*If you live in or near Cookeville, TN, or if you know people who live in or near Cookeville, TN, please share this post. Hopefully, this post will create a healthy discussion between Bobby Davis, Life Church attendees, and those in the community. May God be glorified.
Pastor Bobby Davis is the senior pastor of Life Church in Cookeville, TN. I grew up in Sparta, TN, which is about 15 miles from Cookeville. My family and my wife’s family still live there. I love the Sparta/Cookeville area, and I love the people there. This is the reason why I’m pointing out Bobby Davis’ errors in theology. Bobby Davis recently said that “God is in control of all things” is a myth. He spent a full 53 minute sermon teaching this error. I’m calling all those who attend Life Church to lovingly correct their pastor’s errant theology. Don’t let your children grow up to believe they serve a God who cannot help them “without permission” because He has “given the lease for this world over to man, and man has given this lease over to Satan” (Bobby’s words). Don’t let your children fear Satan more than God as if Satan has been given temporary sovereignty over earth. God is in control of all things, not man or Satan. God alone is the God of this earth.
The Sermon begins at about 06:45.
1. Bobby argues if God is really in control, then He is responsible for everything (09:15). He argues the belief that God is in control of all things has made many Atheists. He says if God is in complete control of all things, then He is responsible for babies dying, car wrecks, child abuse, tornadoes, etc. How can a good God be behind or at least okay with all the bad that is in this world (09:50)?
First, Bobby assumes that man is worthy of God’s goodness. Yes, God is good, but that does not mean He must pour out His goodness on sinners or His sinful creation (Rom. 1; Romans 3:10-26). Would Bobby argue that since God is good, He must send all sinners to Heaven and not send some sinners to Hell or He must send Satan to Heaven not to Hell or He must not have flooded the earth in the past or that He must not destroy the earth with fire one day? The Scriptures teach that God does and/or will do these things, yet He is still completely and fully good.
Second, because God is in control of all things does not mean that He is responsible for all things. Consider Peter’s description of the worst act in human history, the crucifixion of God the Son Incarnate Jesus Christ:
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men (Acts 2:23-24).
God was not “responsible” for Jesus’ crucifixion; His murderers were. Yet Jesus’ crucifixion was God’s definite plan for His Son. Also, consider the dual source of the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”:
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited (2 Cor. 12:7).
Did Satan seek to help Paul by giving him a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from being conceited? No. God gave this thorn in the flesh to Paul, and refused to remove it because His grace was sufficient (2 Cor. 12:8-9). Yet, Paul calls this thorn in the flesh a “messenger of Satan.” Satan was indeed behind this thorn in the flesh, but what Satan meant for evil, God meant for good. Even the Devil is God’s Devil. The clearest example of this reality is Satan seeking God’s permission to do evil things to Job (Job 1:6-12). If Satan “has the lease of this world” as Bobby argues, why did he ask God’s permission to hurt Job? Why didn’t he just hurt Job? Even when God permitted Satan to hurt Job and his family, God still limited what Satan could do. He told him to go this far, and no further. God is in control of all things on earth, not man or Satan.
2. Near 12:47, Bobby says that He [God] made man the god of this world. Bobby believes that God gave man the “lease for this world” according to Genesis 1:26-27 since man is made in God’s image and has dominion over this world (20:45). Then, man turned around and gave the “lease” to Satan (20:45), and now, Satan is the god of this world (20:45). Also, near 26:10, Bobby points to Christ’s temptation, arguing that when Satan told Christ he would give him all the kingdoms, that Jesus didn’t say, “Those kingdoms are not yours to give.”
First, the Bible never says that God is no longer ruling and reigning over His creation. On the contrary, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (Also see Acts 17:28, Rom. 11:36, Eph. 4:6). Does “all things” mean all things or not? I believe “all things” means all things.
Furthermore, Bobby adds “lease” to the text, as if God has somehow limited His own sovereignty, making man sovereign, and then man turns this sovereignty over to Satan. Man is indeed created in God’s image, and was created to mirror Him throughout His creation, but man was never in control of all things. Man has dominion on earth under God, not absolute dominion. Satan isn’t in control of all things either. If Satan is in control of all things, then why doesn’t he just demon-possess everyone? Or, why doesn’t he just kill all humans? Why didn’t he just kill Abraham’s descendants, David’s descendants, etc? Why didn’t Satan kill Jesus in the womb or give Jesus HIV, stage 5 cancer, etc.? The only logical answer is that Satan cannot do anything apart from God’s allowance. The example of Job proves this reality (Job 1:6-12).
Moreover, when Jesus referred to Satan as “the god of this world,” He was referring to Satan’s kingdom on earth, of which he is the king. There are two kingdoms on this earth: Satan’s kingdom and God’s kingdom. All men belong to one or the other. Satan’s kingdom, however, does not control all things, even in his own kingdom. God is sovereign, and Christ has conquered Satan and his kingdom. In fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, the “Seed of the Woman” Jesus Christ, although his heel was bruised by Satan, He has crushed the Serpent’s head (John 12:31; John 16:11; Matt. 28:18-20; Rev. 1:18)! This will be fully realized when Christ casts Satan and all His enemies into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-15). Bobby Davis gives Satan far more credit and power than Scripture does.
Second, one must wonder how man and Satan both can be “gods” at the same time within Bobby’s theology, and man still give the “lease” over to Satan. Bobby goes throughout Scripture pointing to where men are called “gods” and where Satan is called “the god of this world,” yet he still argues that man has “given the lease to this world to Satan.” If Satan has the lease since Genesis 3 (which is what Bobby argues), then why does Scripture occasionally refer to men as “gods” after Genesis 3? Bobby’s logic is both externally and internally faulty.
Third, Bobby cannot argue from silence to prove his point. Bobby is assigning motive to Christ concerning why He did not say to Satan, “Those kingdoms are not yours to give.” Bobby doesn’t know why Christ didn’t say these words. For Bobby to assume he does know why is to argue from silence, which is an appeal to a logical fallacy. Moreover, even if Satan has power to give these kingdoms to Christ, he has no power apart from God giving him this power. Satan is not self-sustaining. God is the only “I Am.” This is true of anyone who has power on this earth. Consider Christ’s interaction with Pilate recorded in John 19:10-11,
10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
Notice that God is the One who gives people life and allows them to have the power and authority they have on this earth. Consider Paul’s words as well in Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” God is sovereign over all His creation, including who the various leaders are in our various communities. Granted, God does not commit their sins, but they would be in no position to carry out their sins apart from Him. Think of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. The only reason Judas was in a position to betray Jesus was because Jesus chose him, yet Judas freely chose to be betray Christ. Remember what Christ said in Luke 22:21-22,
21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”
Jesus had to be betrayed, but Judas is responsible for betraying Jesus. Although God had determined Jesus would be betrayed, Judas still made his choice. There is mystery here, but at the very least we must affirm that God is sovereign (in control of all things) and man is responsible.
3. Near 13:26, Bobby says that God didn’t breathe into an angel, He breathed Himself into man. Also, at 18:18 Bobby says that there was no other creature that God breathed Himself into.
A cursory glance at Scripture reveals the opposite of Bobby’s statement. Consider the truth that God breathed the “breath of life” into man, and man became a living creature (Gen. 1:27). Now consider the reality that this “breath of life” was given to all animals (Gen. 6:17, 7:15, 22). I believe with Bobby that mankind is set apart from the rest of creation since we are God’s image-bearers (Gen. 1:26-27), but Bobby is making more out of the “breath of life” in man than Scripture does. The point of God giving “the breath of life” is that God is the Life-giver, not that man is the sovereign god of this earth. If we take Bobby’s emphasis on the “breath of life” to its consistent end, then we must also argue that animals are gods, since they too have been given “the breath of life” by God.
4. Near 26:45, Bobby asks, “How can a good God be in control of such bad things?” He says, “It don’t add up to God.” He also says that God isn’t behind those things [tornadoes]; Satan is (27:25). Furthermore, Bobby argues that since Jesus came to give the abundant life, and He’s said “You see Me, you’ve seen the Father,” he asks, “Do Tornadoes give life?” and Answers, “Then, they’re not from God” (27:50). Moreover, near 43:00, Bobby says that God does not give people cancer. He also tells a story where he told a woman that it’s not God’s will for her husband to overdose or for her to be losing her house (46:30). He told her she was blaming God for something He has nothing to do with.
First, I want to answer Bobby’s assumption that God does not bring death, only Satan does. The difference between God and Satan is that God is holy and whatever He does is just (1 Sam. 2:2; Ps. 97:2, 99:5, 9; 1 Pet. 1:16). Was God behind the flood? Yes (Gen. 6:17). God killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions of men, women, and children in a global flood. Did God order the extermination of all the people in Canaan at the hands of the Israelites (Joshua 6:20-21, 27, 8:27-28)? Yes. Men, women, and children were killed by Joshua and the Israelites in Canaan in response to God’s command. Did God create Hell and does He chain sinners there daily to be tormented day and night forever and ever (Luke 12:5; 2 Pet. 2:1-22)? Yes. When Job’s family was killed, did Job say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21)?” Yes. The list can go on and on. God is sovereign over creation, and can do with it as He chooses. He is good, but is not required to pour out His goodness on evil people or His evil creation (Rom. 3:23; James 4:4). Consider God’s words in Isaiah 45:5-7,
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.
God is in control of all things. Yet, God is not responsible for sin. He is holy (Ps. 99:9; 1 Pet. 1:15-16), and to say that God is responsible for sin is blasphemy.
Second, Bobby says that God is all powerful, all knowing, and all present. Who gives Satan life? God does. Who is allowing Satan to run to and fro seeking whom he may devour? God is. If we assume Bobby is correct for a moment about God giving the lease to this world to man, and man giving this lease to Satan, if God is all knowing, then He knew full well what man and Satan would do with this lease. He knew Satan would give you cancer, He knew Satan would cause your husband to overdose, etc. Yet, according to Bobby’s theology, God still gave the lease to man knowing full well how this would destroy your life. In other words, Bobby’s theology does not “get God off the hook” for the evil that takes place in this world. Instead, Bobby’s theology eliminates the good purposes God may have for the various evils that affect us. In Bobby’s theology, there’s no room for God allowing Satan to give the apostle Paul a thorn in his flesh, to keep him from being prideful. In Bobby’s theology, not only did God know that Satan would ruin your life, He also freely limited Himself to be powerless to do anything about it, since in Bobby’s words, God cannot “violate the lease” for “God is all-legal,” unless of course you “give God permission” through prayer (Bobby’s theology)?
5. Near 39:00, Bobby argues that God is not in control of all things now, but one day He’ll be all in all and He’ll be in control of all things. Furthermore, near 41:00, Bobby argues that God cannot come in and do whatever He wants to do on planet earth. He believes If God came to earth and did what He wanted to, He would be “breaking the lease” (41:18). God must be invited in because He cannot break the lease (42:00). Finally, near 51:55, Bobby argues that we’ve got to give God permission. He believes God is all powerful, but He’s also all-legal. “Our submission is God’s permission.” Prayer is God’s invitation into our situation. When He’s invited in, Satan will not win.
First, if God is not in control of all things, then how can we be sure He will keep His prophecies and promises? All Satan would have to do to thwart God’s plans and prophecies is to kill Abraham or Sarah after God’s prophecy but before Isaac was born (since many years went by between the prophecy and fulfillment). Or, Satan could just kill all the descendants of David. I realize that Satan used Herod to try to kill Christ, but notice that Christ was never killed until “the appointed time” (John 7:6-8, 30). If Satan can “thwart God’s will” so easily in Bobby’s theology, then why hasn’t Satan thwarted God’s will to send a Savior? If Bobby answers, “Because God is smarter than Satan,” then we simply must reply, “Then why isn’t God smarter than Satan when it comes to tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, my cancer, my husband’s overdose, etc?”
Furthermore, what about the trustworthiness of Scripture in relation to “Satan’s control of this world” in Bobby Davis’s theology? If Satan has “the lease of this world,” and “God cannot violate the lease” (Bobby’s words), then how did God divinely inspire the Scripture writers to write inerrant truth? In Bobby’s theology, how can he trust that the Bible is the word of God if God “cannot just do whatever He wants on earth” (Bobby’s words)? I don’t think Bobby can believe the Bible is God’s inerrant word while also believing that “Satan has the lease to this world.” We trust the Bible because God is in control of all things. The Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16-17), for “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).
Second, where does the Bible say that humans have to give God permission to do anything? You won’t find this so-called truth in the Bible anywhere. Did God ask man’s permission to choose Jacob, and not Esau? No. Did God ask Job’s permission before He permitted Satan to hurt Job? No. Did God ask man’s permission to send the flood? No. Did God ask Mary’s permission to place the Messiah in her womb? No. Did Jesus ask Paul’s permission before He appeared to him on the Damascus Road? No. Will Jesus ask man’s permission before He returns? No. God has appointed the time, and He doesn’t need your permission to bring about the end of all things. God is God, and we’re not. Yes, God is even God of this earth!
In conclusion, Bobby Davis’s description of God is not comforting. I find it far more comforting that my mother suffers with Parkinson’s disease for God’s glory instead of due to Satan’s temporary sovereignty. If mom is suffering due to Satan alone, then there is no ultimate God-glorifying purpose for her suffering. Bobby’s theology is not only unbiblical, but it leaves suffering Christians with no hope or purpose for their suffering. Furthermore, Bobby cannot affirm his theology while simultaneously affirming Romans 8:28, “28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God is working out my mother’s suffering for good. There’s joy in the Lord in the midst of suffering. Bobby’s theology, however, leaves no room for joy in the Lord in the midst of suffering. In other words, I believe Bobby’s false theology will make more Atheists than the truth that God is sovereign over all things. God’s purpose for suffering, although sometimes hidden, is for our good and His glory!
What are your thoughts?