• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Whenever you search in PBworks or on the Web, Dokkio Sidebar (from the makers of PBworks) will run the same search in your Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Gmail, Slack, and browsed web pages. Now you can find what you're looking for wherever it lives. Try Dokkio Sidebar for free.


The Problem of Theodicy

Page history last edited by pinkhamc@... 9 months ago

What is Theodicy?

If you are like me, I went through a lot of my life not knowing what "theodicy" means.  It wasn't until several years ago that I realized it means something that had been troubling me for many years. 


So first, let's take a playful look at what it means.  We can break the word down into "theo" and "dicy," kinda sounds like claiming God is, well, a little sketchy.  As we'll see before we're done, that's almost a genuine part of it.  But looking at its etymology, again we see the "theo" as God, but the "dicy" really is from the Greek, dikē "judgment, right1."  Theodicy, then, is the "defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil1."


Choice, Proof of God, Theodicy, and Numbers 35:332

A few years back, I received a query from a former student.  What follows includes my response to the student and the maturation of that reply since.  I can't presume to be God and therefore know God's motives for His actions.  After all, in Isaiah 55:9, God is telling us essentially, "My ways are higher than your ways."  So, being duly warned, please allow me to put a spin on His actions that will be radically different from what others have proposed and possibly cause your head to hurt. 


Here is the query, “What is meant [in the Exodus story] by the expression ‘harden his heart’?  Is it that God would not allow the Holy Spirit into Pharaoh's heart concerning the release of the Hebrews?  Is it that the Pharaoh would call on the Lord insincerely and thus not have his prayers answered?  Is it that the Lord [opened] Pharaoh's heart to every possibility except unconditional release?  Why would the Egyptians have to endure so much pain in the release?”


Here is my answer, improved with time:

Your query is the question of theodicy, “If God is perfect Goodness, why is there evil?” or “Why do bad things happen?”  Or in its more specific forms, “If God is perfect Goodness, why does He on occasion come across in the Old Testament as a wrathful, almost heartless God?” and “Why in both Testaments does He come across as a God who favors some over others?”  Or, finally, to bring it home, "Why did God allow that painful experience to happen to me?"  Many have wrestled with these questions, and many excellent answers have been provided.  But all seem to lack or miss something.  In truth, these questions are not easy to answer.  But if God is Truth, and He has revealed Himself in His Word, we should be able to use our God-given brains to critically seek the Truth there and find it.


If we do so to ponder the above questions, we may eventually come to the derivative question, “Why, really, would God save (or favor) those who accept His Plan?”  In other words, what is so very unique and special about His Plan that it satisfies God and completes all His Creation perfectly?


As suggested by the many attempts at an explanation proffered by others, the answer to these five questions is, at the very least, complicated.  But as is often the case with complicated things, they can be reduced to a few (in this case, three) parts.


First, choice is absolutely critical to God’s Plan.  This choice is not the ability to choose, it is the existence of two poles to choose from: God, or no god.   


Second, the choice must not be a foregone conclusion.  For reasons to be discussed, below, God provides evidence for His existence, but never proof.


Third, the Gift of God (Eph 2:6-7) plays a major role in choosing correctly.  “You have been saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, lest any man should boast.” To make it easier to visualize, let’s break the process captured in these verses into the chronological steps they reveal.


Salvation comes as follows  (where "x → y" can be read as, "x leads to y" and “x-(a)→ y” can be read as, “x leads through a to y.” ):


Evidence for God → willingness to be open to the gift of God3 → discovering further evidence for God → the point where the weight of the evidence prepares you to be ready to receive the gift of God  -(gift of God4)→ faith that God exists -(that faith)→ God’s grace → salvation.


Through this process, God has given you the gift of faith that enables you to choose God over “no god,” that is, God’s Goodness over the lack thereof, evil.  In short, faith to believe in God is a gift of God that leads to salvation by grace. 

For a slightly different discussion of the above path, see Witnessing Tools, "Why we Need the Gift of Faith."


If we had irrefutable proof of God without the need for faith, we would logically have no choice, and that would circumvent the intermediate steps in the above pathway, which subsequently would reduce to: Proof of God → salvation. 


Everyone would be saved.  Salvation for all would mean that each of us could boast that we saw the proof and demand our salvation.  Our salvation would be based upon proof and not upon God’s replacing our sin nature with His Holiness.  As a consequence, Heaven would be filled with people who are still dead in their sin (Ephesians 2:1)--not a lovely place.


So, in light of the primacy of choice in the above, how did this choice between God or no god, come about?


We are made in the image of God  (Genesis 1:27).  Therefore we presumably have choice since God has it.  How do we know He has it?  God is all-knowing, therefore He must know of evil but He is also perfect Goodness and Love, so He must always choose to think Good rather than this evil.  However, at the Creation, evil only existed as an (un-thought?) concept in God’s mind.  Thus, there were no poles to choose from.  And being perfect Goodness, God could not create this evil without thinking it.  He could not create, “no God” unless He could think Himself to not exist.  As impossible as that may seem, God, in fact, did exactly that, but discovering how He did so must be postponed while we continue to explore how He created the circumstance for “no god” to enter His creation. 


God created the Archangel Lucifer who was so endued by God with power and beauty that he believed he could usurp God.  When he failed to do so, he became God’s enemy, thereby forming the opposite pole from God: Satan and all the evil the Adversary can provide.   The lie Satan resorts to most often is, after all, “There is no god.”


(Did God create Satan before He created us?  I think so, but I don’t know the doctrine on this.)


Now, returning to the original discussion of theodicy, we see we have an explanation for the first question, “If God is perfect Goodness, why is there evil?”   That still leaves the second question, “Why do bad things happen?” the third question, “If God is perfect Goodness, why does He on occasion come across in the Old Testament as a wrathful, almost heartless God, the fourth question, “Why in both Testaments does He come across as a God who favors some over others?” The fifth, “Why, really, would God save (or favor) those who accept His Plan?”  And the sixth, "Why did God allow that painful experience to happen to me?" 


Let’s examine the third through the fourth questions next, and in the process hope to explain the answer to the second question.


God does work favorably with some people and not with others, and in so doing, bad things often do happen to those He is not working favorably with5.  We know this from the Exodus incident, we know it from the parable of the potter who made something noble out of one piece of clay and something common out of another piece (Romans 9:21), we know it from the many other times God hardened peoples' hearts in the Bible and we know it from the numerous verses that talk about the elect being predestined.  These are only a few of the ways this concept is addressed in His Word. 


These are not easy verses to deal with, but they are in the Bible, therefore they have to be describing what is Truth.  How does God decide who should receive His favor and whom He will harden?  I have no idea, I'm not God.  Why did He pick the Israelites to be the ones to carry His message to the World?  His Word states not because they were good, but because He loved them (1Kings 8:23; Hosea 3:1; Malachi 1:2).  The bottom line is God is God, therefore He is Holy, Just, Righteous, Omniscient, etc.  His decision, although it can be questioned, should never be doubted.


With the above, perhaps we have answered the second question, “Why do bad things happen?” and the second and third questions, “If God is perfect Goodness, why does He on occasion come across in the Old Testament as a wrathful, almost heartless God” and “Why in both Testaments does He come across as a God who favors some over others?”


However, the discerning reader may have noticed the explanation contains some loose ends.  But let’s ignore them for the time being and move onto the fifth, “Why, really, would God save (or favor) those who accept His Plan?” 


What is God’s Plan?  It includes the following (more on this can be found at The Twelve Fundamental Principles of Christianity).

a)      God created the universe.

b)      God is Holy;

c)       we are morally unholy.

d)      Holy and unholy do not mix.

e)      God loves us so much He wants us to spend now and eternity with Him.

f)       b through e create a problem for God.

g)      a entitles God to solve that problem as He sees fit.

h)      God solves the problem by offering us the opportunity to substitute His Son's Holiness for our unholiness.


If a-g are true and h is true, then it stands to reason that God would provide some historical precedence (pave the way) for such an eternally crucial solution, both to prepare us for it and to provide evidence for its veracity when it was carried out, which brings us back to the Exodus. 


The parallels with the Passover and Jesus are too numerous to go into here so I'll just give the overview to lay the groundwork for what follows.  What the Angel of Death did just before the Exodus from Egypt for the Jews who out of obedience put the blood of the slain lamb (the lamb without blemish) over their door post, (the Passover), He does for us, who out of obedience put the blood of the Lamb of God (who is the only sinless person to ever live) on the door post of our heart.  In order for this prophetically convincing example to come to pass, God first had to harden Pharaoh’s heart or there never would have been an Exodus with all its symbolism.


3.) Now comes the difficult part.  I can't say everyone agrees with me, but I have found 100’s of verses6 that relate to and confirm what I am about to reveal.  (I have started to collect them at the end of this discourse.)7


If you think this somehow makes God culpable for the death of Pharaoh's first born, all the other first born of Egypt, and all the other bad (evil) consequences of the ten plagues, and by extension culpable for the death of every sinner and by further extension, carrying this thought all the way to its excruciatingly obvious conclusion--ultimately responsible for all the sin in the universe, you are left with a REAL impasse.  This brings us into the realm of the sixth question, "Why did God allow that painful experience to happen to me?"  At some point in our walk with God, we all have uttered this question at least once.  It would appear on one hand you can't claim God is perfect Goodness and thus is prevented from doing anything that appears bad, and on the other hold Him responsible for that which appears bad.  But is there a way to resolve this impasse?  There is; bear with me. 



But before we go there, let me remind you of two situations where this impasse is actually played out in the Bible.  First, consider the story of Job.  Job has suffered great loses (Chs 1 and 2).  His friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are convinced it is because he is being punished by God for violating one or more of God's laws for mankind.  In chapters 3-33, they do their very best to convince Job of this and Job steadfastly insists on his innocence. In chapter 34 another friend, Elihu, makes the argument reflected in the impasse that God is incapable of doing wrong by his statements in verses 10,  "...Far be it from God to do evil, from the almighty to do wrong" and 12, "It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert Justice." Thus Job's suffering HAD to be because he had sinned somehow in spite of his vehement denial.  Yet, all along we have been privy to what's going on behind the scenes so we realize that although Satan made the bad things happen to Job, he had to obtain permission from God to so (1:12 and 2:6).  Who, ultimately, then is responsible for Job's suffering?  If God had not granted permission, Job's suffering would not have occurred.  But since God did give Satan permission to make Job suffer, did He do wrong?


Does God's permissive will somehow implicate Him in the outcome?  For example, Israel wanted a king like the surrounding nations even though God wanted them to realize He was their king.  Yet, knowing that giving them a king would lead to many problems in their future, He complied with their request, giving them first Saul, who didn't work out and then King David, whom He had in mind all along, who worked out much better, because "he was a man after God's own heart." Yet even David had his shortcomings, such as his his affair with Bathsheba, and his problems with his numerous male offspring. God, being all-knowing, knew these events were in Israel's future when He made first Saul and then David King.  So, shouldn't He be held responsible for these outcomes? [21 01 26]


Or consider an even more compelling case; consider the implications of David's sin when he was tempted to number his soldiers as recounted in 2 Samuel 24:1-4 and 1  Chronicles 21: 1-58 from the NIV.  [pointed out by my wife]


2 Samuel 24:

1 Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David   [italics mine]  against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”

So the king said to Joab and the army commanders[a] with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”

But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”

The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.

1 Chronicles 21:

1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David [italics mine] to take a census of Israel.

So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”

But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”

The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem.


So who, in these nearly identical verses, incited David to count the troops in violation of the procedure established in Exodus 30:11-15?  Was it the Lord as told in 2 Samuel or Satan as told in 1 Chronicles?  One could argue this is a similar case to that in Job presented above, but we are still left with the same conundrum that we encounter in Job.


Again, I remind you if God is omniscient, He had to have known how Satan would react to his being given the power and appearance to believe he could challenge God.  And thus God is arguably responsible for all of Satan’s subsequent actions since He created Satan with this end in mind and in the case of 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles cited above, this argument is nearly confirmed by the Holy Spirit, who inspired the two authors to record the events in these two, diametrically different ways.


It’s on this point expressed in the prior four paragraphs that people may disagree with me and not see my logic.  Frankly, not only did I see it, but for a long time I was deeply troubled by it. 


Or perhaps, you are not troubled as I am by the situations above.  But consider Jesus' insistence that we allow Him to kill our old self so that He can replace it with a new creation.  "It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has." [ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity-get exact ref ]  Isn't this killing a kind of murder, and isn't murder a sin? [occurred to me 17 06 28 after reading today's study in "A year with C.S. Lewis."]


Then one day in a QUICKENING BREAKTHROUGH of insight the Holy Spirit showed me the way to see around these problems:  Numbers 35:33.


Numbers 35:33 says, “ ‘Do not pollute the land where you are.  Bloodshed9 pollutes the land, and the atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.”


Listen to what this says in light of the REAL impasse described above.  If you hold God ultimately culpable for the bloodshed on the land then He MUST be put to death!  If he is both God and Holy like he says He is, then He has no choice but to put Himself to death and cleanse the land by HIS shed blood!  He, in essence, “must will Himself to not exist.” 



On the cross, Jesus, fully God, traded His Holiness for our sins.  Then, as fully man, full of the sins of the world, past, present, and future, He HAD to die according to NU 35:33.  Thus, by trading His Holiness for our sins, by default, as fully God, he took on vicariously any ultimate responsibility one could claim God had for those sins.


Then, by taking on the sins of the world, He could no longer abide in the presence of the Father and His perfect Holiness.  Thus prior to His death, He cried from the cross, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?) (Matthew 27:46).  This cry was not only a result of His separation from the Father, something which had never happened before, but by separating from His Father, His very existence and essence must have ended. Essentially, then, He willed Himself to not exist, which is precisely what we concluded earlier God would have to do to bring about the creation of the opposite of God and the Evil that opposite introduced.


However, this separation of God the Father from God the Son also had to occur to focus on the truth that the reason for Jesus’ death was the Sin of man, not the possibility for the “Sin” of God.  Please note, this explanation, so far, sidesteps the question of whether God’s “perceived” culpability in the Sin of the world is real, without denying that one could argue He shed His blood for this “perceived” culpability.


But, this perceived culpability may include a real culpability. Why else was Jesus so insistent on the “coming of the Kingdom of God?”  The looming Kingdom of God was heralded with Jesus’ teaching of God’s Love and arrived upon Jesus’ death.  With His death, He would fulfill Nu 35:33.  With His resurrection He would show the completion of God’s Plan and the fullness of His Love for mankind.  In the Old Testament, God had to often come across as a wrathful, almost heartless God to drive home His Plan and set the stage for the fulfillment of that Plan.  Yes, God can be seen as a land polluter, He had to be seen in that way initially. Otherwise, Jesus’ condemnation and death on the cross would have been much shallower in its meaningfulness.


At the same time, the perceived culpability may be just that: perceived.  Look at the act of Jesus’ washing the disciple’s feet at the last supper.   Why, really, did He do this?  The common explanation is that He had to show that if we want to be masters, we must serve those we are masters over, and that surely is part of the reason.  But there is a deeper meaning.   Jesus is emphatic with Peter who initially refuses to have his feet washed.  Jesus answers Peter’s refusal with, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Why did He say that?  What is so important about this role reversal that it would warrant such a strong declaration?  In essence, Jesus is saying, “the role reversal (the teacher/master becoming the servant) I am about to demonstrate is similar to the role reversal (the wrathful God becoming the loving God) you will see demonstrated shortly through my death.”  That role reversal was consummated when the perceived criminal, condemned to death, showed His innocence by rising from that death, thus exposing the error of the perception that he was a criminal (or in the above sense, a wrathful God) while revealing Himself as He always is: an all-powerful God who Loves His Creation.


To drive these two possibilities home (the perceived culpability is justified, and it is not justified), Jesus ends this teaching episode with, “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”  But wait, that doesn’t exactly fit with the accepted meaning of the passage.  Was Jesus casting Himself as the master in this passage or the servant?  Certainly, if you assume Jesus was using His role reversals again, he is casting Himself as the servant.  But he is also reaffirming that He is the Master after all.  In other words, BOTH are intended just as BOTH the guilt of the wrathful God is contained in Numbers 35:33 as well as the perfect Goodness of the Loving God.


This same idea is seen in the symbolism of the Passover.  The bread, which was to become a symbol for Jesus' body at the Last Supper, was made without leaven.  Leaven (yeast) stands for sin as discussed in the answer to, "Why would God use Leaven as a symbol for sin?" found in Natural Revelation.  In fact the whole house was to be cleansed of leaven in preparation for the Passover (Exodus 12:15).  Thus the Passover bread was leavenless, just as Jesus was sinless.   On the other hand, the wine, which was to become a symbol for Jesus' blood, contained the product of yeast fermentation.  Now the yeast in wine is dead and gone and thus no longer producing the waste, carbon dioxide, that causes leavened bread to rise and signifies that wine is fermenting.  Thus the wine, which was originally produced by "sin" no longer contains that sin, just as Jesus's blood, which could be considered to contain the ultimate "responsibility" for everything bad, in fact no longer contained that responsibility.  Thus when it was spilled on the ground at the base of the cross, Jesus's shed blood fulfilled all that is implied by Numbers 35:33.


Thus with Numbers 35:33, God is leading by example.  He is saying, “Just as I hold Myself up to My standards, you must do the same for these same standards for yourself.  If that is true of God, how can we even consider saying (as we nonetheless often do), “my standards are good enough for me?”  Or expressed another way, if God's laws are so holy that even He is bound by them, how can you, a mere mortal, so nonchalantly disregard them?


Another example of God's obeying His own laws can be seen in Jesus' birth.  Surely, God had the power to put Jesus on Earth as a fully-grown man.  But that would have violated His established order.  Therefore, Jesus had to go through conception, in utero development, birth, infancy, adolescence, and young adulthood before beginning His ministry  -- suggested to me by Chris, my wife, on 17 12 21.


In conclusion, if you are one of those who argues that what God thought or did by creating the Archangel Lucifer is self-serving, not right, and unjustifiable10, i.e., is, in your mind, a violation of His own law, or that God's asking us to allow Him to kill our old self is tantamount to murder, or you ever wondered what could possibly be the reason He allowed a bad experience to happen to you, then you must also acknowledge that He fulfilled His required punishment for these perceived violations.  This concession has to bring you to the conclusion that His law is so Holy even He is constrained to obey it and atone for His violation of it by shedding His own Blood. 


If, then, God's law is so Holy that even He must obey it, you must be prepared to ask yourself why you should be exonerated for disobeying it with thoughts and actions that are self-serving, not right, and unjustifiable.  If you conclude you have no defense, you are left with the realization there must be atonement for your violation and the proscribed atonement must be the shedding of your own blood. 


But therein lies the beauty of theodicy.  Since the Son of God, Jesus, shed God's blood, all consequences of God's perceived violation of His Holy law that followed from the creation of Lucifer, including your violations and mine, were covered, atoned for, by Jesus's shed blood.  All we must do to receive the exoneration we so deeply desire, is to receive the gift God so deeply gave.


If you are still not convinced, consider these parting thoughts:

1) No less a clear Christian thinker than C.S. Lewis came to a similar conclusion as he struggled with the loss of his beloved wife, Joy, to cancer in his deeply personal book, A Grief Observed.  "Sometimes it is hard not to say, 'God forgive God.'  Sometimes it is hard to say so much.  But if our faith is true, He didn't. He crucified Him." 

2) What Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, described in Luke 22:44, reflects the conditions of Numbers 35:33 perfectly.  "And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (NIV).  We recognize that Jesus was sweating blood (a condition known as hematidrosis11) in apprehension of what was about to happen, but it is just as plausible that He was also sweating blood in great sorrow that He had to be culpable to begin with to enable God to bring us into a perfect, eternal, Holy embrace with His Love.  To confirm this culpability, His blood fell to the ground, where it had to be spilled.

3) Frank Turek (crossexam.org) addressed students at the Univ of Virginia earlier this year (I think).  One student which I have recorded on my U-tube file asked him this very question.  Frank totally missed the opportunity to nail him, instead giving the argument from choice without delving into the implications of how choice came about, which is what the student wanted. 18 07 16

4) "There is no One greater than He" a direct quote from today's Our Daily Bread.  It lead me to this: "There is no One greater than He that He must answer to.  He can only answer to Himself (i.e., be true to Himself) and if He is as Holy as we claim and believe, He will answer to Himself in the manner laid out in Numbers 35:33.

5) Consider 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (Emphasis added.)  Jesus was made to be sin in the same way we make him to be sin when we wonder, "Why is this happening to me?" or we think, "God really is ultimately responsible for evil."  So, God, realizing we would have these thoughts, regardless of whether or not He really IS guilty, in anticipation of our wondering, made Jesus to be sin for us, so we would be without excuse! 18 08 15

1http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theodicy, accessed 14 04 24

2These thoughts occurred to me sometime before 22 July, 1999 where I have record of a response to a former NCF student who asked me about pharaoh.  I also had thoughts about it on 6 Nov 2011 and 9 Sep 2012 in response to statements made by Paul Collins in his sermons and many times in between.

3This is frequently expressed in the prayer that goes something like this, "God, I concede that you may be real.  Show me that you are."

4represents the line that is crossed the moment you first believe in full that God the Son is your personal Savior and Lord.  Everything after this line happens at that moment, as God the Holy Spirit enters your life and seals the conviction that you have made the crucially correct choice that effects your relationship with the Lord God Almighty, Creator of the Universe for now and eternity.  It all happens so suddenly, that we summarize the steps with the phrase that brackets the starting point and the end point: you have “accepted the gift of salvation.”

5This is not to imply that bad things can't happen to people He is working favorably with. That is an entirely different issue.

6Note!  Jer 33:15 and Genesis 9:6, among MANY other verses relate to Numbers 35:33. 

7Here are other verses related to Nu 35:33 as I collect them for Bible studies and other purposes.  They are totally unorganized.  It is a work in progress:

Mark 6:7-11 (Barclay) Jesus called The Twelve to him and he began to send them out in twos. He gave them power over unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for the road except a staff. He ordered them not to take bread, or a wallet, or a copper coin in their belts. He ordered them to wear sandals and, he said, "You must not put on two tunics." He said to them, "Wherever you enter into a house, stay there, until you leave that place; and, if any place refuses to give you hospitality, and, if in any place they will not listen to you, when you leave there, shake off the dust from the soles of your feet, to bear witness to the fact that they were guilty of such conduct."  [Why would such action bear witness to guilt?]:

[Numbers 35:33 NIV: “‘Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.”--dust is from the ground/land-Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."; Job 34:15, all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust. Psalm 90:3: “You turn people back to dust, saying, 'Return to dust, you mortals.'"; Psalm 104:29: "When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.”; Ecclesiastes 3:20: "All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return."'  Ecclesiastes 12:7: "and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.]

8In Deuteronomy 19:13 and 21:8-9, speaking in context of the cities of refuge; God makes it clear that blood from an innocent person puts guilt on the land, on Israel, and especially on the one who shed the blood whether that person is known or unknown.  In either case atonement for the guilt of innocent blood must be granted by either 1) the death of the one who shed the blood or by 2) a process that determines that no one knows who shed the blood.  [Note later how this all fits.]

9This example was pointed out to me by my wife (Chris) on 16 04 13.

10See the essay, "What is Sin?" on the page, Witnessing Tools.

11"Hematidrosis," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hematidrosis, accessed 2017 08 28.



God Allows Persecution of Christians and Jews? (14 08 17)


God did not deliver the Christians* from the Lions and other horrendous deaths in the Coliseum and other Roman venues in the first through third centuries, rather He allowed that to happen to set the stage for Constantine, in 313, to mercifully decriminalize Christianity and later to declare it the dominant religion of the Roman Empire.  Similarly, God did not deliver the Jews from the WW II concentration camps and gas chambers, rather, He allowed them to happen to set the stage for the UN‘s merciful reestablishment of the State of Israel in 1948.  Although both were deplorable acts leading to immense personal pain and suffering, both acts ended in God's being victorious.  Is this an example of God's allowing bad things to happen for ultimate Good, or is it an example of God's bringing Good out of Evil?  You decide.


*sometimes Jews were similarly killed, especially early on when Christianity was considered a Jewish sect.  Later on, when Christianity became more prevalent, the refusal of Christians to bow to the Roman Emperor as a deity, and in fact to act as rebels when forced to, became the source of their martyrdom.


"God saw that the xx was good."

Six times Genesis 1, describes the steps in God's creation followed by the observation that "God saw that xx was/were good."  Here, in quotes are the six xx's.

1) verse 4, "light" on day one

2) verse 9, "land and seas" on day two

3) verse 12, "vegetation" on day three

4) verse 14, "two great lights" on day four

5) verse 21, "every living thing in the water and every winged bird" on day 5

6) verse 25, "wild animals, livestock, and finally, man" on day 6.


If these things were declared good by God, how could our universe (represented by the light-the big bang), the super clusters of galaxies, galaxies, and solar systems within them (represented by the land and the seas-the strings and clumps of matter and the vast voids between them)*, the elements and inorganic and organic compounds necessary for life created by the big bang and super novae (represented by the vegetation)**, our own solar system (represented by the two great lights-the sun and moon)+, and life (represented by every living thing in the water, and every living bird, and wild animals, and livestock, and finally mankind)++ produce the bad that it does?


The answer to this conundrum has to include the idea that just because something was "good" doesn't mean it couldn't be manipulated by nature or man to become "bad."  Of course we often (sometimes very casually) refer to  hurricanes, earthquakes , and tsunamis as "acts of God" which can bring us to two places:  1) man is still responsible for making the poor decision that put him in harms way and 2) the Problem of theodicy discussed above.  Again the final decision for which, if either, of these is a more satisfying explanation rests with you.


An expansion on this view is provided by C. S. Lewis in "The Problem of Pain."  In essence he argues that if things were always good for us, our natural tendency would be to forget and forgo God.  For many, it is the "bad" turn of events that draws us to consider God in the first place.


*the stage of cosmological evolution

**the transition from cosmological to chemical evolution

+the transition from chemical to biological evolution

++biological evolution

Please note, this scheme of representations does not replace the concept of "accommodation."  Rather it reveals that God fully intended the descriptions revealed with the words of ancient cosmology to reliably represent His creative action, which we now understand much more thoroughly than Moses did.


God's Permissive Will and Theodicy

First, let me provide an excellent, Bible-based review of God's will--


God's will has at least six aspects:

     (1) The "decreed will of God."  Elsewhere this is named the "sovereign will of God."  It is His plan and purpose for the universe and mankind.  In this essay, I will refer to it as God's Sovereign Will (with capital letters).

     (2) The "preceptive will of God."  It is the aspect of His Sovereign Will revealed by His precepts or laws in the Bible.

     (3) The "preferential or desiderative will of God."  It is what God's heart prefers to do, to encourage, or to see happen.  For example he prefers to show mercy rather than being left with no option but to enact judgement.

     (4) The "permissive will of God."  This is what He allows, whether it is in line with the three aspects of His will above or it is in violation of 2). If the latter, it is sin, but the specific sin will not ultimately work against His Sovereign Will.

     (5) The "directive will of God."  This is what He shows us we ought to be doing at very specific points in our lives so that we will be inside all four aspects of His will above.

     (6) The "discerned will of God."  This is what each of us believes is God's will for our lives.


God's permissive will will either align with His Sovereign, preceptive, and preferential will in which case we may say His will is done, or it will go against His preceptive and preferential will, in which case we may say His will is not done.  Note that this does NOT mean that His Sovereign Will will not be done.  It is always done, no matter what. 


God's will is done, then, in part to the extent His children are willing to be obedient to all aspects of His will. 


When we, his children, do so, our actions counter the actions of people who desire to promote their own, selfish will, which is to exercise their choice in favor of their own desires over that of some or even all others; that is, to exercise their will over God's will. 


When and where there are relatively many obedient children, God's will will be done.  When and where there are relatively few, His will is at risk of being delayed or even thwarted.  This is one circumstance under which clearly bad things can happen to good people.  Clearly it is not the only circumstance where this can happen, but it adds one more cause to the list.


And that is why, if we truly want to see His will done, we should never hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity to share the Gospel and increase the number of His children actually carrying out His will in the arena we hold most dear, our immediate community.



17 01 11  Our Daily Bread is considering Rom 8:28.  Marvin Williams writes, "...God, who didn't cause their suffering, would cause all their circumstances to cooperate with His divine plan--for their ultimate good.  The good to which Paul referred was not the temporal blessings of health, wealth, admiration, or success, but being 'conformed to the image of [God's] Son' (v. 29).  May we wait patiently and confidently because our heavenly Father is taking all the suffering, all the distress, all the evil, and causing them to work together for His glory and our spiritual good.  He wants to make us like Jesus." (Emphasis added.)   So you see, you can maintain both that God is not responsible for evil and that He takes it on nonetheless.  This is not too far from what I am proposing.


17 03 23  In Luke 22:20, as Jesus initiates the sacrament of holy communion, He utters these words, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (NIV) Does this suggest the old covenant was in his blood as well?  If so, pouring the blood of the sacricial lamb on the land was akin to, symbolic of, pouring God's blood there.  That would lend support to the suggestion made here that from the begining He has covered the objection that He is ultimately responsible for evil by paying the price He demands for evil by pouring His own blood on the land.  Thus that objection becomes nothing more than a guise to avoid confronting the implications of the reality and purity of God's holiness vs the reality and depravity of our unholiness.


17 03 29  In Gen 32:24-26, Jacob is wrestling with an opponent, overnight, in the dark, somewhere in the vicinity of Peniel.  We learn in vv. 28-30 that his opponent is none other than a preincarnate manifestation of the Son of God.  Notice this struggle occurred in the dark.  Does that have any significance for theodicy?


17 04 02 In Exodus, God kills the firstborn sons of the Egyptians as the final of the 12 plagues.  It seems so harsh until you realize in 33 AD, God balances that out by giving His own Son.


17 04 02 Washing the feet is removing the dirt-i.e., connection with the world.


17 12 22 Why is ground holy?  We are made from ground-same word is used in Gen 1:9 and 2:7.


18 06 11


David Counts the Fighting Men

1 chronicles 21

1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.

So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”

But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”

David Enrolls the Fighting Men

2 Samuel 24

1 Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”

So the king said to Joab and the army commanders[a] with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”

But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lordyour God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”


Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.