Tag Archives: evil

God and evil, two views

From a conversation via Google Buzz1:

I can’t help but coming to the conclusion that, outside of open theism where God has no clue what the future holds, God is always in some way ‘responsible’ for sin and evil in the world. I say that with reverence and a few qualifications, of course. But God created the world at least knowing the sin and evil that would come from it. He also sustains the world and the wicked in it. He gives them life, breath, health, cognitive ability, opportunity, freedom of conscience, He doesn’t restrain their evil, and He doesn’t always save the innocent (though having full power to do so).

So if you really want to talk about ‘responsibility’, then God is most definitely the ultimate cause of all things. Without Him this world would not exist.

If we’re going to use our fallible understanding in determining if God is ‘responsible’ or not, which IMO is what Molinism is trying to do, then by anyone’s book the definition above applies full guilt and responsibility to God.

There is a big difference between 1a) God choosing to actualize (or create) a world where in evil is possible and 1b) further choosing to sustain it’s order in spite of the free choice to sin and perform evil by free (in a limited capacity) causal agents and 2) God’s being the direct cause of all that happens in the world such that all things that happen do so as a direct result of his will.

In the first instance we can show how God is truly holy and unconnected with sin who can nonetheless use it or direct it to good ends.

In the second case we are left wondering how God could be against something he causally directs. We are left with a dualistic view of evil’s being necessary for the existence of good which is something that ought to bother us since God declares his absolute disdain of evil.

We can also see that only in the second sense can God truly be at war with evil, sin, and death. Whereas the second view of God’s direct involvement in the promulgation of sin calls into question God’s commitment to it’s destruction, the first view is able to logically account for evil as being the sole product of limited free causal agents outside and independent of God.

Or, as Ravi Zacharias put it in a recent open forum: God gave us the tools of free will and love and we chose to misuse those tools to produce slavery and death.

  1. I love Google Buzz. []

At night, the monsters come out.

Putting my daughter to bed the other night I listened as she whined in protest about not wanting to go to bed. I half-heartedly asked her why (as I was hurriedly stuffing her blankets, dolls, and other paraphernalia around her) and right as began to shut the door, giddy with the anticipation of a few hours of glorious silence (freedom!) I heard her whisper ever so quietly…

At night, the monsters come out.

Something about this struck me. Not wanting to miss a teachable moment, I stopped what I was doing, walked over to her bed and sat down next to her. The following conversation ensued about the monsters in her room that come out at night.

Me: Honey, you don’t need to be afraid of monsters. Want to know why?
Her: Why?
Me: Because Jesus is stronger than the monsters.
Her: Jesus?
Me: Yes, and do you know where he lives?
Her: Heaven?
Me: Yes, and He also lives in mommy and daddy. And you know what else?
Her: What?
Me: He owns this house.
Her: Really?
Me: Yes. So who can beat up the monsters?
Her (more confidently now): Jesus!
Me: Right, and where does he live?
Her: Mommy and daddy.
Me: Right
Her: and me too?
Me: Some day honey. But for now, you can rest assured in the protection provided by your father and mother through Jesus.

Since then, not only has my daughter “been brave” and faced the monsters with the knowledge that they aren’t stronger than Jesus. She has also begun to look forward to the day when she can accept Jesus into her heart.

Did God kill my child?

In a recent conversation on a Calvinistic friend’s Facebook page1 I read a comment by a lady who claimed assurance and comfort in the midst of loosing her child2 through the notion that God causally directs all events that come to pass.

In other words, she holds the belief of many reformed folk that God killed her child.

Sadly, this belief is the logical outcome of an a priori commitment to the philosophical presupposition of causal determinism, the notion that God maintains meticulous causal control over His world so that all events that come to pass are not only indirectly attributable to God (He is, after all the creator and sustainer of all things) but directly attributable to God3.

Another variation of this line of reasoning can be seen whenever a reformed person contracts a disease especially a life-threatening disease like a tumor and/or cancer. Almost immediately they are “comforted” by the notion (usually reinforced by others who are desperately looking for a way to comfort their grieving friends) that God gave them4

But is the view that God causally controls everything that comes to pass really comforting (much less true)?

While God certainly is sovereign5 and while Satan may or may not have had a direct hand in the death of a child or the contraction of a disease6, one thing we do know is that God is not in league with the sin and death he came to defeat through resurrection.

If he did, God would quickly become a monster to be feared, for the wrong reasons, and loathed rather than worshiped and loved.

Blessed assurance does not come from the notion that God causes and directs the evil He purports to stand against in both character as well as action. No, blessed assurance comes from the truth that God is wholly opposed to sin, death, and destruction. Indeed, our hope in the resurrection is but a foretaste of the completed victory over all death we look forward to when Christ reigns supreme.

So the answer to the question we started with is; No. God did not kill your child. God didn’t give you cancer. God doesn’t tempt anyone with evil and God is not tempted by evil. Evil is not necessary for good. Death, is evil, an enemy of God.

God is good. God is love. God is genuinely opposed to evil and He really will make sin, death and hell end one day. Just not today.

Until that day we are to have faith that God really is good and opposed to evil and that He really will defeat it in the future, and what we are given until that day as evidence of the truth of these claims is the resurrection of Christ.

For a more in-depth treatment of the problem of evil, I highly recommend Bruce Little’s work along with Udo Middleman’s excellent work: Innocence of God.

  1. Who subsequently banned me for the conversation described here. In his mind, it is far better to call one of your brothers in Christ a devil for saying God didn’t kill someone’s child for no reason than it is to admit your pet theological system may have a flaw in it. Gotta love those ‘doctrines of grace’! []
  2. Not recently mind you. From what I gathered, this happened a few years ago giving her time enough to get the reflection stage of grief which allows for a more objective and rational analysis of events and circumstances. []
  3. Many who maintain a belief in the 5 points of Calvinism also humorously deny the existence of any other causal agents in God’s universe []
  4. Or permitted in some milder forms, though He causally controls everything else which serves to merely abstract the ugliness of the underlying assumption of causal determinism. []
  5. It’s also helpful to note here that sovereignty does not necessarily entail complete causal control over all events. Otherwise, where would we assign the guilt of sin and evil we see all around us? []
  6. Sometimes our suffering is the result of the pain we find in a broken world []

John Piper: Why the Tsunami?

I ran across this video recently and it reminded me about why answering the question of evil is absolutely critical if we are to uphold God as holy.

BTW: God doesn’t judge in this age. Judgement has been suspended until the end of time.

Are all children born on this earth meant to be?

I think that question really depends on how you define the phrase “meant to be”.

If the question is whether every life is infinitely valuable to God and worth a chance at a full life then I would emphatically say yes, the Bible teaches that all life is precious.

If you are asking whether God knows who will and won’t be borne then I would have to say that he does since it is clear in Scripture that he knows the end from the beginning.

Now if (and I think this is the culmination of the other two for most people) you are asking whether God has a hand in who lives or dies and has a reason for some living and some dying then I think we need to back up and remember the above two facts in addition to what God essentially told Job through a blistering series of questions.

Specifically, that God is not the only actor in history. Even though he knows and is more powerful than the other actors (such as Satan and you and I) God is not obligated to prevent them from causing evil of their own and generally acting against his will.

We also need to keep in mind that while God knows the end from the beginning, we also know that this world is not the perfect one God is working towards. In Genesis 3 sin entered the picture and had a profound effect on everything, including the human reproductive system such that some children are lost to what we could call “natural evil” and some children are lost to evil someone intentionally does (like abortion).

It is important to keep in mind that we essentially live in a war zone between heaven and hell and until Jesus comes back we should expect to see evil like the loss of innocent children.

This is actually one of the reasons the Gospel is called the “good news” because it lets us know that the death and destruction we find all around us here on earth will not last forever and that Jesus, by rising from the dead, has conquered death which provides us hope.

In other words, even the children who don’t make it aren’t completely lost.

The Shack

“I am not a reader”

This is the line repeated time and again during the second Q&A time after Paul Young, author of The Shack, delivered his presentation1 of his bestseller at Capitol Christian Center.

Sadly, it shows.2

Paul Young has a very eloquent writing style and excellent storytelling abilities which come through in both his oral and written works. Unfortunately, his ability to communicate is not paired, at least in the case of “The Shack” with sound theology.

There are excellent in depth reviews that deal with the theological issues contained in The Shack34 so I won’t re-address them here. What I want to focus on instead is the impact this book, hailed as being the next “Pilgrim’s Progress”,  is having on the Church of Christ.

Whenever someone brings up a critique of The Shack, defendants are quick to cite it as work of fiction and “not a theological work”5. The problem is, anything that purports to tell us something about God6 is, by definition, a theological work7.

The difference between The Shack and something like a systematic series by Bruce Ware is that The Shack is simply a poor theological work8 which displays the confusion and inner turmoil of the author9.

The problem this false “its only a fictional work” view poses is that it a.) wasn’t intended as purely fictional by the author10 , b.) it won’t be taken as purely fictional by the readers11 and c.) it has a wide reading and will consequently have a wide influence in the Christian community just like Dante’s Inferno12 .

Several people have mentioned the profound impact this book has had on their “spiritual development, but the strongest statement to this point was during the Q&A time where one lady claimed The Shack “not the Bible”13 was the most influential book for her spiritual walk. Sadly, no one jumped up to correct her or show her the error of her thinking.

As bad as The Shack is theologically14 , it is really just another example of how many Christians in America are more willing to embrace the existential, heterodoxical, and (often) heretical views of our present day15 rather than spend the time to study and listen to the orthodox views or fathers, grand fathers, and great grandfathers in the faith handed down throughout the ages.

In short, The Shack is only popular because Christians don’t read16 and this present fad only serves to reinforce the slide into post modernity17 we have been facing for quite some time.

Since there will probably be a movie based on this book, I believe it is worthwhile for us to examine more carefully the claims and theology put forth in such a seemingly innocent and entertaining work. We will never make a difference in our culture if we are unclear and uncertain about the message we are presenting. If we are serious about Christ being the only way back to the Father then we owe it to our Creator to study the word he has left for us in order to become knowledgeable and therefore useful in the work we are called to do.

UPDATE: Many more excellent reviews of The Shack can be found here.

  1. This is in 3 services which the pastor claims are all different so you might want to listen to all three. I, however, only listened to the last one. []
  2. Why would we ever consider a lack of reading a good thing? That is, unless we are captivated by personal experience instead of diligent study, but I digress.. []
  3. http://hereiblog.com/the-shack-review/ []
  4. http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/a-review-of-the-shack-download-it-here.php []
  5. For an example, see the bottom of this post. []
  6. See Paul’s blog on the background behind The Shack to see where he does intend to tell us something about God. []
  7. http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-theology.html []
  8. That is, it lacks attention to detail and does not actually answer the question it raises regarding the question of evil. In short, it is very subjective based on the expieriences of the author. []
  9. Such as his gender identity issues, mentioned in Q&A times, as well as a host of other issues. In fact, it is my conjecture that The Shack is a therapeutic work hat should have never been put into publication. []
  10. Again, see Q&A time where Paul Young asks rhetorically “Did you really think that I meant only the introduction literally?” []
  11. There are numerous “testimonials”, “courses”, and “study groups” all pointing to the “truth” found in The Shack []
  12. Which still predominantly shapes the Christian community’s views on Hell to this day even though much of it is based in pagan mythology. []
  13. Yes, that is a direct quote. I encourage you to listen to the Q&A to hear it in context []
  14. Need to add a qualifier here that I don’t think Paul Young is the anti-christ lest he write another emotionally laden blog about me hurting his feelings and devaluing him as a person. []
  15. Though these bogus ideas have been around for a great while now. []
  16. Which, by extension, indicates how much they value spiritual maturity. []
  17. Characterized by a poor view of objective truth and what, if anything, can be known. []

God evil and suffering

Recently we were privledged to host Dr. Bruce Little at Bel-Ridge Baptist Church for a conference on “God and the existince of evil and suffering”. Here are the lectures in MP3 format for anyone who is interested in the subject:

Session 1: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Session 2: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Bruce Little’s theodicy book postulating a Creation-Order Theodicy is here, and here is a condensed version of Dr Little’s seminar above from bethinking.org.

Here is an interview with Dr Bruce A. Little on the “problem of evil”