Tuesday, March 03, 2009

This world is a mess. Why doesn't the Creator intervene?

Our world is a mess; it has been a mess for millennia. Whether due to natural causes or personal choices, whether on the front page or hidden in the darkness, evil runs amok with restraint running behind, playing catch up. A theist of any honesty whatsoever must wonder, even if silently, what the Creator is up to while the world slowly self-destructs.

Genesis 1 says that the Creator made humanity in his own image (imago Dei). While we struggle to understand what this means, it at least means that by design humanity is glorious and responsible, just like God. Looking around at culture or listening to the daily news, humanity as imago Dei seems a far-fetched dream, for we are a mess and years of trying have not solved even our basic problems. We need help from the Creator, but he so often seems far away.

Some think that the Creator, because he has the power, should swoop down and magically fix us, yet he has not done so. Why? If we assume the Creator is good and has our good in mind, then there must be a just cause behind his apparent inaction. In this post, I offer a cause for your consideration: such a bold, unilateral intervention would violate his creative design of humanity as imago Dei. If it is true that the Creator made humans responsible beings by giving us real choice--the choice to trust him or to trust ourselves--then humanity justly bears the burden of that choice.

As a race we have chosen to trust ourselves and that has caused no end of trouble. When we trust ourselves as if we were gods, we willfully, intentionally set ourselves off from the Creator, the only source of life and good. In trusting ourselves, we offend him, the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, and make ourselves his enemies. Now, a sovereign must deal with enemies; they cannot be patted on the head and told, "There, there, you're not that bad are you?" No! Either enemies must become friends or they must be removed. If they are not willing to become friends, then they have chosen, by their own will, to be enemies, disconnected from the Sovereign. Since life is in the Sovereign Creator, to be disconnected from him is death.

There is a truth here that we hesitate to admit: in the Creator's mind our having real choice is more critical than everything here being pleasant. He created us for relationship and true relationship requires the willing participation of both parties. The Creator honors humanity by giving us the choice to participate in relationship with him. In choosing self over him, we choose to rebel against the Sovereign Creator.

As a race and as persons, we have chosen rebellion. Because the Creator is just, our willful rebellion cannot simply be forgotten. Because he is love and acts for the good of the other, he has made a way for humanity to return, trust him, and have life. The Sovereign Creator, the only one with the capacity to fix humanity, has fixed it, all the while maintaining human responsibility.

We can get angry and frustrated that he does not fix us the way we want him to. We can rant about and pant about and shake our fists at heaven, and in his grace, he allows us to do so without being smashed. But the truth is, without him, we are dead and as corpses, we have neither right nor capacity to demand how life is given to us.

An accurate view of our circumstances depends on an accurate view of the Creator. We all bring our assumptions with us and those assumptions can distort our perceptions. With a more accurate view of the Creator, are we able to magnify and deepen our understanding of and emotional response to his grace. Grace, understood in the context of his sovereignty, glory, and justice, brings us to our knees in gratitude because we finally realize that it did not need to be so. We realize that he had every right to crush us all and start afresh, but he chose to rescue, over and over and over, and then finally and fully in Messiah.

Humans who do not trust the Messiah and the way that he has made, are disconnected. Those who are disconnected from him have no life. Trust in the resurrected Son of God, Jesus the Messiah, is the only way for humans to return to the Creator and have life.

"This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Update--Related Posts
Theodicy--Live and Direct
Theodicy--Live and Direct...the end of the story
Tragedy Sucks and God is Good
Tragedy Sucks and God is Good part two

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  1. Anonymous1:55 PM

    This explains the evil arising from our personal choices, bad decisions and maybe even the bad results when we made a judgement on taking a risk.

    But is does not deal with the bad experiences we suffer from natural disasters. Eve chose to eat fruit from the forbidden tree, and Adam chose to agree with her. Did that lead to earthquakes, hurricanes, lightning strikes, nasty viruses and evil bacteria?

    You did mention 'natural causes' in your second sentence but I don't think I find them in the rest of the piece.

    Just maintaining quality here ... ;-)

  2. True, this does focus on personal evil. I think natural evil is related to humanity's choice to rebel. Put in short terms (to be developed later), I hold that humanity was created as God's viceroy. When humanity rebelled, the resulting pollution spread like a virus to all of creation.

    I realize the above is a statement rather than an argument; I'll put this on the writing list and collect my thoughts on the issue (living in California, the state most likely to fall off into the sea, I've thought about natural evil, but I've not written much).

    Good catch. :-)

  3. Anonymous3:28 PM

    Ja, I remember on one of my first visits to California sitting in a meeting and thinking, oh, that must have been a heavy truck that went by, then realising there was no road along that side of the building, then realising it must have been a little tremor!

  4. Being a native, most earthquakes are taken in stride. I do remember one though, that caught me off guard. I was riding my bicycle to work and, as I pedaled down the street, all of a sudden I started to loose control. I thought I was just really tired, until I saw the car repair sign swaying back and forth. Needless to say, I pulled over and stopped, lest I be pummeled by an out of control truck.

    Most do feel like a passing bus, though.

  5. I must submit that in a Biblical arena, you have nailed evil and many would lean back in the pews with a sense of relief for why; they are physically or mentally sick, their sons are at war, while others starve and others rot from disease. In a nutshell, your analysis of the existence of evil and its origin is that it's basically a product of freewill (of course freewill that is inconsistent with God's will). That is indeed the common response that resonates within the school of judeochristian thought and doctrine. I find the concept of "the gift of freewill" as the precursor to evil to be a weak, incomplete, and absolutely speculative interpretation for all of the disgusting things that exist today. I will, as briefly as I can, elaborate on why this idea of freewill which allegedly has been corrupting God's creation, is in my own opinion contradictory to the touted characteristics of God as being Omnipotent, Omniscient, (and most relevant to this message): all loving and benevolent. You will see that when God's touted omniscience is juxtaposed with his perfect love and benevolence, they simply are not compatible when discussing the existence of evil.

    I would like to start at the beginnings, no not Genesis, I mean, the very beginning with God and His angels. If God, is omniscient - meaning He knows all that was, is, and most importantly what will come, then why did God proceed with His creation of man knowing that Eve would initiate a horrible cataclysm of events that would result in death and many other horrors associated with death and suffering including natural disasters and its ramifications and all of the other evils aforementioned? This immediately seems futile for ANY creator. I'd like to compare this to an engineer/inventor if you will. If this hypothetical engineer knew his creation would end up in a huge disaster, why on earth would he proceed with his invention or design? Makes no sense logically or ethically. Back to the Lord. Well, if God truly is omniscient, and knew that these awful things would come from the incorporation of freewill in his creation of mankind, yet proceeded with His creation anyway, doesn't that seem contrary to a Lord that is characterized as all loving and benevolent? One can objectively extract from this dilemma to mean that 1.)either He isn't omniscient and couldn't foresee the awful things that mankind would have to deal with due to the sins of their fathers which reveals a flaw in Him and his creation which contradicts his flawless nature 2.)or that He did know of evil and proceeded anyway to create a world in which many would suffer and few would truly prosper which takes away from his perfect love and benevolence giving credence to those who say if there is a God He must be sadistic, and would even seem that he only created man as a tool for self-glorification which seems utterly vain and therefore blasphemous,3.) or that there was a God who put us all here but as the Deists believe, walked away from us after creating us, 4.) or it could mean the most bleak and stark possibility of them all, that there is no God and evil is simply a religious label for anything bad and therefore that can't be found in heaven which is a conclusion that I don't even like to accept, but it seems all too plausible for more and more people these days.

    Now, with respect to freewill, I do see why a loving God would give it to his children (humanity). I see the function of freewill here, simply that there is no love that comes from robots that obey from programmed instructions and I understand and respect that notion very much. However, I do have a problem with how much trouble our freewill has gotten us into. I don't believe that the punishment fits the crime when one person eats from a forbidden fruit, and billions of others have to suffer the tremendous magnitude of pain and anguish that has occurred and still exists today. God is supposed to be just, right? If a father kills a man, must his unborn son serve the sentence? Where is the balance in that? Now, I strongly believe that since God, in His loving design gave us freewill, He, in His omnipotence COULD take a minute or two, come down from the starry heavens and reveal Himself in an incontrovertible way so that no atheist, agnostic, or even backsliding Christian could deny. I was thinking something pre-armagedon. A little heads up if you will. If God could show himself simultaneously (omnipresence through his omnipotence of course) to every 6 billion plus humans in the world for just a moment and simply utter these words in His majestic voice," I am the Lord your God and the Holy Bible is My Word, follow and believe in Me, My Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that you may have eternal life in my kingdom lest you suffer in hell" or something to that effect. Now if that were to take place, do you honestly believe that it would corrupt freewill. No, I don't believe it would. A person could still sin if they wanted to. It would however, in my opinion, ignite the most powerful and amazing spiritual revival since I don't know when thus creating a less sinful therefore less evil world. I also dare say that it would silence Old Testament doctrinal skeptics like me, who do in fact love Jesus, His teachings, and come to tears at the thought of Him being flogged and dying on the cross for the sins of man kind. What does the Father have to lose by revealing Himself in such a convincing way for such a short amount of time which doesn't even bind him. I'll tell you what He does have to lose, possibly 2/3 of the world's salvation (6 billion plus people). Then of course you've got the other 1/3 that comprises the "saved", and even some of them need praying for because some of them love to talk like Jesus, pray to Jesus, sing for Jesus, but they walk like the other 2/3 of the world. So perhaps a little visit from the Almighty might straighten them up a bit too. Perhaps He could start in the Middle East, Gaza maybe, I don't know - just a thought.

    Now to bring it back full circle, I think that if God did appear in the manner just mentioned, it wouldn't fix every single evil known to man as of now because some things are obviously irreparable independent of our newly restored or birthed faith from such a visit from God Himself. For example, death, weather patterns - natural disasters, many illnesses, food, and monetary problems, etc. would still exist to a varying extent. Many other evils within our control however would in my opinion, be drastically decimated if not virtually banished. For example, theft, murder, rape, fiscal corruption, deceit, adultery, other crimes, violence, hatred and bigotry, homosexuality, abortion, etc. would all be curbed by such a spiritual revival that was spawned by an appearance from God. As for all of the other evil's we'd still have to live with, I think all of that would be worth it, because we would know that this life is not the end and eternal bliss is waiting for us in heaven and that ladies and gentlemen would alleviate one of the most crippling evils I have ever known: FEAR.

  6. Perplexed,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to engage in discussion. Before beginning a response to your points, allow me to verify my understanding. I see three main points in your comment:

    1. It was illogical and unethical for the Creator to proceed with a creation that he knew would go horribly wrong.
    2. Eternal punishment for all does not fit the crime of one forebear eating a piece of forbidden fruit.
    3. If the Father would reveal himself to all humanity simultaneously, most would respond with trust; as a result, sin, and therefore evil, would be drastically reduced.

    I will respond to each point in turn, beginning with the last (the topic of this post). Please know that the starting assumption for my comments is that the Bible, Genesis to Revelation, presents an accurate and trustworthy picture of the Sovereign Creator and of humanity's response to that Creator.

    Your premise: If the Father would reveal himself to all humanity simultaneously, most would respond with trust; as a result, sin, and therefore evil, would be drastically reduced.

    My counter premise: Even if God--Father, Son, Holy Spirit--were to make himself known to all humanity, trust remains a volitional response that is not guaranteed, even by direct encounter with the object deserving of that trust.

    The Bible has several examples of individuals and groups who encountered God in a clear manner, knew it was God, and yet responded with lack of trust.

    Genesis 3
    Despite having walked with God, presumably each evening in the cool of the day, Eve trusted herself and the serpent and Adam trusted Eve and himself more than either trusted God.

    Genesis 12, 15, 20
    Despite several powerful encounters with God, Abraham did not trust God to protect him and lied twice about Sarah being his wife!

    Exodus 7-14
    Despite having seen the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, the Egyptians did not convert to trust in the God of the Hebrews.

    Exodus 32
    Despite seeing the great cloud of God's presence and hearing the thunder of his voice, Israel trusted self and constructed the golden calf for worship, even as Moses was with God on the mountain receiving the covenant.

    Numbers 11
    Despite God's gracious provision of miraculous manna, Israel still grumbled and longed for the leeks and onions of slavery.

    Numbers 20
    Despite numerous face-to-face encounters, including entering God's presence on Sinai, Moses struck the rock when God had commanded him to speak to it.

    1 Kings 3, 9, 11
    Despite direct encounter with God and the gracious gift of wisdom, Solomon gathered multitudes of unbelieving wives, trusting his own judgment over God's and bringing various forms of idolatry into the heart of Jerusalem.

    Matthew 26
    Judas spent years living in direct contact with Jesus and was most likely there when Peter confessed that Jesus was Messiah (Matthew 16), the Son of the Living God, yet this same Judas, trusted himself rather than trusting Jesus' self-assessment, took matters into his own hands, and is the one through whom Jesus was handed over to die.

    Matthew 26
    Peter, the one to whom the Father gave the message that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, very God in flesh, when confronted by servant girls and bystanders in the high priest's courtyard, put a curse on himself and said, I do not know the man.

    While trust is one possible response to a direct revelation of God, it is not a necessary response. Each of the persons and communities mentioned above had some sort of direct encounter with God, yet none of them responded with trust in God. Rather, each continued to trust themselves or others. While there are examples of persons radically trusting God after a direct encounter (for example, Paul on the road to Damascus, Acts 9), this only indicates the possibility of a trust-response; it does not indicate likelihood, let alone necessity. History seems to indicate that trust is an unlikely response to such revelations. I submit that while God could reveal himself in such a manner and that it may have beneficial effects, it would not result in the wholesale revival indicated by your claim.

    Responses to the remaining points will be posted later.

    I look forward to our conversation.

  7. You have definitely outlined many points that the Bible shows for how man has been utterly stubborn and obstinate in following God even when He is in their presence. Without a doubt, the verses you cited are in the Bible. Now, of course, this dialogue could only have bearing with the premise that every account that you mentioned actually occurred. In other words, the person that you are proclaiming these situations to would have to accept that the entire Bible - cover to cover is, literally word for word, the inerrant word of God which is very difficult for many people to do (even factions which consist of Christians of varying denominations) including myself and that obviously comes down to a matter of faith which is an entirely different issue unto itself. Faith that the Bible is God's Word. Therefore, a staunch atheist, which I am not, would not give ear to the OT accounts that you listed of God revealing Himself to little or no avail because they don't believe in the Bible to begin with. This is one problem that God hasn't been able to help the apologists with when it comes to explaining the problem of evil to a naturalist. Since I am an agnostic theist with fairly strong Christian "sympathies" if you will because my love for Jesus is the only reason I even spend time trying to swallow the rest of the Good Book. Obviously my theological objections are with the Father, the OT, and not the Son and I know I know, the Trinity but let's not go there just yet.

    Now, as I was saying, since I am not a staunch atheist, or even a weak agnostic, but somebody who truly does want to believe in the eternal salvation that can come from whole heartedly trusting in Jesus which I believe requires total validity of the current Bible from my own perception, I will stand on the platform that you have placed: the premise that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and that it's stories are not fairytales but historical truths that reveal a sovereign God. I will do this because even with that premise, I still feel that my prevoius assertion about Him making a miraculous appearance of sorts today for all the world to see would not be a waste which is almost what you seem to be leaning toward although you did state that it may be beneficial.

    Well, beneficial sounds great! Well some might ponder how much benefit? Of course we can't measure the benefit, and we can't measure it before such a revelation that I described could occur but in my own subjective opinion, I think that if God did appear in the manner that I described, not in a passive and subtle, "hey guys I'm over here" kind of way but in a difinitive, grand, mind blowing way, that would leave atheistic astrophysicists on their faces praying for salvation, I find it hard to believe that there wouldn't be a spiritual revival of significant proportions which would in turn have incalculable ramifications in terms of reinforcing the faith of those who do believe, struggle to believe, want to believe, or even don't know what to believe. Of course I can't prove this just like many things that Biblical scholars can't prove, but I truly believe despite the history that you showed from the stubborn heathens of the OT, that the evils that have been discussed, (particularly the ones that are fostered by people without fear of and love for a sovereign God and a respect for His will) would be NOTICEABLY curbed. I never said that the world would be saved and we'd be living in a near utopic world due to an epic spiritual revival. I just submit, that if God did reveal Himself in the manner I mentioned (of course I'm sure He'd think of something snazzier), it would have a positive affect on the spirituality for those who are hungry to seek a God but find difficulty in doing so out of fear, doubt, bitterness, socialization, and for crying out loud - geographic residence (those who simply never even heard the word God). As for the people who would yet remain unconvinced after such a miraculous sign that I am proposing herer, I think it's safe to say who they serve.

    Now please, remember, I stated that for this to be worth anything God would have to do it in such a powerful and conclusive way that it would be indisputable. Apparently you don't feel that people would be pleased enough with my first assessment. Perhaps a more spectacular display would do. .hmmm. . .ok, how's this. . . .God appears in front of every person on the face of this earth simultaneously, of course, then stated in His Godly voice " I am the Lord your God and the Holy Bible is My Word, follow and believe in Me, My Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that you may have eternal life in my kingdom lest you suffer in hell". Then! Then! He grabs every person by the hand and shows them heaven for just a glimpse, kind of like what John experienced in revelation, and then just when their eyes began to fill with tears of joy, He snatched our hands again zoomed down and showed us hell. Just before leaving us, he gently touches the palm of hour hand permanently branding us with a cross to remind us that it was no mass hallucination. Now Laura, please, for the love of God, even the most idiotic stubborn mule of a man, ======>ME=========< would run through the streets of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, anyStan shouting out the Gospel and its message and you know what, I bet even the Taliban would let me slide because God would have grabbed their hand too, and if they didn't want to hear after all that, then I'd probably be killed but it would be worth it to me. I think the only army Satan would have during end time after such a revelation of the Almighty, would be his little demons.

    And do you want to know the best part, as far as faith goes, even if God did do all of that, it would not have manipulated our freewill a single iota. We might lose five minutes out of our day but I'm sure God in all his omnipotence could freeze our little clocks during this joy ride. Freewill would sit just as before. Mr. Satanic could very well go back to worshiping the Devil, and Mr. Atheist could just call himself a victim of temporary insanity and take some psych meds, but I'll be ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if we don't see some changes around the world after something like that. But yes, you're right, man would still have the sinful nature to do what he wants and not believe, I can't argue that. I just think people would make some minor to major lifestyle adjustments in terms of their faith (at least their faith).

    I feel that with our ability to communicate today and with the knowledge we have to understand both science and things that can not be bound by the laws of science, we simply can not marginalize the fantastic possibilities of God making such an appearance by comparing a present day awesome appearance to previous revelations of God that have occurred in the Bible - particularly the OT.
    You are absolutely right about the concept of trust though. If a person can't trust after something like that, I guess we could still pray for 'em.

    I still don't think the punishment fit the crime either in reference to Eve trusting herself, disobeying God, and listening to the serpent when placed next to the muck that stains this world. I mean, try and tell a guy who lost his whole family in a random shooting, then get's diagnosed with cancer the following week, that if we were to reduce the entire chain of causation for the awful events in his lilfe, it's because Eve ate from that darn tree! I'd either get punched in the nose by this guy if he was an atheist, or, if the guy was Christian, he'd probably just clench his teeth, and swallow hard like I did when I believed in the fall of man and the entrance of evil. Thanks Eve, thanks Adam. Most importantly, thank God for freewill. Yay!

    As you can tell, I don't clench anymore, I don't swallow hard, nope, there's no Job in this blood.

  8. If I may, a bit of analogical narrative:

    There is a young man named Bob. Bob is incredibly rich; he is also a good man and quite the eligible bachelor. Bob's greatest desire is to share his wealth and the blessings he has with Betty, a young woman living in his town. Bob has decided that Betty is the one for him. He knows beyond any doubt that he is the one she is supposed to marry.

    Betty is not rich; in fact, she lives is a poorer part of town. Still, Betty is beautiful and has garnered quite an assortment of suitors. They all send gifts and notes, making extravagant claims. She does not know who to believe. She has dated a few of them, but none catches her heart.

    Like the other suitors, Bob has sent gifts and notes, but Betty has not responded to his subtle advances. In a moment of desperate passion, Bob decides confront Betty directly. He hops in his Lamborghini, drives to Betty's house, approaches her door,and knocks; when she comes to the door he puts his hands on her shoulders and says, "I'm Bob and I'm the one you are supposed to marry and I have no doubts about it."

    Bob then grabs her hand, takes her to his Lamborghini and drives her to his house. It is a fabulous house--a mansion. He says, "Look at this and this is just the little part. This is just window dressing. When you marry me you not only get this blessing, you get me. Me!"

    He again packs her up in the Lamborghini and drives past her neighborhood to a certain freeway underpass where several homeless reside. He looks her straight in the eye and says, "If you don't marry, this is where you will end up."

    Once again, Bob puts Betty in the Lamborghini, drives her to her house, and says, "There, will you marry me?"

    Now, Betty will assuredly have a reaction to Bob's advances, but it will likely not be the one for which he is hoping. The first reaction will probably be some level of terror. Despite her attraction to him, this particular approach will most likely not result in loving trust. Even if she says yes, his approach will likely result in mere terrified submission.

    Perplexed, this is the very sort of approach you are demanding from the Father: the sort of approach that does not end in loving trust, but in terrified submission. The truth is that what the Father wants is loving trust. Terrified submission may indeed result in an externally better world; in fact, it will. Much evil will be washed away; about this, I have no doubts. People will worship, they will fall down at God's feet, live pleasant lives together, and they will still live an eternity without a relationship of loving trust with God, for terrified submission is not loving trust. You do not achieve loving trust using actions that lead to terrified submission.

    As with all things, the methods employed ought to correspond to the desired ends. If the Father wanted subservient toe-lickers, long ago he would have revealed himself accordingly. But the Father desires partners in a relationship of loving trust.

  9. Perplexed,

    Before moving on to the second point from your first comment, I need to clear up an apparent mis-communication on my part. In my first response, I stated my starting assumption: "Please know that the starting assumption for my comments is that the Bible, Genesis to Revelation, presents an accurate and trustworthy picture of the Sovereign Creator and of humanity's response to that Creator." I apologize for my lack of clarity, for in your response this starting assumption was interpreted as, "the premise that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and that it's stories are not fairytales but historical truths that reveal a sovereign God."

    While I believe the Bible to be inerrant in all it reports, one need not hold to strict inerrancy to hold my starting assumption. One only needs to hold that the overall portrayal of the Creator and of humanity are accurate as to the sorts of persons they are. Even if one believes that the Bible is nothing but myths, those myths can still give us an accurate portrayal.

    Now, on to point two.

    2. Eternal punishment for all does not fit the crime of one forebear eating a piece of forbidden fruit.

    Your point is valid and if eating a piece of fruit were the only sin ever committed, then God is not fair and his justice should be questioned. The sin was Adam heeding the voice of another human and rejecting the voice of the Sovereign Creator.

    Humanity in Adam means "humanity after the likeness of Adam," humanity that rejects, even if subtly, God's truth. Please note that I say "rejects" not misunderstands; they reject what they actually do know. They are not held responsible for what they legitimately do not know.

    The tendency to reject God, genetic if you will, is inherited from our father, Adam. Genetic tendencies do not dictate behavior; they do influence it and can make life difficult, but they do not dictate. Humanity in Adam is not required to follow in Adam's steps. Humanity willingly follows in his steps, for they follow the tendency rather trust the evidence (Rom 1:20). What happens, then, is that humanity in Adam chooses, of its own free will, to follow the tendency of Adam. Some know that there is something better, something else. They reach out for this something, even if with minimal knowledge of the Creator, even if they know nothing of Scripture or Jesus. They look at the world, at their child, at their wise grandma, at a dandelion flower, and they begin to see than there is something more than humanity in Adam, something more that desperately scratching or wildly indulging. Those who realize this, who begin to see this truth, make a decision to trust the One who made all this, these are the new humanity in Messiah.

    Now, you may protest that it says that there is salvation in no other Name. That is true: salvation comes through Jesus alone as a free gift, received by trust alone. Here is what I know: if the portrayal of God in Scripture is accurate, which you know I take it to be, then God is not the sort of person who would condemn someone for unwilling ignorance, for that would not be just. He is the sort of God who would judge someone for willing ignorance. I do not mean ignorance of the detailed truth revealed in Scripture, for we both know that not everyone has access to this knowledge. There are many people who have never heard the name Jesus or the name Yahweh, but there is no one in existence who has not seen the evidence that is clear in creation; they have responded to that evidence with either by seeking after the one who made it or by rejecting the very notion that he even exists and explaining it away.

    I will even say this--with the caveat that I do not believe that evolution is true: even if evolution is true, is it not amazing that we have gotten to where we are? Is not it amazing? It is too amazing. It is a miracle. What started as sludge on a rock ends up flying vehicles into space to take pictures. Is not it amazing? Even if evolution is true, only a rejecting soul does not see behind it something or someone that is absolutely amazing.

    So we get back to the choice: reject or seek. I am not saying that only those who call themselves Christians and trust in a person who they know is named Jesus will end up in heaven. I am not saying that only those with detailed knowledge, who hold the Bible to be inerrant, infallible, and inspired, are Christians or are saved.

    There is only one thing one must do to be saved: trust God, even if it means not knowing, not being clear, and being confused. Trusting him is the only requirement. There is nothing else.

  10. Laura 2

    May I first say, I did enjoy reading your analogous story of Bob and Betty. It was quite refreshing. Poor Bob, he reminds me of my impulsiveness, I just wish I had that Lambo (oops, that was coveting). Poor Betty, her beauty and indecisiveness has created an abundance of desperate men to her own detriment. Will she ever find the needle in the haystack, or is she just surrounded by dull needles and can't choose the sharpest one??? I must know. Anyway, back to the Almighty.

    In essence, through your analogy, you’re saying that if God did perform such an act it would alter man’s love and trust for God through “terrified submission” thus manufacturing an inorganic and faithless love and trust in such a tactical way. My immediate response to that would be tough cookie for those who would be “terrified” and offended by such an abruptly unannounced and frightful revelation of God for the sake of saving their souls. Granted, I for one would probably be scared out of my wits during His display as described above but afterwards that terror, or fear, and anxiety would turn into elation and absolute solace for obvious reasons and I for one would love and trust in Him after that. Now, you may call it a tainted love and trust but the way I see it, this world is tainted and not everybody has scales over their eyes but those that do, need somebody to wash those scales away. I know a lot of Christians that grew up in a very pretty little Christian bubble with all of life’s good blessings and Jesus is all they know. They might not have as many scales as say, the “next guy.” Therefore, their love and trust needs less stirring. Yes, yes, I know there are people with all types of misery in their life and maintain their faith but there’s always an exception to the rule, this isn’t math - thankfully.

    In addition, I know my Biblical knowledge/recall of scripture is a joke next to yours but, I have read the Bible and the OT reveals quite a blood thirsty God who has no problem with fostering terrified submission among other things terrifying. I remember when David brought plague, famine, and death upon Israel just for doing a census of his army or tribe or whatever it was, I can’t remember it exactly but you see where I’m going here and that’s just one of dozens upon dozens of accounts where God kicks the life out of his chosen people for matters far less pressing than what people engage in today while still carrying His name before them. I know you’re going to call those acts of punishment for transgressing God’s laws which I don’t deny but I’m just trying to show the measure God is willing to take to keep His people in line. He did it then, let Him do it now in a less death exhibiting way for once. I find my example of God’s revelation far less terrifying or deadly than what our ancestors were subjected to as notated in the Holy Bible. I really think that the benefit would outweigh this alleged sanctity of the love and trust that you’re describing would be in jeopardy of being corrupted and contrived. I know that true faith as is described by modern Judeo-Christian thought doesn’t match up with the kind of love and trust that would follow my requests from God but I can’t help it if 2/3 of the world needs more convincing. I think God can though.

    You stated, “The truth is that what the Father wants is loving trust. Terrified submission may indeed result in an externally better world; in fact, it will. Much evil will be washed away; about this, I have no doubts. People will worship, they will fall down at God's feet, live pleasant lives together, and they will still live an eternity without a relationship of loving trust with God, for terrified submission is not loving trust. You do not achieve loving trust using actions that lead to terrified submission.” I have to disagree with this because even if it was terrified submission that got peoples butt in gear, they WOULD LOVE, they WOULD TRUST if not instantly then eventually after establishing a relationship with God and processing what just happened to them and I’d be absolutely confounded and dumfounded if you could distinguish a Christian that converted before or after seeing God that way. I think people would love God even more because, by Him revealing Himself that way it would be a testament to how much he cares for people who are spiritually blind, def, angry, and just plain confused in the midst of the evidence that Christians claim to be ample for a sturdy faith in the Lord Almighty as outlined in Romans 1 and 2.

    Your analogy of Betty and Bob did display an absence of trust and love between them that can be in essence compared to a person who will only love and trust in something if it materializes - much like my requests from God. Bob's actions are what gave way to Bob as a creepy over-ambitious guy which doesn't fly socially in these neck of the woods. I don't think God revealing himself would create a similar response. But I digress, trust and love were your main points and I will get there. I think it would only reinforce the love that does exist when people realize that God isn't so proud, careless, or even as atheists propose non-existent as to remain obscure and intangible in the sense that skeptical people know Him to be. Although I do see your point with Betty and Bob, I'm gonna have to say apples and oranges here. Keep in mind that apples and oranges still have many things in common but they are different after all. Here's why I don't feel this analogy (as much as I enjoyed reading it), can work here.

    Can we compare the love between two humans to the love between human and God? God is viewed as divine - a king like figure that we must fear, trust, love, submit to, and honor no matter what kind of hell we are experiencing in which we are by no means equal to apart from being made in his image. That’s why I don’t think the love between mankind can be compared. Once again, the God of the OT certainly makes that clear. Except He did admit He’s a jealous God so we do have that commonality, heh.

    In my conclusion with your point of love and trust from your analogy with Betty and Bob, you simply can’t compare the two because there is so much more at stake. Bob wants a physical and yes, even emotional companion, but his true drive is fueled by his innate desire to copulate, procreate (with a desirable mate of course, where as God loves us regardless of physical or mental capacities), and fill his role in society where as our love with God is not bound by any of these things. Our love between with the Lord is supposed to be without stipulations – unconditional.

    What I’m driving at is that there is much more at stake here when you compare Bob’s less than subtle attempt to woo Betty’s love to God’s attempt (as I proposed) to alleviate our doubts and concerns so that we can love, trust, and follow Him and to bring it back full circle, extinguish evil to a noticeable extent. Even if this must be done in a terrifying manner, I think it would be worth it and the love and trust would be genuine. Bob’s love is earthly and can only result in a passing union that may or may not last subject to disease, adultery, and the list goes on. No matter what Bob does to Betty or vice versa, neither one can cast the other in hell for all of eternity. Where as God’s love and trust can indeed dictate where we retire after this strange and twisted life. Therefore I say, let God's terror rain on me and anybody else that wants it if it will convict me once and for all. As far as the love and trust goes, only my heart can control that.

  11. I would make a small comment to Perplexed's suggestion that all God needs to do is provide some spectacular display for the whole world to see for the people to fall down and worship Him. People, even today have a tendency to develop alternate explainations for news events that do not "fit" with their world view. Eventhough the first lunar landing was one of the most widely watched and fully documented news events of our time, there are still thousands of people who believe that the whole thing was staged in a movie studio.

    "Ah, but that's only a few crackpots who still believe that nonsense similiar to the number who believe the earth is flat," you say. Well, about the September 11 tragedy? Do you know that an ever increasing number of people, especially in the Muslim world where this has now become the majority opinion, believe that no airplanes were ever flown into the WTC or Pentagon buildings by Al Queda terrorists, but the buildings were blown up with bombs by variously, either the Jews or the US government. They deny the photographic evidence as "staged" as part of a greater conspiracy hatched by these "Satans". Their beliefs do not allow room for them to accept what really happened, even when Osama Bin Laden takes credit for plotting the attack,or with videos of the perpertrators both getting on the planes and bragging in taped messages what were going to do.

    Laura has amply described examples from the Bible of how people still managed to reject God AFTER seeing some pretty impressive displays of God's power.

    I submit that even if you were to see God Himself come down and do exctly what you suggest, a part of you would want to "move the goalposts" again on your belief threshold, demanding an even bigger, "better" display prior to committing to Him fully. (and you by your own admission, are somewhat pre-disposed towards faith in Jesus already.) Others are not so similiarly disposed. I really don't see many practitioners of the other world religions or of atheism dropping their worldviews just because God Almighty shows up one day. They would have their own alternative explainations for who He was (not the God of the Bible) or what they really saw out so fast it would make your head spin.

    "Not me," you might say, but this is exactly Peter's claim before denying Jesus because a little girl challenged Peter. It is also why the Bible can predict that people will rebel against Jesus at the end of time after seeing Jesus reign over them physically, in person for 1000 years. Sight does not necessary produce faith or devotion.

  12. There's only one way to truly discover what a revelation of God like that would produce regardless of what history and human tendencies suggests. Historical accounts as recorded in the Bible are not a litmus test for me to be convinced that God showing Himself that way would not convict me.

    I know I can't prove that to you, but you can't prove to me otherwise but I do feel that I know my own heart.

    As for your analogies of those world events that some conspiracy theorists who are often times just highly paranoid people that are out of touch with reality on a number of levels. . . I for one do believe that we landed on the moon. I also believe that 9/11 was a terrorist attack as reported and documented but there are unfortunately plot holes in those events that leave room for conspiracy theorists to fill in their own little wacky versions of what really happen. The only reason these guys even have a platform, as small as it may be, is because these events were not physically attended by every person. They were for the most part televised and passed through other channels of media but people weren't there. The expression: "see it to believe it" could be played with in these types of events unfortunately, regardless of how many hard facts are reported by honest reputable and unbiased sources. You might ask, well then why on earth would these people still doubt these things? I'll tell you, because they weren't there and believe it or not, some of their stories, as outlandish as they are, are quite thought provoking which is why they find a place in the niche market because the world and humanity is corrupt and full of lies and that's how these conspiracy theories thrive.

    Now, to explain why their methods would not hold water to my hypothetical display of the almighty: If you remember reading my example of how the Almighty would reveal Himself (hypothetically of course):

    [God appears in front of every person on the face of this earth simultaneously, of course, then stated in His Godly voice " I am the Lord your God and the Holy Bible is My Word, follow and believe in Me, My Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that you may have eternal life in my kingdom lest you suffer in hell". Then! Then! He grabs every person by the hand and shows them heaven for just a glimpse, kind of like what John experienced in revelation, and then just when their eyes began to fill with tears of joy, He snatched our hands again zoomed down and showed us hell. Just before leaving us, he gently touches the palm of hour hand permanently branding us with a cross to remind us that it was no mass hallucination.]

    You see Ann, conspiracy theorists lack a major tactic here to play off of that they normally possess why proposing their wild claims. Conspiracy theorists need the masses to find some credence in what they are saying by the admission that they were not there to actually see the events unfold. In my scenario however, every person, was taken by this temporary divine event so there is no room for refuting based on seeing to believe. Plus, every person has a scar of a cross on the palm of their hand. I think that conspiracy theorists might be able to propose an alien abduction, but there's no basis for such claims. Why would aliens care in our belief system and how we live morally? Not much rationale there. Not to mention that such a display by God would defy practically every law of physics which I don't see how aliens would accomplish that. Like freezing time for instance. I'm sure God would leave us a few reasons to refute alien explanations. So I'm sure my example would be good enough to keep the skeptics quiet for the most part, but like I said, I know that I can't validate that. There's always going to be a sore thumb and I did say that if people didn't believe after that, we can probably assume who they serve. There are people out there who believe in God but worship the Devil so it's not inconceivable that they might still be Satanic after that. There's only one entity that can validate what I'm saying, and till then, I'm waiting, watching, and listening. I've listened, read, prayed, argued, spoken to or heard from scholars on both sides of the court, and it seems that it comes down to me having to see. A monumental sign not just for me, but for the billions like me. I wish it could be easier for me. I don't understand the constituents involved in having faith because I've discovered that faith is achieved regardless of IQ, and even regardless of Biblical and doctrinal knowledge/understanding/memory/ (which I find very strange as I have met many Christians that admittedly haven't even read most of the Bible!). I'm flummoxed by this. I've come to the conclusion that people who don't have a problem with believing are usually, not always, but usually those that grew up in a pious household environment and therefore socialization seems to play a huge role in faith. Their religion and denominations might change as they grow older but they are comfortable with the core concept of faith - seeing without believing. I've tried sitting in that chair and I can't sit still for more than a few minutes. Most of my immediate family members are agnostics or atheists. Go figure.

  13. You are absolutely correct; God is the Sovereign king and his subjects are expected to fear and submit to him. But there is a difference between subjects in the realm and the children in the house. Terrified submission is appropriate for the subjects of the realm—God is King of all; it is not appropriate for the children of the King. This is why the images of parent-child

    “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1)

    “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2

    and husband-wife

    “Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
    for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
    it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure"” (Revelation 19:6-8)

    are used to describe God’s relationship with his people.

    There is a critical difference between loving trust and terrified submission. Only a relationship of loving trust leads to eternal relationship with God

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.“ (Ephesians 2:8-9)

    Even the demons have terrified submission

    “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! “ (James 2:19)

    The Scripture is clear on this point: eternal relationship with God only comes through loving trust. It does not and cannot come through terrified submission or mere compliance to commands.

    On to another issue, you say, “even if it was terrified submission that got peoples butt in gear, they WOULD LOVE, they WOULD TRUST if not instantly then eventually after establishing a relationship with God and processing what just happened to them” Honestly, I have to disagree. There are too many stories of people who have experiences amazing revelations and still spit in God’s eye.

    So, I would ask, do you have evidence for the claim that terrified submission would turn into loving trust?

    Further, how does one form a relationship without trust?

  14. Well, I guess we're gonna have to agree to disagree on the subject of terrified submission and love/trust.

    You asked if I had evidence of terrified submission fostering love. I do indeed and it's a beautifully prime example because it's not only in the Bible's NT, but it's a relationship that is created with one of the New Testaments most revered apostles and authors of the NT: Paul. Here was a Jewish man that granted, did believe in God but initially rejected Jesus Christ to the point of tenaciously persecuting His followers and continued these actions until He was visited in a very stunning, and I imagine for him - terrifying manner. I mean, He was left blind for 3 days!!! That's scary if you ask me, but wouldn't you say that the result was favorable, at least in the eyes of a Christian. Paul's love and trust for the triune God bled through his missions, writings, and life with amazing fervor, passion, and persistence. This terrified submission not only lead to Paul's conversion, but to His establishment of churches through out the region, and the authoring of much of the NT. If that's not love and trust from terrified submission then I am certainly perplexed!

    Now I'm sure, about 99.9% sure that I could thumb through the Bible and find other instances of God's children gentile or Jew coming to love and trust in Him via some spectacular supernatural event that probably scared the day lights out of them first. I'm 110% sure that I could find personal accounts from people through out modern day communities and documented pages of history, where people of large and small status came to love and trust in God after self-reported moments of having some sort of "6 sense epiphany" that at first scared them a bit but then spurred their faith in Jesus and as a result a loving and trusting relationship was formed.

    As for proving to you that such a present day revelation as I proposed would result in true love and trust, only God could prove me wrong. In my heart, I feel that it's possible for me and I don't see why it wouldn't work on many others that share my disposition. It might not work for everybody, but I think it's worth a shot.

    Now there's another point I would like to make. Why is it so unacceptable if love and trust come after terrified submission as you put it? Isn't the over all goal here salvation and eternal life through faith in Christ. Why does it matter how you come to realize that Christ is the lord and savior? Especially when a lot of people are at a disadvantage for reasons aforementioned.

    I have an example, I once had an ex girlfriend who was so smitten after just a few months of dating she was absolutely determined to take our relationship to the next level. It seemed that she would not stop at anything until we were officially a couple. I liked her too but due to our 2.5 year age difference which back then was a significant disparity because she was only 19 so our maturity level was off balance, I hesitated and of course there were some other things that are irrelevant to my message here for now. Some would have called her attempts to win my affection extreme, smothering, obsessive, and sometimes down right nuts - I mean sometimes I was kind of scared. However, her persistence won me over, and we ended up having a very loving relationship for almost 4 years and ironically, she fell out of love with me. My point is though, that first, there was no love between her and myself, just a bit of infatuation and intrigue but the love and trust followed her efforts to win me over.

    Why can't God, if we are His children, try and win us over a bit. Some people ask for health, riches, women/men, fame, success, intelligence, and other things in exchange for their faith in God. All I want is God, so I can finally accept the reasons given in this post for why evil has to exist.

  15. I agree, Paul is an example of coming to loving trust after terrified submission. In fact, I stated this in my first response: "While there are examples of persons radically trusting God after a direct encounter (for example, Paul on the road to Damascus, Acts 9), this only indicates the possibility of a trust-response; it does not indicate likelihood, let alone necessity."

    Paul, however, was pre-disposed to belief in Messiah--after all, he was a Pharisee and they were earnestly seeking Messiah (even if their understanding of him was, ahem, askew). For those who are predisposed to belief, such an encounter may indeed shock them into trust. But what of those who have no predisposition? What of those who have anti-Yahweh predispositions?

    I am not saying trust is not possible after terror. I am saying this:
    1. If one remains at the terrified submission stage, one does not have the trust required for salvation.
    2. Trust is not the necessary result of terrified submission. It is a possible result.
    3. Based on history and Scripture, I hold trust to be an unlikely result of terrified submission. You disagree and hold it to be likely; here we may need to agree to disagree.

  16. Yeah, I can agree with your first two points but like you outlined, we both have different predictions on what the effect of terrified submission would have on love and trust. I guess I'm just satisfied enough to believe that it's a possibility for a loving trustful relationship to occur after meeting God.

    Thanks for sharing your insight. It's always a pleasure discussing these things with a level headed Christian who knows what they are talking about.

  17. Perplexed,

    We actually agree on the possibility of terrified submission leading to loving trust. We disagree on the likelihood.

    Honestly, a miracle would need to occur, but I absolutely believe God sometimes works that way. In fact, I've known people who experienced them (Like a blind man in the church I attended when I was small. With no possible intervention from medicine, as his nerves were damaged beyond repair, his sight returned.) On the other hand, I also believe that miracles, such as healings and appearances, are very rare, for God has chosen other means to communicate. Three come immediately to mind: the natural world; his people, the Church; and his written Word, the Bible. In all three of these, our assumptions about the way things are shapes our understanding. It is this way with everything; none of us sees with world without a filter of some sort. One looks at the natural world and sees mechanism; another looks and sees the hand of God. One looks at the Church and sees only hypocrites; another looks and sees a loving community that has lasted centuries despite incredible odds. One looks at the Scripture and sees a blood thirsty OT God and a loving, self-sacrificing NT God; another looks and sees God's amazing graciousness to a continually wayward people and his passionate jealousy for his people, the truth, and his glory.

    Perception has so much to do with what we see. Perception is so incredibly difficult to change. Once in a while the transformation from one worldview to another takes place quickly, but most of the times it takes years, filled with yelling and tears and confused struggle. I pray you continue to struggle; I pray also for a miracle, for one never knows what God will do--he, after all, has libertarian freewill (but that's another ball of wax) and, just like quantum physics, is not really predictable.

  18. I see, on possibility we're simpatico. Not likelihood. Got it.

    Thank you, I will always embrace your prayers. Since I'm not an atheist, just a guy who holds on to faith as if it were a slippery salmon. I DO WANT to believe that the Gospel is the truth. I'm not saying that it's not the truth, I'm just saying that I want to believe it in my heart as I know that you - a true person of great faith would only prescribe for anybody seeking salvation through Jesus Christ.