Need to Know

Should We Be Thankful for Adam Eves Sin?

Its been a while since our last post. So, lets recap. Weve been considering the problem of evil as part of a broader discussion of divine providence, and weve noted whether were Arminian, Calvinist or Open Theist we all end up explaining the existence of evil by pointing to some greater good we believe God will bring out of it. Most of us are painfully aware of how much crime,
the trouble is its difficult to determine the good God intends bring out of any particular evil. Because events are interconnected, the good God intends to accomplish through any given event may not be realized until much later. But, that doesnt mean God has left us completely in the dark. As well see, hes given us a picture of the good he intends to bring out of evil in general, and that gives us a basis for trusting he is working each specific instance of evil for good as well.

From a Christian perspective, evil entered the world when Adam and Eve first sinned. From that moment on, though, because their sin infected and corrupted each one of us, weve all had a hand in perpetuating evils existence and the suffering that goes along with it. Thats an interesting problem for Calvinists. As weve noted a number of times throughout this series, from a Calvinist perspective our choices are never random. In any given set of circumstances, we choose what we want most at the time. If thats true, God could have prevented Adam and Eves sin by arranging events in such a way that they were able to avoid any circumstance that would have made them want to sin. Or he could have simply created them with sinless natures to begin with so they never would have wanted to sin under any circumstances.

That raises a question: if he could have prevented it, why did God allow Adam and Eve to sin? Wouldnt it have been better to have nipped it in the bud at the start so evil never would have had a chance to cause so much pain? Although God could have done that, its important to understand our relationship with him would have been substantially different because we wouldnt have seen his goodness as clearly.…

Need to Know

Problem of Evil Pt. 3: Does the Ending Matter?

Last time, we discussed the fact that the problem of evil is only one of the factors we need to consider when were talking about the question of Gods existence. Our calculation of the probability of Gods existence needs to based on all the evidence, not just the presence of evil in the world. We closed though by reiterating the probability that an all-powerful and loving God would permit the evil we see is nevertheless part of that equation. So, the question is: can the existence of evil be squared with the existence of God?

Admittedly, on the surface, the two seem inconsistent. Most of us would assume a loving God would want to prevent all evil. However, as many scholars have noted, theres not necessarily a contradiction between the existence of evil and the existence of a loving God. If there were a greater good that could only be achieved by permitting evil, a loving God could consistently permit that evil in order to ensure the greatest good (Craig 2003 539-541).

Skeptics dont necessarily disagree with that logic. But, many would argue that while the existence of a loving God might be logically possible, it doesnt seem probable given the amount of evil in the world. In theory, the existence of some evil might be justified by a greater good. But, in reality, so much of the evil we see makes so little sense that its difficult to see how it could all be part of a larger plan to acquire some greater good.

The problem is our knowledge and experience is so limited that I’m not sure theres any way we could determine that. The relationship among the events in the world is so complex that its extremely difficult to assess if wed be better off if any of those events had been different. A classic example is the movie Its a Wonderful Life. The main character, George Bailey, reaches a low point in his life and thinks it would have been better if he had never been born. But, then he gets a look at what the world would have been like without him, and he realizes his life imapcted others for the better in ways he never knew.

What is true of life is also true of death. Im a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and in one episode the starship Enterprise encounters an earlier version of itself, the Enterprise C, which has come through a rift in time. At that moment, history changes. The Federation, which had been at peace, is now at war with the Klingons. It turns out, in the past, the crew of the Enterprise C gave their lives to save a Klingon ship that was under attack. The Klingons were moved by that sacrifice. As a result, their relationship with the Federation, which had been hostile, changed.

But, now that the Enterprise C has come through the rift, that sacrifice never happened. As a result, the relationship between the Klingons and the Federation never changed, and they are now locked in a war that has taken countless lives. When the crew realizes this, they decide to go back through the rift. Even though they know it means theyre going to die, they know their deaths will achieve a greater good.

Dont misunderstand me. Thats Hollywood. Im not suggesting all the evil in the world has such a simple straight-forward explanation. My point is simply the ultimate value of an event can only be determined by the ultimate consequences of that event. Unfortunately, were rarely in the position to see what the end result of any event will be. Because of our cognitive limitations, actions that appear disasterous in the short term may redound to the greatest good, while some short-term boon may issue in untold misery. Once we contemplate Gods providence over the whole of history, then it becomes evident how hopeless it is for limited observers to speculate on the probability of Gods having morally sufficient reasons for the evils we see (Craig 2003 545).

I can imagine someone at this point saying, But, that doesnt mean God actually has a good reason. Our cognitive limitations work both ways. They prevent us from saying for sure God doesnt have a good reason for evil. But, they also prevent us from saying for sure that He does. If we cant see how everything will work out in the end, the most we can say is God might have a good reason for all the evil we see. So, in our final post on the problem of evil, well ask whether theres any additional evidence that suggests we ought to trust God does have a good reason for permitting evil and is in fact working all things for good.

Need to Know

Why You Need to Know God Better

Theres an SNL skit where Sally Field plays a character named Tina who prays about everything. She prays that God would help her daughter with her algebra testthat God would protect her husband as he starts the carthat God would be with her as she vacuums the stairsshe even asks God to keep the rice from sticking. One day as shes in the kitchen, Jesus appears and asks if she could perhaps not pray so much. Tina wants to please Jesus, but shes confused. What prayers should she cut out? Should she stop praying about her daughters education? Or her husbands safety? Need to Know God Better? As her confusion and distress mounts, Jesus realizes this might have been a bad idea. So he rewinds time to the moment just before he appeared, and Tina goes back to her laundry list of prayers blissfully unaware theyre driving God batty. If youve never seen the skit before, here it is:

Its a funny bit. (Maybe a little condescending to Christians, but humorous nonetheless.) It also raises an interesting question: What is God like? Does he want us to pray to him? Does it ever annoy him to have so many people pestering him about so many things? Is he even capable of experiencing emotion?

Our New Series: What Is God Like?

Those are the sort of questions were going to ask in our new series as we take a closer look at Gods nature. To some that may sound like a purely academic subject. After all, if you look at any systematic theology textbook, theres a good chance the nature of God is the first chapter.

But this isnt a subject for scholars only. All of us have some sort of view of what God is like. The only question is whether our view of God corresponds with reality.

The Danger of Having Wrong Ideas About God

Imagine a husband sees his wife as a type-A personality and adrenaline junkie who is driven to reach the top of her field and loves climbing the tallest mountains and racing the fastest cars. In reality, though, she is very laid back and would love nothing more than to be able to stay home with the kids. Moreover, she has never given mountain climbing or racing a second thought. What would she think if she knew her husbands image of her missed the mark so badly? Shed certainly think he didnt know her very well. She might also conclude he didnt really love her. He may think he loves her, but in reality hes in love with another woman one who doesnt really exist.

We face a similar danger when it comes to our thoughts about God. Is the God we believe we know the One True God or merely a god who doesnt really exist?

Thats a particularly important question for Christians. God calls us into a relationship with him. Yet the further our image of God diverges from what he is actually like, the harder it is for us to claim we genuinely know him. We love and serve God. But, at some point, if our view of God sufficiently misses the mark, were really loving and serving another god. Thats not a matter to take lightly.

The Goal of This Series

The goal of this series then is to bring our image of God in line with his true nature. Well touch on a number of challenging questions such as:

1. What is the Trinity?
2. Does God exist outside of time?
3. Can God change his mind?

But the goal of this study isnt simply to supply you with more information about God. The hope is that, when were done, youll be able to say you truly know him better.

Where We Go From Here

Thats the goal. But is it possible? Theologians talk about God being transcendent. By that they mean God is greater than us in every conceivable way. If thats true, isnt he beyond our ability to understand? Can we, as mere humans, hope to ever really know God? Thats an important question that goes to the very heart of our faith, and its the topic well tackle next time as we begin to delve into our study of God in earnest.…