The effects of sin in the world are not mistakes on God’s part, but means by which his glory will one day be fully displayed either in the salvation of some from their sin or the pouring out of his righteous wrath against unrepentant sin. That lack of mistake on God’s part, does nothing of itself to help us with the question of what is sinful and what is good. For that, we need other biblical data and other objective data from the world around us. Which perhaps means we need to be a bit more careful when and where we employ the God makes no mistakes argument because we might just be accidentally propping up a Pelagian worldview that will lead people away from the gospel, rather than towards it.
Yesterday, I took a swipe at the test of time argument. I don’t think we should use it. In my view, it isn’t a fair and proper test. Indeed, it proves very little if anything. It is a mere observation that something has been around a long time, it does not help us determine how good that thing actually is.
Well, that brought to mind another line that Christians like to throw around. A line that is factually true, but doesn’t necessarily get us very far in discussions. Which is to say, I’m not sure how helpful it is to employ it either. That line is, God doesn’t make mistakes.
Of course, taken at face value, that is true. God does not make mistakes. He is sovereign Lord of the universe who works all things according to the counsel of his good will. In other words, God makes no mistake. What is, is, simply because he has ultimately determined it would be.
The problem is that this tends to lead to a Pelagian calculation. If God makes no mistakes, then what God makes must be good. God made me. Therefore, the way I am must be good. As a basic syllogism, people think of this way:
- God only makes what is good.
- God made me.
- Therefore, I am good.
In other words, God makes no mistakes and God made me like this, therefore I must be exactly as God intended me to be. It doesn’t take a genius to see how this sort of Pelagianism is applied to all manner of current cultural discussions.
In answer to some of those cultural discussions, believers sometimes argue that God makes no mistakes. So, if you believe you have been born in the wrong body, but God makes no mistakes, the body you have must be the body that God wants you to have. Which seems reasonable until somebody turns around and agrees, God makes no mistakes, and he has given me certain innate desires which must be the kind of desires he wants me to have. Therefore, things God says are not right in his Word are countered with a God-makes-no-mistakes Pelagianism to affirm as good what God calls not good. At which point, we are left spluttering that isn’t what we meant; we were talking about characteristics beyond our control. As the person insists such things are beyond their control, somebody else arrives, hearing that God makes no mistakes over our bodies, and begins to ask about their severe disability. If God makes no mistakes, are you suggesting my disability is good? We might quickly grasp hold of a line that it isn’t part of God’s original design but sin means our bodies don’t work as they ought, at which point the original person says ‘like being born in the wrong body, you mean?’
My point here isn’t to suggest that God does make mistakes. Nor that the argument that God makes no mistakes is fundamentally untrue. Rather, that it is a line that is so capable of misunderstanding and rests on a number of presumptions that we might be best not saying it. Or, if we do say it, only after we have given umpteen caveats about what we actually mean.
The real issue is not really whether God makes mistakes or not. We know he doesn’t, the issue is whether what we see in the world is good or not and, more to the point, how God intends to work through it for his good purposes. The cross, for example, appeared like a big mistake to Jesus’ disciples, but it was in fact God’s redemptive plan in action. Did God make a mistake when Jesus was crucified? No. It’s just that what his disciples expected God would be doing, what they assumed were his plan and purposes, were not actually his plan at all. God doesn’t make mistakes, but we don’t always grasp what he is actually doing.