A few weeks ago I posted The View from the Foot of the Bed which describes my perception of Christ’s view of the abuse I experienced as a child. At the end of the introduction to the sonnet, I promised to answer the question, “Why didn’t He stop what was happening to me?” Over the next few weeks, I will attempt to provide some insight into how God parents His creation. While most of my posts are informal, for this series, I divided an essay I wrote for a graduate school course into five posts.
I struggled with the idea of posting the essay because I want my blog to reflect my personal story. I don’t want the site to become all academic or propositional. However, each time that I considered how to describe why I think God sometimes allows bad things to occur, the essay returned to my thinking.
Perhaps the rational approach to this very emotional topic will help someone who currently struggles with the problem of evil in our world.
Social Media, television, newspapers, interest group forums and even our friends and co-workers bombard us the latest and greatest method of parenting.
Memes poke fun at parental mistakes or make sarcastic comments regarding modern parenting. Most recently, posts comparing parenting in the 50’s with 21st-century parenting proliferate Social Media. The public often blames the parents for their children’s misbehavior, much like some blame God for the failures, disasters, and suffering we experience daily. As parents, grandparents or just an adult watching children in a public setting, many questions arise about what the best way is to guide a child, so they reach their potential, are good citizens and can support themselves. A simple Google search for “good parenting” yields thousands of results that range from corporal punishment to allowing a child to do what they want and paying the price of natural consequences. According to ‘A Parenting Competency Model’, “there is perhaps no more complex and difficult job than childrearing.” On the eternal scale, if we view God as a parent, why would we consider His task any less complicated? After all, God provides providential guidance to all of humanity. While some individuals blame God for everything that is wrong with the world and fail to grasp how a loving God would allow hurt, death and chaos among his creation, accepted styles of sound parental guidance demonstrate that God’s interaction with humanity fits the good parenting model very well. In fact, in Classic Christianity, A Systematic Theology, Thomas C. Oden compares God’s providential governance of human freedom to good parenting by illustrating that God teaches, guides, sets boundaries and overrules choices that seem to jeopardize the Divine purpose.
Why compare effective parenting with God’s Providential care of Humanity?
Comparing the complexity of effective parental guidance with God’s Providential care of humanity helps us understand that God demonstrates identical elements and is, in fact, a good parent. According to Johnson et, al., competent parenting includes nonintrusive monitoring, a flexible discipline that changes with the developmental level of the child, avoiding overprotection while controlling the environment to promote the child’s safety, allowing for independence and promoting moral development. The Johnson study also emphasizes the importance of communication between the parent and child as well as the use of logical and natural consequences that result from the child’s choices. By comparison, Oden asserts that Classical Christian tradition regards providence as three interrelated phases of upholding, cooperating, and guiding. He continues the discussion by explaining the four stages of Providence used by God to guide human freedom; permitting, hindering, overruling and limiting our choices.
While the comparison of good parenting and God’s providential care provides foundational information, does the comparison answer the question, “Is God a good parent?” Perhaps, before we can fully appreciate how God’s providential interaction with humanity resembles proper parental guidance, we should clarify what the term providence means. As Oden defines the term, Providence is the expression of the divine will, power, and goodness through which the Creator preserves creatures, cooperates with what is coming to pass through their action, and guides creatures in their long-range purposes.” Oden continues by affirming that through God’s providence, we learn “by experience, by moving through stages of growth and by struggling toward good through evil,” much like a parent cares for and guides a child toward adulthood. When quoting Augustine, Oden argues that God would not permit evil at all unless He could draw some good out of it.” While providence extends to all God’s creation, the unique element of humanity is the freedom to choose. Through providence, God’s care for us “never sleeps.” However, Solomon admonishes us that “A man’s heart may be full of schemes, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” (Prov. 19:22). God, as our parent, will not allow human freedom to overrule His purpose. While God’s power is absolute, it is also orderly and follows His nature. If God is perfectly good, He must be a perfectly good parent. He created us and guides us by the same rules that He provides human parents. We can learn more about why God allows hurt, suffering and how he guides us by first looking at the elements of proper parental guidance.
Brian D. Johnson, Laurie D. Berdahl, Melissa Horne, Emily A. Richter, and Meag-gan Walters., “A Parenting Competency Model.” Parenting: Science & Practice 14, no. 2 (CINAHL Plus with Full Text, EBSCOhost: 2014), 92-120 29p. Accessed June 13, 2016.
 Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity, A Systematic Theology (New York: HarperCollins, 1992),159.
 Johnson, et al., 92-120 29p. Accessed June 13, 2016.
 Ibid. 158.
 Oden, 143.
 Ibid., 156.
 Ibid., 157.
 Ibid., 155.