Crooked Lines

Reading Time: 4 minutes

19 – If, in the beginning, there was only God and he created everything, why would he create angels that had the propensity to defy him? This very fallacy led to Lucifer challenging his authority because he desired to share the same power as God. This led to the rise, or fall depending on how you look at it, of Satan, the most notorious enemy of God and his followers. Failed, again!
20 – Why would you trust ‘God’s plan’ given his track record of many failures?

These two questions, including #18  deal with the idea of creating creatures who have a free will is somehow a failure on God’s part, especially when they choose to disobey. If God created beings with moral finitude, then their choice to love and obey Him would also have limits. Who wants a relationship with someone that has limits on the love they can express, feel, display, or act on?

At least this question to some degree acknowledges that evil exists. Many would not even grant that line of thought. It is not uncommon to hear people say that everyone is basically good, or violent crime has pathological roots and has nothing to do with evil in the world today.1

Kenneth Samples wrote, “According to Hindu thought, once a person achieves the right state of mystical consciousness, evil is absent. Ultimate reality is not only beyond the appearance of the physical but is also beyond the rational and moral categories of good and evil.”2 In other words evil only exists in our mind, but you only need to spend a few minutes reading the daily headlines to see that evil not only exists, but surrounds us in the world today.

Scott Simon, a reporter for NPR, wrote an article titled A Meditation On ‘Evil.’  In this article he explains that using the word evil was to be avoided when he had to cover tragic events. This was especially true of events that had loss of life and great suffering and may later be labeled as war crimes. He shared, “I was of a generation educated to believe that “evil” was a cartoonish moral concept, a word we used only when we didn’t know what madness or imagined infraction might drive human beings to commit murder, even on a mass scale.”3

Here is a man who understands the implications of using the word evil, or acknowledging the existence of evil. I have said before that evil comes about from the absence of good, just as cold is the absence of heat. You can’t have one without the loss of the other. As C.S. Lewis pointed out you can’t call a line crooked unless you have some idea of what a straight line should be. You can’t call something evil unless you have an idea of what good would look like.

Simon went on to say, “I still avoid saying “evil” as a reporter. But as a parent, I’ve grown to feel it may be important to tell children about evil, as we struggle to explain cruel and incomprehensible behavior they may see not just in history — in whatever they will learn about the Holocaust, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur — but in our own times.”4

Do you know of a parent who has not let their child go through difficulties or suffering so they can mature and hopefully learn some life lesson? Could it be that an infinitely powerful, knowledgeable and just God could allow evil in our lives to satisfy a greater good that is beyond our understanding or comprehension?

When the fires fell on Sodom and Gomorrah did any in those cities consider it good? Could some of them considered it to be an evil event as their destruction loomed? Certainly, but those of us able to view the context of the event see that God was punishing the wickedness of this ancient culture and His act was not morally reprehensible.5

Could it be an omnipotent God who has created morally accountable creatures has chosen to allow evil and then eliminate it through a sanctification process we endure? Omnipotence, as we consider it in scripture context does not mean God can literally do anything. For example, He can’t sin or be illogical by creating a stone too heavy for Him to lift. Omnipotence means that God can do all things compatible with his nature. For example, all things rational, all things moral.6

Evil is not from God, but for reasons that are beyond our understanding, He is allowing it just as He allows us to make choices that would separate us from His good and perfect will for our lives.

 

Sources:
1. Samples, Kenneth Richard. “How Can a Good and All Powerful God Allow Evil?” Without a Doubt, Baker Books, 2004, p.240
2. Ibid.
3. Simon, Scott. A Meditation On ‘Evil’. Capitol Public Radio, npr.org, April 8 2017
4. Ibid.
5. Sproul, R.C. “Understanding Satan” Now That’s A Good Question! Tyndal House Publishers 1996, p.211
6.Samples, Kenneth Richard. “How Can a Good and All Powerful God Allow Evil?” Without a Doubt, Baker Books, 2004, p.242

 

 

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Crooked Lines by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.dev.christianapologetics.blog/blog.

Free Will and Temptation

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If God is omnipotent, why does he not just show himself to all of us, all at once, thereby ending this game of free will and temptation?

This is number 18 of the 50 questions Christians can’t answer.

The first thing that came to my mind was Romans 1:20. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Even if God was to show Himself what makes you think that you or anyone else for that matter, would suddenly have a change of heart and want to worship Him? Following Christ comes at a cost, and if unbelievers know anything, they recognize that. For many, that is the principal reason they choose not to believe.

Andy Bannister explains that having an actual belief in something comes with a cost. More specifically, belief’s come with entailments and consequences.

For example, if I had a son, (and I do), and he was engaged to be married, (and he is), and he and his fiance were considering going to Hawaii for their honeymoon, (and they are), under my current set of beliefs I am comfortable with that choice of locations. But if I held a belief that King Kong lived in Hawaii and was in the habit of stealing away young brides to be tossed into a volcano then I would do everything in my power to stop them from going to Hawaii. My mistaken belief would have consequences and would probably land me in a padded room.

What if I believed that every man who would grow a mustache would become a Christian? Would that belief have consequences? Of course, depending on the intensity of this active belief I might be bombing all the Gillette and Philips Norelco plants I could find in the U.S.

So would denying God exists have consequences? Nietzsche thought so despite sporting a great mustache,  he was an atheist in the late 1800’s. Nietzsche wrote, “When one gives up on the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. The morality is by no means self-evident. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands.”1

Nietzsche understood that without God we have no foundation for Christian morality. Doing good would suddenly be based on the current cultural trends and beliefs.

I would go one further and ask what makes you think God is primarily interested in your belief? Belief in God does not guarantee someone becomes a Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Hindu. James 2:19 points out even the demons believe and tremble, but that does not mean they choose to follow Him. God is more interested in your obedience than your belief.

God showing Himself to us would not end our free will and desire to do what we want. Adam and Eve had some quality time with God, and they ended up donning fig leaves after a noon day snack.

Donald Johnson explains, “People can’t find contentment within themselves, they can’t find it other people, and they can’t find it in things. That’s the problem.”2 Sure, we may have moments of joy and happiness in our lives, but deep down, despite the wealth and luxury some have, they can’t find contentment. Worldly treasures or belief in God will not suddenly cure us of our fallen nature. We will still have desires outside of God’s will, and we will still struggle with temptation.

Question 18 does not even get out of the gate.

 

Sources:
1. Bannister, Andy. “The Scandinavian Sceptic.” The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist. Monarch Books, 2015, p39
2. Johnson, J Donald. “The World Is Not Enough.” How To Talk To a Skeptic. Bethany House Publishers, 2013. p191

 

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Free Will and Temptation by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Has God Failed?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If God is perfect and his creations are perfect, why did he fail several times? He had to impose suffering upon the human race because Adam and Eve defied him by eating of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Failed! He had to flood the planet 1,600 years later wiping out all but eight humans. Failure! He had to confuse human language after Nimrod and the Tower of Babel incident so that they could not effectively communicate with each other. Failure! How is this a track record of a perfect being?

This is number 17 of the 50 questions Christians can’t answer. I heard a joke once that asked the question, “Why did God make man?” The reply was, “He became bored with the monkeys.” A funny response, but not very helpful if you are really looking for an answer.

To suggest that God failed several times and is therefore imperfect because of human failings is a logical fallacy sometimes called the false dilemma. It suggests a black or white choice and no other option. Either God is perfect and can only create perfect beings, or God is not perfect, and therefore his creations, (humans) are also imperfect. There is no question that people are flawed, but that does not mean God is somehow deficient in His character.

At times we are presented with only two choices, but if you give it some reflection, there are more options available to us. Choices are not always black or white, on or off. Different variables, conditions, and the actual context of the argument can provide us more than just the two options stated.

The reasoning goes like this. If God created everything, and evil exists, (few would dispute this) then God must have created evil. One way to address this dilemma is to look at what evil is. Evil is the absence of good, or some might say the absence of love, just as darkness is the lack of something we call light or cold is the absence of heat. Evil is not something in and of itself but comes about from the deficiency of something else.

God did not create evil, but He did create creatures who could choose to love and follow Him, or chose not to. As humans, we have the choice to love or not to love. This choice has been repeated with every single person who has walked the earth after Adam and Eve.

Mark Mittelberg put it this way, “The ability to love always entails the ability to not love. If we didn’t have the ability to not love, we would be robots or puppets – preprogrammed to go through the motions, perhaps, of what love would look like, but never being able to express the real thing.”1

Scripture tells us that creation was good. There was no sin, no suffering, no death. Why then would God give humans the ability to sin? That would be another blog post, but He did, and as free will creatures we choose to, and evil entered the world.

When God created Angels, they also had the choice to love or to not love. They are also intelligent, free will beings and some of them choose to not love their Creator. When you give a creature a free will you will always have the possibility that it will choose evil and this is not God’s fault, not His failure. Some Angels fell and all humans fail, but thankfully we all have the free will to choose the gift of salvation He offered us.

Our acts of rebellion are on us, not God. The fall of Adam and Eve and the exile from the Garden of Eden, the flood, the Tower of Babel are all acts of divine intervention. Had we been allowed to go our way, the end result may have been absolute self-destruction.

God is holy; God is just. God is also loving and forgiving. In our human failings, He always offers the option for salvation. Between His judgment and his love, He offers Jesus as a path to dwell with Him forever. Since God is just and holy, all that is evil must be eliminated, but his love also demands that He would save and forgive. Jesus is the answer to this seemingly conflict of character. It is always a mistake to place the God of the Old Testament against the God of the New Testament. Why? Because they are one in the same.

Stating that God “…had to impose suffering upon the human race” is very misleading. Michael Horton explains, “Our immediate problems are not necessarily our deepest or our most serious. We focus on the symptoms because they are right in front of us. And they are real: loneliness, abandonment, guilt, fear, depression, broken relationships, and financial or health issues. But Jesus Christ is the answer to the deeper and wider problems that we all face. He did not come just to give us our best life now. He came to give us eternal life. He came to free us from the curse of death and hell and the tyranny of those habits that poison our relationship with God and each other.”2

If we can understand this, then we can understand why David said in Psalm 51:4 that he sinned against God alone. This declaration comes after sleeping with the wife of one of his soldiers and then sending that soldier out to certain death just to cover up his deed. And scripture tells us this was a man after God’s own heart.

The track record of God remains unblemished. He is a just and holy God that also loves and forgives. If you have problems with His interventions in the Old Testament, then you are going to have problems with Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus said He will be judging and separating those who choose love and not to love.

 

Sources:
1. Mittelberg, Mark. “How could a good God allow so much evil, pain, and suffering?” The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, Tyndale House Publishers, 2010, pgs 141-143.
2. Horton, Michael. “Jesus is Lord.” Core Christianity Finding Yourself in God’s Story, Zondervan, 2016, pg 132.

 

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Has God Failed? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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