Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Theodicy & Makeover Magic


Just prior to the “movie massacre” I engaged a discussion concerning God and evil. The gentleman who initiated the discussion did so out of disdain for what he called "John Piper’s determinism."

I did not listen to Piper’s remarks regarding God’s will and human suffering and death (I’m quite certain I know the gist of them, having heard him on many occasions), but found his critic’s opening question very telling: “How do you explain thoughts such as this to unbelievers?”

Just so you know: Piper’s detractor and my conversation partners (with one exception) are Open Theists. Last week I spoke of the problem of evil and the atheist. It seems the Open theist has a very similar problem. In fact, the objections of Open theists eerily resemble the arguments of closed atheists.

My interlocutors’ words appear bold and italicized.

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"Show me a passage in scripture where God functions as the Grim Reaper and just indiscriminately kills people..."

The wording here is theologically and logically inappropriate. (We should not speak of God as a "Grim Reaper" type of being and for an act of God to be both ordained and "indiscriminate" seems to me to be irrational.)

So, while I would never use such language in reference to God or conflate that which is "ordained" by an infinite mind with that which is "indiscriminate;" there is a passage which deals with God's providence/will as directing or governing that which seems to be the smallest/insignificant events.

Matthew 10:29, "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will."

Jesus teaches here that sparrows do not die apart from God's will. In the previous verse (28) He speaks of death. In the following verse He speaks of value (30-31).

Thus, Christ is arguing from the lesser to the greater. Sparrows do not die apart from God's will/ordination; therefore, humans do not die apart from God's will/ordination.

Unfortunately, it is clear that the question, “How can we make God more palatable to unbelievers--and ourselves?” drives conversations such as these rather than biblical exposition. In other words, how can we construe God in such a way as to "take Him off the hook," if you will, for all the evil in the world?

"Isn't 'getting God off the hook' what theodicy is all about?"

“Getting God off the hook” is pretty much the definition of some theodicies yes, but certainly not all.

You see, I don’t believe God is “on the hook” at all. An allusion to C.S. Lewis is appropriate here: God is not in the dock. We are.

I see nowhere in scripture where God is compelled to answer to man or justify Himself to man for the things He does. I do see in scripture where man hasn’t the right to question God’s holy sovereignty (Romans 9).

Sinners are responsible for their sin. Sinners are responsible for moral evil. And these unholy, morally culpable sinners stand in judgment of God? Evil men have the capacity to rightly judge God? No. I don’t think so.

Any theodicy which begins with the premise of construing God in such a way as to make Him appear more morally palatable to evil men is operating from the wrong starting point.

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The entire discussion can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/257166614399367/

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