The Apostle Paul says three true things about God in Ephesians 4:6, “… there is one God and Father of all who is over all, through all and in all.” In big theological words, God is transcendent (over all), sovereign (acts through all) and immanent (in all). He re-affirms this in Romans 11:36, “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” Everything, every act, every idea is, in one important sense, from God. They take place only as long as God keeps the world going and they ultimately refer back to God. Paul seems to leave little wiggle room here if all really means all.
Bad things happen
This wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t live in a world where many bad things happen. But we do. How then can bad things happen without God being bad or partly bad? Christian theologians found the answer in the Scriptures many years ago in what they came to call “secondary causes.”
Who is responsible?
Though God is the first or primary or ultimate cause of all that happens, most or all of what happens in the world also happens by means of secondary causes. For example, I knock a glass off a table. Gravity takes over and the glass hits the ground and shatters. Who or what broke the glass? One could say, “I broke the glass.” One could say, “Gravity broke the glass.” One could say, “The ground broke the glass.” One could say, “God broke the glass.” In some sense, all of these are true.
It’s not God’s fault!
If there were no action on my part, there would be no broken glass. Likewise, if there were no gravity, no ground or no God … there would be no broken glass.
Importantly, though, if the glass is a crystal one that my mother treasures, and I knock it off the table spitefully, I am morally responsible for the act while gravity, the ground and God are not. A bad thing happened. It couldn’t have happened apart from God keeping the real world going as it really does, but I am at fault, and God is not.
Secondary causes are real causes. They explain in part why things happen, but they are not the whole explanation. In other words, God’s created order provides for secondary causes without diminishing God’s role in creating and keeping all things going. God uses the abilities of created things to enable them to cause other things to happen. This is by God’s sovereign choice, and it is a good thing.
What can you do?
We at FH believe that poverty can be broken … one community at a time. Breaking poverty is like breaking a glass. God does it, but not apart from us. God does it in us and through us, but not apart from us. Will you join us in inspiring hope … walking with communities … ending poverty?