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December 11, 2012

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Hello STR,

I'm taking a stab here...it seems that the heart of his statement is an outcry against the problem of evil and the desire for justice in this world.

This statement of course is the stage set for "God Is Non-Existent", for if God was real He would vanquish His enemy, evil and all injustice therefore... "There is no God".

It is an attempt to fictionalize God as nothing more than a child's imagination on steroids given the overwhelming reality of evil and injustice that exists.

I am excited to hear your response on Thursday so that I can begin a conversation thread on fb!

Thanks for you time,
Tito Santiago

"Why can't God just defeat the devil?"

Only one point:

  1. He has! Bill Maher simply misunderstands the battle.

Bil Mahr's total intellect is revealed in equating the creator's story to a comic book.


Evidence that someone hasn't matured since being a 5 year old.

"Then there's no story"

OK.

God likes to tell stories. When He came into our world, that's almost entirely how He taught. The prophet Hosea was commanded to do what he did, it seems, precisely so that his life would be a story to foreshadow what was to come in the big story that God is telling.

Evil, including particular evils like the devil, is part of a story that God is telling. It is the best story ever written, we don't know what the ending is, because God is telling the story, so there's no skipping ahead. Every one of us is a character in the story.

It is, as Lewis described it in The Last Battle:

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
And that, of course, is the answer to the problem of evil. There is a good that emerges in the resolution of a story that ends well that tends to trump all the evils that occurred in the story. In a similar fashion, the evils of this life will be trumped by God's rescue of us from them. They are not worthy of being compared to it.

The fact that evil is part of the story God is telling, and that the story would not be possible without the evil means that all evils are necessary evils. Which means, of course, that the problem of evil is answered.

Thanks Bill Maher!

Here are some of the other claims Maher makes:

1. Comic book characters can't defeat their nemeses.

2. Religion is a hustle.

3. There's no reason to come to church without fear (of the devil).

On item one, Bill Maher disqualifies himself forever as someone to take seriously.

Comic book characters always, always, always defeat their nemeses. Batman's nemeses always end up in Arkham Asylum. Superman defeated Doomsday and even came back from death after doing so. I mean, seriously, if you can't get your Bible right, at least get your comic books right.

On item two. The only reason Maher gives for religion being a hustle is that it resembles a comic book. But comic books are not a hustle. Therefore, Religion is not a hustle.

On item three, the only reason to go to the hospital is that you are sick. Is that some horrible charge against hospitals?

Every one of us is full of sin. But the universe is wholly owned by a holy God. If that doesn't terrify you down to your bones, you are either ignorant, insane or just plain stupid. I'll put the best construction on things and assume Maher is ignorant (he certainly is about the comic books).

But the one to be afraid of isn't the devil. The one to be afraid of is God. And if that's not a good reason to go to church, what would be?

I would say this objections is based on bad theology--that Satan is just an unruly and unforseen intrusion on God's plans, and that God would rather not have him around. In reality, God uses Satan. God has a purpose for him. Everything Satan does is part of God's plan. That includes eventually banishing him, but not before history plays out.

There's a chapter in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by Justin Taylor and John Piper that goes through ten aspects of God's sovereignty over Satan's hand in our suffering, and it shows how Satan is under God's sovereign control.

What do you know! You can download a free PDF of the book!

At first blush Mr. Maher seems to believe that people only go to church because they fear the devil, I certainly do not attend church because I fear the devil - I go to church to learn more about God. I think Tito is on the right track, Mr. Maher is presenting an argument of the existence of evil as a reason for there being no God. He is assuming God doesn't have a use for what we call evil(Ravi Zacharias "Grand Weaver" chapter 4 section The Systemic Difference). Mr Maher is just moralizing without the authority to do so. Without a higher authority anything we as people claims to be evil is just a personal preference, because we are at the same level of authority.

I find it interesting that Bill believes in the devil but not God.

Maher is totally off on the victory God has gained through His Son's work on the cross. War's over. Bad guys lost. Now history becomes the aftermath of those who wish to be swayed to join the losing proposition. Satan is a miserable loser, and you know ... misery loves company.

After all, I attend church, not in fear of the devil, but in love for an awesome and awe-inspiring Lord. Maher's fear is misplaced.

Bill Maher apparently beleives that Christians think that the devil is the immediate source of all physical and moral evil in the world. He doesn't even get the people he's arguing against.

He is missing the Story. Can start by asking if the devil is God's only enemy. Point out that the bible says that we are also enemies of God when we are separated from Him by our sins. (Colossians 1:21, Romans 5:10). We need Christ to restore this relationship.

So one of God's enemies, the devil, has been defeated and will be done away with on Christ's return. The rest of us will eventually have either been reconciled and saved; or defeated and damned.

Until that moment... God is relentlessly saving and pursuing his enemies. That is the Story that he is missing. God could do away with all of his enemies right now, but He is loving and patient towards us. (2 Peter 3:9).

Defeating the devil is not an simply an issue of overpowering him. There are many more factors at play like relationship, justice, grace, etc. Of course God is all powerful but that is not all he is.

I wonder if Bill has any options? Can he repent?

tscombo eludes to a good point. I think it is in Peter where we are told that at least one of the reasons He delays has ties to bringing life to many more.

First and most fundamentally; a God who is powerful enough to eliminate the Devil and all evil is wise enough to have purposes for allowing them to exist temporarily.

Secondly, he is obviously equivocating on the meaning of "can't" and "could". If, based on His omnipotence, God could defeat the Devil; then Maher's previous insinuation -- "Why can't God..." -- is rendered moot. What he really means to say is that God chooses not to defeat the Devil based on some other purpose. As Christians, we can stand up and say "Amen!" The problem is that Maher dramatically misunderstands the purpose.

Even more troublesome to his position is the fallacious assumption that because God has not yet eliminated the Devil and his influence once and for all that He is incapable of doing so in the future. In an undercover situation, is a police officer incapable of arresting a drug dealer simply because he allows the crime to be carried out before he does the arresting? Absurd. Is a parent powerless because they allow their teenage son to make bad decisions and suffer the consequences temporarily? Of course not. One might even argue that virtue could eventually result from allowing him to "stumble and fall". Only if the officer never arrests or the parents never intervene are they culpable for negligence. Clearly, the biblical position is that the Devil and his influence will be completely eliminated in accordance with God's timing rather than ours.

Sadly, Maher's ignorant remarks persuade many people because he is not the only one who is dreadfully ignorant to basic, orthodox, 2000 year old, Christian Theology.

A few posts up, I noted the fact that Maher himself equates the world to a (comic book) story. And I basically agreed with him. The world is like a story. But that isn't a problem, it's a solution.

A friend of mine, Greg Smith, wrote a book about the story that God is telling from a character's point-of-view. I found the book helpful. I don't think I would have been quite so quick to home in on the storytelling angle of Maher's snark had I not read Greg's book. Anyway, it's called Lost in the Pages, and I recommend it.

WisdomLover has a point.

Psalm 139:16 "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

That's also a nice answer from Scripture to the 'Open Theists' Sam.

Great question. I find it amazing how many atheists love Maher's arguments, because they seem to resoundingly reliable. At one level. But as for some assumptions and questions coming to mind:
- What kind of God should defeat the devil? i.e. What makes the devil bad and God good, that he should do that?
- Who says God can't/hasn't defeated the devil? I'm a Christian, and that's not my belief. So whose belief is it? Presumably Maher's. So what makes him think God can't defeat the devil? How did he come to that conclusion? I think there is a straw man in there.
- On what study or basis has Maher concluded that people only go to Church for fear? Again, I'm a Christian, and that's not the reason I go at all. Why does he think that?
- I'm not sure I understand the comic book analogy. Does Maher think comic books are fictional or not? I fundamentally reject the assertion that God is not real, and so I'm not willing to accept his analogy. For a start, I believe God's writing the story, not us.

There are some thoughts. I'd try to turn the tables on such a rambling and unfounded flow of assertions.

Bill’s analogy within the flavor of “Religion *likes* evil because it benefits from the hustle” is just as silly and unfounded as the analogy within the flavor that “God *likes* evil because He benefits from it”. Man may benefit from a hustle, but such a benefit notion here negates any implied negative connotation in the word hustle as a Self’s Very-Good-Experience is the ceiling in such a world an thus the statement says exactly nothing. And, God, well, we know He likes many things, even loves many things, but that’s another Story entirely.

What Bill cannot see is the sort of God he is speaking of. He is speaking of Love. That is hard for him and others to grasp here. Would Love tarry in the face of evil? The Christian response is ‘Yes’. The ‘Why?’ then enters. And that is because Bill does not know what Love really entails. God’s sort of Person has God’s sort of Will, and God’s sort of Will has God’s sort of Love, and God’s sort of Love has God’s sort of Delight: Triune. God likes, and creates, and insists, on Multiple Fronts. As Christians we must realize that, often, our linear thinking only buttresses the Bill’s of the world who also think in such linear terms. Linear Topography cannot comprehend nor make sense out of Cubic Topography.

We must start with this: However harsh the suffering, however deep the pain, we *know* in the fullest sense of that word that God is Love. It is Christians who taste such suffering, who swallow such pain who are telling us this of God. Our own intimate awareness of the God Who is Love combined with the interior topography of the God Who is Triune is an avenue of light for both Logic and Love to shine all sorts of light here.

That God delights, and insists, and creates on Multiple Fronts is a window through which we realize that He also does something else on Multiple Fronts: Writes.


The immutable grammar of Love’s eternal language is found within the details of its triune semantics.


There are patterns of such a Triune Topography mechanized within the immutable semantics of a perpetual one-way incline in an eternal language comprised of Word’s material manifest wherein truth precedes corporeal. The temporal corporeal finds it must ultimately give way to that unending truth which portends it.

Let's accept his assertion: "If God destroyed the devil, there'd be no reason to go to church." I don't think this is true, but I'll accept it for the sake of the argument.

Does that prove that religion is a hustle? No. His argument does not support his assertion. Why bother countering it? Instead ask them what evidence they have for the claim that religion is just a hustle.

He assumes that God's goal is to destroy the devil. God's goal is to glorify himself. The devil provides God with a foil for comparison. The temptation for us otherwise is to assume a dualism, but God has revealed that the devil does nothing aside from what God allows him to do. Practically speaking, I doubt a challenge on this ground will convince an atheist to have faith, but it is a reasonable answer to what is otherwise a lame challenge. Bill Maher has hoisted a straw man for burning.

What makes Bill think that he deserves the answers to the questions he is asking? Why would god owe Bill anything, including answers? Who is he to demand them?

"I have come that you may have life, to the full......."

"The thief comes to steal, kill, & destroy......"

"Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest."

"God loves the world so much.....that He gave Himself.....that they would have life....."


Linear thinking is a theology of half-truths whereas the move into Cubic Topographies is what a straight line benefits from. The world is best served by the whole truth. He creates and delights along Multiple Perfect Fronts.

WORK? Why, cert’nly it would work, like rats a-fighting. But it’s too blame’ simple; there ain’t nothing TO it. What’s the good of a plan that ain’t no more trouble than that? It’s as mild as goose-milk. Why, Huck, it wouldn’t make no more talk than breaking into a soap factory.”

God doesn't need the devil. The devil isn't why I go to church, I go to church for God. I don't cling to God because I fear the devil, I cling to God because I fear Him.

I think Bill Maher is arguing about the pop-cultural image of Devil as direct opposition of God. I think most mainstream christians would be horrified to think Devil or even evil itself in some ways part of God's plan. What sort of good can come from evil? Great story? This hardly justifies the great horrors of our existence.

What's the point of the Huck Finn quote Ron?

Anna-

I don't go to church from fear of the devil either, but I wouldn't say I go for God either. I go because I'm afraid of God. And because, for all that, I know He loves me. Church is not so much for God as it is for me. The Divine Service is not the service of God by Man, but the service of Man by God.

Erkki-

Why else would evil exist if it were not that some good comes of it?

And I can tell you one good that came from evil and that could not have existed without the evil: Christ's gracious redemption of humanity came because of our sin and could not have existed without it.

And that is a great story! It's a story that justifies every horror in this world. Our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us.

And I think all Christians should be horrified to think that that isn't part of God's plan.

Why else would evil exist if it were not that some good comes of it?

Why would one assume that evil exists for a reason? To me, it looks like evil things like diseases, violence and accidents exist just because they happen to exist. There doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason for their happening.

Sorry for the all italics, I forgot to close tag.

The evils you mention exist because God cursed the earth on account of Sin. And Sin is answered by the cross.

But had we not fallen into Sin, there would be no reason for the Cross. And the good of redemption never would have been realized. Redemption cannot exist without evil.

If God was going to create a world that included redemption, there was no logically possible way for Him to do it without creating the world so that it includes something to be redeemed from.

BTW, you can fix unclosed italics (and other styles) by adding the closing tag in a subsequent comment. In your case you hadn't forgotten the closing tag. You had forgotten the slash in your closing tag. So you'd added a second italics tag rather than closing. I added two closing tags to the start of my comment in order to end the italics.

If God was going to create a world that included redemption, there was no logically possible way for Him to do it without creating the world so that it includes something to be redeemed from.

I find this answer to be little unsatisfying. A firemen is a greater hero for having to put out a devastating fire that killed several people, yes, but this still does not mean that this fire was a good thing and necessary evil. In actual reality, we focus on fire-prevention, the firemen are the last resort.

Thanks for the tip on the italics!

Is it better to have a world with a terrible fall and a glorious redemption, or a world with no fall at all and no redemption?

I don't know. Offhand, it seems like it could go either way. I'd guess that it's really God's call, since He knows all ends and I do not.

Having said that, I note this: the world with a fall and a redemption is what God did create. The latter is an unrealized possibility He might have created, but didn't.

WL,

"didn't create" abolishes Agency in Eden, something which we find in God's Multiple Perfect Options, or rather, in Perfection's Triune Topography. Palindrome is easily, in fact infinitely easily, accounted for inside a Triune landscape.


I know we disagree here, etc......

Is "palindrome" the right word? Isn't that the term for words like "level", "wow" and "rotator"?

On substance, I feel the need to spell out my point a bit, just so that newcomers will know what we disagree about. You can have free agency in Eden, as much as you want. But God created this world with full knowledge of how that free agency would be used (and He created it anyway).

He knew full well that the fall was coming and that He would Himself choose to redeem Man from it. That was His plan from go.

WL,


Obviously it's irksome, the whole thing, to all of us........


I think the only thing we use differently is the word "real" in some sense.


That leaves the usual question of was it "possible" to move otherwise in Eden.


Multiple Bests emerge within this triune landscape in some fashion. Perfection is Triune; not Linear.......


If yes, it seems Agency was real, and, if real, then our Palindrome leading us to His Eternally Sacrificed Sefl. If not, then Agency suffers and with it culpability.


In the Triune I find no contradictions as all are housed perfectly well, that is, among multiple perfect fronts.


In other words, if Power Wills Agency (we find this inside Him, multiple Bests and all that), is it possible for Him to create a world without it (if He means for it to exist in that world).


The words "real" and "actual" come to mind. Knowing ahead of time does not negate the question of Power's Willing something to exist there in Eden. It adds to it in some sense. But we ought not allow that knowing to negate the Willing of His Image which is what is in question.


I mean this in the sense that we agree that Agency existed. Or, put another way, Power's expressed will to Man of Man's freedom to eat of any Tree but one was, like Man's Agency, real or actual, and, if real or actual, then the very real, and actual, path of that other Tree emerges as necerssary. Reality demands necessary stuff.


I'm not sure this is incompatible with a triune topography. What I mean is, I'm not sure you can fault me for the use of the words 'real' and 'actual' here.


Perhaps we can discount Power's expressed Will to Man there in Eden, but we must be clear that we are doing just that.


There is nothing in my child's playpen which I myself have not created. Not one thing. It's all acconted for. Only, this pattern *also* accounts for what we find In His Image, and of His Willing that Image, and what we read Him saying to Man there in Eden.


In other words, I say all that you say, only, I insist on actual, real options in Eden, as Power Himself expressly stated such.


I think that is the only real difference. It makes His-Image take priority (over our will's choice) as *both* the means *and* the ends, and leaves fully intact all the Parts and also the Whole, all of which are necessary in themselves. (......which bleeds into To Know-As. To Be-As. He does not know in theory only. He *knows*. The Whole includes the parts necessarily, and none of the parts are just "theoretical" in His Knowing.....etc...).


I know we disagree here of course, and, to be honest, the fact that WL disagrees with me is (in my journey) due cause for pause to some degree on my end. Though on the whole I just find this whole pattern perfectly compatible with triune sorts of patterns. I see *actual* rigid constraint there in Eden, and, I see *actual* or *real* agency and reality necessitates real things, pleural.

Well.....for what it's worth...........

WL,

Tom suggests a just-defeat-the-devil simple way to free Jim.

I quoted Huck's response.

Huck wants a just-like-Christianity complicated way to free Jim.

RonH

I think you have Huck and Tom reversed. Tom is the one who came up with the elaborate plan. Huck wanted the simple plan.

It's interesting, isn't it, that Clemens decided that Tom's way is better, even though it fails and Tom gets shot in the leg. (And even though Tom knew all along that Jim was already legally free).

Clemens must be evil. At the very least, he must have no love for Huck, Tom or Jim. What's more Tom must also be wicked.

BTW, I don't mean any of that about Clemens and his characters. I think Clemens loved his characters...especially Tom.

Also, for all his charms, I do not think that the Father of American Literature is quite so good a storyteller as God.

Check again. Huck is the narrator.

yer right. Huck is the narrator and had the simple plan.

But yer wrong about the rest. Especially the story telling.

Jes on bein' funny, Clemens's beats FatherSonHolyAnGhost. Not to mention all of Christendom besides.

My Grace is enough.


That's pretty simple.

"But yer wrong about the rest."

What? I'm wrong that Clemens decided that it made a better story for them to follow Tom's plan? I'm wrong that Tom ended up getting shot? I'm wrong that Tom's plan ultimately failed? I'm wrong that Tom knew all along that Jim had been freed by Miss Watson?

I don't think I'm wrong about any of that. That's easily settled by reading the book I guess.

Am I wrong that Clemens loved his characters? That claim would probably be hard for me to prove. Perhaps somewhere in Clemens' writings you will find a positive assertion on the subject. But even without that, I really have very little doubt that I am wrong about his love for his characters.

Am I wrong that He especially loved Tom? That is probably my most controversial claim. But he did leave it to Tom to provide the thrilling and absurd ending to the Great American Novel. You don't do that with a character you hate.

As for who is funnier God or Clemens...I'll begin by noting that Clemens and all his stories are part of the story God is telling. So God is at least as funny as Clemens. Plus Steve Martin is also part of God's story. So God is funnier.

(Then again, Carrot Top is also part of God's story, so I don't know how far I want to go with that argument ;-)

I might note, that you often cannot know what is funny or good and what is not without hearing the whole story. I think one of the funniest bits in literature is the trick on Malvolio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. One of the best bits is the judgement against Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. But if you only saw and heard the wrong parts of those, you wouldn't get the idea that they are funny or good at all.

God hasn't gotten to the end of his story yet.

What's left in my remarks that I might be wrong about?

My 'claims' that Clemens is evil and Tom is wicked?

I noted in my follow-up comment that I actually don't believe those claims. (I didn't say as much, but it was sarcasm.) So really my claims were that Clemens is not evil and Tom is not wicked.

Am I wrong about those claims? Is Clemens really evil? Is Tom really wicked?

Of course, all my questions are rhetorical. I'm obviously not wrong about anything that I said.

Now, maybe I'm wrong about something I presupposed or something I was implying in my remarks?

The big implication is that the complexity of the Christian story says nothing about whether is is true or good or whether it's author is good or loves us.

Actually, it says nothing negative about all that. The complexity of Tom's plan made Huckleberry Finn a better story. It showed Clemens to be a better writer and showed that He loved his characters more. I think the complexity of the Christian story vs. Bill Maher's just-kill-the-devil story counts as evidence that God is good and that He loves us.

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