What happens when we no longer have any God (or gods) to look up to? What happens when men become their own gods? What happens when “the will” becomes the highest ideal?
Israel was purged of their tendency to worship false gods with their exile. Their house was cleansed of that demon. But eventually they turned their own religion into a false one and were worse off than before the exile.
When a society becomes Christian, all the old religions are displaced. There can be no going back. No one can become a child again. What replaces Christianity?
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”Matthew 12:43-45 NKJV
Felix culpa: fortunate fault — used especially of original sin, which is redeemed by the coming of Christ (Merriam Webster)
It would seem that if it weren’t for the fall, Jesus would have never become a man to save humanity. If Jesus never became a man, the connection thus created between God and man would never have happened. Jesus, being both fully God and fully man, is a bridge between God and man which connects the Creator with the created and the Infinite with the finite. If Jesus never became a man, that connection would never have been made, and forever there would be an infinite separation between God and His creation. The theodicy here is that evil was necessary as it caused the man Jesus to come and save humanity.
Of course, there was nothing stopping the second person of the Trinity from becoming a man if there never was a fall. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that it was always God’s intention to unite with His creation by entering that creation as a man. The fall is not necessary for that to happen. So, the theodicy breaks down, as all theodicies do.
Was evil necessary for God to get what He wants out of His creation? The Calvinist would say yes, as God created the universe to display the full range of His perfections, which includes wrath, mercy, and justice (a la John Piper). If there were no evil, how could God display His wrath? Who was God displaying His wrath onto before creation? No one of course. Therefore God had to create the universe in order to fulfill that unmet desire. Here is where the Calvinist theodicy breaks down since it insists that God had to create the universe in order to complete Himself, which cannot be true for a perfectly complete God. God did not create the universe to complete Himself or to fulfill some unmet desire. The universe is an outpouring of God’s perfect completeness–ex nihilo, or better ex deo.
Some believe evil is necessary for the act of “soul building”. The evil we experience builds our character, builds our humanity, and shapes us into the beings God ultimately wants us to be. But this theodicy confuses hardship with evil. If you wanted to run a marathon, and I were your trainer, I would tell you to get up at 5 am each morning to run for an hour. This would be hard for you, but it would not be evil. If I decided that your family was distracting you too much from your training, and thus killed your family to keep you focused, that would be evil. The hardship builds you up, but the evil tears you down. Evil never creates, it only destroys.
Others would say that evil is necessary in order for us to have free will, which is necessary for true love. They argue that love can’t be real unless it is chosen. People have to have the option of rejecting God in order for their acceptance of God to be real. It’s a bad argument. Think of all those you love. Did you have to choose to love them? (Don’t confuse loyalty or obedience with love here.) Does a mother have to choose to love her newly born child? Does a child choose to love his parents? Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” I don’t think Jesus is suggesting we prove our love by obeying, but rather, we obey because we love Him first. (Obedience might lead to stronger love, but it is love which initiates obedience.) At any time in eternity past, did Jesus have to choose to love the Father? Is it even an option for Jesus to reject the Father? Think about what that would mean. God is not suicidal. There is no darkness in God. Could God create a universe in which we had free will and yet there would be no evil? Yes, this is exactly what will happen in the next age, post-resurrection.
Evil creates nothing, it only destroys. Evil is not a positive force, it is a negative parasite. Evil is the privation of good and it has no substance of its own. Evil is not non-being, but rather anti-being — it seeks to kill and destroy. There is no good reason why evil exists in our universe, but yet it is here. Why? God did not need evil to get what He wants out of His creation, but yet He allowed evil to happen. Why?
Perhaps we are asking the wrong question: “What does God want?” Maybe we should be asking the question: “What do we want?” Perhaps the solution to the problem of evil is to stop asking what God wants and start asking what we want. God did create the universe wholly apart from Himself after all. Christians are not pantheists or panentheists, or we shouldn’t be. The terrifying truth is that God created us to rule this creation. The responsibility of doing that is immense. Are we going to kill the evil infecting our universe? Or will we join ourselves with the evil?
So, what is evil? Evil is not non-being, but anti-being. Evil is a side effect of the supremacy of Freedom in Becoming (Being), and it is Being turned against itself. Evil has no substance of its own, but it is parasitic on the very substance which it is intent to destroy. If Creation is Good, then Evil is destruction, both the refusal of the acceptance of the Gift of Being, and the active opposition to Being-itself and Becoming. Evil is freedom, but it is freedom misused. Not as some Gnostic ignorance (As David B. Hart seems to suggest), but indeed a genuine hatred. Since human nature is founded on freedom, humanity can choose evil and oppose the inherent Goodness of his/her nature. Evil is a very real psychological and spiritual reality, and cannot be brushed away by a magic wave of the metaphysical finger. It may not be a substance, but it is very tangible. Evil is not cured by knowledge alone, but by Love.Some guy online called Oskar
Thankfully we have Jesus, God as man, and the Holy Spirit to guide us in this great responsibility God has given to us.
Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled.Mark 6:45-51 NKJV
“Free will is the ability to choose.” No, it’s not. The ability to choose only shows you have a will. Your will might be free, or it might not be.
Looking at the diagram above, suppose you choose option A. There is a reason you chose A, and that reason was determined by one of the preceding desires. You don’t choose your desires, at least not in the moment of choice. You can shape your desires over time through ongoing actions, but in the immediate moment of choice your strongest desire will determine which option you chose.
Your desires may be evil, and if they are, you will choose to do evil things. You may have good desires and evil desires. If so, the strongest of those desires will determine your choices.
If a man’s desires are only evil, all he can do is chose to act on one of those evil desires: the one which appeals to him most in the moment. This man is not able to chose good. He is a slave to evil.
If a man has good and evil desires, the potential to do good and evil is present, but he will still act out his strongest desire in the moment.
If a man has only good desires, all his choices will be good. This man is free.
Only through Christ can you become one who desires only the good. It is a process of a series of deaths and resurrections. It is not easy and is sometimes painful, but it is necessary.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” ~Roman 12:2
Two plus two equals four. Why does 2+2=4? Because God is God. God created the universe ex nihilo. God did not consult any preexisting laws or rules before creating. God did not consult any preexisting law of mathematics in order to discover what kind of universe He could create. The only thing God consulted and had to conform to when creating was Himself (see John 1:3 and Hebrews 1:2). Therefore, 2+2=4 because the very nature of God demands that it does. Two plus two equals four because “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
Because God created ex nihilo, the universe is a reflection of His nature and character. There is nothing outside of God which influenced creation. Evil then, is either a reflection of God’s nature and character, or a deprivation of it. God’s word tells us that God is good (Psalm 25:8, 27:13, 31:19-20, 33:5, 34:8, 86:5, 100:5, 107:1, 8-9, 135:3, 145:5-9 — and that’s just some of the Psalms. There are many verses throughout the bible declaring God’s goodness.) Nowhere in the bible do we get a sense that God is evil or acts out in evil ways. Even a verse like Isaiah 45:7 is not saying God created evil as the devil would do evil, rather the evil (or calamity) there is a judgment from a good and just God against demonic and human evil.
In Doug Wilson’s video, he tries to reconcile God’s predestining of all humanity’s actions with human freedom. God has the sovereign power to predestine all a man’s choices while at the same time giving that man freedom to make uncoerced decisions. This is not a contradiction according to Wilson and the Westminster Confession because…. well just because. Wilson actually does not say anything to support this claim in the video. He simply declares it as truth. According to Wilson there is an infinite divide between Creator and creature, and as God is not a part of the universe, He is not displacing the freedom of man by imposing His will on man. Wilson does try to use Jeremiah 18:5-6 to support his idea, but as I show in my last article, that does not work.
It is true that the divide between Creator and creature is infinite, but it is not true that truth itself changes from one side of the divide to the other. Two plus two equals four, and that is true on the Creator side of the divide and the creature side. It is true on the creature side because it is first true on the Creator side. Evil is evil, good is good, on both sides of the divide. If a man freely chooses to rape a woman on the creature side of reality, it is evil. If God freely predestined the man to rape a woman from eternity past, it is still evil. To suggest that God is doing something good when He predestines the free and evil acts of men is to suggest that good is not the same thing on both sides of the Creator/creature divide.
Read the bible as a whole. What you see is God calling out to His people, to turn to Him, to repent of their evil, to trust in His salvation. Never do you get the sense that God has already predestined some to reprobation and others to salvation. Again, I am no Arminian. I agree with Wilson that we lost our moral freedom at the fall. No one is free-willing themselves into heaven. But the Calvinist understanding of God’s sovereignty is an equally false idea.
Read the first part of this subject here.
Related reading: Calvinism is Pantheism