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February 01, 2014

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Amy thanks for sharing this. Now I will have to buy this book. I read the discussion following Tim Keller's quote. It amazes me how those who have walked away for Christ see themselves as being such smart good people. Free to live by their own standards and extremely judgmental towards those who aren't as smart as they are. Self righteousness can come not only by thinking one is morally superior to others but by thinking one is intellectually superior too. I think the more was see their own sinfulness and God's love and grace towards them the freer we are from all those ideas. This situation in Yugoslavia reminds me of the terror that happened to the early church. No human being on their own strength can forgive such horrendous injustice committed to them by other humans unless they have seen how their own sins killed Christ.

Was the Rwanda genocide a case of God's righteous punishment of a sinful people, or was it the people's sin that God must later punish?

Was the fighting in Yugoslavia because God wanted to purge and cleanse those heretics, or was it something people did out of their greedy hearts, which God now feels wrathful about?

In Romans 9, was Esau a "vessel of wrath fitted for destruction" because of sins he committed? Or was he sinful because he was a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction?

John Moore,

Your questions seem to need a degree of clarification. I'll attempt an explanation (though I would hope clearer minds chip in on this issue).

I am currently studying the prophet Habakkuk. You'd like him, a true skeptic among the prophets. He complained about the apparent success of the oppressive elements of his society. In the historical context, Habakkuk did his work around 600 B.C. The oppressor he most likely spoke of was the regime of Jehoiakim, who had succeeded his father Josiah and was immediately dismantling Josiah's religious reforms. The prophet asked how such could happen among God's people. God had the answer: bring on the invading Babylonians. They will handle those oppressors. But Habakkuk objects, they're worse. They will boast over their conquests and further maim God's faithful. Habakkuk awaits God's response. God keeps the message simple: the insolent are a dime a dozen type that soon passes away. The just lives by faith.

The divine wrath against evil may have a simple component. There is a subsidiary teaching interwoven in the main themes of Scriptures. Al forms of humanism has a built-in failure factor. Be it the imperialism of the ancient empires (strong centralized government yielding to terrorism and oppression), the philosophic schools of Greece (the tenets of nominalism and idealism becoming diffused into insignificance sub-forms as the philosophic impulse waned), the spirit of the Enlightenment (the confidence of reason yielding to bloody revolutions, all advancements seemed to implode or alter into the pointless or meaninglessness.

Perhaps this is the core of divine wrath.

To this point, what are we to make of the sinking of the Titanic? It was a marvel of the age of technological achievements of the turn of the 20th century. Was it an act of God's anger, or the sad effects of human hubris that trusted in the compartmentalized hull that led the builders to cut back on the lifeboats? God-blamers who would lean towards the first option should take time to ponder the second.

After all, repentance was a grand theme of Jesus' training of His disciples.

@ DGFischer; God works all things after the council of His own will, including the vain trust in a compartmental hull by the Titanic's builders. He could just as easily given them the wisdom to avoid such folly. Nothing happens independent of God, who designs and energizes everything for His own ends, including the numbering of the hairs of our head, or the demise of a single sparrow.

dave,

A quick question for clarity:

Are we discussing the matter of final or ultimate culpability in things evil?

I would love to avoid going off on tangents.

Back @ DGF; God is the cause, everything else is the effect. The oversight of the Titanic's builders might have been the "proximate cause" of her sinking, but all things originate in God who is the "remote cause".

I think the writer was pointing out that God is wrathful against horrifying evil that humans commit. That seems clear. Some questions posed here seem to ask, "why does God permit the evil to happen in the first place?" We cannot always answer that question since we are not in God's epistemologic position. But we also need to realize that God allows people to choose what they are going to do, and gives them the opportunity to choose right or wrong, all while permitting them to commit evil. Personally, I find myself lately opting a bit more for open theism. I don't think that God always chooses to know every decision that we make will be since he has given us free will. People can make up their minds and then change it, or they can stand up to evil and halt tragedies. The blame for human tragedy ultimately sits at the feet of human beings. And that is why God can be wrathful towards us.

dave,

But in the inquests following the sinking of the Titanic, it was the decisions of the builders/owners that were condemned, leading to changes in laws promoting passenger safety. God was not indicted. You did not answer my question concerning final or ultimate culpability. Unless addressed, this would make your notion of "remote cause" some skeptical bit of sophistry.

Consider this analogy (though granted, analogies do limp). A man has trained his dog to be exemplary in the world of well-mannered dogs. Yet, for some reason the dog loves to tear things to shreds. We could attempt explanation for why this happens. Perhaps the dog was separated from master for a time and has learned the habit of biting things into bits. Perhaps it was a twisted dog biscuit inducing such bad behavior. Or a twisted person using dog biscuits to pervert the dog's gentle nature. But now we have the problem of a dog with tendencies toward vandalism.

What to do, what to do? Two options are available, fine the owner or remove the dog. In the matter of culpability and the problem of evil, we have almost believed fervently in the power of the fining of the owner, when the source of the problem centers on the dog.

This is the clarity I am seeking when I try to understand the gist of your and John Moore's questions. To attribute the problem's source to God is a dull dodge.

Re: "To attribute the problem's source to God is a dull dodge"

How dull is this???

Am 3:6 Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

Pr 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

There are many more references in Scripture that you might find equally "dull".

Dave,

Note the context of each.

Amos was a prophet sent to the northern kingdom of Israel. Occupied as a herdsman, he had none of the credentials of a typical "prophet" accepted by the religious establishment of that kingdom. He entered that nation at the highpoint of its final heyday under Jeroboam II. This nation prospered, and held no reason to believe that the end of the nation was not even fifty years away. Thee people had to be jarred into reality, towards repentance and introspection of their lives and the matters most important. The Day of the Lord was not going to be a picnic. This verse you cite is but a warning of consequences. Much the same as Isaiah, whose prophetic ministry was rebuffed by Ahaz. Historic transitions are in God's control, who could use Assyria as His rod.

The substance of the verses you cite and could cite is that there are consequences for evil and its practitioners. Suitable warnings to take seriously. God can't be mocked, much less accused falsely for all the misfortune we mete on ourselves.

Again, where does the culpability lie?

Re: DGF;

If God makes out of the same lump vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor, as Paul affirms in Romans 9, then God not only is the source for any good we do, but also is the source for our sin and misery as well. In the case of God’s elect, our sins work sorrow and repentance and ultimately holiness, but for the reprobate they work judgement destruction.

dave,

Context! Context! Context! Context!!!

Your citation of Romans 9 apart from the overall structure of Paul's letter to the Romans misses terribly. To recount: Paul begins with the assertion of the Gospel of Christ and its universal need by a sinful planet. All sin, be they pagan society (chap. 1), Jewish legalism (chap. 2), or any who feel themselves righteous in and of self (chap. 3). It is from this point that Paul proclaims the redemptive action of Christ who saves by grace. This is attained by faith (chap. 4, 5)which shatters the power and hold of sin (chap 6) and the power of the Law to condemn those who believe in Christ (chap. 7). The life of faith is through the workings of the Spirit (chap. 8) Who grants us power to live contrary to our selfish sinful natures and upholds us in our moments of weakness, turning all things to good in His good time.

Now comes chapter nine. What of those who reject the Gospel. Paul would give his life to save the Jewish nation who has rejected Christ. But it is their rejection of God, not God prompting their faithlessness. The mention of the hardening of Pharaoh in that chapter is God's response to willful disobedience and defiance, not making them defiant. Even in this very chapter Paul states: Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?”
No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” (Rom 9: 19, 20). The next two chapters emphasize God's mercy, who does not desire the death of the wicked, who wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. (cf. 1 Tim 2: 4).

To credit God with all the misery of the world is skewed reason. It's blame-shifting of the worse sort. God, who is not able to sin (non posse peccare) made man of free will (posse non peccare). To a point, in God's pristine version of Utopia (which would work with man's cooperation), man needed to obey the simplest of rules: Don't eat. However you view this incident, the point is the action would be a pure act of obedience or disobedience. Man chose poorly. But God had the option to make man robotic or redeemable. To demand why God would not also make us non posse peccare as He would just be another instance of the original temptation: you will be like God. God, in His wisdom, created better than that.

I'll offer you one response to this post, as I feel I'm done here. In all, I appreciate the exchange of thought. Have a fine day.

oooops,

Let's revise a touch. Don't eat from that tree.

Better now. The original just sounds weird.

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