Logical Gal and parsing God’s role in evil

23 Apr

A sign of maturity is the ability to live with tension between several messy concepts.

I was listening to Justin Brierly interview Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC.  Keller has just written a book on suffering.  You can buy the book here

Tim Keller's book on suffering

When asked how he pastorally responds to the question of evil and suffering, he described how his seminary professor led his class to consider this theodicy (problem of defending God). All the students read a chapter about the doctrine of God in a textbook, authored by Herman Bavink. Two of the views distinguishing God’s role in evil and election are big words:

supra-lapsarianism” and “infra-lapsariansim

According to Keller, the ‘supra’ version is the argument that God DID choose to create a world in which there is evil …….because THOSE circumstances will best glorify Him.

The ‘infra’ variation maintains that God did NOT decide to create a world with evil and suffering in it. But because of the Fall, He did purposefully elect some people out of it, yet did not ordain to save everyone….because THOSE conditions would best glorify him

So there is this argument back and forth.

Keller’s seminary professor then made the case that the Bible doesn’t actually let us choose either one of these.  The Bible says that you mustn’t come down too hard in one direction or the other.   Because if on the one hand you say, “God didn’t ordain evil.  He couldn’t help it, ” you’re left with a bigger problem.  For if evil wasn’t His design, then you really don’t have a god.  You have something else in charge of the universe and we really don’t know what that is. If on the other hand you say, “Yes, God DID create a plan to include evil so that it would glorify Him,”  then that view of God does not fit in with a lot of what the Bible says about His purposes and design as well as His heart and love for the world.

So what does one do with this dilemma, this either-or?

Dilemma

Keller continues with how his seminary professor and Bavink suggested they think. God’s ordaining of evil and good are not identical. They are rather ‘asymmetrical’. That is, His permissiveness in allowing some evil and His purposes in ordaining good are different.

In other words, these two Calvinistic views, the supra and the infralapsarian explanations,  are both right and wrong. (or another conclusion is that we cannot know one way or the other!)  So stick with what the Bible affirms.  Grow to be able to accept that in this life, there WILL BE loose ends.

We are, after all, finite creatures attempting to comprehend an infinite super-natural power.  Yes, God has communicated with us through the written word.  We can’t know everything, but we can know SOME things.  We can have certainty about His character, but His purposes are another matter.

God says in Deuteronomy 29:29 –The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but what has been revealed belongs to us and to our children forever, so that we might observe the words of this Law.

Question:  How comfortable are you at accepting uncertainty about some of these important issues in life?

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