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Please read carefully. I think this may get at the heart of one difficulty in the general debate.

Consider these statements:

One being can cause, ordain, or will that another being do something, without in any way communicating with it. And it might be that the first being will cause the other to do something that the first being thinks is bad. And the second being is still responsible for doing the bad thing.

If God were to come in a way that you believed it was him and tell you these were true, that the first being was God and the second, you – could you believe it, even if it went against what you thought was possible? Or would you say, ‘Nope, You are wrong.’

I’m not asking ‘Do you believe it?’ or ‘Is it Biblical’ (which are both very important questions), I’m asking ‘Can you believe it?’

In other words, is it possible that something that seems illogical or inconceivable to you is nevertheless true?

If your answer is no, then you can stop reading my ‘both ways’ stuff. We are at an impasse. If Vox believes the answer is no, then our argument subject matter scope is greatly limited.

If your answer is yes, however, that limits the complaints that you have about my other statements.

For example – questions and qualms about God pretending to command or faking anger at disobedience should not be brought into the argument unless there is Biblical warrant for it, i.e. a bible verse that says God doesn’t ordain (choose to have happen) something that he is against. Same with :”Well, if God made me do it, It’s not a sin.”
Note: I am not saying that I have proven anything here, I am merely pointing out what is not proof against the omniderigent view.

To conclude and repeat: Saying (in response to a statement about God) ‘that doesn’t make sense to me’ isn’t a viable argument.

Someone tell me where I am wrong here.

I’m saying this because the above statements are very hard to grasp. But the Bible presents other apparent paradoxes – why not this one?

It is not wise to judge a philosophy or a theology based on the foolish things that a few of its adherents do, especially if what they do is contrary to the philosophy they say they hold. It is, however, fair to judge a philosophy or theology based on what the adherents do as a group.

Responses to Vox 

Exodus 3:7-10

In verse 9, God’s statement that “now the cry of the Israelites has reached me” clearly implies that it had not reached Him prior to that moment. I ask TRP, did God previously know about their suffering prior to hearing that cry? And at which point did He become concerned about their suffering, prior to hearing that cry or as a result of it?

I would say that God knew before creation the exact amount of suffering the Israelites would experience. He had concern for it throughout their suffering and this quote from God states that this is the time that he is going to do something about it.

Now that’s a lot, but I suspect that you are thinking that there was some suffering that God was unaware of it until this point (if not, just correct me). If you need proof that this is not the case I’ll go back to the same psalm –

Psalm 139:4 – Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

This says that God knows what we are going to say, before we say it. Assuming that any Israelite vocalized his dissatisfaction of his treatment at the hands of the Egyptians, God knew it at that point at the latest.

Another thing to add to your list of thing that God knows.

But if you don’t think God knew that the Israelites were going to suffer before it happened, you should consider Genesis 15:13 – “Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.”

And Nate, please note that this is one of the majority of God’s predictions where the thing he is predicting was to be done by someone else.

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Leviticus 18:24-28
24 “‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.

I ask TRP, is this prophetic warning an if/then statement or not? Was it possible for the Israelites to not defile the land and therefore not be driven out? If not, then why did God pretend to offer the Israelites a choice when He was actually planning to cause them to defile the land and cause it to vomit them out?

This prophetic warning was an if/then statement. From the perspective of the Israelites it was clearly possible for them not to defile the land. From God’s perspective, he knew what they were going to do, so no, in that way, it was not forever possible. But he did offer them a real choice to obey and for some time (too short) they did obey. I’m sure this warning encouraged them to obey as long as they did. And no, God was not pretending. Nor has he ever.

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Numbers 3:12-13
12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine. I am the LORD.”

The significance here requires a reference to Exodus 12:23. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

Now, who struck down the firstborn, the LORD or the destroyer? Are the LORD and the destroyer one and the same? This is an extremely important question, as it cuts to the very heart of the sovereignty issue and has important ramifications for the capacity/action aspect of the debate as well.

As I look, I see that people are unsure who the destroyer is, but I would say that the destroyer was an angel working on God’s behalf. Psalm 78:49 says it was “a band of destroying angels”. And there are several verses (Ex. 11:4-5, Ex. 12:12-13, 23, 29,Ex. 13:15,Num. 3:13,Num. 8:17,Num. 33:4,Ps. 78:51,Ps. 105:36, Ps. 135:8,Ps. 136:10) that indicate that it was God who did the work. So assuming the destroyer was not God, the correct answer to the question ‘which one’ is ‘both’. (And thanks to for Bob for helping me find these verses)

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Deuteronomy 1:26-43

Rebellion Against the LORD
26 But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. . . .

Did the people of Israel rebel against the Lord’s command or not? Was it God’s will that they rebel against Him or was it their will? Was it God’s original plan for Moses and the people of Israel to enter Canaan or did He always intend for them to die in the desert? Was God genuinely angry, or was He merely pretending to be angry for the purpose of making the puppet show seem more convincing to the puppets whose strings He was pulling?


They did rebel against the Lord’s command. Do you need me to go into the idea of the two wills of God? It was God’s permissive will that they rebel against him and it was their free will that they rebel against him. It was God’s original plan for them to die in the desert. God made it happen because it would glorify himself or help all things work together for those who love him. But the Israelites were sinful and responsible for their sin and God was genuinely angry at them for it.

Again, it’s not good enough to call these ideas crazy, illogical, or ridiculous. Show me the Bible verses that show I’m wrong.

And regarding your repeated statement that there are “literally hundreds of verses that are equally relevant and similarly supportive of the Open View position.” This comment will carry more weight when you show that these verses support your view.
 
 

For those of you just joining us – We last we heard from our heroes – Vox has just posted a set of five passages from the first five books of the bible and asked Jamsco to answer some questions about each of them. . . .

Vox, I am impressed with your list. They make a good representative of the Aprivistan viewpoint. I hope to get to all of them soon. But as you suggest, I will pick one – Genesis.

I pick this one because –
(A) It was first on your list.
(B) It requires the simplest response, and
(C) It is about this one that I am the most intrigued to see you response to my response. So:

Regarding Genesis 3:9

But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

You ask:
There are three possibilities here. Either (1)God was lying to the man about not knowing where he was, (2) He was asking rhetorical questions to which He already knew the answer, or (3) He did not know where the man was and did not know – as opposed to correctly deduced – that the man had eaten from the tree that He had commended him not to eat from. I ask TRP, which he believes to be the correct answer?

I Choose 2 – God knew where Adam was.

I know this to be the right choice, because of Psalm 139:

    7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
       Where can I flee from your presence?
    8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
       if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
    9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
       if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    10 even there your hand will guide me,
       your right hand will hold me fast.
    11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
       and the light become night around me,”
    12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
       the night will shine like the day,
       for darkness is as light to you.

Maybe you should add this to your list of things that God knows: God sees where people are.

And I’ll request this in advance this time: Vox, when you respond, don’t just say I’m crazy. Tell us specifically how you read the passages (Genesis and Psalms).

===

I’d like to point out that Bethyada has said in the comments that we should choose one topic. I agree that Vox and I have been all of over the place. I hope that choosing one bible passage to focus on narrows our scope a little.

Also, Dominic says that I haven’t made many strong proactive arguments. I agree that at this point I have been mostly reacting to Vox’s unique theology. I hope to remedy this soon.

There is a strange similarity between omniderigistes and the New Atheists. Both groups take a small number of specific Bible verses, assign one reasonable interpretation to them, and then argue that it is the only possible interpretation in defiance of numerous equally possible alternatives that are better supported by historical facts, logic and other Bible verses.
– Vox Day 11/22/2007

In fact, this is also a very good example of the very omniderigiste/atheist error that I mentioned in my first post on the matter:

1. Take a Bible verse
2. Assign a possible meaning to it.
3. Insist this is the ONLY possible meaning, even when the meaning doesn’t make sense. (In this case, the problem is apparent a priori, but usually it is only evident when considered in context with other, contradictory verses.)
4. Ignore all other plausible interpretations, especially more logical and Biblically supported ones.

– Vox Day 11/26/2007

Omniderigent logic is atheist logic.
– Vox Day 11/27/2007 (Comments)

After wading through a lot of atheist logic, I’ve come to realize the inherent connections between omniderigence and atheist thinking.
– Vox Day 11/27/2007 (Comments)

Vox – Your readers and I are clear that this is what you think. We get it. At least I do, and despite what you say, your readers have pretty good reading comprehension, even the ones who disagree with you. So in case you were thinking about using it as part of your response to my next post, a word to the wise: Maybe four times in a week is enough.

This is not to say that you have given any evidence to support this claim. Regarding Free Will – show me where I have denied that humans have it.

And regarding the series of four steps listed above. Vox, are you aware that this is what anyone thinks about anyone else who uses the Bible to disagree with them? Don’t you find it coincidental that you think this of the two groups you have primarily spent your time debating religious matters with?

Vox puts in a quick jab.

I would have thought that he knew me well enough by now to know that it is always a mistake to confuse any slowness in showing my cards with a poor or nonexistent hand.

Hey, Mr. Reading Comprehension! I showed no such confusion. Indeed I mentioned that I was aware “that other bible passages would be brought up to challenge” compatiblism.

And he says regarding my biblical interpretation:
The point is that that the quoted verses only state what God CAN do with regards to these subjects, not what He IS ALWAYS DOING. In other words, they are a statement about CAPACITY and not about ACTION.

I guess I’ll ask for a point of clarification. Do you actually believe that God CAN do this? Do you believe he DOES do this? If so, how? (Yes, I know, you don’t know exactly – take a stab at it!) How do you picture God acting in the way this Bible passage says.
Oh, and

Hey, Mr. Biblical Awareness (AKA Nate)!

I don’t generally comment on Vox’s comments section, but –
 
Re: “Consider Jesus’s healings. If God was controlling everything… then one must conclude that God made those people sick. So then Jesus’ healings were refuting the Will of God. Or God made them ill specificly to give Jesus the opportunity to heal them. I’m hoping no one seriously holds this view but if so… well… I’ll point and laugh.”

Have you ever read John 9?

The long awaited moment has come – Vox Day has responded to my post and for his first shot he quotes from his new book – The Irrational Atheist.

In the highlighted section, he responds to an argument posited by one of the New Atheists, Richard Dawkins:

“If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent.”

I agree with Vox – this is a silly and superficial argument. All one need do to counter it is to remind the reader that God is outside of time and the conflict is removed. But I think Vox highlighted this argument to give him an opportunity in his book to show that he is no Calvinist.

Here is a section from Vox’s response, but you can read it all here:

First, it is important to note that the Christian God, the god towards whom Dawkins directs the great majority of his attacks, makes no broad claims to omniscience. Although there are eighty-seven references to the things that the biblical God knows, only a single example could potentially be interpreted as a universal claim to complete knowledge.

Among the things that God claims to know are the following: He knows the way to wisdom and where it dwells, he knows the day of the wicked is coming, he knows the secrets of men’s hearts, he knows the thoughts of men and their futility. He knows the proud from afar, he knows what lies in darkness, and he knows what you need before you ask him. He knows the Son, he knows the day and the hour that the heavens and the earth shall pass away, he knows the mind of the Spirit and that the Apostle Paul loved the Corinthians. He knows who are his, he knows how to rescue godly men from trials, and perhaps most importantly, he knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.

Now it should be noted, that for purposes of his book, Vox need only show that it is possible to remove the conflict in the paradox posed by the atheist. Vox’s response works to meet this goal. But our goal here is to learn the biblical truth about God.

(There is a fairly significant omission to his list of things God knows, I think: God knows, indeed he knew from creation, the names of all of the elect. We can see this in more than one spot – notably Ephesians 1: 3-6 and 1 Peter 1: 2)

Then in response to my question: What would it take for you to believe that God is in control to the degree that I am arguing – Vox responds:

(2) A significant rewriting of the Bible which eliminates all of the many obvious implications and outright demonstrations that God is not actively managing every single Earthly event and individual action.

And then he goes on . .

There is a strange similarity between omniderigistes and the New Atheists. Both groups take a small number of specific Bible verses, assign one reasonable interpretation to them, and then argue that it is the only possible interpretation in defiance of numerous equally possible alternatives that are better supported by historical facts, logic and other Bible verses.

There is some irony here in that Vox is slow to give his own bible verses. The passages referred to above do not in any way prove that his interpretation is true, he can only use them to show that his interpretation is possible.

I ask Vox – how many Bible passages do you want? You can find them more than a few in my “Both Ways” category and I will be giving more presently. But I send the challenge back.

Please show me the ‘outright demonstrations’ where God is not actively managing what goes on in our world.

I talked with Pastor Piper a few weeks back about this online debate that I was going to be having, specifically to ask him about a bible passage which is challenging to the Compatibleist viewpoint, and he warned me that other bible passages would be brought up to challenge it. So I am interested to see which approach you will take.

But to show that I know the requirement to use Bible verses goes both ways, here is a passage that we studied in our Adult Sunday School Class yesterday: 1 Samuel 2: 6-8

6 “The LORD brings death and makes alive;
       he brings down to the grave [c] and raises up.
7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
       he humbles and he exalts.
8 He raises the poor from the dust
       and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
       he seats them with princes
       and has them inherit a throne of honor.
       “For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;
       upon them he has set the world.

This says that God has controls how much wealth individual people have. Vox, wouldn’t you say that this is evidence that God has an active roll in what happens on earth? You will say that you read it differently. I am curious as to how.

If you don’t believe that God controls (ordains, wills, is behind, causes) sin, I’d like to hear how you can read the twenty one verse book of Obadiah and not get from it these two main truths.

1. God is aware of the great evil done by the nation of Edom.
2. God’s chosen punishment is going to be sinful acts done against Edom.

A New Short Story

I sure would like some feedback on this:

1. Can you figure out what this is about?

2. While I know this is extrabiblical, do you think it unbiblical in any way?

3. How do you like the writing style/content?

 Tormenter – Part 1

“Oh. . . . I see” thought Knifeweed, or at least he was beginning to. Normally his direct supervisor was . . . well, delighted was perhaps too positive a word to describe the emotion. Positively Challenged? Made proud? In any case, his supervisor (Japeskim – regional vice president for this part of Asia) usually jumped at the chance to work directly with the Chief. And there were so many intriguing works to be done in the immediate service of their father below; the carrying out of a curse, for example, the punishment of an incompetent or insubordinate senior manager (the higher the better), or special torment of a human.

But this time, his supervisor had found a plausible, demonstrably reasonable, but (at it’s core) untrue excuse for avoiding an appearance (and subsequent handling of a project) with their chief executive, and asked (some would say ordered) Knifeweed to do the job for him.

In other words, Satan had demanded, Japeskim had begged off, and now Knifeweed found himself in a place that he had never been before – in Satan’s direct presence.

Normally he would have been . . . well, again, pleased was too positive a word . . . inspired by the potential strengthening effect this might bring to his career? Sure, that would work. Who knew? If he did his job well, on whatever this assignment was (of course Japeskim had been very vague – but he had mentioned murder as a significant possibility, and who wouldn’t want to be tasked with that?) he could potentially be positioned higher in the ranks, higher than Japeskim even, a lovely thought. Japeskim was no fool – he had to be aware of this possibility. So what was up?

But it was only minutes after the interview with the chief that step one of the project assignment was laid out: the initial meeting with the Almighty. Wait a second. . . What was that, again?

So now he was beginning to understand. Japeskim was risking damage to his career, but most would say that he was doing so wisely. No demon in his right mind would willingly choose to be anywhere near a meeting of their chief with their creator. Nothing good could come of that. Anything they learned from the Rejected King always turned out to be a curse to the demon that learned it. Any new goal set before them, no matter how much potential it looked to have, always turned out to be, again, a curse for the demon that did it. How could their chief not see this? Why did he persist?

Obviously he did see it. Obviously he had unspoken (or spoken only to a few) motivations. But Knifeweed would almost certainly never be privy to these. His mind began to pound with the thought of being so near the One who had cast them down, the One who was so cruelly able to have his way with them. . .

Now Satan was mentioning, almost casually, that Knifeweed would not actually be with him in the searing, glaring light of the presence of the head of the triune. No, he would wait some distance off, in the outer court. A minor consolation, but still a consolation. The Supreme Knower would, of course, be aware of his presence – he knows everything – but at least Knifeweed wouldn’t have to face him. Only (curse his ears!) listen.

At the end of the assignment briefing, Knifeweed bowed his head, and left. He had three human days before the Meeting, so he had some time to prepare, but what does one do to prepare for this? And the answer came back: Nothing.

So all that this extra time provided was the prospect of no rest and no peace for the next seventy two hours. But such is life for a demon, so how could he complain?
==

“Had I not predicted this?”  thought Knifeweed three days later. His spirit was still shaking after the meeting with the King of Kings, but at least he had calmed down significantly during the debriefing with the Chief.

This phase of his assignment was clear. Japeskum had been correct; Murder it was. Several, in fact, and they had been given much latitude, indeed it was surprising the freedom that the Rejected King had given them. And it looked to be a pleasurable and relatively easy endeavor.

Could this be some kind of trap? Almost certainly not. The Almighty was always above board. Disturbingly so.

But he knew well that the job that he was now leaving to do was just the surface of what was happening here. In the debriefing, the chief had focused almost exclusively on What Was To Be Done Now, ignoring the meeting’s subtext, the underlying and more important (and thus the expectedly unsaid) truth, that what they did here would be of no significant avail.

It was almost as if Satan wanted to pretend that Knifeweed hadn’t heard the extremely illuminating conversation he’d had with the Almighty. He supposed that one could argue that the Almighty hadn’t stated outright that the Human in question would stand firm in his faith and thus it was perhaps possible that he would falter. But Knifeweed was of the mind that one would only argue this who had merely, for example, read the text of the conversation, and not heard the father-like tone of certainty regarding the spiritual state of the man in question. And what fool would suggest that the Almighty might be predicting incorrectly? Did he not know the beginning from the end?

No, the man would not be turned, Knifeweed was certain, and he was pretty sure that Satan was certain of this as well, based on the solemnity and non-celebratory nature of the debriefing. It was an unstated, neglected fact that the normal primary goal of what they were about to do was not to be met. Of course there were secondary goals. The man’s wife held some promise. Even before the meeting’s revelations they could have guessed that she was less spiritually stable than the man. And what of the man’s associates?

This was not even to mention the piercing pleasure of the actual acts that they were loosed to accomplish. Terror, Sorrow, Bloodshed, the rending of flesh, screams of pain and the snuffing of (well, relatively speaking, of course) innocent life. But even the lowest among them were taught that this emotional reward, despite the joy it brought, was not to be the end of their goals. “We mustn’t be so shortsighted.”

Knifeweed grunted as he thought of it. Unfortunately, due to the knowledge that they had been given, shortsightedness was all they were allowed, at least with respect to the honorable man. He was his Father’s and that was that. So now he must accomplish the pleasant duty.

So that evening (as the humans of that region reckoned it) he took out his sword, walked past the servants of the King (with no small amount of trepidation, despite the promises the Rejected King had given them and the restrictions he had placed on these servants,) entered the bedroom of the Sabean prince and watched as his eyes opened with wakefulness and hatred as the demon placed the word into his mind: “Attack”

And, no, I’m not referring to missing a day yesterday, posting-wise, which was itself a gravely derelict action on my part.

No, I should have mentioned this, from Vox Day,  a while ago.

In any event, the Biblical metric for judgment is the fruit of one’s actions, not the human authority’s approval of one’s dogma. The most telling aspect of the debate between Greg Boyd and one of his foremost critics was the appallingly bad behavior of that critic, for which he subsequently apologized. Greg’s not perfect, I vehemently disagree with him on a few issues on which I believe he is using his heart rather than his head. But Open Theory is not one of them, and with very few exceptions, I’ve found the contrary case to not only be unconvincing, but downright embarrassing. 

Hint: if your argument involves making obviously inaccurate assertions and appeals to human authority, it isn’t going to cut it. The Responsible Puppet – whose very name betrays his position on OT – knows that, which is why we will be getting into this issue next month, once I’m done with TIA.

A few comments:

1.  I thanks him for the sideways compliment.

2. I have yet to see the evidence that Greg Boyd’s Foremost Opponents (or “one of them”, at least) has behaved appallingly. I am doubtful that any exists, unless you think that stating that someone who has a significantly wrong view of the Nature of God should not be a teacher is appalling, which I don’t. 

3. We’ll be doing this in August? What, Already? Okay, Okay, he’s writing a book, I know.

4. I look forward to the challenge, next month. I also have some amount of trepidation about it. As we all know, Vox is formidible.

All honest prayer is good. But some kinds require more belief, or a different kind of trust in order to pray them.  

1. Praying for something which, if the prayer is granted, you will never know it.           

     Several years ago, I prayed out loud for an ambulance as it was driving by with flashing lights and siren (Prayer for wisdom for the caregivers, peace and healing for the patient.) Since then, we cannot see an ambulance without one of my kids telling me that I should pray. So I always do. And we will never know any details about what happens to the people in the ambulance. 

2. Praying for someone who doesn’t know that you are praying for them

     I think there is great value in telling someone who is going through some difficult ordeal that you are praying for them. But I fear that there are times when, in my mind, this is the only value. I think it is wise to try not telling them and see if we are still inspired to pray, not just for the nice feeling that someone will think well of us because we are praying for them. 

3. Praying for something which, if the prayer is granted, will make your life harder           

     That your missionary calling will be confirmed, that the adoption will go through, that you get the tough job, that you will be broken of some sin.         

4. Praying for something that is unlikely to happen (The Obvious One)    

     It’s easy to pray “That I will do my best on my finals” (but like I say, it’s still good to pray for this) It is less easy to pray for healing for a man who has been given 3 months to live.                       

5. Praying for something about an event that has already happened.   

     This one I think is a bit controversial. Let’s say you get an email from a missionary who sent it on Friday, asking for specific prayer for a big Christian evangelism outreach meeting on Saturday. But you don’t get it until Monday. The meeting has already happened, but, as a Calvinist/hyper-compatibleist I think it is still wise to pray for it, because God, who is in some way outside of time, will know about the prayer and use it just as he would use the prayer that had been made before the meeting. My thought, though, is that an Arminian, or at least an open theist, wouldn’t think this to be wise, because, God doesn’t know what you’re going to pray, so how can he use it? Comments? 

Any suggestions for other extra faith requiring prayer types?

So after yesterdays disclaimer, I have two more today. . .

Disclaimer 1. By calling this theological idea Tolkien, I am not saying he would agree with it. While I think there is some evidence (particularly at the end of book 4) that he might have gone in for this thinking I think there is a also pretty good likelihood that he would chuckle at the ideas that I am about to suggest. I’ve read his book many times, but I don’t know his theology. Nor am I saying that what I point out here only happens in the best fiction book ever written. I call it Tolkien Theology because I think about it every time I read his works.

Oh, and here’s the second disclaimer – LOTR Spoiler alert!

Okay, now I guess I’m really ready to start this treatise.

“God doesn’t cause sin or tragedy, he allows it, and then he uses bad things that happen as a result of it.” This is the Free Will’er Mantra. “God used 9/11, God used Columbine, God will use Virginia tech. God will use Hurricane Katrina. But he had nothing to do with any of them happening.”

Do I have this correct, Armenians? If not, let me know.

As anyone knows who has read the book, bad things happen in the Lord of the Rings. Good people die. Others experience long hardship. There is betrayal. There is murder.
And here is the intriguing part: These bad things are all required for the better things to happen.

The best example is the capture and forced march and threat of torture and death for Merry and Pippin. They suffered greatly. It was evil. It was horrible. But it was also required.

As Gandalf says of Saruman and The Dark Lord:

“And so between them our enemies have managed to bring Merry and Pippin, with marvelous speed, and only in the nick of time, to Fangorn, where otherwise they would never have come at all”

So this evil happened for a reason. It wasn’t just bad and something that had to be turned around for the good.

There are other examples of this (bad being required for good to happen). I will mention just one. Many times Gollum, the murderer, the betrayer, the deceiver, is near death but due to luck or mercy, he is allowed to live. It was not just. He didn’t deserve life. But he hadn’t stayed alive even as he tormented Frodo and Sam in their last desperate journey, there would have been no happy ending. The Lord of the Rings would have taken back the One at Mount Doom and all would have been lost.

So Tolkein didn’t just use the evil deeds that the enemies of Gondor did (“Well, that’s too bad, but let’s see what we can do with it”), he wrote them to do these deeds because the deeds were necessary.

So here is the question. Is our God in as much control of our universe as Tolkein was of his? Can it be that some evil in our world is not just put up with by God or used by God but something he requires or ordains in order that a greater good will happen?

Is your God more or less sovereign that a human author?

You say, “But Merry and Pippin and Gandalf were just characters. They weren’t real. I’m not fictional.” Yes, it’s as I suspect. One significant reason you Armenians don’t like the “God is really sovereign” plan is because it makes humans seem too low. We humans are real! We are important! We are self actualized! We have free will!

But be sure of this. The degree that our Infinite God is more ‘real’ (transcendant, self-existing, actualized, on a higher plane) than us finite humans is greater than the degree that a human author is more real than his characters.

It’s time to consider whether or not this is true.

I have noted a problem with my defense of Calvinism in general and hyper-compatibleism specifically. Most of my apologetics here have the main point that God is shown in the Bible to cause (or ordain, or is behind, or wills) evil. My thought is that this is a pretty dark thing to dwell on.

 

I would like to dwell on the fact that every good thing that ever happens or was ever created or seen by a human is/was also willed by God. And that it is God who saves all. And that God is sovereign over all creation, eternally.

 

But this part is not the part that most people have problems with. They don’t like the “God is Sovereign” view because insofar as it pins what they might call the blame for bad stuff on God, it makes God look bad, or so they think. And God is not bad. So they reject it, despite it being biblical.

 

So that’s the part I find myself defending. Oh well. And another is coming tomorrow.

 

But to just to dwell on the positive side of the Sovereignty of God how about something from the end of Roman 11. . . .

 

Who has known the mind of the Lord?

Or who has been His counselor?

Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?

For from Him and through Him and to Him are ALL things.

To Him be glory for ever. Amen!

 

Three different times in the last six months I have been in theological discussions in which the person with Armenian viewpoint has pointed to the book of Job as excellent evidence that God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. “God isn’t behind the evil that happens to Job – Satan is. Anyone who says that God ordains evil (like Augustine, for example) is blaspheming.”

 

They don’t even have to point to any verses. Everyone knows the story of Job. It’s good enough to just throw out the book’s name as iron clad proof of their cause.

 

I have gained a new appreciation for Job in the last few years, especially last fall when I read it out loud to all of my kids. There is a lot of good and helpful theology there.

 

And after a little study, I can’t see how a God-Isn’t-Behind-Evil person could put forth Job as a good proof text, assuming they have actually read it somewhat carefully. But it’s great for a God-is-Sovereign type.

 

But they suggest I look there. Okay. I did. How about Chapter 1 verse 21 where Job (a pretty righteous guy) says “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised”

Or How about chapter 2 verse 10 where Job says “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”

Hmmm.

 

What’s that, Job might be wrong? That’s the challenge with the whole book of Job, isn’t it? Much is said by several different people and we know that some of them are way off. But the inspired writer helps us out with Job, because it says at the end of 2:10 that Job didn’t sin in what he said.

 

But maybe he’s not sinning, maybe he’s just wrong, you say. Well, how about where the inspired writer of Job in chapter 42 (the last) where, in verse 11, it says that Job’s family comforted him “over all the trouble the Lord had brought upon him.”

 

And then there is the large part just before that section (chapters 38-41) where God lists all of the different things on earth (some of them quite dark) that he displays his power by controlling?

 

I wonder if Augustine had just read the book of Job when he wrote that stuff the Armenians don’t like.

 

The hyper-compatibleist in me is grateful that the book of Job exists. Both God and Satan are behind what happens to Job. Yes, this supports that position well.

I have mentioned the idea of the Two Wills of God and my thought is that there are some (Armenians, Free Willies) who scoff at the notion. 

Here is a quick summary: 

The Perfect Will of God – What God would want to happen if there was no sin in the world or if the earth wasn’t fallen. What God wants people to do. 

The Permissive Will of God – what God ordains (causes) to happen, even though it is evil.

It is with the Permissive Will (or my definition of it) that I think an Armenian would have problems. They would say – Don’t say he causes the bad stuff – say instead that he allows it. 

So. . . how about a proof text for my definition of these two wills? 

“For He (the LORD) does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:32 I would read this to mean – It is not God’s will that humans are grieved or afflicted. So far so good.

 

So given this verse, here goes the argument:

 

Arminian: See now, here’s proof of what I’m saying. You Calvinists say that God causes bad things to happen. But look at that verse. If God doesn’t will it, then he won’t cause it to happen. If it happens that a person is grieved, don’t blame it on God, because it says right here that it isn’t his will.

 

Jamsco: No, the will spoken of here is God’s Perfect Will. He (with his Permissive will) may ordain, or cause people to be grieved even though it is against his Perfect will.

 

Armenian: You are only saying that because you need to as a Calvinist. If you say that God doesn’t actually cause bad things to happen then all of your Sovereignty talk falls apart.

 

Jamsco: You are correct, it would. But this isn’t why I say it. I say it because it’s biblical. The bible clearly states that God causes grief, even though.

 

Armenian: You might find a verse that you can twist around to sound like it says something like that, but not clearly stated.

 

Jamsco: Well, what about “Although He (God) causes grief, he will have compassion”

 

Armenian: Did you add that emphasis?

 

Jamsco: I did.

 

Armenian: Ha! I thought so, because I was pretty sure there’s no bolding in the original Greek or Hebrew. In any case, you must be getting that verse from some completely different context.

Jamsco: Not so. Do you want to know where I got that verse?

Armenian: Yes . . . Uh-oh, Why are you grinning so smugly like that, you weasel?

Jamsco: Because that verse is Lamentations 3:31 – the verse directly before the first one. So it is clear that while it is not God’s will that Grief should happen, he still causes it to happen. So there must be two kinds of will. Q.E.D.

Armenian: <Here the transcription ends because, honestly, Jamsco doesn’t know what the Armenian would say next. But he would love to hear from any arguer, Armenian or otherwise, with what they would say.>

. . . and while I was away, my brother in law showed me a book by DA Carson that he thought I might find interesting. He was correct.

I think this DA Carson link (from Chapter 11 “The Mystery of Providence” in the book “How Long O Lord”) is from a different book than the one he showed me, but in it he defines compatibleism in the following way:

      The Bible as a whole, and sometimes in specific texts, presupposes or teaches that both of the following propositions are true: 

1. God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in such a way that human responsibility is curtailed, minimized, or mitigated.

2. Human beings are morally responsible creatures—they significantly choose, rebel, obey, believe, defy, make decisions, and so forth, and they are rightly held accountable for such actions; but this characteristic never functions so as to make God absolutely contingent. 

And Yes, he gives many Bible References. I like it. And while the Hyper-Compatibleist in me thinks it doesn’t go far enough (see that definition here) I still appreciate seeing the seemingly conflicting double statement posited so precisely.

I hope you had a God-Glorifying Resurrection Sunday.

A friend of mine who is a baptist associate pastor in Beautiful Door County Wisconsin, sent me a sermon entitled “Know the Landowner”. You can see the entire sermon here, but I was most interested in this section (regarding 1 Kings 14-16).

Jeroboam was the first king of
Israel (after the kingdom divides). He was a wicked king. So God, through a prophet, tells him that because of his evil ways that God is going to destroy his house, meaning that he is going to kill all of Jeroboam’s descendents. When Jeroboam dies, his son Nadab becomes king, but after only two years he is killed by a man named Baasha, who then takes the throne. And then—not surprisingly–Baasha proceeds to kill the entire household of Jeroboam—and thus fulfills the prophecy made by God.But then we see in 1 Kings 16 that Baasha is also a wicked king, and that because of his wickedness God pronounces that his house—Baasha’s house—will also be destroyed. And what exactly was the evil that Baasha did that brings about God’s judgment against him? 1 Kings 16:7 tells us: it was because he became like the house of Jeroboam and also because he destroyed it. Baasha was to be held responsible for the wickedness of destroying Jeroboam’s children—even though God’s planned this punishment for Jeroboam. In other words, God can plan and ordain that something happen and then hold responsible those who committed evil in carrying it out. He can—without committing any evil himself–ordain Jeroboam’s punishment and then use Baasha to execute that punishment, and then hold Baasha responsible for the evil of executing Jeroboam’s children. How do you feel about that? How does your mind react when you see this picture of God? By the way, there are more and clearer examples of this in the Bible—I actually chose one of the more obscure ones.

Huh. So . . .

(1) God causes (my friend uses the more precise word ‘ordains’) Baasha to kill Jeraboam’s children, but nevertheless
(2) holds Baasha responsible and punishes him for the sinful act of killing.

Yes, this sounds very compatibleist. Thanks Peter.

An admirable trait of the Hyper-Compatibleist theology (and here is the bold and perhaps soon to be proven false statement) is that all of the biblical proof texts of both side of the debate work as proof texts for this one.

(Again I will state that I am not at all entirely sure that Hyper-compatiblism is Biblical. This is partly why I am putting out this challenge, to see how easy it is to prove it wrong)

A little review for those who have just joined us – Hyper-Compatibleist (HC) theology states two things:

(A) Everything that happens in God’s universe is a result of His specific and designed choice And a part of his plan that he created before he created the universe. This (“Everything”) includes a drop of water falling, a human sinning, an earthquake killing thousands and a star going supernova. Also, and importantly it includes each human’s choice to embrace or deny Christ.
(B) Every human act is a result of his (the Human’s) specific and designed choice, for which he is responsible. Again, importantly this includes the person’s choice to embrace or deny Christ.*
 
The reason that proof texts from both sides work as proof texts for this one is because the proof texts for the Free Willies (I would call them Arminians, but this is what one of them instructed me to call them) are all proofs that Humans make their own decisions even the one to accept Christ (Agreed to by HC) and the proof texts for Calvinists are all proofs that God causes things to happen including human choices and especially the human choice to accept Christ (Agreed to be HC.) With HC-ism no longer is it possible to say that a verse that says that humans are responsible is evidence that God doesn’t control what humans do, or vice versa.

But here is the Challenge – find the anti-HC proof text.

This would come in one of two ways. The less likely would be a verse that suggested that humans are not responsible for their sins, or for things they do. Something that says, “it wasn’t that guy (some biblical figure’s, or group of human’s) fault.”

But more likely would be a passage in the Bible where it is said of God (or God says of himself) that He didn’t do it. Something like where God says, “Don’t blame me for that happening” or “That is not the Lord’s doing.”

Again, I must admit that I don’t know for certain that there isn’t a verse like this in the bible. I read through the bible last year and tried to take note. I have, in fact, found a passage that seems to me to fit the more likely criteria, but I will address that at another time.

But to anyone who doubts this theology, can you think of a verse that counters HCism (Not Humans fault / Not God’s fault) ?

Before you put a verse or ten down – two things:

1. If you are thinking ____ 8:11 and following, read it again. It does not say what you remember it to say. (I would put the name of the book but I have learned a debate rule, to wit: if you think you know how someone is going to counter your argument, avoid the temptation of stating it outright, at least make them come up with it themselves.)

2. Do not put down verses that talk about God’s will. I am on record of believing in two kinds of God’s will – His Permissive Will and His Perfect Will.

* Note that the first part (A) is offensive to Free Willies and the second part (B) . . . well, at the very least the second part causes true Calvinists to furrow their brow.

So God would never cause a person to sin and then hold him responsible for it, would he? That would be really unfair. God’s not like that!

But what about the first chapters of Exodus where multiple times it says that God hardened Pharoah’s heart.

But the answer comes back to me “Well, maybe we shouldn’t call it sin, because God forced him to do it.”

I answer in two ways: Firstly, God clearly punishes him and the whole nation of Egypt as a result of his actions. So it looks like God is holding him responsible.

 

But secondly, and more clearly, in Exodus 9:

Vs 12 God Harden’s Pharaoh’s Heart – he refuses to let them go.

Vs 23 – God send Hail – to show that there is none like Him

Vs 27 – Pharaoh admits his own ‘sin’

Vs 29 – God says he will stop the hail

Vs 34 – Pharaoh ‘sinned again’: He hardened his heart.

 

So if he sinned ‘again’ then he was sinning the other times, when it says that God hardened his heart. So hardening his heart was sin. And God caused it.

 

Clear enough?

In Which Jamsco Finally Brings the Argument 

For those of you who aren’t here as linked from Vox Day , you may wonder why I have his blog linked off to the side there. If you have clicked there (as I see that more than a few of you have) you may have been offended by some of the more, shall we say, coarse entries that you have found there. But one of the reasons I created this blog was to, over time, attempt to deal with the criticism that he and others have made of people who believe that God controls the world. So here we go.  

In his blog, just under three years ago, Vox Day wrote a blog entry entitled “The Problem of Evil.” (Let me just state that it is possible that he has changed or softened some of the following views in the intervening time, but he has, of late, given me good reason to believe that he still holds to most of them.) In this entry, he gave his answer to the “oft-asked question of why bad things happen to good people” posited to him in this way: 

The Bible is a beautifully written work of fiction. I always wonder where was this caring, all powerful God or Supreme Being when the Nazis were in power? When slavery was taking place? Where was he? 

Vox started out well, saying:I am not a theologian and I am not particularly well-versed in theology. I postulate that human understanding cannot fully comprehend or explain God, and so my conclusions are, at best, barely educated guesses. I do not know the fullness of the truth and neither does any other human being, past or present, with one notable exception. . . . . In other words, argue with me all you like, but there’s no point in getting upset about it – save that for something on which we can have a more substantive debate.  

This humility is wise, as it is certain that no human fully understand the nature of God. He also tends to keep to his word and doesn’t get overly disturbed by someone bringing a criticism to him in a non-offensive manner. And I appreciate his willingness to tackle reasons that people give for unbelief. He does this often, and it is my strong belief that he has done good in this regard. But he continues- 

With that out of the way, let me state that I believe the common Christian notion that God is in complete control of the world, that He has a specific plan for our individual lives, that He guides our every step and orchestrates every incident we encounter is one of the most Satanically damaging concepts ever invented by the forces of darkness. I believe that this notion is logically and Biblically flawed, and has an evil effect on both Christians and nonbelievers alike.  

Strong words. 

My reasoning is as follows: 1. Neither omnipotence nor omniscience imply omniderigence, or to put it more casually, uber control freakdom. If you inquire as to why most Christians believe that God is in control, they will state that He is all-powerful and all-knowing and has made the Heavens and the Earth.  

This is, of course, not all that a competent Calvinist debater will state. In fact, I have not heard these truths given as proofs, but perhaps Vox has. 

They sometimes cite the verse relating to knowledge of sparrows. But knowing when a sparrow falls does not imply striking it dead, nor does the possession of power indicate its use. Nor does making something imply active maintenance – does
Toyota change your oil?

 Vox sounds a little deistic here. My Bible (NIV) says the sparrow won’t fall without the WILL of the father (Matthew 10:29), but perhaps Vox uses a different translation (and the Greek is a little vague in this verse.) It is also true to say that having strength does not imply continually using it. But, again, it is a poor debater who would only bring up the sparrow verse. 

2. Jesus Christ would not have taught us to pray that God’s Will be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven, unless God’s Will was not being done here on Earth. 3. There are numerous instances in the Old Testament where
Israel and others go against God’s Will. Therefore, it is possible for humans to act in opposition to God, without him dictating their actions. Furthermore, the very notion of Lucifer’s Fall indicates strongly that God is not in control of all things.

 Now we get to the crux of the matter. 

If Vox has not heard of the concept of the two (or more, but for the purposes here, we can keep it to two) kinds of Wills of God – His Permissive will and his Perfect will, I can attend to this subject later, or point him to others who have said it better than I could. But for now I will state that there are clear passages in the Bible which state that God has willed (caused, or to put it less strongly, ordained) an occurrence of something that he disapproved of. 

This is very challenging and often not very palatable, but still Biblically provable. 

4. Jesus Christ does not argue with Satan when Satan offers him the nations of the world. Instead, he rejects the offer. The clear implication is that the nations of the world were Satan’s to give. This is supported by Jesus and Paul’s later references to the god of this world being distinct from the God that is the Heavenly Father.  

Agreed (Largely) but I don’t see how this adds to his point. 

5. Jesus Christ says that Satan has no hold on him, presumably because he has not sinned. Therefore, Satan does have a hold on everyone who has sinned, namely, the rest of us on the planet.  

Again, agreed. We are fallen. Satan can tempt us. Satan failed to tempt Jesus. 

6. Jesus Christ’s command to follow his own example of healing the sick and raising the dead indicates that neither sickness or death are God’s Will for individual humans or humanity as a whole.  

At the very least, Vox needs to add here the phrase “in certain situations.” Because it is clear that God causes sickness as punishment in many cases in the Bible. But again, when a person becomes diseased for reasons other than punishment, this is against God’s perfect will, but not his permissive will. 

7. For reasons beyond our ken, God requires humans to act as conduits for acting on this planet. This is why Satan hates Christians so passionately, as they represent the beachhead of divine power which will eventually overthrow his rule of this fallen world.  

Again, agreed. And this has been God’s will from before creation. 

Based on these and other reasons, I have concluded that it is a massive error to blame God for evils such as National Socialism, slavery and the designated hitter.  

Wait now, I thought Vox didn’t care about baseball. But he continues . . 

These are human creations, enthusiastically cheered on by the reigning ruler of the planet, who seeks nothing less than the total destruction of mankind.  . .  Satan is not only evil, but he is a deceiver. And what deception could be more useful than to lead people into believing that all the evil of the world is caused by the only power that can ameliorate their suffering?  

One deception that could be useful to Satan (more so than this Truth) is that God sees bad things happening to people, thinks of them as bad and is powerless or unwilling to stop them. 

In summary, I believe that these evils exist because the world is ruled by a sadistic supernatural serial killer who is vehemently opposed to God. Only those who turn to Jesus Christ have the ability to stand against this terrible usurper and his minions, which is why despite all of the many shortcomings of the Christian church, some of the greatest evils of the world have been brought to an end – temporarily, I suspect – by Christians, including the two examples that you cited. This is why prayer matters, why faith is so massively important, and why Jesus Christ said his sacrifice would set us free.  

Again, I agree with all of this. But it says nothing about whether or not it is God’s will that evil happens. 

My understanding is without question incomplete, but I believe that it is more in accordance with both the world and the Word than the shallow, ominously-smiling Sunday School teaching that God wants little Bobby to go through chemo, little Susy to be born addicted to heroin and little Schmuly to die in a gas chamber because it’s good for them. Where was God? My guess – and that’s all it is – is that He was watching with tears in His eyes and waiting for someone to stand in the gap between Divine Heaven and Fallen Earth to be a conduit for His power to end the evil.  

A few comments here. (A) Vox appears to think that showing that Satan is very powerful and that the world is in his grip is enough to show that there is a biblical case that God is not in control. But He has not made this case. (B) No one argues that these bad things happen because they are, of themselves, good for the victims. (C) God never ‘waits’ in the way Vox puts it here. God is not passive. He orchestrates. He works. His creation is continual. (D) Vox doesn’t need to guess. It’s all there in the Bible, if he is willing to look at it. 

Now, I should make it clear that I have also, here, not (yet) made a good biblical case for what I am arguing. I have not really shown that Vox is wrong as much as I have shown that he may be wrong. But there is more to come. And in any case, that’s what this blog is for. So . . . more bible verses are on the way. 

In conclusion, I want to ask Vox, and those who are of his bent, two questions:

 

(1) Do you think there are as many as two hundred bible that speak of the majesty of God over all creation (as King, Ruler, etc.) or do you think there are only one hundred verses? 

(2) What would it take for you to believe that God is in control to the degree that I am arguing? I hope you are not thinking – I won’t believe it until it feels right.

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