Saturday, June 10, 2017

More on the Problem of Evil in Christian Theology



After I had posted my previous message about John Piper’s views on the question of evil in Christian theology, I searched a bit more, and came across the above lecture on the same subject by RC Sproul, which is worth examining.

There is a certain amount of vagueness and lack of clarity about his talk that prevents it from getting to the point properly. He mixes up different concepts which should be differentiated; or where they are interrelated, that interrelationship should be made clear. He wastes a lot of time discussing the Fall, which he (along with Christian theologians in general) have misunderstood badly, as I have already explained herePutting all of that aside, however, there are three separate concepts or issues regarding evil in Christian theology referred to in his talk that need to be differentiated and explored; they are:

1. The very idea, concept, and origin of evil.
2. The practise or perpetration of evil.
3. The permission of evil in God’s creation.

He discusses all three, but fails to properly differentiate them so as to make his meaning clear. The first is the most important, and one that has baffled Christian theologians and philosophers the most: Where did the very concept and idea of evil initially come from? Who conceived of it, and how did it originate? The answer to that question (surprising to some) will have to be God! In the book of Genesis we read that when God created all things, he pronounced all that he had made, good! And “good” can only exist, or have meaning, in contrast with “evil”. It is impossible for it to be otherwise. The only way that God could have created all things “good,” was if the concept of good versus evil already existed in the mind of God before all other things were created. The concept of good can only exist in contrast with evil. One cannot exist apart from the other. If God caused, or created, the concept or idea of “good,” he could have only done so in contrast with the idea and concept of “evil,” because one cannot exist, or have meaning apart from the other. Good can only exist, or have meaning, in contrast with the evil. Now that does not make God the author of evil, or the author of good as well as of evil. Whoever perpetrates evil becomes the author of evil, which God does not. But the idea or concept of evil could only have meaning by contrast with the idea or concept of good—and originated from the same source. Either that, or the concept of good and evil is something that has intrinsic existence apart from God; and was not created, conceived of, or imagined by God. Those are the only two possible options.

Some have argued that evil does not have intrinsic existence, but is simply the absence of good; just as darkness is the absence of light. But whichever way you define it, evil still owes its existence to good—and the reverse. There could be no “good” if there were no “evil” that it could be contrasted with. When God created all things, and pronounced all that he had made “good” (Genesis 1); the first thing that he must have created, thought of, invented, imagined, or conceived of was the concept of good versus evil; otherwise he could not have pronounced what he had created to be “good”. The idea or concept of “good” cannot exist in anyone’s mind, including God’s, apart from the idea or concept of “evil”—and in contrast to it. That is the answer to the first question.

Next we come to the question of what causes some people to perpetrate or commit acts of evil or sin? RC Sproul insists that to commit acts of evil or sin, one must necessarily have some kind of inclination or predisposition towards it, otherwise no one would. The problem with that is that the counterpart to it would also have to be true: to commit acts of virtue and goodness​, one must have an inclination or predisposition towards it, otherwise no one would. The effect of that is to cancel out human freewill altogether. If people do good or evil for no other reason than because they are “inclined” to it one way or another, what role does agency or freewill play in their decisions​? The answer has to be none! That suits his Calvinistic theology very well of course—except that it is not biblical. If man has no freewill or choice in the actions he takes, all the exhortations throughout the Bible for man to do good, and abstain from evil, become meaningless and hypocritical, and make out God to be a hypocrite and a liar. The biblical doctrine is that sin is a “transgression of the Law” (1 John 3:4). Where there is no “law,” there can also be no “transgression of the Law,” and therefore no sin. And law requires a lawgiver, who is ultimately God. Hence we have the correct doctrine taught in the Book of Mormon as follows:

Alma 42:

22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted, which repentance mercy claimeth; otherwise justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment—if not so the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God. And thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24 For behold justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own, and thus none but the truly penitent are saved.

Human agency and freewill is absolutely central to the biblical doctrine, which heretical Calvinism denies. People sin when they are tempted to sin. If there was no temptation of the devil, no one would sin, because the option or choice for them to do so would not exist. In heaven there will be no more temptation of the devil, and no one sins (Rev. 20: 3, 10). In hell the devil reigns, hence no one has any other choice but sin (which is their torment). In this life, however, people have a choice; and the choices they make in this life, follows them in the next, and determines what their end will be. 

And lastly we come to the third and final question raised in his lecture: the justification for the presence of evil and sin in this world in which we now live. This is the perennial question that is asked by the unbelieving, the skeptic, and the superficial. They say, If God is good, why is there so much suffering and evil in the world? Why does he not intervene to stop it? That is a question that I have already answered several times in my previous posts. So at the risk of repeating myself again, the answer is that, firstly, sometimes God does intervene to stop it, as he did in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, or the Flood. The criteria he uses for intervening is when their “iniquity” is “full” (Gen. 15:16); or as the Book of Mormon expresses it, when they are “ripened in iniquity” (Ether 2:9; 9:20). At other times he doesn’t because he is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9; also Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; 1 Tim. 2:4).

If God intervened to stop it every time somebody was going to do something wrong, that would deprive mankind of their agency. Man must be free to make wrong choices as well as right ones in this life, and thus to determine for himself what his ultimate end will be—even if that means that other people are going to get hurt by it. The good news is that the present state of affairs will not last very long. It will soon come to an end, and we will all enter an eternal state where we will each reap the reward of our labors in this life: “they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29). In the meantime, repentance and redemption is granted through the Atonement of Jesus Christ for those who have sinned to repent of them and be saved, before the end comes when it will be too late. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matt. 18:7)

“Faith alone” don’t work; predestination is the doctrine of the devil; and Calvinism was invented by Satan to pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the biggest corruption and perversion of the gospel that Satan has invented since Christianity came into existence.  

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