Check out this PDF essay by David Bentley Hart on the problem of evil and Christianity…..
You might want to read Rebellion from The Brothers Karamazov first though.
Valley of Hinnom
And he hath defiled Topheth [A place in the SE end of the valley of the son of Hinnom south of Jerusalem – BDB Hebrew definition], that [is] in the valley of the son of Hinnom, so that no man doth cause his son and his daughter to pass over through fire to Molech.
~2 Kings 23:10 (YLT)
A son of twenty years [is] Ahaz in his reigning, and sixteen years he hath reigned in Jerusalem, and he hath not done that which is right in the eyes of Jehovah, as David his father, and walketh in the ways of the kings of Israel, and also, molten images hath made for Baalim, and himself hath made perfume in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burneth his sons with fire according to the abominations of the nations that Jehovah dispossessed from the presence of the sons of Israel, and sacrificeth and maketh perfume in high places, and on the heights, and under every green tree.
~2 Chronicles 28:1-3 (YLT)
And he hath caused his sons to pass over through fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and observed clouds and used enchantments and witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and a wizard; he hath multiplied to do the evil thing in the eyes of Jehovah, to provoke him to anger.
~2 Chronicles 33:6 (YLT)
For, arranged from former time is Tophet, Even it for the king is prepared, He hath made deep, He hath made large, Its pile [is] fire and much wood, The breath of Jehovah, As a stream of brim stone, is burning in it!
~Isaiah 30:33 (YLT)
And they have gone forth, And looked on the carcases of the men Who are transgressing against me, For their worm dieth not, And their fire is not quenched, And they have been an abhorrence to all flesh!
~Isaiah 66:24 (YLT)
And have built the high places of Tophet, That [are] in the valley of the son of Hinnom, To burn their sons and their daughters with fire, Which I did not command, Nor did it come up on My heart.
~Jeremiah 7:31 (YLT)
Thus said Jehovah, ‘Go, and thou hast got a potter’s earthen vessel, and of the elders of the people, and of the elders of the priests, and thou hast gone forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, that [is] at the opening of the gate of the pottery, and hast proclaimed there the words that I speak unto thee, and hast said, Hear a word of Jehovah, ye kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Thus said Jehovah of Hosts, God of Israel: “Lo, I am bringing in evil on this place, at which the ears of every one who is hearing it do tingle, because that they have forsaken Me, and make known this place, and make perfume in it to other gods, that they knew not, they and their fathers, and the kings of Judah, and they have filled this place [with] innocent blood, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons with fire, burnt-offerings to Baal, that I commanded not, nor spake of, nor did it come up on My heart. Therefore, lo, days are coming — an affirmation of Jehovah — and this place is not called any more, Tophet, and Valley of the son of Hinnom, but, Valley of slaughter.”‘
~Jeremiah 19:1-6 (YLT)
And thou hast broken the bottle before the eyes of the men who are going with thee, and hast said unto them: Thus said Jehovah of Hosts, Thus do I break this people and this city, as one breaketh the potter’s vessel, that is not able to be repaired again, and in Tophet they bury — without place to bury; so I do to this place — an affirmation of Jehovah — and to its inhabitants, so as to make this city as Tophet; and the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, have been — as the place of Tophet — defiled, even all the houses on whose roofs they have made perfume to all the host of the heavens, so as to pour out oblations to other gods.’ And Jeremiah cometh in from Tophet, whither Jehovah had sent him to prophesy, and he standeth in the court of the house of Jehovah, and he saith unto all the people: ‘Thus said Jehovah of Hosts, God of Israel: Lo, I am bringing in unto this city, and on all its cities, all the evil that I have spoken against it, for they have hardened their neck — not to hear My words!’
~Jeremiah 19:10-15 (YLT)
And they build the high places of Baal, that [are] in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come up on my heart to do this abomination, so as to cause Judah to sin.
~Jeremiah 32:35 (YLT)
Matthew 5:22: “….whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into Gehenna.”
Matthew 5:29: “….it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.”
Matthew 5:30: “….better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into Gehenna.”
Matthew 10:28: “….rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul [Greek: ψυχή] and body in Gehenna.”
Matthew 18:9: “It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than with two eyes to be thrown into the Gehenna….”
Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you… make one proselyte…twice as much a child of Gehenna as yourselves.”
Matthew 23:33, to the Pharisees: “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you to escape the sentence of Gehenna?”
Mark 9:43: “It is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into Gehenna into the unquenchable fire.”
Mark 9:45: “It is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into Gehenna.”
Mark 9:47: “It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into Gehenna.”
Luke 12:5: “….fear the One who, after He has killed has authority to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, fear Him.”
James 3:6: “And the tongue is a fire,…and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by Gehenna.”
The Outer Darkness
And Jesus having heard, did wonder, and said to those following, ‘Verily I say to you, not even in Israel so great faith have I found; and I say to you, that many from east and west shall come and recline (at meat) with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the reign of the heavens, but the sons of the reign shall be cast forth to the outer darkness — there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of the teeth.’
~Matthew 8:10-12 (YLT)
Then said the king to the ministrants, Having bound his feet and hands, take him up and cast forth to the outer darkness, there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of the teeth; for many are called, and few chosen.
~Matthew 22:13-14 (YLT)
[A]nd the unprofitable servant cast ye forth to the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of the teeth.
~Matthew 25:30 (YLT)
Jesus was not created; He was begotten. He proceeds forth from the Father, and He does so eternally. There was never a time when Jesus did not exist. (The terms “time” and “exist” I use lightly when talking about God.)
The universe, however, was created by God, not begotten. The universe is wholly separate from God — the universe is not God, and God is not the universe. Nor is God the “prime-mover” of the universe, for to be the prime-mover of a system is to be a part of that system. God is not a part of the universe even if it’s the first part. He is the creator of the universe, not the begetter.
Deism teaches that God created the universe wholly separate from Himself and afterward had, and has, no interaction with the universe. Pantheism teaches that God is inseparable from the universe as He is the universe and the universe is Him. The proper teaching, in my opinion, is that God did create the universe wholly separate from Himself, but does indeed interact intimately with the universe, even to the point of entering His creation as the man Jesus and continuing with the Holy Spirit.
Calvinism teaches that God’s will is so intertwined with the universe, predestining every detail of what happens from before creation, being the first cause of every event, that God becomes inseparable from creation. How can creation be separate from God when God has already decided exactly what will happen before any event took place and then ensures from moment to moment that all plays out as He predestined?
Some Calvinists would argue with this assertion, “You’re taking things too far!” But these Calvinists aren’t thinking their theology through to its logical conclusions. If God predestines a few things, He predestines all things. If God is sovereign, as the Calvinist defines that term, nothing occurs which is opposite to His will.
What we end up with is a kind of Christian Pantheism where it becomes impossible to imagine any event happening without being directly caused by God. We end up with a universe where only God is real and everything else is illusion. A universe in which there is only God playing out a story of unreal characters in His mind.
More David Bentley Hart on free will. Start watching about 20 minutes in….
The Meaning of Alpha and Omega
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending,” saith the Lord (Revelation 1:8).
When God calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, A and ω), it does not mean that He was the first to show up and He’ll be the last to go away. Rather, it means that God alone existed into eternity past and God alone has the ability within Himself to exist into the eternal future. But, Α and ω does not just refer to time, but reality itself. God is not some being coming into some pre-existing reality — He is the first reality (eternal and infinite), and all other things come into being from Him, through Him, and to Him.
In order for God to be the A and the ω, He must be complete and perfect within Himself. He cannot be lacking in any way. Never has God needed to fill an empty hole in His existence. If that were so, it would mean there was some other pre-existing reality which God was trying to make His way through and understand — some other set of pre-existing “rules” that God had no authorship of and no control over. You and I were born into a pre-existing reality, and we have to figure out how to live in that reality. God is His own reality, perfect and complete, and thus He has perfect knowledge of everything, all the time. To believe that God needs to complete Himself over time is to reduce Him to a small “g” god — powerful but finite. I’m not saying God never has any desires, but His desires are for the fulfillment of finite creation/creatures (like us) rather than for the fulfillment of Himself. God wants us to be what He created us to be (and gets angry when that doesn’t happen), but He didn’t create us so that He could become what He wants to be — He already is and has always been what He wants to be. He is the A and the ω, eternally perfect and unchanging.
So, all good theology has to start from this point. If your theology suggests that God created the universe in order to meet some unfulfilled desire, it’s bad theology.
God is Love
God is a Trinity — the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit. He has always been this way, eternally. The perfect joy and love the Father sees in Himself causes perfect joy and love for Himself thus begetting a second Person, the Son. The perfect joy and love between Father and Son is a perfect third Person, the Holy Spirit. God has eternally existed in perfect love. Love is who He is — God is love. His love has eternally been manifest.
When one asks why God created, it is a faulty question. There is no “because” to God’s act of creation. God is perfect and complete, and creation is an outpouring of His completeness. It is an outpouring of who He is. It is an outpouring of His love.
The Small “g” God of Open Theism
The Open Theist simply believes that God does not know the future, or at least the future as determined by the actions of created beings with free will. This type of theology can be paired up with Process Theism, which teaches that God changes over time as he Himself is learning and changing. It’s easy to see why God is a small “g” god, and not the A and ω, in these types of theism because if God is not the all knowing uncaused cause of all being He is only secondary to something that’s come before, and we as worshippers ought to seek out what came before Him in order to find the truth of reality.
The Small “g” God of Calvinism
Calvinists believe that God intentionally predestined and created a large percentage of humanity to be vessels of His wrath and suffer in hell eternally. Why? The Calvinist believes that in order for God to be truly and fully known by the elect (the lucky few predestined to be saved) they must see His wrath manifested. In order for God’s wrath to be manifested, there must be subjects of His wrath. Aside from the fact that God becomes the author of evil in order for this to happen (although through some A=B ∴ A≠B
logic, Calvinists deny this), Calvinism reduces God down to a small “g” god.
As noted above, God’s love has always been manifested (within the Trinity). He did not have to create in order to manifest His love. But has God’s wrath always been manifested? No. God is not wrath as He is love. Wrath is not integral to His being as love is. God’s wrath happens when His created beings refuse to be what He created them to be — it is a reaction to something that has gone wrong (and God’s character does not change in this reaction). God’s wrath is not a positive thing essential to His being. Does one have to see God’s wrath in order to know Him? Only if wrath is integral to His being, which it is not. If it were, it would have been manifest in Him from all eternity. The Calvinist says that God had to create in order to display His wrath, as though He were incomplete without being able to do so beforehand. For reasons listed above, this belief reduces God to a small “g” god.
Calvinists, using an overcooked definition of sovereignty (a ruler being in absolute control over absolutely everything), rather than using the proper definition of sovereignty (a ruler’s ability to rule however he wants unimpeded), forcibly reduce God down to a small “g” god as He becomes a god transcending good and evil, love and hate, robotically and arbitrarily choosing to love some and hate others for no other reason than to fill a seemingly irresistible and previously unmet need to display His wrath. The A and the ω, who is truly sovereign, does not need to conform to such limitations as though He were some divine computer following a logic program.
“I think the display of God’s perfections is the ultimate goal of the universe. God created the universe so that the full range of his perfections, including wrath and power and judgment and justice would be displayed.” ~John Piper (Calvinist Pastor)
I suppose there are more Christian based theisms which relate to the two above in reducing God to god, but these two seem to be the most prevalent in western Christianity today.
So what is the perfectly correct theology? Well, I don’t know that yet, but I do know where to start: God is good, loving, all knowing, all powerful, and the Alpha and the Omega. His sovereignty is not violated if He allows events to happen against His will. But, we can be confident that in the end His will for His creation will be done and it will be good as He is good, perfectly good.