The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Fall of Man and The Cross of Christ Was Plan A, Not Plan B, and That Changes Everything


Chapter 3 of my Treatise of Calvinism:

               I was always taught, as long as I could remember, that God knew all things. And, if we leave it at that, that is believable enough. After all, if God can create everything out of nothing, then for Him to be able to know all things isn’t really a stretch. The limits of my human mind and ability are not a good reason to demand that God be limited to only that which I myself can understand and do. Anyone who thinks like that is not a Christian, for they would never believe in a God greater than them, since from the outset they remove the possibility of God doing anything or knowing anything that they themselves cannot do or at least fathom.
               
So it is certainly acceptable, and reasonable, to believe that God knows all things, past, present, and future, even though I cannot. However, what we should not be affirming as Christians is a contradiction. The law of non-contradiction is basic to human logic. Something cannot both be and not be at the same time, in the same way and relationship. Up cannot be down, black cannot be white. Something cannot be both right and wrong at the same time, in the same way and relationship. Your car cannot both exist and not exist. This is basic, and all of us who are sane live by this principle (The fact that we do live by this principle, I would attest, is a great evidence of God’s existence, but that is for a different subject and time).  Here’s the snag- when I was taught at school that man chose to fall into sin totally by his free will, yet God knew that they would choose to fall, a bell should have went off in my head, informing me that this sure sounds like a contradiction. Unfortunately, it never did. The reason this is a contradiction is because God cannot foreknow a totally free choice, as we have demonstrated, if we define freedom as autonomy, outside of God's sovereignty.

But that is only if we define a free will choice as outside of God’s sovereignty. That is to say, outside of God’s predestined purpose and plan. My Christian school did make that much clear, that God did not predestine, or plan, or foreordain, that the fall of man would occur. That seemed reasonable enough to me at the time. Why would God plan for us to fall? I never thought about that again, not until college. And now I know that, the only way God can be good and loving and be able to know that man would fall, is if He indeed predestined and planned the Fall. I’ll show you why that is so, and why that is a good thing.
            
First, what do we mean by free will anyway? It is a nebulous term, but I think most people mean that man does whatever he wants to do, whether that is doing a righteous thing or a sinful thing, and that nothing hinders him from doing what he wants. He can choose what he wants, when he wants, and God never interferes with that or dictates to man what he will do. There is a sense in which, when Adam and Eve fell, I agree with that. Certainly God did not cause Adam and Eve to eat the fruit by working an evil spirit or desire in their heart. If God did that, it would be He, and not they, who were responsible for their sin. In other words, if God changed Adam and Eve’s desire so that they would want to eat the forbidden fruit, then God is a sinner and responsible for man's fall, not Adam and Eve. And the Bible is clear that Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit of their own accord, of their own self-created desire, by exercising their will freely.
                
But then if that is the definition, how could God know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Adam and Eve would eat of the forbidden fruit? If you say it is because God knew the devil was too much for them to bear, not only do you contradict Scripture which says that God never allows you to be tempted above that which you are able to resist (1 Cor. 10:13), but you also shift the blame to the devil, as Eve tried to do. Further, if Adam and Eve truly could not resist, they wouldn’t have free will, since they would be forced to succumb to the temptation of the devil in this situation. The devil did not make them do it, or trick them into sinning. If so, that would make the devil’s charm greater than the creating capacity of God, and Adam and Eve couldn’t be held responsible for sin; that answer simply won’t work. As you can see so far, it is actually when you deny that God predestined the Fall of man that God would have to become at least in part responsible for sin.

Now clearly, while God punished the snake for his lies, he also punished Adam and Eve. They were not tempted above what they were able to resist. They chose not to resist when they could have resisted if they so desired to resist. Therefore, if they could have resisted, God could not possibly have known what they were going to choose, right? Actually, no. God did not merely know what would happen in the future, but He controlled what would happen in the future through other means with which He brought about the future, including the Fall, according to His own predestined plan.
                
only way in which the fall of man could have occurred and still be a good thing is if God predestined it. If it was part of His foreordained plan all along, then it is still justifiable and possible for God to be good and loving. This is because, if God planned the fall, and all things following the fall, then the fall itself serves His purposes, not man’s purposes. If God predestined the fall, then it could be used for His glory, and moreover, was indeed planned and purposed to bring Him glory, rather than giving man an opportunity to glorify himself, his own free will. That is precisely what Calvinism argues, and is what the Calvinist God, the God of Scripture, has done.
                
Does that make sense? The issue here between Calvinists and non-Calvinists is that non-Calvinists have a man-centered view of things, to some degree or another, while the Calvinist has a God-centered, indeed as we shall see, a Christ-centered view of all things. God is Creator, Sovereign Lord, not us. It is illegitimate to argue with the Almighty, saying that He was wrong to create us for His glory and His purposes (Romans 9:20-21, book of Job). What I will unveil to you is that ultimately God uses the Fall of man to bring about His glory. Hint: without the fall of man the glory of the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, never would have, or could have, taken place.
               
Let’s examine predestination. It gets a bad wrap, and that is because most non-Calvinists, and even some who claim to be Calvinists, misunderstand it. I know for a fact that those who were the pastors at the church that was affiliated with the school I went to misunderstood Calvinism, because I sat down and talked with them. One of them seemed to claim that predestination and God’s sovereignty over all things, including the will of man, would do away with evangelism, render men robots without a will, and would make God the author of evil. If this were the case, I would reject predestination as a doctrine from hell just as quickly as they do. However what they, and so many others, fail to differentiate between is the meaning of fatalism and predestination.
                
Fatalism, as I am going to define it for the sake of this writing, would indicate that man is controlled by God in such a way that God worked evil into the hearts of Adam and Eve so that they would fall. In other words, a fatalist would say that God predestined the fall of man by forcing their wills to choose the forbidden fruit; further, that God works all things according to His will by forcing men to do what He wants them to do- force by changing their heart’s desires, or at the very least having some other being such as a demon change their heart’s desires. This would be fatalism, and what some of the pastors from the Christian school I attended mistook for predestination. To be clear, Calvinism and I adamantly reject fatalism as wholly unbiblical and blasphemous. Fatalism would scar the character and goodness of God far worse than the God of Open-Theism.
                 
Calvinism does not believe in fatalism at all, and predestination has an entirely different meaning. I will attempt to explain. God, from eternity past, because He is eternal, had planned to create man. He also planned that they would fall into sin, so that the elect, meaning God’s special chosen people, could be redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, out of their sins. God also planned to reveal His glory through the displaying of His righteousness, power, and holy wrath against those who were given justice for their sins by punishing them in hell.The Fall gave God the needed clay, both the dishonorable and honorable, to display His grace and mercy as well as His wrath and justice. This is ultimately why God created man- for Himself, for His glory. This is why God predestined the Fall- for Himself, for His glory. But again, this predestined plan is carried out in such a way that God is not the author of sin, and the fall of man was carried out by man and man alone, not God acting upon man to make them fall, to make them sin.

Here is the key point- God accomplishes this, not by dictating what men will and will not do through manipulation or changing their heart’s desires, but rather by the fiat of His will. Meaning, God brings about what comes to pass by the power of His word, His fiat, His decree. God is able to predestine every single thing, providentially, so that everything He has decreed to come to pass, will come to pass, in such a way that no harm is done to the will of man.

In other words, God’s predestined plan for all things is perfectly carried out by us, but in such a way that we freely choose to do it. Now this power of God, much like God creating all things out of nothing, or the fact that God alone has the power of being (to have eternally, always, existed) within Himself, is also a power that belongs solely to God, and therefore something that cannot be understood by the human mind in regards to how He is able to bring this about.  Thusly, this is consistent with and further reveals why we cannot know how Adam and Eve used their wills to choose to disobey God. We cannot know how Adam and Eve, without a sin nature, but with a free will, could incline themselves towards disobedience. What we can know for sure is God predestined that Adam and Eve would choose to eat the forbidden fruit because of their own twisting of their desires and wills, and not a desire He worked into them. It was a desire they conjured up themselves, utilizing their wills freely, of their own accord. Ephesians 1:11 says, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” God works all things according to His will. This means, then, that the Fall of man was God’s will.

Now to shift gears for a moment, we do have to affirm that God did allow the means by which sin would enter into the world. He did so by giving Adam and Eve the ability to disobey Him if they so chose to do, and on top of that He predestined that they would freely choose to do so. Yet if we take predestination too far, we turn it into fatalism by saying that the reason Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and thus fell into sin was because of God’s predestination rather than their freely choosing to eat the forbidden fruit. If God’s predestining caused Adam and Eve to sin, if His predestined plan accomplished its purposes by changing their wills and giving them the sinful desire to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit, then God is responsible for their sin and is quite evil and unloving indeed. However, if God’s predestining merely guaranteed the fall of man, but didn’t force or cause Adam and Eve to sin, then God is not the author of sin, and it is in this sense that Calvinism, and I, believe in predestination. Predestination, then, is not the cause of Adam and Eve’s sinful desire and choice, but rather, simply the plan and purpose of God that Adam and Eve would freely choose. Predestination simply means that God’s plan was precisely that Adam and Eve would fall, but it is not the means by which that plan is carried out. The means by which the predestined plan was carried out, was Adam and Eve freely exercising their wills to disobey and eat the forbidden fruit. The plan was carried out by Adam and Eve’s choice, and their choice alone. Therefore, they own the guilt, not God, or the devil, or anything else.  

It is only in this view that God can be seen as good and loving. That may seem strange, but don’t forget, if God didn’t predestine the fall of man, He didn’t plan the fall of man. If He didn’t plan the fall of man, then God’s purpose for giving Adam and Eve free will would have been nothing more than to honor them by allowing them to be obedient, and thus make a name for the human race, or perhaps to give man a chance to show God some respect. If that was God’s plan, then His plan failed, and He knew it would fail before He even made man given his omniscience, and the cross was nothing more than a back-up plan, the emergency plan, plan B. A plan B kind of god is not a god you want to serve, because that would mean that things aren't going according to this god's original plan. And one would hope that the original plan was better than the back up plan. Even if you want to argue that plan B is better in the end, that brings into question the intelligence of such a god whose back up, reactionary, default plan is actually better than what the god wanted to do to begin with. 

The good news of Calvinism, and of Scripture itself, is that the cross of Christ was never plan B, it was God’s plan all along, and it is at the cross that we see God’s ultimate, predestined plan fulfilled- in Jesus dying for His people, thus glorifying Himself and His Father who sent Him. So the fall of man, and thus the entrance of evil into this world, was used by God to bring about a greater good, which was Christ dying for His people, bringing both the Son and the Father glory, and the bride of Christ, the Christians, indescribable happiness. Being bought by the blood of Christ, we are His, and become the children of God. Adam and Eve’s relationship with God, as sweet as it was before the Fall, never was as amazing as our relationship to God, and to Christ, for we are the children of God, bought with the blood of Christ. Adam and Eve were the creations of God, made in His image, but not His children, and not the brother and sister of Christ. Christ’s blood, His dying for us, unites us together with Him in a way that we were not connected with Christ, or God, before (2 Cor. 5:17-21, Eph. 2:4-7, John 15:1-8). So ultimately, the purpose of the Fall was to allow our fellowship with God and Jesus Christ to be far more special, and more intimate, giving us greater delight, happiness, and joy, as well as magnifying God and Jesus’ glory through the revealing of Their grace, love, and mercy, as well as Their justice, righteous wrath, and holiness. Where was all of that seen at one time? At the cross itself. There we see God’s justice being upheld, as He punishes His own Son for our sins, and there we see our salvation, our Savior, dying for us, out of His love for the Father and His love for us. The death of Christ demonstrates God’s justice and wrath against wickedness, against sin and evil, and it also demonstrates that God is gracious and merciful, for He is saving us from the wrath and justice we deserve.  

We never would have experienced, or let alone known and understood, God’s saving grace, and love and mercy, if we had no need for it. So by predestining our fall, God brought Himself more glory, and ultimately for His chosen people, greater joy, by allowing us to experience, in reality, the love and grace and mercy of Jesus Christ by receiving Him and His Holy Spirit through the gift of faith.

It also allows God to demonstrate His glory through pouring out His wrath on those whom Christ did not die to save, which are the non-elect, or the reprobate (Romans 9). That is a difficult doctrine for Americans (or anyone for that matter) to swallow, but in a later chapter I will address that in great detail. Do know, however, that for God to demonstrate justice, to give sinners what they deserve, hell, is obviously a righteous thing that brings glory to Himself. Do know that in heaven, we will be rejoicing and delighting in God in part because of His righteous wrath being poured out on the guilty sinners in hell forever (Romans 9, Revelation 14:10-11, 19:1-3). We honor our troops for promoting justice, for killing evil men and thwarting the plans of evil nations, why do we not honor and praise God for damning the wicked, who oppose Him and refuse to give Him glory? It is because we are hard at heart and know that we deserve such wrath as well, and we shudder at the thought of God’s holiness and fury being emptied out on us. Which of course throws everything again back to God’s amazing grace that He poured out on those who are saved, His vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand (Romans 9). Hell is not a travesty, but a deserved reality, and a source of great glory for God. The wrath of God poured out on those in hell should cause us not to question God's goodness, but if anything to humble us, knowing we deserve the punishment just as much as the ones who are receiving it. We will also see in heaven just how wicked those in hell really are, and there will be nothing to pity. Therefore, in heaven, we will rejoice over their torment, for we will see at heart that they, and all of us, were really Hitler's at heart, only infinitely worse.

 Now the unbeliever may still be skeptical, if not further outraged. I am saying that God has made everything for Himself and His glory by predestining all things that come to pass, even the fall of man and the subsequent punishment of the wicked for the day of destruction (Proverbs 16:4, Ephesians 1:4, Romans 9:22). The atheist or God hater may at this point say that God has no right to create us for His own purposes. That, of course, is not true, and Scripture points this out. Romans 9:19-24 answers this very objection. These verses tell us that God is Sovereign, and as the Lord and Creator of all things, including us, He has the right to do with us as He wishes, just as the potter has the power over the clay to make one vessel for honorable use, and another for dishonorable use. Then verses 22-23 explain that this is precisely what God has done, that God has chosen and prepared some to be vessels of wrath to glorify His righteous wrath and power, in order to reveal His glory on the vessels of mercy, the elect, which He had prepared beforehand for glory. That is straight out of Scripture, spoken to Jews and Gentiles. We cannot deny this as Christians. This is why God made us, and all things. It is all for His glory, and shouldn’t it be so? After all, He is the only good, only glorious one.

The atheist or God hater (and some Christians) may still object, saying that God cannot create them for the sole purpose of rebelling against Him and suffering in hell forever to display His glory of power, righteousness, justice, and wrath. The atheist or God hater may say to hell with God, even if He is the potter and we are His clay.

There are several things to say in response to that, besides that there is nothing unfair about God doing that in the first place since we have no right to tell Him what He can and cannot do, even though we may not like it. Firstly, God has offered salvation to everyone and has predestined many to salvation, to glorify His grace (oddly enough, nobody complains about that). If the atheist or skeptic were willing to repent and believe the gospel, they would be spared God’s wrath. Secondly, their very objections to God’s plan may very well be showing God’s purpose. Their act of complaining against God’s sovereignty and self-glorification reveals that they believe that God should be doing everything to glorify them instead, thus demonstrating that their condemnation is just.

As we have said, and as common sense tells us, God has the right to do what He wants to do. He is, after all, God, and we are not, and that is what all sinners, especially many atheists and God-haters, can’t stand. They want to call the shots, and not have someone calling them for them. Yet again, lest you yourself forget dear reader, the fall of man, though predestined by God, was not caused by God. It was still a choice of Adam and Eve. Is this not clear? Is it not blatantly obvious that those who hate God do so by their own choice, and are not being forced to do so? Though Adam and Eve's choice plunged us all into spiritual death and slavery to our own sinful desires, we still choose to do what we wish to do as sinners. The problem is, as sinners we only wish to do that which is sinful, and we are not capable of trusting in Christ as Savior without God first giving us new spiritual life, what is commonly referred to as being born again. More on that later as well.

You see, Calvinism is the only thoroughly and consistently God centered theology. God has done everything for His glory according to Calvinism, and this is good for God to do so because He is God and has a right to do what He wishes, and the way in which He carries out His plan does not force man to be evil. You may object, and the God hater and atheist is sure to object, by saying that it is not possible for God to predestine the fall of man and man still freely choose to rebel, that that itself is a contradiction. I’ve already addressed that, but let me remind you, given my definition of predestination, this is not a contradiction, no more so than God creating everything out of nothing. Indeed, for man this would be a contradiction, because we know that man cannot create out of nothing, nor can man, out of the fiat of his will, predestine things. God however, can, these abilities are His and His alone, and as such, are not possible for us to comprehend. This goes back to the atheist and God hater being unwilling to define God except in terms of what the atheist himself can do or at least fathom. If the atheist himself cannot do it, or at least rationally figure out how to do it or how it could be possible, he says it is not possible. He would be right, it isn’t possible for the atheist, but with God, it is possible. A contradiction is not something that man cannot do or something that man cannot logically conceive of; a contradiction is something that is truly impossible, demonstrably illogical and irrational. Until someone demonstrates how God predestining man to freely choose to fall, I stand on my ground.

It is true, for instance, that God cannot create a four-sided circle, since by definition circles do not have sides (or I suppose you could say that they have an infinite number of sides, but the point still stands). A four-sided circle is a contradiction in terms, an impossibility. This can be ruled out of the realm of possibility, because it is inherently illogical. God predestining the Fall is not out of the realm of possibility, because it is not inherently illogical or contradictory. Inexplainable? Yes. Inconceivable for man? Yes. Impossible, contradictory, or illogical? No.

I and my fellow Calvinists are not violating the law of non-contradiction, since we are not saying anything like man both exists and does not exists at the same time, or God caused man to sin by working an evil spirit into man and yet man created the evil desire and spirit by himself.  That would clearly be a contradiction, which is what a lie is, but that is not what we are saying. Fatalism says that God worked evil into Adam and Eve’s heart, but not predestination, and that is why that distinction is so key. Calvinists do not claim to know how it is that God can predestine the fall of man by man freely choosing to fall anymore than we claim that we know how God created everything out of nothing or how He has always existed, yet we do affirm that this is what Scripture teaches and that this is no contradiction or impossibility for God. I repeat again, God can do things that we as humans, as created beings, cannot do. We rest and take our peace in that.

Please also understand, I am not even saying that God took away a little bit of man’s freedom by predestining the fall of man. In fact, as far as freedom goes, I am saying that man was just as free as the typical American church that denies predestination would teach. Indeed, I am saying that man is just as free as the Christian high school I went to taught me. What I am saying, though, is that the Fall was actually God’s plan all along. In other words, I am saying God had a purpose in this. I am showing God’s real purpose in why He planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden and forbade Adam and Eve to eat of it in the first place, but I am not taking away the will of man. It is true that man’s moral responsibility in light of God’s total sovereignty and predestination is a mystery, something we cannot fully explain or understand.  Yet without God predestining the Fall, we are forced to hold the untenable position that God’s purpose in planting the forbidden tree and its forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was to honor man with free will, a plan which failed miserably, that God knew would fail miserably before He even created man, that the cross was an emergency plan B, and yet somehow God supposedly still comes out good and loving and kind, and somehow intelligent, in doing this. That is not a god that I could serve, and I would be with the atheists and God-haters if that were the god of the Bible. Thankfully, it is not. Thankfully, God predestined the Fall to bring Him glory, and His people the greatest possible amount of joy. The Americanized version of God, and the God that my high school presented, cannot claim this.

So to summarize, it is good and loving for God to predestine the Fall of man because it allows God’s chosen people to thusly receive grace, mercy, love, and Christ Himself as Savior in a real and experiential way.  We also are privileged with becoming children of God and united together with Christ through His shed blood poured out for us, something that would never happen if the Fall never occurred. God is also glorified through demonstrating His wrath on those whom He has not chosen to save by the blood of Christ, giving them justice and wrath, what they deserve, instead. Man has a will, always does what he wishes to do, and creates his own wishes by utilizing his will. All unbelievers are God haters, because they do not want to live for God’s glory, which is what they were created to want and find true joy in, but instead they wish to live for their own glory, demonstrating that they do indeed deserve punishment in hell. Salvation is offered to them, and to everyone, through faith in Christ as Savior; yet all men, because they are dead in their trespasses and sins, freely reject Christ as Savior.    

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Calvinist’s God: Replacing The Americanized God With The True Foundations Of The Christian Faith (Ch. 2)


Chapter 2: Free Will- The Master’s Master Plan?

I was always taught from my Christian school that God gave man a choice to either obey God or disobey Him in the Garden of Eden. That was God’s master plan, to plant a tree that was forbidden for them to eat of, to test them. It was never really said if God knew what would or would not happen beforehand. The school believed that God was all knowing, so they would have claimed that God knew man would fall if they were pressed, I would assume, but they never addressed that issue. I, and most of the other students, never thought  that issue through either. It was an answer we were given, and in my shallow understanding of things, it worked. I was isolated in a Christian bubble, sealed off from the “real world” full of unbelievers and believers with different interpretations, counter-arguments, and rebuttals. In fact, I thought this was the only interpretation for the Christian. I took the school at its word, and thought little more of it.

I am sure this is why many Christians struggle when they go to a secular college. They come out of this Christian bubble of Christian schools and churches, where very little doctrine has been taught to begin with, and then they are bombarded with tough questions by skeptical professors and students at universities who know the Bible far better than they do. Soon, some show they were never saved to begin with, and leave the faith they once professed (although never truly possessed), while others, the true believers, are in a state of despair, and begin searching for the answers. But alas, they are already at a severe disadvantage, and by the time they catch up, if they do catch up, they are out of college.

This is a testament to the poor teaching in Christian schools and churches yet again. At the same time, something needs to be said for the student’s lack of interest in Scripture as well. While I was certainly interested in studying the Word and, if I may say so without sounding arrogant, I believe I had more of an interest than many of my peers, nevertheless, my commitment to studying Scripture on my own, to thinking about and asking the hard questions, was greatly lacking. I always perked up during chapel services or Bible class, hoping to glean something helpful, and sometimes I did. But by the time I was in high school, the questions I needed answered were questions that I should have had down pat in middle school. The questions I still didn’t understand were elementary. I was getting some of them in high school, and because I was so shallow in my faith, it seemed helpful. It was helpful, but it was merely scratching the surface. I would have been destroyed by an atheist or anyone who had actually studied the Bible with sincerity and found it contradictory, immoral, absurd, fallible, or uninspired (To this day, I am still playing catch up in those areas). I thought there was little else to Scripture and the Christian faith, but I was wrong.  

For instance, I had no clue that the Old Testament was full of stories where God commands the Israelites to kill other nations- man, woman, and child. I would be willing to bet there are some in high school or even college reading this who had no idea either until just now. A friend of mine, doubting his faith when I was a junior in high school, pointed this out. He had trouble with the morality of a God who slaughters nations, including children. I had no ready answer. This didn’t sound like the God, or especially the Jesus, that I was accustomed to hearing about from my church or school. I knew there had to be a good explanation, but what that explanation was, I did not know.

Then there was the whole issue of how we know God exists. Again, my science books and science teachers didn’t offer a whole lot, except to say that both evolution and atheism or Christianity and creationism are accepted by faith. That was the grand argument, that it took faith to believe both. True enough, but so what? That doesn’t prove the existence of God. Perhaps they were implicitly stating that God couldn’t be proven. I disagree, now, many years later, but at the time I just took their word for it, that both were accepted by faith, and that the appearance of design indicated that there was a Designer. None of us would have had a chance against an evolutionist, or even someone who simply disagreed. We never explored the logical necessities of God, and I can vaguely remember one of my teachers touching on the moral proofs of God in passing, as if it were an afterthought. You weren’t aware that there were such things as “logical necessities of God” or “moral proofs” of God? Never heard of the cosmological or ontological arguments? I hadn’t either.

So at Christian school, I learned little that was actually Christian. I didn’t grow in my faith much because there wasn’t much being taught that would enable me to grow. The gospel, the “Americanized” version that is, was the main concern of the Christian school. Get students in, get them saved, and then discipline them so that they will have a passion to get others saved. The name of the game was reproducing, numbers, or so it seemed to me and some of the other students. That was what most chapels were about. To be fair, some chapels and Bible class did teach us a bit, but it was basic facts, like what the temple in the Old Testament looked like, or a quiz on what such and such a verse in Scripture says, or that drinking beer and smoking and having sex outside of marriage was a sin and the rapture was just around the corner. Rather than expounding on the Scripture itself and drawing out its meaning and implications, we mostly got a few lists of things to do, or not to do, if we want to be good Christians.

Fortunately, that did change a bit my senior year, where we had some good stuff and were exposed to Marxism and postmodernist thought, but prior to that we were encapsulated in shallow Christianity, almost exclusively. That Bible class my senior year, as much as I enjoyed it, was also a rude awakening. It was like the school was saying, “Surprise, there is so much you don’t know about, and we have neglected to teach it to you, but we are going to try to give you a picture of what it’s going to be like just before you are thrown to the wolves at college.” Or, perhaps, my Christian school just assumed that all good Christians go to Christian schools. Bad assumption. By this time, most of my fellow classmates could care less about the “deeper” things of God, and they could barely grasp surface level truths.

I say all that to say this- the only way I will be able to convince you, the reader, that the typical American gospel is a false gospel, is if you begin to realize that the Christian institutions in America, the schools, and the church primarily, aren’t doing their job. They aren’t really teaching. They are more concerned with the rapture, or if drinking beer is a sin, or sharing wild testimonies, and getting “decisions for Christ,” than they are with growing in the faith. The question needs to be asked, what exactly are we winning people to? Christ, yes, of course. But what does that look like? Just continue being a moral person, telling others about Jesus and how they too can be saved and avoid punishment? Is that really all there is to it? Is it that simple, that basic? I don’t think so, and what happened in the Garden of Eden, after man fell into sin, proves it.

We know in Genesis 2:16 that God tells Adam that he may not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And we know in Genesis 3 Adam and Eve listen to Satan, who is masquerading in the form of a serpent, and disobey God by eating of the forbidden fruit. What we sometimes overlook, or often overlook I think, is that God proclaimed the very day in which Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they would die (Gen. 2:17). This is important, because, as we know, Adam and Eve did not die that very day. Or did they? Some take God to mean that Adam and Eve would begin to die physically the day they ate of the fruit, and I do not dispute that. But, it is also true that Adam and Eve did indeed die spiritually that day. Notice, in Gen. 3:7-11, that both Adam and Eve had their eyes “opened” and they now perceived that they were naked. They then proceed to hide from the presence of God, and are subsequently cast out of God’s presence by God Himself, banished from the Garden of Eden.

Now, before I go on to explain what exactly it means to be dead spiritually, I need to uncover why Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. This question, I have come to believe, will actually determine if you are a Calvinist, or at least Calvinistic, or not. This may be the most important question of all, since it shapes and affects everything in this sinful world today.

First, we must concede that Adam and Eve were capable of choosing to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. While Adam and Eve were created without sin, they were created with a free will. By free will, I mean the ability to either obey God or disobey God. What I cannot answer, however, is how they chose to disobey God. They could have chosen to not listen to the serpent and remain obedient. It wasn’t because they were tricked into eating, for it is clear that Eve knew the command of God and that she was not to eat of the fruit. Nevertheless, she was allured by the fruit, saw that it would make her wise in her own eyes, and that it was good for eating. She chose, of her own will, to disobey God and eat the fruit, because she wanted to know good and evil for herself, to be like God, to be her own boss. So did Adam. The tough question, though, is how did man, without a sin nature, incline himself to sin and eat the forbidden fruit?

Why did they want to eat the fruit, given they were made perfect, without blemish, by God? What would incline them to eat that which was forbidden to them if they were created without a sin nature? Sure the forbidden fruit looked tasty, but they did not have a sin nature like we do, so why desire the fruit knowing that it would be in direct disobedience to what God had said? I do not know the answer, but I can take comfort in not knowing because I do know why I cannot know. Let me explain that briefly.

I cannot know why Adam and Eve desired to be like God and not be obedient to Him because the only way I can understand desire is in my fallen state. What I mean is, I can no better tell you what it was like to make a decision, for the good or the bad, without a sin nature or the Holy Spirit within me, than I can tell you what it is like to breathe with gills like a fish. This is because we, as fallen sinners, do what we are most inclined to do at any given moment based off our sin nature. When I sin, it is because of my depravity that I sin. When Adam and Eve first sinned, it was not because of any inherent depravity. In other words, there was a different set of rules, or influences, that governed their decision-making process. It wasn’t sin nature or the Holy Spirit, but free will. Free will, as I am about to labor to explain, was lost when Adam and Eve fell into sin. Not that our will was lost, but our freedom to do that which is good, was lost. The freedom of the will to do that which was good, pleasing to God, was lost (Rom. 8:8).

My argument is that, although I cannot know why Adam and Eve wanted to disobey God, I do know why I cannot know, and not being able to know does not impugn on the righteousness or character of God. Therefore, I trust God in that issue, in the same way that I trust God on the issue of Him creating everything out of nothing. I don’t know how God did it because I am not God and do not have the powers to create out of nothing, but I do know that the reason I do not know is because it is God alone who has the power to create out of nothing. And in the same sense, I do not have the power of free will, for I am enslaved to my own fallen will, my sin nature (at least I was, before I was saved from my sin, but I’ll explain that when the time comes). Suffice to say that Adam and Eve did have the capacity, due to their free will, to incline their hearts towards disobedience, and somehow, within their free will, they brought evil, sin, disobedience into the world, into the realm of humanity. To be clear, I have yet to fully answer my own question that I opened this book with regarding how God can be good yet allow evil; right now I am just setting the stage. The answer will be coming.  

In light of that, let’s get back to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil itself. What exactly was going on here, why did God plant this tree in the garden? It was far more than God just “honoring” Adam and Eve with free will. In fact, God wasn’t trying to honor them in that sense at all. True, part of what He was doing was testing them, allowing them to show their obedience and allegiance to Him. Man and woman were created by God, for God, to glorify God. We were created in God’s image, after His likeness, and our purpose is to glorify God in all that we do (1 Cor. 10:31). Therefore, we were made for God, by bringing Him praise and glory, and reflecting His glory in our actions and lives. And God made us so that we would receive the greatest amount of delight, pleasure, and joy in glorifying God, for He alone is worthy of all the praise and glory. This was a good deal for us- it is better to be created, fashioned to live for God, who is the most high, the most glorious, than to be created to live for ourselves. We are far inferior, far less lovely and magnificent, than God. That is a crucial point, as we will see later on.

Now, what this really was about, ultimately, was God giving man the opportunity to honor Him. By abstaining from eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve would be honoring God and praising Him as Sovereign Lord and Creator over them, giving Him the glory as they were created to do, and recognizing Him for what He actually is- the sovereign one. By being obedient, they would be acknowledging His Lordship over their lives, a Lordship which He had every right to. So this was an opportunity for God to be more glorified, and man to receive greater joy by glorifying God. Obedience requires, by its very nature, the ability to be disobedient. If I am forced to obey, or cannot do anything but obey, obedience is not obedience. Obedience is only obedience when it is chosen freely by man, and that free choosing by man to honor God is what glorifies God.

However, man didn’t choose to glorify God, but instead chose to dishonor God and glorify self by disobeying Him. The motive? That they could be like God, knowing good and evil, being their own bosses (Gen. 3:5). It was cosmic treason, and it is important to realize this. Many people, even Christians, have a hard time with the concept of eternal punishment in hell just because a few people chose to eat a piece of fruit. However, as you can hopefully see, the sin wasn’t merely in eating a piece of fruit, but eating a piece of forbidden fruit in order to throw off God as Lord, Creator, Provider, in favor of self as lord, creator, and provider- replacing God’s rule with man’s rule, self rule. In short, Adam and Eve were acting in defiance of God, choosing to live for themselves and their own desires instead of their altogether good Creator’s purposes. The result was severe- God delivered on His promise, and Adam and Eve died spiritually. They, along with the serpent, were also cursed. Pain entered into the world, physical labor was exhausting, and bringing forth fruit from the earth was now a real chore thanks in part to thorns. Man also began to physically die and suffer disease and bodily deterioration. Strife between husband and wife, and interaction between all humans, came into being, aptly demonstrated by Cain murdering his brother Abel.

But worst of all, and perhaps unbeknownst to Adam and Eve fully, spiritual death would spread to all men. It would be inherited from Adam and Eve. Romans 5 tells us that all who are born of Adam (and that would be everyone) bears the fallen, dead-in-sin nature of their first parents. It is passed down. Adam and Eve acted as representatives or our human race, meaning a solidarity exists between us and them, and consequently we are all stillborn, spiritually speaking, the moment we come into existence. The moment we are alive physically, we are dead spiritually. We may not like that, but that is probably because we are Americans. In fact, it is because we are Americans. Our mindset is that we should have the right to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, that we deserve a chance to make right what Adam and Eve made wrong. We think it unfair that the actions of our parents eternally damned the whole human race. It doesn’t agree with the “American Way” of life. Thus we have fashioned the Americanized God as an equal opportunity God- a God that enables each man to determine his or her own fate, their own salvation or damnation.

Of course, we never complain that Jesus Christ died to save men. While we do complain that we are all born spiritually dead because of one man, Adam (Romans 5:12-15,19), we seem to have no problem with being saved by the righteousness and sin-bearing death of one man, Jesus (Romans 5:19). If it wasn’t fair for us to be damned because of one man, Adam, then we should likewise be complaining that it isn’t fair that we should be saved by one man, Jesus. But of course, we don’t want to go there, do we? That is just one of the many inconsistencies of the American God, and the typical American Christian.

So the first thing you are going to have to swallow, if I am going to be able to successfully move you from the “Americanized gospel” to the gospel of the Bible (if indeed you are infected with the American gospel), is your pride. You are going to have to submit to the righteousness of Christ, rather than trying to establish your own righteousness (Rom. 10:2-4). In fact, as those verses in Romans 10 show, if you truly have not done this, you have not been saved from the law and your sin. Sadly, the American gospel confuses the purpose of the law, Christ, and the gospel, throwing salvation onto men’s shoulders by demanding they choose to live for Christ and give up their sin as a prerequisite to receiving divine favor, salvation, and forgiveness. More on that later.

For now, it needs to be stated that God didn’t leave all of history up to a coin flip. He wasn’t crossing his fingers when Eve was tempted by Satan. He knew that Adam and Eve would fall, yet He chose to let them fall anyways. Two questions arise from this that I still have yet to answer fully.

Firstly, how exactly did God know what Adam and Eve would choose, considering that a free will would allegedly have to mean that it is free of God’s foreknowledge? After all, if the act is truly free, and we are defining free will as solely up to man and not God, God could have no more clue what would be done than anyone else, for man’s free will can ebb and flow at any given moment, one way or the other, when it is not tainted with a sin nature. A free will in this sense, which is the sense the Americanized God uses, cannot be determined by God, or anyone. If God can determine the will of man, then man’s will, obviously, is not free, for there is something, or several things, that are tipping God off, showing Him what they will undoubtedly choose.  

 Secondly, even if we can ascertain or come up with some solution as to how God knew what Adam and Eve would choose beforehand, why on earth would He knowingly allow them to choose rebellion, if He is good and loving? If it was all about honoring man’s free will, and God knew from the beginning due to His foreknowledge that they would not honor themselves, or Him, then why create man anyways? One cannot look at the ravagings of a tornado, or hurricane, or famine, or pestilence, or war, and not conclude that this is a cruel, painful world. Or what about the heartbreak of losing a loved one, or getting cheated on? Those things hurt worse than losing all earthly possessions. How can God claim to be loving towards us, to have a goodwill towards us, and yet stand by, passively as it were, as we plummet further and further into sin, especially since He knew before He made us that we would not honor ourselves, or Him, by refraining from the forbidden fruit? (Eph. 1:4). If He were going to go through with it regardless and create us, why didn’t He stop Adam and Eve before they sinned? Wouldn’t a loving God intervene?

The answer that my Christian school gave me, as I said before, was that God was honoring us with free will. I don’t care about that honor. I would agree that God is an evil monster if that is why He let us fall into sin. I would rather not suffer the affects of sin and death and sorrow just because my first parents had a chance to really make a name for the human race. I should mention that some have recognized this major problem, that if God foreknew that we would fall, yet created us to give us the chance to honor Him and/or honor ourselves by obedience, and have resorted to saying that God cannot know the future, since man does have an entirely free will. They would be right in saying that God could not know the future if man’s will was truly altogether free, however, that is not a comforting thought. These people, called Open-Theists, say that God is learning with us, that He is guessing what we will do and trying to make the most of it. How can a god, who doesn’t know the beginning from the end, guarantee us anything? He could not. This only compounds the problem. Not to mention, it is clear from Scripture that God is all-knowing.

It is these two questions that many non-Calvinists get wrong. And because of that, their view of the purpose of God in all of His doings, in all of human history, is wrong. Think about it- if you misinterpret the reason God made man, you will inevitably misinterpret and misunderstand the very nature and character of man, the Fall, salvation, redemption, and not to mention God Himself. If we don’t know what we were made for, or why God made us, then we cannot know God and His purposes, nor ourselves and the purposes for which we were made. And if that is the case, the cross of Christ cannot be fully understood either. This is a very, very big deal.

Therefore, if you are not a Calvinist (and hopefully you find it unacceptable for God to create man to honor their free will, yet know full well before He even made them that they would fail to honor themselves, and Him, and plunge the human race into pain, suffering, and despair), then it is incredibly likely that your understanding of God’s ultimate purpose in all things, in creating us, and in allowing us to fall, is wrong. Because of that, your view, your understanding of why God made all things, including us, is wrong. So please understand, if you are in this situation, it is not merely that you misunderstand or have misinterpreted your purpose and what God is like, you have believed a lie about who you are and what God is like. This is not to say that you are automatically an unbeliever, but it is to say that you are at the very least severely handicapped in your faith.

How would you answer these two questions?  As mentioned earlier, in high school I had never even fathomed such a deep and profound, and important, question. My thinking was shallow. I know if I were put on the spot I would have not had a good answer. I believe I do have the answer now, given to me by Scripture and the grace of God. I learned of it first as a Calvinist, in my first semester at a secular college, on the internet.               

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Calvinist’s God: Replacing The Americanized God With The True Foundations Of The Christian Faith (Ch. 1)

Chapter 1- Shortchanging Jesus
               
                Talk to a typical Christian in the United States, and you will soon realize that, despite their claims to loving God and desiring to see others saved for Jesus, they don’t know a whole lot about the Bible. If you asked them how a loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful God could allow evil and possibly be considered good, you are sure to get a glazed-over look on many faces, because most American Christians have never even considered such a question before. They may appeal to the free will of man, but the question remains, “How can a supposedly loving God, who is all powerful and knows all things, allow evil?” God made man with a free will, thus allowing the entrance of sin into the world. How can God do that? With that, I have just stumped the vast majority of American Christians.
                
You see, for my whole life (twenty-one years) I have grown up in a Presbyterian church and attended a basically Baptist Christian school from K-5 to graduation. In both cases, I have found the instruction to the congregation, and to the children, to be wanting. Further, I found that few young people were truly interested in the things of God, of knowing Him more deeply, past the age of eleven or twelve. I have several theories for why that is so, but the one that seems most obvious is that God loses his relevance by the time you are eleven or twelve or thirteen. What does God matter when you have reached puberty and you are becoming a more social creature? What does God matter beyond a few cutesy Bible stories like Noah and the Ark, Jonah and the Whale, Joseph and the coat of many colors, Daniel in the lion’s den? Neat stories, for kids. But you aren’t a kid at eleven or twelve or thirteen anymore.

                Oh I know, believe me, I understand. There is more to the Bible than stories like that. After all, there is the gospel. And therein lies the problem- nobody is teaching the gospel to young children anymore (or the adults for that matter). Sure, you may hear in Sunday School that Jesus loves you, and will care for you, and that you should be kind to Jesus and learn about Him out of gratitude. You may even hear that God should be obeyed, and no doubt moralism wins the day in the teaching of our youngest children at church, and in the Christian schools.

                But you don’t need Jesus to be moral. You don’t need anything to be moral really. Most people strive, by their very nature, to be morally upright people. What are the odds that your son or daughter is going to turn out to be a murderer, or rapist, or thief? Not that great. As long as you tell them about prison and teach them to be nice and respectful, voila, you have your typical human being, the outside of the cup not looking too bad at all.

                The church has basically attached this moralism to Jesus Christ and called it the gospel. Don’t believe me? Walk into a church and see what they preach. Is it not essentially that, if you trust in Jesus, try and follow Him and what He says to do, and believe that He loves you and cares about you and died for you, then you will go to heaven? That is what they preach, no matter what special effects or outer garments they try to dress the message in. It is nothing more than a gospel on morality, intermixed with some emotional appeals to how Jesus loves you and calls you to be the best human being you can possibly be, and that without Jesus, life just isn’t quite complete.

                Now, do we really need Jesus Christ as a life coach, pleading with us to do what is right? Of course not. Buddha fits that bill just as well, probably better. So did Gandhi. The only thing that Jesus offers in this moralistic gospel that Buddha and Gandhi cannot, of course, is everlasting life, forgiveness of sins. So the reward is better if you choose Jesus’ version of morality, and that’s the sweet piece of the pie that you have been missing, and can only be found in Jesus. After all, you get the Creator of the universe to swoon over you, make you His Son, save you from torment in hell, and grant you everlasting life where you get to strum harps and bounce off clouds all day. That may be why Jesus’ version of morality has usually won out over Gandhi and Buddha’s. Plus, Jesus has a Book, boosting His credibility.

                And that’s it- that’s basically all the knowledge that most Christians have in America. Have a good day, I’ve just articulated American Christianity to you. They will preach to you this gospel of morality, offer you eternal life if you trust that Jesus died for your sins, on condition that you choose to live for Him and stop living for sin and for yourself. They couch the whole repenting business in easy-to-swallow terms of course, making it sound like you are getting a steal of a deal, something for nothing. That however, is not the case, which is evident if you read the last two sentences. The grievous error, above all else in this American gospel, is that it has placed the emphasis of being saved on a life-altering, self-sacrificing, morally commendable decision and commitment of men rather than the life-altering, self-sacrificing, perfect obedience of Jesus Christ to the law of God.

                In other words, we have short-changed Jesus. We have made Him an enabler to save man, depending on what man chooses to do. Instead of proclaiming salvation through Christ alone, we have claimed that we are proclaiming salvation through Christ’s work on the cross alone, all the while preaching salvation by a decision to be obedient to Christ by our own willpower, which is clearly another gospel and understanding of salvation altogether.

 What gets taught is that Christ has done His part, He has done everything He can do. His death was an expression of His love for you, now you need to express your love for Him by choosing Him over sin, and then you will be forgiven. So, strum up the soft guitar music, dim the lights, everyone bow their heads and close their eyes, and let’s get down to business, shall we? Are you ready to make that all important decision for Christ? Choose Him, deny your sins, pray that He will come into your heart, and then you can know you are saved. Oh, and make sure you walk down to the altar and fill out this card, that’s very important.

Oh and one more minor thing, make sure for the rest of your life you don’t fall away from your decision for Christ, because, after all, the reason God saved you is because you chose Him, not because He chose you.

Is that good news? I mean, the only good news in that is if you add “I love Jesus” to your set of beliefs, you will get into heaven, while the rest of the world, ignorant of that phrase, will live equally, if not more moral lives than you, yet miss out on heaven and wind up in hell, a place of everlasting destruction where the fiery wrath of God is poured out forever. Awesome news, that is. You get heaven in exchange for your morality and your belief in Jesus loving you and dying for you, while the rest of the world gets hell for striving to follow (by and large) the same precepts that Jesus taught. Their great sin was doing it in ignorance of the name of Jesus. You, however, were fortunate enough to hear of Jesus and therefore you get heaven.

I don’t think I am misrepresenting American Christianity at all by saying this. There are exceptions, of course. There are those who still preach the true gospel. They are called monergists, and most of them are Calvinists. They follow the teachings of Jesus, of Peter, and Paul, and they don’t compromise on the gospel. They are more concerned about preaching the true gospel than how people will react if they don’t like what the gospel says. They are more concerned about proclaiming a Savior that actually saves and a God who sovereignly dispenses His grace and chooses who He will save, rather than making man the author of their own salvation by saying their salvation is up to their free will ability to give up their sin and clean up their acts.

Calvinists proclaim that only God’s grace can save you, and then actually preach the gospel of grace rather than a gospel of works and morality, unlike most other strands of churches and preachers today. They preach salvation as a supernatural work of God whereby the Holy Spirit gives new life to spiritually dead souls, sight to blind eyes, hearing to deaf ears, so that the gospel can and will be received with rejoicing and thanksgiving, rather than as a command for man to do something so that they can earn God’s favor and get out of hell. Calvinists preach a gospel that tells you what Christ did to save you. The typical American gospel tells what Christ did so that you can either do something, or believe in something, and through that belief or action, or both, you can be saved.

The difference is night and day. This American gospel, the one I grew up with before I became a Calvinist at eighteen years of age, told me to have faith in my own faith if I wanted to be saved, instead of having faith in the finished work of Christ alone for my salvation. The American gospel told me that Christ didn’t actually save me on the cross, because I still had to give Him my life and choose to live for Him before I could be forgiven. The result, of course, is that one can never be sure when he or she has placed enough faith in their own faith and works. One can never be sure one has done enough in obedience to Christ and His commandments to know that he or she is committed to Christ sufficiently to receive forgiveness. The tricky thing, as I have already said, is that this gospel is presented in such pretty wrappings that you don’t realize everything is contingent upon your ability to uphold your commitment of service to Christ and faith in Him.

The question undoubtedly becomes this: If I must commit my life to Christ and His ways to be saved, what constitutes saving commitment? If in a few weeks, a few months, or a few years from now I fall away from my commitment and start sinning like nobodies business, was I ever saved in the first place? Do I simply need to rededicate my life to Christ, redouble my efforts? And say I do rededicate, what happens when I struggle and stumble again? I saw many students at Christian school rededicate their lives to Christ, multiple times. Many have fallen away from the faith altogether, and understandably so. Christ claims to offer rest, that His yoke is easy and burden is light. This American gospel, however, is a heavy yoke that no one can bear.

That is the vicious cycle that I want to break everyone away from, and only the true gospel, the gospel of Calvinism, and the Calvinist’s God, can do that. For many who are not Calvinists, that will sound extreme. Surely, you may think, Calvinism cannot claim a monopoly on the gospel? Surely there is room for interpretation? If that is what you are thinking, I think by the end of this writing you will be persuaded differently, if you are open to the truth of Scripture. Can a non-Calvinist truly be a Christian? Yes, but don’t let out your collected breath just yet. The yes is a qualified yes. The qualification is only if the non-Calvinist Christian is affirming a contradiction, an inconsistency. And this great contradiction and inconsistency will malign your efforts to serve Christ, and it will diminish your joy as a Christian. Maybe you think you are quite happy and comfortable as a Christian. Maybe you are, but when you get that nasty contradiction, that horrible inconsistency cleared up, I guarantee you you’ll be happier than ever before.  

Before I close this chapter, let’s return to the question I opened with. How can God be a kind and loving God if He is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet allows evil? God also claims to know the end from the beginning, so He cannot claim ignorance. God knows what will happen; He knew Adam and Eve would fall into sin, yet He let it happen anyways. Why? The curse of sin, the fall of man, all the pain, suffering, death, and hell that ensues, is a result of God’s plan for man as much as it is man’s plan to disobey God, if, after all, Ephesians 1:11 speaks the truth when it says that God works all things according to the counsel of His will. Some skeptics and atheists say that this makes God, if He were to exist, a moral monster. The reason why most Christians have yet to ponder such a question is quite often due to their lack of interest in the Bible and the deep things of God, or it may be that they have been so indoctrinated into a false belief system, a non-Calvinist belief system, that they cannot recognize the real questions anymore.  Many live in a “Christian bubble,” where their friends are primarily other Christians, being taught the same shallow and flawed teachings.

But I think there is a reason why Christians today do not have an interest in the deep things of God, and that reason is in large part due to their poor understanding of the fall of man.

What I am saying is that the church in America is getting the gospel wrong because they are getting the Garden of Eden and the fall of man wrong. Because they are getting the fall of man wrong, they cannot answer the question posed at the beginning of this chapter with any degree of satisfaction, so they shy away from addressing the question, opting instead to leave it open to mystery, as if that is more God-honoring. Or, they say it is due to God wanting to honor man’s free will, which, when that argument is probed, falls under the weight of scrutiny.
Free will plays a part in it, to be sure, but it has nothing to do with God wanting to honor man’s free will, nor does it have anything to do with God having to ‘respect’ man so much that He gave them the free will ability to disobey Him, or else He truly would be ‘evil’. That, of course, is a nonsense statement. Why is that a nonsense statement? Because if you asked me, or anyone, if I would rather be in hell with a free will, or a robot in heaven with no free will at all, I would of course rather be a robot in heaven. I’ll take puppetry over free-will-eternal-torment any day. Wouldn’t you? Yet the truth is, puppetry doesn’t exist, and the existence of evil is a good thing rather than a bad thing. Also, this free will theory belies a greater problem- that God is apparently not allowed to make man for His purposes. Instead, God is limited to creating beings in His own image only if He gives them complete choice to do whatever they want. He is not allowed to do anything that could guarantee their obedience or disobedience, since that would destroy man’s right to free will. Where does this right come from? It is hard to say, since God nowhere in Scripture ever gives it.
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