I met with mixed emotions the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote late Tuesday to defer a vote on the pro-life “fetal heartbeat” bill until more testimony could be provided during a summer hearing, after which the bill could be taken back up next January. The outcome really tested what I believe.
Restoring laws that respect God-given life and the creational design of marriage has been and will continue to be foremost on my policy agenda. But, to be honest, the push for passage of this bill was not on my agenda for this session. It was initiated by legislators, so I left them to handle their own business while I was focused on the other issue, marriage.
A Waste of Time?
But I pulled away from that work for the last week or so to help Senator Pody get the “heartbeat” bill worded right and develop a legal argument supporting its constitutionality. So, having been distracted from my planned work only to learn that at the end of Tuesday’s hearing there was never any intention of giving the proffered testimony any real consideration really magnified my disappointment and frustration.
By all appearances, I had wasted my time over the last week researching cases, preparing an extensive legal memorandum and my abbreviated oral testimony, and assembling and delivering to legislators a notebook of law review articles and other materials to back up my testimony. Moreover, Tennessee had foregone an opportunity to join a growing chorus of states passing “heartbeat” bills in an effort to force the U.S. Supreme Court into revisiting Roe.
As I thought about what happened, I wanted to point fingers and place blame, and there were a host of good targets.
Putting the Blame-Game in Perspective
But as I tried to make sense of it, another core belief registered in my mind that I knew had to be taken into consideration before I could assign blame—what I believe is true about God.1
Lying in the dustbin of modern evangelicalism, with its emphasis on the self and how we feel instead of what we think, is regular teaching about who God is from God’s own perspective.
Get a load of how the Westminster Divines defined God and you will see what I mean. (It’s long, but mentally luxuriate in some of its expressions):
God . . . is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty. God has all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He has made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and has most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleases. In His sight all things are open and manifest, His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands.2
I suspect when some people read that, they will shudder and think how horrible such a God must be. I get that; I really do. After all, that kind of God crushes every proud thought we naturally have about how good, wise, influential, and significant we are. Self-esteem must deny such a God (which may explain why much of modern evangelicalism doesn’t talk much about all of that which is true of God).
But to others, it may have been their point of departure in understanding how amazing the mercy and grace of God really is toward us, because in coming to see who God really is, they realized that the infinitude of their insolence was justly damnable.
What This Means When Expectations and Providence Collide
Here, though, is my point: When these thoughts about who God is become precious to a person, they become an anchor to which that person can hold when the present outworking of God’s providence doesn’t make sense, and they can provide a peace that is, indeed, “beyond understanding” and “not such as the world can give” (Philippians 4:7; John 14:27).
I’ve still got a long way to go before these thoughts about God and how He works out His purposes become to me, in the words of the Psalmist, “better than life” (Psalm 63:3), but I was reminded of them after Tuesday’s vote and they bid me to let go of trying to place blame for what happened.
It was as if God said, “If you must point a finger, David, then point it at Me. I alone am big enough to bring out of what you see as defeat the victory that I have been planning to bring out of that bill all along. Do you trust Me in that?”
That was enough for me. Now back to my work on marriage.
- What follows is not to disavow human responsibility and our need as voters to know who did what that we might discharge our solemn duty before God to hold accountable those to whom authority has been entrusted. In time I will know that story more fully, at which time you will know who was really doing what and, as best I can judge, why. Rather, today’s commentary is my attempt to hold in tension without denying one for the other both personal responsibility and God’s sovereignty as reflected in Acts 4:27-28.
- The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter II, Parts I and II.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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