Professor Andrew Sandlin, founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership, discusses the errors in resignation theology and challenges Christians to resist evil – if God resists sin, we should also.
One day, a worm that had been burrowing into the forehead of a medieval Mother Superior fell out as she bent over. Believing that all human suffering is God’s will, she reinserted the worm into her forehead. She was committed to the pervasive, masochistic, and evil theology of resignation rather than resistance: Christians should resign themselves to the triumph of evil since it suits God’s covert, inscrutable, but good purposes.
A theology of resistance, by radical contrast, knows that God doesn’t rule the world arbitrarily, maintaining a covert plan conflicting with his revealed plan in the Bible. Evil, which began with Satan’s cosmic insurrection and invaded earth in the Garden of Eden, constitutes war on God’s purposes. While God is so powerful that he can use even evil to fulfil those purposes (Psalm 76:10), he abominates evil; and he sent his Son to die on the cross and rise from the dead to crush it (1 John 3:8). The Gospel, in fact, is God’s evil-crushing programme. The existence of evil anywhere is an affront to a holy God, and, though he is longsuffering, he will not perpetually abide it.
A nefarious weapon in Satan’s arsenal is convincing God’s people that his secret purposes somehow include the victory of evil. The logic is generally this: God alone knows what’s best, and sometimes the victory of evil is best, so he secretly decrees its victory, and we dare not resist it. The Bible never actually says this, of course, or even teaches it; but it often serves people who desire a rationale for passivity or weariness (or, less excusably, laziness or cowardice) in the face of ubiquitous evil.
This rationale is fashioned into a theology: the theology of resignation. Resignation theologians invoke exceptional episodes in the Bible, like God’s revelation to Jeremiah to warn the apostate Jews not to oppose the impending Babylonian invasion since captivity was his righteous punishment for their sin (Jeremiah 27-28). It’s vital to recall, however, that this resignation was divinely revealed; it was not a speculation about God’s alleged secret purposes (so common among Christians today).
In almost every case, God’s revealed purpose (never different from his secret purpose) is for his people to resist evil. The superficial piety of resignation theology appeals to sincere but naïve Christians: “More than anything, I wish to submit to the will of God, even if it means evil will triumph.” But the triumph of evil is never the will of God. Even evil in the form of punishment on the wicked or God’s people (like Babylon with Israel) is an intermediate step toward the judgment of evil itself: God promised Israel that after he used Babylon for his purposes of judgment, he would brutally cast them aside and restore his people (Jeremiah 25:12–14).
Apart from verbal divine revelation declaring otherwise, God’s will is always to resist evil. Since such revelation ended with the closing of the biblical canon, God’s will for today for his people confronting evil is: all resistance, all the time.
Biblical Resistance to Evil
The Bible overflows with instances of holy resistance, not resignation, to evil. While we may not resist God’s ordinances like civil government (Romans 13:2), we repeatedly encounter instances of the godly opposing, resisting, and vanquishing evil. Noah resisted his godless antediluvian contemporaries. Abraham pursued, overtook, and spoiled Lot’s captors. Moses, Joshua, and the judges resisted the Jews’ Canaanite enemies. David resisted the blaspheming Goliath. Elijah resisted the apostate King Ahab and his reprobate wife Jezebel. The old covenant prophets resisted both errant Israel and the depraved nations surrounding it. Jesus came resisting the satanic works of demon possession and sickness as well as the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The apostles resisted Christ-denying Judaism and an imperious Rome. Paul resisted the Judaizers. No book in the Bible reflects resistance theology more than Revelation: against both unbelieving Judaism and imperial Rome, both of which God promised to crush — and did, in fact, crush (Revelation 11:15–19; 18:1–19:21).
Restoring Resistance Theology
Ours is a time of rampant apostasy, both in church and culture, and this evil fosters resignation among many Christians. They throw up their hands in despair: “What use is resistance? Who knows? Maybe all of this evil is God’s will.” This is a fatal — and faithless — reaction. Evil is never God’s will. David Wells writes:
“Accepting the status quo or ‘life as it is’ (i.e., accepting the inevitability of the way things are in life) is to surrender a biblical view of God. This resignation of what is abnormal contains a hidden, unrecognized assumption that God’s power to change the world, to overcome Evil with Good, will not be actualized.”
The fact that God has chosen to ‘take his time’ in fulfilling his plans with the world and, therefore, in crushing evil, should never lead us to assume he is tolerant toward evil and that we can, as a result, resign ourselves to it. Our task is to separate from and expose and oppose evil.
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you”(James 4:7). “Those who forsake the law,” writes Solomon, “praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them” (Proverbs 28:4). “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). I draw your attention to the striking fact that we are required not merely to avoid evil, but also expose it. We are commanded to battle the lawless around us. Resistance, not resignation.
God’s objective in his Son’s redemptive work is to crush the serpent’s head by, first, saving sinners – humans created in his image – and, second, by saving the world from the poisonous consequences of humanity’s sin. But this salvation necessitates confrontation, and confrontation requires resistance.
Roe v. Wade, Obergefell, Cultural Marxism, pornography, pride, multiculturalism, extramarital sex, covetousness, Darwinism, prayerlessness, ideological feminism, unbelief, and a host of other cultural sins plague our families, churches, and society. We dare not resign ourselves to them. As long as God doesn’t resign himself to sin, we cannot. Bold resistance theology is the calling of the hour.