Concepts – Problem of Evil

Olson Reviews Oord’s Book

From Arminian Roger Olson:

My second question is whether the God of the Bible in whom Oord believes (both God and the Bible as his inspired Word) ever intervened, interfered, powerfully and unilaterally, without the creatures’ consent, to control a creature—to make something happen to him or her that would not otherwise have happened? Oord does not think so. His final chapter (8) is “Miracles and God’s Providence.” Let it be noted that Oord affirms miracles. What he denies is that any miracle of God was or ever is unilateral, controlling and coercive. Let’s go right to two main miracles in the biblical narrative—both which Oord believes happened: the exodus and the resurrection of Jesus. Oord believes, and attempts to explain, that both involved creatures’ consent and participation. In neither case, Oord claims, did God act to control, without some level of cooperation from the things, persons being affected.

This is where I find Oord’s explanations frankly tortuous (not “torturous”). In fact, they become so fanciful and obscure that I cannot even imagine them as true. For example, in the exodus of Israel from Egypt, Oord suggests, God foreknew the wind that would separate the waters of the Red Sea and directed Moses to lead the Hebrew people to that spot at just the right time to walk across the Sea on dry land. One wonders how often that phenomenon happened! For example, in the case of Jesus’s bodily resurrection, God raised him back to live, to new life, immortal life, with Jesus’s own consent. True enough, I suppose one could argue and believe, but one still has to wonder about all the other circumstances surrounding and included in the resurrection event. But let’s turn to another “resurrection”—the resuscitation of Lazarus. Did Jesus gain Lazarus’s consent before raising him back to life? At one point Oord mentions that someone else’s consent can occasionally stand in for the consent of the person directly being affected by the divine act (when their consent is impossible). This would apparently be a necessary case of that. But is that really consistent with Oord’s overall thesis? What if Lazarus didn’t want to be resuscitated?

Whose consent did Jesus get to turn water into wine?

Then there are all the biblical events in which God apparently acted (or will act as prophecied) with the result of great harm to creatures: the flood of Noah’s day, the striking dead of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), the judgment and punishment of rebellious angels and human sinners in the eschaton.

Bitter Musician Accuses God

The lyrics of Once in a Lifetime, by Wolfsheim, reveal a deap bitterness towards God. TV Tropes claims this song is about “the loss of the singer’s wife and unborn child in a hurricane.” This would make sense and would not be outside the realm of human experience. The lyrics read:

No rain can wash away my tears
No wind can soothe my pain
You made me doubt, you made me fear
But now I’m not the same

You took my wife, my unborn son
Torn into the deep of the ocean
I don’t pretend that I love you
‘Cause there is nothing left to loose

Unanswered Questions – What About Dahmer?

Asked in Christians AGAINST the Heresy of Calvinism & TULIP:

Calvinists,
When a mentally ill person develops suicidal thoughts, is that God’s intention? I mean is it what He truthfully desires?
When Jeffrey Dahmer drugged young boys and not only molested them but actually ate their flesh and experimented with their unconscious bodies, was that God’s will?
Does God really go to these lengths in order to glorify His name? Is this the same God who said that He WEPT over the Moabites when He had to punish them?
Calvinism celebrates God’s power and sovereignty, but they put His love and holiness on the backburner.

An Open Theist Struggles with Childhood Cancer

From a Facebook post:

I’ve experienced a lot of thoughts and feelings in the last few months, but anger at God has not been one of them. I do not believe God makes everything that happens, happen.. we have free-will and much of what happens around us is things unfolding, naturally. I do, however, believe that God can and does change things; He hears and responds to prayer which is why prayer is the best thing we can ask for and the best thing you can do for us (James 4:2-3 “You do not have because you do not ask God”).

I find the book of Job interesting and inspirational.. a story where Job loses everything but still praises God, and from reading the story, I gather that is what God wants us to do (though we are in a relationship and when you are in a relationship it can be normal to experience highs and lows.. I don’t think it’s ideal to be angry at God or question Him, but it happens and I’m not trying to make anyone who has been there feel bad or anything :) – I’ve been there) I know when I was younger I thought being angry at God was an effective means of getting Him to listen.. learning the story of Job taught me that God doesn’t want us to do that and He wants us to praise and trust Him and that is more impactful to Him than anger.. this doesn’t mean I will never struggle with this, but it has kept me strong and these are just my thoughts of the day :) we are still going strong in our faith.. we are grateful and more at His mercy than ever.

Caleb’s Carringbridge site.

Apologetics Thursday – God Makes the Mute

By Christopher Fisher

Triablogue posits a verse to show that God is the cause of all physical deformity:

Exod 4:11

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exod 4:11).

Some Christians, hoping apparently to limit God’s liability, effectively absolve God of responsibility for what goes on in the world. If a child is born blind, it is a result of a prenatal infection or genetic defect; God had nothing to do with it. If religious zealots bring down buildings and kill thousands, God was not involved. The problem with this is that it effectively limits God’s power and sovereignty. What if an infection was the proximate cause of a baby’s being born blind? Couldn’t God have saved the child if he had wanted to? Couldn’t God have stopped the mass-murderers? God cannot be almighty and all-knowing and also be absolved of responsibility for what happens in the world.

God’s response in Exod 4:11 is striking: he takes full responsibility for the suffering that people experience. He makes some blind, some deaf, and some mute. The text does not deny that there are proximate causes to such things (injuries, infections, etc.; the ancients knew nothing about viruses and bacteria, but they certainly knew that accidents and injuries could make a person blind or lame). Furthermore, the issue of human sin is never raised in God’s response. This passage is not at all concerned with proximate causes–human sin, like disease or injury, is really just another proximate cause. This text is focused on the ultimate cause, God, and does not shrink from affirming that God is in control of all that happens. Of course, the question of theodicy is very large, and merely asserting that God takes responsibility for all that happens in the world does not resolve all the issues. This topic is explored much more fully in Job. D. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus (Kregel 2014), 215-16.

What is interesting about this verse is that Triablogue uses the ESV rendering of the verse:

Exo 4:11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

The NKJV gives an alternative rendering:

Exo 4:11 So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?

The ESV seems to in fact say that God is the cause all birth defects, at minimum. The NKJV merely says that God makes all people (some may be mute and some may be blind). The Hebrew, as languages tend to do, can support either. So then the context must be examined.

The immediate point of the verse is that God is trying to convince Moses to go to Egypt on God’s behalf. That is not a fatalistic or Calvinist concept. God is arguing that Moses can speak, despite Moses’ lack of confidence, because God will be with him. It is interesting to note that God loses this argument with Moses. God gets angry, gives up, and appoints Aaron to be Moses’ mouthpiece:

Exo 4:14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.

In a context where God’s plan is thwarted by Moses, the meaning that Triablogue gives to the verse is highly unreasonable. God is not claiming to control all life changing calamities forever into the future. God is not controlling all things even in the present; sometimes petty complaints thwart God’s will. The text is just not about Calvinistic sovereignty.

If God is claiming to cause birth defects, God’s reasoning to Moses would have to be thus: “I am the one who created your mouth (and everyone’s mouth) and I know the limits to which I created it. I know you can speak for Me. Your argument is invalid.”

But the context of Exodus 3 and 4 is about God enabling Moses with power. So, while God could be claiming to cause birth defects, it is more likely that God is claiming to have power. God is the creator of all men. And the creator of all men would help Moses communicate. Moses does not have to worry about his speech because he has Yahweh on his side (see also Exo 3:12). The very next verse says:

Exo 4:12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”

NT Wright on the Problem of Evil

From a question and answer session with NT Wright:

Part of our trouble is that in the Western world, we’ve assumed that God is, as it were, the celestial CEO of this thing called the universe incorporated. And then, as one of Woody Allen’s characters says: “I sort of believe in God, but it looks like He’s basically an underachiever.” In other words, He’s not a very good CEO, He’s not good at running this show.

But actually, the world is much more complicated than that. It’s not simply a machine or a business with God as the CEO. God is involved with it in ways which it’s hard for us now, particularly in the modern world, to grasp.

When we read the stories of Jesus and see what is going on in those stories, perhaps we need to rethink the meaning of the word “God” around who we see in Jesus. Then all sorts of things come clearer and into sharper focus. It’s not simply a matter of “Has God blundered? Has He got it wrong?” But no, He’s been in the middle of this mess with us and He’s taken the worst the world can do onto Himself. He has launched His project of new creation. That’s what the story of Jesus is all about.

Boyd on Suffering

From a recent post on Reknew:

1. Nowhere is this explanation of suffering put forth as a general explanation for the problem of evil in Scripture. Indeed, the only time an explicit connection is made between divine punishment and evil in general is to deny that such a connection can be made. For example, the psalmist repeatedly complains that suffering and blessing are meted out to the righteous and the unrighteous arbitrarily. Jesus never suggests that any of the multitude of afflicted or demonized people he ministered to were being disciplined or punished. Rather, he suggests that such afflictions or demonizations were the direct or indirect result of Satan being the “ruler” of this world. (Jn 12:31). Though every person Jesus ministered to was a sinner, he uniformly treated them as casualties of war.

2. There is a world of difference between encouraging Christians facing persecution to see God refining their faith in the process (Heb 12:4-11) and encouraging a mother of a stillborn child to see this as God’s way of teaching her a lesson. While we certainly must believe that God is always working to bring good out of evil (Rom 8:28), in most circumstances it is presumptuous to suggest that God specifically allows or brings about suffering in order to discipline a person. Apart from divine revelation, how could we possibly know this? But this presumption morphs to cruel absurdity when we are speaking of horrors like a man mourning his murdered wife or a mother grieving over her stillborn child.

3. Even in the Old Testament when God is said to discipline individuals or nations with hardship, it is never presented as a part of God’s eternal plan. Instead, it’s depicted as a necessary response to sinful choices people were making. This is God’s “tough love.” It grieves God to do such things. He “does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone (Lam 3:33), though in response to sin he sometimes has.

Oord Counters Sanders on Evil

Open Theist Thomas J Oord criticizes Open Theist John Sanders on the problem of evil:

In The God Who Risks, Sanders often says God permits evil when it could have been prevented (all quotations in this blog come from that book)…

Sanders’s position ends up sounding like a “best of all possible worlds” defense to the problem of evil. According to it, God allows evil because preventing it would undermine the good of the overall project. Sanders admits that many atrocities are “pointless evils” and “God does not have a specific purpose in mind for these occurrences.” But he also seems to believe “some evils are justified for some greater good.”

I find it difficult to imagine how God preventing rape and murder in any particular instance would throw out of balance the structures of the universe. I am not convinced the creation project requires God to allow genuine evils – including the Boston Marathon bombing, the debilitating condition of severely handicapped infants, the rape and murder of innocent women, and countless other atrocities.

Olson on Evil Necessitating God

From Roger Olson’s Evil As Signal of Transcendence:

The language and conceptuality of evil belongs within a theistic frame of reference. Atheists who use it are simply living off the leftovers of theism. Like my insightful atheist interlocutor here, they ought to discard it. But who can seriously refer to the Holocaust as a “mistake” or “harmful” or “pathological” without going further and calling it also evil? Sure, some will attempt it, but I dare them to have that conversation with a survivor of Auschwitz. And once you utter “evil” and mean it seriously, God is at least on the horizon. For without God (or something very much like God whatever you prefer to call him or it) evil falls back into being only a human value judgment which sucks the very power from it.

Calvinist Calls Out Arminianism’s Problem of Evil

From the Calvinist blog Triablogue:

iii) Take Arminians who affirm divine foreknowledge. How did the Arminian God not plan or will the foreseeable consequences of his own actions? If he knew in advance that by making the world, humans would fall into sin, how did he not will that outcome? Likewise, if he saw it coming, as a result of his creative fiat, how could that still be an unplanned consequence of his actions? Keep in mind, too, that according to Arminian concurrence, God enables the sinner to sin.

Olson on Standing Against Calvinism

From Against Calvinism:

I believe someone needs finally to stand up and in love firmly say “no!” to egregious statements about God’s sovereignty often made by Calvinists. Taken to their logical conclusion, that even hell and all who will suffer there eternally are foreordained by God, God is thereby rendered morally ambiguous at best and a moral monster at worst. I have gone so far as to say that this kind of Calvinism, which attributes everything to God’s will and control, makes it difficult (at least for me) to see the difference between God and the devil.

Answered Questions – The Problem of Evil

From the official GodisOpen Facebook group:

As Open Theists how do you reconcile the problem of evil?

God did not create the world to micromanage. When we have children, if we ensure they would never feel pain we would be defective parents. Good parents allow their children to branch out, even being hurt at times, even allowing them to hurt others. Evil exists because God did not want to create robots. God wanted relationships with real people.

Verse:

Isa 45:18 For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 3

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss questions 9-12:

9. How can anyone worship a God who is so helpless that he not only does not control what happens in the world but he cannot even “call the whole thing off”? Is not such a God so paralyzed as to be perilous?

In Genesis 6, God enacts a global reset. God’s strong regret in making mankind leads to the destruction of all living flesh save a family whose patriarch found grace in the “eyes of God”. No Open Theist would doubt that God could “call the whole thing off”. In fact, God got extremely close to doing just that.

The God of the Bible is not “paralyzed”. When God has regrets, He performs powerful acts to quell those regrets.

10. How can a God who is identical with the world (in his actuality) be genuinely personal when he is identical with us?

Geisler’s obsession with Greek philosophy leads him to questions on God’s “actuality”. Geisler’s philosophy equates a God that can change with being “identical with us”. Such are the strange ramblings of Platonism.

God, while dynamically attempting to convince the people to change and save themselves, argues that “His thoughts are not our thoughts” and “His ways are not our ways” (Isa 55:8). This is the exact opposite of saying God is immutable. God is saying that He has thoughts and ways (in Geisler’s terminology: “God has potentiality”). While God is not like mankind, it is in the understanding of magnitude (not type). God obviously compares to man in the sense that both have thoughts and ways and power, but none can compete with God.

11. How can a God be morally perfect when he is engaged in a self-character-building activity at our expense in his efforts to overcome evil?

God created the world for mankind, not for some character building activity:

Isa 45:18 For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

God made man for the same reason that people have children: relationships. Geisler, being a Platonist, obsesses about self-glory. In his mindset, the only utility of creation is God’s own glory. That is not a Biblical concept.

12. How can one avoid making individual evil illusory by saying that victory over evil is really God’s vicarious triumph in us?

God can have victory over evil in a myriad of ways. But because God made the world for man, “defeating evil” is not the primary goal of creation. This is another Platonist invention. The purpose of “defeating evil” is so that God’s relationship with man can be better. “Victory over evil” doesn’t even have to be attributed to anyone (that is another Platonistic concept).

Conclusion:

Geisler’s 12 Objections to a finite God show Geisler’s obsession with Platonic philosophy and his manifest departure from the Bible.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 2

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss questions 5-8:

5. How can a limited God who does not control the actual events of this world provide any real assurance that there will be grow of value?

This question is loaded with faulty assumptions. Reality is not based on what an individual wants to be true or reasons to be “better” than other things. Reality is based in fact. Why does this question assume that there necessarily needs to be “growth in value”? Based on what?

Why does Geisler’s question, likewise, just assume a powerful (but not meticulously controlling) God cannot increase the value in this world? In the Bible, God does not control everything but God gains significant pleasure from those who serve Him. The Bible even describes God so enamored with man, that God exults man. It sounds like value is increasing to God.

6. What value to present individuals is a promise of serial appearance of the maximal amount of value? This is like promising a million dollars to a family over the next 1,000 generations.

Why does Geisler think this is a real question? Why must individuals have “present value” which leads to “maximal value”. The concepts are ill defined and smell of Platonism. Again, nothing necessitates that things have to move to better or even maximal value.

7. How could such a God be given “absolute admiration” (cf. Hartshorne) as retainer of all past value when: (a) This stored value is not experienced by any actual entity and (b) This is mere preservation without any assurance of progress?

Again, Geisler’s questions are based on ill defined logic and a host of faulty assumptions. How does one define “stored value” and why must God be given that stored value? The Bible does not describe such nonsense. This question reeks of Platonism.

8. How can a finite God be morally worthy who allows all the pain of this world in order ot enrich his own aesthetic value? Is all this evil worth it merely for beauty’s sake?

Does God allow pain to enrich “his own aesthetic value”. Because Platonists like Geisler are obsessed with glory, they fail to see God has God describes Himself in the Bible. God sings to man in the Bible. God is not concerned about hording all known value for Himself. God’s purpose in man was not to “increase his own aesthetic value”. God’s purpose was to have a relationship.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 1

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss the first 4:

1. How can a finite (limited) God achieve a better world? The fixity of physical laws and the persistence of evil over the thousands of years of human history argues against this kind of God ever achieving a better world than the present one.

Answer. If God wanted to create a better world, certainly He is capable enough to achieve it. In Genesis 6, we see God completing a global reset. This is just one of the countless avenues open to God. God has legions of angels, some of which can kill countless people by themselves. In Revelation 9:16, 4 angels kill a third of mankind. In 2 Kings 19:35, one angel kills 185,000 people overnight. In addition to this global reset and the amazing power of angels, God has available to Him countless other options that are not readily apparent to myself (and obviously not Geisler). For Geisler to consider this a real question, he is investing absolutely zero integrity in representing that which he wants to critique.

2. Given his limitations, why did this finite God who could not overcome evil engage in such a wasteful attempt as this world?

Who says this “attempt” was wasteful. In James 2:23, Abraham is represented as a “friend of God”. If God’s goal was a relationship, it was at least achieved through Abraham if not countless other individuals in history. What Geisler avoids at all costs in Genesis 6, wherein God entertains the idea of killing all mankind due to unforeseen wickedness. After the flood, God resolves to never again destroy all of mankind, and God’s reason is the exact same reason that God destroyed man in the first place “that man’s heart was evil from his youth”. This is God changing His tolerances and what He expects out of humankind. Compare:

Gen 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

And

Gen 8:21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

This does not make sense in light of what Geisler would have the reader believe about God. Only in light of an Open God does this make sense.

3. How can evil be absorbed into the nature of God? Isn’t this strange, dualistic combination of good and evil in God inherently incoherent?

This is an inherently incoherent question. What evil is being “absorbed” into the “nature” of God? What does “absorbed” mean as used? What would be wrong about “absorbing” evil, in the first place? Because theologians go down black holes with their incoherent theology, questions like these are the output.

4. How can a finite God accomplish a better world by way of the cooperation of human beings when the vast majority of them seem almost totally unaware of his purposes?

God, in the Bible, tries several routes. God in Genesis begins by reaching out to all mankind. God walks and talks with Adam. But things go awry. God then ties a global reset in Genesis 6, but still that does not seem to work. God then chooses one man through whom God would bless the nations (Gen 18:18). But that also fails. In Romans 9, Paul describes the graphing in of the Gentiles to “provoke the Jews the jealousy”. In short, Geisler rejects the Bible witness of God’s various attempts (mostly failed) to cooperate with human beings. But God is innovative and continually strives to reach out and find new opportunities to cooperate. After all:

We work all things together with God, after the console of His will.

Questions Answered – Culpability and Inaction

From the Facebook group God is Open:

What’s the difference between a God who foreknows evil will exist but still creates vs a God who currently allows evil to exist and lets it run rampant?

It seems to me that consistent open theists would be atheists. If you’re repulsed by the idea that God foresees and allows evil, which you describe as God desiring the development of sin and wickedness, then it would be consistent to also be repulsed by the idea that God currently desires the presence of sin and wickedness.

Christopher Fisher responds:

Is there a difference in your mind between seeing evil and not stopping it and doing actions that have no alternative but to result in evil?

Sometimes as a parent I see my children fighting, sometimes physically. Would a benevolent parent always intervene? I know sometimes, I let it go. Does that mean I approve of physical violence? Does that make me not “benevolent”. Myself, I do not see inaction as “not caring” or “not loving”. I believe the same concept applies with God.

…but another interesting thing to note is that we have examples in the Bible of God killing people because they were so evil. In the closed world view, this makes no sense. Why didn’t God kill them before they became so wicked to make Him kill them? Why wait until after the evil has happened? The fact that God steps in from time to time to stop evil proves the future is open.

Elseth on the Problem of Evil

Howard Elseth writes in Did God Know:

He assumes that if God is all powerful and all knowing of past, present, and future events, then it is logical to assume God created a world knowing with certainty the end result would be evil. If God created the world in such a way that evil was to come about, then we can only conclude that God desired the development of sin and wickedness.

Let us put it another way. If I load a gun and give it to my child and I know with absolute certainty (knowledge with such exactness that nothing different can happen than what I know) that my child will go and shoot one of his playmates, it would be reasonable to assume that I desired the end result of the event. It is useless to argue that my child had a free will or free choice. If I could foresee the result of my child’s choice with certainty and I set in motion the situation which provided for the shooting, it is I, not my child, who would be responsible.

Thus if God creates a man who God knows is going to be evil and will ultimately kill, rape, and steal, then we can only reason that God desired that man to come into existence and God desired the evil resulting from that man’s life. As Russell points out, it is useless and pointless to argue that the man was free to choose whether or not to kill, rape, or steal. Whether or not such free will exists makes no difference. If God knew at the time He created man what such free choices would be, then the so called free choices had only one possible outcome in God’s mind. Whether God determined the choices or whether He knew with absolute certainty the outcome of the free choices of man, the result is the same, certainty or fixity.

CS Lewis on Evil

CS Lewis writes in Mere Christianity:

Christians, then, believe that an evil power has made himself for the present the Prince of the World. And, of course, that raises problems. Is this state of affairs in accordance with God’s will or not? If it is, He is a strange God you will say: and if it is not, how can anything happen that is contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?

But anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another. It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, “I’m not going to go and make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got learn to keep it tidy on your own.” Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. This is against her will. She would prefer the children to be tidy. But on the other hand, it is her will that has left the children free to be untidy. The same thing arises in any regiment, trade union, or school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.

It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though is makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.

Elseth on evil

From Howard Elseth’s Did God Know:

The term sums up the common qualities of a certain class of actions. If we use the word goodness as a synonym for God, we must remember that God is good because He chooses to be good. If we say that God is simply a “blob” of good in the sky who can do nothing but good, because He is good, you then destroy the factor of choice. If you eliminate choice you eliminate virtue. This would make God no different than a machine operating out of necessity in proportion to the quality of its construction and the ability of its operator. Similarly in regard to evil. It is not a concrete thing, but an abstract term. It represents the common qualities of a certain class of actions. Evil exists because beings choose to sin. So the problem we must face is this: Is God responsible for the evil acts of these beings? If not, who is?

Elseth on Preventing Evil

From H Roy Elseth’s Did God Know:

…that the absolute prevention of evil would have made our world not better than it is, but infinitely worse. There are three conceivable ways in which evil could have been prevented: 1) God might have refrained from creating beings capable of sinning; or 2), having created such beings, He might have kept them from temptation; or 3), allowing them to be tempted, He might have forcibly prevented them from yielding. First, suppose that He had created only beings incapable of sinning. That would have been to create nothing higher than a brute.

Elseth Ancedote on the Problem of Evil

From the first chapter of Did God Know by Howard Elseth:

Wanting to give the girl something, Duncan remembered the package of gum he had. He called to her, but the shy little girl misunderstood and was frightened. She jumped away from her stone toys – and Duncan’s call to her became the call of death.

Nearby the water pond, unknown to the children, lived a viper. The snake hid himself during the day between rocks and fed on the small animals that frequently came to the water. Today, however, the heat had driven him to the shade of one of the many bushes near the pool. He had been silently sensing the presence of the children for a long time, but now the sudden movement of the little girl excited him.

He lunged out at her and dug his venemous fangs into her soft leg with incredible deftness. Terror overcame Duncan…

Duncan had not prayed in a long time. But he prayed now-out of desperation. He pleaded with God not to let the beautiful child die. It seemed to him that there was no reason or sense to what had happened. His prayers were to no avail, however. The innocent girl shivered in the afternoon heat. Numbness worked its way up her leg and poison quickly moved throughout the small body. Sweat came out of her unwrinkled skin as convulsions emptied the girl’s stomach of vomit. As the afternoon sun faded, the black-haired girl died.

Duncan’s thoughts drifted toward God. What had the girl done that God inflicted this upon her? Was her crime playing with stones in a quiet African town? Who is God that He would allow such a thing? If God knew beforehand that the viper would strike out at the child, why didn’t He prevent it? How could a God of love remain idle during such an event? Worse yet, did God plan or determine that this event would happen, as the theologian John Calvin suggests? How ludicrous it seemed to Duncan that a God so great that He created millions of planets in millions of light years of space would spend His time plotting and planning to kill one child in an obscure African village. How could this possibly be the “will of God”? It made no sense. A God of that kind could not conceivably be worthy of man’s love.

Russell on the Problem of Evil

From atheist Bertrand Russell in an essay entitled Has Religion Made
Useful Contributions to Civilization?
:

The world, we are told, was created by a God who is both good and omnipotent. Before He created the world He foresaw all the pain and misery that it would contain; He is therefore responsible for all of it. It is useless to argue that the pain in the world is due to sin. In the first place, this is not true; it is not sin that causes rivers to overflow their banks or volcanoes to erupt. But even if it were true, it would make no difference. If I were going to beget a child knowing that the child was going to be a homicidal maniac, I should be responsible for his crimes. If God knew in advance the sins of which man would be guilty, He was clearly responsible for all the consequences of those sins when He decided to create man. The usual Christian argument is that the suffering in the world is a purification for sin and is therefore a good thing. This argument is, of course, only a rationalization of sadism; but in any case it is a very poor argument. I would invite any Christian to accompany me to the children’s ward of a hospital, to watch the suffering that is there being endured, and then to persist in the assertion that those children are so morally abandoned as to deserve what they are suffering. In order to bring himself to say this, a man must destroy in himself all feelings of mercy and compassion. He must, in short, make himself as cruel as the God in whom he believes. No man who believes that all is for the best in this suffering world can keep his ethical values unimpaired, since he is always having to find excuses for pain and misery.

Calvinist Claims God Causes Evil

Here is a Calvinist, tragically blaming God for sin:

After the initial shock and horror subsides, after the news crews go home, we’re always left with the same question: Where was God?

…But, of course, the Bible says more than that God could have prevented it; it says that it occurs “according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11). Indeed, he works all things according to the counsel of his will. And when the Bible says ‘all things,’ it means all things:

This ‘all things’ includes the fall of sparrows (Matt 10:29), the rolling of dice (Prov 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Ps 44:11), the decisions of kings (Prov 21:1), the failing of sight (Exod 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Sam 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Sam 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Pet 4:19), the completion of travel plans (Jas 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Heb 12:4–7), the repentance of souls (2 Tim 2:25), the gift of faith (Phil 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Phil 3:12–13), the growth of believers (Heb 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Sam 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27–28). (John Piper, “Why I Do Not Say ‘God Did Not Cause This Calamity, But He Can Use It For Good’”)

All things — good, bad, ugly, and horrific — are ordained, guided, and governed by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

For full context, click here.

Highlighted Blog – Jess in Process

Jess in Process

Jess in Process is a blog by mother Jessica Kelly. Here is how she describes herself.

I’m an aspiring author, trained counselor, wife, and mother. I’m also a… well… widow doesn’t fit, my spouse is healthy. Orphan doesn’t describe me, I have several parents. There’s just no title for a mom who loses a child… that’s the one I’m looking for.

In 2012, Jess tragically lost her 4 year old son, Henry, to brain cancer. In her blog, she describes dealing with this suffering with God’s help. Raw emotion coupled with sound theology reverberate throughout her posts. Do not expect to read this with dry eyes. This blog in an excellent resources for Christians trying to understand how God can be good while evil exists in our fallen world.

Notable posts:
Pain and Purpose contains a good overview of Romans 8:28.
Did God Author This contains a brief explanation of the real meaning of various Calvinist proof texts

Henry, age 4.
Jess in Process

Oord on God Permitting Evil

Excerpt from Oord, reviewing the book Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace:

Unfortunately, however, Arminius does not work out the implications of divine limitation in a way that allows him to solve the problem of evil. To absolve God, he tries to distinguish between God willing evil to occur and God merely permitting it. Arminius says he understands God’s providence as both willing and performing good acts, but God “freely permits actions that are evil.”

On this point, I’m with John Calvin who criticizes this so-called distinction between an omnipotent God permitting evil rather than willing it: “There can be no distinction between God’s will and God’s permission,” says Calvin “Why say ‘permission’ unless it is because God so wills?”

Distinguishing between God willing evil and God permitting it offers little consolation to victims of evil. When victims realize that God, as understood by Arminius, could have prevented their pain and suffering but voluntarily permitted it, they will likely find it difficult to retain trust in God’s love. After all, an omnipotent God who wills evil is only slightly more morally reprehensible than an omnipotent God who could unilaterally prevent evil but permits it nonetheless.

Arminius employs what I find to be an unsatisfactory greater goods theodicy, when he says, “God would never permit evil if he could not by his omnipotence produce good out of evil” (100). The implication here, of course, is that every rape, genocide, murder, etc. must have been permitted for some greater good. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe this is true for every instance of evil.

For full text, click here.

Will Duffy on Evil

A Facebook post by Will Duffy, founder of the Collaborators Project:

Answers to the problem of evil:

Calvinist: “God ordained the evil for His pleasure and glory.”

Arminian: “God did not ordain the evil, but is powerless to stop it.”

Truth: “Evil exists because God wants love and love must be freely given. You cannot have true love without the ability to hate.”

god is open

Oord on God’s Culpability for Evil

From Thomas J Oord

Distinguishing between God willing evil and God permitting it offers little consolation to victims of evil. When victims realize that God, as understood by Arminius, could have prevented their pain and suffering but voluntarily permitted it, they will likely find it difficult to retain trust in God’s love. After all, an omnipotent God who wills evil is only slightly more morally reprehensible than an omnipotent God who could unilaterally prevent evil but permits it nonetheless.

Arminius employs what I find to be an unsatisfactory greater goods theodicy, when he says, “God would never permit evil if he could not by his omnipotence produce good out of evil” (100). The implication here, of course, is that every rape, genocide, murder, etc. must have been permitted for some greater good. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe this is true for every instance of evil.

To read the full post, click here.