Sometimes I read things that are so pitifully erroneous that I feel compelled to set the record straight. This is one instance.
Recently Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D.-Ill., complained about Republican Majority Leader Bill Fristâ€™s participation in a simulcast to religious conservatives. The simulcast will include pro-family leaders — such as James Dobson — who have portrayed Democrats as being “against people of faith” for blocking President Bush’s judicial nominations.
Durbin was not at all happy that Frist was participating in such an event. Durbin groused: “I cannot imagine that God — with everything he has or she has to worry about — is going to take the time to debate the filibuster in heaven.”
I will not deny the rhetorical effectiveness of Durbinâ€™s statement. It appeals to peoplesâ€™ common sense that a transcendent God would hardly stoop to concern Himself with the mundane details of human existence — much less the jaded world of power politics. After all, isnâ€™t God above all that? Arenâ€™t there more important things in the universe than what happens in one small city located on the galactic speck known as planet earth? The reasoning goes something like this: â€œGod doesnâ€™t care about petty things such as politics, so why should we care what He thinks about our public policies?â€
I think Durbinâ€™s statement merely reflects another cynical attempt to remove God from the public square — in this case, from the give and take of political discourse. But the main problem with Durbinâ€™s ill-informed words is that nearly every phrase is chocked full of biblical and theological error. In one fell swoop of misinformation, Durbin manages to turn the biblical portrait of Godâ€™s providence on its head. Godâ€™s Providence refers to His constant care and control over every aspect of His creation (Ephesians 1:11). And Sen. Durbin misses it.
For starters, Durbinâ€™s â€œI-cannot-imagineâ€ appeal to common sense gets his listeners off on the wrong foot in their reflections about God — as if what one â€œimaginesâ€ matters one whit in the determination of reality. We shouldnâ€™t be surprised by kooky theological reflection when the source of it is the mere musing of a misguided muckraker. What really matters is not the god of Durbinâ€™s or anyone elseâ€™s imagination, but the God who has revealed Himself in the written canon of Scripture. And it is to the Scriptures that we will have to look if we want to know what God thinks about anything.
Jesus taught about the Fatherâ€™s stooping to be involved in the affairs of men: â€œAre not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrowsâ€ (Matthew 10:29-31). In other words, God is very much involved in the day-to-day mundane events of our lives.
When Jesus refers to falling â€œsparrowsâ€ and numbered â€œhairs,â€ He teaches that Godâ€™s providential concern extends to the smallest details of our existence, to what in our terms would be the molecular level of existence. In other words, there is no aspect of our lives that is beneath God. All of life belongs to Him and only finds its proper meaning and purpose in relation to Him. This truth would of course include the mundane world of politics.
Durbin intimates that God has more important things to do than to â€œworryâ€ about our politics. Yet Godâ€™s Providence in Scripture is not depicted as something that stresses God out. As if He canâ€™t have anything else added to His plate because Heâ€™s already got too much to do (like preventing the universe from imploding). Godâ€™s meticulous providence does not cause Him worry. On the contrary, biblically speaking, our worry is relieved by our knowledge of His providence. In Matthew 10:30, it is this truth that is to be a comfort to disciples who suffer at the hands of evil governments. If Godâ€™s care over His creation extends even to the smallest animal, then it certainly extends to His people.
For Durbin to suggest that God doesnâ€™t care about the judiciary that will decide whether abortion-on-demand will remain legal is to make a grave error indeed. If God cares about the sparrows, you can be sure He cares about the babies. Their justice will not tarry long as God Himself eventually will call to account their oppressors (Psalm 82:3, 8; 146:9), a fact Iâ€™m sure many pro-abortionists would like to ignore. And the pro-abortionists will cause many others to ignore this truth so long as God and our accountability to Him are banned from the public consciousness.
So let us not keep silent when dinky theology is substituted for substantive, sound statements about God. Remarks like Sen. Durbinâ€™s may be clever, but they are not true.
A critique of Durbinâ€™s dithering on the gender of God will have to wait for another time, but this issue in itself is important nonetheless.
David D. Kirkpatrick and Carl Hulse, â€œFrist Accused of Exploiting Religion Issue,â€ New York Times, April 16, 2005. Accessed Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/16/politics/16judges.html.
John Piper used this phrase in connection with this text, that the Lordâ€™s Providence extends to the â€œmolecularâ€ level. He used it in a radio interview concerning the tsunami disaster.
This article appeared in the Baptist Press on August 20, 2005.