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Thursday, June 02, 2011

God and Good

One of the bloggers that I like to read is Neil Simpson over at Eternity Matters. The other day he posted an entry entitled "Somewhere Greg Koukl is smiling" about the dangers of taking Scripture out of context. I am in full agreement about the concept and heartily opposed to taking Scripture out of context, but I had a slight disagreement about one particular example he used. He (and his commenters) argued that you cannot apply Jeremiah 29:11 to anyone today because it was intended for a particular group of people back then and not anyone today. I contended that the promise was to God's people in exile, and that, just like Romans 8:28, it was a promise that God works all things together for good for His own people -- His elect in the world. Well, of course, I was alone in that opinion, and, frankly, this is not about that disagreement. The question I have is regarding "good".

One commenter told me, "I don't think the Scripture says that God has a specific plan for each individual, other than allowing them to do what they want." He was quite confident that "Certainly we can’t say that God’s plan is for everyone to avoid evil when we have so many Christians martyred around the world." He affirmed, "We can’t assume every time there is evil directed at us that God intended it for good." This is in keeping with a large portion of Christian theology that argues (without using the words) that, just like Wesley from The Princess Bride was "mostly dead", God in reality is "mostly sovereign". The true Sovereign of our world is Human Free Will ("allowing them to do what they want") and God is just kind of along for the ride, working out whatever good He can manage with the only ultimate certainty being the salvation of His own (although, when you think about it, wouldn't that possibly violate their free will?).

So where am I going with this? The contention is that unbelievers certainly endure "bad things", especially if you consider "going to Hell" a "bad thing". The argument is that Christians certainly suffer uncomfortable things -- "not good". The question that comes up, then, is about what "good" is intended. More than one Christian has argued with me, for instance, about Romans 8:28. I would state it, "We know that God works all things together for good" and they would correct me, "To those who love God!" You see, it isn't good for those who do not love God. And I would tend to disagree.

Given the character of God -- God is Good; that is, God defines what good is -- and given the fact (despite the commenter's disagreement) that God is absolutely Sovereign, I would have to conclude that God works all things together for good in all cases. The problem is not the overpowering Free Will of Man, but the failure of human beings, even Christian ones, to properly identify "good". I bring this up because of another blog entry I recently read about how the doctrine of election provides comfort for those with lost loved ones. When a loved one dies without Christ, I contended, the doctrine of election is not comforting. What is comforting is the reality of the justice and holiness and righteousness of God. But, you see, this is a problem for most modern Christians.

It boils down to these two questions. Is God actually the definition of "good"? Is God actually Sovereign? You see, if God is genuinely good and genuinely sovereign, then I would have to argue that He works all things together for good ... period. To those who love God, what we see would be classified as "good" by us. To those who do not, what they see would not be classified as "good" to them. But the classification does not define whether it is genuinely good. God does.

Now, you may disagree with me. It wouldn't be the first time such a thing has happened. Still, since I am thoroughly convinced that God is both absolutely Sovereign and absolutely Good, I can only conclude that God works all things for Good. My problem, then, is simply a matter of realigning my definition of "good" to coincide with God's perspective. (As an example, consider this post from 2006.) Sometimes that's pretty easy. Sometimes it's not. But from my perspective it is not a problem with God but with me. And with that perspective the whole question of "bad things happening to good people" goes away. So I'll let those of you who disagree with me deal with that one.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

God is absolutely sovereign and absolutely good. But that doesn't thereby mean he runs the world as a puppeteer. Scripture makes it obvious that God allows man to do as he will, and He may sometimes intervene. If God did not allow man free will (which can always be over-ridden by His sovereignty), then it would be a pointless world of pre-programmed robots, which can not return genuine love.

God works all things for the eventual good, which is really what Romans 8:28 is about. But Jer. 29:11 is context specific rather than a general statement as is Romans 8:28. As I noted, it can be used with other passages to demonstrate God's character, but it cannot be used for individuals, or anyone other than the Nation of Israel, without taking it out of context.

Stan said...

I like the whole "robots" defense. I don't find it in Scripture, but I like it. :)

Sovereignty doesn't demand "puppeteer" or the absence of the ability to make choices. On the other hand, if by "free will" you mean "the ability to contravene God's Sovereign will (as opposed to His decretive will or His will of disposition), then God is not Sovereign. But surely it cannot be argued that for God to be absolutely Sovereign must mean that He must be a puppeteer. That would be far too narrow. (There are second causes, you know. See, as a biblical example, Luke 22:23, where God determines that Jesus would be betrayed, but Judas is still responsible for his choice to do so.)

Oh, and this wasn't a continuation of the "Is Jer 29:11 taken out of context?" debate, but an observation of "good" and our failure to rightly detect it.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I never said that to be absolutely sovereign must make God a puppeteer. What you are saying is that if man has free will to refuse to do God's will would make God not sovereign. Those who practice homosexual behavior contravene God's will for them, yet that does not remove God's sovereignty; He could intervene at any point, if he desired, and make them unable to behave in that manner.

The main thing to remember is that God's foreknowledge does not equal fore-ordination. He knows the hearts of people and will use them for his purposes; he knew the heart of Judas and used him that way, knowing the outcome. But Judas still had the free-will choices - and his choices being poor is why God was able to use him as He did.

And the fact that God is Good, doesn't mean that He has a specific, spelled out plan for every individual other than to let that person live his life as he desires. If his desire is to seek God's will and serve the Lord, then God will assist him in that desire. If his desire is to reject God, then God will give him over to a depraved mind (Romans 1).

Either way, it is to God's glory in that it shows his mercy and justice in every instance.

Stan said...

Please be careful. I was very careful when I referenced "God's Sovereign will (as opposed to His decretive will or His will of disposition)". The Bible is abundantly clear that God "works all things after the counsel of His will." That would be His "Sovereign will". That always happens. We also know that God has a "decretive will". That is, He says, "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not" and the like that tells us "This is what I command." We know that God does not always get this. And there is the third type, what I referenced as His "will of disposition". This is what God would like. Jesus used this concept when He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Luke 13:34). Clearly He doesn't always get this one, either. So when I spoke of His Sovereign will, it was the one that always happens, the one that Paul referred to when he said that all things occur after the counsel of His will. When someone violates God's laws regarding, using your example, homosexual behavior, he is violating God's decretive will.

Oh, and I disagree with the claim that God doesn't have a "spelled out plan for every individual other than to let that person live his life as he desires." David said, "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (Psa 139:16). Solomon wrote, "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" (Prov 16:9).

But let me ask you. Is it your idea that God takes a kind of "hands off" approach? He lets Man have his Free Will and does what He can afterwards to make it work out? I mean, how free is Man's Free Will? You said that God knowing in advance doesn't mean it is foreordained. Why not? If He sees it and it is not His Sovereign will that it happen for His good reasons, why wouldn't He stop it? If it's not going to happen and God requires it for the "good" that He has foreordained, why can't He cause it? One person wrote, "There is not one maverick molecule in the universe." It appears that you would disagree. It would appear that you see the universe as kind of freewheeling and God is picking up wherever He must to get things to work right. I can't imagine that's your view, but it looks like it, so I'm hoping you can clarify.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

You have said nothing that I didn’t say already about God’s sovereignty - you just give different names to different parts of his will. His will includes allowing mankind to make their own choices.

If God has a special plan already spelled out for each individual, then they are nothing but puppets. Or are you saying it is God’s desired will that people suffer torture, starvation, rape, etc?

Your citations of Ps. 139:16 and Prov. 16:9 say nothing different from what I’ve said. Firstly, Ps. 139 is about foreknowledge - not fore-ordination. Prov. is nothing more than a general statement that God’s leading directs us. We can always ignore God’s leading though - He will also allow that.

God is outside of time - He sees what will happen before it happens in time. He can choose to intervene or not, depending on the outcome He desires. For example, let’s say a Christian is hooked on porn. God may decide to just allow him to get deeper and deeper into it until he comes to his senses and asks God for help leaving it. Or God can decide He doesn’t want that person to continue and then blocks all attempts the guy has to view porn until the guy figures it is God acting. Either way, God still works the situation to the outcome but he did not ordain that the guy would get hooked on porn. If you say he ordained that, then you say God ordains sin. He didn’t ordain Adam and Eve to sin, He permitted them to make the choice, and knowing what their choice would be He already had the plan of salvation in place.

Stan said...

"His will includes allowing mankind to make their own choices."

His will includes allowing mankind to make their own choices ... within the confines of His Sovereign Will.

"If God has a special plan already spelled out for each individual, then they are nothing but puppets."

That would only be true if God pulls the strings ... if God makes them choose what He wants. Here, look at this biblical example. In Gen 20, Abraham lied about his wife and Abimelech took her. God came in the night and told him he was doomed. He told God he was innocent. God told him, "I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against Me." Now, who did what? First, God's Sovereign Will: Sarah wasn't to be touched. Okay, so Abimelech didn't touch her. Was it his choice or God's? According to God, the answer is ... "Yes!" Abimelech acted on his own free will to do the right thing, and "it was I who kept you from sinning."

"Prov. is nothing more than a general statement that God’s leading directs us."

I'm sorry, but that makes no sense. Solomon puts a key word in the sentence: "but". That is, in contradistinction to something. Man plans, but God directs. That is, Man may make whatever plans he wishes, but in the end God will direct what happens. Again, this doesn't require some sort of divine puppetry. It can be something as simple as a red light on a dashboard. "We planned to go on this trip today, but it looks like we can't go now." Who chose?

"He sees what will happen before it happens in time."

On foreknowledge, let me ask you this. God sees what will happen in our future. Will it happen? If He sees it infallibly, then it must happen, mustn't it? And if it must happen, how is that not "foreordained"? The word, "foreordain" means "to determine (events, results, etc.) in the future" and nothing more. It doesn't mean "cause to happen" or any such thing. So if God knows something will happen and doesn't change the event, that is exactly the same thing as ordaining that it will happen without needing to cause it to happen. As such, yes, God ordained sin. That is, He knew it would happen, could have prevented it, determined that it was part of His ultimate plan ("Sovereign Will"), and allowed it.

Deists believe in God. They just think that He got it all up and running and then let it go. Now it is governed according to natural laws and such. What you are suggesting is a form of deism. God gets Man up and running, and now Man does whatever he pleases and God mostly just lets it go. I don't find this form of Sovereignty in Scripture.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

God has a permissive will, in that he permits man to do what he wants.

I have stated that God does intervene with man’s will when He wants to accomplish something, but that is not the same thing as saying that God has a plan all laid out for everyone to the last detail.

“Directs his steps” - counsels, gives directions. If God directed every man’s step as you have it saying, then God would be the one who made the man sin! For example, I had planned on seeking a job in NH, and calls to that control tower gave me the response that they had a lot in the want list and it would be a long time if I wanted to go there. I sent my paperwork in anyway. Then I figured if I went for an interview, it would give me a better chance; I wasn’t taking no for an answer. I got a cockpit pass for the flight to that airport. Just before taxiing from the gate, I got bumped by an annual route check pilot. He had 365 days and several flights a day to choose from and yet he chose the one I was on. That, to me, was God telling me “NO.” And apparently He wanted me in Iowa instead. God was directing my path. I could have continued trying, but I recognized God’s hand at work. I could have ignored it and God would not have forced me to choose, but I’m sure He would have kept directing my attention to where He wanted to direct it.

Fore-ordained means God ordained and decided from the beginning that it would happen. As he fore-ordained the way of salvation. See what will happen is not the same as planning it to happen. Allowing something to happen is not the same as causing it to happen. This is not anything like deism.

And this is very much what Scripture says.

Stan said...

Okay, let me see if I have this. First, "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" means to you that Man plans his way but God gives directions?

And on the "foreknowledge" thing, it would appear that in your view God sees things that will happen (you mentioned "torture, starvation, rape"), does not will that it be so, does not ordain it, and has the capacity to stop it, but doesn't act? So, would you say that this is a lack of love for His creatures or a lack of ability? Has He failed to sufficiently care or is that that He has so surrendered to Man's Free Will that His hands are tied in a sense?

Ryan said...

“Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” (Job 14:5)

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:33)

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” (Lamentations 3:37-38)

“The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’" (Exodus 4:11)

“See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

“The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor; For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, And He set the world on them.” (1 Samuel 2:6-8)

“The LORD works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster.” (Proverbs 16:4)

“I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

“When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” (Amos 3:6)

Seems to speak for itself...

Stan said...

There you go, Ryan, gettin' all biblical on us.

David said...

I believe that in the end, even those who are damned will have to admit that it is good for them to be damned. We know that at the end, EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess. In the end, we will all see that God is truly the one to be worshiped and all those that did not will have to admit that they deserve Hell. Hell is good because Hell is justice. Heaven is good because Heaven is mercy.

Stan said...

The trick, of course, is not in seeing that it was good for me. The trick is in agreeing with God that it was good, as an example, for your grandfather (pick a family member, someone dear to you) to have been damned. That will require a truly sanctified understanding.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

When we raised our children, we “directed” their steps. We taught them how to live and the difference between right and wrong; we were continuously there for counsel. This is indeed how God directs our steps - he does not force us to do anything, nor has he preprogrammed us.

So, if God does not allow man his free will actions to sin or not to sin, that somehow makes God’s hands tied? No, it means He gives man free will. But in your view where God “directs” man’s every step, then God is the one who directs man to rape, pillage, murder, etc. You have God making the man sin and then holding him accountable for it!

There is neither lack of love nor lack of ability. Without free will, man can not voluntarily love God, and a love which is programmed and forced is not love at all. I can program a computer (well, I can’t because I have a hard enough time understanding computers) to love me, but what good is a machine’s love?

Stan said...

I can only guess at this point, Glenn, that we are talking past each other. I believe in free will, although I do not believe that God takes a "hands off" approach nor that God has no actual plan for each individual human being. As was pointed out above, "The LORD works out everything for His own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster" (Prov 16:4). So I believe that humans have the ability to make choices and I believe that God has plans for each and every being (including sparrows) on the planet. You seem to think that this requires that God would have to eliminate the ability to make choices. But you agreed with me that "Judas still had the free-will choices - and his choices being poor is why God was able to use him as He did." That is, God had a plan and incorporated Judas's free will choices to accomplish this plan. Thus, both foreordained (the word in that verse was "predetermined") and free-will-therefore-culpable are in play.

You seem to think (and, therefore, attribute to my beliefs) that either God can force everything or God can give Man complete and unfettered Free Will. I believe that's a false dichotomy. Of course, I don't believe in "unfettered Free Will", but I do affirm that humans make genuine choices for which they are culpable (good or bad). Does that require, in your view, that God must not have a plan for them? Is it, in your view, the "ultimate good" that human beings have unfettered Free Will?

I continue to affirm, in light of the Scriptures I've offered and the Scriptures Ryan offered and more, that God has a plan for each individual. I affirm that this plan will certainly happen. I also affirm that Man's choice to sin is his own choice. If (when) sin occurs, I will also argue that this was part of God's plan for that person without causing it. Is there no room in your thinking for both the human ability to choose and the Sovereign Will of God in the lives of each individual?

Bottom line, Glenn, you are making the most comfortable arguments. I mean, I understand and even feel what you are arguing. The Free Will of Man is a popular thing and the unfettered Free Will of Man is the most popular. We really don't want to think that God limits that in any way. I mean, I understand. Unfortunately, due to the weight of Scriptures offered here and beyond, I can't seem to line up your position with those Scriptures. Nor can I rationalize it. The idea of a "Sovereign God" whose method of sovereignty is to remove Himself from being sovereign doesn't make any sense at all. Nor can I rationalize the idea that God works all things together for good while Man, the sworn enemy of God under the careful and skilled guidance of Satan, is busy making his own Free Will choices without God's control. Finally, if God can stop all those things that are against His will and doesn't, I have no answer for the critics who ask, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" If your understanding is correct, either God is incapable or unwilling to stop it. I can't live with either option.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Ryan, all you demonstrated is God's foreknowledge and permissive will. Of course He wills everything that happens - if He didn't want it to happen He wouldn't allow it to happen! But permissive will allowing mankind the freedom to make choices is not the same as pre-programming those choices.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

God does indeed have an overall plan for everyone - either they will be saved or they will not be. But if you say that everything a man does was already planned by God then you have no choice but to say God caused man to sin.

You somehow think that God is not sovereign if he allows man unfettered free will. Will, if God isn't allowing this, they you really have no answer for why there is evil in the world except to say that God causes it. Without unfettered free will, how does man perpetrate the evil that he does on fellow human beings. Yes God CAN stop it all, and He will in the end, but at this point God is allowing people to do as they will, or else you have to have God being the one planning out all the evil and forcing man to do it!

I don't see how you can answer the question as to whether God is unable to stop the evil or is able but won't.

You say you are left with the option that God is incapable or unwillig and you refuse to accept either. Well, we know God is capable of stopping evil, so then why doesn't He? In my understanding it is because He is unwilling to interfere with man's free will because that would be against His character - his character allows choices or else there would be no point in making man rather than a robot.

That you really have only two choices, is correct. But if you leave out God allowing man's free will then you have: 1) Either God is incapable of stopping evil or 2) God is the cause of evil.

Stan said...

I asked, "Is there no room in your thinking for both the human ability to choose and the Sovereign Will of God in the lives of each individual?" The answer is "No!" It is not possible for God to have a plan for everything a person does without directly causing it to happen. Okay, then, that's your view. I don't see it as either logically or biblically necessary, but you do. Since this is the case, any suggestion on my part either from logic or Scripture will be foolishness to you. I get it.

You see, I don't see any necessary connection between "plan" and "cause". An architect plans a building but doesn't cause it. Or, one of my favorite illustrations, when my children's mother baked a batch of fresh cookies and offered them each one, she did not cause them to eat them ... but there was no chance of anything else happening. Consuming those cookies was both her plan and their free will. So I don't have a problem with saying that God plans that sin will occur without causing it to occur.

Look, this seems somewhat ridiculous to me. Take the concept of judo, for instance. The master plans not to get hurt even though his opponent will try to do so. He doesn't cause the opponent to try to hurt him. And he uses the opponents attempt to do so as the tool with which he prevents the event. "Plan" and "cause" are not necessarily linked. God knew, when He put Adam and Eve in the garden, that they would sin. He could have prevented it. He could have even not done it at all. But He started this whole thing knowing that sin would prevail. That's "planning". He also planned, from the outset, to remedy it. He also planned to demonstrate His wrath and power against sin. So while He didn't cause sin and could have prevented it, He planned for it to happen and allowed it as part of His plan. "Plan" and "cause" are not necessarily linked.

So in your view the Ultimate Good is to create a being who will certainly act contrary to the Ultimate Sovereign of the Universe and allowing him to do what he wishes and then try to salvage from that some good. He could stop the evil from happening but because His hands are tied (by this demand for the Ultimate Good), He doesn't. And you've decided that if my understanding of Scripture is true, then God is the cause of evil. I don't see that necessity at all. I see it like this: "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." I see it as God allowing and using evil for His good purposes. I see no need for "cause" there.

So I suppose it's not possible for us to come to an agreement there. You require "plan = cause" and I don't have any such obligation. You believe that God is unwilling to stop evil because Man's Free Will is so important and I believe that God doesn't stop evil because, while it is indeed evil, He can use it to demonstrate His wrath and power and justice and mercy and grace ... parts of His character that would never be visible in a world without sin.

Ryan said...

I vote for #2, Glenn. "God causes evil."


Get ahold of yourself and let me explain.

The only way you can suggest that all I've pointed out is God's foreknowledge and permissive will is to directly contradict Scripture. And Stan, I have to disagree with you too. What does Scripture mean, when God says that He 'caused' calamity in Amos 3:6, if He didn't cause calamity? Does 'cause' mean 'permit' or 'plan?' What does Scripture mean when God says He 'created' disaster if it doesn't mean that He created disaster? Or when God says that both calamities and good things come from His mouth (as in, not from ours)? Or how one would think that God deciding what a given cast-lot will be is somehow God permitting the lot to determine itself? And somehow, God really meant He only works out the 'big picture' for His own ends, not actually 'everything.' It seems to me that the very point of some of these verses is to point out that it's not just the good that comes from God, but the evil, too. What did I miss?

It seems like you both are trying to protect God from something He claims for Himself, though in different ways; Glenn - through suggesting that it's God 'permitting' evil, and Stan - through drawing a line between 'planning' and 'causing' (which, I agree there's a difference, but when God says He 'causes...').

God says He causes it...why do we somehow feel like we need to protect God from Himself? I would argue it's because we think that it would necessitate God being evil. But God is no more evil than an author who writes a story about a man who murders someone and then holds the character accountable by writing into the story that the character was caught and sentenced to prison. If a different character were to ask that character if he chose to kill the man, he would say, 'absolutely. I did it out of my own free will.' But if you're looking to metaphysically explain the killing, the author caused the character to kill the man. And the author is not evil because he wrote a story about a man killing someone. Nor is the author wrong for holding the character accountable for his action...He's the author! Is the character going to say to the author, "Why have you made me like this..." This is starting to sound familiar.

If you don't like the analogy, take that up with Paul, who suggests that God is a potter and we are His vessels. Some God creates for glory, and others He creates for destruction (Paul doesn't say that God creates vessels and permits them to destroy themselves, as if the pot could somehow slap away the Potter's hand and mold itself, or as Paul puts it, talks back to the Potter and asks to know why it was made this way). The character doesn't grab the pen from the author (with His permission, of course) and write His own story.

God doesn't do this, Glenn, so that He'll be loved 'unrobotically,' as you seem to vehemently cling to. He does it to "make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory."

Let's look from another perspective. God was, in no way, required to make a consequence of the fall things like earthquakes, tornados, or the like...what we might call 'natural evil.' God metaphysically caused that to be linked to our sin. It wouldn't happen if God didn't cause it to be linked to our sin. So in what way does God not metaphysically cause natural evil? God didn't simply permit natural evil to happen. He caused it to happen.

Ryan said...

So it is with 'everything.' God has written a story. Each and every part of His story has a purpose, including the seemingly insignificant ones (sparrows, anyone?) What is that purpose? To have everyone love Him unrobotically? To create people He 'foreknows' won't come to Him only to try to 'woo' them to Himself, anyway, not wanting to interrupt their free will?

“I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:6-7)

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12)

“And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD...” (Exodus 14:4)

“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory...” (Romans 9:17, 22-23)

The ultimate purpose of this story is God's glory.

Stan said...

I have to point out that "calamity" is not the same as moral evil. I agree without reservation that God causes (directly) calamity. Now, if God causes (actually produces the effect of) evil, then we have a couple of problems. First, James says, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (James 1:13-15). Second, if God caused evil, then Man would not be culpable. If I put a gun in your hands and use your hand to point it and shoot someone with it, you're not guilty of murder. So I would agree that the lot is determined by God and that God actually creates disaster and calamity, but if we are going to assign to God the actual force that produces evil, we have a problem. Am I trying to protect God from something? No, I'm trying to align with Scripture which says that God does not cause evil. The distinction I'm drawing (because it's the distinction I see in Scripture) is being the motive force for moral evil. If by "cause" you mean "put him in the circumstance in which he would certainly commit the evil God knew he would", I'm fine with that. But "cause evil" is a more direct concept than "wrote it into a story".

I'm drawing a distinction between "calamity" and "moral evil", between the motive force that produces sin and simply willing that it be. I can show examples in Scripture for this. Can you give me some reference where God is the motive force that made someone commit sin? If so, on what basis can it be said that this person had a choice or is culpable? That is, I agree with your view a lot farther than most, but I cannot go the whole distance because I lack the ability to work around the two problems -- Scripture and moral culpability.

Ryan said...

First, you are confusing metaphysical cause with practical cause. God is the metaphysical cause of everything. Period. Nothing has it's existance without God authoring it. This is why, when I say God is the cause of evil, I am only speaking as an author to a story. And you are right. God tempts no one. God does no moral evil himself. God doesn't command (or tempt) anyone to do moral evil. That doesn't mean that He didn't author it. God could have created any other world including a untopia. But he didn't; He chose to create/author this one, with sin and all. So again, when I (He) speaks of causing, it's in a metaphysical sense. He doesn't grab our hand and pull the trigger, as it were. That's not metaphysical.

I'll address responsibility later. Gotta run...

Stan said...

I'm not confusing it. I'm clarifying it. What I have claimed (here and elsewhere) is that God plans, intends, ordains, predetermines evil. Not just calamity, but moral evil. Adam (as the first example) committed it, but before he ever existed or had the opportunity to do so, God planned it and authorized it and intended it. Adam's sin wasn't "Plan B". There was no "hope" in God's mind when H made Adam -- "I hope he won't do it." Nor was there lack of intent. In other words, I'm agreeing with your concept (and have agreed) but differentiating between the concepts of "cause" because most people see "cause" as "that which makes something happen" and if God makes sin happen, then God and not the sinner is responsible for sin. In other words, I still think we're in agreement here.

Ryan said...

You're right...the more I've been thinking about this, the more I'm realizing that I think when you say 'plan,' I'm saying 'metaphysical cause.' I guess my biggest thing is that so many people want to use passive terms (permit, allow, etc.) when addressing God's Sovereignty. God uses active terms, (decrees, decides, determines, creates, causes, makes, does, etc.). And somehow, to many people, that makes God evil.

Defining terms is the most important thing that can be done in debate, and now that we've established that, we can move on!