Screwing for Virginity

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Monday, November 29, 2004

"Evil" - Author Unknown

(Administrator's Note - This post is by Ryan who is having trouble posting on his own. Address all questions, comments, concerns, misunderstandings, and straw men toward him - Buddy)

I would like to raise some issues to explore concerning the magical origin of evil. It's a difficult concept to wrap our minds around, but the conclusions most Christians come to feel inaccurate or incomplete to me. So dig with me and tell me what you find.

When it comes to the question of how evil came into the world, we all can say that it's a slight mystery at best. But when it comes to authorship or responsibility, most Christians would rest on the statement "God cannot be the author of evil." This might make you sleep better, but to me it just makes me ask more questions, b/c I believe I am trying to serve the God and author of all things.

Col. 1:16 says that by Him all things were created. I Timothy 4:4 says that everything God created is good. This would lead people to the question: "If God created everything, and it's all good, then where does evil fit into a good creation?" There are a few things that are typically spoken in response to this, and I respect what is said, I just want to talk about it for a bit.

First, people would say that God created everything good, but that the fall of man brought evil (and death) into the perfect creation. Now, let's go to Genesis and see how God says things occurred. Before the fall, we see God creating the garden and at its center he placed the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Okay, so evil being an option already exists before man sinned, whether or not it was carried out yet or not. Some could argue that the serpent brought evil into the world, but that's a different discussion that I'd like to hold off on for just a moment. All the scripture really tells us here is that evil was within the realm of possibility in God's perfectly created garden. In fact, it was at the very heart of it.

Second, more abstract thinking Christian minds (C.S. Lewis) would say that evil is not a physically created thing, it is merely a lack (or perversion) of good. So therefore, nobody could've created it, b/c it's not something that is creatable. Now, let's go back to Genesis, even closer to the beginning. First, there is only God, who is good. No separate force of evil working and scheming against Him, like dualism would have you believe. So before God started creating, there was no evil within the realm of possibility. Now, the concept that evil isn't a created thing makes sense to me, even though I wouldn't stand by it. If He can create a tree that gives off the knowledge of good and evil, I would say it's possible for Him to create anything, even things that aren't physical. But, I tend to agree with the stance that evil wasn't created the way God created everything else; He didn't create evil on the 8th day or anything like that. But I would say that it's clear that evil is a by-product of His creating.

Did God not know that evil was brought into existence by His creating? Or did he maybe just "allow" evil to be there, and then try to use it for His glory? I would hold strongly to the fact that He did know, and that it was His desire for that option to be there. He looked out at His creation, including the tree of knowledge of good and evil and He said "It is good." Ok, meaning what? It means to me that God thinks that humans’ having an option to do evil is better than us not having it. I have further thoughts and speculations as to why God wants the option for us, but I would like us to focus first on WHAT happened, then we will get to why. Not ask why He would do it that way and try to cram what happened into our view of WHY we think things should be done. I welcome and encourage all thoughts on this.



  • At 10:52 AM, November 29, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i love that you're posting on this, because there's nothing more central or more challenging to any religion than the question "why does a good God let bad things happen?"

    to accurately convey my stance on this i have to start out with a statement that is unusual for a christian to believe (at least until you look at the definitions of the words):

    "God does not exist."

    The only thing that allows me to believe this statement is the definition of the word "exist". the fact that the word has a definition at all forces me to believe that God cannot conform to the definition of the word, since He is the creator of all things.....INCLUDING existence. therefore God cannot exist, at least not in the way that we think of existence. To say that God "is" anything is to say there is a greater structure at work than Him. So to say "God is good" is just as inaccurate as saying "God is evil". a more accurate statement would be "good is God", that is, goodness comes from God, or, the definition of good... is in fact God.

    Let's take this a step further: To say "God is not evil" is then just as inaccurate as to say "God is good", since logically evil is the negation of good. What we should say is that "evil is not God", or that evil comes from a lack of Godliness.

    So i guess what i'm trying to convey is that to say "evil did not come from God's plan" is to say that there is some sort of evil that is equal to or greater than God that he forgot to account for. Granted i'm basically relying on only logic to conclude these things, but a) i think God gave us logic to be used for thinking about just such issues as this and b) i can't find any scripture that says "God is not the author of evil" even though many Christians think this passage exists. however there are plenty of passages that say there is nothing above God and that nothing happens without his consent.

    So if anyone is having trouble thinking that God could have created evil, whether explicitly or as a by-product of creating good (what's the difference, really, if you're soverign).....let me ask this: does the fact make God any less holy? does he deserve to be worshipped any less? no, certainly not. but i do realize it may be tough to come to terms with.

    by the way the closest thing i could find about God not authoring evil is this:

    1 Corinthians 14:33 - For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

    but confusion (or disorder, depending on the translation) is not the same as evil. it's very different in fact, and evil could easily fit into a structured plan for the universe.

    so there's my two bits.

  • At 2:42 PM, November 29, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…

    Sean, thanks for getting the conversation started. I disagree with almost everything you said. Don't get me wrong, it's beautifully logical, but that's why I disagree with it.

    The problem of how a good God could allow bad things is a logic problem, generally phrased as such:
    1. God is omnipotent and omniscient
    2. God is perfectly good
    3. Evil exists
    - Therefore, if evil exists, God must not, because an omniscient, omnipotent, good God would prevent evil from occurring.
    Scripture doesn't even address this "problem," so I have a hard time accepting that it is the most central feature of our religion as you claim.

    Your statement that we cannot say anything positive about God (God is _________) makes logical sense, but I disagree with it because scripture makes positive assertions about God (primarily, I would say, that he is love).

    In your post you subject scripture to logic. In doing so, you elevate the human intellect above God's revelation, which I would argue is idolatry. I write this not as a judgment upon you, but as a warning, since I can tell from what you have said that you are not being intentionally idolatrous.

    I agree that God gave us logic and that it is a good thing, but when logic contradicts scripture, we must side with scripture.

    The "fact" of God's responsibility for evil is still being debated, so I don't question his holiness because I reject that notion.

    Here's a problem passage for me that we can mull over:
    Isaiah 45:7 "I form the light and create darkness,
    I bring prosperity and create disaster;
    I, the LORD , do all these things." The word for disaster is the same word translated evil elsewhere.

  • At 8:09 AM, November 30, 2004, Blogger Gabe said…

    Ok,Ok, hang on a second, Buddy. You need to explain something a little further to me. Your comment to Sean's post was that he "subjects scripture to logic" (I believe that's how you put it). Would you like to explain to me how ANYONE does not "subject scripture to logic?"

    It seems to me that any attempt to read scripture is, in fact, interpretive. Your statement that scripture provides positive statements about God's attributes (which I agree with, by the way) - doesn't this statement involve a form of logic? L-O-V-E, after all, is just a word - an attempt to describe a "thing-in-itself." Simply reading, "God is love," involves a level of human reasoning that gets imposed upon the revelation of God. Communication, after all, not only involves the speaker, but the hearer. Doesn't this imply a dependence upon our own human apparatus (brains, neurons - all that good stuff from General Psych) and, therefore, some level of human reasoning and perception (i.e., organization)? Perhaps you want to define "logic" as different from this kind of perception and reaoning, but I guess I'm having a hard time understanding how we don't all, in some way, subject scripture to our own human reasoning abilities. Thanks for helping me out.


  • At 9:06 AM, November 30, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…

    I agree with everything you said except for your description of what is happening. Look closely at how the line of reasoning in your post differs from the reasoning in Sean's post.

    Sean has constructed (or at least alluded to) two arguments (again, brilliantly crafted). The first is that the logical incompatibility of a good, omnipotent God and the existence of evil is a problem central to our faith. The second, the impossibility of positive assertions about God. These arguments are based solely on logic (by Sean's own admission), yet held as true.

    The problem is that scripture doesn't see the logical incompossibility of God and evil as a problem and it makes positive statements about God. Because this line of reasoning begins with logic and then goes to scripture, it will read scripture in terms of those logical categories and thus subject it (and do injustice to it).

    On the other hand, you described reading scripture and using reason to understand what it means. I would call that subjecting logic to scripture. You read that God is love, accept it as true, and then use your God-given reason to understand what it means. When you start with logic, you will subject scripture to logic. But if you start with a naive reading of the narrative of scripture first, your reason as it develops will be subject to it.

    I recognize that we cannot be purely inductive when we approach scripture, but the text is what should constantly be reshaping how we think and reason; it should not be subjected to a purely logical understanding.

  • At 9:31 AM, November 30, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…

    This is in response to Ryan's original post.

    You made the statement in your conclusion, "God thinks that humans having an option to do evil is better than us not having it." Given your understanding of God's foreknowledge, God would not simply understand evil as a possibility, but would see the actuality of evil. How do you avoid saying then, "God thinks that humans actually doing evil is better than us not doing it"?

  • At 9:36 AM, November 30, 2004, Blogger Ryan said…

    Ok guys, I can't speak for Sean, but I can definitely speak on behalf of my reading of what he's saying. Here's what he's not saying: "you can't make any positive assertions about God." Buddy seems to think that he is, but all he did say was that to accurately phrase your assertions, you say that something comes from God, or that He defines those things. All he's really getting at is that we need to be aware of this so that we don't put God into a box.
    If we're so set logically on "God is good," then we don't leave room for what the heck that even means. Couldn't something be good for God to do, yet bad for us to do? Aren't there things that God does that don't fit into a "good" box? so therefore, if we're too enslaved to logic, and holding to what we feel "good" would do, based on our definition, we lose out on a part of God that we're too dumbfounded by logic to understand.
    Also, I would say that it's a feature question from believers and non-believers, so it's obviously something that's central to the hearts of humans. He wasn't saying that scripture addressed it as the main point of the gospel, or anything like that.
    I made assertions about God through scripture, and there are many other scripture references that I could run to besides the one that Buddy put out there. So for those of you who don't agree with me, I want scripture and not just logic in return. And scripture saying "God in His perfect goodness" doesn't establish that He couldn't have incorporated evil into His perfectly good plan. Just, everybody drop their definition of good for one second, and then get back to me.

  • At 10:16 AM, November 30, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    thanks, ryan, for accurately conveying my intentions. it wasn't my intention to attack our language and try to convince everyone that we can't say anything for sure about God. As ryan said, my main point is that we can't put God in a box and assume that a good god only does good things and has nothing to do with evil. so my "God does not exist" argument was simply the farthest my logic was able to take me and therefore i tought it was a good starting point: To say God exists is to say existence is equal to or greater than God...So to say God did not create evil is to say evil is equal to or greater than God. I didn't really have a choice but to bring semantics into it to get my point across. But you have eloquently attacked my case and it feels good.

    So yeah, don't stop saying "God is good", but just pause a moment and think about what it means. Then let's move on to something else.

    In response to Buddy's last post, i think in an odd sort of way God DOES think that humans actually doing evil is better than us not doing it, because he created a universe where we can. And that allows for the possibility of Him saving us through the death of his Son, which glorifies Him in the end. Would God be glorified in the same way if we had chosen to do good? I suppose he could have found a way, but i tend to think that God had a reason for letting us sin. God could have made any number of universes, and He chose to make this one.

  • At 11:43 AM, November 30, 2004, Blogger Judy said…

    I tend towards simplicity. Extreme simplicity.

    Yesterday a two year old held a glass at my house. Nothing wrong with the glass. She could hold it in her hand safely. But, she stood on a bench while holding this glass (although she was told not to)and fell. This caused the safe glass to shatter and rain down all around her. The 'safe' glass became something with the potential for severe injury. Carefully, all of the pieces had to be picked up, but could never be put together to make a safe drinking glass again.

    The glass was safe until broken.

  • At 3:28 PM, November 30, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I appreciate simplicity as well, and after reading all the posts, I understand Judy's the best. Thank you Judy.

    You have some beautiful words and arguments guys, but as a teacher of formal logic and constructing arguments I would urge you to work on some definitions and clarifications. (because it leaves less room for assumption, it will strengthen and clarify everyone's arguments)

    I appreciate all you have to say, but would suggest you(plural) make the discussion difficult to interpret and join at times. I understand that blogging is not something that any of us have a lot of time to put into... however, at the least, I would be apreciative of a definition of evil. Sure, I know it exists... but I also have about 10 different notions of what you could all be referring to running around in my head while I read.

    My agreement or disagreement with your thoughts and discussion depends on what evil you are presenting.

    Buddy, in your first post, could there be a suggestion that evil is an antonym to prosperity or maybe a synonym to destruction, or do we perhaps just question the translation? Poor translators.... always being balmed for everything.
    - Megan

  • At 4:46 PM, November 30, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…

    There are two types of evil: moral evil refers to harmful actions perpetrated by a moral agent - things such as murder, extortion, theft, and adultery; I guess you could call it "sin." Natural evil refers to events such as hurricanes and earthquakes, diseases such as AIDS, or I suppose being eaten by a shark - things that are evil, but not the (direct) result of a moral agent. When I refer to "evil" in general, I mean both these types.

    I tend to equate evil with harm, so I suppose it could be equated with disaster. But I hesitate to call it an antonym to prosperity, because I think much prosperity is the result of harm to another (please, no one get sidetracked on this). I would call evil an antonym to love, defining love as right relationship between/among existing beings.

    Sean, I love that you post so freuently because we seem to think completely differently and that makes for great conversation. A few question:
    Is this the best of all possible worlds?
    Can something that leads to a greater good still be called evil?
    Is evil real or illusion?
    If the world is better for having evil in it, what reason to we have to oppose it?
    I'm interested in your thoughts (and others').

  • At 8:45 PM, November 30, 2004, Blogger Ryan said…

    In answer to Buddy's question about God's foreknowledge.... WAIT. we're getting off track. why can't we just talk about what happened in Genesis, instead of trying to draw out all of these conclusions first? I'm not interested yet in all of the theories behind why it shouldn't be this way, or what our responsibility is, I just want to talk about the creation for one minute. My feeling is, if we can get a firm handle on what God says about His perfect creation, we can better understand our fallen world + our role in opposing evil today.
    I wish that we were all just gathered around a table with a big Bible in front of us. I will say this and stand behind it (or beside it, if that is what it would prefer of me). God is not us. What would be evil for us to do can be glorious if God does it.
    I'm sorry if my definition for evil is hard to follow, thank you for letting me know. I'm trying to help scripture to define things for us, instead of going on what we think of as evil and good. So, there is a reason for my decision to not give things definitions, I think that they are incomplete.

  • At 10:23 PM, November 30, 2004, Blogger Chris said…

    I agree that certain things are evil when we do them and not when God does them. For example, eating from God's tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, when it was His serving at the covenental meal.

  • At 8:55 AM, December 01, 2004, Blogger Gabe said…

    First of all, thanks, Buddy, for clearing up what you meant for me. I see what you're saying and that makes more sense to me.

    Second, with apologies to JudyH and Megan, I am definitely not a big fan of simplicity. In my experience, "simplicity" is frequently used as an excuse to avoid the real world, which is far from simple. Much of life appears simple on the surface, and it makes us feel better to think of it as such, but beneath the surface is dazzling complexity. Any study of human perceptual processes (which appear simple enough) demonstrates what I mean. I recognize, however, that my tendency toward complexity is probably due not only to a comittment to address the complex realities of life, but also to an insufferable character flaw that I am sure annoys the crap out of other people (just ask my wife). So, I thank you in advance for bearing with me.

    What I am about to propose next is admittedly "thinking in progress" and should not be construed as any kind of solid beliefs or convictions on my part. I only want to raise something that pertains to the issue here, and I would appreciate not being labeled a heretic (although, if you believe this way of thinking is heretical, by all means I would like to hear the critique).

    Ryan, I think rightly so, has attempted repeatedly to redirect the conversation back to the Genesis account of Creation. It seems as though, however, that the assumption is that this account should be taken as a literal historical account. But what if this is incorrect? What if Genesis 1-3 is not to be taken literally, but metaphorically? Before you react too quickly, please keep in mind that MANY theologians (and I mean theologically conservative theologians, not just modernist liberals) have contended that the first three chapters of Genesis do not have to (or even should not be) taken literally. Some have proposed this based upon the text itself (because of any apparent inconsistencies or contradictions), but others have obviously been influenced by the theory of evolution.

    Once again, before reacting too quickly, keep in mind that many theologically conservative folks have accepted some level of the theory of evolution (the great and wise C.S. Lewis being one of them) and, therefore, that the first three Chapters of Genesis need not be taken literally.

    So, what if Genesis 1-3 is a metaphorical account of the "human condition" (for lack of a better phrase), rather than a literal account of a particular point in time in which "evil" entered the Creation? My inclinations would be to see it as the ultimate evolution of the human capacity for relationship. In other words, "the tree" is not a literal tree with some kind of "evil" fruit, but a metaphor for a true relationship with God. The choice, then, given to humans is not the choice to "commit evil" or "do good," but to be in relationship with God or not. It is when humans step out of proper relationship to God that "sin" becomes possible.

    I admittedly have a hard time understanding what is meant by "evil" as a concept. The upshot of understanding Genesis 1-3 as metaphorical may be that we see God as intimately involved in every aspect of the evolving Creation (therefore, he DOES "cause disaster" - what we may call "evil"), and, in this sense, maybe there does not exist some place "outside" of God which would be "evil." There would only be either right relationship to God or broken relationship to God.

    I have more thoughts, but I don't want to get too far ahead. What do you think?

  • At 9:06 AM, December 01, 2004, Blogger Melissa said…

    This is in response to Buddy's question of how, if you believe that God has forknowledge of evil, to avoid saying that, "God thinks that humans actually doing evil is better than us not doing it"?

    I agree that if one believes in God's omnipotence and omniscience, this presents a problem in the question of the origin of evil. However, I would rephrase the question to be, "God thinks that to have some humans fighting against evil is better than all humans never having known or done evil."

    When I ponder whether or not God willingly allowed evil into the world, I ask why He would do such a thing. Something that entered my mind was (break it apart and destroy it if you must) that perhaps a person's love grows with the act of being forgiven. Could God have been yearning for a deeper love that could not have been achieved with uniform goodness? If this is true, then I pose this question, "Does God believe that love deepened by forgiveness of evil by some outweighs the lack of love by (or evil of) others?"

    Comments are welcome.

  • At 9:44 AM, December 01, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…

    I want to address Melissa's comment, and then I will get back to Genesis, Ryan, I apromise.

    Melissa, what you propose makes sense to me as a concept, but falls far short when looking at actual evil. I cannot bring myself to say that the beneficial outcomes of the Holocaust were worth the nearly 12 million who were murdered.

    It is probably evident from my previous posts that I do not believe that God willingly allowed evil to enter the world, so I don't feel as compelled to construct a reason why he would do so. I will get into this more when I present my understanding of Genesis 1-3, which will take a while and I have class now.

    It seems that many people are getting the impression that on this board we are tearing apart what other people think. While that probably does happen, it is not for its own sake. As I said in my first post, "my hope is that not only will new ideas be shared, but old, outdated ideas (such as the notion that war leads to peace) may be abandoned." If I say something that is wrong, I want someone to tell me and clearly explain why. I will do the same for others interested in the pursuit of truth and the sharing of new ideas. I do it in love, even if I sometimes come across as an asshole.

  • At 2:21 PM, December 01, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…

    Sorry if we've digressed from the story of Genesis. I've been talking about it so much with so many people that it is in the forefront of my mind, so I forget to say so explicitly.

    My understanding of Genesis has changed drastically since reading Nik Ansell's article "The Call of Wisdom/The Voice of the Serpent: A Canonical Approach to the Tree of Knowledge." I highly recommend it. It was published in Christian Scholar's Review, Vol. XXXI issue 1.

    In response to the issues Gabe raised, I don't think that whether Genesis 1-3 is literal or metaphorical makes much difference. It is our story. As Ryan has rightly emphasized, the story is what is important.

    Enough introduction...

    At the beginning of the story, we have God and chaos (1:2). God then speaks into the chaos and orders it. I believe that God did not create out of any external compulsion or any need that he had, but out of an excess of love. As such, I believe that love is also the directing force that brings order to the chaos, thus my definition of love as right relationship.

    In the process of creating, God creates multiple beings in his image to carry out his work on earth: male and female, collectively called humans, who together (not individually) bear his image (1:27). Being in the image of God, it was the humans' job to continue ordering creation through love (1:28-30).

    In the center of the garden, God plants two trees of life. One grants eternal life, the other establishes the terms of God's covenant relationship with human beings (good and evil; 2:9). Because God set the terms for the covenant, he was the one who should have given the fruit to the humans in a covenant meal with them in the cool of the day (3:8). Chapter 3 is the story of how the humans choose to take matters into their own hands instead of following God's orders.

    A central character is the serpent who is mistranslated as crafty; he is more accurately the wisest of all the wild animals (3:1). As such, he accurately describes the nature of the tree. The humans would not surely die from eating it (3:4), as if the fruit were poisonous, for had God given them of the tree in the proper setting, it would have been life-giving. The serpent also says that their eyes will be opened and they will be like God (3:5) which God later attests to (3:22). Notice that never does the serpent suggest that the humans eat of it. Having received this other, still accurate revelation, they choose to disobey God and eat the fruit.

    Although the humans were to have dominion over the wild animals, they instead subjected themselves to the serpent by listening to his revelation and then disobeying God. This is wrong relationship (the opposite of love), and thus they fail in their task to order creation through love. This failure allows the chaos to emerge.

    God's response to the humans' sin is significant. He asks, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? What is this you have done?" This is not the response of a deity who is pleased with this new development, nor of one who has understood this to be a possible outcome. Something has happened that was never supposed to happen because those God entrusted with the care of creation failed.

    Therefore, I see the "problem" of evil as anthropocentric. Humans were responsible for the care of creation, and they failed. The rest of scripture is about redemption: how God tries multiple ways to empower humans to continue ordering creation despite the presence of evil. Every way fails (destruction, law, sacrifices) until God himself becomes one of the stewards in order to restore our right standing with God so that we can continue in the task to which we were called from the beginning.

    The problem, then, is not why God allows evil, but why humans who have access to the word of God, a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, humans restored to their pre-fallen condition, continue to allow evil. The restoration and ordering of creation is still our job, and we must take responsibility and not blame God when evil happens.

    I know that most of this departs significantly with traditional understandings of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, but the play's the thing, and I see this as consistent with the story.

  • At 9:51 AM, December 02, 2004, Blogger Ryan said…

    It's amazing, Buddy, I feel like everything we disagree on only stems from one thing that I believe and that you don't: God is ultimately sovereign. Maybe you do believe this and I'm just jumping to conclusions, but through the talks about Him changing His mind, to putting humans in charge of creation instead of Him being in control, it all points to that for me. a few things that i want to get at first, then i will discuss your view of Genesis, especially the serpent and God's reaction to their sin.
    First, I'm glad that you said what you did about it why humans would give in to evil after what they've received through Christ. I would say that every human is responsible for their sins, and I would never think to blame God. I never said the word blame once, it's totally different. ok, back to some questions you asked earlier. is this the best of all possible worlds? no, in the sense that it's not the restored heaven and earth, so it will get better. i have a longer answer to that, but it just gets back to the sovereignty of God, so I'll get back to it later
    is evil real or an illusion? Well, since God has full knowledge of good and evil as you pointed out in Genesis (He is like us, knowing good and evil), I would have to say that it's real in some sense. if something is for a greater good, can it be evil? this is what i was saying... that we can do evil on earth, or "natural" evil can occur, but in God's ultimate plan it is good. and about the greater good, you can never say that the good that came from the Holocaust wasn't worth it b/c one: you don't know what good you're judging, only God does. and 2, God has a different standard for worth than you do, and His is the one that matters. then, if evil is used for God's glory, why should we oppose it? well, read Romans 3, b/c this was taken from an exact situation that occured whenever Paul was trying to explain this to the Romans. they asked that same question.
    alright, i only have a few minutes to touch on what you wrote about Genesis, which I greatly appreciate, by the way. ok, the serpent. really interesting insights, although i can't drink the whole glass, there's bits of stuff in there that i don't think belong. first, the serpent contradicts God, who tells them that if they eat of the tree they will surely die. serpent says, "God lied to you, for He knows that if you eat the tree, you will be like Him!" (my words). so although it wasn't a flat out lie, b/c in a way it could've been true (if God had given them the fruit, which He had not). but the serpent must have known what He was talking about, and knew what would happen. otherwise, he is not a wise animal, as you say, he's stupid. and if he DOES know what he's talking about, and is trying to intice them to eat the fruit, then He is indeed crafty. and... if he is crafty, and deceived Eve as she said later and God punished the serpent for... then evil existed before they chose to disobey God, as I have stated earlier.
    the other part that you stressed which i disagree with is God's reaction. all through scripture we see God asking people questions to which He obviously knows the answer. just b/c He shows us His frustration with our acts, doesn't mean that He didn't always know we were going to do it. Christ knew exactly why He came to earth, and yet He still asked the Father for the cup to be taken from Him. He knew this would not happen. Basically, you can't just say b/c of His reaction, you know what He was thinking. I've got TONS more, but I need to go to work. alright, talk to me people.

  • At 1:05 PM, December 02, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…

    I'm not sure that I reject God's sovreignty. I reject the omni- categories because they are rooted in Greek philosophy, not scripture. So if you define sovreignty as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and immutability, then you're right, I do reject it. But if you define sovreign as we more traditionally do, as an ultimate ruler who delegates resopnsibility and changes tactics when something goes wrong, then I agree that God is sovreign.

    You said that every human is responsible for his or her own sins, and I agree. But I take that further and believe that humans are responsible for the existence and continuation of all evil. So to ask why God allows evil puts the responsibility (if you prefer that to blame) on him. The question is why we allow evil.

    One belief that you hold that I cannot accept is that evil exists for the greater good and that God has a good reason for allowing evil. Part of that is your claim that what is evil to us is not evil to God. This isn't an acceptable answer to the problem because it ignores the biblical genre of lament. (For a more complete explanation, see J. Richard Middleton's Essay “Why the ‘Greater Good’ Isn’t a Defense: Classical Theodicy in Light of the Biblical Genre of Lament.”)

    Job, David, Habbakuk, and Jeremiah all insist that the presence of evil must necessarily offend God's nature and he is compelled to oppose it. This is inconsistent with an understanding of God using evil to a greater end.

    As far as your critique of the serpent, I think the most you can say is that his revelation is incomplete. The sin is in Adam and Eve's listening to the serpent and ignoring/rejecting God's revelation and command. The serpent does not sin; the humans do, and the serpent as part of the creation over which humans were to rule, suffers as a result of their sin.

    You say that the Bible includes many instances of God asking questions to which he obviously already knows the answer. Is it obvious based on the text or based on your understanding of God as omniscient? I don't claim to know conclusively what God is thinking; I am interpreting what he actually says. Reading scripture through the lens of theology is dangerous. We need to look at the flow of the story, and at this point, we have no basis for assuming that God knew this would happen and wanted it to. (Also, if you're claiming that Jesus came to earth in order to die, I disagree, but do not wish to derail conversation, so another time.)

    As I said, I agree that I cannot (ultimately) know what God is thinking, but what are we doing here if not making claims about God and why he does certain things? In claiming that God is omniscient, aren't you to a certain extent claiming to know what God thinks? I look at God's response and say, "He didn't know." You look look at the same text and say, "He knew." We're not doing anything radically different; we just disagree. Disagree with me, fine, but don't change the rules of interpretation for those who think differently.

  • At 6:27 AM, December 03, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…

    PS- If all your saying is that we need to remain humble and recognize that God transcends our understanding, then I'm with you 100%.

  • At 3:07 PM, December 03, 2004, Blogger Ryan said…

    God does not say that He's punishing the serpent as a price for the sin of Adam. Eve says, "the serpent deceived me." to which God turns to the serpent and says "Because you have done this...." would God punish and condemn a creature of His that was innocent and pure? my point is that the serpent did lie, b/c he told them that if they ate it, they wouldn't die. they ate it, and they suffered death as a consequence. the serpent didn't say, the fruit isn't poisonous, he said you won't die if you eat it, which wasn't true (they were separated from the tree of life, and God).
    i'm trying very hard to be consistent with my reading of the scripture, not to what i want to believe about God. in fact, I rejected what I'm holding to now for a long time because I didn't want to believe that about God. but the text overwhelmed me, and i finally was able to believe it and even slightly understand it. Anyway, all this to say that I totally understand why you would believe and hold to what you are. i read passages like Hebrews 2:10-11, and Romans 3 like I mentioned before... there are a lot more, but these are the ones that most clearly define things for me. The Bible says that For God and through God all things exist. ok, so what does that mean to me? that every single thing that exists only exists through God, AND that it's all for Him, not against His will in some way. I learn and understand more about God through direct statements about His attributes, rather than instances where it seems like He's acting in a way that would imply an attribute.
    also, interesting that you brought up Job, b/c it's a book that says to me that God wants us to oppose evil, but He does whatever He wants, even uses Satan to carry out His tests. and that to say that He's doing it isn't what would be wrong, it would be to say that there's something wrong with what He is doing to Job that would be the sin. Job acknowledges that it is God who is in charge of what is happening to him, not Satan (or himself, if he's supposed to be in charge of containing evil), but it's that he won't blame God, or curse Him for it. I would like you to start a discussion about what you mentioned concerning Christ not knowing His purpose for coming to earth, that sounds interesting to me.
    thank you for being open and listening to what I had to say, I really appreciate your comments on all of this.
    Gabe, I'm sorry that i never got to address your metaphorical view on Genesis 1-3, I figured that we could maybe have an evolution discussion sometime and explore that notion to its furthest.

  • At 8:40 PM, December 04, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…


    In my philosophy of religion class on Thursday, I had an insight into why you and I understand the narrative of scripture and the nature of God so differently at times. You seem to focus primarily on the nature/being of God and allow that to shape how you understand his relationship to creation. I tend to see him as a primarily relational being and then try to understand his characteristics. I'm not making a qualitative judgment that one way is better or worse than the other, just an insight that may lead to better understanding.

    This conversation has been really good and intense (which leads me to believe we're doing something valuable). I hope it continues.

  • At 3:00 PM, December 06, 2004, Blogger Ryan said…

    I couldn't agree more on all accounts. I think it's fascinating, and understanding how we look at God is something that most people don't get the chance to fully examine. I've been thinking a lot about this conversation over the past week, and I hope that you all know I'm just all about exploring for truth. I even hope to find it in ways that I wasn't intending. I really appreciate everybody trying to take part in this serious issue, but I think we've hit on an even deeper one through exploring, which is: how does our picture of God effect our story of God? meaning, we talk about God differently because of the way that we're viewing Him, as Buddy has pointed out. what I love about it, is that both of us could be looking at God correctly, or we could both be incorrect, but we're being brave just to be honest with ourselves. most Christians don't have time for that sort of reflection, and I think it's awesome to see it going on. my brother in-law read from this site last week and the first thing he had to say was "Wow, I'm glad that people still think about this stuff." I had started to believe that they didn't, so thanks to everybody for helping renew my confidence in the pursuit of truth.


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