Today I heard one of the oddest theological exchanges of my life when Rabbi Shmuley Boteach schooled Bryan Fischer in the sovereignty of God on Fischer's "Focal Point" radio program.
Fischer, a director of the American Family Association as well as a Pastor and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, had generated enormous controversy by stating publicly that the Newtown Massacre occurred because Americans told God to leave the public schools "and being a gentleman, he did exactly that." Rabbi Boteach had been asked to respond to Fischer's comments on CNN and had done so indicating his profound disagreement with Fischer's statements. He had then been invited by Bryan Fischer to talk about them on his show. Once again Fischer had restated his "God isn't allowed in the public schools" argument by telling Boteach that God was like "Chuck Norris" and that He had protected America's schools when we asked Him too, but that Americans had asked him to stop and He had. Therefore, God had nothing to do with the Newtown massacre. Boteach had to point out that God is not a human like Chuck Norris, that He is OMNIPRESENT, that men can't tell God to go away, and that God is the one who ordains whatever happens and that man is not sovereign over God. He also pointed out that all this anthropomorphic "gentleman" garbage isn't in the Bible and that it's merely "Fischerism." While there was much to be desired in the Rabbi's "theology of confrontation" his answers were much closer to what the bible actually teaches, and it was frankly embarrassing to hear a pastor being schooled on basic systematic theology and the attributes of God.
The confrontation highlighted an important and distressing fact, namely that its not just America's children who are falling into a form of "Moral and Therapeutic Deism" but America's pastors. We have made ourselves sovereign and constructed a God who, like a Grandma, loves us and is willing to help, and provide us with things, but who can do nothing if we do not let Him. So when sad providences occur or evil men do evil things we make blasphemous statements like "God would have helped if He could" and forget that our God is the same God who ordained that Joseph would be sold into slavery by His own brothers, and of whom Joseph confessed to those same brothers many years later:
"But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive." (Genesis 50:20)
More astoundingly than that though, the God of the bible is the same God who foreordained the crucifixion of His own Beloved Son, Jesus, for our sakes so that we who had sinned, might have our sins atoned for. Note that when he was addressing his fellow Jews on Pentecost, Peter did not say, "Friends, the crucifixion of Jesus was a terrible mistake! God didn't want that and would have stopped it if He could, but he couldn't because he's a gentleman and you didn't ask Him to!" instead Peter said:
"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know -- Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it." (Acts 2:22-24)
Bryan Fischer's god cannot ACTUALLY save anyone, he can only "help" people who want to cooperate in their own salvation, but the God of the bible CAN and DOES save sinners while they are yet rebels and enemies, and dead in their trespasses and sins. I'm thankful that it was the God of the Bible, and not the Moral and Therapeutic (and inevitably patriotic) deity of modern evangelicalism who saved me.