The Evangelical Universalist Forum

On The Legitimacy of Ascribing Certain Evils to God

I wrote this a year or two ago in a context that is alluded to in the essay. But the overall idea fits very well with the discussion on God’s apparent violence over on the general discussion section.


On The Legitimacy of Ascribing Certain Evils to God

She sat there in her freshman bible class and wept. The bible teacher had just insisted that whatever occurs, it is God’s will. Glory comes to God through whatever happens, even evil. She wept because her mother had brain cancer. A world where God willed such things for His glory, for the purpose of exalting His own name perplexed and eluded her. My daughter, a classmate, came home bewildered. This kind of a God troubled her as well. As she understood God, He does not act this way.

A partner of mine has, this past year, battled an aggressive form of oral cancer. While his philosophic orientation tracks toward atheism, many of his friends are Christian. He recently confided to me that the harshest part of his process of coping with his disease has been to politely listen as Christians, trying to be helpful and upbeat, suggest that perhaps this cancer was ordained by God in order to “teach” him “something.” Dropping his guard momentarily he confessed that this phrase, “it’s God’s will” and the idea of a God who would will suffering both angered and revolted him.

To be sure, a great many Christians find not only solace but encouragement from the conviction that certain evils come directly from God and are ordained for His purposes. Using the metaphor of trials and sufferings as “refiners fire” and likening them to a “crucible,” the lessons of this quarter’s Bible Study Guide (aka “the quarterly”) have often demonstrated comfort with this notion.

One lesson, for example states that the test of Abraham was “calculated to exert the deepest possible anguish, for ‘God had reserved his last, most trying test for Abraham until the burden of years was heavy on him and he longed for rest’” (PP p 147) Here we have a God who not only creates a test for a frail old man who merely yearns to be left alone but calculates the timing to ensure the most mental pain. Abraham’s mental anguish, often the worst kind of suffering, is placed squarely at God’s feet.

The belief that God actually ordains evil and incorporated it into His pantheon of tools used to enact and further His purposes on this earth is widespread in Christendom. Adventists are not alone in believing that disaster, loss of livelihood, health and loved ones are the means God employs to purify his saints.

But if this is true, if God is the originator of certain evils then we are left with the problem of discerning from the vast variety of evils present among us which come from God and which come from “other” sources. To make sense of this dilemma, some have divided God’s will into two types; His perfect or ordained will and His permissive will. In God’s perfect will, He actively causes certain things to happen; in His permissive will, while it may not be His preference, He allows evils to occur or exist.

I confess I find this distinction both spurious and harmful.

There is simply no objective means by which to distinguish between God’s perfect or permissive will. If we allow one evil to come directly from God, why not all of them? If we add the qualifier that only those evils which produce some measurable good are from God, then we must face the reality that we are incapable of making such a determination. Are there good results or outcomes that we do not detect? Or are there things which we might label good which in fact are not?

This understanding also includes the implication that certain evils do not occur because they may be prevented by God. Just think of all the nonevents that God might be preventing. This seems to throw a monkey wrench into the idea that we are to reason from cause to effect. How are we to mature spiritually and grow if our perception of events is clouded by the uncertainty of never knowing the true source of evil events.

Furthermore, there remains a sinister hint that because certain evils happen, God must have wanted them to happen. If God only allows or permits to happen what He wants to happen, we humans end up playing a very peripheral and ultimately meaningless part in the scheme of things. We are but moving to an outside force and cannot be said to be truly responsible for our actions. Nothing, by this definition, runs contrary to God’s will. The danger exists for the human will itself to be demeaned and neutered if God selectively allows only those activities, choices or events through which He might exert His will.

To hope that the bible offers clarity into this dilemma simply reminds us that it is bible believers themselves who differ widely on this matter. What are we to make of an inspired book which both does ( Is 45:7, Amos 3:6) and explicitly does not (Jer 29:11-13) ascribe calamity to God? God, it also seems demands credit for everything that happens and at the same time (James 1:17, John 10:10) wants to be seen as the exclusive source of all that is good.

There is a sentinel event in Christian history which I believe sheds dramatic light into this dilemma and offers a proper and satisfying solution. I admit that this solution may not convince everyone, but my hope is that at least all will give it thought and consideration.

It is believed by many that the death of Christ was the will of God. They see God’s plan of salvation as demanding the sacrifice of a pure and guiltless victim. But was not crucifixion a great evil perpetrated upon an innocent man? In the context of our current discussion, the question becomes, ‘was the evil of the cross willed and ordained by God?’ Begging the pardon of those who might be offended by this, but it would follow that if the events of the cross were willed by God then the perpetrators of this horror should be honored as heroes who fulfilled the will of God and praised for helping facilitate our redemption!

Such an observation is not only perverse, but abhorrent. That God did not will His son to die is confirmed by the words of Christ himself who said, “he that delivers me unto you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11) The killing of Christ was not only a sin, it was a great sin. Yet from this sin, from this horrible evil, profound and extraordinary good was drawn.

Christ came as witness to God’s character of goodness. When Jesus submitted to the will of His Father, He committed himself to being faithful, even unto death. When evil threw everything it had at Him, He revealed a God who does not retaliate nor seek vengeance, but who loves even to the end. And though evil killed Him, that very evil was rendered impotent in the reality of the resurrection.

It is this reality which provides us the clarity to decisively and boldly declare that all evil is counter to God and does not originate from Him. The fact that God can and will bring good from evil need not mean that God designs or sends evil, even as an object lesson. We must not conflate the good which God brings out of evil with the causation of evil itself. We must never assert that evil ever comes from God or originates at God’s hand. It is the nature and character of God to do good, to create order from chaos, to bring peace in the mist of storm.

As it was the will of God for Christ to be a faithful witness, even so His will for us is nothing less. In a fallen world our faithfulness must contend with evil. But we should know with certainty that the evils, the disappointments, the troubles, the sorrows in our lives are not from God. When the enemy throws us into the furnace of affliction, we should have complete confidence that God will be there with us as He was with the three Hebrew worthies. When we walk through the valley of shadows, we should be assured that God will always be there to comfort us. God delivers, heals, restores, lifts us up, but never does God hurt or destroy.

This is the nature of God. He is the Creator God. He can bring beauty from ashes. But just because God brings good out of evil, we should never, never suggest or infer that the evil comes from God or that it is God’s will.

For reference purposes, this essay is presented in connection with a discussion happening in the forum here; and also (previously to the other discussion) here where the topic is specifically addressed to Tom Talbott (who, due to his March travel schedule, has not been a position to participate up through Sun March 29, 2009.)

Any way you look at it you MUST come to grips with the fact that either by ‘willing’ or ‘allowing by will’ (AKA permissive will) ALL of this is in God’s plan. Either that or their is no wise all powerful creator. We can’t have it both ways.

This would include little girls being raped and murdered (As a Father of two daughters I bring this up because in my mind it’s among the very worst things which happen on planet earth).

This would include the steel tube which is rammed into my neck and which must be ventilated least I expire.

This would include all the seeming injustices and paradoxical unimaginable horrors which occur as well as the awesome blessings and dizzying heights of triumph humans experience.

So, let’s talk about it. If God is indeed God, then we must to understand this and, to remain loving and faithful we need to answer and understand the all important question: “why?”.

Hi firstborn888

(If there’s a story behind that name, might be fun to hear it!)

If one knows ahead of time how someone thinks, and will respond, conversations would be rather mundane and perfunctory. However, I am really surprised at how many of you all here think this way! But for me, there is an enormous gulf between God willing something and God allowing it.

So my point in the essay is that when one is tempted to think God brings some evils, (you know, the ones necessary to accomplish His purposes) and since it’s really impossible to determine which evils are actually from God since we can’t begin to know the goods that might come from them, it’s just best to hold that no evil is from God… Except that argument is shot right out of the water if one holds, as apparently many here do, that of course all evils are from God!

I realize there’s a lot of overlap here and on the other thread discussing violence, but I am baffled to imagine on what basis one who holds that all evil is from God can go out and logically oppose the evils all around us! Why bother stopping ANY violence or evil? Just assume – believe – that God is in action perfecting and saving His creation! I think this sounds absurd, to say nothing of heinous, but why would one intervene if his daughter was being raped? Since God is there working His perfecting and saving will, one might imagine God will use this experience to accomplish some good so why intervene?? I can’t believe I’m actually asking that question, but how can I not given this view on God’s will?

We’ve talked a bit about the Joseph story in Genesis and Jason pointed out that Joseph himself ascribes the evil act of putting him in the pit and selling him into slavery as being from God. To my mind this is highly figurative and metaphoric language used ONLY after the fact. When the results of the evil act have worked out. Consider an earlier story with Joseph; his rebuff of the advances of Potiphars wife. He says no – how can I do this great evil and sin against God? You can’t really believe that the only reason it would be a sin is because that would prevent all the later events from evolving do you? What if, in a moment of weakness, Joseph DID succumb to his seducer. Could not God still accomplish His will some other way?? Seems obvious to me that had the brothers possessed the same moral fiber as Joseph, they too would have seen their selling of Joseph as evil and a sin against God and not done it.

Very hard for me to imagine this viewpoint having ANY place in the pastoral setting of consoling a victim of evil (violence or cancer or suffering etc). I find it very different to say that God will bring some good from this evil as opposed to saying God orchestrated the evil so that he could bring some good from it.

So, just as there is a danger in slacking off on evangelism when one believes in UR, so too it seems there is a danger in “shrugging” at evil when one believes in UR. What I see myself as doing is resisting that urge to “shrug” at evil. Just because I have full faith that God will win all eventually does not mean I must embrace evil at His hand. (Of course my friend M asks me if it really is evil if God brings good out of it?)


Thanks for your response TV.

Here’s where it starts to get a little touchy.

What I laid out in my post is that if God is ‘God’ as we generally define the term (omniscient/omnipotent/omnipresent) and God ‘allows’ something (anything/everything) then it is not and cannot be outside of His will (in a general sense) for anything that happens to happen. This is just a blanket concept that (AISI) is inescapable.

Then we have something called “the will of God in Christ Jesus”. Through Jesus we understand the core nature of our Father who is perfect light, in whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning in whom is no darkness at all and who is incapable of doing anything deceptive or evil or unjust.

I submit to you that we are here to experience the fruit of the tree OTKOGAE and that there is a purpose for it. The idea that God put the tree there and just hoped (prayed :question: :open_mouth: ) that we wouldn’t eat of it is absurd. It was an obvious set up (AISI) and even if someone thinks it could have gone either way then we still have perfect foreknowledge to deal with.

It should comfort you to know that all suffering is temporary. The most evil and disturbing thought imaginable is eternal suffering and it is a ridiculous notion as it would mean that God is insane to set the parameters up for that to happen.

But we who know UR are still left to deal with the reality of present suffering and present darkness and present evil. Even though it is temporary it is still … rough (your little blond headed 2 year old cancer patient has been on my mind constantly since you shared about him).

Just a note that I’ll be replying over in the other thread, so as not to swamp threads. :slight_smile: But I am following along here.

That might be an understatement! ---- And thank you too FB for the conversation…

I do see, and agree with, the idea that one can simply define God and His will and such in ways that my questions become irrelevant. But this can be just a bit too circular for me to make any real sense of all this. ie, God only allows what He wants, therefore He must want what He allows. Or something like that. So since God wants evil (for His refining redeeming purposes,) it must be OK. If that is anywhere close to what you are saying, I simply can’t go there. Yes, God is there with those suffering from evil, and he is even there “with” those doing the evil – working to bring good from it. But no, this need not mean – at all – that God orchestrates, causes, or wills that evil.

Consider a couple short quotes from J Denny Weaver, “The Non Violent Atonement”
In summary chap 2:

and this

The theology I’m hearing on this topic appears to offer no moral foundation for vigorous protest and action against violence. And why should it; for that could be God ordained violence. That’s an enormous problem in my book. That God is there with the suffering, seeking to heal and restore offers great comfort though; that God caused (effected, orchestrated, willed…) the suffering in the first place is about as far from comforting as imaginable. In short, this theology really does “shrug” at violence. This apparent indifference to violence is, as I see the witness of Christ, in complete contradiction to the nonviolent message of His life and death and resurrection.

(see also discussion over on the General Discussion section)
[Can UR trump the Myth of Redemptive Violence?)


So, did you see my premise as escapable?

I don’t personally believe that evil is for refining or redeeming purposes. The whole process is for coming to an experiencial knowledge of good and evil. It’s an experience - nothing more/nothing less. Yes, it will have an awesome final result.

We got what we (metaphorically) ate. TKOGAE. We all died that day and are in a dark tunnel - in the ‘heart of the earth’.

Yes, this will strain your brain and heart for sure. You may come away thinking I am just one confused individual. :wink:

As I stated, there is (AISI) an overall general ‘will of God’ blanketing all things but it is impractical to base everyday actions strictly upon a knowledge of that. As believers our everyday practical actions should be based on the “will of God in Christ Jesus”.

Understanding the fact that nothing is out of control though is a good basis for peace of mind. In the short run it may seem better to think that somebody came in an screwed everything up and God is wringing His hands thinking “What the hell is going on down there??? I never meant for any of this to happen! All I did is create a little ‘free-will’ and - Sheeeesh - look what they did with it!!!” I know it sounds silly, but really, well more than half of the folks I know think this way to some degree. The problem is that if my above foolish ramble is in anyway true then God is incompetent. In an all-powerful, all knowing God scenario virtually ALL the chess pieces were put in place by Him, all the terms, all the parameters - everything.

This is what I see no escape from in an overall understanding of God as Creator of all. I think trying to come to grips with this is more at the core of Atheism than a reaction to bad Christian behavior or rebellion against God or whatever. It’s easier for some to think this is all just one big accident.

Now to address “appears to offer no moral foundation for vigorous protest and action against violence”.

I’ll quote: “We see not now all things put under him (man) but we see Jesus”

Man - made a little lower than Elohim for the suffering of death AND for the glory that would follow. A death ingested from the polaristic fruit.

Ultimately though this is all a showcase for the power of perfect love. To show in a practical tangible manner that love can conquer anything - even death itself.

So we find ourselves here, in the belly of Sheol, fighting to escape the darkness, to escape the anguish, the emptiness and to abolish oppression and injustice by the very love of the Father which Jesus brings to light within us. Why? Because it is the “will of God in Christ Jesus” to gather together all things in one, things in heaven and earth and under the earth, even in Him.

More than that - violence and wrath and destruction completely violates your conscience. Psychiatrists have really exposed the fact that war is so in contradiction to who we are as individuals that even seemingly fearless/brave/well trained/tough soldiers and marines (even those who believe in their cause) are yet traumatized, sometimes permanently, by the act of killing another human.

“Whatsoever you would have men do unto you - do likewise unto them” is the highest moral standard ever set. Jesus even upped the ante by applying it to enemies.

This is where I brought up the “core nature” issue as opposed to the overall ‘big blanket of will’ issue. We must identify who the Father of Jesus is and what His purpose is and what His WILL is as it pertains to us now, as we peer out of this tomb of death and long to eat fully from the tree of life.

I have been following it loosely. My attention span does suffer a bit with the typed word. :wink:

Let me say - the Heart of the Father IS to break oppression, to lift up the widow and orphan and to stop abuse. I know you may see this as a contradiction in my theology but all this rests on the ability to see different levels of ontological abstraction. Creator of all, Father of Jesus, our Father, us as sons etc etc.

Let me also clarify something, just so you know. I have actually left orthodox Christianity altogether because of the belief orthodoxy holds in a vengeful, wrathful God of eternal violence. I was in the ‘ministry’ for over 30 years - most of that full time. I finally grew a spine and told my overseers what I thought about all the B.S. they were preaching year after year after year.

My ‘protest’ against violence extends to the animal kingdom as well which REALLY puts me at odds with the bible :astonished:
I will not be a party to bloodshed and slaughter, period.

I do NOT adhere to the concept of the Father being ‘satisfied’ after unleashing His full violent fury upon Jesus, wrath supposedly meant for us.

So, like I said - given my understanding of “all in God/God in all” I may come across as just another confused person when talking about my stance against evil and suffering and injustice.

No no firstborn – if there is confusion here, I shall shoulder it as my own!

And I really do hear, in your articulations, the kind of faith contained in that cry Job made when he said “Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him…” But notice what the second half of Job 13:15 says… “I will surely defend my ways to His face.” – which implies (or explicitly states?) that God wants us to wrestle with trying to grasp His ways. So I hope I have not conveyed any disrespect for your wrestling – though we see it a bit differently.

I recall hearing a story in a Ravi Z. sermon some years ago (part of my own “conversion” was listening to all his sermons on tape) in which he told of a news story in a devoutly Buddhist country reporting a remote MVA where foreigners were injured badly and the locals came and looted the belongings of those victims. When confronted with this ethical breach from their belief system, they simply said it was their ‘karma’ – they felt no obligation since their fate was sealed and they seemed willing to pay in the next life.

I’m sure that moral ethic sounds repugnant to us, but if we are not careful to protest any and all violence – even if we believe it is from God! – we risk coming off just like those people did. I see the entire Christ story as being a repudiation of violence; the life, death, and rising again as a triumph of nonviolence over violence. Love, that nonviolent ethic which is so powerful it actually creates life (how that happens in the realm of metaphysics will enthrall us for eternity I’m thinking…) simply renders the “power” of violence as totally impotent.

So the ONLY way to order our lives here IS along the same nonviolent ethic that Christ lived. Thus my contention that ALL evil and violence must be protested and acted against. With this, you seem to strongly agree.

I am puzzled though by your assertion that TOKGOE was somehow necessary. And no, I don’t think God was caught by surprise at all – even though I believe in the openness of God (open theism). God knows all possible futures it seems to me and He knew that the hypothetical choice against Him could be freely made. Thus He prepared a plan to demonstrate the true nature of the realities of God reign of love and freedom should such a thing happen. I don’t believe the experience of evil was necessary to to perfect us. (Also, it is interesting to assert that the first sin was Adam and Eve’s when many hold the first sin was Lucifers, in the very presence of God…)

Lastly, returning to my assertion that there are many evils and sins which are not in God’s will (to counter what I’m hearing you say that all of them fall into God’s will) how might you take these ideas…
– Jesus telling the disciples (wheat and tares) that an enemy has done this
– James insisting that we are NOT to say that we are tempted by God; we sin on our own
– Jesus calling His own pending crucifixion a “sin”…



forgot you had asked :slight_smile:

My initial transformation was a dramatic event - like breaking out of a dark tomb into the open sunlight - going directly from atheism to dynamic communion with God in an instant.

But before understanding any of the scripturalness of it all I had this dream where I was looking at a grave in the earth from the side (at eye level - similar to how an engineer would draw their side view plans for underground utilities). I could see the darkened figure of a man laying flat on his back hidden beneath the dark earth. I was made to know that it was Jesus. The body began to glow and as light was generated from within he began to break up out of the ground (still in a horizontal position) and once breaking free of the dirt he raised up vertically (suspended slightly above the earth) and became intensely luminous - rays of light shooting out in all directions.

Then a voice said 'This is you" to which I replied “No it’s not - it’s Jesus” and immediately I woke up.

Later that day I was reading in Romans and stumbled across “as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”. I was shocked and of course had the realization "That’s it!!! That’s why the voice said ‘this is you’.

So I understood the spiritual import of the resurrection and it became my theme. One day I was reading a ‘biblical numerology’ pamphlet and on one page it had this to say:

888 = "Jesus Christ firstborn from the dead"

That was thirty or so years ago. I have no clue as to the validity of the statement itself - but it stuck. :slight_smile:

I think the phrase “Levels of Ontological Abstraction” is the key to understanding the whole thing. Not that I have a completed key in place :smiley:
1 : a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being
2 : a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence
DEFINITION - Abstraction (from the Latin abs, meaning away from and trahere, meaning to draw) is the process of taking away or removing characteristics from something in order to reduce it to a set of essential characteristics.

“In the same way that abstraction sometimes works in art, the object that remains is a representation of the original, with unwanted detail omitted. The resulting object itself can be referred to as an abstraction, meaning a named entity made up of selected attributes and behavior specific to a particular usage of the originating entity”.
searchcio-midmarket.techtarget.c … 38,00.html

When I ‘abstract’ everything but the absolute essentials from my understanding of the term “Most High God” AKA “The Self Existent One” I come up with two things:


Take away either ingredient and we have a recipe for chaos and the potential for everything in existence to spiral out of control. Keep these two characteristics intact and we have zero potential for chaos and zero potential for anything in existence to spiral out of control.

So on this level of ontological abstraction everything in existence, seen and unseen - in all known and unknown dimensions (or non-dimensions :exclamation: ) is in perfect order. Absolutely flawless in every respect. All in God’s perfect ‘will’.

Then we hit our first roadblock in Genesis 1:2 “The earth was ‘without form’ (Tohuw)”
1. formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness
1. formlessness (of primeval earth)
1. nothingness, empty space
2. that which is empty or unreal (of idols) (fig)
3. wasteland, wilderness (of solitary places)
4. place of chaos
5. vanity

“and ‘void’ (Bohuw)”

  1. emptiness, void, waste

"and ‘darkness’ (Choshek)
1. darkness, obscurity
2. secret place

“was upon the face of the deep”.

So, by Genesis 1:2 everything which is the OPPOSITE of what I supposed to be true about God is in full bloom. We have ‘secret places’, ‘confusion’ (perfect knowledge leaves no room for secrets or darkness) we have emptiness and chaos (God fills all things by His omnipotence) so we have a virtual opposite - an antithesis of all that God is.

Immediately God’s essence (core nature) goes to work on that state and begins to change it back into what I first described God Himself as being (Omniscient/Omnipotent). God begins to bring order and light out of chaos and darkness.

Ultimately this will all end in God being “All in All” once again.

I Cor. 15:23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

So this is where the breakdown is between what you (TV) KNOW God and His will to be and the reality you see happening around you. This is why I referred to it as the “will of God in Christ Jesus”.

Eph. 1:9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

So in one sense it IS (was?) God’s will for the chaos and lack of knowledge and darkness and all of it’s byproducts (violence, cruelty, death, suffering etc etc etc) to exist - but - the will of His heart (core nature) is to bring all things into order and harmony once again. That’s why your conscience (and mine) vehemently rejects the idea of a violent/destructive/vengeful/punishing God. It’s the opposite of His core nature.

What we see in the OT as God lashing out against all the imperfect and evil people is actually that system of chaos destroying itself - being broken down by God’s perfection (core nature). When the time was right Jesus added a big dose of the next component we needed and that is to understand that we, humans, are made in God’s image and are not (at our core) a part of the darkness and chaos either - but we are ‘lost sheep’ to be ‘found’ and set free from the darkness and chaos we were born into. The secret hidden for generations is “Christ in you - the hope of glory”.


Good post firstborn. I’m seeing through a different pair of eyes again.

Quite a wonderful post firstborn888: and I very much like the story that goes with the name; fits nicely with the idea that God will do what is necessary to win/bring us back to Him… He gave you what you needed to “see” — like He gave the disciple Thomas what HE needed (ie see the nailprints and feel the pierced side) for faith…

And I really have little problem with how you have laid out the ideas of a perfect God who is immersed in His creation endeavoring to restore it. You have illuminated what I think is the incredibly important – and all too often ignored – concept of order (God) vs. chaos (sin/non-God/evil/violence/etc). The celebratory prophecy of 1 Cor 15:28 when God triumphs and again becomes “all in all” (it can be read as prophecy right? a reality that returns to actuality…) confirming the fact that order (the Triune God) does eventually win out over chaos. (non-God, or ‘anti’-God, or “Satan”) (This is the main reason I worship on the Bible Sabbath – Saturday; it celebrates this God of order who is now battling chaos until that day when God becomes all in all.) And the “win” is a matter of certainty (from a cosmic perspective) and in a real way has already been “won” at the Cross.

For me it is not necessary for God to know the precise “script” of events for this to be true. He knows His own nature, as well as the nature of reality since He is the first cause of everything. (even of evil – but only in that limited sense; as I see it)

I think perhaps we part ways though in that you seem to hold that this chaos was necessary to God’s plan, which has the ill effect (as I see it) of making sin unavoidable and necessary in the first place (which is, maybe, morphing in to a different topic…) Which makes it seem that the “choice” at the TOKGAE was not really a choice at all, but was predetermined. (I don’t think you believe in determinism, but that seems possible to me…) (As an aside, it seems that the diversion into chaos was because of a free choice – and the return to order must be via the same path; ie God will not violate our freedom to accomplish order. It must, and will, be freely chosen. ie not coerced… so if violence implies – as I think it does – coercion, yet another reason to distance evil and violence from God…)

Also, it seems to me that Col 1:16-20 traces a similar sequence you have spoken about; God’s creation initially was good and ordered; a falling away into chaos follows; then God acts to bring all back in reconciliation. (Talbott is very good on this passage.)

To retrace my steps a bit in the essay I wrote, I was reacting against the idea of trying to hold that some evils are the direct action of God. My point was that if some of them are, we have no way to detect which ones are, so we must simply go to the extreme and admit that all of them are acts of God. And most people can’t allow themselves to go quite that far; you have allowed it though, and quite logically too. Finding all suffering and evil (and chaos) being attributable to God however is quite repugnant to me so my point was that it’s better to try to chart a path wherein we find ways to assert that logically none of it is attributable to God. I really think this must (logically) be an all-or-nothing affair. You seem also to accept this premise but have gone the opposite way with it and said (again, quite logically) that indeed all evil can be laid at God’s feet.

But if one holds that allevils can be attributed to God, then all one must do is show that one evil is not attributable to God to cast doubt on that assertion. For me that one evil is the Cross which WAS sin according to Jesus. Of course God knew exactly what would happen when He entered the world as Jesus the Son; it was nothing less than the inevitable (ie could be easily predicted without complete foreknowledge) clash between order (Christ) and chaos (violence/evil/non-God choices) – and knowing the nature of each, God could be certain of the outcome. ie He knows the impotence of evil and chaos and force to accomplish His final purposes. (For me, this is a compelling reason to believe in UR) And yes, it is important to hold that Christ “gave” His life willingly (ie the point being that it is not the prerogative of a creature to “take” life from the creator) knowing – as only the creator can – the reality of the impotence of chaos. (Yes: I conflate chaos/disorder with evil/suffering/sin/non-God/violence etc etc)

So the “enemy” and the “tempter” and “sin” can in fact be labeled “chaos” – which is in direct opposition to the reign of God as revealed in the life and death of the Christ. The entire trajectory – and point – of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, was the Total Victory of non-violence over violence. Yes, in the sense that God can be said to be responsible for everything He allows, responsibility for chaos rests with Him. This need not mean however that chaos, disorder, violence, sin, were His idea or choice at all.

(For me it gets a little too “abstract” to hold that God contains and wills both disorder AND order; which is what I hear you trying to say. That seems to me self referentially absurd and impossible… That to me sounds way to much like the arsonist/fireman who starts the fire which he then heroically puts out… or maybe a surgeon causing a tumor which he then heroically operates on and cures…)

Enjoying the conversation,


Thanks Jeff. I saw the basic concept in an instant during that first week in '77 - but articulating it all isn’t the easiest thing. I can’t explain how perfectly God’s love was revealed. He really is an expert at separating the essence of our heart/intention from our prison cells (the dark thoughts and concepts that try and keep us in a state of experiencial separation).

LoL - so true! I used to think I was special or extra spiritual to have such an experience. Then later it dawned on me - “No - you’re just VERY HARD HEADED so extreme measures were necessary” :mrgreen:

Maybe our understandings diverge a bit right at the root. I believe that God is absolutely omniscient, that is - that He has absolute complete exhaustive knowledge of every detail of every thought and action which has or will ever occur in all the universe or any other universe and perfectly knows all things which have or will exist on any and all planes and dimensions (seen or unseen) down to the location of the smallest conceivable atomic particle and down to every nuance of thought, action or experience which ever has or will be experienced by any creature who has or will ever exist.

I believe this knowledge to be omnipresent and instantaneous in the mind of God at all times. Do you see God this way as well?

Now we are treading deeply within the knowledge of the holy trembling. All I can say is that a lot of responsibility goes along with the omniscience I described earlier and that humans are naturally built to operate with a sense of free-will and I have learned that any understanding to the contrary cannot be easily imparted. :wink: I think Paul said He saw things “not lawful to be uttered”. Man - if a statement like that doesn’t get your curiosity up… :exclamation:

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

I don’t know how to comment on this - it just sort of says what it says. Theologians love to say (basically) “God made everything perfect and then the devil and the bad choice people came and screwed everything up”. I really don’t see Genesis 1 as saying anything different than what Col 1:16-20 says and it does have God taking an overall responsibility for everything - very similar to what I laid out. Also we have Roman’s 8:20 - "creation was made subject to ‘vanity’
“Vanity” Mataiotes

  1. what is devoid of truth and appropriateness
  2. perverseness, depravity
  3. frailty, want of vigour
    from (3152) Mataios
  4. devoid of force, truth, success, result
  5. useless, of no purpose
    not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope

Which is prefaced by:
Roman’s 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

Again, because of my understanding of who God is in an overall sense some things are inescapable (for me). As a mortal, living, breathing, loving, suffering, joyous creature who is full of contradictions and paradoxical anomalies I don’t like the conclusion that I HAVE to be here and that I HAVE to deal with this reality but guess what? I’m here - so how can I say I don’t ‘have’ to be here? Or that someone else decided for me besides God??? From a mortal perspective I certainly would have chosen differently but from a celestial perspective like Paul’s Roman’s 8:18 perspective I can and must accept that there IS a reason for all this and that the end will prove it’s worth.

The other conclusion? God is incompetent and allowed my forefather Adam to make an unnecessary and meaningless bad choice which cost us all BIG TIME. See what I mean? How can we go there?

I bolded your last line because this is where my little thesis tries to show that, for all practical purposes and for success in our experience and relationship with God and each other we must understand that in God’s core nature there is no darkness at all, no variableness, no shadow, nothing hidden, nothing lost, no deception, perfect open truth and transparency in all things etc etc etc.

BUT in our experience we have darkness, variableness, shadows, things hidden, things lost, less than perfect truth and less than perfect transparency. All these things exist and are contrary to God’s core nature. However, because of God’s omnipotence and omniscience we also must accept that the state of affairs is IN HIS WILL even if not in His nature. (Is that even possible??? :mrgreen: If not someone needs to step up and bust me on this :bulb: :slight_smile: )

Well, you know, there is a bottom line somewhere here. No doubt it is very very abstract from a mortal perspective. When you say “God contains and wills both disorder AND order; which is what I hear you trying to say. That seems to me self referentially absurd and impossible” then I accept that what I’m saying is to you impossible. But I will say back that if all this is happening contrary to God’s will then we are back to square one:

In the mean time my brother - take comfort in the fact that in both our views there is a glorious outcome and you and I can reach out for that final goal when every ‘lost’ child is whole and all pain and misery and death is abolished. For some of us it may take actually arriving to see the purpose behind the plan. :slight_smile:

Me too! :slight_smile:

Me three :smiley:

Guys this debate has been of the highest order. Both the clarity of thought and courteous language (through what ironically could be labelled as ‘violent’ disagreement :slight_smile: ) has been inspirational.

TV - your rebuttal of the post of firstborn that drew my praise matched it superbly. The fact that you two have diametrically opposed positions on this particular point have made it possible for me to see the issue clearly and hence reflect upon it from my own position.

I do have a preference for one point of view over the other but I will withold which that is until you both say ‘that’s enough’

As Qohelet said over on Jason’s metaphysics 101 thread - ‘gets out popcorn’ :smiley:

Peace to you both.

It helps that TV and I both have the same view of God’s practical intention for us in the here and now. In fact I am presuming we will all be working together in some way in the near future to fight against violence, oppression and abuse according to “The will of God in Christ Jesus”.

The doc has already devoted his life to healing and so is automatically one of my heros.

  • Byron AKA: super-heretic :mrgreen:

As to who was the author of Jesus’s cricifiction I had not noticed this iprayer of the apostles in Acts Chapter 4 before…

firstborn888 aka Byron:

What is wonderful about this conversation is that what we affirm together seems far far more central than what we disagree on; namely we agree on the fact of God’s goodness and the fact of His Total Victory in love and freedom and fairness.

And, as you say, the differences we have do emerge at the roots of our varied premises. For one, as I’ve said, I don’t hold to the “omni everything” categories that much of Christianity holds to; especially omniscience. It is, to me, simply not possible for God to know the future as we know the past. I hold to openness of God as laid out by Boyd and Sanders and Rice and others. Interestingly I find that this offers me (yet another) avenue to the conclusion of UR; namely, God does not know the future exhaustively, (that’s my first premise) yet He does seem certain of His ultimate Total Victory, (that’s my second premise) therefore He must know enough about reality (and why not since it’s all grounded IN Him somehow as the first cause…) and His creation AND the actions HE plans to perform (ie persist with us UNTIL we are free enough to choose Him in love and not force) to be able to say this.

Since you do not accept that first premise, yet arrive to the same conclusion that I do, about the only choice you have is for God to be the cause of everything – both good and bad. So, as I say, you are logically consistent.

Next of course is that one is logically bound to his premises – which are also sometimes simply definitions; and since your definition of God includes that God causes everything, then you necessarily must have God causing evil too. This places you (again, from my perspective) in the awkward and seemingly contradictory position of asserting that there is no darkness in God’s core nature, yet God is responsible for darkness, therefore somehow there MUST be darkness in God’s nature – but since there can’t be darkness in God’s nature (your first premise) those things in God’s nature that we see as darkness must not BE darkness. Or something like that.

Here’s part of what you said:

Well for me of course it’s not possible; for how can God be contrary to Himself without somehow negating Himself?? I just don’t follow the journey you take when you say there is no darkness in God, yet everything is in His will, then try to avoid darkness in God’s nature by separating His will and His nature.

This dilemma of yours takes another form earlier when you paint a scenario where everything that happens MUST happen in God’s will (by definition) – or – the only other conclusion is that:

Of course for me, those are *not *the only two choices! There is a third alternative. (I’ll return to this in a moment)

Now in all you have said so far, and said with a deep respect and admiration for the sovereignty and grace of our God (which I both detect and appreciate), is a tacit recognition of the apparent contradiction inherent with a God who is both problem and solution – ie a God who both creates evil and also destroys it. This recognition of paradox and contradiction is often, as you have also done, painted in hues of “mystery” as explanation. And to be sure, there is in fact a large element of mystery involved.

But if it is mystery, it must remain so for BOTH of us – it cannot be an explanation for your position only; for within a mystery, anything can, theoretically be contained. Mystery services my argument just as well as it services yours. So yes, there is mystery, but mystery is not an explanation. If the ways of God really are “inscrutable” (yes, in some ways they ARE) then what on earth are WE doing scrutinizing them??

On then to my assertion that there is a third way beyond being forced to accept that either everything that happened MUST happen - given God’s sovereign will vs. God is incompetent and allowed my forefather Adam to make unnecessary and meaningless bad choices…

I make then, another appeal to the idea that the forces against God need not be thought of as from God Himself:

Recall the story is Luke 11:14 where Jesus casts out a demon and His act is dismissed as the demons simply obeying their master – who the Pharisee’s knew to be Beelzebub, the demon ruler. And Jesus says to them (17) “a kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; a house divided against itself falls.” For me this describes precisely the dilemma of having a God who is responsible both for chaos and order; violence and non-violence; righteousness and evil. God battling against Himself – as must be the case if He is cause of both good and evil – is but a Charade…

charade | sh əˈrād|
“an absurd pretense intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance”

Next, there is a great body of evidence that alludes to the the battle of God against the forces arrayed against Him; oppressive forces from non-God origins; God is explicitly said to be battling forces of evil and chaos; powers are in play that are counter to God. The best recent illumination of this idea was shared with us by our own Pat on his thread “the problem of evil” in which he shared this essay by Greg Boyd…

For me, it strains credulity that God is merely orchestrating forces against Himself which He then conveniently overthrows. Given this obvious charade, it is hard to insist that this orchestrated opposition ever was a serious threat to God who wants it all to happen anyway.

(I would love to know your reaction to this essay by Boyd. – Problem of evil in the Atheism/Agnosticism section – it plays heavily in to this conversation)

[problem of evil)

Lastly, it should seem to you nonsensical (as I understand you to define terms) for Jesus to say “an enemy has done this” if Jesus KNEW God was behind it. Surely God is not the enemy. That makes little to no sense at all. If God did not orchestrate it, it would be inappropriate for God to be said to be responsible for it. Jesus surely was not confused in this matter.

Further, when the topic of “the problem of evil” is ever brought up, I find it hard to see that it is in fact a problem for you; for how could it be if God birthed it? So yes; it is interesting that I feel compelled to reject a God who causes evil, while you feel compelled to give the entirely of reality (including evil) to God.

In summary, I see is as a theoretical possibility that yes, God did create evil and have freely agreed that in the sense that God is the first cause and creator of everything He is therefore also responsible for evil. If that be the case however, it seems not even worth arguing about – yet this very question churns in our world; for most intuitively reject a God of such violence and evil (and rightly so I think). As I see it, this awareness that God in fact has created evil offers NO positive practical effects – and has many many negative ones. And Christ Himself seems to have aligned Himself unambiguously against darkness and evil and violence. He made no inference (as far as I can tell) that evil’s cause might, in fact, lay at God’s feet. His role was to battle it no matter the arena; politics, government, religion, society. And His devotion to this cause got HIm killed. God did not kill Him; SIN killed Him – as He Himself said. Sin, no matter how you define it, is an anti-God concept. And for God to be forced to be called responsible for anti-God ideas is simply not coherent to me.



Yes, for every practical purpose we agree on what God’s present intention for mankind is and what our role is.

Since I’m a fully convinced omni-everythingist it is the foundation of my understanding concerning all these matters and holds me captive to certain principles.

I can see the apparent flaw of my case but can only backtrack so far because of being 100% positive about the absolute omniscience and omnipotence. :confused: So my case is that since we are living in time as opposed to God’s eternal realm then (somehow) the opposite of God’s core nature is ‘allowed’ or even purposed to exist here.

Yes, I invoke the mystery clause to explain my logic! :wink: It is only a mystery though because we are living in a temporal plane where darkness can obscure absolute truth and allow mysteries to exist.

I can’t help it. I want to understand everything about everything. :blush:

I do adhere to the ‘charade’ theory as all we see happening in this reality is NOT ultimate reality, that is, not absolute eternal reality.
In the ‘big picture’ there is no serious threat to God and indeed cannot be. There can only be a battle at all because of the polarized nature of this lower realm of existence we are now operating in. In no way shape or form can anything be threatening to the “Self Existent One” in His own domain. The battle between light/darkness is only transpiring in the lower realms of existence (in the realms of time and temporalness) and (by extension) in our minds.

Thanks - I will read the links you posted as time allows.

Well, if you are a bible inerrantist you still have this major dilemma:

Passages like this and “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him” totally confirm God’s hand in this apparent ‘sin’. :exclamation: :question: