The Fallacy of Theodicy

Theodicy: a defence of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil

We ought to reject all attempts at theodicy. God did not need sin, death, and evil to bring about His plan for creation. Sin, death, and evil did happen, but not at God’s command or decree. And, we take comfort in the fact that God hates sin, death, and evil, and He will redeem His creation from it all.

Excerpt from an article written by David B. Hart titled Tsunami and Theodicy….

“Christians often find it hard to adopt the spiritual idiom of the New Testament—to think in terms, that is, of a cosmic struggle between good and evil, of Christ’s triumph over the principalities of this world, of the overthrow of hell. All Christians know, of course, that it is through God’s self-outpouring upon the cross that we are saved, and that we are made able by grace to participate in Christ’s suffering; but this should not obscure that other truth revealed at Easter: that the incarnate God enters ‘this cosmos’ not simply to disclose its immanent rationality, but to break the boundaries of fallen nature asunder, and to refashion creation after its ancient beauty—wherein neither sin nor death had any place. Christian thought has traditionally, of necessity, defined evil as a privation of the good, possessing no essence or nature of its own, a purely parasitic corruption of reality; hence it can have no positive role to play in God’s determination of Himself or purpose for His creatures (even if by economy God can bring good from evil); it can in no way supply any imagined deficiency in God’s or creation’s goodness. Being infinitely sufficient in Himself, God had no need of a passage through sin and death to manifest His glory in His creatures or to join them perfectly to Himself. This is why it is misleading (however soothing it may be) to say that the drama of fall and redemption will make the final state of things more glorious than it might otherwise have been. No less metaphysically incoherent—though immeasurably more vile—is the suggestion that God requires suffering and death to reveal certain of his attributes (capricious cruelty, perhaps? morbid indifference? a twisted sense of humor?). It is precisely sin, suffering, and death that blind us to God’s true nature.”

Read DBH’s full article by clicking here.

And Yet More Thoughts on Free Will, and the Problem of Evil, and Such and Such…..

  • The argument is often made that evil exists in the world because God gave humans free will and He gave humans free will so that they could truly love God, as love can only be genuine if it’s chosen. This argument is faulty on at least two points: it incorrectly defines “free will”, and it wrongly assumes love can only be real if it is chosen.
  • The opposite of free will is not “no will”.
  • The opposite of will is “no will”.
  • Will is defined as desire — I have a desire for such and such to happen. It is my will. To have no desires is to have no will, and thus no ability to choose. Any action by something with no will is automatic and “preprogrammed”. A heart functions, it does what it does, but it does not have a will of its own.
  • The opposite of free will is enslaved will. Both one whose will is free or enslaved is able to make choices. An alcoholic can choose which whiskey he will get drunk off tonight, but he is enslaved to his alcoholism.
  • Free will is not the ability to make choices without being influenced by an outside force, since no one makes a choice without desire, and no one’s desire exists in an arbitrary vacuum. Your choices are determined by your desire (your will) and your desire is determined by your nature.
  • Your nature is either free or enslaved. Free from what? Enslaved to what? Sin, evil, and corruption.
  • Thus, free will is the ability to never sin, and enslaved will is the inability to never sin. Indeed, free will is the inability to sin.
  • God is free and He cannot sin.
  • If God is free and there is no potential to sin within Him, then it is not a requirement to have the potential to sin in order to be free or to have free will.
  • God is love. Jesus loves the Father. Jesus and the Father are both God. One God — three persons. Jesus is a man. Jesus is 100% man and 100% God.
  • Jesus is the perfect man. What is not true for Jesus is not true for all humans, and what is true for Jesus is true for all humans.
  • Jesus loves the Father, and there is no potential in Jesus to hate or reject the Father. God is not divided (Mark 3:24-25). There is no darkness in God (1 John 1:5). God cannot lie or break an oath (Hebrews 6:18). Jesus does not change (Hebrews 13:8). There is no potential in God (for change).
  • Thus, it is not required, in order for one to love another, for there to be the potential to hate the other.
  • In order for humans to love God it was not required for humans to have the potential to hate God.
  • God did not give humans “free will” so that humans could possibly reject God thus making their love for Him “real” — as some teach: love is only real if it’s chosen.
  • God desires humans to never sin — God desires for humans to be free and have free will. We are made free for freedom’s sake (Galatians 5:1).
  • God did not risk evil entering His creation by giving humans the potential to be evil for the sake of genuine love. Humans were clearly given the potential for evil since that’s what happened. But, they were not given that potential for the sake of genuine love. Genuine love is possible without the potential for sin and evil.
  • A man loves his children. He does not have to chose to love them — he just loves them. He knows them and he loves them, and they love him.
  • To know God is to love God.

Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers (Brief Book Review)

Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity by Alisa Childers

My rating: 2.5 stars.

Apologetics is a western bird as it addresses two sick branches on the western Church’s tree: atheism, and what’s currently called progressivism. Alisa Childers is also very much a western bird, both in the deconstruction and reconstruction of her Christian faith.

I was once asked to teach a course on Apologetics in a bible college in India. I agreed, but as I was preparing the course I realized what a mistake I’d made. It was like going to the desert to teach a course on snowman building.

I don’t see anyone steeped in Progressive Christianity changing their mind from this book, but maybe that is not the book’s intention. I imagine it will mostly appeal to millennial western Christians struggling with the same issues Childers did.

I thought her sections on the atonement were good. Her thoughts on hell were lazy. Most of all her other thoughts can be found readily on apologetics blogs.

I did read the entire book cover to cover without getting bored, so that earns it a star or two.

View all my reviews

Inspiration and Incarnation (Book Review)

Enns_InspirationIncarnWhen Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
As they called them,
So they went from them;
They sacrificed to the Baals,
And burned incense to carved images.

I taught Ephraim to walk,
Taking them by their arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.

~Hosea 11:1-3 (NKJV)

Above is Hosea’s brief history of God’s loving call of Israel out of Egypt and their unfaithfulness to Him. The chapter goes on to say that though God continues to love Israel, and though they will not go back to Egypt, they will still be put under the Assyrians for their backsliding and refusal to repent.

Matthew, in his gospel, writes this:

Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

~Matthew 2:12-15

Matthew’s quote of Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I called my Son,” is a complete misuse of scripture, taken out of context, and used by Matthew in a dishonest way. Or is it? Not if you understand that Matthew was writing to a specific audience (Jews), and he had a theme in mind when presenting the life of Jesus to that audience. Matthew wanted his readers to understand that Jesus is the true Israel and was acting as a new Moses.

The other three gospels are written by different authors to different audiences, and have different themes, and therefore present Jesus in different ways. This phenomenon is not only true for the four gospels. It is true for every book written in the bible. The bible is full of different authors writing at different time periods to different people with different worldviews, customs, and philosophies.

Therefore, when reading the bible, it is necessary to have some idea as to what the historical, grammatical, and hermeneutical context is for each book. When was it written? To what audience? What is the style of literature? What were the customs of the initial readers/hearers? What was the hermeneutical norm (the way scripture is interpreted) of the original audience? For example, what Matthew did with the Hosea passage might bother a modern Baptist preacher if done today, but apparently it was okay in Matthew’s day.

In 2018, we are as far from king David in the past as we are are from the year 5000 in the future. Think about that for a minute. Imagine if the canon of scripture was still open (it’s not), and that books written today will be a part of the bible in the year 5000. Would the readers in the future need to have some understanding of today’s world in order to fully understand what they were reading? Of course they would.

This reality of reading scripture leads to problems. What does it mean when we say that scripture is inspired? If some proverbs of Solomon are found similarly written in earlier Egyptian writings, are they still inspired? If the structure of law given to Moses in Exodus resembles the structure of law written by other near east cultures written earlier, is it inspired? How much should we take into account the existing culture that the books of the bible were written in?

Peter Enns attempts to address these issues in his book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. I have read other work by Peter Enns before, and I would say he comes to a lot of wrong conclusions in his thinking. He seems to be a part of that crowd which is quick to condemn the O.T. actions of Israel based solely on modern day zeitgeist morals. Which is strange as it goes against his own teaching of biblical interpretation. Perhaps I am wrong about him.

This book, however, I liked more than I thought I would. Enns suggests that, just as we understand Jesus as being the incarnation of the Son of God — meaning He is both God and man at the same time — so should we view scripture. Scripture is both divinely inspired, but also written by flesh and blood (and imperfect) men. That, of course sounds controversial and dangerous, but in this book I found Enns to be a formidable defender of scripture. Here he doesn’t deny the truthfulness of any of the biblical stories (as he might in his other work), but rather he successfully explains that there were real worldly reasons for the authors of the bible to write what they wrote, and how they wrote it.

The basic theme of the book is: Yes the bible is inspired and from God. It is what God wants it to be, and we need to trust God. The bible is also written by real men who are products of their time and place and so is their writing. Don’t let your doctrine and hermeneutical method get in the way of letting God be who He presents Himself to be in Scripture.

One illustration by Enns to support the above:

And [God] said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” ~Gen. 22:12 (NKJV).

The story is of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. God told him to do it, and God stopped him at the last moment. Then God says, “Now I know that you fear God…” Did God not already know? He’s God isn’t He? He declares the end from the beginning, does He not? Some would say of course God knew, but the whole sacrifice test was for Abraham’s benefit. God knew, but Abraham wasn’t so sure of himself, so God pushed him to the edge to convince him. But, that’s not what the text says. The author of Genesis could have written that if it was true, but he didn’t. The text says God didn’t know, and the purpose of the test was for God’s benefit. And we need to read it as it is. This is what God wants us to see. It’s up to you to figure out why.

Even though I can’t recommend Enns’s other work, I’m giving this book a positive review — 3.5/5 stars. I recommend it to anyone who has questions about the difficult and seemingly contradictory or confusing passages of the bible.