Monthly Archives: November 2008

Matthew 22:32…

Matthew 22:23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, 24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. 27 And last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. 31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, 32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. 33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

This is a passage my preacher-uncle taught on several Sundays ago.  I had often wondered at Christ’s pointing out that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then the crowd’s reaction…but not enough for me to go hunt out the answer on my own.

Putting this verse in it’s proper context shows the answer.  The Sadducees were the followers of the branch of Judaism that denied the resurrection of the dead, and the spirit; they were much more focused on the “living.”  Here, Jesus neatly teaches them a lesson, one that cannot be denied…in logic I’d say He presented a sound argument, both completely valid in form and also completely truthful.

What He did was simply point out a title of God; The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and also the fact that God is the God of the living.  So, where does that leave the argument?  Since God is the God of the living, and He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that makes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all living even after the death of their physical bodies.

I love this passage and this POV for two reasons; first, it does show that Jesus clearly taught both the resurrection and the continuation of our souls, and second, it again shows how Jesus dealt with those that disagreed with Him.  He neatly and thouroughly proves His point in such a way that there is no more room for dissent.  How I love the Lord!

Anywho, just thought I’d pass on that perspective on Matthew 22:32.

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The problem of evil? Part 4…

Well, I lied.  In part 3 I said I would cover free will in this post, but I’m saving it til later.  I wanted to discuss another POV that will wind up connecting with free will first.  Please do read my other posts on “the problem of evil” here: part 1, 2, 3.

This “solution” to the problem of evil sees evil as therapy.  The idea here is that evil is a tool that God uses to help mankind learn and mature as a species.

I always explain this POV to my students like this; we all know kids who have been raised by extremely overprotective parents.  These kids are not allowed much freedom, nor are they allowed to experience the consequences of any mistakes that they happen to make.  They are protected from the world in many ways that actually hinders their maturity.

Now, oftentimes what happens when these kids do manage to get out into the world?  Usually one of two things; either they go nuts with their new freedom and wind up committing really bad mistakes because of a lack of decision making and self-control, or they wind up being overcome by the world completely; real life is simply too much for them.

This solution to the problem of evil is kind of based on that idea.  God allowed evil…he allowed mankind to make choices and suffer the consequences, not because He Himself caused the evil, but so we will learn what evil is, and why it is a good idea to pay attention to what He has to say.

John Hick is pretty well known in the philosophy field for supporting this idea, but it really can be traced back to Irenaeus’ teachings.

Mankind as a whole is learning from our interactions with this world, including both natural and moral evil.  It serves, so the idea goes, to purify, and ultimately bring about spiritual healing in time.  Now, this solution rests on the idea of free will too, which I will indeed get to.

Leaving that to the side for a minute, how does this solution line up with scripture?  Some of it does indeed line up with what we are taught.  First, God’s Law, and everything that comes with it is indeed teaching one main lesson…the lesson that is being drilled into humanity; for sin comes death.  This teaching is everywhere throughout scripture and in human experience.  Death entered in through Adam’s sin, and continues on throughout current human history.

Also, the idea that hardship and suffering teach us things is also included in scripture…however, so is the idea that suffering should be defeated, that death should be, and will be, done away with.  Evil isn’t something we are to embrace in the least, it is more presented as a fact of life.  This “solution” then makes sense on one hand (suffering does shape us), but I don’t find the idea that mankind was created immature in scripture…quite the contrary.

Again, free will is an important component that I will get to soon…

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Thanksgiving…

One of the very few holidays I don’t find to be inane.  The idea of thanksgiving is so fundamental to the Christian faith, the holiday makes me think on that idea, and hence, I like it.

Once we have met Christ, and have come to have faith in Him, that’s all the reason we will ever need to be thankful…it is perpetual thanksgiving!  Of course there are other things in life to be thankful for, but they pale in comparison with the thanks felt toward Christ.

Some people are alone on the holiday, but that’s ok too; true thanksgiving is beyond family, or gathering together to eat large amounts of food…only to grumble about it (and each other) usually less than an hour later.  Being alone is sometimes something to be thankful for as well…though if one knows Christ, one is never truly alone at all.

I am thankful for everyone in my life, my family; those still living, and those gone on. I’m thankful for my friends, even (most of ;) ) my college students, even you dear reader, even if I don’t know your name.  I’m thankful that even through things like sickness, there are lessons to be learned.  I’m thankful that I’ve got a full belly…that I have a car to drive, a keyboard to type on, a good book to read, that my guitar instructor knows how to give a good pep talk, that I have a favorite pair of shoes, and on it goes…everything good in life I thank God for!!

Psalm 50:14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:

Psalm 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Revelation 7:12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

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Musings; Familial responsibility…

I believe in absolute freedom in Christ, but freedom with responsibility, as I feel Paul clearly teaches.  I was just thinking about sin and mulling it over from the POV of having that freedom in Christ (which I really must blog about more later).  A lot of people wonder at that freedom, and really they cannot believe it…but it’s true.

So, if it is true, and it is, then why should we contain ourselves when we are faced with a choice of whether or not to sin?  I’m not talking about those times when we really and truly slip and sin without thinking; I’m referring to the times when we are sitting there going, “Ok, wow, yeah, I really have a choice here.   If I do thus and so, that’s not going to be good for me, nor, apparently, my relationship with God…but I know that we have freedom and forgiveness.”

We have freedom, so what is the consideration here beyond “don’t sin willfully,” which I admit is a very big deal in and of itself, but not part of my musing right now.  I have been musing that it has a lot to do with familial responsibility.  Most people, esp. unbelievers would read that and think I was referring to blood family, but I’m not.   All of my brothers and sisters in Christ are included in the idea of “familial responsibility.”

There are innumerable sins that are not only going to affect you.  And there are many sins that must include another human being for them to be carried out…the ever popular fornication springs to mind.  So, in reality when we are contemplating certain sin, the question isn’t just about us, or our freedom, but also the question of how you’d treat family…would you really do something that would seriously harm your “real” family, your blood relation? Oftentimes we’ll do things that would harm ourselves, but never do those same things to our loved ones.

I think that Paul’s teachings back up this musing as one of the ways we should help to contain ourselves and keep yielding to righteousness; think about our family first…so much so that we are not ever to judge.  That’s right; we shouldn’t judge another believer’s salvation in any respect, but what does Paul watch out for?

Romans 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. 14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

And I think that is my very point…if we find ourselves struggling with something, it should help us to keep others in mind, not just ourselves.  If all of us brothers and sisters in Christ would watch out for one another by watching out for ourselves, we may be able to control ourselves a bit better (all with the help of the Spirit of course).

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Sorry folks…

Hang in there with me, I’m still sick, so I haven’t been able to blog lately, nor get around to posting and answering longer comments.  I’m getting better, never fear ;) … I just have a bunch of stuff to catch up on that needs attending to…work, housecleaning, guitar practice, etc…  Hope to be back blogging daily soon!

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The problem of evil? Part 3…

In this installment, I’ll look at another solution to “the problem of evil” discussed in part 1 and part 2.  The reason I pulled this “solution” out from the rest is that it is a popular one to discuss, and in fact it resembles a story that often goes around the ‘net in forwarded emails.

St. Augustine was quite fond of this solution, and wrote quite a bit about it.  The solution is that evil is the absence, or privation of goodness.  What makes this a solution revolves around what God is directly responsible for in His creation.

What God directly creates, so the idea goes, He is responsible for.  So, did He directly create evil?  Well, that’s the catch.  If one views evil as the privation of goodness, it was never “created” as such.  Here are the popular analogies used to try to help explain;

First the matter of “cold.”  Cold actually doesn’t “exist” as an independent thing.  Rather, we define cold by heat; cold is the absence of heat.  When you take the temperature of something you are actually measuring it’s heat, not it’s “coldness.”  As we approach absolute zero, there is less and less heat measured.  Cold is a term that we came up with to be able to communicate certain concepts.  So, if I say, “it’s cold,” it is absolutely meaningful, though I’m really saying, “there is an absence of heat.”

Second, the matter of dark, or darkness.  Darkness, as with cold, is completely dependent on something else; light.  “Dark” isn’t made up of particles, or waves…darkness is merely the absence of light.  Light waves exist certainly, but there isn’t “dark waves.”  When we say the room is dark, we are actually commenting on the absence of light.

So, the same idea is applied to evil in this solution.  God, so the argument goes, did indeed make all things good, but also “changeable.”  Meaning He did not create a robot-like universe, instead, while not creating evil, He did create goodness and the ability for the corruption of goodness.

In On Free Choice of the Will, Augustine says this (emphasis added), “Every good is from God.  There is nothing of any kind that is not from God.  Therefore, since the movement of turning away from good, which we admit to be sin, is a defective movement and since, moreover, every defect comes from nothing, see where this movement belongs: you may be sure that it does not belong to God.  Yes, since this defect is voluntary, it lies within our power.

God wouldn’t be responsible for the non-being, or “non-thing” of evil.  He didn’t create it, as it, by definition completely dependent on goodness, which God did create.  When we see someone doing something “evil” we are commenting on the absence of goodness in that person’s actions.

This solution is interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, we do know that God declared His creation “good,” in the beginning, so that would kind of flow with Augustine’s position.  And secondly, it quite rightly shifts the responsibility to us when it comes to our actions.  Oftentimes even believers look around and bemoan the state of things without wondering what we can do to make it better.

This sets up the discussion for part 4 of mankind and free will.

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The problem of evil? Part 2…

Please read part 1 to get the general idea of the “problem of evil.”  Various philosophers/theologians have offered different “solutions” to the “problem” of evil.  In this part, I’m going to explore various proposed solutions…saving Augustin’s view, and free will for a bit later.

I want to say right off that I don’t agree with all of these positions, but will try to remember when to point that out, and/or provide my readers with scripture that backs up or rejects these ideas.  Also, I’m not covering every single proposed “solution” here, nor am I including a lot of detail.  I’m simply giving a very brief overview of some of the more “miscellaneous” proposed solutions, and will cover the “major” ones a bit later.

First, there is a “catch-all” idea; God is transcendent, His ways are inscrutable.  God is not bound by space and time, and He is the sum of all perfections…therefore, we can’t understand with our limited human brains and experience how God can be both all powerful and all loving and not instantly do away with all evil, pain, suffering, etc…

This “solution” has it’s good parts, and it’s holes.  Yes, God is indeed light years beyond us as far as power, understanding, knowledge, etc…  There is no doubt about it, even by sheer definition.  Scripture backs this up as well.

Isaiah 55: 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

And there is the “litany of questions” God demands of Job to highlight God as being far beyond humans, here is a small sample; Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

So, yes, God’s ways are not to be judged by us, nor can they be fully comprehended.  However, that misses the point that God has indeed revealed certain aspects of existence to us…He has taught us, like we would teach children (or dogs ;) ).  He has taught us about our world, about ourselves, about the world to come, and about His nature.  Within this sharing of knowledge, He has also taught us about evil, and where suffering comes from, so I do not find the “solution” of God’s ways being inscrutable to completely answer the problem of evil within a Christian framework, though I can see where it could cover it from a general POV.

Second, there is a “solution” that says to look to the overall goodness.  That the totality of existence is weighted to the the good, not to evil.  Well, I can see this if the future is included from a Christian perspective, and there is a small piece of truth to the idea.  However, if I was approaching this from a general perspective, this “solution” wouldn’t convince me.

There is too much evil and suffering in this world for the “goodness of the totality” argument to really be effective.  All of us humans have gone through horrible, miserable, and painful times.  We’ve also been the cause of horrible, miserable, and painful times.  That kind of personal experience with evil shows us that it is indeed a problem, even if goodness outweighs it…we still want to know “why?” and where evil comes from.

The third idea is that it is logically impossible to have a world without evil, since God’s own character is being defined as “without evil.”  His creation, so this “solution” goes, would have to be lesser; therefore, a world without evil is logically impossible because of God’s own definition.  This one I personally don’t buy at all.  Why?  Because it is true that God is utterly Righteous, but that does not preclude His creation having that righteousness as well.

That aspect of God is only one of the aspects that makes Him, or defines His as…God.  We Christians believe we “participate” in God’s righteousness through Christ, but that does not make me, a mere created being, equal with God, nor would it make a created world without evil on par with God.  In short, I don’t see the logic in this proposed “solution.”

And finally, there is one “solution” that says that all evil is simply a by-product of nature.  There are some (I repeat some) theistic evolutionists that tend toward this solution (by no means do I mean to imply all theistic evolutionists do; there’s so many different beliefs under that umbrella).

The idea here that “evil” is a necessary by-product of nature, that laws such as gravity are set up and through natural processes, that evil will happen.  Again, this idea could be worked into a Deist position, or a theistic evolutionary position.  If God did indeed use evolution as the tool to create mankind, then it follows that the death, disease, and suffering that drives evolution would be a by-product.  So too would moral evil, since the physicality of humans, and our inherent weaknesses would be a logical outcome of this approach.

I don’t buy this explanation either.  Yes, once the fall of mankind happened, then natural laws do have a very real effect on us…for example, if we trip and fall, gravity pulls us down and we can indeed become hurt.  However, I do not believe this would satisfy the skeptics would tout the “problem of evil” as a real problem.  It simply begs the question; why did God choose evolution as the tool of creation?

More on the problem of evil later.

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In honor of my Mum’…

;)

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The problem of evil? Part 1…

I’ve gone over some of the arguments for the existence of God, now I’m going to turn to the one major philosophical argument against their being of God.  Please hang in there with me; I’m doing this in several parts since I’m trying to fight off a lovely illness, and I don’t feel like typing for long periods of time at the present. :)

This argument against God is often called “The problem of evil,” though even more often people just ask it as a question, such as, “If God exists why is there evil in the world?”

The philosopher Hume put it this way; “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

Some other vocabulary will suffice in this introduction; the difference between natural evil and moral evil.  Natural evil is that evil that occurs because of nature, or the natural world; if I trip and fall, gravity will pull me down.  Sometimes when we trip, we break a bone, which leads to suffering…that is one example.  Also things like starving, or drowning.  Anything that is a result of a natural law, or an effect can be considered a natural evil.

Moral evil is much more “personal” to humans.  This evil springs from human will.  Anything we do to ourselves or others falls in this category; murder, torture, rape, abuse, etc…. are examples of moral evil.

So, evil is present in our world, not many people dispute that.  Most don’t dispute that it is a bad thing either…especially moral evil.  In my next few posts I’ll be looking at different responses to this idea of “the problem of evil,” including mankind’s free will, and also asking if it is even a logical argument against God.

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A new mythical beastie…

Psalm 92:10 But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.

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