Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Gospel According to Obama

(reprint from last year; Obama's acceptance speech)

There are times in an individual's life that their view of the Gospel shines forth. It is a time when the problem of life is clearly defined and when the solution is presented in no uncertain terms.

This was that time for Obama.

At the center of the American stage, with millions of viewers hanging on his very words, he had the opportunity to define the issues and present the solution. And he did just that. The problem was presented more negatively, yet clearly. The Dream is slipping away from the grasps of hard-working Americans: job insecurity, unpaid bills, credit debt, lack of good education, etc. In contrast, Obama wants to see these things change:

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage…We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president …The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great, a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight. (NY Times transcript).

America's problem is not spiritual. The problem of America is economical. People need more economic opportunities to succeed: more education, more health care, more job security, more, more & more. But the problem is not simply the economy, as the rest of his speech pointed out. The government bureaucracy is a problem as well. And it is politics-as-usual that is another block in the road of American Progress. There are so many problems (war, money, society), in fact, that America needs an all-encompassing change. It needs to return to her own primeval salvation: the American Promise: "Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility, that's the essence of America's promise"

America needs each other; America needs responsibility. America needs to pull herself up by her own bootstraps.

Obama's Promise

The American Promise was summarized in a more forthright manner at the beginning of the speech when he described his parent's hope: "a belief that in America their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to." Immediately he elaborates: "It is that promise that's always set this country apart, that through hard work and sacrifice each of us can pursue our individual dreams. but still come together as one American family"

That is the key to the dream of Obama. The Obama Promise is that any American can "achieve whatever he puts his mind to." In fact that is the American Promise. And it is a promise that is for both the individual American and America in the aggregate: all of us together can make our dreams come true.

Economic inequality will fail; political incompetence will cease; social ills will vanish and faith in ourselves will never fail.

Obama's "I wills"

"I will end…I will build...And I will restore our moral standing so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future." (p.5)

The American Promise is a promise of freedom, peace and a better future. It is heaven on earth. The sins of economic, political and social inequality will be eradicated and the tears of the disadvantaged will be wiped away.

And this will be almost single-handily accomplished by the DNC messiah: Barack Obama.

Well, it will be accomplished with the help of the American people, if they follow him to the promise land. He cannot do it alone. He's only human after all.

Obama's Grace

"But this, too, is part of America's promise, the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort." (p.5)

The Obama Promise—the American Promise—for the two are one and he desires we be one as they are one—is a promise of strength and grace. Grace is not the Promised Person that comes from eternity into time to grant forgiveness and regeneration, rather grace is the "promise of a democracy" wherein grace can be found by group-participation through our votes, decisions and will-power to achieve whatever we put our minds to.

And it is not because of America's wealth, military or education that she is great. "Instead, it is that American spirit, that American promise, that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend." (p.6)

Obama's Faith

It should be clear by now that Obama's gospel is a gospel of self-help, of self-effort and of collective redemption through voting. His faith is in himself and in his America--a faith in "what is unseen." Furthermore, not once did he mention repentance, God or Christ for that matter. Sin and redemption have been completely transformed into liberal talking points about politics, economics and society. If these are the American sins—inequality in all its forms—then redemption comes through changing the environment, exercising good-will and voting Democrat.

This faith in the American Promise—in American working out her own salvation—is shouted out to all who have hears to hear, when he arrogantly applies the Sacred Word to himself and America:

"At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise, that American promise, and in the words of scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America." (p.6)

Democracy is where Obama finds grace; the unseen potential of America to achieve whatever she seeks is where Obama places his faith. The Gospel according to Obama is an unfettered America united for the glory of man.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Very Short History of Christian Education, 2/5

New Testament Times:

About one-hundred years before Christ, the Jewish leadership began promoting schools as a counterweight to Grecian influence. The schools were for boys age five to thirteen, teaching rudimentary skills.

"In this period a synagogue presupposed a school, as with us a church implies a Sunday school. Hence the church and Sunday school, not the church and the district school, is a parallel to the Jewish system. The methods in these schools were not unlike those of the modern Sunday school. Questions were freely asked and answered, and opinions stated and discussed: any one entering them might ask or answer questions. Such a Jewish Bible school, no doubt, Jesus entered in the temple when twelve years the apostolic period teachers were a recognized body of workers quite distinct from pastors, prophets, and evangelists (see 1 Cor. xii. 28, 29; Eph. iv. 11; Heb. v. 12, etc.). The best commentators hold that the peculiar work of teachers in the primitive church was to instruct the young and ignorant in religious truth, which is precisely the object of the Sunday school." (Schaff, 2262)

Early Church:

The evidence of this time period is scarce. Some of the church fathers were schooled at home (Gregory of Nyssa), others locally (Basil) and others some combination thereof (Chrysostom). A few of the councils (Constantinople, Toledo and Vaison) ordered the erection of schools or commanded the priests to teach the local children. Some leaders, such as Polycarp, apprenticed local boys at their home. Even though the church fathers cautioned against pagan influence, men such as Chrystostom and Tertullian, allowed and at times encouraged local schooling or tutoring. There were even bible schools for children.

Religious instruction being an important Christian goal, catechetical schools were created.

“These catechetical classes and schools were intended to prepare neophytes, or new converts, for church-membership, and were also used to instruct the young and the ignorant in the knowledge of God and salvation. They were effective, aggressive missionary agencies in the early Christian churches, and have aptly been termed the 'Sunday schools of the first ages of Christianity.' The pupils were divided into two or three (some say four) classes, according to their proficiency. They memorized passages of Scripture, learned the doctrines of God, creation, providence, sacred history, the fall, the incarnation, resurrection, and future awards and punishments..." (Schaff)

Formal schooling existed along side domestic education, even as it was expanding into new venues such as the monastery, cathedral and parish schools.

Summary References & Suggested Reading:
Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum, Section One. “The Jewish People in the First Century.” Vol. 2.
Catholic Encyclopedia Online
History of Education, Cubberley
A Religious Encyclopedia, Schaff, online.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Christian Black History Month: Jupiter Hammon

Jupiter Hammon (1711-1806?) was the first black poet published in America. Considered the father of African-American poetry, on Christmas of 1760 he published, “An Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries.” He is politically incorrect today. And he was also a “committed Calvinist versifier,” rejoicing in the redemption found in Christ instead of dwelling on his condition of slavery (The Journey Back, 5).

Although not much is known about him, his story is beautiful nonetheless. Near the end of his life he spoke to a convention of blacks in New York (late 1786). Here are some soul-searching comments from a man who lived his whole life as a slave to man but was never a slave to the world, the flesh or the Devil:

“The apostle Paul says, 'Servants be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling in singleness in your heart as unto Christ: Not with eye service, as men pleasers, but as the servants of Christ doing the will of God from the heart: With good will doing service to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatever thing a man doeth the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.' --Here is a plain command of God for us to obey our masters. It may seem hard for us… If you are proud and stubborn and always finding fault, your master will think the fault lies wholly on your side, but if you are humble, and meek, and bear all things patiently, your master may think he is wrong, if he does not, his neighbours will be apt to see it, and will befriend you, and try to alter his conduct. If this does not do, you must cry to Him, who has the hearts of all men in his hands, and turneth them as the rivers of waters are turned.

“Getting our liberty in this world, is nothing to our having the liberty of the children of God. Now the Bible tells us that we are all by nature, sinners, that we are slaves to sin and Satan, and that unless we are converted, or born again, we must be miserable forever. Christ says, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, and all that do not see the kingdom of God, must be in the kingdom of darkness… Now you may think you are not enemies to God, and do not hate him: But if your heart has not been changed, and you have not become true Christians, you certainly are enemies to God, and have been opposed to him ever since you were born… The Bible is a revelation of the mind and will of God to men. Therein we may learn, what God is. That he made all things by the power of his word; and that he made all things for his own glory, and not for our glory. That he is over all, and above all his creatures, and more above them that we can think or conceive --that they can do nothing without him -- that he upholds them all, and will over-rule all things for his own glory.

"In the Bible likewise we are told what man is. That he was at first made holy, in the image of God, that he fell from that state of holiness, and became an enemy to God, and that since the fall, all the imaginations of the thoughts of his heart, are evil and only evil, and that continually. That the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. And that all mankind, were under the wrath, and curse of God, and must have been for ever miserable, if they had been left to suffer what their sins deserved. It tells us that God, to save some of mankind, sent his Son into this world to die, in the room and stead of sinners, and that now God can save from eternal misery, all that believe in his Son, and take him for their saviour, and that all are called upon to repent, and believe in Jesus Christ.

“If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being black, or for being slaves. Let me beg of you my dear African brethren, to think very little of your bondage in this life, for your thinking of it will do you no good. If God designs to set us free, he will do it, in his own time, and way; but think of your bondage to sin and Satan, and do not rest, until you are delivered from it. We cannot be happy if we are ever so free or ever so rich, while we are servants of sin, and slaves to Satan. We must be miserable here, and to all eternity, I will conclude what I have to say with a few words to those negroes who have their liberty. The most of what I have said to those who are slaves may be of use to you, but you have more advantages, on some accounts, if you will improve your freedom, as you may do, than they. You have more time to read God's holy word, and to take care of the salvation of your souls. Let me beg of you to spend your time in this way, or it will be better for you, if you had always been slaves. If you think seriously of the matter, you must conclude, that if you do not use your freedom, to promote the salvation of your souls, it will not be of any lasting good to you.”

Black History Month Series:
1. Lemuel Haynes
2. Jupiter Hammon 
3. Phillis Wheately

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Very Short History of Christian Education, 1/5

Whoever controls the image and information of the past determines what and how future generations will think; whoever controls the information and images of the present determines how those same people will view the past.
— George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

It was a little over ten years ago that I first heard about a new and strange form of education. At my new church, I rubbed shoulders with homeschooling families. And having experienced firsthand the modern public schools, I easily accepted this “homeschooling.”

In fact, when my first group speech debate was thrust upon me in the dreaded college freshman speech class, I eagerly accepted my assignment to defend homeschooling against all on-comers. Rushing to church, I read what families handed me on the superiority of home education, especially its history. Standing tall and confident in the scholarship of those of like-minded faith and practice (some who were even public school teachers), I seemingly trounced the competing public school and private school proponents—until afterward when my gentle speech teacher, lauding my eloquence, chided me on my weak historical evidence. “Many founding fathers were schooled or tutored as well as taught at home,” he gently informed me.

Naturally, I was crestfallen.

Now, after a few years of research, I have verified my teacher's chiding.

It did not change my mind about the propriety of homeschooling--it is certainly allowable and even desirable in many circumstances. But then, so are other methods of schooling.

This historical question is important. Many conservative Christians take history seriously: if our spiritual forefathers practiced a certain way maybe we should take it seriously. Furthermore, setting up Patrick Henry or John Witherspoon as educational role models adds addition pressure on families--especially if the history if false.

And the history is false.

And the more I have studied the original resources and works by standard historians the more I discover that homeschooling was only one of many options exercised by our spiritual and political fathers and mothers.

But what is education anyway?

Education can be conceived of in a broader and narrower sense. In the former, it may be labeled nurture: the spiritual, physical and intellectual well-being of the child made in Christ's image for the furtherance of the Kingdom. This involves (at least) the teaching of truth (as any endeavor would), discipline and imitation. Narrowly, education can be conceived of as a more structured/systematic teaching of facts, understanding and wisdom concerning the realms of human (and divine) knowledge within the sphere of Christian nurture. I will label this schooling.

Thus, in examining the history of Christian schooling I am referring to the narrow idea. The series and the research would have tripled if the first definition was followed. The idea and practice of nurture is wrapped around Christian schooling, but it is not the focus of this series. Thus homeschooling means schooling at home (not nurture at home per se--that's assumed). This is instruction at home by a tutor, friend, neighbor, parent or some combination thereof.

Definitions are important to avoid equivocations--a common error I have encountered in my study. If the past is misinterpreted and misunderstood, then future expectations will be misdirected. One thing is important: historically Christian education--in fact, most education--was a cooperative laissez-faire effort.

This short, short history of education will include Jewish practices during Christ's time, the early church, Medieval era, and both the Reformation and Colonial America eras.

I hope this very short series is encouraging and helpful as it is informative for those parents carrying on the Christian tradition of training their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

(This series is a condensed version of a soon-to-be-published A Short History of Christian Education)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Statistics of Homeschooling

Since 1999, the famous Rudner study has been touted as finally answering the academic question about homeschooling once and for all. Meanwhile, the original critique of that study has been largely ignored.

Subsequent critiques by homeschoolers themselves have come to the fore as well:

1. "Embarrassing and Dangerous" (This series was written by a homeschooling leader in Wisconsin; part two is an excellent dissection of the testing methods--taken from the Home Education Magazine).
2. "The Fraser Study: Puffing Up Homeschooling and Selling Our Freedoms" (This series was also in the Home Education Magazine, with multiple links to other articles critiquing NHERI and other research leaders).

This means that homeschoolers are not dominating in academics--or at the very best we do not statistical know how they are doing.

This may be quite shocking to some readers. I can understand; I was amazed as well. But facts are facts. I have no ax to grind since I will soon be a homeschooling dad.

What the Numbers Reveal

The Rudner study showed that homeschoolers in the Bob Jones University (BJU) locale who took the test did very well on that standardized test.

That's it.

What the Numbers Do Not Reveal

The fundamental problem with the Rudner study is a problem admitted by the author himself: " should be noted that it was not possible within the parameters of this study to evaluate whether this sample is truly representative of the entire population of home school students."

If his study is not "truly representative" in any conclusive sense, then why bother with it at all? Admittedly, researchers are about knowing. But after the knowing is accomplished and the caveats written, such a study reveals very little. Another answer may be that the study was funded by an organization already in favor of homeschooling. Many homeschooling groups touted the study, even to this day, without admitting any of the caveats the author himself wrote (at least the full report is there). Too often conservative Christians blame the liberal left for "tweaking" data in their favor--whose to say such a thing cannot happen amongst conservatives?

In fact, a few years later in an interview, the author of the study, Rudner, complained: "The biggest annoyance was a large number of reporters that had read previous articles and never went to the original source and read the caveat." And what and where was that caveat? Well, right in the original research itself!

"This was not a controlled experiment,'' and it "does not demonstrate that home schooling is superior to public or private schools, and the results must be interpreted with caution" are some serious caveats. And these carefully chosen words were in the opening paragraph of the report. The fact that they were not touted as loudly as the finding itself points to sloppy research or self-interest--either is not something commendable.

Through all the newspapers, journals, tv reports, lectures, postings, advertisements and word-of-mouth I encountered I never once heard these caveats.

Lone Ranger?

Perhaps some distraught readers out there think that this is a non-issue or a smokescreen brought up by an unskilled one-man army. Besides the fact that I have an extensive math background (B.S. Electrical Engineering with antenna design), scholars themselves have pointed out the limitations of the studies and even some homeschooling leaders themselves are uncomfortable with this loose usage of statistics.

One interesting read is from Professor Milton Gaither who has written a virtually definitive book on the history of modern homeschooling in America.

What About Those Experts?

Shorty after Rudner published his finely nuanced report, a peer review was published analyzing the usage and methods empoloyed--a not untypical activity in this field--by Welner & Welner.

Another expert writes in Education and Urban Society. Similar concerns were discovered in other education magazines.

And most interesting of all, Bruce Ray of the NHERI (homeschooling advocate group) notes modest academic numbers for homeschoolers. The latest work by Brian Ray and Bruce Eagleson, State Regulation of Homeschooling and Homeschoolers’ SAT Scores, notes in the introductory background information, that there are mixed results on the testing advantages of homeschoolers (SAT and ACT) (two studies show virtually no statistical advantage and two more show some advantage). As for college exams: "The few studies done on home-educated students’ performance on college-admissions tests suggest they score about as well as do those who are not homeschooled."

The Devil is in the Details...

The first analysis of Rudner's first study was accomplished by the team Welner and Welner:

"Some researchers, in fact, would say that the test scores have nothing to do with how the children were schooled and simply show the results expected for children that come from this demographic group—households that are overwhelmingly white, well educated, two-parent, and middle class (see Coleman et al., 1966; Ogbu, 1987). This is not to say that these parents did not do a good job teaching their children, it is only to say that a comparable sample within the public or private schools may have scored just as well." (Welner & Welner)

The SAT and ACT representatives have a similar take:

"Home schoolers who take the entrance tests are disproportionately white and from families with above-average income and education. This demographic group tends to score higher than the average anyway."

Furthermore, this study does not take into account that testing is not required for a number of homeschoolers. And of those states that require it, most allow the parents to use a private professional to evaluate the child, the typical public school standardized testing being completely bypassed.

One obvious reason for this severely limiting aspect of the study is that it occurred amongst a culturally narrow group: those taking the tests at BJU. What about those families from less waspish environs?

To date, a Barna study strongly suggested what some thoughtful statisticians have pointed out elsewhere: homeschooling is not a middle-class, white, Evangelical monolithic entity (Welner & Welner).

Another problem not addressed by this study is the number of unschoolers and the percentage of mixed schooling (both homeschooling and private/public) that occurs among homeschoolers. As of this date, since investigating this issue, such numbers are greatly underreported in many homeschooling circles.

Another statistician's study highlights the limitations of the Rudner study as well:

"The recent achievement studies by Rudner (1999) and Ray (2000) are notable given their large sample sizes. However, Rudner’s study has been criticized (Welner&Welner, 1999) as having a biased sample. Given that his sampling frame originated from a conservative, religious institution, it is unlikely that the diversity of the homeschooling movement is represented in his data. The response rate was also low. Ray’s (2000) response rate was problematically low. Moreover, because he obtained student data from only 38% of the 29% of families that responded to the survey, the likelihood of bias increases. Although the sample underlying the research reported here also has limitations, the data and analysis make a unique contribution to this growing research literature. (p.314 Education and Urban Society / May 2005)

Note how neither critique ignores Rudner's study; they only point out its severe limitations. It helped prompt more studies and suggest areas of research. It did not demonstrate scientifically that homeschoolers outperformed their public or private school peers.

To date, I have not found any such study.

Playing the Telephone Game

When a child is excited about a new find--a toy--he tells all his friends how amazing the toy is. His friend then tells his other friend, ad infinitum. In the process, the toy turns from a mundane matchbox car to a remote-controlled tank. Each child heard elements of the original report he liked and did not hear other parts. Sit in a circle and play the telephone game by whispering into the next ear and similar results appear.

When an adult does the same thing, it is less appealing. And more dangerous. Homeschooling leaders that I am aware of have complained about burnout. And about low retention rates. This is what naturally follows when evidence is hyped out of proportion. The leaders certainly did not make up the numbers they heard; they probably heard it from a trusted friend, who heard it from another friend, ad infinitum.

With this posting, the telephone chain ends. There is no remote-controlled tank with a magical statistical bullet to silence the nay-sayers. Now the record is set straight. The numbers are not in and may never be discovered given the decentralized nature of homechooling.

Does this mean one should not homeschool? No, just realize that it takes work, hard organizational work. Then again, whatever schooling is used, proper parental nurture is hard work. Changing one type of schooling for another does not automatically make one's child an academic success--that it a combination of God-given talent, hard work and mercy from the Lord.


[more on Christian education and homeschooling here]

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

When Worlds Collide

What do Calvin & Darwin have in common?

This is their year of birth. It is the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. It is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. And it is also the 400th anniversary of the death of Jacob Arminius.

One of these was the great-grandfather of America. Another her arch-nemesis—not Darwin, but Arminius.

How this is so and how these men represent two antithetical worldviews will be explored in this series of papers. Theologically, culturally, scientifically and politically these men and their respective principles of life are worlds apart. And when these antithetical principles met in America, it was a cosmic clash of worldviews, reverberating down to the present day.

As one modern secular source acknowledged:

“In general it may be claimed for Calvinism that its influence has been an elevating and invigorating one. Abasing man before God, but exalting him again in the consciousness of a newborn liberty in Christ, teaching him his slavery through sin, yet restoring his freedom to him through grace, and leading him to regard all things in the light of eternity, it contributed to form a grave but very noble and elevated type of character, and reared a race not afraid to lift up the head before kings.” (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 2003).

Calvinism is more than a name derived from a brilliant and godly teacher. It is a world and life view that stands upon the Bible alone, demanding all of life to be lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Standing firm in the predestinating power of God Almighty, it has torn nations asunder and created a nation whole-cloth. The Calvinists were the impetus for modern science. They pioneered religious freedom. And they grounded resistance to tyrants into the mindset of Western Civilization.

No Calvinism, no America.

Unitarian historian George Bancroft, founder of the US Naval Academy, summed it up well:

“He that will not honor the memory, and respect the influence of Calvin, knows but little of the origin of American liberty.”

This year, in the spirit of the Fifth Commandment, thousands worldwide will celebrate the birth of this man. A man raised, formed and empowered by God’s Spirit to have a lasting impact upon our civilization. But there is more to this celebration than a man.
It is an opportunity to present anew the demands of the Law and its satisfaction by the Gospel.

My prayer is that 2009 will be a year in which thousands of historically blinded eyes—Christian and non-Christian alike—will be opened by God’s grace to the power and majesty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches man is less than dust before the exalted and infinite holiness of our Creator & Judge. Morally, he is dead in trespasses and sins, willing only evil continually. His only hope is the mercy and lovingkindness of God our Savior, Christ our Righteousness. Every political, social and economical tyranny in the world is at root spiritual tyranny. Men and women are seeking their own righteousness, their own obedience to the Law. And once this spiritual tyranny is cast down by a vigorous presentation of the impotence and depravity of man to save himself—even to will his own salvation—then the beauty of Christ and His redemption can be fully appreciated—political, social and economic tyranny will begin to unravel.

The question of the hour is, “When these worlds collide and the dust settles, where will you be?”

Where will the nations and the churches stand? Will they stand firmly upon the freedom of Omnipotent Grace or meekly nestled in the chains of self-salvation?


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Cain, Sin, & the Will of God: A Plea

When I was about nine years old, a neighbor invited my family to church. My life has never been the same since then. Although I never knew it then, God was working things out to draw me to Him, to redeem me from my sins.
Through that church I was taught to “let go and let God.” The best way to be fully sanctified was full submission to God’s will. Does He call you to Africa, then submit. Does He move you to marriage, then marry. Thus, I strove through my teen-age years to fully comprehend God’s will for my life and submit to that will. Part of that was avoiding sin, and the other part was finding my place in this world, to submit to God's will.
It was not until I was a Calvinist did I understand the meaning of submit. Reading such comforting passages as Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” I finally realized that all meant all. It used to mean mostly or only the “good stuff”. It was not until I submitted to the truth of God’s sovereignty that the passage became alive. It grabbed me, forcing me to acknowledge the truth of God’s providence and care over me. As an infant depends upon the Father for protection, food and care, so I was totally dependent upon God—whether I admitted it or not.

A flood of passages opened up to me:

"But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, "Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife." But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, "Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also? "Did he not say to me, 'She is my sister'? And she, even she herself said, 'He is my brother.' In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this."
And God said to him in a dream, "Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. “ (Gen. 20:3ff.)
"But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. (Gen. 50:20)

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom… Then the heads of the fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. (Ruth 1:1, 5)
The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.
A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.
(Proverbs 16:1, 4, 9, 33)
There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand
(Proverbs 19:21
The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. (Prov. 21:1)
"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know -- "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (Acts. 2:22ff.)
Thus, we see something that offends human nature. God is clearly shown to be in charge. God’s power moves peoples and events according to His inscrutable plans (Eph. 1:3ff.). God’s sovereignty is an awesome doctrine indeed!
Yet, if this were all, then fatalism would be a Biblical doctrine: the ends happen regardless of the means. This is what Islam believes. However, this is not what the Bible teaches. It teaches that the means do affect the ends; that what one does impacts those around him. That responsibility is placed in man’s hands although sustained by God’s plans. This is the doctrine of secondary causes. God’s plan validates man’s responsibilities. Again, once God’s absolute sovereignty over His creation is accepted by faith, a plethora of verses will open up:
The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But deliverance is of the LORD. (Prov. 21:31)
Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. (Psalms 127:1ff)
Then Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the LORD said, 'Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?' So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, 'I will persuade him.' The LORD said to him, 'In what way?' So he said, 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And the LORD said, 'You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.' Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you." (1 Kings 20:19ff).
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.(Phil. 2:12ff.)
From the Old Testament into the new, the Bible consistently declares that we are responsible, that we are given means to accomplish ends—but only insofar as it is part of God’s plan. These truths are humbling. I ask: why? how? But the human mind cannot fathom it. I just know that I must not be a petulant child, deriding my Father, claiming that I do not need Him.
Such a doctrine can change the world. It did during Augustine’s time. It toppled Rome during the Reformation. And it brought about the greatest revivals in America.
I could quote a host of Protestant fathers on this topic, but I think one of our political fathers said it best:
"Duty is ours; results are God's" John Quincy Adams