followers. There are things that we are just not going to know and I’m ok with mystery, I do want to know what is written in my Bible is only truth and not some man’s tweaking because they can get away with rewording and it is given a false pass.

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