Theodicy and God's obligation to create.

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Pergamum, Jan 7, 2018.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    God is not obligated to create.

    Yet He has chosen to create in such a way to put His full being on display and exhibit both his wrath and His mercy. This was no obligation.

    God could have chosen to create a world where sin never entered into creation at all. Why He did or did not do so....well, I don't know, except that God did it this way.

    My deeper questions which still linger are as follows:

    did God do it this way? Obviously because it was the BEST way.

    If I were to say that God chose to create and allow the Fall in order to fully display His wrath and mercy, and that God chose this reality because it was the BEST way, than I have to ask if God is obligated to always follow the best way. Is He? Could God have created a reality that was sub-par or lacking in some way?

    And if so, would this be a sort of obligation for God to create in order to fully display His wrath and mercy?

    Was there a way for sin NOT to enter the world AND for God to fully display His wrath and mercy to the universe? And if there was, why didn't God choose it?

    Is God bound within this dilemma of, "Ugh.....I can either have one of two choices but not both....I can either allow sin and fully display my being in a maximal way, or else I can disallow sin and endure having my being not fully be expressed...." And if not, what is the way out?
  2. ThomasT

    ThomasT Puritan Board Freshman

    Excellent questions. Let me start by saying that I can't answer any of them, but I do want to try to add to the discussion.

    If there's a "best way" for God to act, then God would have to choose it (according to the argument), meaning that our election wouldn't be truly gratuitous in every sense. In fact our election would be as necessary as God's own existence. But this obviously doesn't sound right. We thank God for his saving grace but we do not (as far as I know) thank God for his existence, his existence being necessary. And yet according to the "best way" theory, we really shouldn't be thanking God for his saving grace, either, God's actions being as necessary as his existence.

    On the other hand, if God chooses freely among good (non-sinful) options and decides for himself what he wants to do, with no "best way" determining his behavior, we then have to explain why God couldn't have displayed his mercy and his justice in a way that wouldn't have resulted in the suffering of his creatures. He was free to choose any means to achieve any end. Once he determined that glorifying himself was his ultimate end, and that displaying his attributes was his preferred general means to that end, he could have come up with specific means of fully achieving his end of self-glorification through the display of his attributes without involving any human suffering. But he didn't -- which opens God to the charge of sadism.

    So either (as the argument goes) we owe God no gratitude for our salvation or we're worshipping a sadist.

    Is this a true dilemma? Probably not -- in fact I'd say almost certainly not, God's nature being so little understood by us. What we can say, for sure, is that no one's ever come up with a perfect theodicy.
  3. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think the answer is no, so far as humans are able to see such.

    Of course angels get to see the wrath and mercy of God toward humans, and see the wrath of God toward fallen angels. This may be why the angels marvel as they see the love of Jesus toward humans.
  4. ThomasT

    ThomasT Puritan Board Freshman

    Earl -- You're defending God's goodness at the expense of his omnipotence. You're trading one problem for another.
  5. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    How can God display mercy or wrath without a reason to do so. In other words, no sin, no mercy, no wrath. This is simply how it is. Even God cannot display wrath or mercy where no mercy and wrath are deserved.
  6. ThomasT

    ThomasT Puritan Board Freshman

    I'll go along with you for the sake of our discussion, but the fact that sin had to enter the world (which is what we're saying for the moment, although I'm not sure this is really true) doesn't get us off the hook. For example, God could have created the world, allowed sin to happen, but then used, say, Satan alone as his object of wrath. If he saved you and me he could have saved all of us. (This is an argument of a speculative nature, and as such it will make some uncomfortable, but arguments like these are common in theodicy, which looks at what God could have done otherwise.)

    In other words, God, being omnipotent, should have been able to use one being alone (Satan) to get his point across, and to get his point across just as well as with billions of humans suffering in hell. God has the power to make us understand anything he wants, to any degree he pleases, in any way he chooses.
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Can we even say that sin HAD to enter the world at all? Even this puts God under an obligation.
  8. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Exactly. There had to be sin for God to manifest mercy and justice.
  9. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    The solution, so far as it is accessible to those who are still pilgrims on the way, lies in recognizing that "best" is not a concept that can exist independently of the actual will of God. As Matthew Henry has taught us, "It is reason enough that God would have it so: his will, as it is law sufficient, so it is reason sufficient; for his will is his wisdom." (On Leviticus 11:2)
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So then we must - using this definition - affirm that this is, in fact, the best of all possible worlds, right?
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    What hath Leibniz wrought?

    Several foundational issues to keep in mind:
    *Does God have Libertarian Free Will? It would seem not, since God doesn't have the freedom to actualize any possibility (God is necessarily Good, so he can't freely will to do evil). The pay off is that God can't just make *any* world whatsoever.

    *Can there exist a Possible World where everyone has freedom yet there is no sin?
  12. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    No, we don't have to speculate on "possible worlds" at all. We just recognize that trying to think of a standard of best that's independent of God's actual decree is not sensible. What's best is that we should accept God's will. You have no access to good, even theoretically, apart from "the overflowing fountain of all good."
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Also keep in mind that "Possible World" doesn't mean something like "Narnia." A possible world is a logically possible state of affairs that could have otherwise obtained. It is a very powerful conceptual tool in using the ontological argument.
  14. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable Staff Member

    While this may be useful, I have little truck with counter-factual argumentations in the face of actual special revelation. ;)
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Right. I'm not trying to say, "Imagine if God were a...."

    But it does help in asking what is essential to x, y, and z.

    It also helps explain God's attributes and other modal issues. What is necessary and what is possible? Since God is a necessarily existent Being, it is not possible for him to create a world in which he does not exist.
  16. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    I think the most we can say is that God, in His omniscience, knows that the world He created, as He created it, is the best way that brings Him the most glory.

    Being finite and non-omniscient, I think that's the best we can do.

    Also: Deuteronomy 29.29.
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So we are back to the answer of..."We don't know and should not ask."
  18. ArminianOnceWas

    ArminianOnceWas Puritan Board Freshman

    1) Loraine Boettner - "Even the fall of Adam, and through him the fall of the race, was not by chance or accident, but was so ordained in the secret counsels of God" - In his book, "The Reformed doctrine of Predestination, page 234

    2) Jerom Sanchius - "Surely, if God had not willed the fall, He could, and no doubt would, have prevented it; but He did not prevent it: ergo, He willed it. And if He willed it, He certainly decreed it." - In his book, "The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination" page 88.

    3) A.W. Pink - "Plainly it was God's will that sin should enter this world, otherwise it would not have entered, for nothing happens save as God has eternally decreed. Moreover, there was more than a bare permission, for God only permits that which He has purposed." In his book, "The Sovereignty of God" page 147, (1961).

    4) A.W. Pink - "Not only did His omniscient eye see Adam eating of the forbidden fruit, but He decreed beforehand that he should do so." In his book, "The Sovereignty of God" page 249

    5) Edwin Palmer - "It is even Biblical to say that God has foreordained sin. If sin was outside the plan of God, then not a single important affair of life would be ruled by God." In his book, "The 5 Points of Calvinism" page 82

    6) William Shedd - "Nothing comes to pass contrary to his desire. Nothing happens by chance. Even moral evil, which He abhors and forbids, occurs "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." In his book, "Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, page 37, 1986.

    7) J. Gresham Machen - "All things including even the wicked actions of wicked men and devils -- are brought to pass in accordance with God's eternal purpose." In his book, "Christian View of Man, page 46, 1965.

    8) William Shedd - "Sin is one of the "whatsoevers" that have "come to pass", all of which are "ordained". In his book, "Calvinism" Pure and Mixed, page 31, 1986
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, nobody is contesting that the Fall was outside of God's will. But your quotes above do not say why it happened, except by God's decree. This is all included in God's eternal purpose. But why? God sometimes tells us why He does some things, and other times not.

    Did God ordain it because it was better this way? Or is it better this way because God ordained it this way? And is that a false dichotomy?
  20. Daniel Welch

    Daniel Welch Puritan Board Freshman

    I am not saying anyone should follow my approach. But my approach to this is to consider God's motivations and how different aspects of providence work together to be both beyond my comprehension and outside the realm of what I have authority as a creature to have opinions or judgements on. If you believe this approach is unreasonable I would welcome hearing your opinion and reasoning.
  21. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I too am intrigued by the questions of the original post, but I lack the philosophical ability to participate. I will sit back and watch.
  22. Daniel Welch

    Daniel Welch Puritan Board Freshman

    I think it isn't that we shouldn't ask as much as with theories on the Trinity it is beyond our capacity to know any opinion will necessarily be a wrong one and wrong opinions of God lead to heresies as with the Trinity.
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Does Romans 9:22 answer the WHY question?

    Romans 9:22-24 “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath, prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory, even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”
  24. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Not necessarily. Certainly Romans 9:22-24 goes some way towards telling us the final cause of God's decree, as also does Ephesians 1:10 and Colossians 1:16. But it's critical to take up the right standpoint first. If "good" can be settled apart from God's will, then it seems almost inevitable that one comes around to a necessitarian point of view (e.g., Anselm in the first part of Cur Deus homo).

    But if we start with something like "We know God's will is good because it is God's" then we can explore how it is good, being careful not to superimpose upon God some abstract good that has nothing to do with the concrete reality of his volition. At that point the conceptual tool of possible worlds may indeed shed some light on the investigation, though always with the caveat that we are not attempting to go beyond what is written.
  25. ThomasT

    ThomasT Puritan Board Freshman

    Pergamum's question is an excellent one, and I think we're dancing around it. Here's what he asked:

    "Did God ordain it [the Fall] because it was better this way? Or is it better this way because God ordained it this way? And is that a false dichotomy?"

    We run into trouble no matter how we answer it. If we say that God ordained the Fall, we're stuck with either necessitarianism or the conclusion that God delights in unnecessary suffering.

    Or -- that this is a false dilemma. And that seems to be the general view. But can we agree at least that we can't explain how it is a false dilemma?
  26. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    "Did God ordain the fall because it was better this way?" presupposes that good can exist independently of God's will. If that were true, what information could we possibly have about it?* At the very least, then, on the level of knowing, God's will is the measure of what is best. So it isn't a false dichotomy, although one can certainly make the point that since all God's willing is Godlike, it's done magnificently well. What God wills is best; if we have a problem with that, we're either describing the content of his decree poorly, or assuming a position of criticism over against God that isn't ours to take, or something of both.

    We are not competent to say to the one who made us, "Why have you made me thus?" We are not permitted to reduce the good pleasure of his will to a blind and irresistible impulse. And so we should not repeat the error of Eve in the garden, and assume to ourselves the determination of good and evil; rather we submit to God determining that.

    From that posture, one is not going to say that God delights in unnecessary evil. That's by definition. Nor is one going to say that evil is necessary; that involves evil in the existence of God himself, because he is the only necessarily existent being. That either makes God not-God, or it makes evil not-evil. And at that point, it's hard to know what we're even talking about.

    As to "unnecessary suffering," all suffering was unnecessary on the grounds that existence of passible reality was unnecessary. But necessity is functioning within the confines of the decree God actually made; a decree whose full unfolding is still future, but (because it is centered in Christ, the chief sufferer of them all) will no doubt satisfy all those waiting to trace God's glory through his decree, such as the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.

    *Perhaps one would like to argue that because God knows what he could do but hasn't, therefore there is good that God does not choose, and thus good exists independently of God's decree in the realm of what God could but doesn't do. But that's a tenuous basis on which to ground such a strong claim.
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  27. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Excellent post.
  28. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks Pie-Three-Ack! Excellent.

    How far can we go in answering why God permitted the Fall then?
  29. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    As far as we need to! God permitted the Fall for his own glory, in connection with all of providence being centered in Christ, to display his attributes to the intelligent part of creation, and ultimately to summarize all things in Christ.

    Once we've fully explained all of those parts, we might find that we are equipped to do a little more, or we might find that nothing more is necessary. It's hard to say!
  30. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Okay thanks. I am back where I started, but that is okay. Your summary was my original position, but I thought I might be able to expand this a little further.

    Do you know any books that deal with this further? I have Jay Adams' "Grand Demonstration" book. Have you read it, and what are your thoughts?
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