Screwing for Virginity

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The New Problem of Evil: Part 2

I'm really enjoying where the conversation is going. Let's move on to lecture two and continue the discussion below. Be sure to review the previous comments before posting.

Lecture 2. What Can God Do About Evil? Unjust World, Unjust God?


  • At 11:00 AM, June 15, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    Can we ask the question, "How can a good God allow evil?" Does the Bible offer a solution? Do we need to reconcile God's goodness with the existense of evil?

    Much of modern philosophy has phrased the problem as such:
    1. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and loving.
    2. Evil exists.
    3. Points one and two are logically incompossible.

    Is this an accurate description the problem of evil we find in the narrative of Scripture? Do we need to reconcile this logic problem?

  • At 4:43 PM, June 15, 2005, Blogger Chris said…

    If we are given the task of continuing to order Creation, the question should be rephrased (as we have talked about) "Why do we allow evil?".

  • At 6:56 PM, June 15, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    Dish, I agree completely. But many biblical characters ask the previous questions, although, significantly, they never phrase it as modern philosophers do. By asking, "Why do we allow evil?" what are we doing with the previous question? Are we throwing it out? Avoiding it? Answering it? If the latter, are we simply reworking the free-will defense?

    Ryan, you said earlier that the question is arrogant, and I wondered if you could explain that. Do you see Job's questioning or the Psalms of Lamentation as inappropriate?

  • At 8:59 PM, June 16, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    Wright touched on that point himself at one point, basically warning against arrogance with such a question. I think that the question is completely understandable, as I've said before, b/c of our desire to reconcile the logic problem. What's not alright is for humans to think or feel that the "evil" is not necessary, for that is deciding that they know better than God.
    If Job and David are crying out to God for help and for Him to please stop what is happening to them, then it is bringing them closer to God and it's good (by depending on God). But if they are asking in anger and frustration then I don't think the question is valid (because it becomes a different question) as a result of our pride.
    As with most things, it's not the thing itself that is bad but in the way it is done. I think we all just need to be careful that we don't border on arrogance by the way we think about God's decisions when it comes to this matter, that's all.
    buddy, i'm confused by a previous comment about the garden. you said that the possibility of evil didn't exist. how is that possible, since it happened? obviously the possibility existed, or how could there be a knowledge of that evil in the name of a tree? Saying that it's a possibility simply because man has free will doesn't seem to be a satisfactory explanation to me.
    One question i've had in reading over the story in the garden recently is this: How could Eve has misrepresented God's command to them by adding they should not touch the fruit? that was a falsehood, at best an exageration of the truth. Leaving the serpent out, this is the first time humans stray from truth in any way, before fruit is eaten.
    so do you guys just explain that Satan was a heavenly angel all through the OT that came down to earth at the birth of Christ? from the Revelation passage? Maybe one of you could expound on that for me.

  • At 9:20 PM, June 16, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    I don't believe that evil is necessary, but in so doing I don't claim to know better than God, because I don't believe that evil was part of God's original plan.

    I read something interesting once (and if anyone can tell me who said it and where I would greatly appreciate it) that suggested that before the fall, evil was impossible. And yet, it happened, and subsequently was made a possibility. In other words, it didn't happen because it was possible; it happened, and was thus made possible. I realize that's not how we normally think, but I think the idea has merit.

    I'd never thought about Eve's lie in that sense before. I suppose in so doing, she's emphasizing the importance of avoiding the fruit, and so is living by the truth even if she doesn't fully understand it. I'm much more concerned with why they don't die the same day they eat the fruit, as God said they would (Gen 2.17).

    My ideas about Satan have changed dramatically over the last year, but I will still say that his role in the Old Testament seems to be as a prosecuting attorney or a tester rather than a tempter as we understand it. If his job is simply to test, then there is no reason why he has to be a fallen being. In the New Testament, however, he is the enemy of God's people. Exactly what he is is unclear. He's traditionally an angel, but there is really no biblical evidence to support that.

  • At 3:10 PM, June 17, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    About Adam and Eve dying, I believe that they did in fact die, in the sense that they were cut off from their life support (God, or the Tree of Life). If you cut a tree branch off of the tree, you would say that it is dead, even if it still has leaves on it and looks alive for some time. Some people have also said that the death in which God is referring to is a spiritual death, which they did incur, which is what makes it a lie for the serpent to tell them they would not.
    I will have to reflect on the notion that something can happen that is completely impossible to happen... but my first thought is that it undoes most reasoning behind why God gives man the ability to choose. If the possibility of man choosing wrong (evil) does not exist, then they are choiceless. But, defying all odds, man's choice breaks the bounds of God's will and makes what God could not do, possible? In my mind, it's the long way around to avoid dealing with God being in control of the evil, which is what scripture says.
    also, it should be noted that David and Job are acknowledging that it is God that is causing these "evils" to happen to them, and asking when He will stop. Then they resolve with "your will be done" or something similar, which I believe is the point.

  • At 9:27 AM, June 18, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    Buddy, I'm still curious about your thoughts regarding human perfection, or eliminating their own sin beyond all knowledge so that no evil of any form exists on earth.

  • At 11:03 AM, June 20, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    I'm not sure that choice is really the issue in Genesis 3. If God put the tree there simply to test Adam and Eve, as many believe, then it's choice. But Scripture doesn't claim that it's the reason. God had the tree in the garden presumably because something about it glorified him. While he had given all other trees to the humans, this was his, and he did not give it to them (at least he hadn't by the time they decided to take it). He told them they could not eat from it. That doesn't suggest choice to me. God gave them a direct command, not options. Once they did eat from it, however, disobedience became an option that all humans but one have chosen.

    My belief in human perfection is not a new progressionism because I don't believe that human evolution or ingenuity will eliminate evil. The body that will purge evil from the world is the church, which is not merely a human institution. The church has the word of God, a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is a kingdom that cannot but act with the power of all three members of the Trinity. So I don't have too strong of faith in humanity in its current condition. I believe that the church has more power than it is currently exercizing in the world.

  • At 5:10 PM, June 21, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    I don't know how you can claim that disobedience wasn't an option for them, since that is what they did. God gave them a command (I don't like saying it was to test humans, b/c like you pointed out, it's adding to the text). They disobeyed it. To say it was impossible for them to have disobeyed it after they have just seems like stubborn thinking, and in this case, unnecessary.
    I know that we all have certain tensions we have to live with. But this one seems like it's fabricated out of our theology, not because scripture is saying it so we should have to live with it. I don't believe that God's intentions for His command are what makes it possible for the humans to choose, but that is what you're implying. Yes, God doesn't give them a list of options, but He tells them what He wants them to do. If there was nothing else they could possibly do, this command seems pointless. I think I'm just looking into the picture of the story as you're describing it, and not understanding why you would need those tensions. since scripture doesn't say them, why do you feel they are necessary?
    I agree with you as regards to the church and what God can do through it, by the way.

  • At 7:05 PM, June 21, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    I think that I've found the idea of reversing our usual understanding of possibility and actuality so fascinating that I want to run with for a while. I've appreciated hashing it out here and seeing through discussion the various strengths and tensions it carries.

    I still like it becasue I don't think that the issue is one of choice. To me, that still implies that it was a test, and I've found that this thinking leads to the free-will defense of the problem of evil: that a world where humans could choose to do evil was better than a world where evil was impossible. I disagree with this statement so entirely that I'm willing to hold somewhat stubbornly to certain other tensions in order to avoid it.

    As I understand it, evil is precisely that which cannot be explained. If it "fit," then it would have a place and a role and would therefore not be evil. The suggestion that something (in this case evil) is not possible until actualized preserves evil's nature as the impossible and unexplainable while avoiding the free-will defense.

    I realize that this is not an argument that would necessarily convince anyone to accept this theory, but it is why I hold to it (for now at least) in spite of it's obvious tensions.

  • At 9:44 PM, June 21, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    Dammit, I used the wrong its. Too bad I don't know how to edit comments.

  • At 1:08 PM, June 23, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    It seems to me that your reasoning for holding to this viewpoint about God is only based on what you would or would not like to believe. It doesn't seem to be based on scripture clearly defining your beliefs, it's a theology of preference.
    Ever since we started discussing this issue 9 months ago at Caribou I've been fascinated by your views on this. I've dug and sorted through them, trying to figure out if scripture really can support these claims. Over that whole time, I feel that what you just said has summed up why this is your viewpoint better than anything else. i feel you are being stubborn.
    this might be long, i've been thinking about it for awhile, so bear with me.

    there is a difference between a paradox and an impossibility, as i'm sure you know. the paradox of God being perfectly loving and perfectly just, or that of the trinity, are things that scripture says that seem to defy our logic in the form of a paradox. what you're suggesting in the garden is an impossibility. if scripture seemed to be clearly stating it as something of merit, I would be willing to walk with you all the way till its end.
    I feel like for every hole I put in your theory, you will find some way to live with it, b/c that is what you would rather live with. I feel you are walking away from truths that are hard to accept, in order to live with falsehoods that feel better to you. I could be terribly wrong, and I honestly do admit that. A lot of your line of thinking on this topic has been very intriguing and made me re-think why I've believed what I have.
    A few things pertaining to your comments: 1. You have decided that if God's intention was not a test (His intentions here are not mentioned in scripture) then they had no choice. That is something that has no logic, saying that their will in the matter only exists if the person giving a command is "testing" them in some way. The 2 things are totally unrelated, God's intention for the command and man's ability to choose one or the other.
    2nd, in order to hold to the serpent not having deceived them, you need to explain why God punishes the serpent for deceiving them! God doesn't say to Eve "No, actually he didn't deceive you, but i'm going to dish out this separate curse for no reason." she says the serpent deceived, God turns to the serpent and punishes "because you have done this."
    It's just that the more I've thought about and uncovered these ideas, the more ridiculous and twisting of scripture they seem to me. I've also tried to give the benefit of the doubt to you, because I realize you're an extremely well thought out individual.
    Also, you have defined evil as what cannot be explained, not scripture. Scripture seems to suggest the opposite, since God has the knowledge of it, meaning that it has a role, or fits... in God's mind.
    Just because you do not like where my thinking takes you does not mean that you can deny its validity. I will drop this for awhile so that others can have more opportunity to share what is on their minds. sorry this was so long.

  • At 5:29 PM, June 24, 2005, Blogger Chris said…

    Your post seems to be rather acerbic, affronting, and pretentious. Perhaps it only seemed that way due to the impersonal nature of a weblog and it may have been taken the exact opposite way if this were a face to face conversation. So to give you a charitable reading, I will read it as if this were the case.
    To begin, Buddy does not even begin to claim that he has his views fully worked out. So there will be holes in his views. Yet, I don't think that merely due to the fact that there are holes in his views that they are ridiculous or twist scripture. Also, I don't think Buddy accepts "falsehoods" because they are comfortable and in turn walking away from the "truth". Also, it is a little harsh to say that Buddy's interpretation of scripture merely a "theology of preference" because he doesn't have a complete system to work from and it doesn't mesh nicely with your own interpretation. And because your's does not mesh with his doesn't mean he is labeling yours invalid.
    I believe that you are both well thought out individuals that have interesting views to add to the discussion and can learn from eachother.
    Anyway, to answer your questions.
    1. I don't think the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was placed in the garden as a test. I think God simply did not allow Adam and Eve to eat from it which He expressed in His command for them not to, "you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen. 2:17). This is a call that Adam and Eve reponded unfaithfully to. The fact that they disobeyed God's command doesn't mean that He gave them a choice whether to eat from it or not, or that He was testing them. He strictly forbid it, He did not allow it. Therefore, I don't believe in the Free Will defense.
    2. Was the serpent being punished, or was he just put back in his place? I don't think when God told the serpent that he would "crawl on his belly...for the rest of his life" (Gen. 3:14), that the serpent went through a deevolutionary process of losing his legs. I think God was putting him back in his place, a place that Adam and Eve had allowed him to transcend. Adam and Eve were given the Creation Mandate, to rule over all of Creation. They had failed to do so when they allowed the serpent to give them an alternative revelation. The serpent did not lie when he said that they would not surely die. Because, they did not die immediately after eating the fruit. Yet, they would not live forever as they were previously created to do. They accepted a revelation from the serpent, because they allowed him to transcend his place by ceasing to rule over him. Subsequently, God put him back in his rightful place. However, the relationship between humanity and creatures had already been tainted. Right relationship cannot be obtained by God fixing the relationship. Christ came to show us how to live authentically in the connections of Creation, but now it is our task to do it.

    You will have to explain what you mean by evil having a role or fitting in God's mind because He has knowledge of it.

  • At 2:16 PM, June 27, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    Whether or not you would consider God cursing the serpent or putting it in his place doesn't address the question I was asking. It's an interesting thought, but what I was asking is this: When Eve said "the serpent deceived me", why did God then say to the serpent "Because you have done this..." if in fact the serpent had not deceived them?
    If God said that if they ate the fruit, they would surely die, I'm going to have to believe that they did die (separated from life source) as a result. To not believe that would be saying God was lying, or God was wrong, which is exactly what the serpent said. Or is there some other way of allowing for God to have been telling the whole truth (meaning they did die) and the serpent not being deceptive in any way by saying that they would not?
    You guys might be speaking in a different tongue than me, which could highten the frustrations of communication over the weblog. I wasn't trying to personally insult Buddy, I have an enormous amount of respect for him. A lot of the times when I raise questions that give me difficulty, I feel that the questions I ask are not answered. I'm sure you feel that you are not side-stepping my questions, so I'm trying to give you a charitable reading as well.
    I'm not interested in just meshing our interpretations together in some pretty way where we can all pat each other on the back b/c we know what's going on. I am interested in the pursuit of the brutal truth. When it feels it is more a pursuit of academic proportions, that is where I want left off.
    As Buddy said to me the other day, if emotions seem to run high, for us it means that we're touching on something that is very important. Because of its importance I don't want to walk away because there were some bumps of misunderstandings along the way. I genuinely want to understand how you deal with some of these scriptural problems that I keep running into.
    But, it's possible that we won't be able to understand each other because of the truths that we are holding onto from scripture being so different. your explanation makes perfect sense to you because of what you believe about God or scripture. If I don't hold to that belief, your explanation will seem unfounded in my mind.
    Obviously I would not have been so bold with buddy if I did not feel there was any validity to my claims. but just b/c i felt correct, doesn't mean that i was. i admitted so in my post. I have a friendship with buddy that I do not have with you, mr. dish. it's hard for me to be cold and informal with somebody close to me. so the emotional edge you felt in my post was not pretentiousness, just a little frustration with a great friend.

  • At 5:09 PM, June 27, 2005, Blogger Chris said…

    Perhaps the serpent was deceptive by omission. He told the truth when he said that they would not die, because they did not die a physical death upon the eating of the fruit. Yet, he did not include that subsequently to the eating of the fruit the relationship between them and God would be tainted and that they would die eventually because of it.
    I understand that you and Buddy are friends. Yet, it seemed rather harsh and accusing to me and others who read it. However, it was not intended to be interpreted that way and I hope the discussion can proceed in peace.

  • At 8:42 PM, June 27, 2005, Blogger Buddy said…

    Yay! We're all friends.

    You hit on something that Christine and I have talked about at length. She once asked me if I felt like I couldn't discuss philosophical/theologocal issues with someone not from Cornerstone, and I had to admit that often I do feel that way. I don't think that C-Stone made us narrow-minded or brainwashed, but when you spend four years or so having conversations with the same people in the same spirit, a certain language develops. Dish and I have both been in that environment until recently, which is why we speak and fail to speak in similar ways. We disagree on some thing (the nature of time, for example), but in many ways our thinking has developed along similar paths.

    That's not to say that I see the conversation as us vs. all others, and I think that for the most part we all communicate pretty well amongst one another on this board, but I think Dish and I understand what the other means better than we understand others, and we understand and misunderstand others in similar ways.

    My biggest concern with the latest misunderstanding is that for the first time, it didn't feel like we were all on the same side, and that was no one person's fault. What I always want stress is that in all "important" matters, we are in harmony. While philosophy and theology are important, they are secondary to carrying out God's commands, specifically the cultural mandate and the great commission.

    I think we'll move the conversation in a new direction for a while. Remember, Dish and Ryan, that you can post discussion topics too...


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