Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

“Christian Theodicy in Light of Genesis and Modern Science” (expanded version)

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Here is a substantially expanded version of my theodicy paper that was earlier discussed on this blog (go here for the earlier discussion): http://www.designinference.com/documents/2006.05.christian_theodicy.pdf.

Has anyone here read "The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis? seekeroftruth
JaredL wrote: TinaB – There are explicit answers in my own religion. If you care to discuss, drop a note to jaredlivesey@yahoo.com Could you share some of those answers here Jared? seekeroftruth
This thread is likely defunct ... still for what it's worth ... yours truly is no theologian, which no doubt is quite obvious ... but sometimes the naïve see things hidden from those who know better. Thus Romans 5 ... evidently it's verse 12 that leads the theologians to believe that death began with Adam -- "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ..." First off this seems not to say that we inherit death (a la "original sin") but rather we die because we sin--not because Adam sinned. Maybe we sin because Adam-Messiah does not sit on the throne in Jerusalem ... but that's not what I want to talk about now. According to (Ezekiel 18:4, 20), "The soul that sinneth, it shall die [הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַחֹטֵאת הִיא תָמוּת]." This just as God had said to Adam (Gen 2:17), "for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die [כִּי בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְ מִמֶּנּוּ מוֹת תָּמוּת]." But according to (Heb 9:27), "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment". Was Adam mortal? Was he from the beginning appointed once to die but after that the judgment? It sure appears so, as it says (Gen 3:22), "... and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever ..." "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb 9:27), so maybe the death Adam incurred was that which awaits him in the judgment. Compare that with Jesus' statement (Mat 10:28): "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Remember (Ezekiel 18:4, 20): "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Adam sinned and penalty is the death of his soul. And only God can kill the soul. Throughout Romans 5 Paul is talking about atonement, as for example (Rom 5:10), "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." Had Adam not sinned, would we have been saved by the lordship of his life? Anyway in the Torah atonement is through the shedding of blood (Lev 17:11): For the life of the flesh is in the blood: כִּי נֶפֶשׁ הַבָּשָׂר בַּדָּם הִוא and I have given it to you upon the altar וַאֲנִי נְתַתִּיו לָכֶם עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּחַ to make an atonement for your souls: לְכַפֵּר עַל־נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. כִּי־הַדָּם הוּא בַּנֶּפֶשׁ יְכַפֵּר׃ And according to the sages (e.g., Rambam in Mishne Torah - הלכות בית הבחירה פרק ב), "Adam was created at the place of his atonement [אָדָם מִמָּקוֹם כַּפָּרָתוֹ נִבְרָא]." If Intelligent Design triumphs such that theologians and scholars finally begin to take God seriously, then everything should be placed on the table--the Bible, the Church fathers, the vast rabbinical literature, history, archaeology, linguistics, all of it for serious discussion, but this time not by modernists and postmodernists or other erudite nincompoops but by those shocked and humbled by the fact that Darwin was wrong and that God might really have revealed himself to Israel of old. Rude
Doc, Another thought -- evolutionists mock their skeptics with the "god of the gaps" and claim the gaps are constantly shrinking in favor of naturalistic explanations. Maybe it's the other way around. Scripture makes claims, naturalists make claims but what is shrinking is not the gap between science and naturalistic explainations but the gap between science and scriptural ones. tribune7
Okay, tina :-) tribune7
tribune7: I don't disagree with your sentiments about authority. I don't know why you assume that our views of authority per se are different. I tried to take pains to define 'dominion' in a way which is potentially more benevolent than typical interpretations, and I think you are absolutely correct that "God is the only one deserving of worship..." etc. What I am saying is just that Paul seems to endorse (in 1 Corinthians 11, a verse which I will now free myself to forget about!) a view of authority hierarchies which goes God over man/ man over women. I just started the comment thread by saying that I disagree with this hierarchy since I consider men and women to be equals. I will stick to Galatians from now on. thanks. tinabrewer
Tina: You have a completely different concept of authority than I. It's not hard for me to put myself psychologically under someone's authority because I've been under authority many times including to women, and I've been in authority too. It's not a big deal to me. You have a job you have to get it done, you have an obligation to do your best which includes providing honest feedback. If you worship the person in authority or fear the person in authority, you are doing something wrong since God is the only one deserving of worship and faith should desolve fear. Nor, is being under authority the same as blind obedience. Think of Abigail. It is really stupid to try to be the boss, whoever you are. It is, however, immoral not to do what you can in the place God assigns. If 1 Cor 11 really bothers you, re-read Galatians 5:22-24. Follow Gal 5:22-24 and don't worry about 1 Cor. 11. tribune7
tribune7: I didn't say to put your self in the position of a beaten wife. I said to put yourself, psychologically, into the position of someone whos husband has authority over her and is expected to be nice about it. It is rather different. Of course a "true Christian" would never beat his wife! Please do not read my comments as in any way anti-Christian or whatever. I just take exception to the notion that a man is the glory of God, while the woman is the glory of man. This is a clear hierarchy, which I feel to be unjustified by my experiences of both men and women. I also think it is possible that "authority over" means different things in different contexts, and that we should be careful about assuming that Paul meant it in the way in which it clearly manifests today in places like Afghanistan, etc. For example, where in Genesis it is said that man has dominion over the fish, animals, etc., many take this, like the lovely Ann Coulter, to mean (paraphrased) 'God gave you the earth. rape it. do what you want with it. its yours'. I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept conveyed by dominion. Perhaps dominion really implies 'with greater power comes greater responsibility'. Dominion of humanity over the earth and animals is a result of the fact that humans, unlike any other animal, carry spiritual substance within them, and are energetically more powerful than animals. This means that their will, which is a free volition as opposed to instinct, can shape the conditions of matter more powerfully than any other creature. This 'dominion' is descriptive rather than being some blanket right-giving passage. If, as you say, and I wholeheartedly agree, service is the true ideal, then in this example, dominion has a noble and powerful command associated with it. It still doesn't resolve for me the hierarchy implied in 1 Corinthians 11... I want to make a public apology to the spirit of Paul here. I don't agree with him in many respects, but like you feel he was a true Apostle. However, we must remember that even those nearest to Christ often misunderstood him. How many times does Christ express frustration at the total inability of his disciples to understand basic concepts he was trying to convey "o ye of little faith" "do you still not understand" etc. How much more this might be true when time and distance separated the Son from those who followed him. tinabrewer
infinite dialectic resolves Newcomb's paradox our choices have meaning Qualiatative
I find his doctrines to be in disharmony with what Christ seems to have been teaching in some areas. I disagree. I think he was a true apostle directed by God and I don't think any of us would be Christians without him. To a large degree he's the foundation of our concept of freedom -- the letter kills but the spirit gives life. You suggested earlier that I put myself in the place of a beaten wife. Would a true Christian be a wife beater? I don't mean someone who attends church or professes a doctrine but one filled with the spirit of Christ. I'm certain it's not possible, at least not in sense that you described where the beatings were a means of maintaining authority. What do you think Paul would say if he were confronted by somone like that? It's in his writtings --back to Galatians-- http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians%205:14-24;&version=31; tribune7
I'm not upset with Paul in a personal sense. I find his doctrines to be in disharmony with what Christ seems to have been teaching in some areas. I admit this to be an interpretation, but it is a deeply felt intuition on my part. When I say that I don't have to explain Galatians, I only meant that for me, finding philosophical or doctrinal discrepancies from place to place is something which I expect to have happen. Therefore, when it is pointed out, I just say "yeah" and have no further need to rationalize or explain it, whereas someone whos foregone conclusion is that there is consistency from passage to passage due to holy inspiration might feel a distinct need to explain such apparent differences. The passage we are discussing, is for me a classic example of the difference in spirit between some of the writings of Paul (which can, at times, feel interpretive and churchy) and the words of Christ. Sometimes, when reading the gospels, this incredible sense of the magnitude of love and purity comes pouring forth over the centuries from Christ's simple words. The energy of his presence is still reverberating after all of these years. And he never concerned himself with religion, per se. Only truth. He never told people what to wear when they did this or that, etc. he tried to explain creation itself. And the authors of the gospels recount that he taught so much more than could reasonably be recorded...and he treated women with tremendous respect and protectiveness. tinabrewer
Dave: In the U.S. women weren’t even allowed to vote until 1920. That's true. OTOH, when this continent was discovered one was pretty much running things as was when the first colony was established, and in the latter case it was in a rather absolute sense. That's also true about women in Islam but Moslems aren't big on Paul, either. Tina:I don’t need to explain Galatians 3: 26-28. So what are you upset with Paul about? tribune7
I don't need to explain Galatians 3: 26-28. I take it as a foregone conclusion that there will be discrepencies. I may be reading it incorrectly, but 1 Corinthians 11 certainly sounds like a provision for male supremacy, at least within the context of worship. Lets face it, until relatively recently in history, no one would have batted an eye at such a view. While it is certainly true, as you say, that men are supposed to love their wives instead of beat them when they are "uppity"(your wording) , I challenge you to humble yourself,as a thought experiment, into the position of feeling grateful that your wife, like the kind owner of a dog, decides not to beat you when you are uppity...and feel really good about herself for it! I also think that the evidence of history shows that the supremacy of males, taken for granted, certainly took more of the form I refer to than one of pure, equal, mutual service ( an ideal I certainly agree with you on ) tinabrewer

Gal 3:26-28 -- http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Gal%203:26-28&version=31

There seems to be a bit of not practicing what's been preached going on then. In the U.S. women weren't even allowed to vote until 1920. They've been second class secular citizens until recently even in progressive western Christian democracies to say nothing of repressive Islamic cultures where they're still treated as chattel today. Most Christian churches still refuse to ordain women so they're still second class sectarians. -ds tribune7
Tina, do you think the Bible is about "who's the boss"? Do you think Paul was a male supremist? How do you explain Gal 3:26-28? I think those zingers aimed at women are God's (not Paul's) way of humbling women -- just like He has His way of humbling men (the Lord washing the feet of the disciples, the command to turn the other cheek etc.) And if you look at it closely those commands are directed at women -- not men. What are men supposed to do with uppity wives? Beat them with a stick the circumference of their thumbs? You can't find that in the Bible. What men are supposed to do is to love their wives like Christ loved the church. According to Scripture nobody is supposed to try to be the boss. We are all supposed to serve. tribune7
Do you think a man should have authority over woman? I guess I should have picked a pseudonym, because my gender is evident, while yours is not! I think that men have a certain natural material advantage over women, because they are more attuned to matter in their basic nature. This leaves open the question of what women contribute which is unique and makes them the equals of men. (In my view they most definitely are) I think women are less bound to matter, and more intuitive. Since the overvaluation of matter leads women to believe that equality means playing on the same field as men (I don't think I have ever successfully used a sports metaphor in my life before today! Yippee!) the special field of activity in which women are clearly superior (the intuitive, inner life) is left fallow. Tragic. The consequences, in my opinion, are everywhere evident. Plus, who really knows what Paul exactly meant when he said "authority over her"... tinabrewer
Why Paul's hmmmmm? tribune7
whose ego, Paul's? tinabrewer
Ahh. An ego thing :-) tribune7
How beautiful 1Corinthians 13 is! i used the opening passage in my own wedding, omitting the traditional verses in the middle, because verses 1-4 are particularly powerful to me. On the other hand, there is 1 Corinthians 11... tinabrewer
On the other hand, if one views the scriptures as records of happenings, written by men and containing both truth and human opinion side-by-side, then it is possible, even necessary, to use an inner capacity to percieve “truth” to judge which is which. My view is obviously the latter. Tina, it is impossible for a reasoning person to believe that Judas threw the silver back in the Temple then hung himself as per Matthew AND bought a field with it in which he tripped an fell as per Acts. Concerning Paul, the clincher to become a Christian for me was 1 Corinthians 13. tribune7
mentok: interesting notions. I think many things in the bible are intended to be stories/allegories, etc., but I cannot share your radical symbolization of everything. Jesus really lived. He really taught people things, and he really died. This is not an allegory, but a life. Also, the key to percieving the magnitude of God is in coming to understand the very fundamental difference between the Creator and the created. You justify your view of God by taking what happens to us, as creatures, developmentally, and saying "there cannot be any other way". I disagree with your assertion that divinity is subject to developmental constraints or demands. When we describe something in its essential nature, we describe its inherent qualities. Humans must learn and grow and develop in order to gain knowledge. That is a human quality. Perception of divinity being essentially different has allowed us to describe God as 'alpha and omega' that which never wasn't and never won't be. In addition, we describe this God as being perfect, and perfection seems to imply that development is no longer necessary. The concept overwhelms our own limited capacity to percieve, and yet we get a likeness of an image of its magnitude. This glimmer of perception, gained after laborious spiritual striving, usually leads to a state of blissful worship. This has been my own inward experience. I know that spiritual experiences are very personal, and I cannot speak to yours, only to my own. tinabrewer
tina you mentioned two ways of looking at the bible, the first was of seeing the holy spirit guiding the writing of the bible and therefore there can be no questioning of what is found there. Yet we see throughout history there has been much disagreement over the meaning of what is found there. Should we read the bible or any scripture 100% literally or is there a deeper more esoteric meaning to scripture which is understood when they are viewed metaphorically. You mention that you are uncomfortable with the idea of the passion of Jesus. I view the passion as a metaphorical story that reveals a timeless truth about the true story of God and the real sacrifice and suffering God went through which was necessary in order to "save" humanity. If we take the view that Jesus represents God i.e. God in the flesh, then maybe there is a metaphor in the life of Jesus which reveals the life of God. Where did God come from? This is a question that atheists like to ask when they try to disprove the concept of God. Nevertheless it is a good question. Regardless of where God has come from one fact is unavoidably true about what God went through for a period of time. God is an intelligent thinking entity, an individual being possessing self awareness, intellect, knowledge and ability i.e. an intelligent person. We all know from experience that knowledge and intellect requires experience by a thinking being in order to manifest. No one can be knowledgable without gaining knowledge through some type of experience. A person with a mind is not inherently knowledgable. A person with a mind develops knowledge through experience. There is no other way for a person with a mind to gain knowledge. Be it reading from a book or hearing from a source, or from life lessons or from trial and error, all knowledge has to be acquired. God has a huge intellect. God has vast knowledge. Because God is a living thinking being that knowledge that God has had to be acquired. Knowledge is not inherent in anything nor anyone. God designed and built the universe, but first there had to be a stage of acquisition of knowledge on how to do it. Therefore there had to be a period of time between the creation of the universe and the beginning of the acquisition of the knowledge on how to do it. If you want your child to grow up to be an architect first the child will have to develop from the stage of zero knowledge and experience. From the tabula rasa stage the child will develop the intellect and acquire knowledge until eventually he can design buildings. God also went through a similar experience. There is no possibility that God did not go through a similar experience. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The very first stage of the development of knowledge is language or the ability to communicate rationally within your own mind. God began to develop from a tabula rasa state until his mind and intellect developed the ability to communicate with himself. Having no parents but nevertheless being alive God had to have begun without knowledge of any kind. Knowledge has to be acquired, therefore God had too live through a stage of life without the ability to comprehend anything anymore then a new born child. When God eventually developed the ability to communciate rationally it is at that point which can be called the beginning of what was to come. Without the development of the ability to communicate rationally to yourself you will never grow beyond a child like mental state. So the "Word" or the ability to communicate rationally was something which God developed. That was the first language, the first means of intelligent thought in the history of time and eternity. Nowhere had there ever been a thinking intellect in existence anywhere until that time. There was no one else. Imagine if you were a new born child on a planet devoid of all people and animals. There is plenty of food lying around for you to eat, but no other person to educate you or be with you. Your parents crash landed on the planet on their spaceship when you were 1 day old, and then they died from injuries. You are 1 day old and all alone and no one is coming to rescue you. How long until you eventually develop the ability to communicate with yourself? Once you have developed that rudimentry ability you will wish you hadn't. You will realize just how alone you are. You will realize just how there is so much you don't understand. You will be afraid of never getting out of your situation. God suffered greatly for a very long time before he developed the ability to create the universe and other people. All alone, fearfull of always being all alone. When you are a child and have first developed the ability to communciate with yourself you do not have the vision of eventually seeing yourself creating a universe, creating people to be with. Instead you fear you will always be a fearful entity in a confusing world. Since death is unknown to you you will not be able to conceive of a time of ever being not alone and with nothing much to do. The result is much suffering, deep unhappiness and fear. God suffered beyond what we can imagine for a period of time that we cannot imagine before developing the ability to create ourselves and a world for us to enjoy. Jesus was tortured and then dies and then comes back from the grave as a supernatural being. By doing so humanity is delivered from damnation. God suffered greatly for a long time, it was tortuous. The fear and misery of being all alone once God developed knowledge to the extent of understanding that he was all alone and knew very little, at that point God was like Jesus on the cross. Then after a long period of developing his inherent mental ability God developed enough knowledge that he could build the universe and everything and everyone in it. This was like Jesus coming back to life and rising from the cave. The cave represents the darkness and emotional death God went through for a very long time. The resurrection represents God eventually developing the abilities and knowledge he has today, leaving misery behind, being reborn into a world with lot's to do and people to be with. God suffered greatly and as a result we get the gift of eternal life. God "died for our sins". mentok
Hey, thanks for the thumbs up! Tribune and Tina. As for inerrancy perhaps it needn't be an absolutist either-or deal. One can, for example, take the Torah as foundational. The New Testament authors make no claim to be writing Scripture. Paul, for example, says that (Rom 3:2) "the oracles of God [τα λογια του θεου]" were committed to the Jews. There is in the New Testament no "and the word of the LORD came to me saying [וַיְהִי דְבַר־ה´ אֵלַי לֵאמֹר]" such as you encounter everywhere in the prophets. So unless you're a King James only or Byzantine text only proponent, there is a certain amount of messiness in our New Testament documents. Though I don't believe Bart D. Ehrman is a supporter of biblical inspiration, I have found his "The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture" insightful. The Scriptures call for humility. Even though we accept their authority we know others read them differently than ourselves. This is no reason to take a postmodernist "each to his own truth" approach. We can still strive to find THE truth that is contained in them. For those who take Scripture seriously it may be, as you say, "impossible to question any of its teachings", but that doesn't mean that we have the final understanding of those teaching. Why not take the same approach as in science? Truth is the goal but we ain't all the way there yet. Rude
tribune7: I am so glad. I think I had a sense of guilt about being argumentative around this very serious issue, and I read anger where there was none! I think a major and unresolvable splitting off point comes in the way in which one views scripture. If it is taken, as a foregone conclusion, that all of scripture, or at least the New testament, is inerrant and directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, then it is of course impossible to question any of its teachings, and the only real task is to get comfortable with them. On the other hand, if one views the scriptures as records of happenings, written by men and containing both truth and human opinion side-by-side, then it is possible, even necessary, to use an inner capacity to percieve "truth" to judge which is which. My view is obviously the latter. I respect that the majority of believers take the former view, and arguing back and forth is completely fruitless, because I will fully admit that everywhere in the Pauline literature is this insistence on the animal-like sacrificial death. When I read through the gospels and then get to Paul's letters, I feel, intuitively, a very distinct differnce in spirit emerge. To me, where there is a logical or intuitive conflict between a doctrine of Paul and the recorded words of Christ in the gospels, I tend to think (although I know that to be consistent, I have to doubt the gospels as much as Paul's letters) that the impression left on the authors of the gospels of what Christ thought are more significant. This may or may not end up being the truth. I do, however, feel that this particular issue is of grave spiritual significance. Either the angels and Creator are jumping for joy at the salvation of humanity through Christ's death, or they are filled with horror and preparing the vials of wrath. It isn't academic or semantic. Christ definitely seemed to oppose his murderers, and even prayed that the suffering and death be taken from him. These are logically inconsistent with the view that the death was an animal-type sacrifice necessary for the forgivenness of sins. He also called the priests who sought to trap him servants of their father, the devil. If this whole schema was God's plan for salvation, then certainly they were agents of God, not the devil, and being the love of God, Christ would have embraced them instead of repudiating them. There are other points. Before his death, Christ says (paraphrased here) 'I have completed my work, I have come what I came to do', something also logically inconsistent with the sacrificial death notion. He also says 'for this cause came I into the world, to bear witness unto the truth'. etc. Anyway, due to the scriptural view which probably separates us, I think it will always come down to that in the end. tinabrewer
Tina: I enjoy your posts. Do not read any anger into my response. I am not angry :-) tribune7
tribune7: I don't know what to say. Your last post sounded angry. Thank you for clarifying your view. I hope that I have not contributed to this degenerating into disputation. The topic is too serious for that, and I think it is best for us to go our ways agreeing to disagree. I also want to thank Rude for his/her helpful and thoughtful posts... tinabrewer
The question at hand is whether his death itself, like the animal sacrifices of ancient times, was what his mission was about. Tina: OK, suppose Jesus was greeted with open hearts and open arms as he longed for? Suppose if the Jewish leadership said "this guy is right, you ought to listen to him?" Or Pilate said "The heck with politics, I'm letting Him go"? Or Judas said "I'm upset about something but I'm not betraying my friend?" Would Jesus have had to die? No. Or supposed people had just followed the prophets (and God) with their whole hearts, souls and minds? Would He even have had to make an appearance in the flesh? But we don't live in an alternative universe. The prophets were not followed, the crucifixion was prophesied and the crucifixion happened. So it is by His blood we are reconciled and and His sacrifice was His death. Rude: Your posts are great. Thanks. tribune7
TinaB - There are explicit answers in my own religion. If you care to discuss, drop a note to jaredlivesey @ yahoo . com jaredl

Pelagius challenged Augustine on original sin, which by the way I don't think we can say is in any way a Jewish concept. Here, this is from Wikipedia: "An objective view of Pelagius and his effect is most difficult. His name has been maligned and used as an epithet for centuries by both Protestants and Catholics alike, and he has had few defenders. The Roman Catholic church denounced his work in word and yet the Reformation accused Catholics of succumbing to his ideas regardless and condemns both Pelagius and the Catholic Church. Meanwhile the Eastern Orthodox Church is silent. Regardless, Pelagius stands, both in reality and in icon, as a radical from the traditional thoughts on original sin and the means of salvation. In any analysis of his work, we should bear in mind that Pelagius' chronology and teachings can only be understood through the actions of his opposition because they have left the only record of him and his works."

I too wrestle with "the doctrine of propitiatory sacrifice". Obviously there's so much I don't understand. One thing that has helped is the Jewish concept of the merit of the fathers [זְכוּת אָבוֹת]. Individually and collectively we stand before God with insufficient merit for his mercy. When Israel sinned the sin of the golden calf we read (Exodus 32:9-10), "And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation." We may think the same offer was made to Jesus and that he accepted. But not Moses! His response was that if You destroy them then I want no part of your plan (Ex 32:32-33): "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book."

And so Moses pleads by invoking the merit of the fathers. And he seems to think that God cares about what the Egyptians think (Ex 32:11-14): "And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people."

So maybe there is this also in the New Testament Messiah. By his merit we are saved, not so much because God thirsts for blood, but because Jesus proved by his death that he will be responsible for God's people, and for this reason we call him Lord.

I don't understand what you are saying, tribune7. I know that Christ was crucified. The question at hand is whether his death itself, like the animal sacrifices of ancient times, was what his mission was about. willed by God so that humans could, through this final act of repudiation and hatred, be forgiven everything. also, I apologize for not being more clear in the phrase "Christian thought". Of course the sin of Adam is from Jewish tradition, but Christianity contains many concepts which Judaism doesn't, precisely because of Christ. Christians, for example, generally have a more elaborate doctrinal structure around what happens to the soul after death, etc. (to point out just one difference). The origin of the soul is a crucial question, especially if you are going to contend that the soul contains an inherent, heritable tendency to sin. no one but the Lord is without sin may be a fact of history, or it may be an inherency. Either we sin because we choose to sin, or we sin because we have no choice, having been burdened with a sinful nature because of some historical act. THese distinctions are critical and cannot be whitewashed. Even if you take the Genesis account quite seriously, believing it to be an allegory for the tempter and his influence on humanity, this in no way obliges you to believe that the free will to choose good over evil has been eradicated for every human for all time. Eve made a choice to succumb. Where in that does it logically follow that it becomes the inherent nature of every subsequent human to succumb? tinabrewer
tinabrewer: You responded to my contention that the sacrifice of Christ lay in his mission rather than in his death But He was crucified. you feel that the sin of Adam is able to propagate through time within the framework of traditional Christian thought. It was from Jewish thought How does an innocent soul, born today, relate to the sin of ADAM? Why does suffering exist and why is that "innocent soul" going to sin since no one but the Lord is without sin? tribune7
WmAD: i wanted to say that you addressed the question of the true nature of love somewhat more completely in this version. I was wrong to exaggerate the degree to which unhealthy types of self-sacrifice are a corruption of the concept of love. Of course you correctly point out that Christ encourages the concept of self-sacrifice as a measure of love. The sticking point is in the WHY. If I lay down my life for a friend because this act benefits him, then it is an act of love. If I do it even though I know that this act will likely increase my friend's weakness or sin, then this is not love, but contempt. The trick is to always ask, in the deepest way, what benefits the beloved. In many cases, what benefits someone spiritually is the greatest severity. The wrath of God is severe. It benefits humanity, because it wakes them up from their delusional lazy self-satisfaction. I guess I still think that the truest definition of love is "what benefits and uplifts". It is a positive force in the universe, which originates in God, and emanates from us towards one another. In an world free from sin, it would radiate everywhere, and everything would be beautified, uplifted, strengthened by it. There would be no self-service, and thus no need to doubt the intentions of one another. You responded to my contention that the sacrifice of Christ lay in his mission rather than in his death simply by assigning this heresy a name (Pelagianism) and then rejecting it. This cannot be a serious response. Putting a name on something doesn't make its substance go away. Incidentally, I have not read about Pelagianism, but if it truly is what you say, namely a belief that a "straightforward act of will" is adequate to heal the rift with God, then I absolutely disagree with it. Humanity needs the sacrifice of Christ. Only through the truth, which Christ brought, can we be set free. However, this is very different from a belief that the murder of Christ's body was a necessary propitiatory sacrifice. He gave up his life because the hatred of humanity for the truth made it absolutely inevitable that he would be killed. He knew this, and he came anyway. He would not back down from his bold assertions, and he would not flee in a cowardly manner. It utterly fascinates me that the doctrine of propitiatory sacrifice is a virtual creation of Paul, and that is why whenever I question it, every single Christian I ever talk to says "see Romans". Romans, Romans, Romans. Well, what about the gospels? What about the many many many statements of Christ which make it utterly and unquestionably clear that the murder of the 'son of the lord of the vineyard' will provoke the absolute wrath of God? What about the prayer of intercession "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do"? None of these things is ever answered. Just 'see Romans'. The other main problem I see is that you conflate the sin of Adam with "humanity". And yet you take no pains to elucidate how, or in what manner you feel that the sin of Adam is able to propagate through time within the framework of traditional Christian thought. How does an innocent soul, born today, relate to the sin of ADAM? You write "For redemption to effectively deliver humanity from evil therefore requires humanity to be clear as to precisely what it has consented to in rebelling against God and embracing evil." How does a child, who has never lived and been tempted before, automatically inherit the tendency to sin? If there is no mechanism for the propagation, do we assume that every individual reenacts the scene in the garden with the serpent? Also, mentok makes the correct point that the terrible inequalities among humans must give a serious person cause to question the benevolence of God (in the absence of a meaningful explanation for this inequality). Why does one person suffer terrible physical pain, poverty, persecution, etc. and another have a life of perfect health, success and wealth? If it is 'just the way it is', and someone who has a life of terrific suffering is expected to make the same ultimate spiritual choice to embrace God's will, then at least it must be admitted that the suffering one's choice is many times harder. Why? Why would God equally accept someone into his eternal kingdom who never experienced a moment of hardship, was born into a Christian family, easily and without sacrifice of reputation came to "accept Jesus", alongside another who lived a life of terrible existential torment, had no opportunity to know the sacrifice of Christ due to his circumstances, would certainly have suffered torture and death had he chosen this route, etc. These inequities are often extreme. They must be addressed explicitly in a meaningful theodicy. tinabrewer

"The problem facing orthodox Christians is orthodoxy." Very well said! Beautiful.


Ah Job, but maybe the theodicy there is more subtle than you think. In the Hebrew Scriptures the Satan is pictured as completely subservient to God. He can do nothing that God doesn't permit. He is merely a tool that God could annihilate in an instant. It's not Satan that God wants to impress--it's Job. And maybe too Job is a caricature of Israel and every man.

Humans can be tools too. Consider Pharoah. It was in his heart to fight against God's purpose but he seems not to have had the fortitude to go the stretch, so in order for God to do what he purposed (i.e., the Exodus) he found it necessary to harden Pharoah's heart. Later with Nebuchadnezzar this seems not to have been necessary.

By the way, in view of the way Scripture portrays an interventionist God, not just in cosmic and biological history, but also in human history, consider what Winston Churchill said before the US congress on December 26, 1941: "If you will allow me to use other language, I will say that he must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below of which we have the honor to be the faithful servants. It is not given to us to peer into the mysteries of the future. Still, I avow my hope and faith, sure and inviolate, that in the days to come the British and American peoples will, for their own safety and for the good of all, walk together in majesty, in justice and in peace." (accessible at https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/ww2/churchill122641.html)

Prophetic speculations may be futile, but how about ID someday looking for the inference of design in human history--design from a perspective larger than that which humans could be responsible.

The problem facing orthodox Christians is orthodoxy. Who were the greatest enemies of Christ? The most orthodox members of the group into which he was born. They opposed him precisely because they could not free themselves from their self-created version of truth. On the other hand, for some mysterious reason, a select group of individuals obeyed the dictates of a powerful inner urge for truth and broke the bonds of convention, often facing great suffering and death, because they resonated with his truth. tinabrewer
The problem facing any orthodox Christian theodicy is to resolve this: "(1) God is a perfectly good being who would create a world without any genuine evil if he could; (2) God is an all powerful being who can create a world without genuine evil, and yet (3) genuine evils exists." I suggest, for any who might be interested in a non-classical, yet Christian, resolution of the problem of evil, the following: http://speeches.byu.edu/freefiles/provider1/type1/PaulsenF99.pdf jaredl
I have no problem with God conversing with an adversarial angel. I believe Satan to be real, and personal. However, I have a real intuitive problem with the idea of the maker of all life 'bargaining' with Satan, and using his self-conscious creatures as a means of proving his ominipotence to another of his self-conscious creatures, namely Satan. Certainly, the adversary knows that God is almighty. He only wishes, in his loveless ruthlessness, to destroy as many human beings as he can because of his contempt for our weakness. In Job, ultimately the only real insight conveyed is that 'the buck stops with God'. I couldn't agree more. However, 'the buck' can be interpreted in various ways. Theodicies are attempts to get our minds around the nature of our creator. Some succeed, some fail. As to inerrancy, I am in agreement that one must say "either this is a great book full of wisdom and potential insights", or "this is the inerrant word of God". I have never heard a single cogent argument for believing in Biblical inerrancy before, and the multitude of differing interpretations which arise from the same literature is proof enough that total clarity is lacking. Where there is clarity and truth, by definition there can be no disputing. tinabrewer

DS, believe me, you don't need to give me an education. I was reading Asimovian Science at eight.
But at least we agree on the darwinite and global alarming perversions of real science.
I merely suggest you be open to all evidence, not just established 'truth'.
There's a Zeitgeist behind the mis-scientism.

Yes, you do need an education in high energy and astrophysics if you're struggling under the misinformed belief that we can't see supernovas or don't have the physics (math you called it) to know how heavy elements are formed in them. Or do you wish to change what you said? -ds mmadigan
Well, it seems to me that the book of Job might be taken any number of ways. It may simply be a story which was an ancient attempt at theodicy, or it may be part of the inerrent word of God. Either way it doesn't try to excuse God, either by distancing him from the reality of our world or by blaming everything on "the Fall". Ultimately the buck stops with God. As for God conversing with an adversarial angel—why not? This may appear quite unsophisticated within our present "noetic environment", but it's not logically impossible. I say the more we push back the fog of naturalism the more logical such interventions will appear. On the question of whether God would reveal himself to mankind through the literature of a single nation—the Jewish nation, a very sensible argument is made in one of WmAD's articles in "Unapologetic Apologetics: Meeting the Challenges of Theological Studies," edited by WmAD and J Richards. My take is that one starts with a hypothesis: The Book is the word of God. OK, then does it say anything risky? Somewhere I remember Richard Feinman expressing his disdain for liberal Judeo-Christians: "They can't even be wrong!" And then are any of these risky statements easily refuted by the evidence? And is the book coherent? Liberals begin with the assumption that it isn't coherent, which I believe explains their antipathy for "proof texting". Anyway WmAD writes in his Theodicy, "Christian theism has traditionally regarded God as omniscient in the sense of possessing perfect knowledge of future contingent propositions and as omnipotent in the sense of being able to act effectively in the world to bring about any result that is not logically impossible." Yes, isn't this the very point of any theodicy—explaining how God is limited by logic? For if God were not limited by anything at all, not by logic and not by justice and not by any larger goal (such as the creation of virtuous free agents), then we have no answer to the question of why a good God would permit so much evil. Rude
I am confused by Job. I read it like an attempt at theodicy, and not a really very good one. Certainly it is a story. I mean, does anyone picture God really chatting with Satan and accepting a bargain in which he uses a human being as a whipping boy? If Job were the answer, then we would never need to grapple with the problem of evil again, and like WmAD says in his paper, the approach of "get over your squeamishness" would be all we need. I think the questions raised by mentok are fundamental. It is one thing to talk about "the fall" in an impersonal sense "the fall caused all of this badness". It is quite another to look in the face of the alarming inequities in human life, and say that 'thats just how it is'. Any conscious being who seeks for higher recognitions is forced, unless he completely silences his inner voice, to grapple with these basic questions. Certainly the author of Job felt that he needed to grapple with them. tinabrewer

As I have not denied anything, I puzzled by what your arguing against, ds.
But enlighten me. How do we measure Nova to New Elements?
The math has not shown it possible and we cannot 'see' it.
I have learned to distrust Big Science.
Do you accept anthropic global warming?

It's beyond the scope of blog commentary to give you the education in high energy and astrophysics required to understand how heavy elements were created and distributed by supernova explosions of large early generation stars. You can begin by reading the links returned by this. The math does indeed show it possible as does experiment physics and astronomical observations. We CAN actually "see" it. You should watch "The Privileged Planet" as it goes into great detail about how the earth is ideally positioned so that we can see these things. The take home message from the video is that God gave us the best seats in the house from which to observe the universe. And no, I don't accept the alarmist interpretations of anthropic global warming. I believe the hyperbolic brouhaha is mostly just a means to insure and increase the flow of public funds into climate research. I don't particulary have a problem with that until the peanut gallery starts believing the hyperbole and wants expensive actions undertaken to stop a problem that may not even be a problem. We don't know that man's contribution to greenhouse warming isn't preventing the next ice age and an ice sheet a quarter mile thick covering New York City and everything north of it is at least as bad as the sea level rising a few meters and Canada becoming available for growing oranges and wheat. -ds mmadigan
"Christian Theodicy in Light of Genesis and Modern Science," it's a case that should be made and Dembski makes it well, though I'd suggest substituting "Theology" for "Genesis" in the title. Today's better exegetes recognize how little of what we believe about Genesis is really there. Theodicy would be easier had we only to harmonize Genesis with scientific fact. One perceives in the theologians a certain "my concept of God is greater than your concept of God, and if you disagree you are limiting God." We seem to forget that when we expand God's attributes in one direction we usually limit them in another. Maybe that's why God told Moses that his name is "I AM THAT I AM." When we endow God with exhaustive foreknowledge we deprive him of curiosity, when we make him to know everything that will ever be known we make it such that he can never learn and never grow. If from all eternity God has known all his own actions and their effects and his retroactive responses then can God really be anything more than some deterministic template of Platonic forms? In "Moral Darwinism" Benjamin Wiker does an excellent job uncovering the Epicurean roots of our modernist materialism. Much can also be said in regard to the theological roots of the Deism that so naturally fed into agnosticism and atheism. Not only did men not want to retain God in their knowledge, their knowledge of God became so abstract that it didn't seem worth retaining. Genesis presents a very different God, One who formed creatures "and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them"—--was this merely the "anthromorphism" of our theologically unsophisticated forebears? Whatever the case Genesis presents a vastly more interesting God than Christendom bequeathed to the so-called Enlightenment. How is it in the Scriptures? Is it that the Planet was retroactively cursed because of Adam? Or was it that Adam was created to alleviate the curse caused by angels? One can amass scriptural evidence in favor of the latter but I fear only an isolated interpretation of Romans 5 in support of the former. The notion that Satan influences the physical creation only through the agency of man is only partly true, and perhaps only so since God metaphorically said (Gen 3:14), "upon thy belly shalt thou go". The Adversary never pulls a gun on you, but he can deceive another fellow into doing just that. There is, for example, the case of Job. The Satan got permission from the Almighty to harass Job, which is why there came word (Job 1:15), "And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee." But in the story the Satan also instigates natural evil (Job 1:19): "And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee." Reminds one of Ephesians 2:2 where the devil is called "the prince of the power of the air ([ο αρχων] της εξουσιας του αερος], the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience". And is it only man that the Adversary influences? How about beasts (Mat 8:30-32): "And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters." Rude

Thank you for sharing your belief system,ds, I learned that in high school.
I've gotten used to keeping an open mind. thanks.

If by "belief system" you mean "reality that we can observe and measure with the rational minds that God gave us" then I'm happy to share it with you. I can only hope you'll someday stop denying it. -ds mmadigan
That should be "Or CLAIM suffering occurs because God doesn’t care." tribune7
If children suffer greatly then die before developing the ability to understand much of anything how does Christian theodicy explain the cause for their suffering and death? That's like asking "who sinned this man or his parents?" which of course was asked and answered in Scripture (John 9). There is actually a whole book devoted to the suffering of innocence (Job). Actually, if you think about it, the who NT is about the suffering of an innocent. The suffering of innocence is a fact. You can whine about why it is a fact or try to do something about it which is the point of the Lord's answer in John 9. Or suffering occurs because God doesn't care. Then, of course, you have to wonder why he sent His only begotten Son to suffer to deliver us from the main cause of our suffering -- namely ourselves, via greed, superstition, self-worship etc. tribune7
When you speak of the fall of humanity "bringing evil into the world" is this meant as a singular historical event i.e. adam and eve brought evil into the world at a certain time and place when they rebelled against God, and from then on evil has plagued humanity? Or is it meant in the sense that every individual "brings evil into the world" when they rebel against God? There are many problems with any form of Christian theodicy in my view. A big problem is that so many children suffer and die before they have developed the ability to know right from wrong. Not knowing about right or wrong or God they have no ability to rebel against God. Just like in jurisprudence a person is judged insane if he is unable to know that his actions were wrong and therefore he is considered not guilty of any crime. How can a 3 year old be in rebellion against God? If children suffer greatly then die before developing the ability to understand much of anything how does Christian theodicy explain the cause for their suffering and death? They had no chance to engage in sin and had no mental ability to accept Jesus. What becomes of them? How about the people who lived before Jesus? Another problem is the disparity in peoples lives vis-a-vis their experiences. Some people are born into great suffering, violence, poverty and disease, while others are born into happiness, good health, wealth, security etc. How does Christian theodicy explain this disparity? Chance? Is God less then us? Would you leave your children to live lives of random chance if you had the ability to intervene? Would we treat our children differently for no particular reason, some we feed and clothe and provide opulent surroundings and good health care while with others we negelect? Would you treat your children whimsically? Is God less compassionate and caring then we are? If not then we have to consider that there is a very good reason for the disparity in peoples lives. If we believe that the life we live now is our first life then there is no good explanation as to the disparity in peoples lives or the suffering and death of children or why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Unless everyone is experiencing what God determined they need to experience for their continuing spiritual evolution over more then one life then we are left with a God who is less then us, less compassionate, less fair, less involved, less of a concerned involved parent. I don't buy that. In my view God is a better person, more concerned, more involved, and more compassionate then we are. Without including reincarnation any theodicy will fail to give redress to these philosophical dilemmas. mentok
For me the story of the fall is a metaphor. There was no literal adam and eve. Evil is in the eye of the beholder. What the child thinks is evil when his parents punish him is seen by his parents as a necessary learning experience for the child. More later. mentok
Doc I've been thinking more about your article. You point out that historiographical, archeological, and anthropological methods give strong support to the New Testament - and it should be noted that this type of evidience was the first step that led many intellectuals i.e. Sir William Ramsey and Dr. Simon Greenleaf to Christ -- while discrediting a literal interpretation of Genesis. And you are right to say that one can't have it both ways. This, of course, doesn't directly apply to what you are trying to do in explaining why pain and suffering existed before Adam and Eve as indicated by legitimate scientific evidence. But, if proved investigative techniques back the NT -- and more sigificantly the testimony of the Spirit -- then we can be certain that somehow, someway there was a fall despite what good science tells us. I said something like this earlier, but you do make one think. I will take issue with what you said about the plague -- if something should happen that would cause a third of us to die fairly suddenly, we would no longer need an elaborate theodicy either. tribune7
Erroneously misled is a redundancy. Have you read Gerald Schroeder? mmadigan

Respectfully, I consider myself a serious scientist, with no religious predeliction.
I was erroneously misled by darwinian mythologies in my youth. Astrophysics has many
'old earth' problems. And except for the haphazard radiodating inculcated with circular reasoning,
I have yet to see insurmountable problems for a Young Earth Geology.
So again, what is unacceptable except the Established Religion Consensus?

Our sun is a type G main sequence star with abundant heavy elements. Heavy elements are created in supernova explosions. Thus our sun must have been preceded by one or more generations of giant stars that formed, burned up their hydrogen fuel, and went out in a supernova explosion that formed and scattered heavy elements that later generation stars can incorporate when they form out of condensing gas clouds. Stellar evolution is fairly well understood and we can observe in real time all kinds of stars in all stages of their life cycles. It is impossible for our sun to have formed and matured to its current state in any kind of scale measured in thousands of years. The earth is billions of years of old. Get used to it. -ds mmadigan
Mmadigan: Astrophysics and geology are serious sciences. Darwinian evolution is not. --WmAD William Dembski
If a Young Earth seems a better fit, what is the major reason for rejecting it? There are unanswered questions on all sides. Why choose conventional darwinite 'wisdom? They are certainly wrong on other issues. mmadigan
Dr. Dembski, An error in the Simon Blackburn quote at the beginning of your paper: "It shapes our emotional responses, determining what is a cause of pride or shame, or anger or gratitude, or what we can be forgiven and what cannot." The word "we" does not appear in the original. Regards, Hypermoderate hypermoderate
Doc, That was an impressive paper. Are you saying that God is something like an author who began writing a story then at one point gave His protagonists the power to choose their course of action, which they did badly? Which meant that He had to go back and rewrite everything to set things right? I think ultimately one ends up having to say there is a limit to the power of the human mind and some things are always going to be a mystery. If one accepts, however, as unchallengable axioms that God exists and that Jesus is the Redeemer everything else will fall, if not in place, harmlessly. tribune7

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