15 December 2008

All the Good that is Ours in Christ

Notes from a sermon by Mark Talbot
Desiring God National Conference 2005 - Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

All the Good that is Ours in Christ - Mark Talbot

How does God's will relate to our wills when we hurt each other?

BTK Dennis Rader, unfaithful spouses, drunk drivers, sexual abuse, rape.

Why does God allows these kinds of things to happen? We are guilty of sin, but maybe God could have prevented our temptation.

Gregory A. Boyd's theory to all of this is open theism. Basically,
- takes God off the hook for the kinds of evil that we do
- claims God can't prevent evils without restricting or destroying our freedom
- claims God doesn't do that because he takes our freedom to be so valuable -- so valuable that he is willing to pay the price of there being all sorts of human suffering that is caused by our misuse of it.

It seems natural for us to think in this open theistic way because so often in our own lives we have to put up with what we don't like in order to leave other people their freedom. So "of course," we think, "it must be the same for God.

It isn't natural to think God makes mistakes. Boyd's thinking challenges God's glory and control.

Scripture's General Perspective on God's Relationship to Evil
-What are the issues we need to address in order to think biblically about this topic?
- What does Scripture say about God's relationship to evil?

Genesis 18:25 The judge of all the earth will always do what is right.
Deuteronomy 32:4 God never does evil.
This does not mean that God doesn't create, send, permit, or even move others to do evil.
Isaiah 45:7-11 God says he makes darkness and creates calamity (evil)
1 Samuel 16:14-23 God sent an evil spirit to King Solomon
Job God allows Satan to take all of Job's property and family
God doesn't want to be "let off the hook." He ordains any evil that is done.
Amos 3:6 Does disaster or evil come to a city unless the Lord has done it?
Isaiah 14:24, 27 as I have planned, so shall it be.
Nothing but what He purposes happens.

God's relationship to evil
Divine sovereignty and human freedom
Open theists are libertarians (not in the political sense). They believe that a person acts freely only if, right before he acts, he could still have chosen to act otherwise.

For libertarians, you can't be held responsible for what you do if you aren't free in this libertarian sense. You can't be held to do what you ought to do unless you can do it. So for libertarians, having this freedom is absolutely necessary for God's holding us responsible for what we do. If we didn't have that freedom, it would be unfair for God to hold us responsible.

(Note: scripture tells us to love God with ... all your mind. Proverbs 2:4 tells us to seek wisdom as we would search for silver and gold. Job 28 gives us this image, describing miners going to the end of the earth and hanging upside down with little chisels working at the rock to find their treasure. God wants us to understand him (have wisdom) so that we may glorify Him.)

For libertarians, responsibility exists only with freedom. Libertarians: If God knows what I am going to choose to do, then what I am going to choose to do must be determined in some way. When the time comes, it may seem as though I am freely choosing as I do, when in fact that can't be. For Open Theists, even God can't know the future if humans are to be free and responsible.

What does Scripture say?
Human beings act freely and responsibily, even when it says or implies that God has predestined what will take place. (Acts 4:27-28) The believers are praying ... for truly in this city people gathered ... to do whatever your plan had predestined to take place. The people there chose to plot aginst Christ. They are being blamed for what they have chosen to do (held responsible even though God predestined it.

Peter (Acts 2:22-23) on Pentecost. Jesus, delievered up according to the plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless (wicked yet responsible) men.

God willed it and so it came about. Israelites heard this and felt remorse: What shall we do? Peter tells them, "Repent, and be baptized!"

During the Last Supper, Jesus says a disciple will betray him (Mt. 26:22-24). He says that it would have been better if his betrayer had not been born. This indicates that the man will be held responsible for his actions. Jn. 6:64 - Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray him, yet Jesus held him responsible.

God has ordained everything that happens in our world of space and time and yet human beings still act freely and responsibly. What this means for God's people is that God ordains even what is really evil for His children's good.

Genesis: Joseph's Story [Genesis 37]
In Genesis 45:8, Joseph recognizes God's hand in his troubles. God gets the credit for all the good coming out of evil events. God ordained his brothers' evil.
Genesis 50:19-20 - Do not fear. For am I in the place of God? You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about so that many people should be kept alive as they are today."

There are dual explanations for Joseph's being sold into slavery. Dual explanations show up elsewhere. Acts 27:34 God promises no one on board the ship will be harmed. Paul tells them to stay on board in order to avoid being harmed.
In Jonah 1:14-15, 2:3, it is the sailors who throw Jonah overboard, after which he is consequently swallowed by a large fish. In the fish, Jonah doesn't speak of the sailors. He tells God, "You cast me into the deep."
1 Thessalonians 1:4-6 - God chose us. In response to God's choosing us, we have a choice to make. We should choose to become imitators of Christ and receive the Word.
Let's look at Jesus' Crucifixion. Humans' evil intentions are paralleled with God's good intentions. God has ordained or willed or planned everything that happens in our world from before Creation. God is the primary agent, the primary cause, the final and ultimate explanation of everything that happens, yet the causal relationship between God and His creatures is such that his having for ordained everything is compatible with and indeed it takes nothing away from their creaturely power and efficacy...

How could Joseph's brothers acted freely and responsibly if what they did was what God had previously ordained? How can Herrod, Pilate, etc. be blamed for what God has predestined to take place? We cannot understand how a human act can be possibly explained by God having freely intended it without that explanation cancelling the freedom and responsibility of human intenders.

Yet, we can understand why we don't understand it.

- Our attempts to understand this involve our trying to understand the unique relationship between the Creator and his creatures in terms of our understanding some creature-to-creature relationship. Interesting word choice here: unique - nothing like it. (No such thing as "very unique." Either there is nothing like it or there's not.) Scripture revelas that both human agency and divine agency are to be fully affirmed without attempting to tell us how this can be, because we have no way to understand it, no matter what Scripture would say: all of our analogies concerning different agents or different kinds of agency must be drawn from what holds between and among creatures, and so we necessarily lack the conceptual wherewithal to plumb how God's foreordaining agency enables and yet governs our own free agency.

Psalm 139:4-6 Such foreknowledge is too wonderful for us, to lofty for us to attain.
God has complete providence over all. What should we be sure of beyond all doubt? Romans 8:28, We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose. Sometimes this doesn't feel true when bad things happen to believers. We see suffering all throughout the Bible, especially in the Psalms.

All we can do in the end is affirm God's promises and wait. If we give ourselves to Him, he will bring us happiness. Our groaning are written in his book. They are always before His face.
Psalm 30:5 - For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.


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