Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Suffering, judgement, free will, and God’s sovereignty

Biblical Christians understand that suffering and judgement are the result of human sinfulness and self-conscious choices.

God *desires* all to repent and turn from evil. His *nature* requires that evil be judged and punished commiserate with the scale of the offense.

*Rebellion against an eternal and perfectly holy Sovereign merits eternal consequences.*

God’s glory is revealed in His just condemnation of the offenders and that mercy is graciously given according to His mysterious will to *anyone, at all*.

Biblical Christians do not hold to hard determinism - that is, the belief that all events and human actions are predetermined by prior causes, leaving no room for free will.

We believe that “God is sovereign, Man is responsible.”

And just like wave-particle duality in quantum physics or the Banach-Tarski Paradox in mathematics, it is a theological antinomy we don’t fully understand, yet see clearly laid out in Scripture. 

Biblical references (supplied by AI):

1. Suffering and judgment as a result of human sinfulness:

   - Romans 5:12, Genesis 3:16-19, Galatians 6:7-8

2. God's desire for all to repent:

   - 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:3-4, Ezekiel 18:23

3. God's nature requiring judgment of evil:

   - Habakkuk 1:13, Romans 2:5-6, Revelation 20:12-13

4. Eternal consequences for rebellion:

   - Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Revelation 20:15

5. God's glory in judgment and mercy:

   - Romans 9:22-23, Ephesians 1:5-6

6. God's sovereignty and human responsibility:

   - Philippians 2:12-13, Acts 2:23, Proverbs 16:9, Romans 9:19-21

7. God's mysterious will:

   - Deuteronomy 29:29 "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."

   - Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

   - Romans 11:33-34 "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"

   - Job 38-41 (God's response to Job, demonstrating the limits of human understanding)

Additional verses reinforcing these concepts:

   - Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

   - Jeremiah 18:1-10 (The potter and the clay analogy, showing both God's sovereignty and human responsibility)

   - Romans 9:14-18 (Discussion of God's mercy and justice)

These passages collectively support the theological framework outlined, demonstrating God's sovereignty, human responsibility, the necessity of judgment, eternal consequences for rebellion, and crucially, the mysterious nature of God's will that transcends full human comprehension. This comprehensive view aligns with the concept of theological antinomy, where apparent contradictions are held in tension, reflecting the limitations of human understanding in grasping divine truths.

Monday, July 8, 2024

We all deserve Hell

Christ Jesus is the exemplar of God’s nature. Jesus is perfectly good, just, and merciful, therefore all Persons of the Trinity are good, just, and merciful.

Our problem is that we don’t take sin and its pervasive effects seriously and make ourselves out to be more understanding, just, and merciful than God. No surprise, as that is Man’s nature.

Man is created with an eternal spirit. An eternal spirit in eternal rebellion against their eternal Creator deserves eternal consequences.

We all willfully choose sin over communion. We are all willfully rebellious. We all justly deserve God’s eternal condemnation. We are all vessels of wrath.

It’s only the gracious provision of God that any are chosen to be vessels of mercy, because we *always* choose rebellion.

We are created through and for Jesus to be glorified as Savior and Judge, as desired by the Father and enabled by the Spirit.

It is a logical necessity that beings fit for communion with God have the ability to make self-conscious decisions. He desires true loving communion. However, the self-conscious decision to rebel and seek equality with God is our inherent nature. Out of an infinity of good choices leading to eternal communion, we self-consciously choose the *only thing* that disqualifies us.

Praise be to our Savior for His righteous judgement and praise Him that any are mercifully chosen to be forgiven, cloaked in His righteousness, and receive the unmerited gift of eternal communion with God!


Here's a list supplied by AI of many Bible verses to support the article's points:

1. God's nature and Christ as exemplar:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." - John 1:1

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." - Hebrews 1:3

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" - Colossians 2:9

"I and the Father are one." - John 10:30

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." - John 14:9

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." - Colossians 1:15

2. Man's sinful nature and deserving of hell:

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" - Romans 3:23

"As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one'" - Romans 3:10

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" - Jeremiah 17:9

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." - Psalm 51:5

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 6:23

"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" - Isaiah 64:6

3. Eternal spirit and consequences:

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." - Matthew 25:46

"And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image" - Revelation 14:11

"They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord" - 2 Thessalonians 1:9

"Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." - Ecclesiastes 12:7

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." - Matthew 10:28

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?'" - John 11:25-26

"We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." - 2 Corinthians 5:8

"If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." - Philippians 1:22-23

"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." - 2 Corinthians 5:1

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" - Philippians 3:20

"The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" - Romans 8:16

4. Choosing sin over communion:

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God." - Romans 3:10-11

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." - Romans 1:21

"The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." - Romans 8:7

5. God's grace and mercy:

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." - Ephesians 2:4-5

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" - Ephesians 2:8

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:9

6. Creation through and for Jesus:

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." - Colossians 1:16

"Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." - John 1:3

"yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." - 1 Corinthians 8:6

7. Free will and rebellion:

"The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." - Genesis 6:5

"For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness." - Mark 7:21-22

"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." - Romans 8:7

8. Salvation through Christ:

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." - Acts 4:12

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" - John 14:6

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus" - 1 Timothy 2:5

9. God's sovereign choice:

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will" - Ephesians 1:4-5

"And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." - Romans 8:30

"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth." - 2 Thessalonians 2:13

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you." - John 15:16

"For many are invited, but few are chosen." - Matthew 22:14

"For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God's mercy." - Romans 9:15-16

"What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory" - Romans 9:22-23

"However, as it is written: 'What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived'— the things God has prepared for those who love him" - 1 Corinthians 2:9

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" - Romans 11:33

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

The Erosion of Free Will: The Insidious Impact of Sin

When we consider the doctrine of free will in Christian theology, we often focus on its role in the original creation and the fall of humanity. However, it's crucial to examine how sin has fundamentally altered the nature of human free will since that pivotal moment in Eden. This article explores the profound ways in which sin has undermined our capacity for truly free choice.

In the beginning, God created humans with the ability to make uncoerced decisions, including the choice to love and obey Him. This freedom was exemplified in Adam and Eve's ability to choose between obedience and disobedience in the Garden of Eden. However, their decision to sin marked a turning point not just in human history, but in the very nature of human will.

Augustine's framework of the four states of man provides a helpful lens through which to view this transformation. Before the fall, humanity was in the state of "posse non peccare" (able not to sin). Following the fall, we entered the state of "non posse non peccare" (not able not to sin). This shift represents a fundamental corruption of human will.

Sin's impact on free will is multifaceted. Firstly, it has distorted our perception. Where once we could clearly see and understand God's goodness, sin has clouded our judgment. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ."

Secondly, sin has introduced competing desires into our nature. We find ourselves, as Paul describes in Romans 7:15, doing what we hate and failing to do what we want. This internal conflict undermines the clarity and power of our will.

Thirdly, sin has made us slaves to our baser impulses. Jesus himself said, "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). This bondage to sin severely limits our ability to freely choose the good.

Moreover, sin has corrupted not just individual wills, but entire systems and societies. We are born into a world where sinful patterns are deeply ingrained in cultures, institutions, and relationships. These external factors further constrain our choices.

The cumulative effect of these influences is that, while we still make choices, the freedom of those choices is significantly compromised. We are like addicts who technically "choose" to indulge our addiction, yet are driven by compulsions beyond our control.

However, the Christian narrative doesn't end with this bleak picture. Through Christ's redemptive work, believers enter Augustine's third state: "posse non peccare" (able not to sin). The Holy Spirit's regenerating work begins to restore our ability to choose rightly. As Paul writes in Galatians 5:1, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

Yet even for the redeemed, the full restoration of free will remains a future hope. Only in the final state of glorification will we enter "non posse peccare" (not able to sin), where our wills will be perfectly aligned with God's, free from the corrupting influence of sin.

In conclusion, while God created humans with free will, sin has profoundly undermined this freedom. Our choices are now influenced by distorted perceptions, competing desires, and ingrained sinful patterns. Recognizing this reality should foster humility and dependence on God's grace. It also magnifies the power of Christ's redemptive work, which not only forgives sin but begins the process of restoring true freedom - the freedom to choose in alignment with God's perfect will.

The Problem of Evil: A Logical Necessity in God's Grand Design

In the realm of theological discourse, few topics have generated as much debate and soul-searching as the Problem of Evil (PoE). How can an all-powerful, all-loving God coexist with the reality of evil and suffering in our world? This article aims to explore this age-old question through the lens of Biblical Christianity, logical reasoning, and the concept of God's ultimate purpose.

To understand the PoE, we must first grasp the nature of God as revealed in Scripture. God is not only omnipotent and omnibenevolent but also perfectly logical and consistent. His power, while unlimited, operates within the bounds of logical consistency. This isn't a limitation but a reflection of His rational nature. Scripture reveals God's ultimate purpose: to glorify His Son as Lord, Savior, and Judge, and to create beings fit for eternal communion with Him. This framework is crucial for understanding His actions and allowances in our world.

For God's purpose to be fulfilled, genuine free will is essential. Without the ability to choose, love and worship lose their meaning, becoming mere programmed responses rather than the voluntary adoration God desires. However, true free will necessarily entails the potential for choosing against God's will - in other words, the potential for evil.

Given the reality of free will, the potential for evil becomes a logical necessity. It's not that God creates evil, but that the possibility of evil is inherent in the gift of free will. God, being perfectly consistent, won't violate the logical parameters He has established. To do so would be to act against His own nature.

It's important to note that God's goodness is evident in the initial conditions He set for humanity. In Eden, Adam and Eve were surrounded by countless good choices, with only one prohibition. This setup demonstrates God's overwhelming generosity, the reality of free will, God's desire for voluntary love, and the clarity of the moral landscape He provided.

The concept of original sin provides crucial context for understanding why the potential for evil became an actuality that permeates our existence. When our first parents exercised their free will to disobey God, sin entered the world, corrupting not just humanity but all of creation. This explains why we see evil not just in human choices, but also in nature itself.

While this framework explains the potential for evil, it doesn't provide a specific explanation for each individual instance of suffering. There remains an element of mystery in God's particular allowances of evil events, which our limited human perspective can't fully grasp. This tension between understanding the big picture and grappling with specific instances of suffering is part of the Christian walk of faith.

The Christian narrative doesn't end with the allowance of evil. God's plan includes His ongoing redemptive work in our fallen world and the promise of ultimate victory over evil. In Christ, God entered into human suffering, demonstrating that He doesn't stand aloof from our pain. The cross stands as the ultimate expression of God's love and His commitment to defeating evil without violating free will.

The Problem of Evil, when viewed through the lens of God's ultimate purpose and the logical necessity of free will, becomes not an insurmountable obstacle to faith, but a profound demonstration of God's wisdom and love. While it doesn't remove the reality of suffering, this perspective provides a coherent framework for understanding evil's existence in a world created by a good God.

As we grapple with the harsh realities of evil and suffering, we can find comfort in knowing that these are not outside God's control or contrary to His purposes. Rather, they are temporary realities in a grand narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and ultimate restoration. In this light, the Problem of Evil becomes a call to trust in God's higher wisdom, to participate in His redemptive work, and to look forward to the day when all things will be made new.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Nature destroys, God creates

When we observe the world around us, one of the most ubiquitous and inescapable phenomena is the relentless tendency of nature to tear things down. Left to their own devices, physical systems inevitably decay, erode, and disintegrate over time. Mountains gradually crumble into dust, buildings deteriorate and collapse, living organisms age and die. 

This is not just a superficial trend, but a fundamental law of physics known as the second law of thermodynamics. In any closed system, entropy - a measure of disorder and randomness - always increases over time. The arrow of time inexorably points in the direction of decay and equilibrium, as highly organized structures dissolve into simpler, more homogeneous states.

Given this pervasive natural propensity for degradation, it is striking that the universe around us exhibits such astonishing examples of complexity, beauty, and organization. From the exquisite fine-tuning of physical constants that permit a life-permitting cosmos, to the dazzling diversity and engineering marvels of the biological world, to the information-rich nanotechnology undergirding the cell, we find countless instances of things that nature alone seems utterly incapable of producing.

For example, the simplest living cell is a masterpiece of miniaturization and functional integration that far surpasses our most advanced human technology. It contains digital code, information processing and storage, error correction and proofreading software, molecular machines and factories, and a complex web of metabolic circuitry. The requisite information content and irreducible complexity of even the most basic life vastly exceed what undirected physical processes can plausibly generate.

This points to a deep explanatory conundrum for philosophical naturalism and scientific materialism. If nature, left to its own unguided devices, universally and inexorably tends towards erosion and decay, how do we account for the soaring heights of informational and organizational complexity we find throughout the natural world, from the microscopic to the cosmic scale?

The most straightforward and empirically grounded answer is that there must be a creative intelligence - a grand counterforce to entropy - infusing the world with structure, design, and meaning. In our uniform experience, functional complexity and informational richness only ever arise from the activity of rational agents. We don't attribute Mount Rushmore to wind and erosion, or encyclopedias to explosions in printing presses. Wherever we see elaborately integrated systems that defy the grinding destructive trends of unguided nature, we justifiably infer intelligent causation.

The same logic applies to the wonders we find in the natural world that vastly outstrip Mount Rushmore or encyclopedias in their complexity and refinement. The fine-tuned physics and chemistry that render life possible, the information-rich macromolecules that form the basis of biology, and the elaborate molecular machinery upon which all organisms depend - these are the unmistakable fingerprints of a supreme cosmic engineer, a transcendent Mind behind the universe who repeatedly triumphs over the blind, destructive ravages of entropic decay.

This recognition of intelligent agency in nature was the reigning consensus for most of human history, and for good reason. It comports with common sense, ordinary experience, and philosophical reflection about the causal powers and limitations of purely materialistic processes. The atheistic scientific materialism that rose to prominence in recent centuries is very much a novel historical aberration that flies in the face of the rational design intuitions of countless generations. 

When carefully considered, the ubiquity of erosion and decay actually lends strong support to the idea of a creative intelligence behind the cosmos. Without the repeated infusion of organizing power by a designing mind, it is hard to fathom how a universe so ravaged by entropy could exhibit such dazzling heights of informational and engineering complexity. The overwhelming trend of blind nature is to tear down and disintegrate, not build up and create.

Recognizing this points us powerfully to the existence of God - the ultimate creative force responsible for imbuing the world with structure, rationality, and beauty in the face of destructive randomness. While much remains to be discovered about the precise mechanisms of cosmic and biological design, the core insight that it takes a mind to explain the grandeur of creation is deeply compelling. The very erosive power of unguided nature reveals and confirms the necessity of nature's supreme Intelligent Designer.

Why there is no problem of evil for a Christian

The so-called “Problem of Evil” that is used to challenge the existence of God is not an issue for Biblical Christians.

Verses like Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28 show that ultimately, the existence of evil and its service to God's good purposes can be understood through the logical framework: "All that exists serves God's good purpose; Evil exists; Therefore, evil serves God's good purpose." This does not imply that evil is intrinsically good or that God directly causes it, but rather that God, in His wisdom, has chosen to allow evil for a time to fulfill His redemptive plan for us and bring glory to Himself through Jesus.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Naturalism, Atheism, and the Argument from Intelligibility

Naturalism and atheism are often presented as the default rational positions, but a deeper look reveals profound philosophical challenges to their coherence and explanatory power. Naturalism asserts that nature is all that exists and that all phenomena can be explained through natural processes. Atheism, which frequently relies on naturalistic presuppositions, is the lack of belief in any gods or supernatural forces. However, both worldviews face significant obstacles.

First, naturalism appears to rest on circular reasoning - it assumes the primacy of nature and then interprets all evidence through that lens. This begs the question, effectively sidestepping the need to provide a more fundamental justification for its core claim. While naturalists appeal to the success of science as validation, the scientific method is arguably underdetermined when it comes to ultimate metaphysical questions. Science's explanatory triumphs do not rule out the existence of realities beyond the strictly natural and quantifiable.

Second, naturalism and atheism struggle to account for key features of reality, such as the profound intelligibility and fine-tuning of the cosmos. Our universe exhibits a stunning susceptibility to rational investigation, from its mathematical elegance to its precise calibration of physical constants. As many have compellingly argued, this pervasive intelligibility points to an intelligent source - a divine mind behind the rational order of creation.

Naturalistic explanations for cosmic intelligibility, such as brute contingency, physical necessity, or the anthropic principle, prove inadequate upon philosophical scrutiny. They fail to address the specificity, beauty, and uncanny resonance of the universe's rational structure. In contrast, theism offers a more parsimonious and illuminating account, grounding the intelligible cosmos in the creative rationality of God.

Longmire's Teleological Argument encapsulates this powerful case for a transcendent intelligence:

P1: The universe is scientifically intelligible. 

P2: Scientific intelligibility stems from rational minds.

C: The universe stems from a rational mind (i.e., God).

The theistic worldview also better coheres with the full scope of human experience, from our apprehension of objective moral truths to our intuitive sense of meaning and purpose. Naturalism and atheism, by reducing reality to the strictly physical and mechanical, struggle to find a place for these defining aspects of the human condition.

The persistent failure of naturalism to fully explain the foundational character of the universe it claims as its own should give us pause. The existence of a world so breathtakingly rational, so shot through with beauty and meaning, so congenial to the flourishing of conscious creatures who bear the image of their Creator - all of this should reopen the question of God with fresh eyes.

As we grapple with the profound philosophical problems inherent in any totalizing worldview, an attitude of intellectual humility is vital. Let us reason together in good faith, following the evidence where it leads. The argument from intelligibility, rigorously made, calls us to look beyond the natural to its supernatural source. In the artistry of creation, we may discover the mind of the Artist.