James Edwards has written a book titled The Divine Intruder: When God Breaks into Your Life. He argues that God is in the business of breaking into people’s lives and changing them forever. To prove his point, he draws on eight biblical accounts of encounters with God. He writes, “The God of the Bible does not draw intrepid souls upward to the Olympian heights. Nor can God be found by concentrating our powers and plumbing the depths within. God does something far more unsettling: He breaks into this world, even when he is unexpected and unwelcome. God joins us in our weakest and worst moments.”
In the world in which we live, there are two contrasting ideas of God’s involvement in history.
On the one hand, secular humanism denies any involvement at all by God in human history. It is assumed that history operates by blind chance. The processes of nature are uniform and remain basically unchanged throughout the centuries. The laws of nature don’t vary and we can therefore assume that what we see today is exactly how things have always been and have always operated.
Christians, on the other hand, sometimes assume that God always intervenes directly and supernaturally in history. If the traffic light remains green long enough for you to make it through, it was divine intervention. The birth of a baby is thought to be a “miracle.” At any given moment, things happen only by miraculous intervention. The biblical tension lies somewhere between these extremes.
On the one hand, the Bible affirms that God has implemented laws of nature and that, while he oversees and sustains these laws, creation generally operates according to them. The light remained green, not because God stopped it from turning red, but because it remains green for a specified time before changing colour. While it is marvellous to witness, humans are typically born according to the laws of nature that God has set in place. Childbirth, as a rule, can be explained according to the usual laws of nature that God implemented at creation. Strictly speaking, there is nothing “miraculous” about the average childbirth.
On the other hand, it must not and cannot be denied that God does at times intervene in a startling and miraculous way in human history. Peter reminded his readers of this truth in 2 Peter 3:1–7. Rejecting the notion of the false teachers that “all things were continuing as they were from the beginning of creation,” he points to an example in which God clearly intruded into human history. The global flood in Noah’s time did not unfold according to the ordinary laws of nature. God intervened directly into human history to bring judgement on the world. We can point to other instances in which God acted similarly.
As we reflect upon the teaching of this text, we must walk away with two implications firmly set in our minds and hearts.
First, we must affirm that the biblical worldview is wholly incompatible with secular humanism. We can debate all we like about the merits of theistic evolution (I personally think its merits are wafer thin), but any evolutionary theory that entirely dismisses divine intervention is wholly at odds with the teaching of Scripture. The Bible affirms that we do notlive in a closed universe, with which God has nothing to do. The God who intervened to deluge the world in judgement, and to extend daylight for Joshua, and to conceive his own Son in the womb of a young virgin, continues to sustain and, at times, intervene in our world. It is right for Christians to wonder what God is doing at any moment in history, because he is always at work.
Second, however, we must be careful, in the absence of divine revelation, of assuming that we know exactly what God is doing in our world at any given moment. In the absence of divine revelation, we cannot say exactly why God permitted the devastating tsunami in December 2004, which killed nearly 230,000 people. In the absence of divine revelation, we cannot say for certain why God has allowed the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has, at the time of writing, claimed at least 4.55 million lives. It is not our task to pontificate on everything we read or hear in every news cycle.
Ultimately, the Christian worldview affirms that God has not stepped away from his throne. He is actively involved in sustaining his creation and, at times, intrudes into the affairs of men in a spectacular way. We may not always know what he is doing when he steps into human history, or when he chooses not to, but we can trust that he has all things firmly in control as he guides history to its designated end.