Jesus and the Powers– Dialogue Part Five

Jesus and the Powers– Dialogue Part Five April 24, 2024

Q. I was thankful for the discussion of whether and to what degree governments come into the picture when we are talking about the dominion of God.  It is one thing to say all authority and power ultimately comes from God, but it would be another thing entirely to say God raised up Adolph Hitler to judge the Jewish people— an idea I would entirely reject.  If one reads both Daniel and Revelation for example, it seems that the inhuman and inhumane empires have raised their own ugly heads, and owe more to the powers of darkness and Satan, than to God.  What would you say about that?


A. I’d say that government is an expression of divine providence and common grace, whether that is a Pharoah or a Putin, a Cyrus or a Lenin, God raises up rulers, to rule, and brings them down to judgment also. So while government is a gift from God, and God raises up and brings down rulers, this does not mean that rulers are mere pawns or puppets in divine hands. The consistent testimony of Scripture is that all kings, whether Israelite, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, or Roman, are accountable to God and will be judged for their actions. So, no, God wasn’t surprised when Hitler became Vice-Chancellor; God allowed the Holocaust to happen for reasons that I regard as an ineffable mystery; but Hitler’s German Reich came crashing down as it rightly deserved. This reminds of a story I read once, from Helmut Thielicke I think, where narrated that when the news of Hitler’s death reached some German troops in their trenches, there was silence, until a chaplain got up, opened his Bible, and read Isaiah 14 about how the King of Tyre, who claimed that he was the morning star, had been finally brought down to ruin and destruction.

[N.B.  To say the notion of government or the authority and power to provide a legitimate rule and ruler over a people is one thing.  It is a whole nother thing to suggest that God raises up tyrants, wicked rulers and gives them the power to do what they do.  Definitely not.  Indeed, as 1 Samuel so aptly says, God actually saw the request for a human king as a rejection of theocracy, the direct rule by God of his people.  It’s not a question of whether God was surprised when Hitler arose.  God knew perfectly well that there were other forces, other wills, other powers other than his own, at play in a fallen world, and so while it is right to say God allowed the Holocaust,  it is not right to say that also was part of God’s purpose for Jews, or merely that it is some ineffable mystery. That ultimately relies on a defective view of God’s sovereignty and how it works, and a failure to come to grips with the notion of secondary causes.   There is no reason to say that whoever rules God raised up, when you allow that God is not the only actor with power and some sort of rule in the human drama. Nonetheless, I would agree that God does hold all rulers accountable for their chosen actions, whether they are legitimate or illegitimate rulers.]


Browse Our Archives