Notepad Apologetics, Short Lesson #5 (part 2): God the Gradualist

Rick Mattson Apologetics Leave a Comment

In my prior post I mentioned that God is generally a gradualist, aside from a few big-ticket items such as performing instantaneous miracles.

What do I mean by “gradualist”?

Just this: God works on major human problems and institutions a little at a time. He doesn’t simply snap his fingers or wave his wand to make everything okay.

God could have banned slavery, polygamy, divorce, violence, misogyny, and a host of other issues, right away in the first five books of the Bible.

Instead, he accommodated human weakness by working patiently within human culture and institutions to effect change . . . gradually.

Theologian Paul Copan notes that God works incrementally throughout the Bible toward an ultimate ideal: the coming reign of Jesus Christ.

Thus, God is more likely to raise up Joseph in the land of Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, Mary in Nazareth, and Paul in Syria — all of them change agents — than to simply zap the world to make it better.


When university students ask this, I reply that it has something to do with enlisting human partnership and human agency in repairing a world that went bad because of human choices.

To over-simplify: If my child causes a mess, I don’t just clean it up. I involve the child in the process — partly as a developmental exercise for the child, but also as a statement of justice: people need to face the consequences of their actions, and also work to make things right.

* * *

To summarize: God works on big human problems a little at a time, always progressing toward the ultimate goal (or ideal) of the Kingdom of God. That’s the idea of God being a gradualist.

In my next post: zeroing in on slavery in the Bible.


Photo by Matt Duncan on Unsplash


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