Abuse Survivors Question the Idea That Nothing Happens in Your Life – Even Abuse – That God Does Not Permit

 There is nothing that happens in your life that God does not permit – – even abuse?


We got in a heated discussion in the comments on the last post regarding the determinist belief that nothing happens in our lives that God does not permit. For people who have been abused, that is a tough pill to swallow. For abuse survivors, please be careful. This discussion could be triggering.

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This determinist belief seems to contradict the idea of a kind and loving Father who protects His children. Gail asked Pastor Wade Burleson specific questions and I thought it would be best to put them in a new blog post to keep this topic together.

Here is Gail’s comment to Wade which I also sent to him in an e-mail:

Wade,

I just listened to one of the sermons that Oasis linked on the other thread. I have a few questions & observations. I will be quoting some of what you said to clear up any confusion to those who didn’t listen.
“Every affliction in your life is of the Lord, all of it is.”

I was molested at five years old by my father, by another again at seven the list doesn’t stop there, for time sake I will be brief. Do you believe child rape is a affliction?

I do not understand what you meant when you said “affliction is of the Lord” but “not from the Lord.” What does that even mean?

“Nothing happens in your life that God either permits, promotes or prohibits”
Okay, so God could have prohibited my abuse? Or He permitted it? Wow, that sounds like God was implicit in what tore me to shreds as a girl.

Can you understand why your words cause turmoil inside of me?

I trust that you meant what you said in your sermon, that you are learning, growing from this interaction also with Oasis.
Would you consider that perhaps you miscommunicated with her? You keep insisting that you are not in the wrong at all, that she has her perception which makes it her reality, which implies at least to me that she is not telling the truth.
I will be out the rest of the afternoon, if I don’t respond I am not ignoring you, just have a full day.

Wade responded back to my e-mail and gave me permission to post his response to Gail’s questions:

I can sure understand that there are triggers for anyone who has undergone abuse. I would like to answer Gail’s questions, and feel free if you would like to use them.

(1). “Every affliction in your life is of the Lord, all of it is”

God says “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7). The word disaster is better translated (in my opinion) “affliction.”

However, there must be some caveats and qualifications with any understanding of this Isaiah passage of scripture. The Bible never contradicts itself – ever. We also read “For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone (to do evil); But each one is tempted (to do evil) when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust (James 1:13-14). So when I (or anyone) says God “affliction is of the Lord” it NEVER means He causes, designs, authors, or creates EVIL.” Not at all.

“Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). God only creates good. Man and fallen angels create evil. When I say “Affliction is of God” I mean God is able to take what man creates (evil) and orchestrate good from it. Evil is not good, nor is good evil – rather, God is able to turn what man meant for evil into good. God is never responsible for evil. He is only and always the author of good.

(2). “I was molested at five years old by my father, by another again at seven the list doesn’t stop there, for time sake I will be brief. Do you believe child rape is an affliction?”

Rape is evil. Rape is a crime. The rapist alone is responsible for the unspeakable horror. What I believe is that somehow, someway, God will produce good from evil. For example, the punishment of the rapist at the Judgment will be a good thing. The ultimate healing of the victim of rape through the love, mercy and kindness of God will be a good thing. The question that you seem to be asking is simple: “DID GOD CAUSE THE RAPE?” My answer: “GOOD GOD NO.”

I do believe that God allows evil to occur (that He doesn’t cause) because He will ultimately bring about an eternal greater good.

My example would be the beheading of the Coptic Christians in Lebanon. Did God cause this to happen? No. Will ultimate good come from it? Yes.

“For we know that God works all things together for good to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

(3). “I do not understand what you meant when you said ‘affliction is of the Lord’ but ‘not from the Lord. What does that even mean?”

It simple means that God does not create, cause or author evil (‘from the Lord’), but God will allow and permit evil because of an ultimate greater good that is coming, including the display of His holiness and justice in the punishment of the sinner and His mercy, goodness and kindness in the redemption of the victim.

(4). “Can you understand your words cause turmoil inside me?”

Yes. Absolutely. There’s wisdom in simply being there for someone whose been abused in the beginning, showing love. However, if I didn’t believe that ultimately the only hope of real recovery from deep, intense scars of past abuse is the knowledge that good IS COMING (the abuse is NOT GOOD), but good is coming, then I would remain silent about these things forever. I only speak of what I see Romans 8:28 to teach when asked. I never offer it until asked.

(5). “Would you consider that perhaps you miscommunicated with her (Oasis)?”

Of course. I also have no hesitation in apologizing. I just need to be shown (because she said it was in writing), and in my opinion, I have never – ever – said “God designs sexual abuse.” I have only and always said “God designs good” and I do not believe in any form or fashion sexual abuse is good.

Wade also added the following:

I am out for the rest of the week. This is all I can offer. I would suggest that those who would like to read further what I believe to go to the link “The Prince of Evil Overcome by the King of Good.” http://www.wadeburleson.org/2013/10/the-prince-of-evil-overruled-by-king-of.html

photo credit: [As seen on my run.] via photopin (license)

211 comments on “Abuse Survivors Question the Idea That Nothing Happens in Your Life – Even Abuse – That God Does Not Permit

  1. @Lydia00

    Absolutely. Context is vitally important. Jerusalem is the backdrop for the writing of Lamentations 3. But the poem goes on to reveal two vitally important realities about God’s character which don’t appear to be case specific:

    “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.”

    “Who can speak and have it happen
    if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that both calamities and good things come?”

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  2. Karen, You have missed my point. God does NOT bring pain even if the lamenter in lamentations says so. It is like the pastors who teach that King David was actually quoting God. Do they really want to go there when David was also advocating dashing his enemies babies heads against rocks? You know, there are people out there who believe that he was quoting God!

    We tend to read the OT through Western post enlightenment eyes. You do not put ancient Hebrew poetry into a computer program and get a literal meaning out.

    I would give my right arm to get people to understand that God does not “bring” evil, pain or wrong doing to anyone. To get us all to point our fingers at ourselves instead of God would be a huge step in the right direction. It is just another form of blaming God for what humans do.

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  3. Lydia, the poetic elements of Lamentations and other parts of the Bible do not negate the truths they teach. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the author (Jeremiah?) explicitly attributes the destruction of Jerusalem and the atrocities people committed at that time to be the work of God. In many other places we have prophecies inspired by God declaring that God Himself is the cause of these things. In our zeal to point out that evil men are responsible for their own evil acts, and that God never is, let’s not discard a consistent theme of scripture. We go beyond scripture to declare that God directly causes all calamity, but we also go beyond scripture to declare he never does.

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  4. “But for me, I’d rather have a God who allows things for reasons I can’t understand than a God who is incapable or incompetent.” Joe Reed

    I don’t think the opposite of control is incapable/ incompetent. Does anyone really think that? Well, maybe dictators. Is anyone voting for a dictator next year? The discussion is whether God controls or gives us personal freedom/ responsibility. We do not have free choice or responsibility if God controls.

    Control is not ideal. If it was, we would attempt to control our adult children instead of raising children to make their own choices to be free & separate from us. Many deterministic religions (google determinism) think freedom is not ideal.

    This is what I see as a homeschool mom in much of the reformed homeschool movement. There are now adults who were “kept safe” into their 20s; dare I say 30s? There are blogs online created by adults speaking out about the control of their Christian parents because it is “God’s way”. I hear parents say the same thing said about God – Parents decide for their adult kids “for reasons their kids can’t understand”, Parents “know better than their kids”, “Parents are keeping their kids “safe”, etc.

    If one believes in a God who is in control & think that is best-practice love & relationship, then it is logical to parent that way thinking it’s loving. Personally speaking, none of this (controlling God, controlling pastors, controlling spouses, controlling parents, controlling govt, etc.) makes sense to me. It seems to me we are loosing the value & appreciation of God-given freedom. God is wiser than we think, much less incapable or incompetent.

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  5. I have a different view of the OT than you do. It is too intense to get into here but I tend to look at a larger view: Gods constant theme of rescue. Only a sociopath would create calamity so he could be the hero of rescue. That is the focus of power not love. Our focus should be on the stubborn Israelites.

    I do not think people have delved into ancient forms of comminication. I have asked skads of seminary grads if they have ever read other ancient pagan creation narratives. The answer is always no. That says a lot to me.

    Why am I adament? It is about trusting a good and Holy God.

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  6. @trust4himonly:

    Any institution or man who demands, coerces, manipulates, or forces another to forfeit his or her relationship to God is evil; and this has been happening from the time Adam and Eve took that apple. Satan gave some truth but manipulated it to seem better then what God designed. In closing, Gods ways may seem simplistic and we want more; I am more content by obeying and realizing that His way is so much more fulfilling and exciting. His Spirit shows me how to live and be His child to the fullest. I am “down” with that! I don’t need a man to show me how to live my life for God; the Spirit is so much more then that!

    Question: How does this sound any different from every One True Church of One, new split-off denominational founder, cult founder, or “One True Church of One” a la A.W.Pink? Each of those examples would claim “His Spirit showed them how to live” without need for Man’s institutions (except the one the example founded) and that they were restoring the Original New Testament Church with the Holy Spirit as the only guide.

    For example, the Mormons’ origin story begins with a private revelation to one Joseph Smith to “Join None of these (existing) Churches, for all are Apostate”. And after Brigham Young’s reorganization, this Restored Original True Church is one of the biggest religious institutions in the Intermountain West.

    Another example is the Ultimate Theoretical End State of Protestantism approached by A.W.Pink: Millions of One True Churches, each with only one member. And its watered-down version, the Lone Ranger Christian — “just God, the Bible, and me”.

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  7. trust4himonly and A. Amos Love, May God bless you both.

    trust4himonly,
    Your testimony brought me to tears, to read of the brokenness of a life, and yet, has given me such hope, for your time here on this earth is not wasted. It may surprise us one day as we stand before our Risen LORD, just how much of an impact an individual has made for His Kingdom, for we only see what we can see in the flesh. And our Father, who art in Heaven sees and already knows the bigger picture. The spiritual realm of our LORD is but a mystery to us in the natural, and yet, you may be blessed far more than you will ever know in the presence of Jesus.

    A. Amos Love,

    Love, love, love the light of the Scriptures that you brought forth. God’s Word is always alive and active. Ants, seemingly insignificant, are a living powerhouse here on our farm. As for people, it is more often than not, that those considered lowly and insignificant in this world, by this world; are a greater witness, bearing the marks of Christ far more than those who inwardly and outwardly consider themselves more important. For us to decrease so that Jesus may increase is not looked upon favorably by the American church system where health, wealth, and prosperity are taught overtly and covertly.

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  8. I too was wondering, having attended churches of various denominations, how each one (denomination) claims that it is the one true church, worshiping the one true god? And if for some reason, I was abandoned and stranded on an uninhabited island with only the clothes on my back and my Bible in tow, would I be condemned to hell because there are not others worshiping Jesus with me on that island? Would my prayers and the cries of my heart be heard by our LORD?

    What I find so incredible is that I can speak of Jesus publicly, and pray with the Body of Christ in a store, on the telephone, or via the internet, with love and purity of the heart, far more that I can within a church full to overflowing with self righteous, condescending scribes and Pharisees. Alleluia!

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  9. “Question: How does this sound any different from every One True Church of One, new split-off denominational founder, cult founder, or “One True Church of One” a la A.W.Pink? Each of those examples would claim “His Spirit showed them how to live” without need for Man’s institutions (except the one the example founded) and that they were restoring the Original New Testament Church with the Holy Spirit as the only guide.”

    That is a good question! When trusthimonly starts a church and influences and/or insists others believe his/her way or they are heretics then we should be concerned. We could use a bit more individualism in Christendom that we bring to the corporate group when we fellowship/worship. Right now, it seems all we do is look to pastors for what to think or believe.

    If his/her beliefs are not about harming others or controlling others then why should it matter that much?

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  10. ‘For us to decrease so that Jesus may increase is not looked upon favorably by the American church system where health, wealth, and prosperity are taught overtly and covertly.”

    I honestly believe that for Jesus to increase we must reflect Him to others. How else is He really “increased”? There are as many scripture interpretations as there are IHOPS. But what really evangelizes? Being like Jesus Christ?

    Have you guys ever read the letter to Diognetus? It is fascinating:

    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/diognetus-lightfoot.html

    Here is a bit of background concerning the letter:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistle_to_Diognetus

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  11. @Lydia00

    I understand what you mean about King David perhaps taking a form of poetic license in a time of distress, and I think you’re right. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who believed David was quoting God in that Psalm. But then I read things like the graphic commands in Deuteronomy 7 and Joshua 23 and the punishments in Ezra 10, and I wonder if sometimes we ask the wrong questions because we can’t fathom the answers to the right ones.

    I too believe there are differences in the themes of the OT and the NT. And a prominent theme of the OT is certainly Israel’s stubbornness and the need for rescue. Another one is the revelation of God’s character, and the circumstances revealing it show us why the ultimate rescue had to be in the form of the only perfect sacrifice. Himself.

    All of this was determined before the foundation of the world, which creates a bit of a conundrum for us. But when we’re talking about God, who transcends time and space, it’s not really surprising that some of His actions would defy human logic. In fact, He assures us they will.

    At any rate, what we do know is that He came to earth (that he created) to pay the price (that he set) for sin. If he hadn’t been willing to do this, I suppose you’d be right to call him a sociopath. But he was willing, and he did it. This is what’s so amazing about Christianity to me. I can think of no other religion where the object of worship condescends to its worshipers the way our God did. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

    Interestingly, even after the price was paid, the imagery of pain continues into the NT and is frequently used to describe the process God uses to make us more like him (pottery, pruning, etc.) and this is why I believe the language in places like Lamentations 3 is not merely poetic. I think the writer was actually consoling himself with the reminder of God’s ultimate (albeit sometimes unfathomable) plan.

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  12. “All of this was determined before the foundation of the world, which creates a bit of a conundrum for us”

    It does not create a conumdrum for me at all. I am not a determinist. I think God knows what humans are fully capable of because He created them with free will. A love relationship is not determined. I do not think He planned their behavior.

    “If he hadn’t been willing to do this, I suppose you’d be right to call him a sociopath. But he was willing, and he did it. ”

    As to my reference to sociopathic behavior: what would you think of a parent that determined heinious things for their unborn child to happen to them as they grow up so they can show their power over the child? Wouldn’t you find that evil?

    Now a good parent would step back and allow their children to make mistakes, fall, etc, so they can learn from it and mature. That is a whole other topic and it is a form of discipline.

    I cannot understand why so many see God as good when they claim this sort of bring pain determinisn but the same behavior from a human would be called evil. It continues to boggle my mind. But people really do find solace in believing God brings them pain instead of pointing the finger to the appropriate offender. That is their right to believe that. But when they tell victims of such evil that, expect me to argue. I am simply done with the damage I have seen determinism do to people.

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  13. One of the most fascinating texts that explains something of the tension in understanding that God could stop evil (and often does, for which we seldom give Him enough credit in discussions like this, I think) but doesn’t always, is from the lips of Job followed by a comment from the narrator, both inspired by the Holy Spirit – and said: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (‭Job‬ ‭1‬:‭21-22‬ NIV)
    So saying “the Lord has taken away,” by which he was referring to the loss of his kids due to an apparent natural disaster, loss of his wealth to marauding bandits, and loss of his health – all which was orchestrated by Satan. But wasn’t it God who allowed it? Yes. So in that sense “the Lord has taken away.”

    BUT, it wasn’t God who murdered those kids or servants or inflicted Job with disease. Satan did that. God lifted the protective hedge, but that’s not the same as causing the evil. Hence Job could say “the Lord has taken away” without “charging God with wrongdoing.”

    That’s the closest I can come to making sense of the problem of evil. It leaves questions, yes, but it makes it clear that God never does wrong, while recognizing that evil doesn’t take place without Gods being aware of it or able to limit it as he chooses. The “why” question remains, especially in regards to heinous acts of evil against the innocent, but God can neither be blamed for it nor considered incapable of halting it.

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  14. God allows or gives us freedom and therefore each one is responsible for their actions. Each decides to do right, wrong, or evil. When people commit rape, murder, abuse they are choosing to infringe upon the freedoms of another. And they are completely, 100% responsible. And they need to be brought to justice.

    Keep in mind that if we want God to control others then we are saying we wish we were robots/ puppets/ bobbleheads ourselves. Same for our kids/ friends/ etc.

    If God is the gate-keeper and selects the evil actions to be allowed thru the gate on a case-by-case basis (only the situations of rape/murder/abuse that will bring Him glory & us good in the end is chosen, of course) then God is ultimately responsible for all evil that He allows through the gate. How is this not logical? Or must we give up our God-given minds to understand this nonsense? No wonder Christians are becoming atheists when they think through this nonsense. I speak up to say no, this is not my beloved God. The alternative is not an incapable/ incompetent God. That is blasphemous, IMO.

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  15. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Declaration of Independence

    It is obvious to me that this is what we are discussing. It is obvious some believe this to be true & some think it is not self-evident, God has not endowed, a transfer of unalienable rights & freedoms has never occurred.

    What I am hearing is: tension (as in contradiction makes sense), can’t be understood, can’t be known, can’t be self-evident, God is gate-keeper, there is no endowment of choice or decision making given to us, and on & on, fill in the blank.

    How can one say they love this incredible truth, the truth this country was founded upon & stands upon, yet hold to determinism at the same time? Can we see the huge, gaping contradictions? Let’s think & mull & ponder long over this. We owe it to ourselves.

    It’s okay to admit wrong & change course on this one. I did.

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  16. I’m sure this is not the appropriate place, but I need your prayers for my daughter and her unborn child. Joy is in the hospital after her water broke. She is about 23 weeks. The docs are doing all they can to prevent labor from starting. He is much too small to survive in the world yet. Your prayers are sincerely appreciated. I would gladly give my life in exchange for this little one.

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  17. “Posse peccare, posse non peccare
    Non posse non peccare
    Posse non peccare
    Non posse peccare”

    I am not a fan of Augustine and believe he did a lot of harm to Christianity. I disagree with his declaration because I believe humans can refrain from sinning against one another and that should be evident as an ongoing fruit of salvation. Growing in Holiness. It is a choice and a daily hard one, for sure!~ But we also have to define it because a lot of Christians have a distorted view of what perfection means. We all need to study the life of Jesus. The non syllabus Jesus. The middle part.

    The problem is that Christians define sin differently. (And that is a huge topic) For example, Augustine defined our very existence as sin. His concept of original sin (Imputed guilt) made us all guilty the minute we leave the womb. (And I am not talking about being born with bodies that die and a corrupted earth)

    Augustine knew no Greek and made a quite a hash of much scripture. It is just that with his position and influence, his writings in Latin spread West and his views became what many call “orthodoxy” (I hate that word!). He was tenacious including his insistence the Donatists be wiped out because they were refusing to take communion from corrupt priests. Augustine said they are the chosen priests and you have no choice!~ (They were being rebellious so they needed to be wiped out)

    He brought in a lot of his Pagan Mani thinking and merged it with horrible interpretations as in “material world bad/ spiritual world good” into his writings. Greek Pagan religion is immersed in determinism. Too much of Western Christianity is modeled on his thinking. And it is so ingrained! The irony is if we believe Augustine was right then we cannot agree that humans can govern themselves. Augustine brought in the Greek pagan thinking of the Philosopher king into Christianity as in we need priests to lead the masses in order to teach us what to think and do.

    I do not mean to say everything he wrote was wrong but the big stuff he got wrong made a horrible impact and caused quite a bit of evil and suffering done in the name of God.

    Sorry! Augustine is one of my pet peeves because I see the damage his interpretations have caused.

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  18. “I’m sure this is not the appropriate place, but I need your prayers for my daughter and her unborn child. Joy is in the hospital after her water broke. She is about 23 weeks. The docs are doing all they can to prevent labor from starting. He is much too small to survive in the world yet. Your prayers are sincerely appreciated. I would gladly give my life in exchange for this little one.”

    It is always appropriate to ask believers for prayer!~ What stress this must be causing for your family. I am honored to pray for your family.

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  19. “Here is some of what Augustine himself had to say about this.
    Man’s original capacities included both the power not to sin and the power to sin ( posse non peccare et posse peccare ). In Adam’s original sin, man lost the posse non peccare (the power not to sin) and retained the posse peccare (the power to sin)–which he continues to exercise. In the fulfillment of grace, man will have the posse peccare taken away and receive the highest of all, the power not to be able to sin, non posse peccare . Cf. On Correction and Grace XXXIII. ”
    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/four-fold.html

    NOTE: This hero of the reformed religion, Saint Augustine, says all humans who ever lived (except Adam & Eve) have zero power to do good and only have the power to sin. He says the only power humans have is to sin.

    Is this what we should teach three & four year olds? They are corrupt little sinners & have done no good since conception? They only have the power to sin? If their action is good, they don’t deserve a, “Good job!”? Ugh! If they are raped, the perp never was expected to do better? To top it off, this is a loving God’s plan? Yikes. Not many can muster up the sheer coldness to apply this man-made theology to their lives. Unless you’re a John Piper can you even attempt to live it out. At least he’s consistent with his religion.

    This teaching condones, excuses, & emboldens evil. Don’t Christ-followers speak up against ANY religion that teaches, condones, excuses & emboldens evil?

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  20. Brenda R, It is the right place. Thank you for sharing. This is gut-wrenching. I will be praying for your grandbaby, Joy, and your family.

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  21. “BUT, it wasn’t God who murdered those kids or servants or inflicted Job with disease. Satan did that. God lifted the protective hedge, but that’s not the same as causing the evil. Hence Job could say “the Lord has taken away” without “charging God with wrongdoing.”

    Joe, quite a few Ancient Hebrew Scholars have shown where the Job “poem” (That book is the most ancient written even before Genesis) actually communicates the opposite of how it is usually taught by most pastors. Job’s friends insist the calamities Job faced were punishments for his sin. They spend a lot of time arguing this. Of course that is wrong. The ancient genre is hard for us to grasp with our post enlightenment literal thinking. We would view the hyperbole used in Ancient communication as actual lying or at the least ridiculous exaggeration.

    We see a lot of this hyperbole in the OT concerning war. If you read other ancient writings you see a pattern of this.

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  22. Even Pastor Wade says love must trump theology. I agree. I just wish he believed this 24/7. 🙂

    Because I care, I hope & pray he will ditch a theology that does not jive with love & a loving God. Based on this post, it seems he somewhat understands this theology is cold, heartless, unloving.

    When one has to set aside religion/ faith/ beliefs in order to love in word & action, then something is terribly wrong about their religion.

    http://www.wadeburleson.org/2013/05/when-love-trumps-theology-moore-tornado.html

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  23. Julie Anne,

    I just talked to Joy. She is actually 22 weeks and 2 days. They are giving her antibiotics every 6 hours and the next 48 hours are crucial. If Tiny Mikey makes it 10 more days, they will start steroids to help his lungs develop. His lungs are not strong enough at this point to make him “viable” at this point. I don’t understand that word used about the baby we already love. Joy is in good spirits and is being well taken care of. She will not come out of her hospital room until the baby arrives.

    Thank you for your prayers.

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  24. A Mom,

    I completely agree that the person who sins is 100% responsible for his evil. That’s logical, and infinitely more importantly, it’s biblical. Saying God makes people sin is blasphemous in the highest degree, and Augustine and Calvin and the rest of the so-called “determinists” would agree.

    The question to me has always been “why doesn’t God stop evil when he knows it’s going to happen?” Either he doesn’t know (open theism) or he knows but doesn’t intervene like we might desire or expect (traditional Christian teaching, in no way limited to reformed people)

    About Augustine and “goodness,” I’ll just set the direction but a comment couldn’t possibly flesh it all out. Here’s two “goods”:
    Romans 3:10 – “there is none who does good” (think also of Jesus to rich young ruler “there is one who is good – God!)

    And

    Romans 13:3 Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same.
    So I tell my kids “good job” and “good boy” because it is appropriate. But picking up dirty socks isn’t the same goodness as that required to gain entrance into heaven, necessarily. Hope that helps

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  25. And Brenda, may God be gracious to your daughter and grandson and demonstrate His goodness and love and mercy in wonderful ways, for their good and His glory!

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  26. “The question to me has always been “why doesn’t God stop evil when he knows it’s going to happen?” Either he doesn’t know (open theism) or he knows but doesn’t intervene like we might desire or expect (traditional Christian teaching, in no way limited to reformed people)”

    I know this is going to sound simplistic but I had to stop asking that question when I realized God’s intention for His creation. God wants us to stop evil. How come we are so immature, ignorant, etc even 2000 years after the resurrection that we do not see the patterns of behavior that lead to evil doing? How much of it could have been stopped if decent people had stood up to the SMALL things they saw? But we are so accustomed to saying, sinners sin, we overlook much and put even have the nerve to call it “being human”. Or worse, some even call it “gossiping”. That is how ingrained this stuff is. Overlooking the small things only desensitizes us to the big things. History plays this out over and over.

    Another thing we do is elevate people who end up lording it over. Or we so admire them because of title, position, etc as to overlook much. And we are not real picky who we “learn” from. We tend to view ourselves as ignorant in certain matters and there are “experts” who will tell me what to think or do. That might we wise in law, engineering or medicine but a disaster in spiritual matters. Or even in common sense matters of governing.

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  27. God wants us to stop evil. How come we are so immature, ignorant, etc even 2000 years after the resurrection that we do not see the patterns of behavior that lead to evil doing? How much of it could have been stopped if decent people had stood up to the SMALL things they saw? But we are so accustomed to saying, sinners sin, we overlook much and put even have the nerve to call it “being human”.

    I totally agree Lydia. I disagree with your understanding of Job, but this statement is spot on! God almost always uses natural “means” or “instruments” to stop evil. And he is, I believe, happy when people are engaged in stopping it. But still, He is God, and we thank him when good things happen, because we understand his hand is behind them. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” Like my parents – good people. I was loved well, and even looking back now, wouldn’t change a thing about how I was raised and I try to raise my kids the same way. I thank God for them. But if God gives good things to some, why do some have bad things? Is God only in the good and absent from the bad, or as I said earlier, so committed to human freedom he won’t trample on the freedom of the most evil to keep them from their evil? Because frankly, I wish he would more often! And certainly when people fight against evil as you suggest that happens. I’m happy to trample all over the free will of someone wanting to harm my kids or my wife and I make no apologies for that! And I’m glad ultimately good will triumph, but does that truth help the abused now? Or is something more immediate more helpful?

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  28. Lydia, it wasn’t my intent to reference Augustine. I’m aware of the problems with some of his theology. Yeah, I think Augustine came ui with that formulation, I was just referencing the common formulation of the relation of human beings to sin.

    Adam was created with the ability to sin or not to sin.

    After his fall, humans who are not in relationship with God live in a state it which it is not possible for them to completely avoid sin. Everybody sins. The concept of “original sin” or “inherited sin nature” is not the point here — people have different beliefs on that. Rather the point is, regardless of why, the fact is that everyone chooses not to always do what God wants.

    When a person becomes a believer in Christ, that person is now able not to sin. Aprt from Him and His Holy Spirit, we don’t have the ability to always and completely live perfectly and avoid sin. As believers, through we can still choose to sin, by God’s power and grace we can also choose not to sin.

    When the Lord returns, and we are all in our resurrected and glorified form, we will be transformed so completely in holiness and Christlikeness, we will not even have the capacity to sin. We will be “not able to sin.” I can see where some may take issue with this particular point, and say that we could theoretically sin if we wanted to but we will be so completely transformed that we will never want to. But the end result is the same — we will live eternally sinlessly.

    I didn’t bring this up to argue for an Augustinian or Calvinistic position. That can be an important discussion, especially to ensure that unbiblical and deterministic teachings are denied, to me, But the discussion of whether or not God permits evil is not confined to that theological perspective.

    I brought it up to point out that sin is evil, and that evil is sin, and the relationship of humans to sin and evil is connected to the state of our relationship to God, and Gos’ relationship to us. While it is true that we should focus on our own responsibility as individuals and the overall responsibility each person has for their own actions and not blame God for people’s sinful choices, it is also true that we live in a world impacted by the choices people make in regard to God’s will. Go sees every sin and ever form of evil that we chose to do toward Him and toward others, and, for whatever theological reasons we want to give, He chose to allow the first sin, and He has chosen to allow the sins and evils done since to continue. We can’t blame Him in any way for any evil anyone does, but we cannot deny He allows evil to exist in general, and He allows each individual to do the evil that person does.

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  29. Lydia, it wasn’t my intent to reference Augustine. I’m aware of the problems with some of his theology. Yeah, I think Augustine came up with that formulation, but I was just using it as a way of describing the relation of human beings to sin.

    Adam was created with the ability to sin or not to sin.

    After his fall, humans who are not in relationship with God live in a state in which it is not possible for them to completely avoid sin. Everybody sins. The concept of “original sin” or “inherited sin nature” is not the point here — people have different beliefs on that. Rather the point is, regardless of why, the fact is that everyone chooses not to always do what God wants.

    When a person becomes a believer in Christ, that person is now able not to sin. Apart from Him and His Holy Spirit, we don’t have the ability to always and completely live perfectly and avoid sin. As believers, though we can still choose to sin, by God’s power and grace we can also choose not to sin.

    When the Lord returns, and we are all in our resurrected and glorified form, we will be transformed so completely in holiness and Christlikeness, we will not even have the capacity to sin. We will be “not able to sin.” I can see where some may take issue with this particular point, and say that we could theoretically sin if we wanted to but we will be so completely transformed that we will never want to. But the end result is the same — we will live sinlessly for eternity.

    I didn’t bring this up to argue for an Augustinian or Calvinistic position. That can be an important discussion, especially to ensure that unbiblical and deterministic teachings are denied, but the discussion of whether or not God permits evil is not confined to that theological perspective.

    I brought it up to point out that sin is evil, and that evil is sin, and the relationship of humans to sin and evil is connected to the state of our relationship to God, and God’s relationship to us. While it is true that we should focus on our own responsibility as individuals and the overall responsibility each person has for their own actions and not blame God for people’s sinful choices, it is also true that we live in a world impacted by the choices people make in regard to God’s will. God sees every sin and every form of evil that we chose to do toward Him and toward others, and, for whatever theological reasons we may give, He chose to allow the first sin, and He has chosen to allow the sins and evils done since to continue. We can’t blame Him in any way for any evil anyone does, but we cannot deny that He allows evil to exist in general, and that He allows each individual to do the evil that person does.

    It seems that the concerns of some with saying that God permits bad people to do bad things to us is that they feel that saying that would make God in some way responsible for the evil that was done. I understand and share those concerns. We need to be very careful not to allow our theology to be used as an excuse for us or anyone else to blame God for anything evil. Nevertheless, we are left with the objections raised when we tell people that God is all loving, all knowing, and all powerful, and that He is in no way responsible for evil, and yet they observe every day that evil exists. We can tell people not to blame God, and we should, but their objections remain. For those of us who now God as our loving Father, we realize that in Him there is only goodness, kindness, and love, and that He has no desire for any harm to come to us. For those who don’t know Him, such trust is not so easy. It’s not always easy for those who know Him well.

    You said that we have a different view of the Old Testament. Probably so, to some degree, as no two people see everything the same. But our general perspective may not be all that different. But this isn’t really a matter of how we interpret isolated Old Testament passages. Probably the most direct and specific indication that God can, at times, not only permit bad people to do bad things, but also even ordain it, is seen in the death of His Son Jesus on a cross for our sins. Through His death, burial, and resurrection, we are reconciled to God, by grace, through faith. The cup of Christ’s suffering at the hands of evil men was the will of God for our good.

    We should not say to someone that the wrong that someone did to them was planned by God in order to accomplish some greater good in their live. Nor should we even say that it came about because God permitted it with some good in mind. Our focus instead should be on blaming the evildoer alone, and on doing what we ourselves can do to stop evil. But neither should we say that it is never, under any circumstances at all, true that God might have a good plan and purpose in mind in permitting someone to do wrong. Either one is presumptuous and goes beyond the teaching of scripture. His calling on us as His children is simply to trust Him, and to encourage others to do the same, no matter what comes our way.

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  30. “I completely agree that the person who sins is 100% responsible for his evil. That’s logical, and infinitely more importantly, it’s biblical. Saying God makes people sin is blasphemous in the highest degree, and Augustine and Calvin and the rest of the so-called “determinists” would agree.” Joe Reed

    As AnotherTom graciously pointed out, Augustine & all determinists say humans don’t have the power to do righteous actions. If that’s true, then how is it that the person who sins is 100% responsible for their evil actions since they can’t choose to do right? If a hostage’s finger is tied to a rifle trigger & the string is pulled to fire the rifle, and the bullet kills an innocent person, is the hostage 100% responsible?

    I wholeheartedly disagree with deterministic religions (Reformed/Islam/etc.). I believe all humans were created with conscience/ the knowledge of good & evil/ etc. and they can choose to do right at any point in time.

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  31. “So I tell my kids “good job” and “good boy” because it is appropriate. But picking up dirty socks isn’t the same goodness as that required to gain entrance into heaven, necessarily. Hope that helps” Joe Reed

    So glad you tell your kids good job when they do righteous actions. I bet you did this when they were toddlers. 🙂 I think it’s 100% appropriate. No ifs, ands or buts. I’m curious as to why you think it’s appropriate? Isn’t that telling them a tall tale from your viewpoint? As AnotherTom pointed out, Augustine says kids do not have the power, human agency (choice), to do righteous actions. This is the held belief of the reformed faith.

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  32. “…and, for whatever theological reasons we want to give, He chose to allow the first sin, and He has chosen to allow the sins and evils done since to continue. We can’t blame Him in any way for any evil anyone does, but we cannot deny He allows evil to exist in general, and He allows each individual to do the evil that person does.” AnotherTom

    Why is there sin? It’s not a “whatever reason we want to give” – it absolutely matters why! It’s important to those who have been abused! Please put me on record for saying sin is possible because God gave us freedom…. the freedom to choose our own actions.

    It’s impossible to be both free AND be controlled by God. Also, if God controls one then God controls everyone. BTW, I don’t think God wants to control us. Many places in the Bible God begs, pleads & yearns for us. Doesn’t sound like a controlling God to me.

    Saying we want a controlling God is saying that we want someone to control us & make our choices for us for the rest of our lives. We are also rejecting freedom/ volition/ human agency/ choice/ love. Control is not ideal.

    The upside to freedom is the possibility of someone choosing loving action. And the downside to freedom is the possibility someone will choose evil action. Take away freedom & you take away loving action, not just evil action. TAKE AWAY FREEDOM, THEN YOU TAKE AWAY THE POSSIBILITY OF LOVE, NOT JUST EVIL.

    NOTE: If we have no free-will, then can we truly love? Love is not love unless both people choose. Can you force someone to love you? Would you want to force someone (a spouse perhaps) to love you? You want someone to choose to love you, right? So does God. God is glorified when we choose to love God & each other (according to Jesus).

    No freedom, then no choice, then no evil, but then no love either. There would be no possibility to love without freedom to do so.

    God is love, so God create a world where love is possible. From beginning to end, the Bible talks of God’s desire for relationship with people made in God’s own image. It’s the repeating theme. Relationship. Love with God. Love with each other. I think the Bible (taken in entirety, not proof-texted) explains quite well why there’s choice & therefore why evil may occur. God says, “Will you love me? Will you love each other?” God wants us to have an abundant life, but God gives us the choice. We are the “deciders”. We are 100% responsible for our own actions, which is why justice is 100% appropriate & why praise for good action is 100% appropriate. People are fully capable of doing right.

    Why do people sin? It’s because people have mistakenly thought doing wrong was better for them than doing right. Doing wrong hurts/ severs loving relationship & doing good brings/ strengthens loving relationship. People will do right when they are fully convinced doing right is best for them. Understanding it that way, doing right isn’t so bad. 😉

    Determinists don’t believe all have God-given freedom to do right. The irony of discussing whether God-given freedom for all is true or false with deterministic Americans (Isn’t that an oxymoron?) who choose each day hasn’t escaped me. 🙂

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  33. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (‭Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭27-28‬ NIV)

    Can God be in control and people still have freedom? Peter seemed to think so and prayed like it.

    And regarding doing “right,” of course not every deed done by every person is “evil” in the sense of harmful. But it absolutely is impossible for anyone to do anything out of love for God with all their mind soul heart strength, because without faith it is impossible to please God.
    So that’s why there’s a distinction between the good of giving to charity and caring for other people and loving a spouse and the kind of good deeds that earn favor with God.
    Jesus says in Matt 7 he’ll throw certain miracle workers out of heaven. But he also says in Matt 10 he’ll reward cups of water – given in his name.
    So freedom to do the one kind of “good” is of course real, but its impossible to do the other kind if we’re not saved. Jesus didn’t die to make up for however many evil things we happened to mess up on, he died because absolutely nothing we do outside of Him earns any favor whatsoever, because there is “none who does good.”

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  34. anothertom,

    I hope you understand that I find discussions/disagreements like this edifying. Anything that makes us think about what we believe and why is a good thing IMO.

    You wrote:

    “Probably the most direct and specific indication that God can, at times, not only permit bad people to do bad things, but also even ordain it, is seen in the death of His Son Jesus on a cross for our sins. Through His death, burial, and resurrection, we are reconciled to God, by grace, through faith. The cup of Christ’s suffering at the hands of evil men was the will of God for our good”

    I do not view it like this at all. In that scenerio God did not have to make anyone go along with crucifying Himself. I do go along with God knowing it was the perfect timing as far as what was going at the time concerning “Saviors of Israel”, Passover, Pentecost, etc. That would be like saying Jesus sacrificed Judas to get the job done. He did not have to do any such thing. He knows what we are thinking but he certainly does not ordain evil deeds. He even partook of the Passover with Judas knowing what He knew. On the other hand, guys like Nicodemous has serious issues with what was going on and secretly wanted to understand it. What is the difference in terms of what God permits, ordains? Human choice

    I see Jesus as the God-Man. I see the cross resurrection as a sacrifice and then victory over death and new creation. It was a big message to the Jews. We tend to forget the Jewishness of Jesus and that stunts our understanding. We tend to see the Euro Jesus of the Reformers who was being punished by God for our sins because God is so angry He had to pour out his wrath on someone. So He sent his son to take the punishment meant for us. (Nevermind this SAvior of Israel is referred to as “everlasting Father” in Isaiah!)

    For me, the whole Hebrew father/son metaphor is missed. The educated Jews understood it perfectly as we see in John 5 (I think that is right). They were miffed at this nobody “Messiah” (meaning Savior of Israel and there had been other posers) but boy, when He called God his Father, they wanted to kill him. Because in the Hebrew culture dealing with the son is equal to dealing with his father. The son is the father in all business/personal dealings. Jesus was claiming to be God!

    The resurrectoin means NEW LIFE. It is akin to a metaphor about creation but a NEW Creation. We see references to that—new creation in Christ. Born Again. All of those are creation metaphors. It is like God shouting “you can be born again”! You can be different! See! I proved it! Let us get to the business of working toward redemption of this earth and people because as you will hear from John later, I will be joining the earth with heaven and it will be perfectly redeemed. But let’s start now.

    We should have been well on our way to working toward redeeming His grand creation here and now as we can. (It won’t be perfect but so what?) But we are doing exactly what the Jews did. Historically, we have turned the meaning of the resurrection upside down. Historically Christians have simply turned the cross resurrection into an excuse for sin. Jesus took the punishment for us so it is no big deal. He is acting as our righteousness right now as we sin. (This is why I hate proof texting)

    I see scripture as a billion piece puzzle. We tend to get caught up with the individual pieces discussing how they fit or tyring to force them to fit while we ignore the BIG picture on the front of the box. Not a perfect illustration but the best I can do off top of my head.

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  35. “”So freedom to do the one kind of “good” is of course real, but its impossible to do the other kind if we’re not saved. Jesus didn’t die to make up for however many evil things we happened to mess up on, he died because absolutely nothing we do outside of Him earns any favor whatsoever, because there is “none who does good.””

    Are you referencing Romans 3 here to make a point that no one can do good outside of believers? Only their “good” is favored by God? (What about believers who molest children and then preach the gospel? Is one thing good because they claim to be a believer but the other bad? Just a thought in how this thinking can become a problem and we see this thinking played out all the time. I heard it about Driscoll every day on blogs: Yeah, nevermind that other stuff…but he preaches the Gospel! He is a believer and does good and bad)

    In Romans 3, Paul is referencing Psalms 53 and 14. (And remember, Psalms is man talking to God in poetry) He is using it for the case he is making in Romans about “corporate” election. This emcompasses the whole converted Jew/Gentile dichotomy that is a problem all through the NT.

    It really helps to go read those Psalms in context and see how it fits the case Paul is trying to make in Romans which is why it is horrible to proof text Romans. What are those Pslams really saying?

    There is a culminating arguement going on here and Paul is setting the groundwork for it in the part you quote. In other words, Romans is NOT about individual salvation. I am convinced there would be no Calvinism if Romans was not interpreted as being about individual salvation. But even Non Calvinists read it as individual election, too and it causes a lot of problems. Even the passage about the potter is totally misunderstood because people have not studied the whole potter/clay metaphor!.

    There is an interesting cultural backdrop to Romans because it was written after the banished Jews were coming back to Rome. Even the proselytes. This would have caused some havoc in the small Roman church when the converted Jews returned. Paul is explaining the whole “corporate” election deal.

    Interpreting it that way causes other problems in that Jesus even tells us to be perfect like our Heavenly FAther is perfect in Matthew 5. Was He lying to the Jews? PPlaying a bait and switch on them? Telling them they could strive for this when it was really impossible? I just don’t get it.

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  36. “What about believers who molest children and then preach the gospel? Is one thing good because they claim to be a believer but the other bad? Just a thought in how this thinking can become a problem and we see this thinking played out all the time”

    Believers who molest children and preach the gospel are a reproach to the gospel and ought to be given a cease and desist order. Period. Anytime the enemies of God are handed an opportunity to blaspheme by so-called men of God is a colossal tragedy.
    I don’t want to get diverted, but I can be thankful that somehow, despite the wickedness of the messenger, Driscoll lead some to Christ. And I’m thankful he’s no longer in a pulpit making a mockery of the name of Christ and His church.

    As to Romans 3, I am aware of the corporate understanding of that text and the way to dance around the idea of individual election. I’d just say go to Romans 9 and you’ll find sovereignty as individual as it can possibly get. Jesus first sermon in Luke 4 is too – and he about got shoved off a cliff for it, so I don’t mind a little pushback now and again either 🙂

    Seriously though, to come back to the theme of the thread, in the problem of evil, Jesus’ death was indeed a great evil – condemning an innocent man to death is evil, we’d all agree. But God, while not doing the evil, did indeed plan for it to happen, in such precision that the method of Jesus’ execution was graphically predicted in Ps 22. How the free will of men lined up so perfectly with the plan of God from before the earth began is beyond me, but Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas and co. are 100% guilty and they did exactly what God already knew they would. To me, that’s the mystery, but it gives me hope – suffering is no surprise to God, but he will justly punish those who cause it because they are guilty, not him.

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  37. I choose to worship a loving God who desires relationship with all. I don’t worship a determinist God who may have already damned you to hell before you were born for His “good” pleasure. Yikes! I see scripture much differently.

    If Jesus (teacher of love, freedom & abundant life, all very threatening ideas to the government & religious leaders at at that time) was born in present-time N. Korea & my conclusion was dictator K J-u would conspire to kill him, would you think I have control of K J-u?

    If I were to say, “Go to N Korea, tell K J-u he is not God & you will be murdered.” then do I have control of you? No. Do I have control over the situation? No. What I know is the atrocities of K J-u. I told you I know because I care.

    Acts 4: Is it possible this is a continued expression of God’s undaunting love for everyone? It tells us God knew these were the daunting circumstances in which Jesus was born into.

    Can it be possible for God to know without control? I think so. Does know = control? I don’t think so. My friends know I love onions – raw, sauteed, pickled, grilled, marinated, fried! Are my friends in control of me? Hmmm – No, but I think they know me. 🙂

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  38. To everyone reading,
    You ARE free to worship a loving God in this country, and terms such as love, good, evil, mean exactly what they mean & not the opposite. If I lived in Geneva during Calvin’s iron-fist freedom-less rule, then I might have been burned alive. Children were publicly whipped & beheaded under Calvin’s church-state rule. Calvin didn’t believe in freedom, he believed people were stupid & needed to be ruled by religious leaders.

    John Adams, Ben Franklin, & Thomas Jefferson may have been burned alive for blasphemy if they lived in Geneva during Calvin’s time. They believed (as stated in the Declaration of Independence of the USA):

    + Certain truths to be self-evident – Calvin believed truth is not self-evident

    + The Creator endowed all persons with life, freedom & pursuit of happiness – Calvin believed people were created depraved, controlled by God, had no idea what happiness is

    + It is the purpose of the government to ensure these rights – Calvin believed the government’s purpose was to enforce his rule & religious beliefs on everyone

    + People have the right to overthrow oppressive governments – Calvin’s church-state was an absolute tyranny

    Puritans had their own style of church-state Geneva, killing “witches”, Quakers and punishing anyone who didn’t believe in Calvinistic beliefs.

    Our country was not founded on Puritan beliefs, as is being propagated by some reformed religious leaders.

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  39. Btw, my friends know I love onions not because they have super-powers. They know because they are with me when I eat them & maybe they smell them on me (LOL). And they still hang out with me anyway!

    God loves us. God is with us. God knows us. How else could God weep when we weep? God knows our joy & our sorrow. That is what I find comforting & amazing about our Creator. God knows us because God is with us, not because God controls us.

    Do you think God knows us because God is with us always or God knows us because God controls us?

    I can’t begin to express how much the answer we give to the abused and abusers matters..

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  40. “I don’t want to get diverted, but I can be thankful that somehow, despite the wickedness of the messenger, Driscoll lead some to Christ. ”

    Joe, that is Greek Pagan dualism and it is becoming a huge problem in Christendom….again as it was historically. We can thank Augustine for it and Calvin just systematized it. People try to tell me all the time to separate John Calvin’s behavior from his beliefs. HIs beliefs are right but his behavior wrong. If our “right” beliefs do not result in right behavior, then what is the point of it all? Evil Christians?

    How do we seperate a long time professing Christian beliefs from their behavior? Especially when they have chosen to make a living with their beliefs?

    Folks make the same arguement for Driscoll. AS if our beliefs do not drive our behavior. Oh his cage fighting Jesus beliefs did drive his behavior. That was the problem. How can that happen without dualistic thinking? It is pagan thinking. Separating mind from body or separating behavior from beliefs, separating physical world from spiritual– meaning there is no spiritual in the physical because the physical is all bad, etc.

    Dangerous stuff that leads to all sorts of problems making Christians unsafe and trustworthy to be around. The question I might ask is what kind of Jesus was Driscoll selling that folks believed in? A cruel one.

    Are messengers perfect? Of course not, but they are not evil using God for fame, profit or controlling others by which means they have to distort the truth in order to prop all that up. This is like saying evil is good.

    Romans 9 is part of a larger arguement about corporate election. Romans 9 Paul is talking about God using Israel for His purposes which harkens back to Abraham and the plan to set things to rights after Adam’s big mess. God making a nation that would be the light of the world. (they were stubborn) Jacob/Esau denote nations not individuals. See back to Genesis from which he is quoting to make his argument that Jews are saved the same way Gentiles are. This is one the whole book has to be taken into consideration. I do think some people think God hated Esau before he was born, before he sold his birthright.

    Look, I know people say they are not determinists but there is so much dualism and deterministic thinking in Western Christianity that is so ingrained that the Reformation’s foot prints are everywhere. Everything from Let go and let God to the kids in a seeker church telling me Jesus got them a pony to the women in Sunday School in a non Calvinist church talking about the new dress Jesus got them to the mega church pastor telling someone “God will protect you” while he has a bodyguard. (A lot of pastors teach determinism for others while they don’t practice it themselves.)

    It is everywhere. God is responsible for everything—us nothing– except to say “I believe” or “Jesus saves” and that makes everything else ok. No. Jesus said we are to be new creations which includes behavior.

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  41. Thanks to all who have welcomed me & my commenting “marathon”. LOL

    I am encouraged by & cheer on all commenters who’s comments take a stand for freedom & love. That is caring for the abused.

    This topic is so critical, IMO. Especially among abused but really it’s critical for everyone. And freedom to discuss in earnest has not really been encouraged on certain abuse blogs, IMO, & that pains me. I don’t think blind faith is good at all. Faith must be founded on solid, secure ground. We need to be able to explain our faith logically. If a religion is based on glaring contradictions that must be ignored, then that’s a warning sign. If a religion denies God-given freedom for all, then that’s a warning sign. If a religion seems control-based, that’s a warning sign.

    SBTS grads move to my city in droves to fill the pulpits. Let’s be honest, people are asked to put aside common sense, told they are depraved, told there is no such thing as conscience, told they don’t have the ability to reason or think straight, told they don’t have freedom to choose, told women & children are less than men in so many words, told suffering is for their own good & God’s glory. And the result? Guards aren’t down, the guards have been eliminated completely & traded in for blind faith. I’ve seen it first-hand. It’s disastrous. The theology itself does damage.

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  42. Joe Reed,
    Indeed, it is all a great mystery. God knew everything that we would do. He is beyond out comprehension. His ways are not our ways. Hard to accept–very much so, but in the end I wouldn’t want Him any other way.

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  43. Brenda, Another way to view it is that God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. People traveled with him (even women!) ate with him and had discussions with him. He made Himself knowable. Why people won’t accept that Jesus Christ was God in the Flesh, I will never understand. And He wants His ways to be our ways.

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  44. Lydia, I do accept that God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ and he was God in the Flesh. He was God and man here on earth. That is why and how he knows what we go through from God’s perspective and ours. These things I do accept. How God knows all and sees all is yet a mystery. We go through Jesus Christ to be forgiven of the Father. He is our intercessor. I am not at a point where I see women traveling with Jesus. I see many instances where he spoke to and had great discussions with women then he moved on. Women definitely proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah they were waiting for. I have begun to see texts that are taken out of context, which gives them a whole new meaning.

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  45. “I am not at a point where I see women traveling with Jesus.”

    It is not a “point to be”. I don’t make things up. Here is the reference:

    After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. Luke 8

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  46. Lydia,
    I never, ever thought you made things up. I have been studying these things and trying to undo the brain washing with God’s help since we talked of these things months ago. A couple of weeks ago I went with a friend to a church with a female pastor. I never thought I would do that and enjoy the sermon too, but I did.

    I have been questioning women’s roll in the church and making some men mighty uncomfortable, but I want their answers to help me discern. I also want women’s answers and input.

    Right now I am grieving the loss of a dear friend to cancer and the loss of a grandson, which both happened yesterday. I will look at Luke 8 another time.

    I

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  47. I am so glad you are studying these things. It is so freeing. I think there is some communication breakdown between us especially after that thread you mentioned. I got the feeling you did not want us to discuss it because of the sort of comments you were making.

    Boy do I understand grief. The last 10 years it has been constant for me with horror after horror. I don’t mention it online because it makes me uncomfortable and I guess that has to do with my upbringing which was somewhat Edwardian in nature. And because I have had my fill of Christian platitudes so why invite them? (If one more person says that it is all a part of his plan, I might do something I will regret. :o)

    The grief had just about gotten to me and I remembered a book I read years ago called “Man’s Search for Meaning”. I dug it out because when I first read it, I was not really prepared for it. It was written by Victor Frankl, a Viennese Psychiatrist who survived Aushwictz and then wrote a book about those who survived why they survived. He then developed a therapy based upon his findings he called Logotherapy. But it is not really a therapy a therapist would use. It is much more personal than that and it has God’s intentions for us at Creation written all over it. Beautiful!

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  48. A Mom,
    You said, “As AnotherTom graciously pointed out, Augustine & all determinists say humans don’t have the power to do righteous actions.”

    It wasn’t my intent to address what Augustine or determinists teach. I’m not sure whether or not Augustine, Calvin, or others would say that humans don’t have the power to do righteous actions. But I personally think that all people sin, and that there is something about human nature that makes people who are not born again by the Spirit of God incapable of being able to live a sinless life. They are “not able to not sin.” Believers, who do have the Spirit of God, are able by His power to refrain from sin. They are “able to not sin.” Reformed theologians may use these same statements to imply things about human ability / free will, that really wasn’t what I was discussing. I was just commenting on the general relationship of humans to sin and evil. In short, everyone has sinned, and God doesn’t stop us, so we all have to address that in some way. It’s not just an issue that Reformed folks have to try to explain.

    That’s also what I was getting at when I said ““whatever reason we want to give.” Not that it doesn’t matter why — just that the existence of evil and why God allowed it is still a question whether a person is a determinist or a freewillist. I’m trying to make it clear that I am not arguing in favor of determinism, nor am I arguing against it. My point is that the problem of the existence of evil, and the fact that God in some sense permits it to exist, and yet God can’t be blamed for evil really had nothing to do with determinism. Yes, the answers given as to the “why” might be different for a determinist vs. a freewillist, but the question itself isn’t caused by a belief in determinism. An atheist doesn’t care at all if we say that evil exists because God gave us free will — they will just point out that it was still God’s choice to give us free will, knowing that we would use it to do evil, and He didn’t stop it. Free will may help answer where evil comes from, but it doesn’t answer why God allows it.

    All this goes back to the question at the title of this post (basically, does God permit people to do bad things that harm people?), and my original question about it (What alternative is there?). All the comments people have gotten into about determinism seem to me to be totally beside the point of the original question. Saying that God allows evil is not a deterministic teaching — it is something that we really just can’r avoid if we believe that God is powerful enough to have prevented evil from ever existing and yet He didn’t stop it.

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  49. Lydia,
    I always appreciate your deep thinking and desire to keep the big picture in view.

    All theological wrangling and interpretive frameworks aside, I just can’t get away from what seems to me to be the Bible’s teaching that God specifically intended the death of Jesus (an evil act by evil men), and that He had a good purpose in mind by doing so. All the rest is commentary or an attempt to understand the wherefores. In my mind there is no need to be able to explain it. It is enough to take God at His word that He is good and in no way responsible for evil, and also take Him at his word He sometimes, in some circumstances, fully intends some of the bad things that happen to us at the hands of others, with a good purpose behind it. I don’t have to comprehend that any more than I do many other aspects of God’s nature that are beyond my understanding. If that’s unsatisfactory for others, or seems like a cop out, so be it. That’s the current state of my faith, and I’m okay with it. I’m not demanding that anyone else share my view =, nor do I have a problem if they see it differently.

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  50. @AnotherTom

    I appreciated this very much. There’s no question that satan prowls and evil men perform evil acts of their own free will, but none of that changes the reality that God has authority over it all. And those who believe all bad things are completely controlled by satan would do well to consider who created satan in the first place. And it certainly wasn’t done in ignorance.

    God saw all of this before the foundation of the world and will work all of it to his glory. This can sometimes be small comfort in our immediate circumstances, but the fact that God’s actions often defy human logic is exactly what we should expect from the creator of the universe. It’s not always fun or enjoyable, but he never promised us a certain feeling. He promised that he would be victorious over all our pain. Revelation tells is how this will end. It seems obvious who’s really in charge.

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  51. Another Tom,

    I appreciate what you’re saying and thanks for driving us back to the heart of the question. A couple of comments on the comments of others:

    In regards to Acts 4, Jesus’ death was not just a lucky guess by God. The very detail in which it was prophesied in the OT rules that out. Bones out of joint. Pierced hands and feet. Three days in the tomb. No bones broken. Thirsty. Buried by a rich man. It was designed – and carried out to perfection by the free will of wicked men. Jesus was the lamb “slain from the foundation of the world.” And he was slain by the free will of men exactly as God had determined. How that reconciles is beyond me. But there’s hope for me in my troubles that maybe what men mean for evil God means good to come from. That’s words from the abused Joseph.

    I have to stand up for Calvin, making me the most unpopular guy in the room – I don’t think he beheaded children. He may have been influential, but he couldn’t even hold communion every week as he desired. Servetus – yeah, shouldn’t have done it. And no I don’t have an altar to Calvin. But the record should be corrected about beheading kids.

    Driscoll – did I not make it clear I don’t like him? But Paul said in Philippians that whether in pretense or in truth, he rejoiced that the gospel was proclaimed. I’m glad Driscoll is out of the pulpit. Should have been long long ago. Shouldn’t darken one ever again in my opinion. But I’m glad in spite of his massive faults and the damage he did to the body of Christ, some were brought to Christ. I can rejoice that other preachers and leaders I vehemently disagree with are used for good somehow. It doesn’t mean I like them or wish them well – only that I’m glad whenever and however people hear the gospel and come to Christ, even when it seems impossible they would given the messenger.

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  52. Another Tom & Karen,
    I appreciate both of your comments. I never thought of God this way before, but as I read your posts, I could see God in a sense as the Supreme Prophet. He did know what would happen before all creation and had reasons for certain things to happen. Jesus is a given. He is the sacrificial Lamb that saves all that come to Him. He is the Most High and Solid Rock.

    Tom, I used to be a God said it, I believe it and that settles it thinker. Then I started figuring out there were misinterpretations by men who wanted things for their own perspective and really isn’t it good to get beyond the milk of the Word and into the meat. I take God at His Word and believe that He inspired men to write His Word. My problem is where men have improperly translated His Word and I want to know as much as I can about God in truth. In the OT, God definitely used some already evil men for more evil. He gave them over to their own choices through life and caused them to harden their hearts even more. In the NT, Judas is a prime example of evil doing. Why he didn’t ask for forgiveness, I don’t really understand. Peter denied Christ 3 times and still turned out to be one of the greatest of Jesus followers. There are things that we are just not going to know and I’m ok with mystery, I do want to know what is written in my Bible is only truth and not some man’s tweaking because they can get away with rewording and it is given a false pass.

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