GODíS WILL IN THE NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL REALMS

Chapter 2

There are two realms of being, the natural or material, and the moral or spiritual. God is the creator of both. All things are the work of his hand, and came into existence through the operation of his will. He created the forces and laws of nature. He controls nature. He is the creator of spirits, and of the laws of spiritual life. In his omnipotent power he is supreme over all. If we believe his will to be supreme, we naturally ask: Is everything that happens, a manifestation of his will? Is every phenomenon an expression of his will? If he is all powerful, there must be some way or some sense in which this is true. At least we can assert that he does not use his available power to prevent it.

Notwithstanding the fact that Godís will must be involved in some way in all the operations of force, still he declares of many things that they are not his will. He tells us that it is not his will that any soul should perish. At the same time he makes it clear that many are perishing. He causes us to understand that the sufferings of his children are grievous to him, and that in all their afflictions he is afflicted. We naturally ask, if such be the case, why does he not interfere in order to prevent these things? Is he restrained from doing what he wills? As there is no greater power to restrain him, if he is restrained, that restraint must come from one of two things, namely, either from voluntary self-limitation, or from the necessities of the case. There are certain necessities that limit God, as well as man.

We know Godís will best through manís will, which must of necessity be similar in its processes to the Divine will, and must act according to similar laws. We find ourselves restricted by certain necessities. These necessities are of such a nature that all will, must be bound by them. To illustrate these necessities: Nature cannot be orderly, and at the same time each thing therein be independent, and each force working alone. A harmonious whole necessitates an orderly relation of the various parts of which it is composed. There can not be at the same time both disorder and order. Planets cannot remain in an orderly system, and still move irregularly, or without regard to others. A thing cannot, at the same time, be both heavy and light. In other words, gravitation cannot be acting upon it and not acting upon it. A thing cannot be both hot and cold at the same time. One thing necessarily shuts out and renders impossible its opposite, or that which is contradictory to it.

Men do not seem to be able to harmonize Godís expressions of tender care for his people with the calamities that sometimes come upon them from the action of natural forces. If the action of natural force is an expression of Godís will, which Christians commonly believe, and if evil results from such action while God has control over that action, how can this be harmonized with his benevolent nature? Some, seeing the calamities that befall mankind, deny that God is just, or merciful, and say that he is cruel. The Christian who personally knows God, who have fellowship with him, and to whom the secrets of the Almighty have to some extent been revealed, knows that he is not cruel or vindictive, but that he is the loving, kind, benevolent Father that he represents himself to be. But if he is such, how can he permit some of the things that happen?

Two Phases of Godís Will, Considered

There are two phases of Godís will, or two ways in which that will is revealed, or two modes of its action. It is revealed in two different spheres. First, it operates through natural law, or perhaps we may say, it is the basis for natural law. Through his will he originates and controls natural forces. Therefore, the operation of these natural forces is an expression of his will. The other phase of his will, or the other sphere of the manifestation of his will, is called providence; it is the manifestation of his particular attitude toward mankind as a whole, and as individuals. So we may speak of these two phases of his will as his natural will, or his will in nature, and his providential will. The latter is his particular will, in the realm of the moral.

We shall now turn our attention to the manifestation of Godís will through the operation of natural forces. One thing to be observed at the out set is that, in his nature, God is not necessitated to a specific act of the will for each action of force. Like men, he can set in motion a train of movements each related to, and dependent upon, the others. This being the case, we need not look upon each several natural phenomenon as being distinctly and directly the expression of Godís will, but rather as a link in the chain of consequences of what he has willed. It is very important that Christians understand the place of Godís will in natural phenomena in order that they may adopt an intelligent and proper attitude toward God in nature. It is through a misunderstanding of this subject that men are led to believe that God is cruel, harsh, vindictive and merciless. We must not overlook the fact that there are some necessities of natural law in the operation of force, and that these necessities must not be left out of the account if we are to adjust and harmonize our ideas of Godís goodness with some of the operations of nature.

There are some necessary characteristics of natural law. A few of these we shall notice. First, natural law must be universal in its application. One law cannot apply to one part of the universe, and another to another part. Gravitation must work according to the same law everywhere in the material universe. Otherwise there would be no order and chaos would result. Since order is a necessity of nature, natural law must be universal in its application. We cannot, therefore, expect that on our earth, natural law will work in one way in inhabited regions and in another way in uninhabited regions. We cannot expect that the forces, which in one place produce volcanic action, a tornado, or a flood, should not act everywhere, under similar conditions, and produce similar results.

Second, natural law must be of unvarying uniformity of action under similar conditions. It must be absolutely unvarying in time and place. If man could not depend upon this unvarying quality, nothing would be certain with him. Frost might come on the hottest day of summer, or a mixture that today would make paint, might make cement tomorrow, or the food that today sustains life might destroy it tomorrow. It is the uniform and unvarying action of natural law that makes natural things stable, and an orderly universe possible.

The forces of nature do not always act in the same manner, but always in the same manner under similar circumstances. Under identical conditions they have no variability. But conditions constantly differ. Electricity, that mighty but unknown force, is limited in its action by the conductivity of substances. Centrifugal power is limited or balanced by centripetal power, and so on through the course of nature.

The Character of Natural Forces

All purely natural forces are unmoral; they possess no moral qualities. They have, and can have, no regard for moral considerations. If I deliberately thrust my hand into a fire, I am burned. If by accident I fall into a fire, I am burned. Whether I am righteous or wicked, whether I am engaged in something laudable or something contemptible, does not alter the result. Natural forces do not discriminate. They know nothing of moral considerations or principles. The lightning knows no mercy. It does not distinguish between a man and a tree, or the house of a righteous man and the house of iniquity. The tornado knows no pity. It ruins all without consideration. The earthquake has not more respect for that which can suffer than for that which is inanimate.

Godís Will in the Natural Realm

We come now to the discussion of a question that troubles many souls. They often wonder why Godís creatures are left subject to destructive natural forces. They cannot understand why God permits storms, floods, pestilences, famines, accidents, fires, and the like. The argument is often made that if God loved mankind he would shield them from these things. Since, many times, he does not shield them from these, it is often asserted that he is not good, but is cruel and unjust.

The mother whose little one has been taken from her arms by the death-angel often questions the love and kindness of God, and sometimes even his justice. When a tornado sweeps through a city, destroying churches, and killing Christian people, there are those who doubt God and sometimes even condemn him. They cannot harmonize these things with their idea of the goodness of God. This is because they do not take into consideration the two phases of Godís will; that is, Godís will as manifested through the operation of natural law, and Godís will as manifested in his providences.

We have already pointed out the necessity of force operation in a constant, unvarying way, under the same natural circumstances. Rain is brought about through the evaporation of water and its subsequent condensation in cooling, usually by the meeting of the warm moisture-laden air with a current of cold air. This is according to natural law, and in general it works out well, for its beneficial results are everywhere seen. But there may be a combination of circumstances that brings about the condensation of an immense amount of moisture at on time, and in one locality. The result is a flood. The combined action of these natural forces producing rain cannot be controlled except through the exercise of a continual special providence, and this, too, in a way that God does not usually see fit to act. God does not will the flood, ordinarily at least, any more than the man who makes a machine wills that someone will get his fingers mashed in the cogs thereof. He makes the machine for a purpose; the mashing of the manís fingers is accidental, the result of a combination of circumstances.

Natural forces, in general, work for the greatest wellbeing of all, but must necessarily sometimes combine destructively. This destructive combination, however, is not the ordinary working of these forces, but an incidental or accidental combination that works harmfully. Godís general will in nature is that all things work together for good. Who will say that they do not do so to the greatest possible extent? We must not suppose that because man is sometimes the victim of nature there is no ďheart full of love at the center of the universeĒ and no will guided by love at the center of the universeĒ and no will guided by love watching over man, working for his welfare. For who knows the ultimate---who knows what shall be the end? We see in part and we know in part, but when that which is perfect is come we shall see and know perfectly. When we shall know even as we are known, we shall know that ďthe heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kindĒ in spite of all those things which seem to argue differently in the present sphere of existence.

Godís will in the Moral Realm

Godís will is dependent on his moral qualities. His attitude toward man is fully determined by his justice, love, mercy, fidelity, etc. God is not the unlimited being that some suppose him to be, in their thoughtless suppositions. While he is supreme and over all, he must have regard for the consequences of all that he does or permits. He must consider remote consequences no less than those consequences that lie close at hand. Those remote consequences are often beyond our vision, and if we judge his actions by the immediate consequences that only are visible to us, our judgment may be unjust. We read in the Bible about seeing ďthe end of the Lord.Ē By this is meant the final outcome of his attitude and conduct. We are prone to pass snap judgment on action, looking no farther than the present hour.

God must look farther; he must look to the final outcome. Hence, very often he cannot do what he would do for us if he looked only as far as immediate consequences. The parent who looks only so far as immediate consequences with his child, gives him his own way, satisfies all his desires, and places no obstacle in the way of his temporary enjoyment, and who fails to take into consideration what this will mean for the future character of the child and for his happiness in years to come, will inevitably do great harm to his child, and destroy that very happiness which he seeks to further. So God must often deny us the present help, or the present blessing or the present interference with natural things in our behalf, for the ultimate good that will come to us, or because of the ultimate harm that would come through giving us what we desire and seem, according to our way of viewing it, to need.

God is also limited by the will of man. Having made man a free moral agent, he cannot coerce him, except where conditions render it absolutely necessary. For this reason man is left to choose his own pathway, and to use his own will, even though this results in his hurt. Then, too, God can interfere either with natural law or in the spiritual realm only where it is wise to do so. Being all-wise, he will, (and must) act in accordance with that wisdom. This being true, he will interfere in the natural sphere only when it will accomplish some wise end. So he must often let the innocent suffer with the guilty, and the righteous, be the prey of the wicked. He must often let the destructive forces of nature work, even if the temporary results are evil. Godís loving desire for us must often be sacrificed to the need that only his wisdom sees. The goal to which he would lead us may require the suffering of present pain. Again, we should remember that he teaches us in the Bible that earthly loss has its compensations, and that there is another world where the inequalities, the injustices, and other things that people suffer, are adjusted, balanced, and compensated. So the present evils which he seems to allow, after all may be only the upward steps which we would willingly climb if we understood the outcome as he knows it.

It would be unwise in many ways for God to be always interfering in order to save his people from the common lot of humanity. The Christian is subject to the same laws of the natural world as the skeptic and atheist. So if he suffers from the action of these laws, it is only a part of manís inheritance. It is only the necessary consequence of his being a part of the natural world. There is often no way in which God can consistently save the righteous from the fate of the wicked in temporal affairs. To be sure, he could find a way by his wisdom, but the exercise of his power in this direction would often result in evils somewhere else that would much more than over balance the good that would be done through his action. So it is Godís wise intellect which, in spite of his loving heart, sees the necessity of leaving us in a present situation, unless, indeed, there be some just and adequate reason for his interference. He loves to interfere and protect his own. Tens of thousands of such interferences have declared his kindness. But he is under the necessity to preserve nature in a proper balance. Therefore, he must not interfere with it too often or to greatly. Since nature must be preserved in order, God will interfere with that order only when he sees that it is wisest and best. But where we suffer from that order of nature, Godís goodness and love will provide for us a full and complete compensation, so that at the last we shall be able to say, ďGreat is Jehovah, and his loving kindness hath no end. He hath dealt kindly with us, and shown his bountifulness.Ē