Monday, March 30, 2009


Here is why I'm skeptical of Darwin's theory --as a non-scientist --as a Bible-believer.

Why are we not able to see any creatures in transition today to mammal --or ape to "ape-like creature" to human --or ape-like creature diverging to human and ape? Why are these transitions out of one category of life form into a new category not observeable today? Why are bacteria always still bacteria and viruses still viruses --no matter how many generations they multiply with lightning speed --no matter how many mutations occur--if they do? Why do all life forms keep replicating "after their own kind," just as the Bible said?

Nature is repetitive --so why not evolution?

Steven J. Gould and Dr. Patterson of the British Museum of Natural History both admitted at some point that transitional fossils were not available --"no missing link" in the fossil record, the Time or Newsweek magazine announced perhaps 3 decades ago. (I haven't found the article on line but my husband and I read it with our own eyes when it was published.) That's the article that told about Gould's theory of "punctuated eqilibrium," as a process of evolution too rapid to form fossils. My husband always said we should be "standing knee-deep" in millions of trans-fossils if evolution were true. I say that even when we DO find fossils bearing features of extinct creatures with features of two separate creature categories, we cannot say they ARE common ancestors or evidence of descent from a common ancestor of the two or more kinds. We could just as legitimately say the trans-fossil is evidence that God designed and created a creature with DNA in common with two present-day categories --like mammals all share similar characteristics and DNA which make us classify them as mammals.

Yes, Darwin was a genius and a scholar at categorizing the life forms by their similarities and what we now find to be DNA in common --as in apes and humans. He assumed common ancestry for the creatures with similarities; no one has proven it. While DNA may be interpreted as "evidence" of common ancestry, the evidence can also be interpreted as proof of a designer in common --who "wrote" the DNA code for the ape and the human, giving them these similarities in design code from their creation. For sure, we don't see any of these creatures transitioning today from one category to another --ape to human--fish to mammal --or whatever the prevailing theory of common descent is today.

More recently, Dr. Michael Behe, a molecular biology prof at Lehigh U. said the cell shows complexity and interdependent features (irreducible complexity) which are evidence of design and thus a designer or intelligence behind the design. Not a fundamentalist but a Catholic, Behe supposedly DOES believe in the process of evolution but that it must have been guided by some kind of intelligent creative entity. I've wondered if Behe hasn't had to agree with Darwin to some extent to keep his job --as his college has made a statement that the rest of the department does not agree with him. It has become religiously political for people in the sciences to support faith in Darwin's belief in evolution, i.e. transitions from common ancestors --and all life from one-celled creatures after a Big Bang. Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed, the Ben Stein movie did a good job of discussing evidence for Intelligent Design and showed how politics and faith in Darwin are interfering with good science (more than creationism does) by closing doors to qualified, brilliant scientists who don't agree. Darwin's theory is the backbone of present-day atheism, after all, and we do see that it is defended "religiously." More and more, there will be a litmus test for grad school candidates to see if they believe in Darwin.

Consider, why do evolutionists try to debunk Behe (with ad hominem attacks mostly) if he really believes in evolution, but sees design and thus intelligence behind irreducible complexity? Consider that many evolution-believers try to say that evolution and creation are compatible -that God did it Darwin's way. Supposedly, ID theorists MAY be evolutionists as Behe is said to be --theistic evolutionists --i.e. they believe God GUIDED the process of evolution --some would say in 6 great ages or a Biblical and metaphorical 6 days for stages of evolution.

The scientific method is all about observation --and one thing for sure, evolution out of one life category into another, has not been observed. Evolution is speculated as a naturalistic explanation for the similarities in creatures --and as a defense for an atheistic theory of origins --how all life came to be without a divine intelligence behind it by random, accidental result of natural selection, adaptation, survival of the fittest, etc.

Meanwhile, humans don't seem to be getting "better" or evolving upward with successive generations. We always have our haters and murderers --from Nazis to Ku Klux Klan to Islamic terrorists.

And yet we heard yesterday in our church the story of a minister named Billy Wayne Harrington --and how his family were the poster children of dysfunctional families with unfaithful spouses, alcoholic abusive father who almost murdered their mother one night, 3 younger brothers whom Billy Wayne had to raise himself and protect from children's services taking them away. He said he wanted them to stay together so they would all come to faith in Christ. He didn't want to risk their souls to see them go to homes where no one would lead them to salvation--besides the natural desire to be together with his brothers. As the eldest, he saw to it that his brothers made it to school and did all the work of the mother. The miracle is that his parents eventually repented and came to a saving faith themselves.

There is a spiritual dimension to life --as evidenced in the changed, new life of a believer. NOw THAT is evolution!

Finally, I am skeptical of Darwin's theory because of Jesus Christ. He healed instantly; resurrected instantly. Our God does not need the slow laborious, random, "natural" process of evolution to produce the myriad of life forms on the earth. He speaks out of his vast intelligence --and it happens --now --not millions and millions of years of "natural" processes in order to produce new species. He says, "Let there be light" and it is so. With a word. If our computer can do what it does, surely our God's MIND can do anything --with a Word.

John 1:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things
were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the
world knew him not.
11He came unto his own, and his own received him
12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become
the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13Which were
born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld
his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible

Saturday, March 28, 2009

SAT-7 TV --Christian programming --in Iraq

The following is from SAT-7 --note first photo on my blog!

97% of Iraqis have satellite TV and 18.8% of those watch SAT-7®!

Iraq is a country in transition. Its newly created government is experiencing growing pains. Its major people groups, the Kurds, Sunnis and Shia distrust each other. Christians are being targeted and many are worried that their rights to freely exist and worship may be lost. And yet, despite these hardships, many parts of the country are functioning, and some are thriving. While some churches are experiencing massive losses in membership as congregants move to other nations, others are flourishing as people in distress cry out to the Lord for help.

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet. 97% of Iraqis have satellite TV and 18.8% of those watch SAT-7 In this kind of environment, satellite television has become the most effective way to reach and encourage not only the Iraqi Christians but also the entire population of Iraq. Most Iraqi families spend many hours in the relative security of their homes watching satellite television. Many have turned to SAT-7 for hope and encouragement. We are excited to share a recent study about SAT-7's impact in Iraq.

Data just released from a nation-wide study in Iraq found that 97% of the population has access to satellite television and that 18.8%, or 5.3 million people in that country alone (out of an estimated 2008 population of 28 million), watch SAT-7. The study also found that 2.6 million are watching on a regular daily or weekly basis!

Intermedia, the independent audience research firm which conducted the study, also provides data on such channels as Al Jazeera and BBC Arabic. In fact, according to the study SAT-7 is only 1.7 percentage points behind BBC Arabic in the number of people aware of the channel!

SAT-7 CEO Terence Ascott says the figures show that SAT-7 is offering tremendous return on donations given to the ministry. "It's quite amazing when you consider that BBC ARABIC has an annual budget of 25 million British Pounds. A year ago when the BBC channel launched, that amount was worth about 50 million dollars. SAT-7's total budget, split among three channels in 2008, was only 13 million dollars. Talk about value for your money!"

In addition to reaching a high number of viewers for a low cost, SAT-7 is also providing vital support to the struggling Christian community in Iraq. "Iraqi Christians have really suffered in recent years and many have fled the country," says David Harder, SAT-7's Communications Manager. "Iraqis often call and text us asking for prayer. Fortunately, through our programs SAT-7's Arabic producers and hosts can show God's love and offer encouragement. We've had responses from Iraq for years, but now we know that literally millions of Iraqis, Christian and non-Christian, are watching the broadcasts."

To watch a live feed from the SAT-7 ARABIC channel, click here.

You also have an opportunity to experience firsthand, up close and personal, the SAT-7 ministry, its staff, and its viewers. Embark on a journey of personal discovery to the Middle East. You will see how the ministry plays a major role in bringing the Gospel to millions by taking this special Vision Trip to the Middle East. We will visit the Holy Land, Cyprus, and Egypt in a life-changing trip. For more information on dates and prices click here.

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible


God bless President Obama for announcements concerning Afghanistan yesterday. He is sending more troops to train security forces there to regain the peace and wants American and other civilian experts of all kinds there to help rebuild the nation. He cited the Taliban as the oppressors of women and girls that they are and called them brutal, as I recall. This is a struggling democracy which needs to be rid of the Taliban. He also mentioned Pakistan and their problems.

Ironically, he plans to move Taliban soldiers from GITMO to our court systems and over-crowded prisons and has or will release them to go back to business as usual. They need to be in prisons in their own nations. What did we do to rehabilitate and open their closed minds, I wonder? I suggested that, wrote to Congress and president about it, never heard that we were trying to introduce those benighted souls to western ideals. I suggested a course in the best of humanizing western movies, translated. Movies to soften the heart toward Jews and others. The Jesus movie on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. They should at least have found out what Christians REALLY believe about Jesus, which differs from Mohammad's revisionist version 400 years later.

The middle eastern regimes have provided fertile soil for radical Islamic terrorists like bin Ladin. They blame their poverty and misery on Christianity and the sins of the West, believing Allah wants them to rule the world with Sharia law.

Isn't it interesting that Obama's speech sounded just like Bush? Once a man becomes president, he talks to our foreign service and military folks "in the know" and realizes the gravity of ignoring the threat of terrorism by not opening these countries to the West, to democracy and rule of law (with respect for civil rights) with their greater potential for peace and prosperity.

With freedom and prosperity comes satellite TV --and Christian programming like that from Lebanon. True Biblical Christianity is the panacea for world hatred, war and poverty. In America, our own economic troubles can be attributed to a lack of Christian honesty and charity, a lack of stewardship, self-control --Christian virtues --in our own use of credit and irresponsibility toward debt. It is greed and corruption of individuals that affect corporations, unions, and gov't alike. It is the opposite of Christian principles which affects families who require twice the money to sustain when the parents split into two households.

It may be futile to help Islamic nations. Certainly their own people give up and emigrate when they can. It's hard to deal with people whose passions override their reason, who believe that death and murder are the answers to problems. But we should not be faulted for trying to alleviate the misery of people who mostly just want to live in peace without poverty and fear of unjust tyrants like Osama, the Taliban and Sadam--and without the exclusive influence of mullahs preaching hatred. It is in our national interests to establish greater freedom and overcome tyrannical oppression in the two nations that Bush took on. I think Obama has found this out.

Granted, during the campaign, I believed he spoke of our responsibility to Afghanistan --all the while blasting Bush about Iraq. But the surge worked --at least for a time. We must help that nation, Iraq, also, to experience the blessings of liberty, and not leave too soon.

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible

Sunday, March 22, 2009

YFC Chili Cook-Off

Youth for Christ in Holland, Ohio, --and evangelicals -- are alive and well --with over 165 in attendance from the area churches at the chili supper. We had no more room for tables set up! Jim Franks, Springfield area director, host pastor Keith Simpson and the other pastors planned what will surely become an annual event for the evangelical churches in the area.

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible

Holland Free Methodist Events

MARK YOUR CALENDARS, FRIENDS! for events at the Holland Free Methodist Church, 6605 Angola Road, Holland, OH, north of Spring Meadows Mall

This Friday, March 27:


YOUTH-ORIENTED but all can come
--7 pm AND Sat. 10 AM

Saturday night: Billy Wayne in
concert for all ages at 6 pm.

Sunday morning: Billy Wayne music and
preaching at 10:40 AM Service

Who is Billy Wayne? A Southern Baptist evangelist, musician, dramatist --who last fall served as chaplain for Grammy-nominated DecembeRadio on their tour.

Guaranteed to be a memorable, worth-while weekend.

March 31, 7 PM, Tuesday: Jews for Jesus will present Christ in the Passover This is a meaningful presentation for the season, as we are reminded of Jesus's Last Supper and the symbolism in the Jewish ritual which has meaning for Christians.

April 1, CLC (Christian Life Club for children) Talent Night, 7 PM --we have guitarist, drummer, pianists, singers, gymnasts, artists --presenting their talents!

April 5, Palm Sunday 10:40 Service

April 10, Good Friday, Tenebrae Service at 7 pm,
featuring selections from the Easter Passion musical,
"How Great Thou Art"

April 12, Easter! He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!!!

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Most of the churches in Holland, OH are promoting this event, a fund-raiser for Youth for Christ ministry at Springfield H.S. and Holland community. It is at the Holland Free Methodist Church at 6 PM TONIGHT only! Saturday March 21. $5 per meal or $15 per family.

NEXT WEEKEND IS A YOUTH-FOCUSED EVENT AT OUR CHURCH, FEATURING BILLY WAYNE, A SOUTHERN BAPTIST EVANGELIST TO ALL AGES, A DYNAMIC YOUNG MAN WHO SINGS, WRITES MUSIC, ACTS, DIRECTS THEATER AND HAS A TRI-CITY PLAYHOUSE IN TENNESSEE. He was abused as a youth and relates to all youth in general and to troubled youth, in particular. He is predicted to not be boring. Free will offerings will be received to fund his ministry to us.

IF YOU KNOW ANY YOUTH, BRING THEM and yourselves --7 PM FRIDAY, 10 AM SATURDAY, 6 PM CONCERT SATURDAY, AND 10:40 SUNDAY MORNING. THE HFM church is having a potluck at 4:30 pm Saturday before the concert. Bring your dish to pass and enjoy the fellowship.

Sometimes one sermon or a weekend series of inspired preaching can be the vehicle of the Holy Spirit that helps to set a young person on the right path for his whole life.

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Omniscience and Free Will

by Rob R


A question has come up several times from some of the skeptics on the issue of God's omniscience and free will. I said several times that I don't believe that God knows the outcome of our future free acts. A skeptic with the moniker “AndThenSome” wondered if I could know that claim. What follows is a broad overview of the position I take starting with my biblical reasons for taking it and extending to philosophical reasons and an explanation of how my view relates to concepts of foreknowledge and omniscience. While I consider much of this to be the tip of the iceberg of this topic which has been a hot button for so much of Christian scholarship today, I don't consider it completely defensible in the context of a single blog topic. So many of the issues and references that will be brought to light deserve their own topics. But for much of what I will present, few of the considerations stand on their own, but instead, together, they represent a pattern that contributes toward a cumulative case for my position.

Given the breadth of this topic, I'll be loose on my usual insistence to stay on topic, but I do ask that chit-chat be minimal.

QUESTION: Does God know how every specific detail will turn out in the future?



God changes his mind: The Divine Repentance Passages *

Exodus 32

11But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, "O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, 'With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'" 14And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people

Many have objected to this as an instance of a genuine change of plans because it would make God look like he was going to do something wrong and needed Moses' corrections (giving an important theological reason not to take this as reflecting an actual change of mind.). Moses gives God 3 reasons not to destroy the Israelites: 1)he took the effort to deliver them, 2) what would the Egyptians think? 3)what about the promises to Israel? God, if he so desired, could've answered these questions if he wanted to. 1)That he delivered them with mighty acts and wonders makes their sin all the worse and them all the more faithless. 2)The Egyptians will realize the nature and seriousness of this God, and 3) God can fulfill his promises to the patriarchs through Moses.

Why did God change his mind if he didn't have to? God values our involvement in his project. Moses is one who is close to God and God values Moses’ intercession, especially since that intercession demonstrated that Moses valued God's purposes and goals.

1 Sam 2

Regarding the priest Eli and his faithless sons

30Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: 'I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,' but now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Jonah 3

10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.


God changed his mind after the Ninevites repented of their sins. They repented because they believed that God really intended to destroy them and that their behavior might affect God's change of heart. They pondered, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish." (vs 9)

Why are these passages relevant to the question of God's knowledge? A planned or known change of mind is not truly a change of mind, unless it is a contingency that actually might and might not happen. A planned or known change of mind is really just an extension of the old plans. I believe that would contradict the beliefs and actions of Moses and the Ninevites and it would've been very disingenuous To Eli's family to say that God promised that he would've preserved their line in the priestly role when ultimately, God really didn't plan such.

Why do I take such pains to spell out what might appear obvious with fewer considerations? Because the idea that God changes his mind goes against a history in the church of interpreting these as metaphorical (not that that would really decide the matter since “literal” language itself is often basically metaphorical).

God says “perhaps”

Exodus 13

17 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” (NKJV)

Ezekial 12

3As for you, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile’s baggage, and go into exile by day in their sight. You shall go like an exile from your place to another place in their sight. Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house.

Jer 26

2"Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. 3 It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds.

The two latter passages give strength to the perspective that the future is open and the first demonstrates that the way that events hang together has an element of indeterminism. The first passage is particularly interesting as it shows God considering a hypothetical situation and noting that in such a situation, the outcome wouldn't be clear.

God's expectations do not come to pass

Jeremiah 3

7And I thought, 'After she has done all this she will return to me,' but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

Jer 32

35They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

One might conclude that God in these instances was mistaken. I choose the title of this subsection for a reason. I don't believe that expectations are necessarily instances of supposed knowledge. If God believed that he knew that Israel would return to him, then he would have been mistaken. I instead believe that God knew that there was a less likely chance that Israel would continue in her rebellion after some specific actions by God but he knew that at this juncture, there was a greater chance of repentance. His hope and expectation were with the likely chance of their repentance.

I think an analogy is in order: a music tutor who prepares his student for contest. Perhaps the student has had both successes and failures and is nervous, and the tutor tells the student that he expects that the student will succeed. I think this is consistent with the knowledge of the tutor that the student still might fail. In short, one can expect something while knowing that something else might occur. Since he knows that the expectation may not come to pass, he is not truly mistaken in the expectation which is rooted in the reality (and very well the more likely reality) that what is expected also may come to pass.

Freedom, Scripture and Knowledge

It is important to note what it is when we are speaking of free will. One may say that she is free if she does what it is that she wants to do. Some may also insist that they are free when they act without compulsion. While these are important concepts and they play a role in this debate, the free will I am discussing is that which is a part of the free will tradition in theism. The first two are relevant to what is called compatibilistic free will, that is, free will that is compatible with determinism. The free will of the free will theistic tradition (also called Arminianism but it really extends further back in the tradition than the theologian Arminius) is incompatibilistic freedom, or libertarian freedom. Libertarian freedom is defined as the faculty one exercises when he performs an action which is absolutely possible to perform and also absolutely possible to refrain from performing.

Before addressing the issue of freedom's relationship to knowledge and the future, I will provide a few biblical reasons as to why I believe that libertarian freedom is implied in scripture. While scripture does speak of free will and freedom, these are not necessarily instances of freedom of the libertarian. These may involve libertarian freedom, but that is beyond the scope of this post and is not something I have investigated nor might be able to investigate.

1 Cor 10

13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

The problem for the anti-libertarian camp, or theological determinists is when Christians sin. There are scriptures that appear to immediately suggest that real Christians never sin, but I believe that those scriptures are motivational, intended to get the Christian to see himself in a new way to empower him not to sin. Furthermore, there are also many scriptures that imply that Christians do sin. I will not go into a lengthy discussion of this here but will assert what most people believe, including Christians, that Christians do still sin (backslide) and still occasionally need to confess, repent, and make amends to hurt parties (if that is relevant). Finally, on a common sense level, this verse itself, as many others, just really seems to imply that there is a danger for Christians to sin.

In the instances when Christians sin, if vs 10:13 is true, then God could not have determined everything and free will must be in place. Otherwise, God was not faithful to make a way out, because there is no way out of performing an act that you were determined to do before you were born.

Secondly, (no scripture will be cited as it is ubiquitous) scripture assigns moral responsibility to humans. But as I will demonstrate, moral responsibility requires self-determinism which is not compatible with theological determinism and requires libertarian free will for temporally finite creatures (this is explained in my “3 problems of evil” thread under the subheading “one matter of consistency.”)

1. If I am morally responsible for an action, then that action is within my control.
2. If determinism is true, then everything I do is a result of events that took place long before I was born.
3. I am not in control of anything that happened prior to my birth.
4. If determinism is true, then I am not in control of my actions(2,3)
5. If determinism is true, then I am not morally responsible. (1,4)
6. Moral responsibility is a necessity of human nature.
7. I am human.
8. Since there are humans whoare morally responsible, determinism is false. (5,6,7)

There are many other scriptural considerations for free will, but these are the shortest to argue and I think they are amongst the best.

I believe one of the best demonstrations of the incompatibility of free will and exhaustive definite foreknowledge comes from Christian philosopher William Hasker's book, God, Time, and Knowledge.
1.It is now true that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (Premise)
2.It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false, or fail to believe anything that is true. (Premise: divine omniscience)
3.God has always believed that Clarence will have a cheese omelet tomorrow. (From 1, 2)
4.If God has always believed a certain thing, it is not in anyone’s power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing. (Premise: the unalterability of the past)
5.Therefore, it is not in Clarence’s power to bring it about that God has not always believed that he would have a cheese omelet for breakfast. (From 3, 4)
6.It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that Clarence would have a cheese omelet for breakfast, and that he does not in fact have one. (from 2)
7.Therefore, it is not in Clarence’s power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (From 5, 6) So Clarence’s eating the omelet tomorrow is not an act of free choice. (From the definition of free will.) (p 69 copyright 1989)
Now, after reading the above argument, it may be helpful to open a new window on this blog and scrolling to this argument because I will be referring back to it several times. This way, as you read, you may simple get back to the argument by clicking it open instead of scrolling back and forth constantly (or fold the corner of the paper if you've printed this out).


Many view God's omniscience as the source of prophecy. This is actually only part of the picture. Prophecy (when it is “prophetic”) is more so about God's sovereignty and guidance. God doesn't give prophetic visions just to prove he can tell the future. God is revealing his plan, showing his power, and/or giving a warning.
Jer 18

6"O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 'Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.

Here God describes a general MO (modus operandi/mode of operaion.) This would be cited to explain prophecies such as at Nineveh where the people repented and God didn't bring the destruction, but who's to say how many other prophecies that were fulfilled weren't also conditional prophecies that could have gone the other way had people responded in the opposite direction?
There are also other possibilities with prophecies. A prophecy could be set in stone if God gives it on the basis of what he has determined, or what people determine as time goes on.

The Theological/Traditional Concern

(some categories utilized in this section are taken from Christian philosopher, Alan Rhoda's blog)

So at the end of the day, one might say that I don't believe that God foreknows the future and that God isn't omniscient. I disagree. So what follows is a brief exploration of several different approaches to the question of omniscience and the position I have described taken by several different people who hold a position similar to mine.

Voluntary Nescience: The future is alethically settled but nevertheless epistemically open for God because he has voluntarily chosen not to know truths about future contingents. Dallas Willard espouses this position. (Rhoda)

The term “Alethically settled” I believe refers to the state of affairs where there is an exhaustive set of true and false propositions about the future which all involve the statement “...will happen” or “...will not happen.” To put it another way, for every free act you perform in the future, there is a fact about how that free action will turn out. Epistomological categories are those having to do with knowledge. So what this position holds is that God could know the future if he wanted to, but for the sake of our freedom, he has chosen not to. Does such a person believe that God foreknows the future and is God omniscient? My guess is that the answer is no, but I suppose they may take the position that the following group takes on the definition of omniscience.

Involuntary Nescience: The future is alethically settled but nevertheless epistemically open for God because truths about future contingents are in principle unknowable. William Hasker espouses this position.(Rhoda)

The difference here is that God did not choose to not know our future free actions, but rather, future free actions are, logically speaking, unknowable (Hasker demonstrated this using the example I have above regarding Clarence and his cheese omelet). Again, like the proponent of voluntary nescience, Hasker believes that there is a fact about how future states. Hasker also claims to believe in omniscience. He defends this belief by utilizing a shift attributed to Thomas Aquinas utilized which defines omnipotence as the ability to do anything that is logically possible. Hasker makes what I consider a highly reasonable adjustment to the definition of omniscience to only include truths of which are logically possible to know (thus he disagrees with premise 2 of the argument above regarding Clarence). I agree that this definition is sufficient to establish that one of my position can indeed say that God is omniscient. But I do not agree that the future is alethically closed.

Non-Bivalentist Omniscience: The future is alethically open and therefore epistemically open for God because propositions about future contingents are neither true nor false. J. R. Lucas espouses this position. (Rhoda)

As every perspective presented here holds to presentism (that only the present exists), this group takes that view and insists that since future does not exist, since it hasn't happened yet, there is nothing for truths of the future to be based upon.

Bivalentist Omniscience: The future is alethically open and therefore epistemically open for God because propositions asserting future contingents that they "will" obtain or that they "will not" obtain are both false. Instead, what is true is that they "might and might not" obtain. Greg Boyd (and yours truly) espouses this position.(Rhoda)

Alan Rhoda likes it and I like it, too. Here, omniscience is fully robust because one can say that God knows everything about the future. To the question of what future rests upon that the non-bivalentists raise, the answer is that they rest upon what has been determined in the past and present and what has been determined to be indeterminate, such as future free actions. God knows everything about the future which entails that he knows everything that will happen and he knows everything that might and might not happen (from now on referred to as “conjoined mights.”) Some may object that conjoined mights count as real objects of knowledge. I disagree. These sorts of statements describe substantial facts about reality and how things causally hang together. Furthermore, even when they are used to describe one's lack of knowledge, they reflect a substantial way in which ideas hang together. If I don't know how a future event will turn out (or a past event for that matter) and I say “x might and might not happen” or “x might and might not have happened,” I am saying, that given everything I know and given my understanding of x's occurrence and x's failure to occur is consistent with that. This is a statement that can be true and it can be false, ergo, we should treat the conjoined mights as substantial truths that may be true or false.

Also, note that in this picture, statements such as “x will be the case” and “x will not be the case” are not to be considered contradictory. If two statements are contradictory, it means that the truth of one guarantees the falsity of the opposite claim and vice versa. Instead, these statements on the definition of the future are contrary. Contrary statements cannot both be true, but they can both be false.

Alternative Views Within Free Will Theism

God is Timeless

When confronted with the problem of libertarian free will and God's foreknowledge, most Christians will not take the position I have presented here. What the majority would say (excluding theological determinists, though that was implied in the first sentence of this paragraph) is that the answer to the question of free will is that God is outside of time. First of all, I would observe that there is an evangelical take on this and then there is the view of divine timelessness of the historic church and of the philosophers and theologians. I do not believe they are the same.

The evangelical approach (or approaches) sometimes wants to view God as one for whom all time is present in a sense that I believe is best understood with the term “omnitemporal.” (A philosopher, William Lane Craig coined that term, but he uses it to express the exact opposite concept, but nevertheless, people(certain laymen) have, in my opinion, naturally misunderstood his usage of the term.) What this term can express is that God is present in all times and he can interact with all times as they are present before him. I believe this idea is reflected in fiction with time travelers or like a comic book story I read where there was this building outside of time and some superheroes could use this to travel to times where they were needed and they could manipulate time to their hearts’ content.

One way of making sense of this is to note that views of divine timelessness aren't just about God and time but also involve the nature of time itself. There are basically two philosophical theories of time and one is called eternalism which states that all of time, from the beginning to the indefinite end, exists on a temporal plane. The other one is called presentism which suggests that past is what used to exist but doesn't any more; the present is what exists, and the future is what will exist but doesn't right now. To complicate things even more, we have two different theories of how objects exist through time. One theory, similar to eternalism, called perdurantism, suggests that objects (and people) have spread out over time. To say that an object perdures is to to say that it doesn't completely exist at just one moment, but it has parts spread out through time. The opposite theory, endurantism, which lines up with presentism, suggests that objects (including people) are completely present within one moment of time.

To flesh out these categories, let’s take a real world example. It would be the common sense view to say that my laptop is completely present in front of me. It is wholly there. It was 40 miles south of Toledo with me a year ago, and it was 50 miles north of Toledo when it was with me six months ago. The lap top endures. It was completely present in those other areas months ago and now it's completely present in the Toledo area in front of me right now. This is endurantism. Perdurantism says that my computer is not completely in front of me in the Toledo area right now. It has temporal parts in the space-time region 40 miles south of here 1 year ago and some parts 50 miles north of where I am at 6 months prior to this moment.

So here, one evangelical points out that if we watch someone perform a free act, just because we know it is happening doesn't mean it isn't free. So for God, all of our acts are happening in his present as we, as purduring creatures, are performing them, and since present knowledge doesn't remove freedom, God's knowledge is consistent with all of our free acts.

There are in my opinion several problems with this view. First of all, I do not buy the picture of perdurantism and its cohort, eternalism. I find it to be so profoundly at odds with our constant day by day, minute by minute, second by second experience as conscious, willful beings. That view is nice and all, but what, pray tell, does it have to do with humans?

Secondly, this argument really doesn't refute the omelet example. The argument is valid and in this picture, all of the premises remain true. There would be only one technical change (switching from speaking of what is now true to assigning specific times to that truth), but that would not affect the argument. Someone might be tempted to suggest that premise 4 is wrong, but that just brings about a radical skepticism of history, and that would undermine a religion that is principally about the flow of history from creation to eschaton with all of the biographically important developments in between.

The more traditional take on divine timelessness is more successful. God is so far removed from time that premise 2 of the omelet argument is wrong. God's timelessness is also identical to his immutability. There is no temporal becoming for God; there is no before and after for him. So what this means is that premise 2 is wrong because not only does God not know anything about omelets right now, God doesn't even exist right now. Why? Because right now refers to what is in time and that ain't God.

I object to this because I believe (though prooftexts to the contrary may follow in the comment section) that the overwhelming testimony of scripture is of a God who is with us at all points of history who experiences temporal progression. God plans, and God remembers and God acts in history with an involvement that is best understood temporally. But one of the most important criticisms that have been laid against an atemporal God is that our God forgives. Forgiveness is necessarily a temporal act where there is a rift at one point and then there is healing at the next and then there is wholeness. Both the evangelical and the traditional view of God's “atemporality” (in quotes because it's not clear how consistently the evangelical view of timelessness is actually timeless) are not fully consistent with the concept of forgiveness.

There is also the problem with the incarnation and timelessness. While much of Christendom speaks of God “stepping into time,” it's not clear how coherent this idea is. Once one steps into time, there is temporality in which there is before and after in the involvement of time.

Middle Knowledge

A view both of God's foreknowledge and God's providence is called Molinism which utilizes what is called middle knowledge. Middle knowledge is the knowledge that is not of what actually occurs in the world, but rather, it is knowledge of what would occur if a certain state of affairs had obtained. The true propositions of middle knowledge are called “counterfactuals.” Counterfactuals are stated like so: I would have had a more powerful laptop if I had upgraded to 2 gigabytes. (Note that these are not simple conditional statements. There are technical logical differences, but I will not go into them.)

According to the Molinists, there is an exhaustive fact of the matter about what we would freely choose in any situation where free choices are possible. So if I had been in a situation in which I would have to choose between chocolate ice cream and green tea ice cream, the counterfactual of freedom would be that I would've chosen green tea. According to them, God chose which counterfactuals would become true by choosing which world to create. Now Molinists believe that freedom is preserved because God cannot determine what the counterfactuals of freedom are.

Molinism represents the closest thing there is to a middle ground between free will theism and Calvinism because God exercises almost as much control as he can over the course of human history, and yet he can't determine that persons would choose just anything because there are only certain things that they would freely choose in certain situations. This allows for God, according to most Molinists, to create the best possible world even though such a world involves evil.

I can't tell that this does anything to address the omelet argument, but Molinism also has its own unique problems. For one, there are what are called grounding problems. There is the question of what makes the counterfactuals true when they are true regardless of our existence and before we exist. I have observed a problem that arises from my own category of self-determinism (this is explained in my “3 problems of evil” thread in the section “One matter of consistency.”) Free will of the libertarian sort is supposed to establish self-determinism, or, in other words, it is supposed to establish aspects and behaviors, the necessity of which arises within us through our own conscious decisions. The counterfactuals of freedom are quite true apart from our actually conscious actions; hence, the counterfactuals of freedom are not really determined by us.

Furthermore, given that counterfactuals describe deterministic physical events (eg: if the meteor had hit the moon, it would have moved out of orbit), it is highly dubious that they could describe libertarian free actions. It seems to be contradictory to add the layer of counterfactual over the description of the libertarian act. If I am free with respect to x in such and such circumstance, then it isn't the case that I would choose x and it isn't the case that I would not choose x. What is true is that I might and might not choose x.

Open Theism! What's That!?!

I have been accused of being an open theist on account of my approach to these questions and that accusation is right on the mark. But people wrongfully say that the position I have articulated here is open theism. Well, it is a central part and it is the most controversial aspect, but the point of open theism is not to solve some unimportant theological logic puzzle that only overly rationalistic nerds get exited about. The open view is a development primarily within evangelical Christianity that desires to consistently work out the notion that God, who is personal, can be affected by what we do and we can affect God's plans (e.g. through prayer or sin.) While most evangelicals would respond to that claim with, “Well yes, of course, duh!” there is the issue of consistency. There is a strong strand within the tradition of the church that says that God is immutable (that means he can't change in any way shape or form), impassible (which means that God either has no emotions or if he does have emotions, he is perpetually, completely happy), timeless, simple (he has no parts) and he exercises meticulous sovereignty (meaning, God determines and controls everything that happens.) While the tradition has treated some of these claims with more controversy than others, the open view says no to all of them (though simplicity is related, it's not quite as important, and some open theists may hold to it.)

Besides many of the biblical and philosophical reasons described in this post, there are other reasons for open theism such as concerns about the effectiveness and influence of prayer and my reason for searching it out, the problem of reprobation which I find to be one of the greatest theological mistakes ever made in the history of the church. I won't spell out that problem, however, and may leave it for another post.

For more resources on Open Theism, I recomend the following websites:

*Scriptures are quoted from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bloggin Delays

from Rob R

As I've mentioned in the problem of evil blog, I intend to give the topic of omniscience it's own blog topic. But though I said I would respond to it tonight, life gets in the way.

Also, I am a slow reader, writer and thinker, so these things take time (which is a mix of my ADD and my desire to give a qualitative and detailed answer). Consider that my problem of evil post took me approximately a week to write. Also I'm not going to work straight through til its done as I intend to continue responding to other topics here and there.

I don't intend to make this as long as my problem of evil thread, but I hope to outline for people why it is that I hold the position that I do on several levels. I don't expect that it will be as thorough as my problem of evil thread but it will give a decent amount of detail.

Sorry for the wait, but good things come to those who wait. And my dedication to quality is more important than constant expedience. And when I take the time to think through these more thoroughly, my quality goes up significantly.

Hopefully it will be up by Wednesday, but it could be done as early as Monday.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Three Problems of Evil.

by Rob R

I wrote this as a response to Masoni and I am posting it over on the Barb wire as well. I know it is very long, but I figured that I could only write a coverage of this that had only two of the three qualities. It could have two of the three qualities of simplicity, thoroughness, and effectiveness, but it couldn't have all three. To help with the length, I have broken the article down into subsections so the reader could see the progression of thought at a glance.

The logical Problem of Evil

First, to make things clear, lets formalize the argument so we may more effectively analyze it.

1.a completely good being would eliminate evil to the extent of its ability (premise) omnipotent being can do anything (premise)
3.If God is completely good and God is omnipotent, then God would eliminate evil wherever it exists. (from 1 and 2)
4.Evil Exists(premise)
5 Since evil exists, either God is not completely good or God is not omnipotent or God does not exist at all. (from 3 and 4)

I believe this is logically valid. That means that if all of the premises are correct, then the conclusion cannot fail to be wrong. It should be noted that while many atheists cite the logical problem of evil, it does not follow that the non-existence of God is the only possible outcome. One more thing should be noted about the scope of this argument. It is a means of expressing the logical problem of evil. Obviously, the logical problem of evil argues that it is logically impossible that there should be an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God in a world where evil exists. I have my reason for stating the obvious which will become apparent.

There are some theologians who have bit this bullet and decided that God is not omnipotent. I haven't read his book, but my understanding is that this is the approach of Harold Kushner in “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” I would suspect that even fewer would agree that God is not completely good, at least not many within the western theological tradition.

While this argument is valid, I do not believe that it is sound. That is I do not believe that the premises are true, thus the conclusion need not follow in light of the falsity of the premises upon which it rests.

First, a refinement is in order. I agree with the second premise. I hold that the definition of omnipotence is relevant here; omnipotence is the ability to do anything that is “Logically” possible. This limit is informative for this issue, and yet it is not a real limit. So if I were to deny that God could make a square circle or deny that God could make 2 plus 2 equal 3, I am not really denying any ability at all because those results don't constitute real actions at all. The descriptions of the logically impossible are nonsense and do not describe anything. The very utterance of square circle, when defined carefully enough (because we could easily overlap a square and a circle, but that is not what I'm talking about, I'm talking about one 2-dimensional shape that is nothing more than a perfect square and nothing more than a perfect circle at the same time in the same 2 dimensional plane) is ultimately nonsense. It doesn't describe anything at all.

Now, the solution to the problem of evil that I believe is the most fruitful is to deny the first premise. An all-good being does not necessarily eliminate just any evil even when it is within that being's power to eliminate that evil. Why? Simple. An all-good being may have a good reason not to eliminate that evil. And for me, that is the solution to the logical problem of evil. But there is of course the matter of what sort of reason that may be. I will get into the specifics of that in the next issue.

the Evidential Problem of Evil

Now, there is another argument regarding evil, and that is the evidential problem of evil. Instead of the broad sweeping claim of the first, that an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God as part of a world where evil exists is illogical, the evidential problem of evil merely suggests that evil could be so great that the chance that an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God is highly unlikely. To put it closer to the terms of our discussion, the degree of evil is such that it is very unlikely that there could be a good reason for an all-good, all powerful God to have allowed it. For that, we need to dig into the reason why God has allowed evil to the extent that he has.

Of course, the source of evil is free will. I was tempted to say that God's good reason for allowing evil is free will itself, but I'm not confident in that because I'm not sure that free will itself has intrinsic value, that it has value in and of itself. The justifications of allowing the possibility of evil and the source of that possibility are those intrinsic goods that free will achieves and makes possible.

Reasons for Free Will

There are several reasons for free will but the most important one that is usually mentioned is that free will is needed for love. God wanted creatures who would love him and love each other. Before elaborating on this I will go over other reasons. Free will also makes a quality of consciousness possible. Of course, consciousness is perhaps the most basic feature of personhood and the exercise of free will is not just a small part of it our experience of it. Also, free will enables a robust sort of creativity which adds a great depth and quality to our existence. Another part of God's intention for us is that we would act as caretakers of his world and would represent him to the world. So that our sovereignty in that task would reflect God's (as we are created in his image) free will is a part of that sovereignty.* I have once suggested that free will adds to the common ground that we share with God as creatures created in his likeness. I had reservations about asserting this because all of the other reasons work toward this end. But since all of the other reasons overlap each other anyway, I might as well mention this.

One reason that has been given for free will is that free will makes moral good possible. I'm actually not convinced that this in and of itself is a good reason. Perhaps I just don't understand it. I suppose that all the other reasons I've cited contribute to moral good or better yet, they are the content of that moral good. But I don't know by calling them morally good, that I've added anything to the debate. I've added a label that has a use in the context of the possibility of evil, but I just don't feel that the information and dimension of justification here has been expanded.

So why couldn't have God created creatures that would love out of necessity and not free will? Some theologians have stated that if God did that, it would have been like rape. I actually disagree with this comparison very much. First of all, the evil of rape has everything to do with the way that we are made to begin with. Animals rape other animals and it isn't some terrible moral crime since the sexual nature of animals is not sacred. The animal doesn't have a quality of self worth that is violated and disgraced deeply when another member of its species forces itself upon the “victim." To get closer to home, I would say that not all of our love that we experience is the result of immediate free decisions. I would say that, for example, a psychologically healthy mother does not choose to love her babies out of thorough and authentic free will. If she must willfully choose to be loving, then she is having a struggle with a mind that is slightly or even majorly out of order. Now free will plays an important role in this sort of relationship as there are decisions that are relevant to the relationship, but the direct act itself of whether to love or not is not such a choice. So it is conceivable even from our own experiences that God could have created loving creatures that were determined to be that way. HOWEVER, while I will readily admit that determined love is possible, I would contest that determined love cannot be of the same quality and perhaps even the same depth that is possible with love that is characterized by free will directly or even indirectly (as is the case with the mother and infant).

There may be other reasons for free will, but these are all that I can think of. Now that we have explored these, we can approach the question of why the possibility of evil should be allowed to reach the depths of tragedy that we know it to have reached by an all powerful, all-good God.

It happens that the closer we are in relationships, the more vulnerable we are to each other. So God, in desiring a close relationship with us opened himself up to vulnerability. This is not far from our experience at all. Divorce, of course, is very hard to go through and there are people who go as far as committing suicide when a loved one breaks off the relationship. But the risk of pain does not mean that loving relationships are not worth having. It actually demonstrates the opposite, that something was there that was very much worth having and now it's gone. (Of course, that isn't to say that there aren't inappropriate relationships, but I would say that these take advantage of our psychological features towards the wrong and even destructive ends. They take something that is good and put it in the wrong context which could lead to even more destruction).

So God created something that was so good that its absence is a tragedy; its destruction is terrible perversity.

So why couldn't God have just created creatures who could choose to love him or ignore him with little peril to themselves and others? Because God did not create a relation that was that flippant and unnecessary. We were created for God on a very deep and important level.

We have such potential to hurt each other because God did not just create us for himself but for each other. In creating beings that God could relate to on a deep and personal level, he needed to create us to reflect himself and part of that reflection is somehow based upon the community that exists in the trinity. So not only is God vulnerable to us (and we to him), but we are vulnerable to each other because of this potential and actual closeness.

One Matter of Consistency

Now there is at least one problem of consistency with this picture that someone might raise. If free will, which for us necessarily entails the possibility for evil, is also part of the image of God, why shouldn't it be possible that God may also commit evil and wicked acts? I believe that the type of love (and the type of moral goodness) that free will makes possible for us, that is also the same quality of love that God possesses is self determined love. God is self-determined but not free with respect to triune love (though he was free with respect to loving us since God did not have to create to begin with).

To get at this, I need to describe what I call a psychologically responsible view of freedom. Not all of our behaviors are free in the liberterian sense (meaning it is fully possible for us to act and and it is fully possible to refrain from that act). We find ourselves in situations where we act on autopilot; we act out of habit, strong preference and even addiction. Some of these actions involve some degree of freedom, and some of these actions are committed by us and in the moment. It doesn't occur to us at all that we might refrain, hence, psychologically speaking, such actions were not truly free in the libertarian sense. Some of these actions, some habits, though not free in the moment, were self-determined. The habits developed as a result of free actions in our past and through our free actions, we formed a predictable character. But, of course, even when one has a habit, though many actions committed out of this habit are not free, there are nevertheless occasions where the habit may be challenged (like when an addict's friends perform an intervention) and in those moments, he does face some free actions and may be able to take steps to change the habit or continue down the road in which he has been trapped.

Now, God does not want the faithful to be eternally free with respect to loving him. We make our choices to live life for God and our characters develop, and perhaps in this life, we may solidify that faithfulness, or in the next, God may act to develop our characters in consistency with the choices we made in this life. But the end result is that our behavior towards God will then on be self determined.

I believe that God never had to be free with respect to a similar quality of love and moral goodness that is found within the trinity because God's self determinism is based upon God's history of loving and morally good actions from an everlasting history. Attributes and actions that are self determined are attributes and actions the necessity of which arises from within the individual. The necessity of them does not come from outside. If God determined that we would love him, as we are temporally finite creatures with our creation originating from God, the necessity of our love would not have arisen from within us but from outside of us in God. The only way we can be self determined is through libertarian freedom. Not so with a being who's past extends infinitely. God's triune love and moral goodness has always arisen from himself.

Embodiment and the Natural Problem of Evil

What about the savage brutality that we see people commit against each other? What about torture and violent crimes? If the source of evil has to do with matters of the heart, why should evil be manifest in such physically brutal ways? Why should alienation from God and others involve these sorts of tragedies?

If we examine so much of the tragedies that we experience, if we look at many if not most of the most severe problems of the world, what is common amongst them is that they are problems of the body. Starvation, AIDS, teen pregnancy, violence, cancer, racism, child abuse, rape, malaria and so much more, all of these are problems surrounding physical embodiment. Another observation that is relevant to us is that not all of these problems involve moral evil. Here we see the natural problem of evil at work, and with that comes another puzzle. Much of Christian theology argues that evil has come upon the world through the abuse of free will and yet we suffer so many evils that have nothing to do with anyone's free choices as far as we can tell. Tragedy and evil just befall us naturally as even nature itself is against us.

I believe that understanding the importance and relationship of the soul to the body and environment is important to understanding possible solutions to the natural problem of evil as well the reason that evil has taken on the brutal forms that it has.

In Judeo-Christian theism, the body is very much a part of who we are. In describing the creation of man, a passage in Genesis is sometimes translated as saying that when God formed the body, he breathed life into it such that it became a living soul. Given the life that we know, much of that which is spiritual, even mental is expressed through the body. We are not creatures with a distinct crisp dualism of mind and body. The two are deeply intertwined and overlap each other. Your awareness, consciousness deeply involves the 5 senses of the body. Of course so much of human experience that we'd say was spiritual involves the body, such as birth, marriage, death, human expression such as we see in the arts and so on. God intended for us to have bodies, the Old testament law is very much concerned with the body as something that is sacred and in the New Testament and for many Jews in the inter-testamental period, it is not enough of a solution to death that the soul leaves the body and flies off to heaven. The expectation that confirms the goodness of God's original intention in creation is that we will be bodily resurrected or given new bodies.

It was not God's intention that human bodies should die, but when human kind rebelled, the soul was in a bad place, twisted into something it wasn't meant to be. Reading the Genesis narrative, it implies that it was possible for humans to live in this state for ever, but instead, God himself broke the created order putting nature and the human body under a curse. So in the Judeo-Christian narrative, even the natural problem of evil is tied to human free will. And the result is a dangerous harsh world where virtually all of mankind will experience suffering and death and a variety of hazards and tragedies.

But why would God do this? How could putting the body into the path of harm, and even grievous and unspeakable harm help when the soul is in danger of eternal death? I suspect that if the body's trials did not match the soul's problems, we might not care that there was a problem at all. But regardless, a cursed world where hardships are the norm and where terrible tragedies happen provides a context of redemption. It provides a context where we would find ourselves searching for help from God and from each other, where we would have reason to be compassionate. Of course free will isn't eliminated here either as so many do not use the opportunity for compassion but rather become predators coping with the world by oppressing others. Here, of course, free will is necessary in the process of redemption since it is, in our context, a part of what it means to enter a loving relationship with God.

Is God doing Nothing?

Now sometimes the problem of evil is stated in such a way that it is questioned how God can be all good, all powerful, and yet stands idly by when there is evil. I did not state it this way above but there is a very important correction to be made here. God is not doing nothing but he is very active in confronting evil and dealing with it according to his wisdom and by a wise and measured use of his infinite power. God has already won the victory against evil by embracing it's strongest consequence, death and has risen undefeated by it. Of course, all though evil has lost the war, the final battles, which will ultimately be losing battles for evil continue as the world awaits full redemption and restoration. God is not standing idly by but he continues to suffer with the oppressed and with his people who are persecuted all throughout the world, but he is allowing evil and the brokenness of the world to continue so that the redemption may continue to grow and spread by his direction and through the work of his authentic followers.

Concluding Remarks

This constitutes my answers to the problems of evil. In short, evil is not logically problematic for an all good all powerful God because God may have a good reason for allowing evil. God's good reasons for allowing evil stem from his reasons for creating us free. The reasons that God has allowed evil to get to the depth that it has is due to the depths to which God has created us for relationship and responsibility and the reason for the depths of the brutal and violent nature of evil have to do with the sacredness of the body and the brokenness of creation. The reason for the brokenness of creation is to create a context for redemption, and it is in this context where God is very active confronting evil.

I do want to highlight what I didn't say. Many Christians when confronted with evil say that there are no accidents and that God has a plan. What they mean is that the tragedy that happened (as are all tragedies) was ultimately God's will which he allowed for a specific reason. I do not accept this.

While I believe that there are general answers for why there is evil, I don't believe that there are always specific reasons and it is my estimation that such an approach is not completely in tune with what evil actually is. Evil is a perverse invasion in our world and so many of its specific manifestations are senseless and meaningless. But while I don't believe every tragedy and evil is an intricate part of, that does not mean that God cannot use the results of that evil. In Genesis, Joseph is sold to slave traders headed to Egypt by his brothers. When his brothers come to Egypt after Joseph becomes the second most powerful man in Egypt and they are confronted for the evil they have done, Joseph is conciliatory and tells them that what they meant for evil, God meant for good. What I believe to be the case here is that while God did not place the evil and jealousy within the brothers hearts, he sovereignly let it manifest in a way that would ultimately prosper his people and at the same time, confront them with their own treachery.

God is resourceful to use situations which he did not determine to bring about good, and some of those are evil situations. At the very least, even if there was no specific plan in place to utilize evil in a way that is ultimately against evil and for the greater good as we see in the case of Joseph, God can still utilize that evil or tragedy for those who suffer by giving them an opportunity to draw closer to him. And this is demonstrably true.

Many Christians who face terrible tragedies respond in three ways. I've personally known people and I know of more who have faith that the terrible loss they faced (the death of a loved one) is part of a plan for the better and that God has a reason. Of course there are those who face such evils that they find this idea so repugnant that they reject God. But there is a middle way as I have described and there are those who don't believe that a just God was responsible for their specific tragedy, but that God grieves with them. All three feel emotionally drawn to their view. The first can't bear the idea that God allowed this terrible thing to happen without a good purpose. The second can't get around the problem of evil and cannot forgive God for allowing this terrible thing to happen. The third cannot see and accept that certain evils could not be planned by a good God and see this as part of the problem that God is at work fixing.

I've known people in both the first and third groups and many of them experience a closeness with God such that even though they may give anything to have the tragedy they faced reversed, they wouldn't trade anything for the relationship with God that they have. I think that people in the first group are mistaken but God still meets them in a deep and new way.

There are in fact hundreds of millions of people who would answer the question of the evidential problem of evil if the depths of evil were worth tolerating with an affirmative, and those are the persecuted Christians around the world who suffer terribly for their faith. Richard Wurmbrand, who wrote “Tortured for Christ,” suffered under the Nazis and then the Communists for being both Jewish and a Christian. He stated that in the prisons and concentration camps, he had seen unspeakable evils, and yet in the midst of it, in his persistence in faith, God had shown him unspeakable beauties.

* This comment was added to my post in light of an observation made by Christian Apologist.