Does God Take Sides?

Series: Window on the World

by Phil Ryken January 13, 2002

Does God take sides? Roger Rosenblatt doesn't think so. In an essay that appeared in the December 17 issue of TIME magazine, Rosenblatt asked which side of the war against terrorism God is on. Is he on our side, as so many Americans assume, or is he on the side of al-Qaeda?

Roger Rosenblatt doesn't think that God is on anyone's side at all. As the title of his essay reads, "God Is Not on My Side. Or Yours." "One would like to think that God is on our side against the terrorists," writes Rosenblatt, "because the terrorists are wrong and we are in the right, and any deity worth his salt would be able to discern that objective truth. But this is simply good-hearted arrogance cloaked in morality—the same kind of thinking that makes people decide that God created humans in his own image."

According to Mr. Rosenblatt, the reason that God is not on anyone's side in particular is that God just isn't that interested in what is happening in the world. Rosenblatt writes: "I would like to offer the opinion that God is not thinking about us. Or if he is, one has no way of knowing that—unless, of course, one is like Mohamed Atta, who had a pathological view of faith, or Jerry Falwell, whose mind is Taliban minus the bloodlust. This week the Taliban leader, Mohammed Omar, may be wondering how tight he is with God, after all. In September he was certain that God rooted for our extinction. Now, with the surrender of Kandahar, the mullah may be shopping for a more competent deity."

Sadly, this is the kind of journalism that Bible-believing Christians have come to expect from the secular media. Despite the fact that it is biblically ill-informed, it presumes to theologize in front of a national audience. It also resorts to making facile comparisons between fundamental Christians and hardened terrorists. The comment about Jerry Falwell is a cheap shot. Still, the question that Rosenblatt raises is worth considering: Assuming that he is even interested enough to care, does God take sides?

The Bible teaches that God does take sides. Certainly he takes sides when it comes to salvation. The Bible says, "the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish" (Ps. 1:6). Everywhere the Bible discriminates between the elect and the reprobate, the saved and the lost, the sheep and the goats, the redeemed and the damned.

God also takes sides in the great affairs of men and nations. The Bible teaches that God "rules over the nations" (Ps. 22:28), that he "foils the plans of the nations" (Ps. 33:10), that he "reigns over the nations" (Ps. 47:8), that he "disciplines the nations" (Ps. 94:10), and that he will "judge the nations" (Ps. 110:6). However—and this is a crucial qualification—although God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked, he almost never does it immediately. In fact, justice will not be fully served until the Day of Judgment.

This delay makes it difficult, if not impossible, to use current events to figure out whose side God is on. Here Mr. Rosenblatt has a point: It is presumptuous for us to claim that we know exactly what God is doing, that we know who he is for and who he is against. However, and this is problem with Mr. Rosenblatt's argument, it is one thing to say that we don't always know whose side God is on, and another thing to say that he doesn't take sides at all. Clearly, God does take sides, for the Scripture says, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31b).

It is important to understand that when it comes to taking sides, God thinks primarily in spiritual terms, not military or political terms. No nation in the world—including the United States of America—can claim God's unqualified blessing. God is for his people, but his people are scattered among all the nations of the world, united by faith in Christ.

No doubt Mr. Rosenblatt would object to my saying that God is on our side. He objects to the idea that God "micromanages the universe for the advantage of particular believers." But this objection is based on a misunderstanding. God's purpose is not to make the universe work for our advantage, but to glorify himself. Often God achieves this by bringing his people through suffering and hardship rather than by making things work out to their obvious advantage. When we say that God takes sides, we do not mean that things always go well for his people, but that no matter how things go, he is glorified by their faith and obedience.

Then there is this to consider: As he carries out his plan of salvation, God is busy turning some of his enemies into friends. The gospel is a message of reconciliation. That is why it is impossible say that God is against any particular individual. Is God against evil? Yes. Is he opposed to acts of terror, such as those committed last September? Always. Does he take sides against an organization like al-Qaeda? Of course. Is he against the followers of Osama bin Laden? Certainly he hates what they have done, but it is at least possible that some of them are destined to receive salvation. If so, then God is for them, not against them, and ultimately he will bring them to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ.

The last thing to say is that even if God is for me, that doesn't mean that everything I do necessarily has his endorsement. This is a mistake Christians often make, and it is easy to understand why someone like Roger Rosenblatt gets nervous when people start claiming that God is on their side. In my view, America's intervention in Afghanistan is necessary and just, and in that sense, God is our side. That does not mean, however, that our soldiers are without sin, or even that our campaign against terrorism will be a success. What we do know is that whatever happens, it will be for the ultimate good of God's people, and for the glory of our God.

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