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Don’t Use Evil To Destroy Another

I was sad this week to read after the Paris attacks from Muslim terrorists that a brother went on Twitter to attack Calvinists over their view of divine determinism.  While  I agree that divine determinism is not biblical, I don’t believe we should use evil to try to attack Calvinists.  People lost their lives in France and we should mourn that.  Now is not the time to use the wicked acts of these Muslims to attack our brethren.

Both Arminians and Calvinists mourn over the loss of lives.  We both agree that the only hope for Muslims, for the people of France, and the world is the precious truth of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the answer to the problem of evil.  We both preach that Jesus saves sinners (Luke 19:10) and we both agree that none are saved apart from Christ Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).  We agree that the preaching of the gospel is necessary to bring people to salvation (Romans 10:14-17).  Let us focus on this, on getting the gospel to the lost souls in France and throughout the world (Matthew 28:19-20).  This is the heart of God, for the lost to come to faith in His Son (John 3:16).

Let us pray for the world to hear the gospel and be saved (Matthew 9:38; Romans 10:1).  Let us pray that people in France will heed the gospel and repent (Luke 13:1-5) as well as the Muslims.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/18/2015 at 2:15 PM

Preaching the Gospel at Auschwitz

1.1 million people died at Auschwitz.  It was pure evil.  Did God ordain this?  Did God cause this?

The Calvinist answer is that God did not cause the horrors of Auschwitz.  He did ordain it to come to pass and He used secondary causes to ensure that the deaths at Auschwitz did in fact take place.  John Calvin wrote, “The will of God is the supreme and first cause of all things, because nothing happens but by his command or permission.  God then, according to Calvin, does not give permission for sinners to commit sin but He is the cause of all things including sin.  Calvin continues:

The hand of God no less rules the internal affections than it precedes the external acts, and that God does not perform by the hand of men those things which he has decreed without first working in their hearts the very will which precedes their acts.

Did you read that?  Calvin is stating that everything that comes to pass does so because God both decrees it and He works in the heart of man to make sure their acts come to pass as He ordains.

The mystery in Calvinism is how God can bring things to pass including evil and yet hold mankind responsible (or punishable would be a better term) for their sinful actions.  Calvin likewise stated that this responsibility is a mystery to him.  Calvin wrote,

“But how it was that God, by his foreknowledge and decree, ordained what should take place respecting man, and yet so ordained it without his being himself in the least a participator of the fault, or being at all the author (autor) or the approver of the transgression; how this was, I repeat, is a secret manifestly far too deep to be penetrated by the human mind, nor am I ashamed to confess our ignorance. And far be it from any of the faithful to be ashamed to confess his ignorance of that which the Lord envelopes in the blaze of his own inaccessible light.”

Other Calvinists affirm this as well.  How can God hold wicked sinners responsible for the sins that He ordained for them to commit in the first place?  The answer: mystery with an appeal to Deuteronomy 29:29.

Most Calvinists are comfortable with that mystery.  I am not.

Someone has said that if you cannot preach the gospel at the gates of Auschwitz, it is not the gospel.  How can we look at 1.1 million people dead at Auschwitz and agree with Calvin?  That this happened by the will of God.  And for what?  I know that Calvinists like to preach that such a view would mean that evil is without purpose.  Yet can there be purposeless evil in a world with free creatures?

John Piper appeals to a greater evil and that would be the cross.  1.1 million sinners dying at Auschwitz is nothing compared to the perfect and holy one dying on the cross (Acts 2:22-23).  Piper points out that this evil, the murder of Jesus Christ, is worst than any other wicked acts and yet it was planned by God.

The problem is that we Arminians affirm the sovereignty of God.  While Piper holds that sovereignty must equal divine determinism of all things, I would disagree with his definition of sovereignty.  The Calvinist reads sovereignty and sees omnipotence.  I disagree.  God can be sovereign while allowing mankind to be free to make free choices.  The cross demonstrates this.  Further, God, because He is God, can step into His creation for His purposes.  God did this in the cross.  God will do this at the second coming of the Lord Jesus.  God can use evil for His glory such as in the cross.  Yet God did not make the Jews kill Jesus nor did He make the Romans crucify Jesus.  This was allowed.  Such language would be opposed by Calvin.  Calvin would argue that God not only ordained the cross but He would make sure that the people would do the very sinful acts that He purposed for them to do.  Piper seems to agree.

Dr. James White also holds that there is no such thing as purposeless evil.  Since White holds to divine determinism (even hard determinism), he holds that everything happens as Calvin states, because God wills for it to happen and He makes sure it comes to pass.  Every rape, murder, abortion (which is murder), theft, war, etc. happens because God wills it so.  God is perfectly holy so He cannot be accused of sinning but He uses secondary causes to bring about His decreed will.

Let us return then to Auschwitz.  I have never heard a Calvinist preach this at Auschwitz.  It would not preach well.  Imagine going back to 1944 and preaching to the souls at Auschwitz that all this is happening  because God wills it so.  Imagine preaching that God will hold the Nazis responsible for their sins of killing but He first ordained this to come to pass.  Imagine further preaching that the same God who ordained this evil to come to pass is now calling you to repent and come to faith in Christ.  How is this consistent with the God who gave His Son?

The Arminian gospel would be this: this evil is happening because of the sinful choices of mankind.  People are wicked and unless they repent, they will see the wrath of God in His judgment upon them (Hebrews 9:27-28).  The Bible is clear, however, that God wills not for anyone here at Auschwitz to perish but to come to repentance including you Nazis.  He does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32) but He wants all of you to repent and be saved from your sins (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Peter 3:9).  This wicked place is here because we live in a fallen world with fallen sinners who love evil and hate God.  May you repent and believe the gospel for eternal life (Romans 6:23).

The cross shows us God.  In the cross we have a humble Savior who left the glory of heaven to abide on earth (Philippians 2:5-11).  We have a Savior who prays even for sinners while He is dying (Luke 23:34).  In the cross we see a God who would rather die than mankind go to hell (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2).  The cross shows us the love of God (Romans 5:8-9) and this love is not confined merely to those of who have believed but to the whole world (John 1:29; 3:16; 1 John 2:1-2; 4:14).  This is our God.  He is glorious.  He is loving.  He is good (Psalm 145:8-9).

John Wesley wrote:

“While a sovereign monarch might technically be free to dispose of subjects as he or she sees fit, a loving parent would not even consider withholding potential saving aid from any child (i.e., unconditional reprobation or limited atonement). On the other hand, truly loving parents also respect the integrity of their children. Ultimately, they would not impose their assistance against the (mature) child’s will.”

But Wesley also preached that all that we have from God, His love, His salvation, etc. are gifts of His love:

All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man are of his mere grace, bounty, or favour; his free, undeserved favour; favour altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace that “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,” and stamped on that soul the image of God, and “put all things under his feet.” The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life, and breath, and all things. For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand. “All our works, Thou, O God, hast wrought in us.” These, therefore, are so many more instances of free mercy: and whatever righteousness may be found in man, this is also the gift of God.

This is our God.  This is the God of the Bible.  The glorious God whom I love and adore.  He rescues sinners by His grace and I am a testimony of His love and grace.  What evil may befall me I will not cast at His feet but know that He is able to work even through evil for His glory and good (Romans 8:28).  The mystery in Arminianism is how God’s will is done despite allowing mankind free will.  I would rather have that as my mystery while preaching at the gates of Auschwitz.

Boston

Here is a good article from brother William Birch on the tragedy at Boston.  There are no easy answers for evil.  I do think that the Arminian’s defense that God is good and loving and that He does not cause evil nor causes people to sin (James 1:12-15) is a solid beginning for making sense of suffering and evil.  We live in a fallen world full of sin.  People make evil choices each day whether it be to murder a human being, to abort a human being in the mother’s womb, or to hate someone for the color of their skin, people are simply evil.  Scripture says that evil is our nature (Ephesians 2:1-3).  It is not that we are all as evil as we could be but we are still evil in our hearts apart from the regenerating work of God.  Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?”  Apart from the Spirit of God, we would choose sin (Romans 3:10-18).

Thankfully through the grace of God we can overcome sin (Romans 8:1-4; 1 John 3:6-10).  God’s grace teaches us to say no to sin (Titus 2:11-12).  God’s grace empowers us to be holy and to live pure before God (Titus 2:14).  Jesus told the woman caught in sin to go and sin no more (John 8:11).  We are to be a people of holiness (Hebrews 12:14) as God Himself is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Our passion and delight should be in obedience to the King of kings (Luke 6:46-49; 1 John 2:3-6; 5:1-4).

Let us vow to be holy (Matthew 5:48) and to pray for God to take this evil in Boston and bring sinners to salvation through the preaching of the gospel of His grace.  God can use evil to turn hard hearts from sin toward Himself.  I pray that He does this for His glory (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/17/2013 at 11:16 AM

The God Who Ordains Evil

Dr. Roger Olson does a good job in this post by showing the fallacies of some Calvinists when trying to explain evil and how this relates to the sovereignty of God.  Men such as John Piper simply acknowledge that evil comes from God and is ordained by Him for His glory (though we know not how at this time).  Olson points out that this view doesn’t glorify the character of God but rather makes Him appear as less than loving and good.  As Olson stated once before, “There is not much difference I see between the God who ordains evil and renders it certain and Satan.  Satan wants to destroy all but God wants to destroy most.”

The problem of evil and suffering is not easy.  I don’t think there are pat answers for this.  Even Scripture doesn’t give us all the insights we would like in regard to human suffering and evil.  Yet I would equally state that I don’t see in Scripture where God ordains evil and renders it certain.  He certainly knows beforehand what will happen but to control evil and to allow evil is not the same as causing evil which Piper does when he teaches that God is so sovereign that everything that happens does happen because He renders it certain and planned all things.  How is He not evil then?  How is He still rendered as good and loving if in fact He plans and renders certain horrible acts like rape, murder, shootings, etc.?  How can the God of John 3:16 or the God of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 be that God if in fact He causes (whether directly or indirectly) the suffering of people at the hands of vile sinners?

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/27/2012 at 1:01 PM

Trials Test Our Theology

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
– James 1:2-4 (NIV)


Several years ago I had a friend who died from cancer.  He fought to the end and he even asked for his body to be anointed with oil and prayed for at his funeral.  His passion was for his healing and for God to be glorified through it.  He was sharing the gospel with an atheist doctor who was working with him and he believed that should God heal him then perhaps the man would believe the gospel (Acts 14:3; Hebrews 2:4).  This brother was intense in his seeking God for healing.  He believed in medicine but he believed that God would be exalted and magnified in his healing from cancer by the hand of God.

His healing never came in this life.  He died at the age of 27.  But I do believe he is healed and though I don’t have any answers to why he wasn’t healed, I still believe that my God can and does heal for His own purposes and glory.

I recently found out that another friend of mine found out that he now has cancer.  He pastors a small Baptist church in middle Georgia and has three children including a new born infant.  He has been fighting his cancer but the doctors told him last week that the chemo was killing him and they wanted to stop the treatments.  The doctors told him that they give him less than six months to live.  But he is praying.

However, unlike my first friend, this friend doesn’t necessarily believe that it is the will of God to heal.  He has prayed for the sick over the years but he hasn’t prayed for divine healing as much as he has prayed for God’s will to be done.  For some, this kind of praying amounts to unbelief.  Some say that such praying shows that we don’t really believe that God will hear our prayers and heal.  This type of praying for the sick (“let Your will be done”) sometimes prays for the sick but believes that healing is not for today.  But then he got cancer and his praying has changed.  He is now praying to be healed period.  I do believe there is a place to pray for God’s will to be done.  Jesus prayed this way in Matthew 26:39, 42 so if Jesus so prayed this way then so should we.

Now my intention here is not to debate the healing issue.  Some say that since healing is the will of God the same as salvation then why pray for God’s will to be done and simply proclaim that it is done and receive it by faith as we do salvation?  For the record, I pray for the sick to be healed and I believe that God can and does heal people.  Why He doesn’t heal all is beyond me.  I don’t try to answer the question of healing because I don’t have all the answers but I do cling to God and hope in His Word that He can and does heal.  I believe this because I believe God’s Word and I believe that what He did in the New Testament, He can still do today.  I have read books on both sides and sometimes I think we miss the emphasis being on the glory of God and not on the fading of men.  When praying for the sick we should first focus on the glory of God being revealed in His miracles and not just on the sick person.  Compassionate should arise but our first duty is to honor the Lord.

My main point is that our theology is often tested through trials.  In both cases above, these men believed before they had cancer that God could heal.  Yet when facing cancer, the issues of whether it was God’s will to heal or not are often thrown out the window.  It’s no longer a matter of debating over coffee but it is not a matter of life and death.  Trials have a way of revealing what we truly believe.  Will we cling to God and trust Him for healing or will we hold to unbelief and doubt as to whether God can heal us?

In both cases above the brothers went to the Bible for comfort.  Both could easily quote Scriptures on healing.  In my first friends case I saw him a few days before he died.  He looked terrible.  He had a breathing tube in and was clinging to life but he could talk a little.  He asked me if I had eaten that day at Chick-Fil-A and then I got close to his ear and whispered, “What does Psalm 107:20 say?” and he repeated the passage from the NIV.  He could quote many passages on divine healing.  When he finally died, he had asked his family to spend one hour praying over his body for him to be raised from the dead before sending him to the funeral home.  They did but the healing in this life never came.

Theology is not tested in debates or in the walls of universities as much as it is tested by the trails of life.  When facing sickness, death, financial problems, marriage problems, lost loved ones, etc. it is there that our theology takes shape.  We become who we are from seeking God when we go through the trials of life.  Our doctrines about God, His sovereignty, His control of all things, the love of Jesus and what He did for us on the cross, healing, answered prayers, God’s protection and provision – all these are tested when we face trials.

That is the point James 1:2-4 is trying to get across.  Trials have a way of teaching us how to trust God even when we don’t know what the future holds or whether God will come through or not.  Perseverance is not found in merely memorizing passages of Scripture that speak about continuing in the faith but true perseverance is found when a disciple faces the trials of life and still holds to the unchanging hand of God.  When we go through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4) and yet still say that the Lord is our shepherd (Psalm 23:1), it is there that we learn to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Our theology takes shape when we face trials.

One last point.  This morning as I was praying for my sick friend I read Mark 1:40-41.  I love this story.  I love that Jesus hears the prayer of the man with leprosy when he says, “If you are willing, you can make me clean” (NIV).  The Bible says that Jesus was filled with compassion.  What a Savior!  But Jesus goes further, breaks the religious taboos of His day and touches the man and says, “I am willing.  Be clean” (NIV).  Mark 1:42 says that immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.  Can Jesus still do this today?  Yes!  And so I pray for my friend that Jesus, out of His great compassion and love, would heal my friend for His glory.  I believe the words of Jesus are still true, “I am willing.  Be clean.”  I might not know when Jesus will heal and perhaps He may chose to do so in eternity but I will continue to pray for brothers (and sisters) who are sick like this Baptist brother until Jesus returns and makes all things right.  I believe that is biblical.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/05/2010 at 3:36 PM

The Case of the Lying Spirit

I was reading in my One Year Bible (NIV) and I came across an interesting portion of Scripture in 1 Kings 22 concerning the prophet Micaiah before the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, King of Judah. Micaiah is at first told to prophesy only what is good as the other prophets had done prior to his coming (1 Kings 22:13). Micaiah gives a general statement (v. 15) but the king tells him to swear to him to tell nothing but the truth in the name of the Yahweh (v. 16). Micaiah then proceeds to prophesy the truth which means the scattering of Israel (v. 17). This, of course, makes the king angry (v. 18).

In 1 Kings 22:19-23 Micaiah tells the king why the other prophets had been prophesying what they had been prophesying. He tells how Yahweh says, “Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?” (1 Kings 22:20 NIV). The Bible says that different suggestions came from spirits (angels) and in the end God allows a lying spirit to go and Yahweh even says that the lying spirit will succeed (v. 22).
The question is did God cause this lying spirit to commit this act of sin or did God allow the spirit to operate under His authority and perimeters? I believe the answer is clear in that God allowed the spirit but did not control the spirit directly. Yahweh gave the lying spirit a certain amount of freedom to accomplish what God wanted to be accomplished mainly the death of Ahab. The Bible says in James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” God may allow evil acts to take place and in His foreknowledge He knows what will take place and He can turn these evil acts for His own glory (Genesis 50:20) but God Himself does not do evil nor does He sin (Numbers 23:19).
1 Kings 22:23 says, “So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you” (NIV). But did the Lord put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets or did He allow them? Did God decree both the death of Ahab and the false spirits? I think the answer is that God allowed these events to take place. Through His exhaustive foreknowledge God knew what would take place and He allowed the lying spirit to deceive the kings to lure them to battle and thus confirm His sovereign decree and plan.
Now I don’t have pat answers for why bad things happen to good people. I don’t know why some people can live like the devil and still seem to live carefree lives and yet the righteous seem to suffer. Sometimes we want to cry with Asaph, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” (Psalm 73:13). Yet like Asaph we need to realize the final outcome for those who are not disciples (Psalm 73:17-19). We need to see just how quickly this life is passing (James 4:13-14). We are like grass that is here today and gone tomorrow (1 Peter 1:24) and soon we will stand before the Lord and give an account for our lives (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
With this in mind, let us live lives of holiness (2 Peter 3:11-13). Let us commit ourselves to trusting God even when we don’t always understand His ways. Let us throw ourselves upon His sovereignty and trust that while He does not commit evil, He can use it for His glory. God will, in the end, be exalted and He will be praised for His perfect ways. Let us trust Him by faith (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/22/2010 at 8:33 AM

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