Daily Light – Jan 16, 2018

Your daily goal:
Philippians 3:14  “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”   
(Monday-Friday, from my morning quiet time, I will write a short thought for that day which I pray God will use to motivate you to ‘GO’ for that day.  Your objective is simple…to GO…to GO OUT and share the love of Christ with someone in that day….to GO and bear fruit …to be light to the world.)
Today’s Daily Light
 
Confronting the Problem(s) of EvilPart VII 
The Classic Problem of Evil 
Stated simply, the philosophical problem goes like this: 
(1) If God is all-knowing, then he knows what evil is. 
(2) If God is all-good, then he himself is not evil and he would prevent evil, if he could. 
(3) If God is all-powerful, then he can prevent evil. 
(4) Evil exists. 
(5) Therefore (1), (2), or (3) (or some combination), must be false. 
The author-story analogy clearly holds to (1) and (3). It’s (2) that is denied, since God remains all-good even if he allows and ordains evil for his own wise and good purposes. In other words, God may ordain that evil exist because the existence of evil serves some greater good that God has in view. The author-story analogy sheds light on how God is not tainted by the evil of his creatures and on why God would ordain evil for his own wise purposes. 
With respect to how an all-powerful Author is not tainted by the evil actions of his characters, philosopher Hugh McCann argues that we should distinguish between the following two statements: 
God causes Pharaoh to harden his heart. 
God causes Pharaoh hardening his heart. 
In the former, God appears to be acting upon Pharaoh, manipulating his will in some way. In the latter, God simply causes Pharaoh himself in all of his willing and acting. The distinction is subtle but important. 
The first way of viewing the relationship can tend to make God appear like a puppeteer pulling Pharaoh’s strings, doing violence to Pharaoh’s integrity as a responsible moral agent. The latter is more consistent with the author-story analogy. God’s creating and sustaining Pharaoh carries along with it the specific actions in which Pharaoh is engaged. Thus, God causes Pharaoh in his willing.  
In this view, God is not doing any violence to Pharaoh’s will nor is he properly the author of Pharaoh’s evil. The evil is predicated to Pharaoh, not God. Instead the creation of Pharaoh is what is predicated to God. Thus God is not acting on Pharaoh’s desires or will in order to bring about the hardening. Rather, he is directly involved in the existence of Pharaoh, which includes the specific intentions, desires, and acts in which Pharaoh is engaged.  
Such a view has the advantage of maintaining God’s complete sovereignty over all of our actions, while also preserving our genuine freedom. Our actions are as free as they can be. We form our intentions and carry them out. God does not act on our will from the outside, manipulating us to get his way. On the contrary, he has created us as beings that will. If he had not done this, there would be no “us” to will at all.  
It is not as though God creates us and then places our desires, intentions, etc. inside of us. There simply is no “us” until these things are in place. God cannot manipulate us until we exist, and once we exist, he has no need to. He has created us (presumably) exactly as he wants us. And he further sustains us exactly as he wants at every step along the way. But at no point does he ever so act as to do violence to our wills. That is simply impossible on the view presented. Apart from his creative activity there is no will to act upon. He simply creates us exactly as we are, doing exactly what we’re doing. Both we and our decisions are not the result of God’s creative will, but the content of that will. 
(The previous section is heavily indebted to McCann’s work. See the bibliography at the end of this essay.) 
 
Evil as Narrative Tension 
Turning to the question of why God would ordain that evil exist, again the analogy has much to commend itself. If the world is a story, then evil is really an example of narratival tension. Thus, we can see more clearly God’s reasoning in permitting and ordaining that evil exist. God ordains evil for the same reason that Lewis creates the White Witch: so that Aslan will have someone to conquer. Evil exists so that Good can triumph. Death exists so that it can be thrown into hell (Rev 20:14). And this does not in any way minimize the wickedness or horror of evil. God is sovereign and evil is real.  
This way of looking at the world allows us to view every part of the story through two lenses: a wide lens and a narrow lens. The narrow lens keeps us from minimizing the reality of evil, as if pain and wickedness were simply illusions. We must never give in to the false logic that says, “Because God ordains all things, there is really no such thing as evil.” The Bible will have nothing to do with such reasoning. Christians do not shrink from calling evil “evil” (Gen 50:20), or calamity “calamity” (Isa 45:7), or disaster “disaster” (Amos 3:6). What’s more, we are called to weep with those who weep, to fight the curse that hangs over this fallen world, and to rage against the darkness with all the power of the light. 
At the same time, we must not elevate evil above its station. Nothing happens apart from God’s wise and good decree. Therefore, we must not stop reading in the early chapters. The story does not stop, and so our wide lens allows us to see, or at least to trust, that Judas’s betrayal will not go unpunished, Wormtongue’s lies will not stand, and the blood of the martyrs will in fact bear fruit. This is a happily-ever-after kind of story. This is the kind of story where dragons are slain and tears are wiped away and faithful death is always followed by resurrection. Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.  
 
(Wow…I realize that this level of reading requires deep thought and will stretch brain cells 😊     I want to study and learn ‘so that’  I can #1 more deeply appreciate and understand the ‘ways’ of our glorious God. …and #2…’so that’ I can be light and love to seekers / non believers.   And #3 to encourage other believers to spiritual growth ‘so that’ they will produce more eternal fruit.   2 more parts to this article and we will reel it back a bit to ‘thoughts’ and ‘meditations’ that are easier to eat and digest.)
 
Lord God…I realize that we can read the works of these deep thinkers all day long and still not come to fully understand the ‘all’ of who You are.  But…I do know that in our grabbing little glimpses of your majesty…your absolute sovereignty in all things…I pray that this will both humble us and give us comfort…that it will grow our faith…that it will motivate us to run the race with endurance.   Every thought I have about how ‘big’ You are…how vast Your ways…I realize how paltry …how meager my works toward/for You…and I feel so small and almost embarrassed by my production in Your Kingdom.  But…I know that it is YOU that has called me, reconciled me to Yourself, and it is You that will lead me through the rest of this very short life and it is You that will be faithful to complete me as You so desire and it is You that will bring me to the finish line.  And I sooo appreciate that I don’t have to fully understand Your ways in order to receive sufficient awareness and knowledge of You to truly know You and trust You above all things.   Amen
 
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