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Theodicy, Morality, and Conversion

Discussion in 'Christian Philosophy & Ethics' started by mnphysicist, May 24, 2019.

  1. mnphysicist

    mnphysicist Have Courage to Trust God!

    United States
    SPF posted the following in another thread and it got me thinking... so I asked if it would be ok to spin this off in another thread, including the quote text and was given the go ahead.

    One seeker guy who comes to our Bible studies has real issues with the genocide God advocated in the old testament. He says he likes the teachings of Jesus, but he is very troubled by the actions of God in the OT. And while we can propose some reasons as to whay God did this, they are not very convincing to him. I've walked with Jesus for decades, and I look at those actions, and find them troubling, albeit they were never a barrier to my faith.

    In a sense, this confirms your statement that the barrier is one of morality, albeit in this fellows case, he needs to be comfortable with God's morality, as contrasted with his own.

    I've run into others who find theodicy to be a barrier to conversion. And while its controversial as to whether one can leave faith or not, theodicy seems to be a big player when it comes to folks leaving Christianity.

    Philosophy is a weakness of mine... so am looking for input as to how I might better communicate with the seeker guy and others.
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  2. Carl Emerson

    Carl Emerson Well-Known Member

    New Zealand
    There are many responses to this issue.

    Our quest for truth intellectually is flawed when it comes to concepts around a God, His state of being and actions.

    We know from the Word that God is all knowing, Holy and perfect - incapable of immoral or unethical response. His mercy and judgement prevail ultimately and sometimes instantly. In this sense He must hate sin and hate the social contamination it brings. The intellect is the wrong tool to appreciate this - a heart connection with Him is the only bearer of true witness but many will prefer to stand in self centred judgement.

    This is the nature of the Gospel - foolishness to the world.

    Did He not instantly stamp out sinful contamination in the early church with he death of Ananias and Sapphira, yet abide the presence of the betrayer Judas weeks before.

    We are left with a choice - believe in a corrupt God or have hope of a God with righteous judgement.

    For myself I have tasted his Holiness and been left speech-less for hours.

    I have also studied philosophy and seen that as a tool it excludes any argument with absolutes. The definition of itself then rules out plumbing the depths of the almighty.

    Better to pray for your friends that the mercy of God will reveal how completely 'other' He is yet loving and intimately connected with His creation
  3. Peter J Barban

    Peter J Barban Well-Known Member

    I became a Christian in college. Before that, I was a pacifist and registered for the draft as "Conscientious Objector". I found a lot of the OT troubling and additionally, the guy who led me to Christ was a former Naval Officer on a Nuclear Sub (He admitted that he'd have no qualms about nuking the Ruskies, if ordered).

    But, when considering whether to become a Christian I had only two real concerns:
    1. Was the gospel of Christ true?
    2. Was I willing to submit to Christ?

    In the end, nothing else matters. Every other concern is a smokescreen for someone who is not ready to become a Christian.
  4. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

    New Zealand
    There are only two classes of people. Those who don't have the Holy Spirit (unsaved), and those who have the Holy Spirit (saved). I am not talking about the Pentecostal "second blessing". I am talking about what the Scripture says, in that conversion always involved the Holy Spirit. Paul equated conversion with the filling of the Spirit.

    But we have people who have the Spirit who are not walking in the Spirit as they should. That's what Paul told the Corinthians. He said that they had the Spirit sure enough, but they were behaving like ordinary men, and so they should stop it! This meant that they should get rid of their jealousies and party spirit, accept the resurrection of Christ, manifest the spiritual gifts correctly, get rid of the guy who was committing immorality out of the church until he repents, etc. Paul did not think that there were any carnal Christians. His view was that either a person was carnal and did not have the Spirit and therefore was unsaved, or he was a genuine believer and had the Spirit.

    He saw that every converted believer had the Spirit as normal for conversion, and it was normal for the Spirit to flow out of them in power and ministry.

    But for those in our day that seem not to be walking in the Spirit as they should, it is good that I am not appointed as their judge. That is God's business and let Him deal with it has He wills.
  5. SPF

    SPF Well-Known Member

    United States
    That might be where I would focus. I'm reminded of what C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:

    I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . . . Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. (Mere Christianity, 55-56)

    The fact is that Jesus did a number of things that we find to be really unpopular and intolerant by today's standards. He does literally claim to be God. Just consider all the "I Am" statements. The people he was speaking to got it. We don't necessarily get it when we read that today, but there's a reason they picked up stones to literally kill Him on the spot.

    Jesus was very clear in John 14:6 that He is the only way to Heaven - a very intolerant, closed thing to say.

    If he claims to like the teachings of Jesus, I would bring some up that are pretty tough. Jesus said that our love for him must make it look like we hate our family. He told someone to let the dead bury the dead, He talked about hell, that doesn't go over well today! Jesus said so much that if you really dig into it with a non-Christian, they will need to either convert, or walk away thinking Jesus was delusional.

    This is of course huge. They don't call it the problem of evil without good reason. There are good, honest questions that we ask about why God operates the way He does and why he allows things to happen the way He does. To us, they more often than not don't make sense. For me, I take a Job approach.

    The simple truth is that if God is real and does exist, then He is by definition a Maximally Great Being. He must be the MGB, because if there was any greater being to be conceived of, then God would not be God, and that being would be God. So whatever attributes can be associated with an MGB, they must necessarily be.

    When I then compare myself to God and all that God is, I experience nothing short of humility. I think this is one thing that greatly separates us from the world. I am able to humbly recognize that I'm not God, and that I don't have the capacity to think like God. My knowledge is woefully incomplete. God's is perfect.

    So for me, the answer is actually pretty simple. If God exists, then while His plan makes no sense to me, it must necessarily be good because God must necessarily be good. I can have peace in the midst of a troubled, lost, dying world because even though I don't get it, I am able to rest in the Truth that God does get it, and His plans are good.

    Mystery. It's a word atheists hate. But the reality is that if we're honest about our level of knowledge and understanding, the only right answer with regards to God's plans and reasoning is... mystery. And that's not a bad thing! God is eternal and infinite, we are finite! Why would we expect to actually grasp everything that God does?

    When people say, "Well, if I was God, I would do this...." They don't realize the absurdity of that statement. If God exists, then He is MGB. Therefore, if any of us were God, we would do exactly what God is doing now!

    I often hear atheists ask why God is so narcissistic and insistent on us worshiping Him. They think this is evidence for Christianity being false, because God would certainly be self-sufficient and not demand that such small creatures worship Him. They interpret this as God being an evil tyrant. But this just shows how lost and blind they are. The reality is actually the exact opposite.

    Think about it - If God exists, if God is the MGB, then what is the most loving, selfless, and kind thing that this being could do? Well, it would be to create other beings to enjoy Himself! There is nothing greater that we can experience or know in this universe than God!

    But then why create the world like this? Why have the evil, the sin, the struggling? Mystery. I simply don't know. But if God does exist, then I can trust and believe that this is a good plan.

  6. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

    United States
    There is both good and evil, and good has not done away with the evil; so this is the way it is. God is doing what He does do, and we can share with Him in this, and discover and enjoy what can be done!

    By denying God, ones are staying away from our only real Resource for defeating evil and having all the good we can of love with God and one another.

    "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies" (in Psalm 23:5).

    So, yes we can have all our Father has for us, right in the presence of any evil, at all.

    The problem is not really about what is morally reasonable or evidence or explaining anything. But our character can be our dictator of what we can see and choose. So - - - be God's way, in your own character, and learn and grow in Jesus. And God is able to use your example of this, to spread this to others . . . including to this person, or at least to others.
  7. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

    New Zealand
    Here is a good passage from Isaiah 40 to consider in support of your post:

    "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
    Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
    or weighed the mountains on the scales
    and the hills in a balance?
    13 Who can fathom the Spirit[d] of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
    14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
    Who was it that taught him knowledge,
    or showed him the path of understanding?

    15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
    they are regarded as dust on the scales;
    he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
    16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
    nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
    17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
    they are regarded by him as worthless
    and less than nothing.

    18 With whom, then, will you compare God?
    To what image will you liken him?"

    Because God is supreme there is no one above Him to give Him counsel or instructions about how to run the universe and our world. If He allows suffering, that that is His business and there is no one above Him to require an answer from Him to the question, "Why are you allowing this?"

    The problem with today's Christians is that they have turned things around, and are trying to tell God what to do, and how He should do it. They are wanting God to be a vending machine to fit into a world that they think should be, and when things don't go their way, they go demanding God to account for them why He is doing, and allowing things they don't like or agree with it.

    When things don't go their way, they try to threaten God to change things otherwise they will ditch Him and go back to the world, and so when God doesn't answer them, they desert Christ and decide to become atheists. Well, God's attitude is, "Let those arrogant people go their own way, and we'll see what their attitude is in the judgment to come."

    Our attitude as believers is that we trust God that He knows what He is doing, He has a plan and purpose, and He gives us a hope and a future, regardless of sickness and suffering in this life. We take Job's attitude, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."