Troubling Thought: Does God Ordain Pain, or Just Allow It?

Update: As I was taught by professors, the Jewish and early-Christians thought that God ordained both good and bad is a comforting explanation in hindsight. I just remembered that. David, Isaiah, Paul, Luke – all believed God ordained things as a comforting remark. We as Christians today, still have a habit of believing that! Signed, an Arminian Christians who believes in final perseverance of saints.

Hi everyone, First, let me add a disclaimer for my question in the title: Reasons for anything are a lot more complicated than we think. As Jen Hatmaker explains in her article, “Why does God allow suffering and pain?,” reasons for pain and suffering are a lot more complicated than “God is sovereign.” Yes, I believe God is sovereign over all of us, and that he allows pain for our good and his glory, but another question has been bugging me…

Does God actually ordain our pain, good, bad, ugly, all of the above in our lives? If so, do we have free will?

Does God ordain pain, or does he just allow it? And is there a difference, or are ordain and allow the same thing?

I’m a Wesleyan by heart; I place great emphasis on free will, our destructive behaviors, and God NOT being the root of all evil. But as I do with all things religion-related, I lean into the hard stuff and have been looking at Calvinistic theology. With Presbyterian and all Reform theology, God ordains all things in our lives and numbers the days of our lives. He is truly and honorifically sovereign in our lives. Yet, when we mess up, WE are still responsible for our mess-ups and have the deal with the consequences, in this life and this next.

Now, the reason I’ve been looking into this is because I am dissatisfied with Arminian theology of apostasy. I am a firm believer that we can fall from the faith, but I am disenhearted by the fact that there have been, there are, and there will be so many lost souls that never accepted Christ b/c they either didn’t hear about Jesus, or if they did, completely rejected Him. That seems reckless of God to predestine only those to the Kingdom that he knew would endure to the end in belief (conditonal election). To me, it feels like hardly anybody would be in Heaven or be believers at the Resurrection if that was the case.

BUT, the hard part about God predestining all believers/non-believers is that God ACTIVELY predestines some to hell. That, too, sounds absolutely un-God like. He would want everyone to come to faith. Call my a Universalist, but I believe God would want all people to come to Heaven and to leave none behind.

BUT, I also understand God respects our free will, so I’m a flux. Either God allows so many uneducated-about-Jesus people to go to Hell, or He actually ordains them to Hell. Either way, this doesn’t work. I swear, I understand where the Latter-day Saints are coming in with by-proxy baptisms for the dead!

So, what is my decision? I AM NOT SURE. I feel like it’s really an ugly mixture of both predestination, free will, apostasy, ordaining all things, choice, and all that. I feel like whenever we try to wrap theology with a bow on top, we’re putting God in a box that is WAY too small. God is surely complex, and we will likely never understand Him. I for sure know, that if God does not actively ordain all things to happen in our lives, including pain, he at least allows them for our goodness and His glory. I believe he numbers our days, also, and that he has a purpose and plan for all of us. So, a mixture, really.

I swear, this is why I was baptized Lutheran! We believed in one-sided predestination for believers, and also in free will. LOL.

Love, Leigh Todd

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