« Dying on Unworthy Crosses: Reflections on "Profiles in Courage" | Main | Before You Quote Romans 13 One More Time… »

November 10, 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Alan Scott

I am surprised that you have chosen to judge a theological statement as "bad" and "lazy" rather than one with which you simply or strongly disagree. For many, "God is in control" and "Christ is Lord" is a distinction without a difference. You have implied that all those who believe "God is in control" also believe that "man does not have free will." As you know, many "good and careful" theologians also believe that the mystery of good and evil is best expressed by holding both "God is in control" and "man has free will" in concurrent tension. When they say "God is in control" they do not absolve man of responsibility any more than your alternative statement "Christ is Lord" say's that redemption is totally man's responsibility. I don't want to take your time nor do I have the inclination to discuss the fascinating nuances of this topic. I just wanted to caution you on the judgement language you used to express a valid concern. People may miss your valuable points when they feel unfairly condemned by being categorized as "bad and lazy".

Stephen Kuykendall

Okay, I am a devout Christian, a seasoned pastor, and a long time fan of yours! Honestly though, I find myself somewhat confused. When I say "God is in control", I am thinking "in control of the final outcome of all things" not "in control of everybody's decisions and actions". Are you saying that thinking is off-base? I firmly believe that God allows us the free will to make dumb mistakes and bad decisions, even within the Kingdom. But I also believe that in the end He will have the final word. If we screw it up enough, He will say "ENOUGH!", at least within the Kingdom. Bad theology?

I also feel obliged to point something out. We had a choice between two horrific candidates. I agree with what you said about Trump, but Secretary Clinton's stand on abortion alone makes her a difficult choice for a contentious Evangelical. I think a non-Republican vote in Idaho is arguably non-effective, given our intensely strong conservative bent. I believe it would be very difficult to control Clinton in the White House. A Republican legislature might have a much easier time calling a Republican president to task, as the Democrats will must certainly cooperate in that endeavor. I don't think Trump will last very long if he isn't very careful. So a vote for Trump might essentially be a vote for Pence, if everyone truly believes Trump's administration will be intolerable. Not that I voted for Trump. For many reasons, I am keeping my vote personal and private. I believe we Evangelicals have a responsibility to vote and be prayerful about it, if for no other reason then the presidential race was not the only thing at stake. I'm just saying that a vote on either side was dangerous and the final outcome is yet to be seen. If it is wrong to say "God is in control", can we still say "God is still the one with the final say"?

Your brother in Christ . . .

Todd Stepp

Scott, I don't really disagree with the overall content of your article, but I would suggest that to say "God is in control" is not necessarily to say that "God is controlling." That is, to say that God is in control is not necessarily to say that God controls every decision we make. It is to say, for example, that nothing could happen outside of God permitting us the free will to make decisions. It is also to say that God could choose to intervene in any particular instance, if God were to choose to do so. That is demonstrated throughout Scripture.

In that sense, while still not exactly the same, to say that God is in control is at least similar to saying that Christ is Lord. - Though, I would agree that many take the former to mean that God causes all things to happen (at least when we agree with what happens!)


Thanks, Alan. I fixed my language a bit.

Stephen, I think we can confidently say that God can and will bring all things to his glorious conclusion. And it that sense God is in control. But I think usually when we say God is in control people hear, "God did this!"

Also, I don't really care greatly who people voted for. But if HIlary had won many of the people who are today saying, "God is in control" would not be saying that.

Todd, You are right. At some level God is in control but he is not controlling. I think that has to do with his sovereign love.

Chuck Wilkes

Absolutely dead on!

Keith Rooney

Love this thanks for sharing. I agree, saying God is in control is not a bad thing. But when we say that it opens the door to God being blamed for all things. If you have never heard this excuse, one is simply not listening. I don't think you are pointing fingers just trying to open our eyes to what can happen. One of these days the vineyard owner will return and He will take control.

Greg Mason

I appreciate this post. It expresses what I have been very concerned about in the aftermath of the election (specifically) and that is ascribing an election to the will of God. It may be, it may not be: we may never know until we get to heaven. Many of us tend to ascribe the results we favor to God's will or control, and those we abhor to the themes of the devil. I find "the God is in control" declaration can also be fatalistic..."I got cancer and the doctors say I'm going to die, but God is in control (I guess)".

I told a church group last night that the fact that 10 spies voted to not mind God, concerning the promised land, while two did, does not mean that it was God's will. Obviously God's will was to possess the land he had given. It could be said, as you have expressed, God will (did) keep working towards the redemption of all things, especially his people.

I would ask you how you would describe "God is in control" in light of God's Sovereignty? At first thought I would say, God's Sovereignty allows him to not always be in control. What would you say?

Brad Strawn

Thanks Scott for this important differentiation. Words matter and the meaning of our phrases carry great weight. We must love God with our heads, hands and hearts. Theology makes a difference even in how we understand our role in the Kingdom of God. For those who voted for Trump on Christian principles (pro life) I pray they will continue to follow Jesus in the ways they Trump doesn't seem to advocate (care for the marginalized).


Thanks, Brad. I miss causing trouble with you.

sondra blake

Thank you Pastor Doug. What a wonderful message. When Lisa got cancer Christian people would tell me, "it is God's will, or God is in control". I knew in my heart that God wouldn't choose to take my daughter. He gave Lisa free will and she chose to use it to smoke cigarettes which caused lung cancer. Keep spreading the word.


Brilliant. Thank you.

Kim Berry Jones

Scott: I read something yesterday that resonated with me on this subject. Written by an African American writer, who is a Christ follower and writes about justice and reconciliation. (http://austinchanning.com/blog/) She wrote:

"The very suggestion that marginalized people don't have to worry because God is on the throne is an extraordinarily privileged theology. If you want to be a help to hurting people, don't wash your hands of this election with platitudes that only work for those who will remain largely untouched by the policies and attitudes perpetuated and promised during the campaign. If you want to offer something helpful, consider sharing with those who are hurting that you are willing to take larger risks because God is all powerful."


Thank you for this!!! Super helpful in thinking through the language that I use and the meaning behind that language.

Gary Waller

Scott this is an important discussion. As a pastor I heard this often as a way to shift responsibility for human choices. Thanks for the reminder that Christ is Lord and King and is bringing all things ultimately under his will.


Please come back to Pasadena! I miss you. :/ Thank you for this. It stirs up action and hope inside me.

Thomas Oord

Good post, Scott. Thanks for making this strong statement.

Thomas Jay Oord

Tara Beth Leach

Excellent post. Thank you for writing this, Scott. One of the million reasons I am so very honored to follow you here at PazNaz. You paved the way on rich and excellent theology. Great post.

Mark Evans

I regularly hear the clich'e "God is in control." I am not entirely opposed to the phrase, but I am frustrated by the vagueness. If the phrase continues to be used it should be properly defined. I cringe every time I hear it, and I have rarely heard it defined. Only the Calvinists define it, at least their consistent. I don't understand how folks can divorce this concept from their soteriology. Some don't. Many others repeat it because they have heard it their whole lives. Whenever I challenge this undefined concept I am accused of limiting God. Go figure.

Dan S. Doctorian

Excellent post, and explanation!! Thank you!!
Your Twitter "location" shows Monrovia, CA..... Does that mean you're back?!? Or just teasing us?!?


As expected, I see the mostly negative comments on here about your article. I expect it because a vast majority of the Evangelical community decades ago "married" the Republican party completely and totally sold out to them - therefore they are "forced" to support an unimaginably immoral man for the White House when he runs with an "R" next to his name - they have to come up with any and all excuses for his incredibly un-Christlike behavior and when all else fails, they say well "Hillary is worse because of abortion" - as if that is the ONLY thing we have to consider. I agree with your article completely. I have been absolutely stunned over the last few months as I watched respected Christian leaders and Christian friends line up behind Trump as if he was the Messiah himself returned to earth to "save us" - and I have watched as I have been lambasted in person and on social media by friends and family if I dare not line up behind Trump - even was told I was "standing with evil" by a family member because I wasn't all in for Trump - by the way, I voted 3rd party this time because I could not bring myself to vote for either - but even that did not appease my Christian friends who simply said that my actions "helped Clinton". You can't win. I have never been so disillusioned by my fellow Christians who have completely sold out their faith to line up behind a deplorable man who cannot even quote a Bible verse - not even one. I can now see how a leader like Hitler could rise up - not that I think Trump is Hitler but I can see the irrational support for someone that has taken place this election...

Vera Bloom

Have you all considered Chapter 8 of 1 Samuel?

Dr John Stauffer, DMin

If nothing else having read the opening essay and following the comments of others and the authors response I find that freedom of speech in Christendom is alive and well.

I am impressed with the proper use of claim and warrant among obviously good theological and doctrinal support and opposition of the statements written by Scott.

I do believe that "God is in control, and He Is LORD." It is most likely an argument that requires Scripture study and discussion that in the context of the election outcome is reduced to a place that looks a lot like an athlete crossing themselves prior to shooting a free throw or following a touchdown. Does God care which team wins?

The OT provides many accounts of God being in control while "allowing" the people to exercise their "free will."

This is a great process for pastors, leaders and congregations. What I appreciated most was the opening comment as a pastor "As a pastor I am keenly aware that what I think I preach is not always what the congregations hears. I’m sure the Spirit of God has at times used this for good." Whether we are pastors, teachers or congregant we will often be misunderstood.

CS Cowles

I recall the adult SS class in which I was sitting, where the teacher quoted from a Lloyd Olgilvie book in which he said, "We can take comfort in the fact that whatever happens, God is in Total Control." After which a missionary's wife in the class who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer asked: "If God is in control, then why are so many things out of control?" Good question.

A courageous post that was `spot on' in every point you made. And timely.


What about Genesis 50:20, the theological point God is making in Habakkuk, Proverbs 21:1, Psalm 33:10-11, and Ephesians 1:11 for starters. Obviously those who hold to an extreme view of free will wrestle with these and have answers to them. However, to paint those who wrestle with an overall theological concept in Scrupture of God's control and come to a different conclusion than you as lazy is lazy itself. It's a ridiculous straw man argument that doesn't actually want to engage fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who may hold a different view than you to understand where there are commonalities and how you can sharpen each other's theology.

Max lucon


I am reading it from brazil. Keep it up with the goodwork you are doing.

Ive got myself in bad situations many times and have used this line "god is in control" to justify my mistakes...thanks for remembering me that "christ is lord" instead

God bless you all

Ali Ravasdy

Thank you and miss you.

C.S. North

We needed to be challenged in our thinking. Thanks for articulating it well here! I am wondering if more discourse given to the "Providence of God" rather than the "God is in Control" rhetoric could give greater understanding and connotation of free will within the scope of God's reign? We must not abdicate our role as servants on mission with God to reconcile and restore all things on this earth to Himself, nor should we ever forget that there is only one allegiance we come under when we say "Jesus is Lord!" as all lesser gods must fall away. I am hearing Peter and John's words echoing in my head...

"So they called Peter and John in again and told them not to speak or to teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, 'You decide what God would want. Should we obey you or God? We cannot keep quiet. We must speak about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:18-20)


Thank you Scott, for so carefully articulating this important difference, and Amen to all that it means for the church to proclaim the Lordship of Christ!

Candida Martin

I believe that God is the Lord! He let us decide
for ourselves. We direct our lives. He'll
help us when we ask for help. He doesn't
always bestow our wishes. There is always a reason
why he doesn't. Like the saying 'Beware of what
You ask'. (Mostly if you are persistent').

Jennifer Porter

The following is a thoughtful, well-written article. This is my response to my fellow neighbors from both political parties.

God gives a nation the leader they elect in a democracy, which is not the same as God hand-picking that person. I guess my biggest heartache has been the hate filled posts from those I believe to be my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have unfollowed many for a time because of this distressing fact.

I have prayed daily for President Obama and his family as Paul instructed in
1 Timothy 2. The emperor the first Christians prayed for was Nero! Nero Claudius Caesar, a despicable man known for slaughtering believers! Look him up, I dare you! The people who prayed for this man knew and loved those who were mercilessly killed. If they, the oppressed, earnestly prayed for Nero, I will faithfully pray for Donald Trump and his cabinet until the next president is elected.

As for the phrase "God is in control", it doesn't bother me unless it is used to say God cares whether you wear a red or blue shirt (making the random decisions 'you make', God's divine will).

Gleefully saying 'God is in control ~ because my candidate won', is a dangerous, idolatrous and thoroughly self-centered thought process.

Both political camps have a small element of marginalized, uneducated voters who act out in horrific ways because they have no voice. Have mercy. Love one another. Both candidates are flawed, watch forgiving one and demonizing the other.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.””
Matthew‬ ‭22:35-37, 39-40‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Peace to you, neighbor.

John Yancey

Good stuff, Scott. One thing I've noticed that is particularly more dangerous than saying "God is in control" (and I don't posit this towards you AT ALL) is a spiritual leader...or anyone for that matter...saying "God spoke to/told me." Similar to your examples on the philosophically necessary effects of believing "God's in Control," if what I believe is God's will is different than the person who God "spoke" to, I evidently must believe incorrectly.

All things considered, we will never have a righteous, just government until all humans are righteous and just. Then we will likely not need much of a government. And God in Christ will never be on a ballot, so so much for having the 'perfect candidate."

Blessings to you, brother!

Mike Nye

Well thought out and spoken. Sad that the church mirrors the world in divorce/voting/everything. Eight years ago, half the church claimed God was in control and the other half, that God passed judgement on us. This year is exactly the same with opposite people.

Paul Carter

I think it is an over simplification to say "the church proclaims that Christ is Lord and not God is in charge." The church obviously proclaims both.

Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it? (Amos 3:6 ESV)

Many theological traditions have some sort of "combatibilism" built into their statements. As a Baptist I appreciate the wording of the Old Baptist Confession which states:

"The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in His providence, that His determinate counsel extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also He most wisely and powerfully binds, and otherwise orders and governs, in a manifold dispensation to His most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceeds only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin" (Chapter 5 Paragraph 4)

I think this is a classic example of "the fallacy of the excluded middle". You can - and many do - believe in the Sovereignty of God in a way that does not diminish human responsibility.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Friends Blogs

Photo Albums

Blog powered by Typepad