Christians can sometimes be tempted to use arguments like “God has used wicked leaders in the past!” or “God is big enough to handle me voting for candidate x” in defense of a particular view of politics or choice in voting. This series of articles will examine some common fallacious arguments from God’s sovereignty and provide a better framework for understanding how Christians should think about God’s sovereignty over voting and politics.
In the first argument mentioned above, examples ranging from David to Samson to Nebuchadnezzar are used to show that God can use people who messed up in really big ways or even pagan rulers who completely rebelled against God to do His will. Proponents of this line of thinking will say that God chose or “voted” for these people, and if God can do it, why can’t they?
This is a very dangerous way of thinking about ethics and decision making. In the first place, this argument blurs the creature/Creator distinction. God, as God, has the right to do as He will with His creation, but people as His creatures are bound by God’s commands to them as such. This is part of why God could order the death of nations surrounding Israel (including the women and children) without blackening His justness or holiness, especially given that all of those people had sinned and were thus worthy of death, but humans cannot run around killing other people simply because they are sinners.
God has the right to do things that people do not.—Adam Dean
This does not imply that anything that God does is unjust, merely that people are limited as creatures and that He is not as the Creator.
In the second place, this argument cannot logically end anywhere short of justifying any and all evil imaginable. If the fact that God is going to use something evil for good justifies doing that evil then all evil is justifiable. Two examples from Scripture should be more than enough to demonstrate this.
Genesis 37 tells the story of Joseph and his brothers who almost killed him but ended up settling for beating him up, throwing him in a pit, and selling him into slavery. Joseph rises to greatness in Pharaoh’s service and ends up saving his people from a famine due to his position. As Joseph says to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
To infer from this story that Joseph’s brothers were morally justified in selling him into slavery because of the good that came from it would be a monstrous idea that has no basis in Scripture. Conspiring to kill innocent men, beating them up, and selling them into slavery is nothing short of wicked. No Christian would dare to claim that beating up his brother and selling him as a slave is defensible, but the logic of the argument from God’s use of evil necessitates that this is not merely acceptable but positively good.
An even more compelling example is the betrayal and murder of Jesus Christ Himself. Scripture says that this was foreordained by God (Acts 2:23, 4:27-28; see also 1 Peter 1:20, 1 Cor. 2:7) and God used this for literally the greatest good that has ever occurred. But murder (the unjustified premeditated killing of another human being) is completely wrong; the murder of a completely innocent, perfect human being even more so. Worse still, this was the murder of the God-Man, the Creator in the flesh. Scripture also unequivocally states that those involved were responsible for their evil (Luke 22:22).
No-one can honestly suggest that murdering Jesus was justified regardless of how much incredible good it brought about. To do so is absurd and contradicts clear Scripture. But if evil is sometimes necessary or justified because of the fact that God will use it for good, there is no choice left but to affirm that even this would have been good.
These two examples ought to be more than sufficient to demonstrate that this argument should not be used. Numerous examples also abound of God using pagan nations to punish Israel and then punishing those nations for their actions against Israel.
Two other points should be mentioned in brief. The first is that this argument requires calling evil “good”. If someone argues that it is “good” to do bad things because God will use them for good, they are literally calling evil “good”. The Bible speaks directly to this issue. Isaiah 5:20 says “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (See also Proverbs 17:15).
The second concluding point is that this argument disregards direct Biblical commands. In Romans 3:8, Paul sharply condemned those who accused him of saying that people should do evil so that good may come. Here is a clear statement of Biblical ethics: to do evil so that good may come is an abomination. This is closely related to what Paul has to say later in chapter 6, when he replies with indignation to the idea that Christians might sin so that grace might abound: “God forbid!” (Rom. 6:1; the entire rest of the chapter explains that, since Christians are no longer slaves to sin, it is unthinkable that they should desire to sin any more no matter the reason).
Christians should not dare to wield God’s sovereignty in this manner, as an argument to defend doing something known to be wrong. Evil is evil; it is never justifiable for any reason. God’s sovereign use of evil to bring about His good and just plan for history is not a license for people to engage in evil themselves. God’s use of evil men for His purposes does not justify in the slightest any attempts to put them into power any more than His use of evil deeds justifies engaging in them.
The next article will examine arguments relating to God’s sovereignty and decision making.