Did God ordain CBC?

I've thought a lot about the subject of God ordaining evil over the past week…and what I decided was that I don't have the answers…it's all a little confusing for me. I would, however, still like to continue this discussion.

For starters, this whole concept of God Ordaining Evil is obviously offensive to some, but the problem is that no-one has been able to tell me where "evil" came from. Now, maybe we should just refer to it as "the mystery of iniquity" and say we don't know where evil came from…which I could accept, but that doesn't really help this discussion…so I'd still like someone to take a stab at explaining how God can be all powerful and the Creator of the world and yet take no responsibility for "evil" showing up.

One of the most interesting parts of this discussion for me is the issue of trusting a loving God. When I sit back and say "God is the author of all the good, bad, and ugly on this earth and I have no way of knowing His plan and purpose due to the fact that I am an ignorant fool in comparison to His great glory" it makes me feel comforted…comforted to know that there is a reason and a purpose that I may not understand…but by faith I can believe that God will work all this out for his own Glory.

Others seem to be saying, "How can you have peace and trust in a God who would ordain such evil".

Here's where I am at: This world is NOT about me, and it's NOT about you…or anyone else for that matter. We are simply here to bring Glory to God, and when I hear people say, "It's not in God's nature to ordain evil", I say "Who are you to say what is and what is not in God's nature?" There have been many scriptures listed that show "God's nature" being one of wrath and anger in which He clearly ORDAINS a lot of horrible sounding things (at least horrible in our human reality)…but do any of us want to stand before God and tell Him what He should and should not do?

It sounds to me like we want to apply our ideals to God when maybe, just maybe, God is bigger than we can even imagine. For instance, we define "love" as "a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person"; we than see that the Bible claims that "God is Love" therefore God must exibit "a profoundly tender and passionate affection for mankind"…but who are we to tell God what Love is?

Should we apply our limited knowledge to a limitless God?

I'm not sure if I am being very clear at all or if I've just lost my mind…last night, Negro-D said to me "This is really a conversation that should be had over beers…it's to complex to discuss in this forum"…and I think he's right. Still, it's fun to try.

Let me leave you with a few comments from a man who amazes me every time I read his stuff:

John Piper, over at http://www.desiringgod.org/ has this to say in an article discussing "Open Theism":  

But in reality our pain and losses are always a test of how much we treasure the all-wise, all-governing God in comparison to what we have lost. We see this merciful testing of God throughout the Scriptures. For example, in Deuteronomy 8:3 Moses said, "And [God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." In other words, God ordains the hard times ("he . . . let you hunger") to see if good times are our god. Do we love bread, or do we love God? Do we treasure God and trust his good purposes in pain, or do we love his gifts more, and get angry when he takes them away?

We see this testing in Psalm 66:10-12, "For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water." And we see it in the life of Paul. When he prayed for his thorn in the flesh to be taken away Christ told him what the purpose of the pain was. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). The test for Paul was: Will you value the magnifying of Christ's power more than a pain-free life?

We see this testing in 1 Peter 1:6-7, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." God ordains trials to refine our faith and prove that we really trust his wisdom and grace and power, when hard times come. Similarly in James 1:2-3, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. . . . Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." Do we love God? That is the point of the test. Do we cherish him and the merciful wisdom of his painful purposes, more than we cherish pain-free lives? That is the point of God's testing.

Our trials reveal the measure of our affection for this earth – both its good things and bad things. Our troubles expose our latent idolatry.

For those who believe that God rules purposefully and wisely over all things, our response to loss is a signal of how much idolatry is in our souls. Do we really treasure what we have lost more than God and his wisdom? If we find ourselves excessively angry or resentful or bitter, it may well show that we love God less that what we lost. This is a very precious discovery, because it enables us to repent and seek to cherish Christ as we ought, rather than being deceived into thinking all is well.

Oh, and David Mackin, I'm sure you've got good reasons to keep silent on this subject, but I'm just dying to know…what are your thoughts?

62 thoughts on “Did God ordain CBC?

  1. I don’t have my mind made up about this subject. So here are just some random thoughts about it:

    What is the difference between people being bad and sinning, and the judgment of God? Because when God decides to judge a nation, it’s very unpleasant. People get sick and die, natural disasters destroy, armies rape and pillage. Just look at the biblical examples of Egypt, Judges, the captivity and Roman persecution. If that’s not enough, read Revelation.

    Obviously, all these things are God’s doing. Is that different than Thai girls being sold and raped? Or starving children in Pakistan? Or Jeffrey Dahmer? Or just you being rude to your spouse?

    Dunno… Just more thoughts to muddy the waters. ;)

  2. This is a discussion which is theologically called Theodicy. Piper has many good comments on this subject ( which I agree with). Look especially at his recent series of lectures ( sermons) to the students at Wheaton. It is titled – “Treasuring Christ and the Call to Suffer”. Another good resource for this question is Jay Adams book ” The Grand Demonstration”. It has been in and out of print, but can be found used. The best single statement of explanation of theodicy in my opinion is the quote from the London Baptist Confession ( nearly identical to the Westminster) :

    The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth, in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceedeth only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

    In more simple words: God Ordains evil for his own purposes, but he is not the “author” of evil.

  3. there certainly seem to be a lot of complicated ways to look at this, how exactly do you propose to have “morality” if there is nothing on the other side? Why is it of any necessity that god created any human behavior? You seem to be proposing that evil is a concrete thing rather than a potential, odd.

  4. After God created the world, He looked at all that he had created and said, “It is good”. Except for man, which He said was “Very good”. Of course, this was before the fall…..

    God put the tree of the knowledge of good and “evil” in the middle of the garden, for we can not understand good without evil. We cannot understand light unless we see dark, we cannot appreciate love unless we have experienced hate, we cannot obey unless we have the choice to disobey.

    Oh, that (My people) had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments that it might be well with them and and with their children forever!” Such passion, our Lord has in desiring His children to walk in obedience! Why the longing? Why couldn’t He just have created us as worshipful, adoring, obedient followers? Could it be because He wanted our love, our obedience, to come without coercion or control? Because He knew that love that was programmed in was not really love? Because there is no such thing as obedience if there is not a conscious decision to make? He knows that we are but dust, and when we, in the weakness of our flesh willingly trust and follow Him, we demonstrate the truest of companionship and love…and that is what He longs for…..

    The Bible clearly states in 1 John that “He is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” If He were not capable of darkness, that would be no big deal. He would just be a cosmic robot, programmed for good (by whom?). He created man in His image, that is, with the ability to choose good or evil. Sadly, man not only chooses but delights in evil, and even encourages others to the same dark path. How that must grieve the Lord, yet He will remain patient until the very end, after lawlessness has abounded and the love of many has grown cold.

    After each and every human has made their eternal choice, only then will God finally draw away the heavens and commence Judgement, where all those who have experienced the pain of hatred, the loss of loved ones, the ravages of disease, the horrors of evil; yet clung to Him in patience and faith will receive forever the glorious living water flowing from the Throne…and those who have embraced evil, hatred and rebellion to the lake which burns with eternal fire and brimstone…

    Why would anybody make it their goal to see just how close they could get to the edge of that lake without getting thrown in?

  5. Man, I thought I explained my reasoning pretty well. I guess it got lost in the hubbub. I am going to unashamedly cut & paste my previous post. For those with short attention spans, here’s the study notes:

    1. God is completely good – no evil
    2. God’s goodness includes perfect unconditional love
    3. Unconditional love only works if the recipient has the power to choose to receive or reject the author of unconditional love
    4. God gave us a free will to satisfy #1 thru #3
    5. People (and other beings) have done and continue to do evil
    6. God’s unconditional love creates Grace because of existence of evil
    7. We receive God’s love and goodness through Grace

    If we define God as the one Being who is completely GOOD, then we can define evil as anything that is not in the character or nature of God. So for God to remain God, He must be consistent with his own nature, and thus cannot produce something antithetical to Himself. To suppose that God ordains (implying the creation of) evil is a contradiction if we define God as the one who is completely good.

    But God who is completely good, must also be the definition and standard for what love is. Defining the purest kind of love may be difficult, but my own opinion is that the purest and most genuine form of love is the kind that loves regardless – it is unconditional. If God’s love depended upon our being good, then it wouldn’t be consistent with his nature, to be completely good and to love completely and unconditionally.

    Now that we have settled that (if not, humor me) we can then surmise how God, who has the ability to create everything and everyone, would best demonstrate his goodness and love through His creation. If the only way that God could express his love is to do so unconditionally, there has to be the opportunity for the object of his love to reject Him! If God were to create beings that always loved Him, then God could not express his unconditional love. God created beings who could choose to reject his love in order to satisfy his character and nature of being completely good and full of unconditional love.

    This is how evil entered creation, through beings who chose to reject God’s goodness and love. Remember, I am defining evil as anything not in the character of God. That could be lots of things, but it is as simple as choosing something other than who God is.

    So, back to the original question, does God ordain evil? If you follow my argument you will see that God allows evil because God allows us to choose whether or not to be like Him. But He cannot ordain evil because it would be against His nature.

    RP’s analogy about the rapist fails, for this reason: God cannot intervene with our choices because it would violate his need to express His unconditional love. OK, if that didn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will. He allows us to do terrible evil things to each other in order to give us the opportunity to choose to do good and love unconditionally. If God were to intervene and prevent people from choosing evil, then he would not be able to satisfy his unconditional love.

    To many people RP’s argument seems like a good one, because life is unfair in this regard and it gives us someone to blame other than ourselves. If we can blame God for the evil being perpetrated in the world, we can let ourselves off the hook and feel better about not being as bad as the guy next to us.

    This is why God’s grace is so wonderful! God allows us to choose, even to choose evil, and yet He demonstrates His unconditional love towards by providing a means of Salvation from our own choices. It’s this miraculous grace that defines God as God! God is not a perpetrator of evil, nor He is simply out to trick us into damnation by giving us a free will. He has given us the amazing opportunity to experience his unconditional love and grace through Jesus.

  6. FICM:
    Your whole line of logic – points #1 through #7 – are unsubstantiated and really only your opinion. You provide no scriptural support for these assertions; when dealing with the nature of God we really need more than a series of assumptions merely based upon one person’s logical thinking. This subject of Theodicy has a long history of point and counter-point. Point #3 and #4 have been proven wrong fairly clearly in many treatments – especially in Bondage of the Will by Luther and Free Will by Jonathan Edwards. It would of course be too lengthy to lay out all the reasons why your point #3 and 4 are wrong. I would encourage everyone to look at the arguments again of John Piper ( he is much more accessible) in learning what the arguments are for God’s Sovereignty over all things and how God’s Sovereignty is related to the question of evil in the world. He lays out the some of the same scriptural arguments that both Luther and Edwards also use.

  7. Your whole line of logic – points #1 through #7 – are unsubstantiated and really only your opinion. You provide no scriptural support for these assertions;

    And yet, you don’t provide any scriptures in your comment either.

    Not that it makes much of a difference. You can prove just about anything using the Bible.

  8. You can prove just about anything using the Bible.

    *snort* Really. You should read how Jesus liked to ‘proof text’….:o)

    Matthew 21:42
    Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘ The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

    Matthew 22:29
    Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.

    And you should have seen Him use those Scriptures when He was with Satan in the wilderness….I mean, He’s GOD, you wouldn’t think He’d have to make his points with the Bible….:o)

  9. FICM: WOW ! Looks like you want to rely completely on human logic for your assumptions about the nature of God and His relationship to the presence of evil in the world. I hesitate to start the process of going through all the scriptures that teach that God is all at the same time good, righteous, just, loving and perfectly pure, yet ordains evil for his own purposes ( one example -He ordained the greatest crime in history – the Killing of the Son of God – Acts 2:23- at the same time holding them responsible for the crime) without being the author of evil. That is what the scripture teaches from cover to cover ( yet this forum is not really a place that entire discussion can take place). It is not something that can easily be worked out logically. It is a truth that is to be believed the same as the nature of Jesus Christ being both fully man and fully God ( also, not something that can be worked out logically). The problem throughout the history of theological reflection upon the question of free will, theodicy, the Sovereignty of God ( they are inextricably intertwined) is that many have been unwilling to let the scripture speak, but have insisted upon reason or logic as the guiding principles. That was the problem with Pelagius ( who denied original sin and affirmed the ability of man to be righteous by the exercise of his free will) and that line of heresy is still with us. I again would suggest that anyone interested can look at the various works that have discussed this over the centuries.

  10. And you should have seen Him use those Scriptures when He was with Satan in the wilderness….I mean, He’s GOD, you wouldn’t think He’d have to make his points with the Bible….:o)

    I believe in Truth. And I believe that there is only one true interpretation of the Bible. I don’t believe, however, that you know the Truth. And thus, when you quote scriptures, I find them completely unpersuasive.

  11. [Comment ID #30233 Will Be Quoted Here]
    Catalyst: Are you engaging in some kind of epistemological circle ? I believe in truth – there is truth – there is truth in scripture – no one else understands scripture the way I do – therefore I alone am right about the “truth” of scripture. Or is it? There is Truth – there is truth in scripture -but no one knows what it is ( post-modern skepticism?).

  12. DR said:

    many have been unwilling to let the scripture speak, but have insisted upon reason or logic as the guiding principles.

    You seem to be making this discussion a matter of Scripture vs. reason/logic. And then, of course, because you refer to Scripture, you are automatically on the “right” side. I beg to differ.

    I do love the Scriptures, but I admit that if you gather all the Scriptures on a particular subject and spread them out, you will find that they almost seem to contradict in many instances.

    So then you have a group of people who highlight the verses that say one thing, and then another group who highlight the verses that seem to say something completely different, and you end up with a “sword fight.”

    To me, it is not a matter of Scripture vs. reason/logic, but rather a matter of one understanding of Scripture vs. another understanding. And like Cat said, there really is only one understanding. It takes TIME in prayer and study to begin to understand what God meant when He inspired a Scripture.

    Then, like all things God, when understanding begins to dawn, it is usually accompanied by grace, humility and increased love for Him. So when it is then explained to others, those qualities come through as well.

  13. anna: The problem here is that the discussion seems to meander around and slide into in one case a mere assumption of “facts” – unattested by any real attempt at validation – except if I already agree with you – FICM. On another hand – a sort of skeptical postmodern attempt- tries to say “You can’t really base anything on a reading of scripture- catalyst. And then you (anna) seem to be saying that it is all a mystical sort of revelation from God Himself and I just humbly tell you what I think and that is sufficient. Say whatever you may – if a discussion uses the scriptures to found the discussion in the scripture- then it truly can be fruitful, because it is then a discussion which centers on the true revelation of God – not your mystical personal revelation. It is not a question of logic/reason vs. scripture- it is a discussion which is illuminated by scripture and controlled by the realization that any person must think God’s thoughts after Him, which is “logical”, but only as the person submits to the “logic” of the scripture and not the thinking of “autonomous man”. The idea that any man can understand the nature of God by just sitting down and thinking it through has never come to grips with the bondage of sin and the very real depravity of the human heart and the power of deception that is so easily used by the Enemy of our Soul. That is also why Time in prayer and study can be used both positively or negatively. How do you know if what is “revealed ” to you is true? Only by checking it with the scriptures. So, we are back to study and discussion of the scripture. You can’t avoid it !

  14. Catalyst: Are you engaging in some kind of epistemological circle ?

    I had to look up epistemological. And after that realized that you could have made that question much easier to understand, if you had just typed “knowledge circle”. Thus, you’re likely the type of guy who thinks a little too highly of himself.

    And so I was reminded of a scripture. Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

    And I decided it’s probably not best to engage your ego.

  15. David Rollins, Nice to have you shed your AKA! and thanks for the great Christmas card!

    Reformed Pope writes: Oh, and David Mackin, I’m sure you’ve got good reasons to keep silent on this subject, but I’m just dying to know…what are your thoughts?

    RP, Great subject! (Thanks for asking for me by name…I think!) Since this is an excellent but very deep and time-consuming subject, I will have to limit my contribution to posting some excerpts from a couple of articles that I have found very helpful and which use the Bible to make a serious contribution to this subject:

    Evil in the OT:
    “…While the nation of Israel was independent and flourishing, while the corporate body was doing well, evil was viewed as the retribution from God upon individuals for sin and breaking of covenant (Judg 2:11–15; 2 Sam 12:9–10; 1 Kgs 2:44). This evil served as a deterrent to pursuing further evil (Deut 19:20; Jer 36:3). The destruction of the nation by noncovenant nations, the divergence of the corporate and the individual emphases in Israel’s religion (Jer 31:29–30; Ezek 18:2), the suffering of the righteous (Job 2:3; 30:26), and the prospering of the wicked (Prov 11:21; Eccl 7:15; Jer 12:1–4; Hab 1:2–4; Mal 3:13–15), all presented Israel with the theological dilemma of the preponderance of evil.”

    “Within the confines of its own henotheism and later monotheism, Israel grappled with explaining the relationship of evil to its conception of God. It did not develop a metaphysical dualism in which evil could be explained as the work of demonic powers. Neither did it develop the concept of a capricious God to whom both good and evil could be ascribed. Rather it developed an ethical monotheism. Within this conception a major solution was to look for the justice of God in the eschatological future (Mal 4:1–3—LXX 3:19–21), i.e., to accept the mystery of evil by conceptualizing a creator God with greater freedom to work in ways and for purposes that transcend human understanding (Job 42:2–3).”

    Evil in the NT:
    “Evil is clearly incompatible with the new life in Christ (Rom 12:17, 21; Col 3:5; 1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9, 11). God does not tempt with evil (Jas 1:13) but rather rescues from it (2 Thess 3:3; 2 Tim 4:18). However, evil can be ascribed to the EVIL ONE, the Devil (John 17:15; Eph 6:16; 1 John 2:13–14; 5:18). He has the power to lead humankind into evil (Eph 4:27; 1 Tim 3:7; 2 Tim 2:26) but works only under the limitations imposed by God (John 12:31; Rev 12:9; 20:1–3). To some extent evil and theodicy have received an answer in the gospel of the redemption of humankind and nature by Jesus Christ. Christ has won a victory over the Devil (Heb 2:14–15; 1 John 3:8) and ushered in the kingdom of God. Christ’s victory over evil will be consummated (1 Cor 15:24–26; Heb 10:12–13) and the Devil’s reign ended (Rev 20:2–3, 10).”

    Theodicy:
    “From the realm of the sacrificial cult arose yet another answer to the problem of evil. The presumed efficacy of human sacrifice and, still later, animal or cereal offerings suggested that redemption occurred for those who incurred guilt, thus revealing God as forgiving. This notion was extended to include symbolic gestures of devotion such as prayers and the libations of one’s mouth, and even further to embrace vicarious sacrifices. That powerful concept erupted for the first time in the Servant Poems of Deutero-Isaiah, and Christianity understood Jesus’ death in this way.”

    “In some circles evil was denied any reality. Prosperity of the wicked was dismissed as illusive, despite appearances to the contrary. According to the author of Psalm 73, the affluence of evil people had no more substance than images in a dream. On waking, Yahweh would shake these images into oblivion. In addition, Israel’s thinkers recognized mitigating circumstances, so that passing judgment on a given individual became hazardous.”

    “For some people evil offered an opportunity to act heroically. In short, suffering prepared individuals for knowledge of the inner self or for a revelation of divine will. Human extremity became God’s occasion to act (cf. John 9:3), and suffering enabled growth in character and maturity in personality. In Job’s case suffering led to immediate sight, a vision of the Lord of Nature that convinced the miserable creature that all previous knowledge of God had been derivative and hence flawed. The devout worshiper in Psalm 73 whose faith was sorely tested later felt God’s hand on warm flesh and emerged from darkness into light with a mighty shout: “If I have you, I want nothing else.”

    “One of the oldest answers to the problem of life’s ambiguities emphasized ultimate mystery and human limits. The universe had its flaws, and no one possessed sufficient intellience to explain its enigmas. The earliest proverbs in the OT already perceived many areas in which human knowledge came up against a mightier force—Yahweh’s will. In the last resort, the poet responsible for the book of Job refused to offer a final answer to the mystery of suffering, even though Yahweh certainly had the opportunity to resolve the problem before which a groping humanity stands. In this instance silence was undoubtedly the right option for the poet, for keeping the question open was preferable to closure by means of a simplistic answer. Perhaps the enigma of suffering points to the mystery of the biblical God, who gathers human pain into the divine heart. Evil caused suffering on God’s part, for that was the price of human freedom.”

    “Qoheleth’s [author of Ecclesiastes] skeptical response abandoned all hope of divine justice, in this radical view echoing Job’s strident accusations of a deity who remained oblivious to human misery and Agur’s mocking parody of sacred tradition (Prov 30:1–4). Qoheleth’s flippant question, “Who knows?” grew out of dismay that the universe had gone awry, rendering existence futile and absurd. One could even speak of a tendency in the Hebrew Bible toward antitheodicy. The insistence on divine freedom and human limits persisted in spite of quests for rational solutions to the problem of evil. Israel’s sages recognized pride’s folly, the arrogant insistence on judging God on the basis of human reason. This intuition led the author of Job to propose an answer within revelation rather than reason, just as the composers of “The Babylonian Theodicy” and “I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom” appealed to religious tradition and mystery rather than locating the final word in human logic.”

    “In ancient Israel history kept the problem of theodicy alive, for few people doubted that Yahweh stood behind the events of 722 and 587 B.C.E. The ensuing crisis of faith resulted in a transcending of the ethical principle—strict justice giving way to compassion—and a universalization of providence. The basis for both moves lay in Israel’s idea of creation, for only the fashioner of the universe had sufficient knowledge and power to render absolute justice, or to forgo it. Confronted by this maker, the questioning individual had one of two options: repentance or despair.”

    “Within Wisdom Literature, texts dealing with creation frequently broach the issue of divine justice. The emergence of the figure Wisdom (hΩokmaÅ“h) softened the anxiety resulting from emphasis on the High God who ruled the whole universe, rather than promoting allegiance to the patron deity of a single group. Wisdom, personified as a woman, turned toward human beings like a lover, assuring them of divine benevolence. The sages also employed a debate formula in several discussions of theodicy. The form advised people against saying something (“Do not say”), cited the specific expression that the teacher wanted to prevent, and offered the reason for urging silence in this regard. Wisdom and apocalyptic had an advantage over prophecy and Yahwism generally—they lacked historical triumphalism. Whereas the sages virtually ignored the Israel’s history until Ben Sira, apocalyptic surrendered the belief that Yahweh controlled historical events, for history had become a nightmare.”

    “Modern calamities such as the Lisbon earthquake and, above all, the Holocaust have raised the question of theodicy to new heights. Traditional free-will defenses have lost their power, partly because they are ahistorical, overly abstract, and rationalistic. Cosmic order no longer makes sense, philosophical theism reduces religion to a few ideas that are shared by many groups, and the experience of faithful believers who struggle against evil escapes notice. In the opinion of some, process thought offers a way of approaching the problem that resembles the OT emphasis on God’s susceptibility to change. Perhaps patient resistance to evil that juxtaposes love and hatred, passive response and harsh force, comes closest to discerning a viable response to evil. The crucial issue remains: will such action actually overcome evil? Only when resistance to God has vanished will theodicy cease to trouble theists.”

    source: The Anchor Bible Dictionary, excerpts from articles entitled: “Evil” and “Theodicy”

    for further research see: See also TDNT 3: 469–87; 6: 546–66; NIDNTT 1: 561–67.

  16. I believe in Truth. And I believe that there is only one true interpretation of the Bible. I don’t believe, however, that you know the Truth. And thus, when you quote scriptures, I find them completely unpersuasive.

    Hmmm…obviously it’s the scriptures you find ‘unpersuasive’…..

    Thus, you’re likely the type of guy who thinks a little too highly of himself.

    so…curiously…what type of guy does that make you??

  17. David M. – nice quote ! It is a little long though :) This is a very important subject. Unfortunately catalyst likes to do drive-by shootings. If one looks up and honestly deals with the resources I referenced in this discussion and the ones David M. just put up, they will be far along in understanding this contentious and important subject. Unless one has clear and scriptural understanding of the nature of God, and the nature of man ( at least to the extent that the Word reveals – which is not exhaustive, but sufficient), he will be wrong in every other aspect of biblical knowledge. For example, the conception you have of God will color in manifold ways the way you understand the gospel. These issues are not sidelines, pesky arguments, but concerned with the very issues of life. If you are wrong about who God is and in turn miss the true message of the Gospel- you are lost. We need to be faithful Bereans!

  18. DR said:

    And then you (anna) seem to be saying that it is all a mystical sort of revelation from God Himself

    I’m really laughing here. I’m a pretty un-mystical person. Either I didn’t explain myself or you didn’t understand what I said (or both). In no way did I mean to imply that one should just stare into space and invite spiritual revelation. I agree, that would be pretty dangerous!

    What I meant to encourage was taking time to READ the Scripture with study in mind (II Tim 2:15) and then MEDITATE on the words (Ps 119) and PRAY for understanding (Prov 2) from the Teacher, Counselor, Giver of wisdom and understanding (I Jo 2:27).

    In that way a person gets to know both the word and the author, which is what was ordained, don’t you think? :)

  19. Dear David Mackin,

    I respect you immensely, but your last post leads me to ask you one question, “whatchu talkin’ about Willis????”

  20. Negrodamus said: David, brah, break them lexicon down! Give me the street version!

    Negrodamus, I understand. I realize my posting was a bit long and technical. It saved me time just to copy and paste directly from the sources I quoted. Please don’t misunderstand me, I would like to break it all down, but I am under a book deadline. If you don’t mind my suggestion: open a dictionary on your browser, e.g., onelook.com, and look up every word in the article you don’t know (having the dict open on your browser will save tons of time); write down every definition; then read through the article slowly trying to understand every sentence; to test yourself, try re-wording the sentences in your own words; sorry, i do understand, but this is all I have time for right now; if you’re like me, you’ll find that these excerpts provide excellent food for thought on the subject RP brought up; even better, get a copy of the ABD or other Bible dictionary and look up “Evil” and “Theodicy” in them! Then come and share with the rest of us what you have learned or what you have a question about! Bless you!

  21. For the record, I want to say that I believe that God is not evil, nor can he do evil. He can use evil people/things to fulfill his purpose, because He’s just that smart. I don’t think it needs to be any more complicated than that.

    Mr. Rollins, you are guilty of the drive-by shootings here. You tell me I’m wrong and won’t tell me why. It’s OK to disagree with me, but to say my logic is flawed because you don’t agree with one of my premises is just a cheap shot. I still insist that God is self-consistent, and if He is truly good He is incapable of evil.

    If you don’t believe that you have a free will, that everything is pre-ordained, then what the hell do you care what I write about on this blog? Or are you predestined to argue with me about it? :-P

  22. FICM:
    Please read the rest of my posts. I think you will see some of the reasons I think your understanding of God and His attributes is wrong. One of the primary problems is that you define “good” by a definition of your own making, which is at the same time undefined- one has to read your mind somehow to figure out how you define “good ” . The point of both Luther and Edwards is that God defines “good” by His own word and actions. You are trying to define “good” and make God fit your definition. Similarly, you also are trying to define “evil” in the same way. Just a few scriptures that contradict your premises are : Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6, Proverbs 16:4; and the whole discussion by Paul in Romans 9.

    A word of caution to all of us in any discussion: sarcastic, demeaning or personal attacks are an indication that your point is so weak that you have to resort to a personal attack on the person, rather than honestly discussing the merits or deficiencies of the other persons points.

  23. Mr. Rollins, how then do you propose to define “good”? Your argument seems to take issue with my premise #1, and not the others you mentioned. If we assume that God is completely good, it is contradictory to also assume that God is in any way shape or form “evil”, even just a little bit. To declare that God is sovereign and can do whatever He wants is true, but it tells us nothing about His true nature or character. If we say that God is capable of what seems like evil to us, are you not doing the very thing you accuse me of? That is, aren’t you fitting God to your description of evil? It’s a chicken and the egg argument, and it’s hardly proof of anything. My definition of “good” is simply to say that it is exactly equated to the nature and character of God. That’s my definition, that’s my premise. He is my absolute standard to define what good is. If you wish to believe otherwise, that’s your perogative. Personally, I think it is wrong to conclude that God is an amoral being simply because we don’t understand everything about Him. And yes, I did read your Scriptures you mentioned. I will address them here, but I should also recommend to you that you read all the verses you can find about God being “holy”. Holiness is simply God being consistent with His true nature of being good. When He asks us to be holy (which he does often), he is simply asking us to be just like Him.

    Isa. 45:7 – Light and darkness are real physical things, and the writer had just specifically mentioned the sun, and I think it’s a stretch to imply that good and evil are intended here.

    Amos 3:6 God’s goodness includes righteousness and judgment. There are many other places in Jewish history where God judges nations for their evil. It is entirely consistent to judge evil with good actions, including punishment. God’s righteousness and holiness demand purity and thus he brings eternal damnation for those who choose evil. But I don’t see that as being evil in itself. Saying God is evil because he judges evil seems like a circular definition (for lack of a better description).

    Proverbs 16:4 Notice who is wicked in this verse. God is not wicked, but in His wisdom he is smart enough to fulfill His purpose in spite of and through those who reject Him.

    Romans 9:22 seems to imply that Paul is saying that the Jews were doomed to fail so that all men could be saved. Please notice the first two words in this verse: “What if?” He is not stating it as fact. He provides a possible scenario to explain it, but not taking it as a given. He is simply saying that God did use the situation in spite of the Jews rejection of the Messiah. Paul goes on for two more chapters describing his own inner turmoil and passion that all the Jews might be saved. He finally concludes that they indeed will all be saved and labels the solution a “mystery” that he cannot explain yet fully believes. He wrote it to encourage the Gentiles to appreciate how God used the situation to bring them to salvation and to not take it for granted nor to be used as an excuse to be prideful. His long impassioned speech can hardly be taken as doctrine that God caused the Jews to reject Christ, when Paul flat out states that we can’t know for sure.

    Let’s try another logic argument. The Federal Reserve creates bank notes that are legal tender. These notes, or dollars, are “good” for their intended purpose. If I create counterfeit dollar bills and use them in place of the “good” bills, is it right to conclude that the Federal Reserve is breaking the law? No! The FR created the good bill, and I created the bad bill. I am the one doing “evil” and the FR cannot be blamed for my bad behavior, nor is it wrong for the FBI to arrest me for doing so. It is entirely consistent with the idea of good vs. evil to have an entity that creates “good” without being implicated for the counterfeit (evil).

    If there’s one thing that is fundamental about my beliefs about my faith, it is about who God is. If you cannot settle within your own mind what kind of God He is, then your faith is on shaky ground. If you cannot say with full confidence that God is Holy, Loving, Kind, Just, and Merciful, without a shadow of doubt, that what kind of God do you believe in?

    5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

  24. FICM:
    It is hard to know how to respond, since you have apparently not considered the way in which men of the last 400 years have answered the question of the attributes of God, here specifically – His Sovereignty; His relation to evil; His holiness ( to mention the main ones). The statement in the Westminster Confession ( which I quoted in the London Baptist Confession which is nearly identical) specifies the relation of God to evil. Again, the definition of Good and Evil is defined by God Himself. This you seem to both affirm and deny?? in your first paragraph. It is hard to know how to straighten out what seems to be crooked. You continue to seem to insist that God has to be defined by some kind of concept of Good that is self-evident and outside of what many men of the last 400 years of scripture study have affirmed.

    You said :Holiness is simply God being consistent with His true nature of being good.

    This statement is simply misleading. Holiness is the attribute of God which speaks of His separation from all that is not like Himself. If you continue to try to say God has to be Good and that cannot include anything I think is Evil, you are confusing your own idea of Good and Evil with God’s. This is still what you appear to have said in all your posts. Your line of thinking is not clear in this respect.

    It is difficult also to see how you have twisted around the plain meaning of the texts I suggested for some answers to the definition of Good and Evil as the works of God.

    Is. 45:7 – God defines what is good and evil. He forms light AND DARKNESS. He causes BOTH THE GOOD THINGS that happen all over the earth AND ALSO THE EVIL THINGS that happen all over the earth. This is the plain meaning.

    Amos 3:6 – Calamity comes from God. God is not Evil for doing so, since it is impossible for Him to do anything which is not consistent with His own Perfection and Purpose.

    Prov. 16:4 – God created everything for His own purpose. He even created men who He destined to be punished in the day of evil.

    Romans 9: 14-24 – God is not evil or unjust by choosing Jacob over Esau BEFORE they did anything worthy of approval or disapproval. God is not evil or wrong to harden Pharoah’s heart, to show mercy on one and reject or harden another one sovereignly. God is arbitrary – ? – God is inconsistent – ? – How can He find fault since He willed it to happen and no man can resist His will? HE’S GOD AND IS THE POTTER AND NO MAN HAS ANY EXCUSE. Where is “free will ” here??

    The whole book of Job clearly portrays GOD as doing everything to Job. In light of 3:3-7 Satan was sent by God to do all the things that happened to Job. God had sent both Good and Evil things into Job’s life. The rest of the book includes all the friends trying to do what I see you trying to do -To explain how God is Good and He can’t do Evil. It is a very convoluted series of arguments. After it is all said and done – God comes on the scene and proclaims that He is God and that is enough explanation as to the definitions of Good and Evil. He explains none of His actions. Job never was informed that he was an object lesson to Satan ( and to everyone else who reads the account) of the blameless and upright man who loves God and refuses to make excuses for God’s actions.

    Let me clarify what my original objection was in this discussion:
    You said:
    3. Unconditional love only works if the recipient has the power to choose to receive or reject the author of unconditional love
    4. God gave us a free will to satisfy #1 thru #3

    I have no problem with points #1 and 2. The rest of the scripture denies points #3 and 4.
    These two points seem to be focused upon doing what Job’s friends tried to do – explain how God MUST WORK IF HE IS GOD, how God must treat people so that he is Good and Fair.

    You said:
    If there’s one thing that is fundamental about my beliefs about my faith, it is about who God is. If you cannot settle within your own mind what kind of God He is, then your faith is on shaky ground. If you cannot say with full confidence that God is Holy, Loving, Kind, Just, and Merciful, without a shadow of doubt, that what kind of God do you believe in?

    This comment is unclear. God is Holy, Loving, Kind, Just, and Merciful- yes. And He defines what those attributes look like. Back to a previous comment I made -Is it Just for God to predestine the murder of the Son of God and hold those who did so accountable ( Acts 2:23). No logical answer will suffice in this case, at least none where we define Just in terms that most people would agree with. How can God determine something to happen and then condemn those who did it without being unjust. As John Piper has said ( along with many others over the centuries), that action is Just because God Did it and for no other reason. He defines Justice!

    This forum is a difficult venue to discuss these rather weighty issues. I hope I have contributed to the discussion some light and not obscurity !

  25. These discussions have made me realize how shallow the mega church preachers are. I cannot recall ever hearing a teaching from the pulpit about God’s use of evil. Seldom if ever have I heard anything explaining the sacraments of the Lord’s table or baptism. How about a step by step walk through of the Lord’s prayer? Nope, no time for that! How about the lives of notable leaders of the early church? Naw, gotta preach on tithing!

    So now I am starting to work through some of these, and I like to hear both sides of the arguments/views.

    When I look at Acts 2:23, I see where it was God’s predetermined plan for Christ to be put to death. It seems to me God did this to Himself without inflicting any evil on the human race. Where does it say God is holding anyone accountable for it? It appears to me, from Matthew 27:25, that the multitudes brought it on themselves through their confession.

    You say that God created evil, and use Isa. 45:7 as a text for it. How does that fit with what Christ says in Matthew 12:25, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”? Is God out to destroy His own kingdom?

    You seem to be saying that scripture denies free will. I see it being exercised in Philemon :14. It seems like Adam and Eve also exercised it in the garden. In Acts 5:4, Peter said the money that Ananias had was his own, and under his control. (this verse comes in handy for the tithe preaching wallet snatchers also!) Can you give some more texts about no free will?

    Thanks for your time and knowledge.

  26. Mr. Rollins, you and I are on opposite viewpoints in this matter, and we are unlikely to convince each other. It boils down to God’s sovereignty vs. free will, doesn’t it? I prefer to remain in the free will camp. I believe God is sovereign enough to create a universe where He can fulfill His purpose while simultaneously giving us a free will while He Himself remains free from evil.

    And there is nothing misleading about my definition of holiness. If I say I define God and Holiness as being completely good, that is my definition. If I say the color blue is a certain frequency of light, I am simply defining what I mean when I say the word “blue”. The same is true when I say good = God.

    And yes, I have studied the various history on this matter. I’ve studied the theology of Calvinism, where we get most of our Protestant beliefs (I’m assuming you’re not all catholics here). I can still disagree with them in good conscience because I see the Scriptures saying something else, and I attempt(!) to use logic to validate my thinking.

    One of the key problems when arguing this topic is that we try to define God as someone who is like us – that is, He is trapped in time and cannot will or act except in the present as we do. If we suppose that He exists outside time as we know it, if we can imagine that He acts and observes the history of the universe simultaneously, we could even argue that both sides are true! If God can create a universe and inject Himself at any moment of time as He wills, He can observe all possible outcomes simultaneously. In that sense, He is absolutely sovereign and has predestined everything. But to us mere mortals who are confined to traveling through time, we can only ponder these possibilities and live our lives not knowing who is predestined and who is not. As far as we can tell, we all do each have a free will and must act upon it. In that sense, we should live our lives not knowing which of us is “predestined” and share the Gospel with all as Christ called us to do. The scenario I just described still seems consistent to me with the idea that God can be completely “good”. If God can simultaneously comprehend the known and the unknown, who are we to judge Him by labeling Him good or evil? That is why I define good as being the nature of God. There is no other higher standard for goodness or morality, because He is absolutely sovereign.

    And I believe there is a difference between knowing what someone is going to choose, and not giving someone a choice. The former still gives the chooser a free will, and that to me is the crux of the issue. God knew what I would choose before I chose it, but it doesn’t invalidate my free will or my choice.

    I’ll leave you with one last parting question: If God has predestined some to destruction, then what do you do with a verse like this one?

    2 Peter 3:9

    The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

    Caj, you can get started in your questions here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism

    It’s a decent overview, and there are lots of links to follow.

  27. caj:
    Let me try to explain the Reformed position on some of these issues. For those not familiar with that term – Reformed – it includes the theological viewpoint of the Reformers – Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melancthon, John Knox and a host of others since that time. It is the basic doctrinal position held by Baptists in the mold of Charles Spurgeon and John Piper, Presbyterians like R.C. Sproul, Anglicans like J.I. Packer, and many others.

    Acts 2:23 – Peter accuses the Jews of murdering the Son of God- says that God predetermined that they would do so and is then calling on them to repent of that sin. How can he do so? They could say – “God planned this in his sovereignty – we were “forced””. Why do we need to repent ?” Further, they could say that I didn’t want him crucified – but what could I have done?

    Jesus’ murder was a horrible crime – an evil crime-God planned it- holds all of us ( not just those at Pentecost) responsible for it. Commands us to repent of an evil crime planned by God to bring salvation. That is the mystery – God is not evil to plan an evil deed. Any other way of explaining it will tie you up in theoretical mental gymnastics. Can anyone explain how God became a baby? Can anyone explain why an omniscient God created Satan knowing he would rebel and promote evil in God’s creation? These “facts” – God plans evil, but is not the author of evil; He became a baby; He CREATED Satan WITHOUT creating evil are all things to be believed. We can’t explain this kind of wisdom of God.

    Isaiah 45:7 – The answer here is also the same – we don’t understand how God could “cause both well-being (nasb) AND CREATE CALAMITY.

    I’m glad you brought up the scene in the Garden. Eve is confronted by Satan to consider the command of God as an independent thinker. God Said – don’t Eat – what do you think Eve? That is exactly what you and I are being tempted to do by being independent thinkers and spinning out theories about God ( as FICM I believe has done). She should have just said – He said so – so I am not going to violate His command.

    Here is the crux of the issue of “free will”. Everyone has a certain kind of free will- no one is forced to eat a hot dog when they really wanted a hamburger. No one is forced to marry a person they have not chosen to marry. We all understand that. Luther made it very clear that the issue in “free will” is that the will in is BONDAGE. Sin is so pervasive, so pernicious, so all consuming that all of our decisions are permeated by it. Luther would say- No man can choose to Love God- he by nature hates God. One would sooner expect a lion to eat dandelions than for a man to love God. It is the NATURE of a lion to eat antelope, it is the nature of man to hate God. God must intervene and CHANGE the will so that any man can love God. All attempts of making man CAPABLE of being saved while having a “free will” are unscriptural rational attempts to be wiser than God.

    FICM brings up 2 Peter 3:9 to butress what he sees as the “fault” of predestination. Look at the context ( I urge everyone reading this – NEVER NEVER ATTEMPT TO USE A SCRIPTURE OUT OF ITS CONTEXT). “The Lord is not slow about His promise…,but is patient toward YOU, not wishing for any ( OF YOU) to perish, but for all (OF YOU) to come to repentance. It is not a statement of universal application ! This is a great promise for all of those who Peter has been trying to encourage- verse 10 – the day of the Lord will come – verse 9 – but I have already assured you that YOU will not perish! -verse 11 – so knowing the great grace of God and the greatness of His judgment- we should be overjoyed to live godly lives.

    Let me make another point – sorry this has been so long !

    The will of man being so corrupted by sin is enabled by God to believe the gospel and so love God. That is the glory of the Gospel – dead in trespasses and sins – made alive together with Christ- Ephesians 2:1-9. That is the awesome evidence of Redeeming Grace.

    Many in the world ( and many Christians too ) don’t realize that there is also COMMON GRACE. The will of man being so besotted with sin, yet God intervenes in the lives of men and women all over the earth who indeed HATE Him to RESTRAIN their sinful free will. ANYTHING GOOD that is done by any person on the face of the earth comes from God’s help- giving them the capacity to love – the ability to get along – the wisdom to do wise things. Without the RESTRAINING hand of God the world would be total chaos. Parents would eat their own children- hatred, violence, and total selfishness would rule everywhere. Men would be absolutely given over to foolishness and our world would be devoid of meaning.

    If it were not for the great Grace of God – there would be unimaginable plagues – no restraining of viruses or bacteria – which is part of the wonderful love of God in our present world. Back in the summer one of the bridges in Minneapolis fell in – with hundreds killed and injured. John Piper ( whose church is in Minneapolis) said God “caused” the bridge to collapse. What a fiery response there was to those comments! It is hard to understand how saying God was absent and the bridge just collapsed by itself is glorifying to God or helpful in any way. It has been reported since then that over 100 bridges have the same defects. Piper is absolutely correct and biblical in saying that the collapse of that bridge was the kindness of God. He is warning people everywhere that death is at the door and eternity is revealed and men everywhere need to repent. He has in his Grace only ordained that 1 bridge collapse. He is keeping those other 100+ bridges in place, otherwise they would ALL collapse. God restrains evil because of His Grace – He sends calamity as part of His Grace, as well. He is worthy of Praise FOR ALL HIS WORKS IN THE LIVES OF MEN !

  28. Please, I did not miss the context of 2 Peter 3. You’re fitting the interpretation to your belief system of predestination. I don’t have time to look up the Greek here, but I’m guessing there is no “of you” explicitly intended in the wording. I’d prefer to take this at face value – that God does not want anyone to perish. Your interpretation says that there are people God destined to be evil and punished before they even had a chance. Talk about rotten luck. Yes, yes, yes, you can go back to the tired argument of who are we to judge what God does, but this doesn’t seem like an act of a loving God to me. The fact that God chose to love me and forgive me over someone else is like some kind of cosmic lottery, and somehow I should be grateful for that? If I am not responsible for the choice of God’s grace upon my life, then what hope do I have to spread the Gospel to my family and friends? Are some of the people I love doomed to Hell simply because God said so? Are my efforts and prayers in vain? Should I simply hate and condemn and divorce myself from anyone who doesn’t appear to be a Believer?

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight. I’ll try your perspective on the most popular verse in the Bible.

    16″For God so loved the predestined that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever He chose ahead of time shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn those who He wants to have mercy upon, but to save the predestined through him. 18Whoever God chose is not condemned, but whoever God did not choose stands condemned already because he was created to not believe in the name of God’s one and only Son.[g] 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil, after all God made them that way. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed, because He knows he was born condemned to Hell. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God because it is impossible to love God without Him doing it for you.”

    Your last paragraph is truly frightening. You seem to imply that God has a direct hand in everything bad in this world, because it is somehow for our benefit. This is the kind of thinking that leads people to make statements like “AIDS is God’s judgment on gays.” That bridge fell because our failed government let it rot away, not because God knocked it down. We have diseases because viruses mutate. We have droughts and polar melting because of man-produced greenhouse gases. Saying God is responsible for the resultant tragedies or the prevention of worse tragedies is attributing Providence where there is simply just cause and effect. Saying that people would eat their own children without God’s direct intervention is beyond ludicrous! You may have studied your theology, but your true colors are finally shown. I’m not going to debate this any further because it’s clear you’d rather blame God for everything rather own up to the fact that people have the ability to choose and must face the consequences for their choices.

    I’m out.

  29. If it were not for the great Grace of God – there would be unimaginable plagues – no restraining of viruses or bacteria

    I’m sorry dude, but that’s one of the silliest things I’ve read on this blog. And that’s saying something. And then I read your thing about the bridges. Wow. You must live in a really comfortable bubble.

  30. FICM:
    Yes, indeed the YOU ( υμας ) in the controlling position in verse 9 of 2 Peter 3. Most of your problems with my position are also with the apostle Paul in Romans 9. He would say to you that His predestination and election are His purpose as Potter, you are but clay. You seriously misunderstand what I have written, because you are wedded apparently to a position that can’t be touched by clear scripture. NONE OF US knows who is saved or lost. We wont know until the Judgment Seat of Christ. We just need to make sure we do know and worship the God of the scripture and not our own “God”. We also preach the Gospel indiscriminately to all because as far as we know anyone can and will be saved!

    Let me clarify some of your statements. Aids is a judgment on sinful man, a result of sin, part of the curse. The fact that it has only affected some of mankind is testimony to God’s Grace. Apparently you would rather have God helpless in the face of evil. How is that glorifying to God – How does that give you encouragement. God sends only that which is for our good and to His Glory. Apparently you would rather hope and trust in cause and effect, in the ability of man to change his environment and in the almighty chance.You don’t like your ideas proved wrong – so- “I’m out of here”. Too bad !- it is always good to examine your beliefs and have others examine them too.

    To WTFWJD: Sorry you think my viewpoint is silly. Problem is ??? You don’t want to explain your own position. It is easier to just ridicule- actual dialog or discussion doesn’t work – I suppose because you either don’t have a good reason for what you believe or you don’t want your ideas subjected to discussion. What is it ?

    I suppose you think I have not seen much “difficulty ” in life – in a sort of bubble am I? Well, I have seen much in my own life ( I am nearing 60 years old) and have comforted many people over the years with the Grace of God and His Sovereignty. I can testify to the “healing” and “comfort” that comes in the Sovereign Reign of God as I have described. It has held up the hearts of countless believers over the last 2000 years. The proof of that is to read the histories of all the men of God since the apostles. NONE of them were upheld and comforted by the ideas FICM has proposed.

  31. You have yet to prove me “wrong” and when it comes to proofs, you failed to convince me that predestination is true. What is truly mind boggling is what you say about it, after insisting it be trusted as doctrine:

    NONE OF US knows who is saved or lost. We wont know until the Judgment Seat of Christ. We just need to make sure we do know and worship the God of the scripture and not our own “God”. We also preach the Gospel indiscriminately to all because as far as we know anyone can and will be saved!

    If we can’t know who is predestined, how can we dare to say that it is at all true? Why should we build our faith on a belief that can’t be upheld with any kind of certainty? Because John Calvin says so? You’re being wishy-washy here, in that you say predestination must be true, yet you clearly say it is not possible to show that it is true! And then you also insist we should live our lives as if it wasn’t true! (Which is what I’ve been saying all along.) This is the kind of logical nonsense and double-talk that has brought our debate to a halt. You can try to support all your arguments by cherry picking verses until Judgment Day for all I care. But if your doctrine can’t bear any logical scrutiny, and you rant at those who shake their heads in disbelief at your conclusions, then do you really expect an intellectual debate to continue?

    AIDS is judgment? Be careful not to blame God for the effects of sins by sinful man. Are AIDS babies guilty for the sins of their parents? If you wish to insist that bad things like diseases are judgment, you might as well say all those millions who died of influenza in 1918 were being judged by God for waging World War I. Or that cancer patients are guilty of lying and God is punishing them. Or the child with a brain tumor is dying because God is mad at his parents for having sex in some other position than missionary. Seriously, where do you draw the line?

    And don’t worry about me, I find PLENTY of comfort in knowing that my freedom to choose to receive God’s love and grace is what restores me to Him. I find plenty of hope for myself and others knowing that anyone can choose to receive that same grace.

    OK, now I’m really done. (I mean it this time. No, really!)

  32. I haven’t really read all these comments, I just skimmed over them, but I wanted to drop some random scriptures into the arguement…sorry if I am repeating someone else:

    Jude 1:4 New International Version
    4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago, have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

    Romans 9:22-23 (New International Version)
    22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—

    Proverbs 16:4 (New King James Version)
    4 The LORD has made all for Himself,
    Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom
    .

    Isaiah 45:7 (King James Version)
    7I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

    1 Peter 2:7-9 (New International Version)
    7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
    “The stone the builders rejected
    has become the capstone,” 8 and,
    “A stone that causes men to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall.”[c] They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

  33. For those still reading these comments- I would assume that the interest level may have been lost – I want to make a brief comment. I think it should be clear that FICM has seriously misunderstood my comments. There is one thing that may not be clear in what I said.

    NONE OF US knows who is saved or lost. We wont know until the Judgment Seat of Christ. We just need to make sure we do know and worship the God of the scripture and not our own “God”. We also preach the Gospel indiscriminately to all because as far as we know anyone can and will be saved!

    Saying it in other words – God predestines men to salvation. No man ( human) can ever know who God has predestined to salvation. So, we preach the Gospel to every creature. This magnifies the Grace of God – He is not obligated to choose anyone – it is His great Love and Mercy that anyone is saved. Predestination does not mean God is arbitrary, mean, unloving, or any other negative quality a man might try to accuse Him of. Predestination is above all from a Loving, Merciful God.

    On the issue of Double Predestination – which means that God also chooses some for condemnation – there is a wide range of understanding about that theological concept. R.C. Sproul, I believe, has reservations about the concept. John Piper would consider it to be a scriptural teaching ( as I also would ). John Calvin, the main source of our understanding of predestination, is unsure himself how to understand the negative side of predestination, and counsels us to not try to peer into the mysteries of God. He would say that God certainly predestines some to eternal life, but what He does to the rest and how He does it is left really in mystery. I try to emphasize His Electing Love, which is clearly taught in the scriptures, and simply acknowledge the seeming corollary of His “electing” of others( or what might be called His passing by of others – remembering that Jesus only healed one man at the pool of Bethesda and didn’t heal the others).

  34. If it were not for the great Grace of God – there would be unimaginable plagues – no restraining of viruses or bacteria – which is part of the wonderful love of God in our present world. Back in the summer one of the bridges in Minneapolis fell in – with hundreds killed and injured. John Piper ( whose church is in Minneapolis) said God “caused” the bridge to collapse. What a fiery response there was to those comments! It is hard to understand how saying God was absent and the bridge just collapsed by itself is glorifying to God or helpful in any way. It has been reported since then that over 100 bridges have the same defects. Piper is absolutely correct and biblical in saying that the collapse of that bridge was the kindness of God. He is warning people everywhere that death is at the door and eternity is revealed and men everywhere need to repent. He has in his Grace only ordained that 1 bridge collapse. He is keeping those other 100+ bridges in place, otherwise they would ALL collapse.

    Gasp! I’m convinced! God is good! But waitaminute, if I change God to ibn Ladin…

    Back in the summer two skyscrapers collapsed in NYC – with thousands killed and injured. The US Government said ibn Ladin caused the towers to collapse. What a fiery response there was to those comments! It has been reported since then that over 100 skyscrapers have the same vulnerability to planes. The US government is absolutely correct and biblical in saying that the collapse of those towers was the kindness of Usama. He is warning people everywhere that death is at the door and eternity is revealed and men everywhere need to repent. He has in his Grace only ordained that 2 towers collapse. He is keeping those other 100+ skyscrapers in place, otherwise, if he attacked them, they would ALL collapse.

    OMG! Cancel the War on Terror and impeach teh bush! Usama is actually a good guy!

  35. After doing a short bit of research, I can safely say there is a LONG history of faithful believers disagreeing about free will and predestination.

    The statements made about Martin Luther’s “Bondage of the will” being the final discussion/decision about this are pretty far off the mark.

    Since RP dropped some random scriptures into the argument, I’ll do likewise. About Free Will…Matthew 23:37, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and YOU WERE UNWILLING. John 5:40, “and you are UNWILLING to come to Me, that you may have life.” Deut. 30:19, “So CHOOSE life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” John 7:37, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” Philemon :14, “but without your consent, I did not want to do anything, that your goodness should not be as it were by compulsion, but of your own FREE WILL.”

    So, for now at least, I’m not going to become a ‘calvanist’ or a ‘hyper-calvanist’. I think it is best to preface arguments like these with “perhaps”
    it is this way, or “perhaps” it is the other way.

  36. It is sad that a discussion of important issues can be treated so foolishly. The comments of Øyvind add little to the discussion. When a person tries some kind of clever put-down in a discussion it only reveals their inability to truly discuss the issues, so they descend into ridicule.

    whatHEsaid has some new information to include in the discussion. The thesis of Luther’s Bondage of the Will is based upon the will being in bondage to sin. The thesis of Edward’s Free Will is similar – the roots or springs of the will in man are corrupt. Do you have an explanation of how either of these thesis has been proven wrong? Obviously, there are other opinions about “free will” – but to just say so adds nothing to the discussion. What are they and upon what basis do they argue for “free will”.?

  37. Sometimes discussions about the nature of God verge on the impersonal, as if God and His ways are like the nature of gravity or the laws of physics. God is a person, and His ways come from that. David said that Israel knew His acts, but Moses knew His nature.

    I do not want to lose sight of the Person of God in this discussion!

    So, do I want to trot out a bunch of verses about how God allows free will? Not really, but I can. What I would like to point out is that throughout biblical history and beyond — including us — He treats us like we have free will.

    We may not have a say in what happens to us, as we know from the story of Job. But Job did have a choice in how he responded. Job’s “friends” tried to dissect the situation with the “laws” that they knew — obey God and your life will be lovely. But we notice at the end of the story that we learn more about who God is. We know HIM better.

    I know DR thinks I’m a hopeless mystic. Whatever. Then Paul was too when he said, “that I may know Him…” Then Moses was too when he said, “show me your glory…” Then David was too when he said, “I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord…”

  38. anna: I don’t think you are a hopeless mystic ! It is more like a man/woman thing. My wife says men are more truth oriented and women are more feeling oriented ( don’t chastize me – she said it LOL). Sometimes, men can be very harsh and argumentative ( women can too , but men are more prone to it IMHO). Luther was a pro at put-downs if you read his works, but those instances are occasional. He was one of the deepest lovers of God as well- A Mighty Fortress Is Our God is brimming with his love for God. Jonathan Edwards is erroneously known only by Sinners in the Hands. His works overflow with “the sweetness of God” as he calls it. John Bunyan also in his autobiography – Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners – also overflows with love for God. All these men held to the doctrines I have tried to speak of. Look especially at John Piper – listen to his sermons online – especially the ones where he speaks of Christian Hedonism – there is no more God-centered preaching than his in our time. IMHO

    Here is a part of what I said earlier in this thread – don’t confuse everyday free will – with the concept of “theological free will”. The first we can understand – the second is important because our understanding of the Gospel is based in it!

    Here is the crux of the issue of “free will”. Everyone has a certain kind of free will- no one is forced to eat a hot dog when they really wanted a hamburger. No one is forced to marry a person they have not chosen to marry. We all understand that. Luther made it very clear that the issue in “free will” is that the will in is BONDAGE. Sin is so pervasive, so pernicious, so all consuming that all of our decisions are permeated by it. Luther would say- No man can choose to Love God- he by nature hates God. One would sooner expect a lion to eat dandelions than for a man to love God. It is the NATURE of a lion to eat antelope, it is the nature of man to hate God. God must intervene and CHANGE the will so that any man can love God. All attempts of making man CAPABLE of being saved while having a “free will” are unscriptural rational attempts to be wiser than God.

  39. One way to look at the pro and con of free will in theology would be to go back and see what the early church fathers wrote. It was not until Constantine for instance (with Augustine as his main theologian) that Christians began to build temples to worship in like all the other pagan religions. Sadly, most Christians today would likely agree that the church is a building they go to.

    Irenaeus (130-200 AD) wrote that “man is possesed of free will from the begining.”

    Tertullian (155-225 AD) “man is free with a will either for obedience or resistance.”

    Origen (185-254 AD) “the teaching of the church that every rational soul is possesed with free will and volition.”

    The doctrine of no free will did not appear until 400 years later. Those who lived closer to the early church experience, and were immersed in the culture and language of that time thought man had a free will.
    I have posted at least half a dozen scriptures to illustrate the point. I post as CAJ also, when at home.

    One of the greatest failings I see with the” hard determinism/predestiny/God is in complete control” theology is the impact it has on those who have suffered abuse and trauma. It causes those who most need a touch from Christ to run from Him.

  40. Thank you for your kindness. I knew if we talked it out, we would find we are not so far apart. For yes, it is the nature of man to hate God.

    However, when the Lord shines the light into our souls, and gives the invitation to believe Him, there is a grace (divine ability) extended as well to respond. The decision is still ours, and if we can but squeak out a “yes” to Him, He will do the rest. I think this is what Eph 2:8 and John 1:12 refer to. The refusal of this grace is referenced in Heb. 10:29.

    I like the definition of grace found in the bible dictionary: “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”

    I think God has given man the ability to say “yes” or “no” to Him. Any power to do more than assent comes from Him. But the choice and consequence of choice is laid squarely upon our shoulders when He says in Rom. 1:20 that everyone is without excuse.

    Not being formally theologically trained, but being a lover of God and His word leave me without the vocabulary for these discussions. I know it shows. I have not extensively read the writings of Luther, but I am familiar with Jonathan Edwards and John Piper. In both, I find men who truly love God and don’t try to dissect Him. :) Their writings are a joy to read.

  41. whatHEsaid
    We don’t know what is being said in any of your quotes of the Early Church Fathers – you have only provided an “out of context” quote. How does each understand the relationship of the “will” in the nature of man? We can’t know unless we see how they explain their position. For the record Irenaus has been considered heretical in some of his beliefs. He believed that because Jesus Christ was head of humanity his mother was the second Eve ( precursor to Virgin Mary).

    Origen is considered by most scholars as a Platonist theologian and heretical in many aspects. He believed in a three-fold meaning of scripture. He understood the nature of Christ as only divine- Christ put on humanity in the earth and then shed it on ascension. He is before the Council of Nicea which refuted this heresy. The main proponent of “free will” in the early church is Pelagius , who denied original sin, denied that by the death and sin of Adam the whole race dies and denied that in the resurrection of Christ does the whole race rise.

    The early church is full of Platonic theology, Gnosticism, Montanism, Arianism, and a whole host of heresies beside. That is why a Reformation was absolutely necessary. The Reformers went back to “sola Scriptura” basing their theology not on mysticism, rationalism, tradition of the Church or philosophy. I hope no one wants to have our present churches permeated by the heresies of the past and as sick as the churches of Christ were in the period leading up to the Reformation ! If one thinks that the Church is sick today – that period from the days of the apostles up to the Reformation was much worse. The Reformation did not turn the Church around, but it is the foundation upon which the “health” of our present Church is based. The present emphasis upon the Openness of God is just a regurgitation of Pelagianism and is a good example of how heresies get recycled..

    You said:
    One of the greatest failings I see with the” hard determinism/predestiny/God is in complete control” theology is the impact it has on those who have suffered abuse and trauma. It causes those who most need a touch from Christ to run from Him.

    There are millions of believers all over the world who are comforted immensely by the Doctrines of Grace! Sadly, those who are discouraged have not understood what is being taught, because a Sovereign Loving God can hold you, while a God who could not intervene in life because of free will is a puny hope. I know this from my own experience and by those of countless others I know of.

  42. In the ongoing conversation we’ve had here, John Piper was quoted as saying that God caused the Minneapolis bridge to collapse. DR added that it was absolutely correct and biblical to say this.

    Interestingly, when Jesus encountered a similar situation, He carefully avoided saying God was responsible. Luke 13:4-5, “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” The message that Jesus gave was that this life is short, and we need to repent while we have the time and choice to do so. When you hold a doctrine that leads you to go well beyond what Jesus taught, maybe you should slow down and think about it a bit.

  43. caj; The passage in Luke 13:1-9 is a clear example of what both Piper and I affirm. The question is first – what a gruesome thing happened to those men whose blood was mingled with their sacrifice. God must have done that to them because they were such great sinners! No -says Jesus – unless you repent God will send something similar to you. He adds another example – the Tower that fell… The crowd assumed that God’s Judgment was on those horrible sinners. People today can accept that the Hitlers and Stalins of the world will be punished, but not themselves. All men who remain unrepentant will suffer death. Far from assuming that the tower just fell and Pilate just did a nasty deed – the men talking to Jesus assumed these things came from God. They also assumed that God would never treat them that way. Jesus says you are no better and God will treat you the same if you don’t repent.

    Notice the next part- there is patience as well. The fig tree is good for nothing – cut it down. No let’s give it one more year! Jesus warns them to repent, while at the same time telling them that God will be patient. They will be given time to repent. The falling of the tower and the mingling of blood are God’s way of warning sinners, which is part of His Grace.

  44. [Comment ID #30427 Will Be Quoted Here]

    Gosh, I just can’t stay away when I hear so much backwards talk. Your perspective is so skewed here isn’t downright sad. You’re pretty much telling us that everyone, including Christians, should live in constant fear of a vengeful God who is determined to punish everyone for everything they’ve ever done, and cause them to lead terribly miserable lives, unless they grovel and repent profusely in the hopes that God might possibly show mercy.

    What did Jesus really say here? He asked a rhetorical question: Were the victims of genocide worse sinners than those who were not victims? He emphatically states “No”. How much plainer can He be about that? But He does say that we will all be judged for sin unless we repent. The judgment He referred to was the eternal judgment. To take Him literally at this statement, is to be like the clueless Nicodemus who was puzzled when Christ told him he must be born again! Jesus went on to further explain that God’s desire for justice is balanced for His desire for mercy in the following verses (6-8). If God is truly waiting for us in hopes that we repent and turn to Him, how then can you say that God has predetermined that destruction for some is inevitable? Isn’t repenting a choice?

    Didn’t God choose to spare Nineveh AFTER they repented? Wasn’t Jonah mad because God preferred to show mercy because they chose to repent? God didn’t even tell Jonah to tell them there was even an opportunity for repentance, it was simply a message to tell them they were doomed. What did the people say?

    6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:
    “By the decree of the king and his nobles:
    Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

    10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

    Look what happened! God had compassion, because people chose to repent. Not because they were predetermined to die. Moses had to intervene on more than one occasion when God told him that He was going to wipe out all the Israelites for their sin. Moses pleading moved God with such compassion He relented. One man chose to repent on behalf of many, and God spared them! How does that fit into predestination?

    Sadly, those who are discouraged have not understood what is being taught, because a Sovereign Loving God can hold you, while a God who could not intervene in life because of free will is a puny hope.

    Now you put God in the box here. No one in the free will camp said that God was prevented from intervening in humanity. It is clear that He can and does. You try to make those who believe in free will appear to make God to be a toothless giant we worship because it makes us feel good somehow. God does intervene, even sometimes when intervening removes the consequences of sin, but those times are few and far between. Blaming God for every bad consequence or tragedy is like saying God made gravity to judge all the people who die in airplane crashes. To most sane people, this sounds a lot like hate and a lack of compassion for anyone. Why would this kind of Gospel appeal to anyone? What hope do you offer the downtrodden, the poor, the weak? Why should anyone believe in a God who is only out to get them?

    But I can see where you get your “hope” from. You happen to be one of the lucky few whom God picked to be saved and healthy. You’ve won the cosmic lottery, and you take great comfort in knowing you’re in the Ol’ Boys club. You might as well be a wealthy plantation owner with that attitude. You’re alright because you’re taken care of, so who gives a crap if you’re not the one hurting or going to Hell? What a compassionate man you must be!

    And I just want to call you out on your bull-crap on there being two different “free wills”. Well, which is it, you double talker? Do you have a free will or don’t you? I can have it my way with a flame-broiled Whopper at Burger King, but God predetermines on whether or not I burn in flames? The free will is not in bondage. Paul made it clear that the Believer has the right and the duty to choose serving God even after they are adopted into God’s family. He spends the better part of Romans showing us that it’s our fallen state – being born into sin – that damns us, and it is impossible for us to do anything about it without God’s intervention. Does that violate our free will? No! God removed that obstacle, by becoming the perfect compensation for His justice, so that we could choose to receive grace, to express his Mercy, not so that He could choose it for us. Paul spends Romans 6,7, and 8, talking specifically about our duty with our free will now that we have chosen to believe. We still have to choose every day, whether we will live to the Spirit, or live to the Flesh. If it’s all predetermined, why would He bother spending so much time on it? If we are to live our lives in a predetermined holiness, why bother having a free will at all? We’re all just machines in a Grand Experiment, whose only “hope” is that we’re lucky enough to get picked for the after party.

    I just can’t help but shake my head at such a terribly pessimistic view of the Gospel, and who God is. I can’t promise I’m done here, but I can’t think of anything more to say. You truly baffle me.

  45. I’m going to have to object to what you said about Luke 13:1-9. You injected the idea that Jesus said God will send something worse on them. He only said they would perish if they did not repent. He did NOT say God would be the cause!

    You also said that 2 Peter 3:9 was used out of context, because of who Peter was speaking to at the time. It clearly fits into a larger doctrine illustrated by ; John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL MEN to Myself. 1 Tim. 2:4, “who desires ALL MEN to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Titus 2:11,”For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to ALL MEN.”

    So Jesus, Peter and Paul were of the same mind, that God desires ALL MEN to be saved. That leaves John Calvin on the wrong side of the tracks.

  46. There is no point in making any attempt at answering FICM. He has so clearly misunderstood the whole thread of my comments and twisted them around that it seems he has no ability to engage in a reasoned discourse.

    whatHEsaid: It makes no sense to say that the question in Luke 13:1-9 – “were they worse sinners?” – does not include the question WHY WERE THEY PUNISHED in this way? WHO is the only one who can punish sin ? It is obviously God, Himself. Neither the questioners nor Jesus assume these things JUST SORT OF HAPPENED.

    Ask yourself – what is the definition of ALL in the scriptures you quoted. Is it EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING? Is every single human being going to be saved ? Or is it ALL KINDS OF MEN ? It seems more likely to be men from every tribe and nation. Do you have another definition you are working from? Salvation must be “limited” to those actually saved or you have to say EVERYONE WILL EVENTUALLY BE SAVED.

  47. I did some research with the tools I have, (bible study software by Accordance) and looked up what Matthew Henry, John Wesley, and Barnes had to say about the meaning of ALL MEN in John 12:32. All three thought the term was including all of mankind.

    The idea is clearly that ALL are offered salvation, but not all will CHOOSE it. This is why I DO NOT HAVE TO SAY that everyone will eventually be saved. The key thing we differ on is if man has FREE WILL or not. I am of the opinion we do have free will.

    Your interpretation of Luke 13:1-9 is confusing to me. Barnes, for instance, looks at this passage and says, “this is not a world of retribution, good and evil are mingled, the good and the bad suffer, and all are exposed here to calamity.” The prince of this world is satan, and the whole world lies in his power, as 1 John 5:19 tells us. The parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13 is another illustration of this.

  48. caj: You will find many ways of defining the ALL in these and other scriptures – some helpful , others not so. I looked at Matthew Henry- not at Wesley or Barnes. I would assume that they also were not saying ALL – meaning EVERYONE – EVERY SINGLE PERSON . They would be claiming what is considered the free offer of the Gospel. The gospel goes out to every person – ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE – remember that the “gospel” of the OT was only for the “chosen people of Israel” and they were supposed to take that “gospel” to the whole world. Israel did not do that because they thought they were the chosen and the others – Gentiles were unworthy. The word ALL is most often used in this sense – without discrimination or prejudice.

    I agree with your statements – ALL are offered salvation, but not all will CHOOSE IT.
    But, we do differ on what CHOOSE means. I would say that every person is in bondage to sin -dead – blind. Men cannot CHOOSE God – any more than a blind man can WILL himself to see – or a dead man can WILL himself to be alive. A force OUTSIDE the man must be applied. That is the breaking of the bondage of the WILL to sin, the opening of the eyes to see, and the resurrection power of the Spirit. No one can CHOOSE God therefore without God enabling them to do so.Their condition- dead, blind and hating God renders them powerless to respond to the Gospel without the intervening of Grace and the HS.

  49. Hi David,

    Good discussion here. I do have one thing that troubles me about being dead and blind. Paul said we as Christians are dead to sin (using the same language). Obviously we are still tempted to sin and still do sin…so why does being dead in sin (not saved by God) mean we are incapable of choosing God when Paul does not mean that when he talks about a Christian being dead to sin.

    Does that make sense?

  50. Craig: Good question ! And the answer may be a little complex, just as Peter said in 2 Peter 3:6- sometimes Paul says things that are hard to understand.

    Look at the whole context of Romans 5:17 over to 6:23. There is one state – IN SIN – death reigns v. 17 – v. 21 – sin reigned in death. That is the state of the unregenerate. There is the other state – we who died TO SIN ( 6:2) – the reign of sin is broken – the RELATIONSHIP TO sin is broken. Then look at 6: 22 which says that we have been freed from the dominion or enslavement of sin and now are enslaved to God. We once counted sin as the slavemaster (unable to respond to God), but now God is our slavemaster.

    Now, God could have made us completely free of sin and unable to respond to sin any more ( which one might conclude by that 22nd verse- again we must NEVER take a verse out of context), but He did not as is obvious from the rest of the passage that exhorts the believer to (6:12) consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God. Also, one is to not let sin reign (v. 13). We could have been completely freed from sin, but it is the purpose of God to have us now fight against our old slavemaster. There are many theories why God did it that way. My own take on it is that of 2 Corinthians 4:10-18 – “that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our mortal ( or dying) flesh – producing for us an eternal weight of glory.” IT IS ALL TO GLORY OF GOD ! May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering !

  51. It was this very topic, the origin of evil, that played a large part in my departure from Christianity. That said, I want to ensure to you that I am not here to instigate problems or inappropriate debate. I’d just like to share my own thoughts on the topic at hand.

    One thing I always had a hard time with was how the Bible is situationally taken either literally or figuratively. So when I began to look into the origin of evil and I came across Isaiah 45:7, I wasn’t sure what to think. Many websites and people claim that this doesn’t refer to the creation of evil itself, but rather something else. But if you look at the KJV, which is, in my opinion, a more reliable translation of the original texts, it states straight out: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

    With that in mind, it really started a snowball effect of thoughts in my head. It took me some time, during which I was struggling with a handful of other topics pertaining to my faith, but I finally came to the conclusion that the evil from Isaiah 45:7 is literal. As a result I went through a rapid train of thought which drove me away from Christianity. I’ll share it with you, and perhaps some good insight or discussion could come of it.

    First, let’s establish that God is the creator of all things. This would mean that both evil and Satan were created by God.

    Next, keep in mind that God is all powerful, all knowing, and is author of all things that will happen from the beginning of time to the end of time. This means that God consciously decided not to intervene when evil took hold in the world, and that God did not destroy Satan before he (Satan) could rebel and cause problems.

    Third, God supposedly loves his most beloved creation, humans.

    Now, with those three points in place, consider the scenario that has happened to set up Christianity. God created humans, his most beloved creation, and allowed evil to corrupt them so much so that he was disgusted by them and even slaughtered all but those on the Ark of Noah as a means to cleanse the world of the unworthy. Again, the world is corrupted by evil to the point that God has to send his own “son” to dwell amongst his now filthy, disgusting creation so that they (humans) could be redeemed from the sin (evil) that they committed. That very sin, that very evil, could have been snuffed out before it even existed had God done something about it.

    Instead, God decided that his wonderful creation should suffer, earn his favor, worship him, obey his laws, and give him their souls in exchange for being free from his wrath. I cannot help but wonder, what is God gaining in creating such a filthy thing, creating a tyrannical religion, and demanding to be worshiped?

    Again, I mean no offense in sharing these things. I felt compelled to share, and perhaps get some good feedback in response, because this had such a major impact on my beliefs.

  52. Welcome to the blog! :)

    There isn’t much doubt that the problem of good and evil in the world can be a stumbling block to faith.

    First, the KJV of the bible is a good basic tool, but bear in mind that much has been learned about ancient Hebrew since the KJV was written around 1611. In Isa. 45:7, there is a contrast of opposites. Light and darkness, and peace and calamity. To translate calamity as evil takes away from the meaning. Evil isn’t a good opposite of peace, calamity fits better.

    In this whole thread, I have been saying that God did not create evil. It came about from free will. First, unrighteousness was found in satan,( Ezekiel 28:15) A result of pride and envy. You see it mentioned again in Jude 1:6, an act of will,”they did not keep their own domain”. Then the same thing in the garden, a willful act of disobedience to the ONE thing God had required. The human race fell as per Romans 6:16, and rule of this world fell to satan. (Luke 4:6, 1 John 5:19) It was not God’s doing. God certainly saw it would happen, and He gave us a way of escape. He sacrificed His Son to win us back in spite of our rebellion.

    I’d be interested to know why you made a serious decision based on only one verse?
    It seems like James 1:17 would be a better choice.

    Peace

  53. Thanks for the response.

    My decision about my faith resulted in much more than this one passage of scripture. After doing plenty of research in the history of religions, looking at similarities between religions predating Christianity, astronomy, and some other things, I was convinced I needed to change my beliefs.

    I have written a couple responses pertaining to the topic of the origin of evil, but I can’t settle on any of them. :)

    Obviously the problem of translation is big in the case of Isaiah 45:7. It’s not the only case of the KJV coming across as much less friendly, for lack of a better term, than other version. I don’t like that. We should be using a verbatim version of the original texts, not some softened translation that makes the harsh realities seem pleasant or the really good stuff seem mediocre.

    I’m not really sure what else to say. This specific topic is one that is debated a lot, so we’ll likely never come to any closure here. :) But it’s good to see that people are thinking about it and drawing their own conclusions.

    By the way, thanks for not firing off a harsh response. Some folks see a non-Christian has posted a comment and immediately take offense.

    I’ll keep checking on the comments here since this is a topic I am pretty interested in.

    Take Care!

  54. Guest, I think a “crisis of faith” is typical for most thinking people. Each person handles it differently. In Christianity we use the Bible as a “picture” of God. And I agree, sometimes we are offended by the picture. Also, God kind of has this policy of “Take Me or Leave Me.”

    In my own personal crisis, I decided to Take Him. Even if I didn’t understand, I would still believe.

    John 6 tells the story of this dilemma. Jesus fed the crowds and then used the occasion to teach them some things about Himself. His words were difficult and rather gross (in my opinion). Apparently a lot of other people thought so, and most of His disciples left Him.

    He asked His closest friends if they would leave Him, too, and Peter said, “Where else would we go? You have the words of life.”

    That’s kind of how I felt. Part of my decision was rational: I mean is there a better alternative? If what He says it true, then do I ignore it at my peril? … And part of my decision was subjective: I have felt His presence and I didn’t want to walk away from that.

    Just recognizing that God offends us at times. You won’t get around that, but I hope you come to the eventual conclusion that He is worth it anyway.

  55. I would echo what anna said – that this issue of God and evil is an issue of faith and trust.

    For those still interested ( I wonder how many have followed this thread ?), the passage in Isaiah 45:7 is not vague or unclear.
    God says:
    I am the One who FORMS ( Hebrew –yodtzer – common word – form like a potter) LIGHT ( same word from Gen. 1:2)
    CREATES ( Hebrew – bara – same word in Gen. 1:1) DARKNESS ( same word from Gen 1:3)
    CAUSING ( Hebrew – aseh – common word for make) PEACE ( Hebrew – shalom – pregnant word for well-being)
    CREATING ( Same word for create in Gen. 1:1) EVIL (Hebrew – raah -common word for evil throughout OT – same word in tree of the knowledge of good and evil).
    I am the Lord who does ALL THESE.

    To say that God just ALLOWED evil does not line up with any of the scriptures. To say that HE – LET IT HAPPEN, BUT MADE A WAY OF ESCAPE – makes evil co-existent with God- having some kind of autonomous existence outside God’s creation.

    The rest of Isaiah 45 has:
    Verse 9 -Woe to the one who quarrels with his MAKER ( same word from verse 7 – forms light)

    verses 20-24 – The gist of the exhortation is God is God – Turn and be saved – put down your rebellion – and say – verse 24 – “Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength… all who were angry at Him will be put to shame.”

    The teaching of Paul in Romans chapter 1 through 3 is the same – all men are sinful – they cannot charge God with unrighteousness – 3:23 – they have “fallen short of the GLORY OF GOD” – failed to live up to His standards and have not been willing to repent of their LOW ESTIMATION OF HIM – of their sin.

    anna is right – and you are right ( in a way). anna has decided to love God in spite of what she may not understand ( me too !) You have decided that the God of the Bible is not fit to be served, so at least you are honest ( I find many so called believers who are serving their own god and calling him jesus – the jesus they want to serve – not the real one) The man who demands that God be _______ fill in the blank however you want – is making an idol for himself. IDOLS WILL NOT SAVE.

    You have accurately seen some of what the Bible says about God, but have given motives to God for doing these things or tried to examine what He has done to see if it is fair or just. All of mankind has to decide what they will do with the claims of God and of His Son Jesus Christ. I thank God that He has helped me to see His Grace and to trust His Goodness and Justice through some similar experiences and thought patterns that have troubled me.

  56. Good stuff David and anna!

    I don’t understand how evil can exist without God allowing it and/or creating it. I think it’s safe to say that most Christians believe that Satan is the root of evil, and that it was Satan who introduced evil to humans in Eden. If God is all powerful, why didn’t he stop evil from being introduced at that point? Was Satan beyond his control? Did Satan have permission to do this?

    For the sake of this thread of comments, let’s say that I concede that God did not create evil. One still has to acknowledge that evil exists, and that that existence is the result of God’s permission, indifference, or intention. How else would such a thing happen when an all powerful God is in control of everything?

    To use free will as a reasoning, which I have heard and read about on many occasions, is only a detour to the same end. Free will is supposedly the result of Satan’s evil at work in Eden in the form of the forbidden apple. Did Adam and Eve not have free will before that temptation? If so, what difference did it make if Satan showed up and lead them astray? If not, then the entire point of free will being the result of evil is mute, because even without evil having been introduced, God hadn’t even given Adam and Eve free will to begin with.

    Whew…sometimes I have a hard time wrapping my brain around this stuff. I’m glad I finally found people willing to discuss it civilly. Thank you so much for that!

  57. Guest, I’m having a hard time with your third paragraph. :) Double negatives do that to me!

    You ask, “How else could such a thing happen when an all powerful God is in control of everything?”

    The extent of God’s responsibility for evil is that He chose to create a world where moral evil was a possibility, but not a necessity. I don’t think God was in control of satan when he rebelled in heaven. Jesus tells us a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. That rules out the idea that God created evil. Scriptures tell us that God cannot lie. There are obviously lies being told on earth. God is not in control of them.

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