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« Ah, the pathos: The droning of self-excommunicates | Main | The Point Radio: Foul Play »

June 01, 2009

Daily roundup

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Rolley Haggard

Re: “Another One Gets Off the Evangelical Bus: Thoughts on a De-Conversion".

A common theme in almost all the “why I walked away from Christianity” pieces I’ve read is described by BeAttitude thusly –

“God allows horrible atrocities to be committed against innocent men, women and children every day.”

What if God were unable to prevent those horrible atrocities? Not physically unable, of course – He has the sheer might to do anything. But *legally* unable to prevent them, in the same way that He is legally/morally unable to *make* us choose Him as our God (to do so would violate our free will).

What if the curse pronounced in Eden cannot be lawfully lifted until the restoration of all things at the resurrection? If such a principle exists, might it not explain why God, with His “furious longing” (thanks, SBK) cannot prevent atrocities from happening?

By the way, that is not a rhetorical question.

To conclude otherwise (it seems to me) is to conclude that the way things presently are is the way God intended them to be. That flies not only in the face of what Rachel Barkey said (http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/2009/05/a-patient-god.html#comments ), but (I would hope) also in the face of reason and revelation.

God is either good or He is a devil. It takes too much faith to conclude the latter.

LeeQuod

Rolley, I agree in principle. (In practice, I think it not quite that simple; how can we know that some atrocity does not prevent a greater atrocity, or result in some great good? We judge an event in isolation, but God sees from the beginning of time to the end.)

I disagree, though, that your excellent answer is the right one for this question, which claims that these people are "innocent". But we know that's not true. We're all deserving of whatever God would throw at us - or, would not prevent.

And even if we were innocent, who are we to tell God, our creator, what to do with us, any more than a pot should tell the potter whether to shape it or throw away the clay? We are not the judges, but the judged.

As usual, unbelievers want to become more powerful than God, to be able to put Him in His place. At bottom, this question is about the emotions of a power struggle between a Parent and a child.

So while I respect your reasoning, I think you've granted the original question validity it should not have.

Rolley Haggard

LeeQuod,

I used to come at this question in the same way. I will cut to the chase and say I have since concluded that some things “we’ve always been taught” are not quite precise. And, as in rocket science, sometimes “not quite” can result in dramatic differences at the end of the voyage.

Example of something we’ve always been taught –

“Sometimes bad things are good (e.g., the crucifixion of Christ).” No. If a thing is bad it is always bad. Bad things are never good. The more precise articulation is that sometimes we (and God) must choose between evils. But they are still evil, albeit necessitated evil.

Again, the cross of Christ is a perfect example. The choice of a lesser evil (Christ’s death) does not make it “good.” It merely brings good out of evil. In biblical parlance, it redeems. Quite a different thing from saying it was all a part of some “good” inscrutable plan from eternity past.

You will perhaps disagree, but I don’t think God planned/permitted Lucifer’s fall so He could get glory in the redemptive work of Christ. He responded to bring good out of evil. And because He is God, the good that will come out of evil will be greater than the good that would have been had the evil never occurred. That says nothing salutary about evil – it says everything about the greatness of God.

In heaven there will be nothing truly unpleasant. Why? Couldn’t God continue to put us through unpleasant hardship and, by popular definitions, still call it “good”? No. It won’t be there because it isn’t good. Not then, and not now. Suffering is necessitated here because of sin (as you noted in the parent/child analogy. Until kids are perfect, they will need spankings. But you sure better not be spanking your kid in heaven.) Until evil is destroyed, evil must be exploited to destroy evil. War must be used to end all wars. That doesn’t make war good. It only makes it necessary.

The point is, those who see horrible atrocities are right – if God is both and good and powerful, then He ought to prevent them. And He is working to do just that, but there is a sequence and a process to things. You first have to rescue the drowning before you destroy the one who threw them in the water.

As for “innocent” people -- of course you are right that strictly speaking there’s no such thing. On the other hand, the bible itself legitimizes the word as I have used it as simply defining those who are not guilty of a particular offense and therefore ought not by law be subject to sanctions attached to the offense. Victims of the SE Asian Tsunami were, with the rest of us, appointed to die. But arguably few “deserved” to go in such an unspeakably great vacuum of mercy.

As ever, the trick here is to say a lot without saying too much and a little without saying too little.

Truly sorry for the length here. I’ll talk to the Romans 9-11 question later. I think orthodoxy has a dirty face over its embrace of a gross misunderstanding of this crucial passage.

LeeQuod

Rolley wrote: "Bad things are never good."

I'll remember to discuss this with you again, the next time that particular Friday just before Easter rolls around. You must have an interesting name for it. ;-)

"those who are not guilty of a particular offense"

Hm. Verses from the "Romans Road" are flashing to mind. But I see your point; unlike our system of justice where a person can know the sentence and the date of execution, acts like the tsunami come unannounced. Even so, Luke 13:1-9 seems on point here - not more guilty, but not less guilty, either.

Bottom line from me, Rolley, is that your theology may well be correct. But I think apologetics begins not with an answer, but with discovering whether or not the question makes any sense. And in this case it has the hallmarks of a strawman because we're all guilty of some crime, and in God's justice system any crime is worthy of death.

However, there's an emotional component here, asking why God allows us survivors to hurt so dreadfully. My answer, in line with your theology, is to ask why the questioner thinks God doesn't hurt, also. He is far more passionate - and therefore far more sensitive - than we are. I recall some of the incredible poetic laments you've published at The Point, and I think that's probably the tip of the iceberg for what God feels. "The Green Mile" is probably apt.

Rolley Haggard

LeeQuod, I looked. I can’t find where the bible calls it “good” Friday. Neither can I find “beata culpa”. But I understand and appreciate the shorthand perspective in both cases.

I just think it’s critically important to articulate the associated doctrines with ruthless precision. “As a man thinks so he is”, and so forth. Maybe you haven’t, but I’ve heard well-meaning believers call horrific events “good from the Lord” ( http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/2008/03/not-my-will-but.html?cid=106016888#comment-6a00d8341c635553ef00e55099237a8833 }because their idea of sovereignty permitted no other logical conclusion.

The problems of theodicy haven’t gone away, not because people are stupid (although…), but because we have not sufficiently persevered in the quest to bring *every* thought captive.

Status quo theology can be a petri dish for pernicious spirits, especially when earnest believers raise honest questions/problems about what’s passed off as orthodoxy. Well, here I am, hopefully as an earnest believer, not a pernicious spirit.

Re your “Green Mile” thought – if my theology is wrong, I don’t know how a picture like this can be anything but heresy: http://www.tapestryproductions.com/originalartwork/artist/rondicianni/safelyhome.php

“The Green Mile” book ends with this quote: "We each owe a death, there are no exceptions, I know that, but sometimes, oh God, the Green mile is so long." Yes, we deserve death. The apologetics question is, what kind?

jason taylor

By the way who took that "militiamen running in the street during a firefight" photo in "Struggle for control of Somalia. They are running erect not bent over in the shape of a question mark like someone in a firefight looks like. And the guy over on the left flank has no reason to be there for there is plenty of room in the column to be closer to the wall. And the machine-gunner is carrying it awfully easily(machine-guns are very heavy). And what in the world was the photographer doing?

None of this is conclusive and someone with more experience then I might refute my suspicions. And of course they might be simply in transit rather then engaged. But the thought does occur that it was staged. Such things are not unknown from what I've heard tell of.

jason taylor

As a side point the shot was taken from ahead. Why in the world would the photographer have that close a shot from ahead?

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