He Is Not Lord Over Evil, Is He?: The Dilemma Of Providence -- By: Richard C. Gamble

Journal: Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal
Volume: RPTJ 03:1 (Fall 2016)
Article: He Is Not Lord Over Evil, Is He?: The Dilemma Of Providence
Author: Richard C. Gamble


He Is Not Lord Over Evil, Is He?:
The Dilemma Of Providence

Richard C. Gamble

Professor of Systematic Theology
Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Introduction

The question of God’s Lordship over evil came home forcefully to the western world this summer. Father Jacques Hamel was an 85 year-old French priest. On July 26, two French-born, knife-wielding Islamic radicals slit his throat while he celebrated mass at the altar of his church in Normandy.

On one hand, post Vatican II Roman Catholics are in a real bind trying to interpret what happened. Their theology, born out of the bright optimism of the 1960s, says that it is best for religion to “come of age” and to reject exclusivist ideas. They think that the Catholic religion should flourish in community with the other religions of mankind. For them to speak of Father Jacques as being a Catholic martyr might risk slipping back in to what they view as the fruitless religious struggles of the distant past. In fact, no Roman Catholic of the 1960s could have imagined that an old priest could die a martyr’s death in the heart of Europe. But for a faithful Roman Catholic, this death must be viewed as a martyrdom.

On the other hand, we conservative Presbyterians, following the Westminster Divines, do not grant that a priest celebrating mass is participating in the true worship of God. But we know that our theological sophistication is entirely lost on the Islamic fanatic who is bent on shedding Christian blood. For the jihadist, it could just as well be a Presbyterian minister standing in his pulpit as it was a priest at his altar who should die a bloody death. Thus, it is legitimate to ask the question assigned whether God is Lord over such evil actions.

Background

This article follows two previous ones which, are titled: “Does God Have Free Will?: The Meaning of Providence” and “How Can God Govern All Things?: The Means of Providence.”

Structure

This third article is structured with four main sections and a conclusion. The first section addresses the relationship between God’s providence and evil, tracing how the Divines fashioned the fifth chapter of the Confession, “Of Providence”.1 The second section addresses the question of evil- defining and interpreting. The third is concerned with the Westminster Confession of Faith on evil and the fourth on interpreting God and evil.

I. The Westminster Confession Of Faith On Providence And Evil

A. On Providence.

WCF 5.1 teaches that God directs and disposes his creat...

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