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.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Quotes #7

“When [the Jews] were scattered over the earth after the loss of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., they had no other function than to bear witness to the ‘economy of revelation,’ to the growing Kingdom of God. Without their existence, the gospel of Jesus might have come to the Gentiles like a myth or a legend. Christianity becomes an historical fact only through the existence of Jews. The natural inclination of men and nations to take flight into dreams of ancestral pride or the cobwebs of abstract philosophy always leads to excesses of agnosticism and mythology. The Jews, simply by their existence, bar the nations from a relapse into that comfortable self-adoration which makes Jesus himself into a blond Germanic hero instead of a despised Jew.”

~from Out of Revolution, page 219-220.

The Five-fold Gifts

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The terms found in Ephesians 4:11 are often used to describe the different types of ministry work we Christians do today. And that’s exactly correct. But, these terms were not invented recently, nor were they invented by Christians. These terms were used by anyone living in the first century Roman empire. So, in order for us to understand how these words apply to us today, it is helpful to see how they applied to regular people living at the time of Jesus, 2000 years ago.

Greek was the common language of the Roman empire. Before the Romans were in power, the Greeks were in power. And once the Greeks were in power, many of the nations began to adopt Greek culture, gods, and language. Below are the terms as listed in Ephesians 4:11, and defined as people would have used them in Jesus’s time. One word that seems to stand alone is ‘prophet’. This word was used mainly in the Old Testament, and so it’s best to get its meaning from there.

1) Apostle: (Greek: apostles) Envoy, ambassador, or messenger commissioned to carry out the instructions of the commissioning agent. An apostle was sent by someone in authority to give instructions to a specific person or group of people. In relation to the Church, an apostle is one sent by King Jesus to give instructions to the churches on how to conduct themselves. An apostle’s life was somewhat expendable.

2) Prophet: (Hebrew: nâbîy’; Greek: prophētēs) One who speaks for God and knows God’s plans. One who God listens to. One who can declare the future. One who can destroy old worlds and create new worlds with his words. The word is first used in Genesis 20:7 (Abraham, the prophet, had to pray for Abimelech’s life – God would only listen to the prophet).

3) Evangelist: (Greek: euaggelistēs [yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace]. The word is very similar to the Greek for ‘gospel’: euaggelion [yoo-ang-ghel-ee-on]. The prefix “eu-” means joyful and this is connected to the Greek word ‘aggelos’ [ang-el-os], or ‘angel’ in English, which means messenger.) A herald who proclaims a gospel (joyful message).

4) Pastors: (Greek: poimēn) A shepherd. One who takes care of the believers under his care both spiritually and physically. One who works to keep his people in the Church as a shepherd keeps sheep in the flock. One who works to see his people grow in maturity and Christ-likeness.

5) Teacher: (Hebrew: bîyn; Greek: didaskalos) An instructor. One who teaches the word and commands of God. One who works to ensure that his people are hearing the truth and not led astray by deception. One who works to see his people grow in maturity and Christ-likeness.

• Note: Pastors and Teachers are actually one item in this list. In the Greek the two are put together, and an acceptable translation of Ephesians 4:11 could be this:

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors/teachers…”

•Note: It’s important not to confuse an apostle with an evangelist. An evangelist proclaims a gospel to a general crowd of people, while an apostle delivers a king’s instructive message to a specific group of people so that they know what they’re supposed to do.

Consider this as an example (historically accurate or not):

In 30 BC Augustus Caesar defeated Mark Antony and became the new ruler of the Roman empire. Once this was done, the news (the good news – euaggelion) of his victory and rise to power had to be made known to all the people all over the empire. The euaggelion was proclaimed to the people by the euaggelistēs (the evangelists). The evangelists were heralds who went through the towns and villages crying out the gospel message: “Hear this message all you people! Augustus has defeated his enemies and now rules the Roman world! Those of you who supported Augustus in the war will be rewarded! Those of you who opposed him – now is the time to turn away from your support of the enemies of Augustus and submit to him!”

Once Augustus had secured his rule, he returned to the capital city of Rome and took his throne. From there he worked to expand the influence of the empire by setting up colonies of Roman people in the places he recently defeated. Once these colonies were established, he gave instructions to the colonists by sending apostolos (apostles) – messengers from the king.

King Jesus has done the same thing, but on a much greater scale. Jesus was the first evangelist for His own rule when He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) Jesus was calling the people to turn away from their allegiance to the enemy (to repent) and to turn to Him as their true king. Jesus proclaimed His gospel even before He died on the cross – He had no doubt of His own victory.

After Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended up to heaven and took His throne at the right hand of the Father. From there He will rule until all His enemies have been put under His feet. Jesus is now in His capital city ruling His empire. We, the Church, are establishing “colonies” for His empire by planting churches and starting up other Christian ministries all over the world.

Our evangelists continue to go out and proclaim the good news of our King’s rise to power, and to warn anyone who would choose to oppose Him. Our apostles continue to deliver orders from the throne room of Jesus to instruct the churches on how to worship, serve one another, build, expand, and make new disciples. Our pastors and teachers continue to care for their flocks and teach them all the truth of our Lord Jesus. And finally, our prophets continue to speak words of guidance based on God’s word, and to speak more words which would tear down anything holding us back.

Which of these gifts do you believe you are called into? It’ll most likely be more than one. Paul was first an evangelist then an apostle. Timothy was both an apostle and a pastor/teacher. You’ll probably walk in different gifts at different times in your life. Which are you most passionate about now?

Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget the instructions Paul the apostle wrote:

…(these five gifts are) for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:12-16)

* All scripture quoted from the NKJV.

Simply Good News by N.T. Wright (Brief Book Review)

Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It GoodSimply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good by N.T. Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wright starts off by defining the word gospel (good news) as how it would mean to first century people. For many today the gospel is good advice (believe this and you’ll go to heaven when you die) rather than good news. But, the gospel really is news, and that’s how we should present it.

The good news is that Jesus has become king and He is now restoring the world. He’s not going to whisk us all away to heaven and destroy the world. Jesus started this restoration at the cross and will complete it at the last day. N.T. Wright uses an example of a Roman emperor defeating his enemy and taking power. The news of this would be good to all who support this emperor, and they would be happy to hear that he was now in charge. But first, the emperor would have to consolidate his power before taking his throne. So, the good news of his coming to power would include both something that had happened (the defeat of his enemy) and something that would happen (his coming full rule).

We today are living in that between time. Jesus defeated sin and death at the cross, and now His enemies are being put under His feet, and He will one day come and complete the work He has begun of building His kingdom on earth.

Wright also discusses misunderstood concepts people have today about God (and His anger), sin, hell, eschatology, atonement, creation, covenant, rationalism, and romanticism.

I highly recommend this one.

An excerpt…

Most people who regard the statement that Jesus died in your place as the center of the gospel place this truth, this beautiful fragment, into a larger story that goes like this. There is a God, and this God is angry with humans because of their sin. This God has the right, the duty, and the desire to punish us all. If we did but know it, we are all heading for an eternal torment in hell. But this angry God has decided to vent his fury on someone else instead — someone who happens to be completely innocent. Indeed, it is his very own son! His wrath is therefore quenched, and we no longer face that terrible destiny. All we have to do is believe this story and we will be safe. That is the reconstructed scene offered in many churches, sermons, and books. It is not completely wrong. But as it stands, it is deeply misleading. It distorts the very thing it is trying to frame. It takes the truth that Jesus died in your place and puts it in the wrong context. It does indeed make some sense there. But this is not the same sense that it would make if you put it the right context. This, in anyone’s account, is near the heart of what the early Christians meant by the good news. Since it is also, clearly, near the heart of what many Christians today understand by the good news, it is important that we sort this out.
~Page 68 or Location 976 (Kindle)

* You can take an online course on this book taught by N.T. Wright for (I think) $29USD.
Click here for that.

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