Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Speculation, God, evil and Adam.

Lately there has been much said about the kind of trouble we can get into when trying to discuss, explain certain ideas about the origin of sin and evil, especially Pre-fall considerations explicitly.

Now, I am fully aware such a subject can push passions to produce heat rather than light. I am also fully aware that certain reformed men have at times went too far in their views, pushing scripture beyond the bounds of its immediacy regarding context and stuff. One man I love, Jonathon Edwards may be a bit guilty of going too far, particularly in trying to understand the exact nature of Pre-fall Adam and Eve, whereas someone like Calvin did not stray, and many other fine scholars exercised restraint.

But, some of you who know me, might understand that in this mamby pamby evanjellyfish age we live in, I would rather attempt to speak plainly and simply when even addressing this thorny subject.
If anything I say rubs you the wrong way, please comment and I will do my best to be clear.
I will also retract error if it is rightly pointed out, I promise!

Some get all twisted and start stuttering when pushed in this area, and that is fine. It is a difficult subject in some sense, but let me see if I can break it down a wee bit, without going beyond scripture.

The official name for this area of study would be called "Theodicy", which simply means to study the origin of evil and it's supposed problem implications for the Christian God based upon His nature.
Not really a prominant subject preached about these days, and I am talking about reformed Churches!

Theodicy (IPA: /θiːˈɒdɪsi/) (adjectival form theodicean) is a specific branch of theology and philosophy that attempts to reconcile the existence of evil or suffering in the world with the belief in an omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent God, i.e., the problem of evil.

Here are some simple facts to contemplate. (Right off the top of my head and therefore in no particular order of importance)

1/ When God originally planned to create Men and Angels, He did so with full knowledge, plan and purpose, that evil and sin will definitely come about. That is not speculation.

2/ Considering the above point, plainly and logically tells us that the first and ultimate source for evil as a reality in creation, is God Himself. That is what even Edwards means when he says that "God in that sense" is the author of evil. That is not speculation.

3/ That does not make God evil or a "doer of evil".

God is God, and He has no Judge for whatever He does, plans and purposes. God is the highest authority, and by definition, everything God does is good and holy and right. That is not speculation.

4/ Pre-fall, Adam being perfect and "very good", does not mean "unable to sin or do evil". We know this because He did sin and do evil. That is not speculation.

5/ God plainly declares, "In the day you eat" (Gen 2:17) which presuposes the "inevitability" of the sinful action, which tells us that God planned and purposed the fall for His own plans and purposes. That is not speculation.

6/ Evil exists apart from God's own inherant goodness, meaning that evil is the result of God not restraining "good". (In that sense it is not a created thing. Think of darkness simply being the absence of light). That is not speculation.

7/ Evil is not something coming out of God, but rather is present where God wills His goodness not to be. Where God is not restraining evil, evil results. That is not speculation.

8/ The primary participants in "moral" evil (rather than say disasters and other so called acts of nature) are men and fallen angels, whom God uses as "means" to do whatsoever God desires to happen in His plans and purposes. That is not speculation. (same principal is true for disasters and other acts of nature)

9/ All men and fallen angels are active and willing participants in all "moral" evil that happens in the universe, and it is God's right alone to restrain His goodness (which resuts in evil) so that God controls that evil IN whatever way God chooses for His own ends and purposes. That is not speculation.

Incidentally, Theists affirm what is called the "benevolence of God" which is simply saying that God is essentially good. We as Christians are not saying what has come to be called "uni or omni-benevolent" meaning that God can only ever be good, make everthing good and eliminate any and all evil at all times and all places and all circumstances. No, that has no relation to what we mean by "Benevolent".

10/ No evil act commited is ever free from God's plan, decrees and purposes. No exceptions. That is not speculation.

11/ God shall rightly judge all evil acts, which are done, even though all evil acts were planned and purposed by God to be done, even before creation took place. That is not speculation.

12/ All suffering and evil that takes place in the universe is ordained by God, and is working toward the "good" of all those who love and serve Him, and by deduction, is working "bad" toward those who despise Him. That is not speculation.

13/ Ultimately, God has a "good" use for evil, and that is His perogative.
God has decided to reveal to us that we as created people, need to believe what He has said regarding His sovereignty. We are to trust Him, know that He is good and Holy and righteous in all of His ways, even if we do not understand this particular subject regarding the origin of evil in God's universe. That is not speculation.

Now, I may have just lost whatever few readers I have here, but I cannot help it. My conscience is bound to what scripture faithfully teaches, so to repeat what Pilate so long ago said, "What I have written, I have written".

Amen Mark not speculating.

For an example of speculation, consider Benny Hinn and his "Flying" Adam teaching! or What Arminians and Open Theists teach on this subject.... or What many Reformed types teach these days for that matter! (They are the ones forever using the expression of God "allowing" this, that and the next thing.

Some extra thoughts....

How could Adam be held accountable (and with him the entire human race), if he was not free to do other than he did do—if God really intended for him to do exactly as he did? With this question we come to the heart of the Reformed Theodicy. The main points are, first, that no one has ever been held accountable for what they could have thought or done, only for what they have thought or done, and for their purposes in thinking or doing it; and, second, that though both Adam and God intended that evil should come about, their purposes were distinct, God's being ultimately good, Adam's being ultimately evil.

The Reformed Theodicy boils down to the distinction of purposes between the primary agent (God) and the secondary agents (humans). While it is true that God intends to bring about evil, God's purpose is not, of itself, evil (cf. Gen. 50:20). This idea can be expressed by analogy:

Picture a man holding down a child while other men stick pieces of metal into the child's eye, all the while the child is screaming in pain, crying out for them to stop. On the surface it seems like a horrible, cruel thing these men are doing to the child. But if we add the information that the child is bleeding to death from the nasal cavity, that there is no time for anesthetic, that the man holding him down is his loving father, and that the men sticking the metal into his eye are doctors trying to save his life, then the problem of evil disappears. The evil doesn't disappear, it is still there (just ask the child!), but the problem of evil is no longer present, because the intention is good.

Of course, no analogy is perfect!

Mark, signing off.

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