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THEOLOGY > Sin > The Problem of Evil > End and Means


A viable way to reflect on the created order is from the perspective of “end” and “means”; the former speaks of purpose or destination, while the latter implies the dynamics by which the end is reached.

End speaks of the goal, the destination, the determined destiny. The very concept establishes the fact that there is a purpose for creation—events are moving in a definite direction to a specific conclusion. The events of history are not aimless and occurring by chance, but are unfolding according to a Divine plan. There is a Telos.

Means speak of the accomplishment of the end, the manner or processes by which the end is realized. There are two means: primary and secondary. Another way by which to speak of the means is by causes, Primary Cause and secondary causes; therefore, Cause and effect do exist.

For the believer, there is the mandate that both of these concepts, end and means, be interpreted in terms of the God of the Bible. Really, every discussion must begin and end with God, or the discussion will be in vain. Only in Theism are there valid answers (see: Foundations).

To speak of end and means is to speak of Sovereignty, or of Providence, for the two words are intricately related. Providence is the exercise by God of His Sovereignty, an exercise guided by the eternal plan of God to the end that all of Creation fulfills its intended purpose and reaches its determined end (see: Providence). Thus, Providence establishes the end and the means to the end, both the primary means and the secondary means.

These twin ideas of end and means cannot be merged or confused but must be kept in their appropriate place. The end is the purpose of the means; the means are used to bring about the end. It is God that establishes the end and who also devises the means by which the end is secured. Thus neither is contingent upon man; again this attests to the fact that there is a goal, His goal. This is God’s world, and God’s purpose is unfolding for His world. He is the One who guarantees the outcome, and through His means He will accomplish His end.

No detail is left to itself; each detail is controlled and directed. There is no aspect of God’s world that is too trivial for His determination. Consider the words of Job: “He made a law for the rain and a path for the thunderbolt” (28:26). Even the rain and the thunderbolt conform to the “law” and “path” determined by God. Job goes on to affirm: “He saw it and declared it; He established it, and searched it out” (28:27). The point is that “all things” are determined by God (see: God is Sovereign and All Things). If even the rain and lightning obey His will, and He has a plan for each of them, then why should man feel that he is deserving of a supposed autonomous freedom that would allow him a contrary action, inconsistent with God’s plan for His creation?

In addition to the above, God “causes the vapors to ascend,” “makes lightning for the rain,” and “brings the wind out of His treasuries” (Ps. 135:5-7); He does what He pleases. God sends the “snow,” “frost,” and “hail”; and at His word these “melt.” In addition, “He causes His wind to blow, and the waters to flow”; note that the “wind” is spoken of as “His wind” (Ps. 147:15-18). Of Jesus it is said: “For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him” (Lu. 8:25). God controls the birds: “I have commanded the ravens to feed you there” (I Ki. 17:4); He ordered the ravens to feed Elijah by the brook. The birds obey His will. If the birds, then surely all the creatures God made conform to His direction. Even the death of the sparrow is according to God’s will: “And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Matt. 10:29).

If all of the above, which in one sense could be considered trivial, is under the authority of God and their every action, even the death of animals, conforms to His will, then how can it be argued that man is different? In fact, the Scriptures assert the same of man and teach without question that God is Sovereign over the individual, sovereign over birth, life, and death:

YHWH kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up (I Sam. 2:6);

YHWH gave, and YHWH has taken away; blessed be the name of YHWH (Job 1:21);

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:13-14);

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret (Ps. 139:15);

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Ps. 139:16);

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb (Gal. 1:15; see Jer. 1:5); And as it is appointed for men to die once (Heb. 9:27);

“determined their preappointed times” and “the boundaries of their dwellings”; God determines when you live – denoted by “times,” and God determines where you live – denoted by “boundaries” (Acts 17:24-26; see: Prov. 16:9; Jer. 10:23);

separated me from my mother’s womb (Gal. 1:15-16; see Jer. 1:5; Paul, like Jeremiah, affirmed that he was chosen before he was born).

An understanding of the rightful place of these two, end and means, provides the framework for establishing the proper understanding of the meaning of freedom and responsibility.

Return to: The Problem of Evil; Next Article: The Significance of Goodness

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