« Links Mentioned on the Show | Main | Links Mentioned on the Show »

February 14, 2011

Comments

If there can be such a thing as a morally justifiable reason for allowing evil, as you argued in "A Good Reason For Evil," then I don't see why there couldn't be a morally justifiable reason for causing evil. And if there's a morally justifiable reason for causing evil, then the one who causes it isn't guilty for having done anything wrong. So I don't see any inconsistency in saying that God is perfectly good even if he causes evil as long as God himself doesn't do anything evil.

Jonathan Edwards said God is the author of evil in the sense that he disposes the world in such a way that evil happens, but he is not the author of evil in the sense of being the doer of any bad thing. If there is a morally justifiable reason for causing evil to take place, then causing evil to take place is not necessarily a bad thing.

There are many examples in the Bible of prophecy being fulfilled through the evil actions of men. The crucifixion is the most obvious example. Whether God decrees, commits, or allows those actions is almost irrelevant to me. Choosing one of these terms over another might make us feel better about the circumstances, but when you realize that the fulfillment of God's prophecy necessarily came about through evil actions, you're just arguing semantics.

One problem with Greg's analysis here (and probably with the question asker's confusion) is that it doesn't recognize a fundamental fact about evil: Evil is in the evildoer, not in the conditions brought about by action.

Two people can do precisely the same thing and one of them does evil while the other does good. Why, because one of them had different knowledge than the other, or because one of them had different powers than the other. God sees all ends. What He chooses to cause might not be evil even though it would be evil if someone else caused the very same thing.

The second problem with the analysis is a bit more subtle. Greg assumes that if some individual is freely causes some event, then no other individual can freely cause that event. This is not true. Suppose that both Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson freely shoot Professor Moriarty in the heart at precisely the same moment. As a result of the injuries to his heart, Moriarty dies. We may suppose that, had Watson not fired and only Holmes had, Holmes' bullet would still have killed Moriarty. We may likewise suppose that if Holmes had not fired and only Watson had, Watson's bullet would still have killed Moriarty. Who caused Moriarty's death? To be more precise, who was the sufficient cause of Moriarty's death? The answer can only be that they both were.

It seems to me that this is what we have to say about God. God causes everything. From the largest supernova to the smallest sub-atomic decay, from the most profound theological insight to the meanest lustful thought, God is the cause. To be more precise, He is the sufficient cause.

It does not follow from this that no other agents cause anything.

Finally, Greg's answer seems to undercut the notion of Divine Simplicity. God's Power is His Knowledge is His Action. You can't separate God's Decree from His Causality. It is all One, and it is all God.

" Evil is in the evildoer, not in the conditions brought about by action."
Exactly my point.

/ramble on

maybe its just me, but i think having a good understanding of how God judges mankind, individually and corporately, is paramount to understanding what evil is, and where its blame should rest.

i hardly ever see anyone talk about the judgment process when talking about rebellion, which i equivocate with "evil".

i mean, isnt the crux of what we are leading to, is the question of whether or not God is morally responsible for evil? As in, being guilty of its doing?

From what i can glean from the Bible, God deals with individuals and groups of people, in the exact same way.

that is, whenever a person/persons reach a point of full iniquity then God can no longer have a redeeming effect on that person, that is to say, when they are beyond redemption after punitive judgments (corporately) and the prodding of the Holy Spirit (individually), then those people are said to be "in rebellion", or wicked, and will not be found in the book of Life. This is why the judgment of the living is to cause people to choose one way or the other.

But only God knows our desires and inner thoughts. If he were to use someone like Pharaoh, what difference does it make if God hardens the heart of someone he already knows will never choose against rebellion? Pharaoh's actions are still his own. He desired them. His fruits came from their seed. So what if God caused him to have an abundant crop of his own fruit? This does not change what kind of fruit it is, but rather the quantity. in regards to salvation, its about quality, not quantity. even the most grievous life of rebellion will eventually come to the same conclusion, an end.

the act of Salvation makes a great many things justifiable, when you consider the total sum of all the parts. Even the most horrible death imaginable will be infinitely insignificant after that righteous person is resurrected upon Christs return. likewise, the most manageable death you can think of is infinitely insignificant to the consequences of the 2nd death, for a life of rebellion.

/ramble off

We need to define Evil. Christ said in essence, that loving God with all of our faculties, and loving our neighbor (enemy) as our own self, constituted righteousness.

So, the opposite of this must be what defines Evil. Hatred of God and neighbor must lie at the core of Evil.

So, if the definition of Evil is the hatred of God and neighbor, and God cannot hate himself, nor does He have a neighbor god to hate, then God is incapable of Evil, no matter what He does or doesn't do.

WidomLover and dave are barking up the right tree.

God, as a causer, is not an agent of cause. "Agent" implies that the causer was himself caused by something else. God's causing is in this way different than His creation, as discreet subdivided iterations of existence, being internally consistent agents of cause. That is, God has eternally established what will happen by decree and has created underlying rules for all of creation to follow as temporal causal agents.

Men, as volitional systems of causal agents, have intent. Where this intent agrees with God's ethical will, then there is no sin. Where this intent does not agree with God's ethical will, there is sin. The will of man is hardly monolithic. Every decision a man makes consists of a cocktail of intents - some good, some bad. If God causes anything to happen in the action of any man in the fallen world, that man will be guilty of sin.

God's intent, conversely, is always pure. God is not guilty where His goodness causes actions that arise out of the evil intents of men.

Men are sinners already and God has not alienated Himself from men any further than they are by causing actions that for men are sinful because of their intents. And their intents are not the most fundamental level of their sin. Evil intents arise out of the status of men being separated from God. We are born in a separated world and are likewise separated from God from birth. Even when we are given the Holy Spirit, we must endure the wiles of this separated world. Being given the Holy Spirit allows us to be separated FOR God (Holy) in this age rather than being separated FROM God in this age.

I like what you have to say, Jim.
Can you explain this sentence a bit, though?

If God causes anything to happen in the action of any man in the fallen world, that man will be guilty of sin.

Thanks.

Wisdomlover:

In what cases are rape, abortion, or creating a person who is incapable of choosing the good a justifiable evil? When is it justified to eternally damn someone as a ground of their existence or as their ontologically determined destiny? Which of your children are you justified in killing to save some when it is in your power to save them all or to have protected them all from the start?

If God cannot create a world without evil, then it must have something to do with free will & individuality, & either freedom is a blessing or a curse. If it is a curse, then pantheistic determinism is the order of the day. Individual persons loving God of their own accord as Jesus loved the Father & us of His own accord is ruled out.

Do you really think that you can divorce action from intention?

You can separate God's decree from His causation because He chooses to cause people to have free will & choices to make. God determined the laws, but we can either obey or not. God determines the choices we have, but we are still free to choose which course to take.

God is not simple. If He were, then people would already be in either Heaven or Hell. The fact is that there is still a struggle going on, for not only the world, but also for your soul: you must strive to enter into the Kingdom.

Greg's view constitutes a crack in the Reformed Evangelical dogma of absolute predetermination. Foreknowledge is not "fore-causing" or fixedly determining to cause something to happen in exactly a certain way. The key point in the story of Esther is that, if she would not do what was demanded of her, then God would have found another way & she would have lost her opportunity for salvation.

It is utter nonsense to talk about God causing evil for good. In a sense, God can use evil against itself, can use evil's own inner conflicts to bring about a useful result for His purposes, yet in such away, that He does not author or cause the evil.

Context & not just intent is an important factor in classifying something as good or evil. Another word for context is situation. Every person has a relativistic stance within the whole, & it is beyond any man's ability to conceive. That is only one reason why we are told not to judge.

Your discussion about two or more people freely causing some event assumes that the persons involved in any given event are free to act, but Reformed Evangelical dogma about God's absolute sovereignty rules out any such freedom. Only free agents are responsible agents. All the hairsplitting differences between types of causes demonstrates your unwillingness to accept your own responsibility to answer the call by choosing to walk worthy.

The Evangelical only has a negative view of free will. It only serves to damn, & the only answer is to have it taken away so that God absolutely controls the so-called individual. Freedom is changing from bondage to the world, the flesh, & the devil to absolute bondage to God's will. Freedom is therefore defined as total control without choice. Salvation is not given; it is caused, & we play no role in it since we are not true individual persons, children with souls; rather, we are mere instruments in the hands of God.

Believe what you will & do as you think, but I advise that you seek the truth as a little child. Quit over thinking, & start doing the will of God. The only trusting in God that counts is the type which does things that require trusting in God - obedience to His will. Obedience is clearly not automatic; it is a choice. Choose life. Choose to deny yourself, pick up your cross, & follow Jesus. Whether or not God causes you to do His will or you must do it of your own accord, you will not be saved without doing His will.

@Sebastian

"Foreknowledge is not "fore-causing" or fixedly determining to cause something to happen in exactly a certain way."

i completely agree with this statement. To predestine an event would be like setting an alarm clock to sound at a given time. Looking at an alarm clock, and seeing that it will sound the alarm at the set time, is what foreknowledge is more analogous to.

I think the most basic, and key idea, that is cornerstone to the idea of free will, is this:

In order to have a creation capable of love, which is in the image of its Creator, then free will is also a necessary trait that must be given to bring about this reality. Without free will, love turns into dictation. Is this what the Great Accuser claims? That we as, the creations, are predetermined to either succeed or fail by God? Maybe. If not this, then close to it.

Love is a justifiable consequence of free will. Therefore, Sin is also a justifiable consequence of free will. Which in turn, justifies the need for salvation. True love justifies free will, free will justifies sin, and sin justifies salvation, and salvation justifies creation, and creation justifies love, a full circle. this may or may not be circular reasoning, and everyone might not agree with each part.

But my children are justified by the love that bonds us together, from my perspective that is. Our love for one another makes all the experiences involved in raising a child "worth it" for me.

Now...if I knew my child would not love me before he existed, im sad to say that honestly i would probably not have the love required to allow that child to freely make that choice, i would be violating his free will by choosing not to allow his existence. This is hypothetical of course and we cant know this prior to having children, but honestly i dont know if i could go through with it if i did know, the suffering would be to great for me to bear i think. This is the free gift of grace that is given unilaterally to creation. However being deemed justified comes in contract form, which means we do require something on our end, the same has been required for all of creation. The Love offered to creation is insurmountable. This is how much more the Godhead loves their creation, than the creation loves itself, and who knows...an eternity might not be enough time to fully learn and understand it all. Our Creator would willingly suffer our rejection of him, than violate our free will, or the chance to exist and exercise that choice.

Only those created beings that cast away the carnal nature of Sin, will be deemed justified for Jesus' intercession in Heaven's Temple. This free will choice of our Heavenly Judge, depends on our free will to love Him. Again, this choice, is also the crux of all bilateral covenants made to man regarding salvation.

"Loving Him" sums up all that is required for this intercession. That is not to say its that simple, but the opposite, its quite difficult to produce good fruit when striving to be selfless. It is a daily choice. The carnal heart would rather look out for self, not beyond self.

Creating out of His love, is the Father's will. His role as ultimate ruler of the universe serves this purpose. The ruler will be found to have proved his foreknowledge was not used to violate free will, when the last seal on the Book of Life is broken, and revealed to creation, this book will be seen to match the "books of records" that serve as witness for/against each and every sinner. The judgment from our Creator (Jesus) will match the recorded foreknowledge in the Book of Life sealed from before creation by the Father. The Holy Spirit will serve as communicator/witness that both the Father and the Son represent the truth.

ok i better stop, ive rambled again... sorry

Sebastian-

"In what cases are rape, abortion, or creating a person who is incapable of choosing the good a justifiable evil? When is it justified to eternally damn someone as a ground of their existence or as their ontologically determined destiny? Which of your children are you justified in killing to save some when it is in your power to save them all or to have protected them all from the start?"

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding...Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it. (Job 38:1-40:2)

I don't pretend to know why God does the things He does. God sees all ends. I do not.

"If God cannot create a world without evil, then it must have something to do with free will & individuality"

Really? Why must it. There are plenty of examples of higher goods that logically require the existence of lesser evils. Victory, for example, requires war. Salvation, to take another rather pertinent example, requires a fall. These examples do not make an essential reference to freedom of the will. At least, not to a notion of freedom of the will that is incompatible with predetermination.

As far as theodicy goes, free will doesn't really help at all. When God created our world, He knew in advance that we would freely fall into sin. No orthodox thinker can deny this. But why, the skeptic might ask, didn't God create instead a world where He knew in advance that we would freely avoid the fall into sin?

The stock answer is that somehow that would transform His creatures into robots predestined not to fall. If so, why doesn't the creation that He actually performed also transform us into robots, but robots predestined to fall?

So free will really does nothing to justify the existence of evil in the world.

On the other hand, noticing that God sees all ends and must, therefore, have had a good reason (even though it is unknown and perhaps unknowable by me) to create this world along with its evil does better.

=========================================

Let us move to another subject.

"Your discussion about two or more people freely causing some event assumes that the persons involved in any given event are free to act, but Reformed Evangelical dogma about God's absolute sovereignty rules out any such freedom. Only free agents are responsible agents."

Not quite sure what Reformed Evangelical dogma is. To me, that sounds almost like Protestant Catholic dogma. Then again, not being Reformed or Evangelical maybe I'm not well-versed in the nuances. Being Lutheran, I do have a seat-of-the-pants understanding of Lutheran dogma. (OK, I know that early Lutherans were distinguished by the name "Evangelical" and that still persists in the name of our liberal synod...but in America, "Evangelical" typically means something quite different.)

What exactly is your argument for thinking that predetermination and free will are incompatible? Lutherans don't think they are incompatible. We believe in predestination and we believe that you have all the freedom in the world to go to hell.

And my earlier contention was that there is no good metaphysical reason to think that freedom and predetermination are not compatible. I claimed that God can be the direct and sufficient cause of all things, but that there's still plenty of room for other causes in the universe. All that is required is that we realize that some of the events that occur in the universe are overdetermined. The fact that, in my example of Holmes and Watson, the overdetermining causes are free agents serves not to undercut my point, but to enhance it.

Of course, non-divine causes will always act in concord with God's causality. But I know of no orthodox thinker who would deny this point

=========================================

"Whether or not God causes you to do His will or you must do it of your own accord, you will not be saved without doing His will."

If by "doing His will", you mean "doing works of the Law", then all I have to say is "Boy I hope not!"

The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do...O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7)

The most I can hope for is that when I do the very thing that I would not do and that the law commands that I do not do, I'll at least own up to the fact that I'm doing wrong (just as Paul does here). After that, the only thing I can do is wallow in Christ's overflowing grace.

"The most I can hope for is that when I do the very thing that I would not do and that the law commands that I do not do, I'll at least own up to the fact that I'm doing wrong (just as Paul does here). After that, the only thing I can do is wallow in Christ's overflowing grace."

Amen and AMEN!

Wisdomlover:

I am not questioning God, but I am questioning your false conception of a god that sounds very much like the Eastern Brahman who wills good & evil, creates castes of people but is nothing like the God of the Bible or the Early Church which teach that God is good & does no evil. When you say that 2 people can do the same thing yet one can be justified & the other guilty of evil, that implies intent of the will; therefore, if God intended for evil to occur, then He is by your standard evil. How about answering another couple of examples? When is idolatry or denying Christ ever justified?

What then is the purpose of free will? Apparently, it has none except the negative purpose of damning people to Hell who cannot choose to do what is right, but if they can’t choose what is right, then they are not free & never were. How odd it is that the Early Church taught that free will, to be made in God’s image, is a blessed grace giving people the dignity of reason, choice, & individuality so that they can love God & others of their own accord & not because they are compelled by some divine inner coercion or reprogramming of their will.

Did Jesus’ victory require war? Christians use the word “war” in a poetic sense & not a literal one. Salvation only requires a fall if a fall is a requirement of something else, but were men made to fall; was that the intent of their creation? Was salvation the answer to a problem or the intent all along? If so, then salvation is simply the mother’s milk to all of God’s offspring without which no one could survive. Does God therefore operate like evolution supposedly does: parents doing that which is necessary to promote the survival of a limited number of chicks? Why is it that the Lord wanted to gather His own, but they would not have it? Is God playing a game in His mind trying to fool Himself into thinking that it isn’t His doing that people were made to refuse His efforts or have to be made to accept them?

Of course, when you assume salvation & victory have nothing to do with choice, effort, & free will, then it is easy to assert they are not incompatible with predetermination.

Somehow, it is comforting to you to say, “I don’t know,” instead of saying that you are wrong. The fact is that Job was right, & God blessed him for his righteous & blameless life. Where was Job? According to your view, he was from eternity past in the mind of God like a fixed character in a book or a platonic form.

What you seem to want is to go on being ungodly yet being excused: you don’t want to be cleansed & healed from sin. The filth which once damned people to Hell is now just the playground of the Evangelical, Lutheran, & Reformed. Sin is something a Christian should flee as if from a burning building, but now it is embraced as powerless to harm the faithful. Well, the saints of the Old Testament also had faith, & righteousness dwelled in them, but they lost their faith. You will likewise lose your faith if you think that you can sin & get away with it because you are assured of eternal salvation. God will spare you no more than He spared the Angels or the Jews if you turn from belief to unbelief, but belief is not something that exists in the abstract. One trusts God not by forcing himself to really truly believe with all his heart. That is like straining on the pot & giving birth to wind; rather, faith trusts in God by doing the things that please Him & that require trust. No one can trust in God by sitting on their hands & sinning; you trust in God by ceasing to do evil & learning to do good. You become a chosen vessel of God by cleansing yourself of all iniquity. God knows who are His; they not only name the Name of Christ, but they depart from iniquity.

Evangelical, Reformed, & Lutheran are all based upon the belief that works, even works of love & good deeds, play no essential role in salvation, people are elected from the foundation of the world to be either damned or saved & that salvation & the resulting works are irresistible & automatic. Somehow, God did not program us right the first time, so He has determined to fix some preselected objects of His eternal immutable affection. He has determined to play some instruments well & others badly. Essentially, there never was a real fall: from the start there have always been the elect & the damned; they just didn’t know of which caste they were a part. Nothing essential is determined in time; life is a meaningless parenthesis: ontology is teleology.

How can sin even exist in your worldview? Everything happens as God determines ahead of time by His will, so then sin is defined as doing God’s will & obeying God is also the doing God’s will – that is nonsense.

Yes, I do mean works of love, obeying Christ’s commands: justice, mercy, faith, losing your life, abiding in Him, confessing Him before men, etc. Your view leaves the individual as Christ finds him: still wallowing in the mire or returning to it but assured of salvation. I assure you, if you do not repent, you will die in your sin whether you are a believer or not. Only the dead are no longer under the Law; only those who are dead to self & living for Christ are free from the Law. If you do not do the will of the Father, you will be cut off of the Vine & blotted out of the book of life!

If I sin, I will repent; I will not justify myself with the blanket presumption & false assurance of “salvation by faith alone” & “eternal security:” especially, when there is ample evidence to the contrary. I won’t presume to make a mockery of God, but I will understand that sowing to the flesh leads to corruption whether I am a saved believer or not & that by sowing to the Spirit by doing good deeds I can receive eternal life. The Kingdom is for wise servants who live & do the truth; it is not for the faint of heart or those who grow weary in well doing. I will in trust my soul to God in well doing.

"1Ch 21:1 Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. 1Ch 21:2 So David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, "Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, and bring me word that I may know their number." >>><<< 1Ch 21:16 Then David lifted up his eyes and saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, with his drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, covered with sackcloth, fell on their faces.
1Ch 21:17 David said to God, "Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned and done very wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? O LORD my God, please let Your hand be against me and my father's household, but not against Your people that they should be plagued."

2 Sam 24:1 "Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah."

Hmmm, God's anger incited, Satan moved David, David did the deed and claimed responsibility.

We know that God is not the author of sin, yet as is shown here He uses the acts of His creatures to execute His decrees and is sovereign over them--they are not free to be or do anything that would violate His decree--yet they are perfectly free volitionally, and thus responsible.

"Evangelical, Reformed, & Lutheran are all based upon the belief that works, even works of love & good deeds, play no essential role in salvation, people are elected from the foundation of the world to be either damned or saved & that salvation & the resulting works are irresistible & automatic. "

Hi Sebastian, to my knowledge, you miss the mark here in your charaterization of these three,[in each case ultimately significantly although by/for different reasons. I dont know how one could make a blanket statement like this about these three denominations that hold different views on this unless they are simplistically lumping all other view but their own into another category. It causes me to wonder if the time to really consider the other views was taken. btw, I was modern Evangelical, am now Reformed and evangelical, never been really assoicated with Lutheran.

I like to use Cats for illustrative purposes when talking about free will. There is nothing preventing a cat from acting like a dog, yet we know it's the nature of a cat not to do so.

Furthermore, we can predict with certainty, a cat's actions when subjected to certain temptations.

We can use a cat's nature to perform great good. For instants catching mice at a grain elevator that feeds hungry orphans. Etc.

So it is with our fallen natures. It would be far more just if God directed our sinful natures to ultimate good, rather than to allow us evil wills that even He cannot control.

Sebastian-

I don't want to quibble too much over terminology, but if I were trying to identify the Evangelical in this conversation, it would be you (of course, you could also be Roman Catholic).

Now, to the important stuff.

"I am not questioning God...if God intended for evil to occur, then He is by your standard evil. How about answering another couple of examples? When is idolatry or denying Christ ever justified?"

For starters, you've completely missed what my standard of evil is. Remember that line of mine (I thought it was pithy at the time, maybe it's just confusing) "Evil is in the evildoer, not in the conditions brought about by action." Neither God, nor you, nor I are evil because we bring about evil events. There is no such a thing as an evil event. There are just things that happen. Individuals, however, can be evil (or righteous) because they bring about the events they bring about in a certain manner.

An individual who overcomes great obstacles at great sacrifice to himself in order to prevent the throwing of a switch that he justifiably believes will cause a train derailment that will kill hundreds of children is really no more or less heroic if the derailment occurs anyway. On the other hand, an individual who throws the switch so that the derailment occurs in order to kill the schoolchildren just for fun is a villain, even if the train doesn't derail. And a third individual who foresees a terrible calamity, let's say a nuclear device going off in a major city triggered when this particular train passes over a later section of track, and throws the switch, knowing that it will cause the deaths of all those children and that it will haunt him for the rest of his days...destroying all his hopes for future happiness, may be the greatest hero of all. And he is so even if the nuke would not have gone off for reasons he could not have known.

The Evil is in the intention, not in the outcome.

My position is that God, who sees all ends, never has evil intentions and none of his actions are evil. Free human agents, however, perform evil all the time. But not by causing events outside of or apart from God's control. They do it by causing the very events that God Himself also causes. The actions done by God are not evil, because there is no evil in God's intentions. The actions done by the humans are evil because they meant it for evil.

Joseph's brothers and God both sent Joseph to slavery in Egypt. But where Joseph's brothers meant it for evil, God meant it for good. All of them were blessed by God to see the working out of one small corner of His master plan. God does not promise that we will all get to see how His plan works out. He only promises us that He has one.

So, Sebastian, questioning God is exactly what you are doing. You are demanding to know God's whole plan, or at least, enough of it to see why there are idolators and unregenerate sinners. Yes, idolators and unregenerate sinners of all sorts exist in this world. They exist and God knew full well that they would exist when He made the world. But He made the world anyway. He could have made a different world. One where there are no sinners and idolators. But He made this one. And you want to know why.

Fair enough, so do I. But I don't insist upon it, and I'm not going to pretend that I know. I'm also not going to deny what I do know--that God is in control--so that I can cobble together an answer to the question. Especially not one that, on reflection, turns out to be a failure.

==============================

Let's move to something else

"Salvation only requires a fall if a fall is a requirement of something else, but were men made to fall; was that the intent of their creation? Was salvation the answer to a problem or the intent all along? If so, then salvation is simply the mother’s milk to all of God’s offspring without which no one could survive."

I'm not sure what the first part of this claim even means. Salvation clearly requires a fall. Without a fall, there is nothing to be saved from. Why does something else have to require a fall in order for salvation to require a fall?

On the other hand, I do think that salvation was the "answer to the problem all along", if by that you mean that the reason God made the world is, at least in part, so that He could save it. Yes, I do believe that. And yes, without salvation no one can survive.

==============================

"How odd it is that the Early Church taught that free will, to be made in God’s image, is a blessed grace giving people the dignity of reason, choice, & individuality so that they can love God & others of their own accord & not because they are compelled by some divine inner coercion or reprogramming of their will."

On the image of God. It is certainly true that Iranaeus had the view you mention. That the image of God is freedom of the will and reason. That interpretation of it is not universal in the early or later church.

I really don't know what the image of God was in Adam...and I'm sure not going to find out what it is by looking at human beings and especially not by looking in the mirror. The first thing to see about human beings since Adam is not the image of God, but the image of Sin. The only thing that can restore the shattered image of God in us is Christ, and even that won't be complete on this side of Glory. Christ didn't come for godlike people because they are so full of the awesome image of God, he came for wretches (like me) because we are so full of sin.

==============================

BTW, I hope you've noticed that I've never denied that humans have freedom. If we're doing metaphysics, I think that humans are as free as you like. As I've been at some pains to say, it is entirely possible that humans are the agent causes of events in the world. And I've only been at such pains to defend this possibility because I really think it is true.

But as a general rule, the Bible should not be approached as a metaphysics textbook. The inability of humans to come to God is not a metaphysical failure, but a spiritual, moral and psychological failure. The problem isn't that I lack the metaphysical oomph to repent. I have the same metaphysical oomph to repent as I do to perform any other action (which is to say, I don't have any unless God gives it, but God obviously does provide it, because I make free choices all the time).

The basic problem is that, by nature, I hate God. My natural hatred of God is completely irrational, but utterly innate. I'm in the grips of it and powerless against it. It's like alcoholism or drug addiction, but there's no 12-step program that I can follow that will ever get me free. I can't even get past the first step of admitting that I have a problem. Because of this, I just can't bring myself to bend my knee to Him...He has to bend it for me.

============================

"Well, the saints of the Old Testament also had faith, & righteousness dwelled in them, but they lost their faith."

Really? So Moses lost his faith and is in Hell?

You must have meant something else here. Perhaps that the OT Israelites had faith, but by the time of Jesus the Jews had lost their faith. That may well be correct. But it certainly wasn't as a result of their not having a zeal for works of the law.

"Evangelical, Reformed, & Lutheran are all based upon the belief that works, even works of love & good deeds, play no essential role in salvation"

Not true, just not my works of love etc. BTW, I think that we do add something to our salvation: Sin. So my righteousness does play a very important role in salvation. I wouldn't need to be saved if it weren't for my damnable filthy rag righteousness.

"Yes, I do mean works of love, obeying Christ’s commands: justice, mercy, faith, losing your life, abiding in Him, confessing Him before men, etc. Your view leaves the individual as Christ finds him: still wallowing in the mire or returning to it but assured of salvation. I assure you, if you do not repent, you will die in your sin whether you are a believer or not."

And I assure you, that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and pharisees, you will in no way enter into the kingdom of heaven. Good luck with that one. In the end, you won't have a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees. You will have the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees (I cribbed that turn-of-phrase from one of my Pastor's recent sermons).

Wisdomlover:

First, it isn't clear that your sense of morality fits here: God does not save the many at the expense of the few; He saves the few at the expense of the many.

God is, not only omniscient, He is omnipotent; He can save all the people & wants all to be saved, so why are not all saved? It is because of their own choice not to be saved just as it was their choice to disobey & fall, but in your view, the fall was a fatal necessity & not a possible outcome of giving man free will. God caused by His will man, angels, & the devil to fall so that He could save a limited number. Whereas Adam affected the whole race, the Second Adam, Jesus only affects the elect. According to the doctrine of recapitulation that Irenaeus also shared, Jesus died for mankind as a whole. His work was sufficient to undo all of the devil's dirty work.

That "God meant it for good" does not necessarily mean that God caused it. It means, at the least, He planned to use it & turn it around for their good. However, God causes all things to work for good - to those who love Him - & who loves Him & Jesus? My Bible says those who keep His commands.

Is evil a separate thing that resides in a person or is it the person himself that is evil? Am I to love the sinner & hate the sin? Can I divorce the person from his intentions & the character that determines them? Is the child of God the same thing as the stains that cover him so that I can imaginatively throw him out with the bath water? Is the child of God merely an accumulation of stains upon a piece of filth without even so much as potential value?

Whose fault is it that evil is in me? Is it the Creator’s fault because He made me evil, or did He make me permeable to it? Supposing that he was corrupted of himself & not because God corrupted him for some purpose, is it the devil’s fault since we are not corrupted of ourselves as he was of himself? God did put the devil in the garden, or was that a mistake, a little bit of divine negligence? Is it my parent’s or Adam’s fault? No, I suppose, God bears no responsibility for each & every one of His offspring to give them each & all the means & opportunity they need to be saved but only the opportunity to die, & then, for no known reason, to save only some regardless of what they do. So, it must be true that only a special preselect group of the elect are to be given the honor of being “given” salvation without their having to even so much as seek it. (Acts 17: 24 – 31)

So, I am to believe that I am alone to blame for my damnation, but God alone is responsible for my salvation even though He demands that I choose – it isn’t my choice in the positive; it is only in the negative that counts, yet if I can choose to reject salvation or conversely to choose damnation, especially by denying your view of salvation, although you do not know all the reasons why I may do so inwardly, then it seems that I still determine my own end. However, you are not saying that; are you. You are asserting that the caste of the saved are saved whether they want it or not; they are made to want it against their will & irrespective of any choice, desire, effort, or work of any kind on their part. They couldn’t move one inch towards God unless God forced the desire upon them. I suppose, it is not a shotgun wedding if the person is brainwashed into wanting it & can’t choose otherwise.

Why can’t a person choose to be saved along with God’s choosing to save him? Just as you say, 2 people can have a different relationship to one result, can’t 2 people have the same relationship to it & be mutually necessary for it? In life there are many things that require 2 sets of keys to unlock them. Without both keys the door would never open. I could never save myself without God, but neither could God save me unless I received it for myself. By far, God does the greater part, but at least my will plays a part & free will is not abolished. Salvation is a simultaneous effort initiated by God, & even without His sustaining power & help, I could never do my part, but so long as I am an individual, a living soul, a person with his own dignity as a separate being, then that is how it must be; otherwise, I am just a robot, puppet, or mere inanimate object that God controls more or less directly.

In your case, God never threw the switch & caused the derailment even though He planned from all eternity past to cause it to happen. The outcome was assured because the cause was irresistible.

You seem to be saying that God intended to cause evil for good purposes. If someone has good intentions, but he does something bad, his intent is pointless. If I rob a bank, it doesn’t matter if I did it to feed my family; it is never right to do something the wrong way for the right reasons. Christians do not do evil that good may come of it; we render good for evil & never evil for evil in order to accomplish good in the long run, & I don’t think that God would ask us to do what He would not do Himself first.

God knows all; we don’t, so no person could act with assurance; we would be paralyzed with ignorance or act presumptuously in ignorance.

In the end, you are saying that to predestine someone to Hell, to make him the sort of person whom God never intends to save is a good thing. I am saying that it is a bad thing or it is a mistaken thing on your part to imagine good can come of evil. I hope you really mean to say that the things that look evil to us may in fact be good & not that doing evil can be a good thing.

I know why there are sinners – it is because God gave man free will, but your view of salvation requires God to do away with free will & to make the evil that men do superfluous with respect to their salvation. If God is in absolute control, has not left anything to us, then God is totally responsible for our intentions, choices, desires, etc. We are not, in that case, free independent souls; we are just extensions of His pantheistic will except perhaps with respect to unessential & superfluous things that bear nothing on our salvation.

Well, I don’t think the world is going to see in you the example of the love of Christ as Jesus represented the Father’s love because, according to your view, what a person does is superfluous unless we can see his inner intent. We don’t know a person by his fruit as though his fruit is directly related to his intentions. We are blind guides leading the blind when it comes to fruit & example because it is the intent that matters, but who can know another person's intent except by the fruit of his actions? You are looking at the wrong results. The results God is looking for is our works; He knows us by our works. We will be judged by what we say & do as you say regardless of our achieving worldly success. The intent to save others & the commensurate efforts to do so count, not the results of our efforts; we leave the results to God, but our own actions do matter!

Again, you put off repentance to some abstract future point outside of time where faith, sacrifice, & risk are superfluous.

The only thing that can restore “us” is Christ, but it is each of “us” that are being restored, which means we play a part in our own salvation & have value as God’s children; we have a choice in the matter. You have not directly denied we have freedom, but the implication of absolute sovereignty, irresistible grace (an oxymoron), & eternal security mean just that.

By nature we hate to be controlled by God because we fail to see that God does what He does, not only for His glory, but that we might share in it with Him.

If God forces me to bend my knee, then that means He must have forced my will to desire what is right, to have the right intentions, & that means He either controls my will or He reprogrammed it to do as He wills. Why didn’t He just do that from the beginning? Why the roundabout delayed action by drips & dabs instead of pouring out His Spirit from the start? Again, you will say that I am questioning God – no, I am saying that God does not control our will, & that is why it takes time to get us to change ourselves with His help & not by His absolute control of our will. If God can change our will, then He can do it immediately; He can make His elect believe, know, & do what He wants right now as you claim He will ultimately have to do in order to live with Him in the future. King Saul was given & spirit & a heart by God, but that did not force him to do God’s will, & God took away His spirit & sent him an evil one when he chose not to obey God. Is God going to continue to absolutely control a person’s will even in eternal Hell or in Heaven, or will we have the ability to will the good on our own in Heaven? How does a person, a child learn to do good if God does everything for us? You seem to think that the training wheels come off in eternity, but I think that they came off at our creation & especially when we come to Christ. We are to strive to enter into the Kingdom; we are not guaranteed entrance.

Your perspective on the superfluousness of our wills causality with regard to salvation is a nonstarter. Maybe you should reread Ezekiel ch.18 & the Gospel of Matthew. See what Jesus actually said about the Pharisees: their zeal consisted of perverting the Law to suit themselves; their knowledge was based in deliberate ignorance & the wisdom of men. They were evil inside & out. If you think that you can live a life where you pervert justice, seek the honor of men, & don’t lift a finger to help in deed & in truth another soul in need when you have it your power to help & you will still be saved, then you are a fool like them! If you think that you can judge others for the same sins you commit & boast of your accomplishments, then you are no Christian!

In Isaiah 64: 6 + 7, who is speaking? Isn’t it Isaiah who is praying on behalf of the people? It sure is not God’s final judgment upon them. If there was no one doing righteousness, then who are the righteous that were perishing earlier that no one took to heart? (Is.57: 1) Later, the Lord is speaking, but He says no one is listening to Him, yet some are, apparently, trembling at His word, so the words “all” & “no one” may simply be hyperbole. (Is.66: 4 + 5) On many occasions, God calls men righteous & blameless, & in Ezekiel, it says that Daniel, Job, & Noah, 3 archetypal men from each era, could deliver themselves, or so says our Deliverer.

Of course, when you assume perfection is God’s standard with respect to raising up His children, then you are bound to think men cannot be righteous unless merely imputed to be so & not made actually & sufficiently righteous in time. If a human parent demanded such absolute perfection of his children you would call him evil, but if an omniscient, omnipotent, & all good God demanded perfection of fallible, weak, & ignorant creatures, then you call it just. No, that is absurd. No true loving parent would stop loving his child because he did not do everything perfectly for all the right reasons, but neither is he satisfied with negligence & outright defiance. Eventually the child must be held accountable & left to stand on his own. There is no glory in children who are perpetually dependent. The glory of a parent comes when his children are let go, & they return of their own accord to the Rock from whence they came & the Spirit Who breathed life into them in the beginning.

Chapter 1 of Isaiah is the context of his prayer, & like the Pharisees, the people of God, especially the leadership, back then were predominantly breaking God’s Law & using sacrifices & other ritualistic practices as a substitute for obeying God. Today, the Evangelical, Lutheran, & Reformed all believe that Jesus’ sacrifice is a substitute for obeying God & not a stopgap or second chance until they learn to do what is right. The point is that we must consent & obey; we are not going to simply be forced to obey. (Is.1: 19) It will go well with those who do what is right, & it will go bad for those who do evil whether in heart or in actuality, but you cannot divorce fruit from intention any more than you can divorce faith from works. (Is.3: 10, 11; Jam.2: 20) Faith & trust do not exist in the abstract; they only exist in action, in doing the things that require trust – obedience to God’s will. You can continue to say because you can’t do His will perfectly, that you don’t have to do His will, but that is a lie. Those who are His purify themselves as He is pure; they walk as He walked. If it is wrong to say that fruit does not equate with intent, then it is equally wrong to say that intent or faith is sufficient in itself. (I John 2: 2 – 6)

The whole world has the opportunity to be saved. I wouldn’t go around telling people that they are simply ignorant as to whether or not they are of the elect or the damned. I believe that anyone can become one of the chosen by choosing to follow Jesus as one of His disciples. There are objective criteria for being one of Jesus’ disciples, & if you do not fit them, then I suggest you repent & stop claiming to be what you admit that you are not in practice.

Sebastain, Pelagius couldn't have said it better!

Dave, thanks for that comment. It made me shout with laughter! Guilt by association. Excellent!

Sebastian, you have now been associated with the most evil of the pantheon of Calvinist bogeymen... the black hearted heretic, Pelagius.

Actually, Sebastian, I have enjoyed reading your posts as you lay out the differences between your views and those of "Wisdomlover". A stark contrast.

"Jeff". Very "funny".

Sebastian: God does not save the many at the expense of the few; He saves the few at the expense of the many.

How is it that you have come to know this? And I mean both points.

So first, how do you know that the few will be saved and the many damned?

And second, and more importantly, how do you know that the saved are saved at the expense of the damned. Hasn't it occurred to you that the difficulty God has with saving everyone might have nothing to do with finding the right combination of souls so that He has to weigh one soul off against another?

God may have chosen to create this world, right along with its damned and their damnation and instead of some other world, for reasons of which we haven't the slightest notion.

That last point is kind of the main theme of my posts in this thread. We know exactly two things about why God created the world to contain the saved as they are and the lost as they are:

1. Jack.
2. Squat.

Sebastian: God is, not only omniscient, He is omnipotent; He can save all the people

I agree that God is omnipotent and omniscient. But how is it that you have come to know that He can save all people? What if it is not logically possible to save all people? What if God's saving all people is inconsistent with some greater good that God desires? (Just as universal and perpetual peace is inconsistent with victory.)

Sebastian: so why are not all saved? It is because of their own choice not to be saved just as it was their choice to disobey & fall

I've never denied that freedom of the will might be part of the truth that will ultimately explain why some are lost. I have argued that it can't be the whole truth.

Just in case you missed that argument, here it is again (in different words).

  1. It is logically possible that Adam and Eve freely choose to reject the snake's offer. Right? I mean it would be a strange notion of free will that says that Adam and Eve were free to do otherwise, but it was not logically possible for them to freely do otherwise.

  2. For any logically possible state-of-affairs, God can create a world that contains that state-of-affairs. That's just what omnipotence means. Right?

    So...

  3. God could have created a world that contains the state-of-affairs where Adam and Eve freely choose to reject the snake's offer. (This follows from points one and two.)

  4. God knew prior to the creation of the world that it would contain the state-of-affairs in which Adam and Eve freely chose to accept the snake's offer. This is because God is omniscient.

  5. God knew prior to the creation of the world that He could have created a world (instead of the one He actually did create) that contains the state-of-affairs where Adam and Eve freely choose to reject the snake's offer.

    And so...

  6. God knowingly chose to create a world in which Adam and Eve freely choose to accept the snake's offer, and did so with full knowledge that He could have created instead a world in which Adam and Eve freely choose to reject the snake's offer.
So why did God do that? If He didn't will the fall, why did He create the world that contains it? Freedom of the will has no answer here, since both worlds under scrutiny contain free will. In fact, it seems that the only conclusion that we can draw from #6 is that God did will the fall.

"But wait...But wait...", You will say. "Don't you see that if God creates the world that contains the state-of-affairs where Adam and Eve reject the snake's offer (as in #3), then Adam and Eve are unfree?"

I have two responses for this. First, since #3 follows from #1 and #2, which of those two were you planning to reject? Second, if you are right, then why doesn't God's creation of the world that contains the state-of-affairs where Adam and Eve accept the snake's offer (that is, His creation of the actual world) render them unfree?

Sebastian: but in your view, the fall was a fatal necessity & not a possible outcome of giving man free will. God caused by His will man, angels, & the devil to fall so that He could save a limited number.

I think my view, which I have repeated a number of times, is that freedom and predetermination are perfectly compatible. I've certainly never espoused fatalism. But yes, I do think that part of the reason God created a world containing the fall was to make it possible for there to be a gracious redemption (I would not claim to know or even have an opinion about God's entire reason).

And even on your view the fall was not merely "a possible outcome of giving man free will." The fall was something God knew with 100% certainty would happen in this world when He gave man free will. Otherwise God is not Omniscient. When Eve took the apple, these were not God's thoughts "Shazam! I didn't see that one coming!"

So God deliberately, unilaterally and with foreknowledge chose to create a world in which Man fell. You are, of course, entitled to say that this does not constitute a plan or decree on God's part. I can only reply that I prefer to carry on conversations with words retaining their conventionally accepted meanings.

Sebastian: Whereas Adam affected the whole race, the Second Adam, Jesus only affects the elect.

I assume that you think that this is my view. Remember, I'm a Lutheran, not a Calvinist. I roundly reject this sentence. Christ died a death of sufficient atonement for all.

The tragedy of Hell is not that it contains a bunch of souls who really have nowhere else to go. The tragedy of Hell is that it contains a bunch of fully justified souls that should be in Heaven were it not for their stiff-necked, free rebellion.

And no, I am not saying that rebellion is the sin that Christ's death doesn't cover. The souls in Hell are fully justified. The souls in Hell are there, not as punishment for any sin, not even their continued rebellion. They are there because they choose to be there. That, of course, is what their continued rebellion is. So, the souls in Hell are there because of their rebellion, but not as a punishment for their rebellion. As Chesterton famously remarked: "Hell is God's great compliment to the reality of human freedom and the dignity of human personality."

That God also planned that this outcome obtain is clearly true. And saying that takes nothing away from the freedom by which those in Hell choose to be there. Saying that God caused them to be there takes nothing away from the freedom by which they choose to be there.

Sebastian: That "God meant it for good" does not necessarily mean that God caused it.

At least in the case of Joseph's brothers, it kinda does:

Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:5-8)
If anything, it seems that God, and only God, was the cause of Joseph's exile to Egypt. Here I was saying that the brothers also did it. Of course, what the brothers did not do was intend that Joseph should go there to save them. BTW - this was also the means by which the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians. Do you think God didn't see that coming? No. He not only saw it coming, but planned it and raised up Pharaoh so that His power would be shown in the great deliverance He sent His people.

Sebastian: & who loves Him & Jesus? My Bible says those who keep His commands.

And my Bible says that "This is the work of God: that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (John 6:9)

Sebastian: Is evil a separate thing that resides in a person or is it the person himself that is evil? Am I to love the sinner & hate the sin? Can I divorce the person from his intentions & the character that determines them? Is the child of God the same thing as the stains that cover him so that I can imaginatively throw him out with the bath water? Is the child of God merely an accumulation of stains upon a piece of filth without even so much as potential value?

To use a metaphor from Tolkien:

Orcs were Elves once.
Finding the Imago Dei in fallen Man is harder than finding the Imago Elf in an orc. That is the depth of our predicament.

Sebastian: So, I am to believe that I am alone to blame for my damnation, but God alone is responsible for my salvation

That is exactly what I do believe. And it is hardly implausible.

Suppose that Ralph is hell-bent on committing suicide and strenuously resists any efforts to prevent him.

Suppose that Larry saves Ralph in spite of his resistance. Who is responsible for Ralph being alive? Ralph? No! Ralph bears no responsibility for that. It's all on Larry.

Suppose that Larry does everything he can to save Ralph and bears personal hardship far in excess of anything that is driving Ralph to suicide, but Ralph still manages to pull off the suicide. Who is responsible for Ralph being dead? Larry? Hardly. It's all on Ralph.

Sebastian: Why can’t a person choose to be saved along with God’s choosing to save him?

Because then grace is no longer grace:

God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?

"Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE."

But what is the divine response to him? "I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL."

In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Romans 11:2-6)

Sebastian: You seem to be saying that God intended to cause evil for good purposes.

I don't know why it should seem that I am saying this, since I've never said it and have been at some pains to deny it. What I have said is that God can, without evil, cause an event that I cannot cause, without evil. What I have said is that evil is not in the event an agent causes, but in the agent causing the event.

Sebastian: God knows all; we don’t, so no person could act with assurance; we would be paralyzed with ignorance or act presumptuously in ignorance.

We certainly would be paralyzed if we assume that in order to do our duty we have to do what only God can do: see all ends. But God has given us help: He has given us the Law. We don't have to see all ends to be right in what we do. We just have to follow the law that God has given us.

Of course, we also have to follow the Law because it is God's law in order for us to be right in any act we perform. And that is where we will always fail if we are looking to our keeping of the Law in any way to save us. Even if we carry out the physical motions that would be involved in keeping the Law, in our hearts, it is not God's Law that we love, it is ourselves. We are doing nothing more than offering God the bribe of our good behavior to get into heaven. We are not following the Law just because it is God's Law. As long as we are looking to our law-keeping, even a little bit, to save us, we can be guaranteed that every single act we perform is nothing less than a black sin.

Sebastian: I hope you really mean to say that the things that look evil to us may in fact be good & not that doing evil can be a good thing.

I think what I mean to say (and have said consistently and repeatedly) is that things aren't evil or good. Persons are evil or good. It may be evil for one person to to a thing, but good for another person to do that same thing. For example, it is evil for you to sleep with my wife, but good for me to sleep with my wife.

Sebastian: I know why there are sinners – it is because God gave man free will

I don't know that, and I don't think that you do either. If you knew it, you'd be able to prove it (because that's what "know" means).

Sebastian: your view of salvation requires God to do away with free will

No. I never said that. What I have said is that free will and Divine Predestination are compatible.

Sebastian: [your view of salvation requires that] the evil that men do superfluous with respect to their salvation.

No. I've denied this.

Sebastian: If God is in absolute control, has not left anything to us, then God is totally responsible for our intentions, choices, desires, etc.

No. Free will and Divine Predestination are compatible.

Sebastian: Well, I don’t think the world is going to see in you the example of the love of Christ as Jesus represented the Father’s love...

This, sadly, is probably true. I'm just a broken old sinner.

Sebastian: ...because, according to your view, what a person does is superfluous unless we can see his inner intent.

I don't think the world will see the love of Christ in me because I have or don't have a certain theological view. I think it will be because, as I said, I'm a broken old sinner. Also, so are they.

Sebastian: The results God is looking for is our works...

He is. I know He is.

Sebastian: ...He knows us by our works. We will be judged by what we say & do.

And to make it worse, God looks on the heart. That's why I'm utterly undone. I'm a man of unclean lips and I come from a people of unclean lips.

I'm tempted to call on the mountains to fall on me. But instead, I'm going to flee to the cross and hide in its shadow. Then I'll thank God that He placed me there.

Very nice, Wisdom Lover. Your attention, efforts and patience abound with Grace.

Why can't we use the words of God when at all possible?
Matt: 26:24 "The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born." Judas sinned.
26:42 "He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done." Jesus was willing.
And Isaiah 53: 10-11 "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities." The Father knew that the Son's death was necessary for the salvation of men.
If I violated the "Never quote a Bible verse rule", it was for the sake of brevity. 8-)

1 Peter 1:
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

Finishing what I started this AM.

Sebastian: Maybe you should reread Ezekiel ch.18 & the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew is actually one of my 'favorite' books in the Bible (if that's not too vulgar and unsophisticated a thing to say).

Sebastian: See what Jesus actually said about the Pharisees: their zeal consisted of perverting the Law to suit themselves.

As do all men who think that their works will play any part in saving them. If you think you will be saved by your works then there are really only three possibilities:

  1. You think that you are actually carrying it off. That you are really obeying the Law.
  2. You realize that you are not obeying the Law, but you think God will still let you off the hook. Giving you an A for effort.
  3. You secretly know that you are not carrying it off and are in quiet despair about it.
If it's the first, get over yourself, the only one you are fooling is you. If it's the second, God doesn't grade on a curve, and again, the only one you are fooling is yourself. If its the third then please, please, please hear this: Be comforted your sins are forgiven. Whatever it is you've done (or thought), and whatever it is you keep on doing (or thinking), Christ paid for it all.

Notice that in the first two cases, the Law is not at full-strength. You don't have the Law at full-strength until you get this into your head: You. Just. Can't. Do. It.

Sebastian: If you think that you can live a life where you pervert justice...

Even in my heart? Jesus says that if I lust after a woman, I've already committed adultery with her.

Doesn't the same go for injustice?

Have you never even wanted more than your fair share. I sure as heck have. I've committed political assassinations, overthrown governments, and gotten traffic tickets 'fixed' in my mind. Doesn't that mean that I've already perverted justice in the eyes of God?

Right now our Church is involved in a building project and we are constantly battling the morass of useless laws and ordinances that Hobbes called "traps for money". Believe you me, there's been more than one occasion where I've thought that a properly placed briefcase full of cash on the right city councilman's desk would probably be the cheaper route to completing the project.

If you haven't thought some of these same thoughts then...well you've thought them and you know it so you might as well fess up to it.

Sebastian: [If you think that you can live a life where you] seek the honor of men...

--begin sarcasm--

Oh no! I'm sure I never do that and neither do you!

--end sarcasm--

Or are you, saying that there's not some little part of you that isn't, in this very conversation, trying to get the upper hand so that you can appear to be the smartest kid in the room. Be honest now. I know that there's that part of me.

Sebastian: [If you think that you can live a life where you] don’t lift a finger to help in deed & in truth another soul in need when you have it your power to help...

There are all kinds of cases where I don't help people in need. I'm not sure that it's always sinful...since Jesus Himself didn't help every person in need that He had the power to help. (See this thread for a lengthy discussion on that.)

Even when I think that I should help someone in need and do, I often resent it. When my dad was suffering from Parkinson's Disease (especially in the last decade of his life) I had to help him a lot. I always helped him when he needed it. But I was not always a true dutiful son. This is because I often felt put upon and thought my sisters should do more, that my dad should have more reasonable expectations, that the doctors should do more and on and on.

And remember, if I didn't honor my father in my heart and I didn't love him as myself in my heart, then in God's eyes, I'm as guilty as if I'd spat on him.

My Righteousness=Filthy Rags

More than anything, it's my stinking filthy rag righteousness I have to repent from.

Sebastian: [If you think that you can live a life where you] do bad stuff & you will still be saved, then you are a fool like them!

What the pharisees trusted in Christ like I do? And we're all going to Hell? I don't remember the passages in the Bible that say that. I remember the parts that say how very proud the pharisees were of their own righteousness. And I remember how the speak of Jesus and His Love. They say that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sebastian: [If you think that you can live a life where you] judge others for the same sins you commit & boast of your accomplishments, then you are no Christian!

As far as I can tell, Sebastian, the only person in this thread judging others for the same sins that he himself surely commits, is you.

Oooh! OK, I just did it too.

Sebastian: On many occasions, God calls men righteous & blameless, & in Ezekiel, it says that Daniel, Job, & Noah, 3 archetypal men from each era, could deliver themselves, or so says our Deliverer.

I take it that this is the passage you are referring to:

"Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves," declares the Lord GOD.

"If I were to cause wild beasts to pass through the land and they depopulated it, and it became desolate so that no one would pass through it because of the beasts, though these three men were in its midst, as I live," declares the Lord GOD, "they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the country would be desolate."

This passage is talking about when God will smite a city for gross and open sinfulness. God does not here declare that Noah, Job and Daniel are not in need of a Savior. He is saying that He wouldn't smite them on the spot. That's a somewhat more lenient standard than will be applied on the day of reckoning. I suppose that if by "righteous" you mean "minimally unsmiteworthy" then yes, some people are 'righteous'.

Sebastian: Of course, when you assume perfection is God’s standard with respect to raising up His children, then you are bound to think men cannot be righteous unless merely imputed to be so & not made actually & sufficiently righteous in time.

Let's see... What standard does God actually use in the Bible. How many sins did Adam and Eve have to commit to get condemned to death? I'm thinking of a number between zero and two. How many commandments do we have to be guilty of to be guilty of all? Again, that number between one and two. And do I even have to actually physically do evil in order to be in danger of Hell? No calling my brother a fool seems to be enough. I'd say that God takes a very hard line on sin. Your view seems to be sin-lite.

Sebastian: If a human parent demanded such absolute perfection of his children you would call him evil

Isn't that because the human parent is a sinner raising his sinful children with different aims in mind. The human parent is only concerned to raise a child that will be able to be able to refrain from eating his neighbors and stealing their speedboat. Parents need to make their children fit for a society of sinners. God has to raise His children to be fit to stand in His presence. Please refer to Isaiah to see what it's like for a sinner to be in the presence of God.

Sebastian: but if an omniscient, omnipotent, & all good God demanded perfection of fallible, weak, & ignorant creatures, then you call it just. No, that is absurd.

No. It's just another example of the point I've been making all along. God can do something that would be wrong for you and I to do. But it is not wrong for God to do it.

Sebastian: Chapter 1 of Isaiah is the context of his prayer...

There are basically two problems with your final remarks here.

First, you're mixing up justification and sanctification. The thief on the cross didn't do much of those wonderful works that you keep talking about, but he was fully justified. We have it from Jesus own lips. He didn't even have to pay a visit to purgatory. "Today you will be with me in paradise"

Second, you're view of sanctification, insofar as it can be coherently distinguished from your view of justification, is that the sanctified Christian is the one that just keeps getting better and better. But sanctification is nothing of the sort. Again, the work of God is to believe on the one that He sent. The sanctified Christian is the one who, day-by-day, comes to better appreciate the terrible depth of his predicament along with the magnificent extent of Christ's salvation.

Works will tend to come along with that...more or less. But if you start looking for them you're going to slip into self-righteousness or despair (better despair, since that's less likely to send you to Hell). Instead, your eyes should always go back the Christ.

Wisdomlover:

I don’t deny that God deliberately created a world in which men can fall. I reject the idea that He willed that they would fall or caused them to fall directly as in predetermining that they would make that specific choice & then limited the gracious effects of the atonement upon a preselected group or caste called the elect. He didn’t make certain souls for the specific purpose of damning them or saving them. He didn’t make each person either an elect person or an unelect person; He made them able to be either according to their own choice, & as well as already making up for their initial bad choice, He helps them to make the right choice. God does not incline each created soul in one direction or the other even if He immediately foreknew the choices they would make freely. I don’t think God created a spiritual continental divide; I think we must choose sides. Foreknowledge is not fore-causation of the specific choice to live or to die. God wills & causes us to have the choice, & I do not presume to know how He does that. I don’t know how He can make a soul free. There must be an instant, if only a logical one, in which He does not know; otherwise, He did make & incline the individual to a specific end & is responsible for determining his choice. If nothing can happen but what God specifically wills, then life is an absolute pantheistic fatalistic determinism.

From where do you think Calvin got his view other than from the stoics & pagan poets? He got it from Luther & the later writings of Augustine.

Your view of Hell is inconsistent with Lutheranism or Evangelicalism, as I understand it. Sorry for attributing to you what falls under that label.

I have no doubt that God influences & even causes things to happen in time, but I don’t think that includes controlling the choices we make especially the one to reject Him. God knew Pharaoh would not repent, so His actions served to harden his heart. The punishments inflicted upon Israel would serve to harden some, but it also softened others. Those who would not repent after God disciplined & called them to repentance were then fully responsible & God was fully justified in condemning them. Pharaoh could have repented, but he chose not to repent. He had the opportunity; it wasn’t predecided for him that he would harden his heart. A world without possibility is a world without freedom.

Try John 14: 15 – 23 & I John 5: 1 – 3. The question answered in 6:29 is: “What must we do to work the works of God.” You cannot work for God unless you believe in Jesus. Remember, in Acts ch.17, God provided all with proof. In Jesus our labor is no longer in vain. (I Cor.15: 58; John 6: 27; 5: 28 – 30) Did Jesus do nothing because it was the Father working in Him? Did He not choose to obey the Father out of His own accord? Similarly, we must cooperate with God & do “just as” Jesus did.

As long as you separate the cause from God, I am okay with your view, but at times, you seem to be saying God determines that Ralph would specifically chose to die & not that Ralph chose it against Gods desire or will that He should be saved & that Larry’s desire would be forced upon him to be saved. You seem to want things both ways: free & fixed or determined. Again, the derailment is not the way to look at the issue; the thing to look at is the effort to stop it, & the individuals own choice in salvation. Did God make the individual in question the kind of person who would intend to do what is right, to try & stop the derailment, or to choose salvation, or did God leave the choice up to the person himself & try to encourage him to do the right thing. You seem to be saying that if you go on sinning & deliberately neglect throwing the switch, then salvation is still assured. There is no sense of your having to cease from evil or to stop sinning. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of faith that you can do all things through Christ, but rather a mere resignation that Christ will take care of the matter. There is no sign of fear & trembling in your words or zeal for good deeds because deeds are superfluous to your passive view of salvation which seems opposed to a seeking, striving, struggling, fighting, doing everything whereby to stand, or intentional effort to be saved.

Was grace bestowed upon all men by the blood of Jesus or not? If Jesus died for all men, then again, what is the deciding factor in salvation other than our response to the gift? Is the gift forced upon us? Why can’t the gift still have responsibilities on our part or conditions? A scholarship can be a gift, but it still requires that I do the work. A child can be a gift, but I still have to care for him. A wife can be a good thing, but a relationship still requires work & fidelity. If you do not provide for your own, you are worse than an unbeliever, or so says Paul. If you are denying that God causes people to choose to reject Him, then we don’t essentially disagree, but if you think that someone can go on deliberately sinning, that is, rejecting God, not in word or even in intent, but in deed or body language, then we are at odds. Jesus will tell the workers of iniquity that He never knew them even though they say & think that they were actually doing Him service. A tree cannot have mixed fruit. God will give a tree a space to produce fruit, but He will pull it up by the roots if it does not & cast it into the abyss.

Is your wife a good thing? Just kidding. Of course, mere objects are neither good nor bad; it is how we use them & what they represent to us, but things are not the issue. Although, I must ask, can an object be made that has only an evil purpose? Are torture devises ever good? Is porn neither good nor bad in itself? Are swords & spears evil? If not, then why do they need to be turned into plow shears & pruning hooks? Why stop learning war if war is justifiable?

You are right: free will & predestination are compatible, but not free will & predetermination, which is what is really meant by Luther, Calvin, & Augustine. As long as the specific destiny of individuals is not predecided for them, then we can agree. If nothing can happen except what God has specifically & meticulously lain out beforehand, then we cannot. The story of Esther has one key point: God will find another way; He doesn’t need a specific person or act by that person to accomplish His will.

If just claiming that you are an old broken sinner is as far as it goes, then you are still in danger. Repentance is a starting place; it isn’t a resting place. If you don’t go on to do God’s will & the works prepared for you to do, then you really haven’t repented rightly. If you flee to the cross without fleeing from iniquity & if you fail to take up your cross, then you have never learned what it means to flee to Christ; your faith is an abstraction.

Until you have died with Christ & presented yourself as an instrument of righteousness to God, you will not derive your benefit resulting in sanctification with the outcome of eternal life. Your sanctification is the will of God, & the wages of the righteous is life. (Thes.4: 2 – 8; Prov.10: 16; Mat.7: 21) You say that the will of the Father is to simply believe, but come on now, read these passages honestly. Either obeying God is what faith is all about or “faith alone” is not enough.

Your words don’t abound with grace; they abound with puffed up presumption & stubbornness; they abound with passive resignation & fatalism. If you do not do His will, your fleeing is in vain. Jesus made it clear that the foundation is to hear & to do what He teaches. You have no foundation if you never get around to the doing part. Justification requires, not only faith in Christ’s work; it requires that I actually do the works of faith also, & that should not be surprising to you since it is God working in you to will & do His good pleasure. Without the willing, there is no doing, & vice versa.

Sebatsain, if Christ died for all, only making it possible for them to save themselves through various self righteous acts believed to be outlined in the Gospel, why are so many beyond the reach of the Gospel?
How do they save themselves in a world such as yours?

"I don’t deny that God deliberately created a world in which men can fall."

I've never said you've denied this. What I have said is that is that orthodox Christians are committed to much, much more. An argument you've never addressed (probably because it is decisive).

God didn't just create a world in which Adam could fall. He created a world in which He foreknew with 100% certainty beforehand that Adam would fall. He created a world in which He foreknew with 100% certainty that Judas would never repent, but that Paul would.

What's more, assuming that you are right about freedom, He had the opportunity to create a different world, one in which He knew with 100% certainty not only that Adam could avoid the fall, but that he would avoid the fall.

God didn't roll a set of dice to decide which world to create. He deliberately chose this one which He knew with 100% certainty contained Adam's fall, Judas' damnation and and Paul's salvation. He chose it over another world which He knew with 100% certainty does not contain Adam's fall.

As I said before, you are free to call this something other than planning or decreeing, just be aware that you've sent language on holiday.

The only real issue is whether God carries out His plans directly or through intermediate causes only. But you've never come close to being able to address this. You haven't yet gotten past your desire to speak a private language and hoodwink everyone (including, probably, yourself) into thinking that you're speaking English.

===============================

"Foreknowledge is not fore-causation"

This is an irrelevant point. The argument that I've now reiterated many times proves that God planned and decreed all the particulars of the world, whether He caused them or not. Here it is again

  1. Things could have gone differently so that there is no fall.
  2. For the world God created, He knows how everything will go in that world.
  3. For all the worlds God does not create, He knows how everything would have gone in that world had He created it instead.
  4. He could have created any world instead of the one He did.
  5. Nothing outside of Him forced Him to create the world He did create rather than the others.

    So...

  6. He could have made one of the worlds where things go differently so that there is no fall, but freely chose instead to make the world where things went so that there is (not just "could be", "is") a fall.
Since you reject point 6. And since 6 follows from 1-5, which of the prior points were you planning to reject? If you reject 1, then the fall is inevitable. If you reject 2 or 3, then God is not omniscient. If you reject 4 or 5, then God is not omnipotent.

"I don’t know how He can make a soul free. There must be an instant, if only a logical one, in which He does not know; otherwise, He did make & incline the individual to a specific end & is responsible for determining his choice."

OK, you are, tentatively, rejecting either 2 or 3. God is not omniscient.

Welcome to the wonderful world of heresy! While we're here, let's check out Sabellianism and Nestorianism. Those might sit better with human reason as well.

===============================

As for John 6:29, it does not say that in order to do the work of God you must first believe in the One whom He sent. It says that the work of God is believing in the One whom He sent.

OK. Let's not hang too much on this. The fact that the Bible speaks of keeping God's commandments in this way here doesn't mean that that's the only way it speaks of keeping God's commandments. In many places it does mean keeping the ten commandments (or, if you like, the two that distill the ten) and all their corollaries. But what the John 6 passage shows is that the fundamental issue is trusting in Christ, not any work of the law.

Let's read 1 John 5: 1-3. In this passage, I do think we have a case of John speaking at the more superficial level of doing works of the Law. Still, I don't think it quite says what you think it says.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

Here's what I have from this:

  1. The children of God = those who believe in Christ.
  2. Those who love the Father = those who love the children of God.
  3. We know that someone loves a child of God when (a) they love God and (b) they keep God's commandments.
  4. Loving God = keeping God's commandments.

    So, by 3 and 4,

  5. We know that someone loves a child of God when they keep God's commandments.
OK. What this passage does NOT say is this: Every child of God loves God. Nor does it say that the children of God keep God's commandments. (more on these points below) And what is definitely does not say is that it is necessary to first keep God's commandments in order to become a child of God. Indeed, it seems to make a contrary claim: that those who believe in Christ are, by that alone, Children of God.

So what was your point in bringing up 1 John 5:1-3?

Please note, I'm NOT denying that the children of God love God and keep God's commandments. I believe that they do. I was just noticing that this passage which you offered doesn't say that.

I've, in fact, emphasized the claim that only the children of God can love God and keep God's commandments. To use the well-worn dictum: Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone. But a consequence of the fact that only children of God can keep God's commandments is that you must first be a Child of God. And the passage is unequivocal on that point. The children of God are those who believe. And, if you read on, the faith of the children of God is what overcomes the world.

===============================

Now let us turn to the oh-so-interesting topic of WisdomLover's works. They suck. I admit it. I'm trusting Christ because I know I just can't do it. In vain according to you.

Now, let us grant for the sake of argument, that I'm going straight to hell because of my wickedness.

Where are you going Sebastian?

You seem to think that you are actually pulling off this whole works of the law thing. Not just in outward works mind you. God looks on the heart.

If you really think that, then we can add two sins for you to work on:

1. Dishonesty.
2. Pride.

See ya in Hell buddy!

===============================

"Your words don’t abound with grace; they abound with puffed up presumption & stubbornness; they abound with passive resignation & fatalism."

Probably.

"If you do not do His will, your fleeing is in vain."

So Christ will cast out some who come to him. Interesting.

"Jesus made it clear that the foundation is to hear & to do what He teaches."

And what He taught is that He was sent from the Father to save us from our sins.

"You have no foundation if you never get around to the doing part."

That's like saying you have no foundation if you don't have walls. It is (a) false and (b) backward.

Good luck to you if you think your works are even part of your foundation.

The foundation is Christ, Christ Christ.

Your words don’t abound with grace
Yes, they do. Nice work with that tolerance and nonjudgmentalism, BTW.

I watched the video again.

For those of you who would argue that God is completely "in control", does it bother you that Greg can't ground the notion of "decree" as separate from "cause"?

Greg had to play the "it's just a mystery" card after he exhausted his options. Is this where everyone here is on this? Just a mystery? Can't be logically explained?

A couple of examples of God's decree being fulfilled by "free choice".

God decreed to save two of every unclean creature and seven of every clean in the flood. They voluntarily came came to the Ark in this fashion.

The prophet foretold the dogs would lick King Ahab's blood that evening. Even though he disguised himself so as not to be a target, an archer drew an arrow on a whim, shot it randomly up into the air. Falling with the wind, it struck between the joints of the king's Armour killing him. The dogs drank his blood that evening where they washed his chariot. Plenty of "free will" going on here beyond any chance of someone having merely foreseen it.

Clearly, God controls our will even though we are insensitive to it. Being insensitive to it, we experience the guilt or glee depending upon what he would have us to choose.

Jeff-

It doesn't bother me that Greg can't separate the two, because I don't try to separate the two. For reasons already given, I'm perfectly comfortable with the idea that God directly causes everything. I don't think that that's incompatible with freedom. Not even 'libertarian' freedom. The problems that humans have with freely choosing to follow Christ are, moral, spiritual and psychological, not metaphysical.

Indeed, I think God's direct causation of everything is the only way to really make sense of the notion of God's essential omniscience (yes, I really meant to say omniscience). Though perhaps that's a subject for another thread.

Finally, I think the traditional conception of God in which God's existence is His essence (Divine Simplicity) held by Anselm and Aquinas, for example, kind of requires it. God is His Power is His Knowledge is His Causality is His Goodness etc.

BTW Jeff-

"Just a mystery" is something that all forms of discourse (with the possible exception of logic) must at some point arrive at. That it happens in theology is, therefore, no surprise. If I have a criticism it is that theologians sometimes raise this point too soon. (Perhaps Greg has.) And then treat that proclamation itself as a dogma. (To his credit, Greg has not done this.)

The Bible itself tells us that there are mysteries. But it actually doesn't identify very many of them (where it does, it is, of course, perfectly acceptable to treat the claim of mystery as a dogma).

On the other hand, theology is one of the few disciplines that will honestly recognize this basic fact of the human condition.

Dave,

You said, "Clearly, God controls our will even though we are insensitive to it. Being insensitive to it, we experience the guilt or glee depending upon what he would have us to choose."

For the sake of the discussion, assuming what you said is true, with God controlling our will how does He escape responsibility for what He chooses us to want to do?

Wisdomlover,

I see how your conception of God's omniscience would lead you to the conclusion that God directly causes everything.

What I don't understand about your position is how God escapes responsibility for evil when He directly causes everything.

But, Jeff, you also don't see how God escapes evil when He allows everything - once again, any charge you bring against Wisdom Lover's conception stands against yours, and any absolution gained by yours works for his. You wandered away from the thread where you had the opportunity to work out your inconsistency and you really should do so before using the same arguments here.

Jeff, Whatever God does or doesn't do is perfectly righteous. We can't take the right or wrong of human relations and hold Him to them. He is above all law, else law would be God.

Jeff-

I've already given the reasons that I think that God escapes the charge of evil. But, as always, I may not have expressed myself well. So I repeat them briefly here in different words. Hopefully the way I express myself here will serve you better.

It can be wrong for one person to do a thing, but perfectly permissible for a different person with different powers and knowledge to do the selfsame thing.

Remember, events are neither evil nor good. The agents that cause these events are the true bearers of those properties. So rather, for example, than say that there are instances of moral evil, e.g. murders, rapes, thefts and so on, it is better to say that these events happen, caused by wicked men.

The wicked men that cause these events do not see all ends. They typically see only the selfish ends that they are immediately seeking when they perform the acts. Though some may have broader plans in mind. Usually, that just makes things worse. But what would we expect, these are the plans of fallen men? It is precisely this failure of vision (inherent in the limitations of finite men, but exacerbated by the fall) that makes the acts in question evil.

But all these events have another cause that is sufficient for their occurrence: God. God does see the overall plan, and He sees where each and every one of these events leads. God also, being omniscient, feels all the pains and pleasures that these events occasion with at least as much vividness and poignancy that the beings we think of as directly involved feel. He feels the pain of every blow and every cut. God does not do evil when He causes these events because, in his boundless vision, He see why they are necessary. He chooses them and bears all their costs.

The wicked men who also cause the same events do not. And that is why they are wicked, and God is not.

Said thread:
http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2011/01/gods-sovereignty-and-evil-video.html?cid=6a00d83451d2ba69e2014e5f3ff753970c#comment-6a00d83451d2ba69e2014e5f3ff753970c

"He chooses them and bears all their costs."


And in support with WisdomLover, this well known [and often ignored or twisted by those who'd rather not read plainly] scripture gives proof to his words.

Rom 9:22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? Rom 9:23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

Yes Daron, it does seem that you and I are using the same playbook on this issue.

It's a good playbook.

Even Jeff seems to like hearing our responses repeated.

Dave,

Thanks for explaining.

Just another question, if you don't mind answering....

In your view, then, the categories of good and evil have no meaning when applied to God? In other words, God can perform any action and it is good, because by definition it must be if God does it?

Jeff, Yes, this is what I believe.


Daron,

One more time.....

"But, Jeff, you also don't see how God escapes evil when He allows everything - once again, any charge you bring against Wisdom Lover's conception stands against yours, and any absolution gained by yours works for his"

As I said repeatedly in our other conversation, I DO see how God escapes evil when He allows evil. We agreed on that completely.

What we DIDN'T agree on was that this has any bearing on how God escapes responsibility for evil when He directly causes evil.

And again....

"You wandered away from the thread where you had the opportunity to work out your inconsistency and you really should do so before using the same arguments here."

I didn't "wander away". I ended our discussion because we were at an impasse, as seen directly above.

I haven't used any arguments here. You are mistaken about that. I'm just trying to understand the logic of Wisdomlover's position. Wisdomlover has been gracious enough to try to explain....something you were unwilling to do.

Wisdomlover,

I appreciate your willingness to lay out your position.

Your said "It can be wrong for one person to do a thing, but perfectly permissible for a different person with different powers and knowledge to do the selfsame thing.

Remember, events are neither evil nor good. The agents that cause these events are the true bearers of those properties. So rather, for example, than say that there are instances of moral evil, e.g. murders, rapes, thefts and so on, it is better to say that these events happen, caused by wicked men."

So if I understand you correctly, are you saying that actions are neither good nor evil? In other words, there are instances where all the actions we would call evil; rape, incest, bestiality, child abuse, murder, etc. are just fine if used to reach an end that could be considered good?

Wisdomlover,

Just one more question, if you would indulge me....

You said, "Remember, events are neither evil nor good. The agents that cause these events are the true bearers of those properties. So rather, for example, than say that there are instances of moral evil, e.g. murders, rapes, thefts and so on, it is better to say that these events happen, caused by wicked men."

Maybe I am getting this wrong, but I thought you had come to the conclusion that God caused everything. So wouldn't you also need to say that these events; rapes, murders, etc. happen, and are also caused by God?

Hi Jeff,

As I said repeatedly in our other conversation, I DO see how God escapes evil when He allows evil. We agreed on that completely.
I think you see that He escapes being evil, not how He does so. If you saw the how then you would realize and admit that it applies in both cases because the how doesn't change. You wouldn't then bring that case here and start anew.

Yes, I think you are arguing here. You are arguing the exact same point you could not advance previously; that is, that a sovereign God who is ultimately in control of all events must be evil if there is evil in the world.
You introduced your topic with a question about decrees and mystery, but you took exactly one turn before you put it back on the same old pony. Putting question marks at the ends of your assertions doesn't change what you are saying.

And, once again, you've already answered your own charges. If the intent is good, and the outcome is good, and the means are necessary, then the agent who does this knowingly is good, not evil. And that would be the sovereign LORD, God Almighty.

OTOH, if Judas is acting out of greed and evil desires he is freely evil even when he is doing what God has decreed from before Creation is the ultimate good.
Offenses must come, but woe to those by whom they come.

Jeff-

Events are neither good nor evil. An action is a slightly different animal, since it makes an essential reference to its agent. What you have when you don't make that reference is not an action, but a mere event. Since the the good or evil is in the agent, we could attribute good or evil to an action in virtue of the fact that the agent acted rightly or wrongly when he caused the action.

If we want to speak loosely, we can of course, say also that certain kinds of events are good (or evil. When we do, we simply mean that, usually or for the most part, when human agents with no special knowledge or power cause those events, they do good (or evil).

This loose way of speaking is useful for most of our moral interaction with other people. But to extend it to a moral evaluation of our creator takes it beyond what it is intended to do. We can't even recklessly apply it to all of our interactions with our fellow men.

Suppose that some villain has developed a toxin which, if released will destroy all life on earth. No immunity. If this stuff is released properly, the Earth will be a lifeless rock in 1 hour. This particular villain has no great antipathy toward Man. Instead, he has a particular hatred toward you. A hatred he himself is willing to die for.

He has a simple demand. You must rape an innocent child within the next 23 hours or he will release the toxin. You have every reason to think that he will act on his threat, and that his release mechanism will be effective. You also have every reason to think that he won't just release the toxin if you comply. But if you kill yourself or render yourself in anyway unable to perform the act, he'll still release the toxin. If you warn the child in any way, so that she might willingly sacrifice herself to the violation, he'll still release the toxin. He provides you with a video link with which to verify your actions from His secret lair. He'll be able to tell if you try to fake the video feed. You could trace him via the signal, but once you activate the device, if he doesn't see you performing the act within the next ten minutes, he'll release the toxin. You're facing the death of all life on earth within the next 24 hours.

You've spent 22 hours 50 minutes of the time the villain has given you to looking for the villain and trying to find the machines he plans to use to release the toxin. All the world's governments have poured all the resources at their disposal into helping you in the search. But to no avail. It's come to this: Rape the child, or she and every other child and you and all people (including your villainous nemesis) will die. For most it will be an agonizing death. Your nemesis has a suicide pill. What are you going to do Jack Bauer?

Well, anyone who's ever watched the show 24 knows what Jack Bauer would do. It often happens in this show that someone that knows what Jack did and why he was compelled to do it, stands in judgement over him and condemns him for doing what they should be thanking him for on bended knee. It is often someone who would be long dead if Jack had not done the extreme things that circumstances brought him to.

Now, if we can easily imagine situations like this for a stupid television show. Shouldn't we at least be open to the possibility that plans for the entire universe might bring up exigencies that are at least as dire and even more so?

But God is omnipotent, you protest. Yes, but even an omnipotent being cannot make necessary truths false. For all we know, God could face moral double-binds that make it necessary that he create some events that we would call evil in the loose way of speaking I described above.

It could be that every event that we (loosely) call evil is like this. That for every such event God faces a moral double-bind that makes it necessary. If so, then God does no evil when He causes these events.

And it could be that we do not have the conceptual capacity to see that these moral double-binds exists. It might be that we not only don't know enough to be able to see them all, but that we can't know enough to see them all.

But since many of them are overdetermined by human agents, it is entirely possible that their human agents do evil when they cause those same events. This is because the human agent isn't doing them out of the necessity that he cannot recognize, but because of some immoral intention.

cue Truth Warrior ....

The comments to this entry are closed.