Robert Asks: On the Morality of God

Robert posed a few questions on the Morality and God post that I thought deserved a little attention (actually, all of them from everyone were good, but this is a good easy place to start I think, the conversation that ensued after the post delighted me though, so thanks to those of you that participated, feel free to continue!)

Robert says:

Matt you say God created man and woman imperfect. Is the freedom and ability to do wrong an imperfection or part of perfection?

I don’t really think freedom nor ability to do wrong would be the act of creating imperfection…but creating us in the LIKLIHOOD that we will screw it all up and then planting the device by which we will fail Him in the middle of the garden, then providing the Serpent to tempt man. It’s that the Bible teaches that God essentially SET MAN UP FOR FAILURE that makes HIM the bad guy, that is imperfection.

Regarding God creating evil? I think God IS good (He defines it by his being God). Evil exists when we do that which is not of God. Its not created surely?

Lets take a literalistic view here.

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7, KJV)

The Bible says God created evil. Creating choice is one thing, but creating evil is entirely another. IF god created something (out of nothing or void) that we can definitively say we don’t need (bad things aren’t needed surely?) then isn’t that just setting us up to fail? Why create the unnecessary? And the Sovereign God argument, that God did it so it must be part of his perfect will etc, is bunk because he must know that it is far beyond reasonable comprehension for us feeble minded humans and that our lack of understanding will CAUSE many of us (myself) to go astray. Once again HE is creating the chaos, just like the Bible says.

I know this is brief, tomorrow I intend to bring up the different views that exist regarding God and Satan—one being that Lucifer is the good guy—what do you think?

Adding more information here for Russ:

Ra’ = Evil in the passage that I am “taking out of context”. In this passage it is unequivocally an adjective referring to that which is CREATED. here are its definitions:

1) bad, evil

a) bad, disagreeable, malignant

b) bad, unpleasant, evil (giving pain, unhappiness, misery)

c) evil, displeasing

d) bad (of its kind – land, water, etc)

e) bad (of value)

f) worse than, worst (comparison)

g) sad, unhappy

h) evil (hurtful)

i) bad, unkind (vicious in disposition)

j) bad, evil, wicked (ethically)

1) in general, of persons, of thoughts

2) deeds, actions

noun  male

2) evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity

a) evil, distress, adversity

b) evil, injury, wrong

c) evil (ethical)

noun fem

3) evil, misery, distress, injury

a) evil, misery, distress

b) evil, injury, wrong

c) evil (ethical)

you cant pick and choose context for the sake of convenience here.

  • Matt, I’m sorry but please come up with a better argument for God creating evil other than picking one Bible verse out of context. We could play that game all day long and in that manner, I can make the Bible say whatever I want.

    The verse you’re referring isn’t saying that God “creates” evil in the sense that he brought it into exsistence. Keep in mind that all of this is post-fall context where man is now opposed to God’s perfect will. A better translation in this context might be “calamity” or “disaster,” i.e. that God brings calamity or disaster as punishment for those who disobey his will (e.g. pharaoh in Exodus, the Israelites when the followed other “gods”, other nations who refused God’s rule, etc.).

    Now, before you start waving your finger and saying “ha, see God is all about pain and punishment, he’s just a big ol’ meanie in the sky” we have to, again, remember that Scripture is taken as a whole and we look at everything in CONTEXT. Yes, the OT has plenty of instances of God punishing His people. However, that doesn’t mean we can necessarily look at events today and see “ha, God’s punishing you,” i.e. we cannot (without knowing God’s mind) connect a specific event (e.g. Katrina) to a specific sin (e.g. debauchery in New Orleans). Could it have been a punishment for sin? Sure. But that’s not my place to make the call. The bottom line here is that in all of this, we still always go back to Christ. Yes, there are temporal consequences for the sins we commit here and now. Some are obvious (e.g. abuse alcohol and your liver’s probably going to shut down, you speed – you get a ticket). Others, we just can’t say for sure. What we CAN say for sure is that in Christ, God has provided THE way for forgiveness and eternal life – THE way to a time when evil will no longer exist.

    You know, I’m still having trouble seeing why you’re getting so bent out of shape over the whole “free will” issue at creation. The alternative to creating man with a free will to disobey God, in my book, does not make God the bad guy. In fact, it shows me that He cares more because He didn’t just want to be a puppet master pulling all the strings. We fell away, that’s our problem – our fault. And again, it always goes back to Christ – the Way to salvation. An answer to the problem we face. Why do you always seem to leave that part of the Biblical narrative out? Again, it’s all about context, Matt. Even if I were to concede – for the sake of argument – that God somehow wanted Adam and Eve to fall – He still provided them with the Gospel promise that He would save them in Christ, which is what He’s referring to in Gen 3:15.

    Forgive me if I’m getting “harsh” here – I’m just passionate about this. But tell me, for someone who doesn’t even believe in God, why are you trying so hard to make Him out to be the bad guy? What did the church do to you Matt? I’m happy to discuss that in a more non-public setting because it’s off topic.

    • Matt

      "I can make the Bible say whatever I want"

      I'm always amazed at the cognitive dissonance believing in god is able to conjure. You use this statement to justify why the article is wrong and then use the exact same arguement to prove why you are correct.

  • Sorry – I should have proofed my comment. I need to make a correction to these sentences (corrections in bold):

    Just because He created man with a capacity to disobey, in my book, does not make God the bad guy. In fact, it shows me that He cares more because He didn’t just want to be a puppet master pulling all the strings.

  • Well, I'm not really sure what else to say that's not totally repeating myself. The point I'm trying to make, and I'll concede it's a "fine line" argument, is that God is not the source of Evil in that He did not orchestrate man's fall into sin nor does He will sin. However He does cause/allow bad things/disasters to happen for His purposes. So I'm not trying to make any excuses for Him. And I'll concede something else – you make a good point – apart from Christ, God can be pretty scary and even seem arbitrary. That's why all my statements supporting God as one who cares for and loves us are all in light of Christ. It is in Christ that we find a loving and merciful God. Take Christ out of the equation and I don't know that I'd be a big fan of God either.

    @Frigga – I'm not really sure what you mean by "maybe the entire Bible is taken out of context." And just to clarify, when I'm speaking context – I don't just mean a few surrounding verses. That's certainly part of it, but all of Scripture – OT & NT together – form one context and Christ is the lens through which we view it all.

  • @ TheRevRuss: Maybe the entire bible is taken out of context. According to that passage up there, in God’s own words he admits to creating evil. What could he have possibly said before or after “I create evil” that could change the context to mean he didn’t create evil?

  • I’m no Hebrew scholar but the word evil has been translated differently in versions such as the NIV. Here is some blurb from christiananswers.net:

    Isaiah 45:7 – What does it mean? The word translated “evil” here is the Hebrew word ra’. A better translation in modern English is “calamity” or “disaster” or “woe,” as this word is translated in this verse in more recent translations. Dr. Henry Morris points out: “God did not create light, for He is light. It was the primeval darkness which He created in order to have a division between day and night. ‘Evil,’ as used here, refers to evil of a physical nature (storms), not moral evil.” See other uses of the words “light” and “evil” in the Bible: Gen. 1:4; Exo. 10:22; 31:2; Lam. 3:38.

    • Matt

      sorry robert, i had the definitions showing up from the Strongs but evidently it stopped working, check now and the definitions are showing again.

  • @ TheRevRuss: Maybe the entire bible has been taken out of context. What I mean by that is the stories in the bible were orginially oral traditions. Spoken, not written. After a generation or two or more (depending on the book) the story was finally written down. (remember that game “telephone”) So the message has already been distorted well before the very first written copy is recorded. Then over the past 2,000 or so years those stories were re-written, translated, re-written, re-translated, etc..

    Finally, The Church (an entity that is very good as self-preservation) decided what scriptures belong and what do not. Why do we get Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, yet Thomas is left out? Who made that decision, and what is their reasoning? It’s because the stories included provide the context that the church agreed with, while the stories that were ommitted would change that context to something else entirely. So, I say again, maybe the entire bible has been taken out of context.

    And I still don’t understnad what else could be said that could change the sentence from “I create evil” to mean “I do NOT create evil” I have no idea how you can get there.

  • @Frigga

    Your right – the Bible started as oral traditions and only later made it into writing. In fact, there are some discrepencies in NT manuscripts. I was telling Matt earlier that I have a book on my shelf dedicated to just the major differences in the NT manusripts. If you look at the NA27 Greek text – there are literally thousands of variant readings. Some passages have none, some have ten or more. But the bottom line is, the fundamental truth of Christ is the thread that remains consistent. None of the variants say “and then 3 days later – nothing happened. Jesus just stayed in the tomb.”

    with regard to the books of the Bible and which ones are left out, here’s my answer. It’s about the Word as in, Christ – the Word made flesh (John 1). The Bible is the Bible because it testifies to him; Christ is not Christ because the Bible says so. This is why we have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John because though unique in their perspective (they were still humans through whom the Holy Spirit worked), they all testified the same things of Christ. Namely, that He died and rose again for the forgiveness of sins. The Gospel of Thomas is not canonical because it does not testify to Christ in the same way. So, ultimately it’s not authoritative because it does not point to Christ. So, my faith starts in Christ which is confirmed by the Bible, not the other way around. I’m taking it on faith that the apostles were not just a bunch of loons making up this story for their own benefit. If they were (which I obviously do not believe), I’ll concede – I’d be in big trouble.

    As for the self preservation of the church, I won’t argue with you that some Christians have terrible motives – power, control, greed, etc. And for that matter, I certainly don’t claim to be perfect. I’m not doing what I’m doing because I’m getting rich off it or even because I hope that God will reward me. I simply care about people and I know that apart from Christ, there is no eternal life and that is what ultimately gives me hope in the face of this broken world, and I want to share that hope with others because Christ didn’t just die for the Christians, he died for everyone. Whether others believe that or not is another story.

    Finally, back to the whole “evil” thing. Again, as I and mulled vine have pointed out. I’m not saying that God didn’t bring about certain calamaties/tragedies on His people and others for His ultimately good purposes. He may even still do that now but without a direct revelation, I can’t point to specific things and say “see, there’s God punishing his people because of something specific they did.” I guess my distinction would be that if you want to get stuck on the word evil, fine – those things fall under the definition of “evil” as Matt pointed out with the 20 different ways you can define the Hebrew word “Ra”. I’ll call that “evil” with a lowercase “e”. I’m saying God didn’t introduce sin into this world, Evil with a capital “E”. I’m sure your response will be “well, what’s the difference” and I’ll admit, it’s one of those things I understand but have a difficulty trying to explain. Again, suffice it to say that these “evil acts” or tragedies God brought about are in a post fall world where God is punishing his people for their sins – but always in an attempt to bring them back to Him. Like a parent punishing a child. Anyway, again – all of this apart from Christ is really pretty scary. But I find it comforting that even though there may be temporal punishments for my sins here and now – again, some obvious, some not so much – sometimes, bad stuff may just happen to me for absolutely no fault of my own (again, cf. Job). But, in spite of all that – I know there is eternal life and forgiveness in Christ. It doesn’t absolve me from trying to be a good person here and now, but I also don’t have to rely on my own failed attempts because I rely on the one who lived perfectly for me. So my question is, if I’m basically living the same life as you – treating other people decently (though not always perfect at it), giving to those in need (though sometimes being selfish), and in general, contributing to a better life here and now – how am I such a bad person because I have a hope for eternal life? How am I any different from you other than I believe that when I die, I’m going to spend eternity where there will be no more tears, suffering, pain, death, or sin (Rev. 21). If I’m wrong, I’m no worse off than you anyway so what’s really at stake for me? I’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose as far as I’m concerned.

    I hope that all makes sense and you don’t feel like I’m trying to talk around/over you. I’ve found these discussions enlightening and strengthening for my faith. Matt can tell you, I’ve gotten on my high horse at times and acted like a jerk – maybe even here. Sometimes I get a little carried away – I’m passionate about my faith. So I can see why you can have problems with individual Christians who get carried away and can’t admit that they make mistakes (when they treat people poorly in the name of defending the faith). Just because I don’t agree with you and because I think your wrong doesn’t give me license to act like a tool. So again, I can understand why you’d have problems with an individual Christian – but I’m just as imperfect as you or the next person. I don’t understand what’s so inherently evil about the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ?

  • Rev Russ, I agree with you that Jesus rising from the dead cannot be misinterpreted but the meaning of that miracle can be and is with the unmitigated ridiculousness of paying a price for others' sins.

    The free gift "that He died and rose again for the forgiveness of sins." lets Christians like you slough off your sins onto Jesus because you are relenting to being a poor little imperfect human being. And you say, "I rely on the one who lived perfectly for me." How about being accountable for what you do and correct your wrongdoing? You can do it! And that is why Jesus died and gloriously rose up again, to teach humans can do anything because they are made in God's image.

    Is Christ the name Christ or is He Eternal Life? One cannot find/gain forgiveness and eternal life through a name. Forgiveness is inherent in eternal life, which is gained only by what one does and not by what Jesus did. Jesus cannot do anything for you and that's why He was demonstrated what you can do when you realize you are an image of God. Christianity is such stupidity saying Jesus suffered pain and rose from the dead to gain forgiveness of others wrong actions.

    All you have to do is believe Christ lived perfectly for you so that sometime in the future you will go to a "place without tears, suffering, pain, death or sin." If you are wrong you have lost way too much of the enjoyment and opportunities of what YOU CAN DO with the present, the God-given gift of right now. That is the inherent evil about the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ.

  • @Dhanamjaya

    First of all, I never said anything about no accountability or just "sloughing off" my sins as you accused me of. What I'm saying is that if I'm relying on myself to become perfect – it ain't gonna happen. I'm saying that ultimately I rely on the perfect life of Christ – the one who committed no sin and took on the punishment for my sin. Read the book of Romans – it makes no bones about the fact that we do still have accountability in terms of trying to live a better life. My point, which is the point of the Bible, is that my forgiveness and place in eternity is based on Christ, not on me. It doesn't absolve me from trying to lead a good life here, it just means my forgiveness isn't based on it.

    I'm not sure where you're getting your religious beliefs from, but none of what you say is substantiated by Scripture. The whole point of the Bible is that in fact, Christ did suffer – He did die – and He did it for you and for me. Christ's suffering is actually the whole point and though it seems foolish to us, it's part of God's plan (Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

    And you know what, I'm not really sure what I'm losing out on here and now by trusting in Christ. Again, it doesn't mean I just sit like a couch potato and do nothing. On the contrary, I do the best I can. It just means in the end, I'll never do anything perfectly so my hope lies in the one who did.

  • Rev Russ, you have a great attitude about being accountable for what you do but that does not change the unmitigated ridiculousness of Christ suffering pain to pay the punishment price for your sins. My main point is that it’s ridiculous for Christ to go through pain/punishment for your and my sins. But even though it’s so ridiculous Christianity still teaches it because that is what has been taught for hundreds of years or longer. Somewhere along the line the mistake was made because that was as far as people could see. Believing Jesus suffered pain on the Cross is like believing the Earth is flat.

    It does not matter what your interpretation of the interpretation/misinterpretation of the modern Bible is, the only way you get any thing done or go anywhere is to go there and do it yourself. Christ did show the Way but He cannot do anything for you. Btw, The Way is not suffering. Because your heart/brain physiology is made in God’s image, the Way is to be totally healthy so you can heal and do anything. Especially your heart, which as the perpetrator of love and life, if healthy can lead you to the Truth and recognition of what’s good. The healthier you make your heart, the more perfect you will be and able to do all the miracles Christ did.

    What are your Christian beliefs about being made in the image of God? Mine are that Christ’s purpose of allowing Himself to be killed and then rising from the dead, as a climax to a long list of other miracles, was to demonstrate that humans are made in the image of God and can therefore do anything; but to do anything one has to justify who he or she is as an image of God. And you justify yourself as an image of God by choosing to lead a good/healthy life. Again, the more healthy you are, the more perfect your thought and action become.

    Believing you will never do anything perfectly is a self-fulfilling prophesy and you hope that what Jesus did perfectly will help you. Not gonna happen. How can what Jesus did help what you do? Because He had a perfect life and suffered (even though a perfect life and suffering cannot co-exist with one person) for you everything is gonna be alright after you die???

    As far as my religious beliefs go, I do not have any. But I do have an extremely healthy heart and mind that give me the experience of the Way and the Truth and the Life a.k.a Jesus Christ.

  • Hadllig

    People always forget the issue of Universal Sovereignty. Satan the devil made himself the devil by resisting or opposing God. The two perfect humans choose to join in his rebellion and thus sentences all of us to death as well via inherited imperfection. The question has remained ever since. Can man govern themselves? Do they need God’s guidance and support. Its clear over the last 6,000 years that man has dominated man to his injury. Ecc 8:9, Jeremiah 10:23. Very soon the issue will be settle once and for all. Zephaniah 1:14-18, Mathew 6:9,10 Daniel 2:44, Psalms 37:10,11 Revelation 21:3,4.

    • Matt

      Sorry Hadllig, that doesn’t play for me…the Devil was just as much a created being as the rest of us, creating certain potentials is just as good as lighting the fuse that blows up the daycare

  • TheRevRuss

    @Dhanamjaya – I guess I’m just confused as to why you even choose to reference Christ at all when what you’re saying is by no means the orthodox understanding of Christianity (and I think even Matt would agree with me on this). I’m not trying to attack here, I just don’t understand what it is you’re basing your beliefs on because it’s not the Bible. So, it’s not that I don’t understand what you’re saying – I just don’t understand where it’s coming from. This isn’t meant to be an attack or a “loaded” question, but what exactly is the Bible for you? Because it seems obvious we’re at completely different starting points here which means we’re really getting nowhere in this discussion fast.

  • Rev Russ my friend, you don’t need to worry about attacking me, i’m invincible with Christ living in my heart.

    I choose to reference Christ because I opened my heart to Him at 22 after being brought up a Catholic and attending Catholic elementary school. However, after opening my heart to Him I choose to have zilch follow up with Bible study, sermons, or any Billy Graham middlemen like Hadllig and you. I do not need orthodox Christianity brainwashing me with its Biblical b.s.(unfounded interpretation/dictations) that we are imperfect sinners and have to relent ourselves to being poor little zombies until we die so that everything will be perfect. My guidance is the present (here and now) Way, Truth, and Light of God found in my healthy heart, which becomes more healthy every moment because I choose with my free will to do things that make my heart healthier.

    God’s greatest gift to us is free will and there are many Christians choosing to fight wars in God’s name event though killing people is a sin. And as Matt said we all have the choice to light the fuse that blows up the daycare. All the evil and righteous actions and events on earth depend on our free will. We cannot blame God or expect Christ to be responsible for anything that we do.

    Recorded history shows that “over the last 6,000 years that man has dominated man to his injury” and that is because man has chosen, with God’s greatest gift of free will, to injure his fellow man.

    Today, right now, it is totally up to us, with another great gift from God, the present, to choose if we are going to continue injuring our fellow man or do anything else as stupid at that. Sin is perfect stupidity, and I do not need a modern Bible, with all its assumptive symbolism, telling me that Christ is going to do something as insanely moronic as to suffer incredible pain to pay for the stupidity that men like us choose to do.