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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Greatly to be Praised

Perhaps, by far, the most common objection to either the existence of God or the goodness of God is the reality of evil. The unpleasant, the tragic, the sad, the immoral, the truly evil things in this world do in fact exist. Why? If God is good, how can this be?

There have been lots of people (myself included) who have ventured to provide answers to this dilemma. This is not such a one.

The Bible is quite clear that God is true even if every man is a liar (Rom 3:4), that humans have the nasty tendency to suppress the truth (Rom 1:18), and we all suffer from deceitful hearts (Jer 17:9). It begs the question, then. Is it actually true that evil is real? I would affirm without a doubt that it is indeed true from the human perspective, but David says this:
The LORD is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.
All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,
And Your godly ones shall bless You (Psa 145:9-10).
Now, does that give pause? "The Lord is good to all." Without exception. Compassion marks all He does. Without exception. That's the claim. And the further assertion is that all God's works will thank Him. Without exception. It's kind of like Paul's words in Philippians: "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:10-11). Without exception. At least eventually.

We all know that things can be unpleasant here on earth. May I suggest that we are deceived? From an earthly perspective it is surely true. But from a heavenly perspective God does good to all, all He does is covered by compassion, and in the end all His works will praise Him.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable (Psa 145:3).
The sooner we figure that out, the better off we'll be. Today would be a good day to start.


Josh said...

If you are saying that from God's heavenly perspective there is no such thing as evil, please address the following questions. If you aren't saying that please clarify your point.

Can we ever say that anything is "truly" evil then?

Why would God call people's ways evil or wicked, if they in truth are good?

Also, there is the philosophical dilemma: If God doesn't fit at all into our human definitions of Good and Evil, how can we know he can be trusted?

What does God's goodness even mean, if there is no standard?

Can we really with integrity say we will follow a "good" God that truthfully calls rape, murder, genocide, suicide, massacres, and infanticide good?

On top of all this, couldn't I argue against human depravity, because after all everything I do is good from God's heavenly perspective?

Stan said...

Perhaps you didn't understand "Lacking common ground with which to discuss, then, perhaps we ought to shake hands and go home." Or perhaps I wasn't clear when I said, "I would affirm without a doubt that it is indeed true from the human perspective." Or perhaps you just aren't paying attention to the multiple times I've repeated that there is genuine evil.

Here, let me make it clear. There is genuine evil. God does not cause anyone to be or do evil. God can use human evil for His good purpose, but that doesn't change the fact that evil is evil. If it did, Judas Iscariot would be welcomed in heaven as a hero whose sin provided our salvation.

What I said -- what David (in the pages of the Word of God) said -- was "The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works." If you find that unacceptable, you'll have to go argue somewhere else.

Telling me why the argument I did not make is not reasonable is not reasonable. Please go argue it somewhere else.

And thanks for making an opportunity to praise God greatly a moment of contention.

Josh said...

I guess I should have shaken hands and went home. Sorry, sometimes I can't help myself...and you are so consistent at replying to my posts. I will leave you be after this post... As a precursor to my comments and questions. As I read your post, this is what I thought you were trying to say. I may have misinterpreted.

You ask the question "is it actually true that evil is real?" You say "it is indeed true from the human perspective, but..."

Why but? That means you are saying it isn't true from a different perspective. You are also saying that I am deceived when I call something evil, from my false human perspective.

You affirm genuine evil from a "human perspective", and yet say the human perspective is false. How can evil be genuine and false at the same time?

Finally, I will and do praise God greatly for the Biblical verses you post. And I will and do praise God greatly for His goodness, and greatness. So, I am glad that we can praise God together.

Stan said...

I don't mind conversation. It just gets tedious when I say, "The Scriptures say ..." and you say, "You're wrong" and that is the only drum that you know how to beat. I've stated my case from Scripture. You disagree. I've restated my case from other Scripture. You disagree (without giving more reasons). We get it. You disagree. So that's when it gets tedious. "So, tell me, Josh, do you disagree?" Yes. Yes, you do. We get it.

It also gets tedious when the primary objection is always in the meaning of words. We are two people separated by a common language. I say "Sovereign" and you say "sovereign" and we don't mean the same thing. I say "free will" and you say "Free Will" and we don't mean the same thing. I say "all things" (as in "God works all things after the counsel of His will") and you say "all things" and we don't mean the same thing. I say God ordains all that comes to pass and you hear God causes all that comes to pass and no matter how often I say that this is not what I said or meant, you can't hear anything different. I say that there is genuine evil and we cannot agree on the meaning of the word "evil". So trying to come to an understanding, let alone an agreement, becomes impossible, and that is truly tedious.

If "evil" means "sin", we are agreed that sin occurs, that sin is real, that sin is not good ever. Most people understand "evil" to mean anything "bad". (See? It gets difficult already.) "Bad", however, is anything from moral evil to unpleasant circumstances. That's why translations of Isa 45:7 differ. One says God creates "evil" and another says "calamity". The word is ambiguous because the concept is ambiguous.

Throw into this mix the very biblical concept that God is able to use moral evil for His good purposes, and you, for one, will never be able to correlate "evil" and "good" in this context. You cannot see how something can be actually and truly evil and used by God for His good purposes and, therefore, ordained by God (See? Even more difficult, since "ordained" is one of those words you don't see the same way my dictionary does).

It only gets worse when your standard is "How do I understand it?" rather than "What does the text say?" If you conclude "It doesn't make sense to me", you conclude "That can't be what it means." I conclude "I must be misunderstanding because God's Word must be true" and I seek to change my understanding rather than rearrange the text. I interpret the implicit from the explicit, and you're happy to do the opposite. So we have differing foundational approaches.

As for the post, here's what I said (or, rather, what the text says): "The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works." Here's what I intended (or, rather, what the text intended): "The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works." What I said was that we often think that God treats people badly and this text disagrees. What I said was that, from a human perspective, it might appear that God treats us badly, but (that "but" to which you objected) in truth He never does. Because what the text says and what I intended to convey is "The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works." Now, if there is something about that that suggests "There is no evil in the world" or anything remotely connected, be sure to tell me how because I don't see it, didn't say it, didn't intend it, have never suggested it.

Josh said...

Going back to my original post: I misunderstood you. I agree with your entire last paragraph, which was the point of the article. My mistake came when you asked "Is it actually true that evil is real?" When I first read it through I thought you were arguing the answer to this question was no, but when in fact you were arguing that good and not evil is accomplished by God. As you and the text stated "the Lord is good to all." Sorry for misrepresenting your point.

Stan said...

How nice to come to a point of agreement!