Christianity 201

March 11, 2018

Sunday Worship

Oh, that we might know the Lord!
    Let us press on to know him.  – Hosea 6:3 NLT

High Versus Low Thoughts about God: A.W. Tozer

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. …

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ”What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow. …

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God….

It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.

All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him….

The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges….

The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. ‘When they knew God,’wrote Paul, ‘they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.’

Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, Chapter 1


••• The quotation in the first paragraph figures largely into the opening of John Mark Comer’s book God Has A Name.

  • For a 50-minute video teaching of this material, go to this link on our other blog.
  • For a review of the book, go to this link at Thinking Out Loud.
  • For an excerpt from the book, go to this link from here at C201 two weeks ago.

••• For more about A.W. Tozer:

  • A classic A. W. Tozer Devotional; go to this link from C201 in November, 2013.
  • Tozer on the Trinity — Job Descriptions: Who Does What? Go to this link from November, 2014 here at C201
  • For excerpts by Tozer on Christian Leadership which then links you to a series of short excerpts, start at this link from C201 in October, 2013

••• Other Tozer readings here at Christianity 201:

 

February 18, 2016

Objection! What About All the Evil in the World?

NLT Eccl. 8:14 And this is not all that is meaningless in our world. In this life, good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. This is so meaningless!

When devotional writers are featured here, we’re not just borrowing some articles, but there’s a very real sense that these writers are recommended resources. Sometimes I feel so positive about a website or blog that it’s hard to select just one piece from among many choices.

Occasionally I will reintroduce a topic that’s been covered here not because regular readers need to see it, but because there’s a message that needs to be continually repeated, and search engines bring us readers from all corners of the world.

Today we introduce you to the site simply called Abide, which is written by Blaize. We first selected a shorter version of this topic which appears on the site’s Apologetics Resources. Then, after formatting everything, we found this version in the 2011 archives. Click the title to read at source and look around.

The Problem of Evil

Read: Ecclesiastes 8:1-15

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 8 addresses what has become known to in modern philosophy as the “problem of evil”.  The Preacher asks a number of questions concerning the nature of bad things happening to good people and the flip side of that, good things happening to bad people. He begins by speaking of the certainty of one thing that is the common fate of all people, and that is death. He says that no one can know the future. Death as he sees it comes to all and there is nothing that saves one from it and even more so to the ones who practice wickedness, because it will not save them either. The certainty of death then prompts the preacher to look at other matters concerning wicked: First he sees the wicked being praised in the cities in which they did much wickedness and they are being buried with honor. Second, he sees the wicked doing much wrong to the point they are not afraid to do it anymore. Third, he sees good people being treated as if they were wicked, and wicked people being treated as if they were good. All these things he says are meaningless.

The problem of evil has perplexed thinkers for ages as it did the Preacher. The reason why is because of a discrepancy in many the states of affairs that people are in and a purported inaction by God to resolve the state of affairs for good rather than evil. The argument may look something like this:

  1. If God exists, God is all loving and all powerful
  2. An all loving and all powerful God should remove evil.
  3. Evil exists.
  4. Therefore either:
    1. God does not  exist.
    2. God exists and is all loving but cannot remove evil.
    3. God exists and is all powerful but not all loving therefore does not want to remove evil.
    4. God exists but is neither all loving nor all powerful.

In any case, the conclusion purports a contradictory state of affairs in spite of what many believe about God. The problem with this is that the argument in most all forms obligates God to something that God is not necessarily obligated too. In the example above, premise 2 supposes that God “should” do something about evil by virtue of his that he is all loving and able. The only way the contradiction exists is if one supplies the extra premise that God “should” or “ought to” do something about evil. If premise two does not exist, then the contradiction does not exist.

On the other hand, one can supply another premise that says so long as there is a possible reason for evil to exist, there is no reason to doubt God’s existence, his goodness, or his ability to remove evil. A reason that attempts to explain evil is called a theodicy. There are many possible theodicies that are found in the Bible.

  • The Freewill Defense: The Bible is replete with verses that talk about the sinfulness of man, and how it pervades everyone who exists (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, Proverbs 20:9, Ecclesiastes 7:20). This freewill defense says evil is a result of man choosing sin.
  • The Greater-Good Theodicy – This reason says that sometimes evil occurs to bring about a net gain of good for the many. This is most clearly seen in Genesis when Joseph was sold into slavery and he endured much evil as a result. But in the end, Joseph says that what his brother intended for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).
  • The Soul-Making or Soul-Building Theodicy: This theodicy suggests that people endure evil to help build their character and faith. The motif of God disciplining children can be found in Hebrews 12:4-13. Hardship can produce a strong, more mature believer.
  • The Eschatological Theodicy: This one is uniquely Christian; in that all is made right in the cross by Jesus’ sacrifice and that there will come a time when evil is removed. There will be a new heaven and new earth with no crying, pain, or death (Revelation 21:1-4).

What one needs to realize though is these are only possible reasons for what God does. Usually when one is enduring evil, it is difficult if not impossible to know why bad things are happening. Even after sufferings have passed, sometimes the reason is not apparent. This was the case with Job. The readers of Job get to see the full picture of the matter, but Job never ascertains why he endured so much suffering. At the end of the book, he basically concedes that God’s reasons are too wonderful to know (Job 42:1-6). In all of his pondering on the problem of evil, the Preacher never questions the goodness of God, rather sees it better that one should do good in their lives because this is right in the sight of God and he sees the blessings that come from work as a gift from God. The Preacher was correct in noting that death is inescapable, but for Christians, there is the prospect of eternal life in a place where there is no evil. For the reasons the Preacher mentioned and the escape from evil when God creates a new heaven and new earth, it is most certainly more wise to side with God. Furthermore, there is no reason to doubt his goodness and power so long as God has a good reason for allowing evil to persist – even if the reason cannot be ascertained.

Lord, you are good! Help me to trust you even when I cannot understand why bad things are happening!

October 28, 2015

Shall We Condemn God for Bad Behavior?

by Clarke Dixon (click here to read at source)

I was planning on preaching on Deuteronomy 7:7-11, but verse 2 kept getting in my way. It is the kind of verse we Christians love to gloss over but the super-sceptics love to dwell upon. God’s people are almost ready to enter the Promised Land following their desert wanderings, but the question arises as to what should happen to the peoples who are already living in that land. Verse 2 tells us:

. . . and when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy. (Deuteronomy 7:2)

Ouch, that does not sound much like the “Jesus loves you” that we are used to. In fact it sounds like the kind of thing that would get a nation into deep trouble at the United Nations. It has caused many people to wonder if this God is credible. Can we believe in a God who commands destruction without mercy? Shall we love the LORD or shall we condemn Him as unjust and unworthy of devotion?

First off, let me recommend Paul Copan’s book Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Some of what follows here is written there but with greater depth and clarity. Let us consider the following points:

Strong language is used to make a strong point. Overstatement was a common practice in Biblical times and is found in the Bible. We still do it today, such as when I state that the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to destroy every team that stands between them and the Stanley Cup this year. Obviously I am overconfident, but more obvious is that there really will be no “destroying” going on. The language of destruction is used to make a point about winning. Here in Deuteronomy 7:2 there is a strong point being made: The best chance God’s people have of staying in a close relationship with the LORD is to have nothing to do with the people already living in the land. It would be too easy to write up treaties and be assimilated into those peoples. But then how well could God’s people keep the Law, especially the ten commandments which begin with the call for the people to have no other gods beside the LORD? Indeed the point is not so much the elimination of people, but the utter destruction of an abhorrent religion:

But this is how you must deal with them:break down their altars, smash their pillars, hew down their sacred poles, and burn their idols with fire. 6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:5-6)

If “destruction” is used to make a strong point, “driven out” better reflects the reality. The Bible itself sometimes asserts that the Canaanites will not be destroyed but rather “driven out.”

When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations–(Deuteronomy 7:1 NIV emphasis mine)

When the Lord your God thrusts them out before you, do not say to yourself, “It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to occupy this land” (Deuteronomy 9:4 emphasis mine)

Additionally, not having aircraft or motorized vehicles, ancient wars did not rely on the lightning quick shock and awe attacks of today. There was time for people to flee. In fact the inhabitants of Canaan show up in the Bible after the days of conquest, so they were not utterly destroyed in a genocidal way we might have expected from the command of verse 2. Indeed our passage assumes that God’s people will be rubbing shoulders with the Canaanites in the days to come:

3 Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods. (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)

There is no need for commandments about intermarriage if the people are utterly destroyed.

The command to destroy the Canaanites must be read in the context of the entire Bible. There is the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12 that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. There are the laws God had already given that were designed to protect foreigners who may be poor and vulnerable. There is the book of Ruth where a foreigner is welcomed into God’s people and even becomes the great-grandmother of King David. There is the book of Jonah which challenges God’s people to allow or even expect God to love their enemies. There is the entire trajectory of the New Testament, where Jesus dies not just for the Jew; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16); where the Holy Spirit is given to people from any background; where looking forward “there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9) One cannot read the entire Bible without getting the impression that God’s love stretches far and wide.

God had been very patient with the Canaanites, but his patience had run out allowing justice to be rolled out. When we hear about God’s people being told to destroy the Canaanites we might be under the impression that it would be like the nice people of Prince Edward Island being called to wipe out the nice people of New Brunswick. But ancient peoples were not that nice. In fact the rise of ISIS today gives us a glimpse of the kind of evil ancient tribal peoples could be capable of. Not too many of us would be sad to see ISIS destroyed. Actually ISIS displays better morals than the Canaanites for they know better than to sacrifice children in religious rites. The Canaanites had hundreds of years of descent into darkness, now it was time for God to express His justice through judgement. It is: “because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you.” (Deuteronomy 9:4)

God’s command to destroy the Canaanites should be read with this important truth in mind: God owes no person another minute of life. This is something we learn from the flood in Noah’s day which was not genocide, but the just judgement of God. The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death, and in the flood the payment of those wages were brought forward. More accurately, those wages were no longer held back. God is holy. We are not. That anyone should live to see another day, another hour, another minute, is a sign of God’s grace and mercy. God would be just if even Noah and his family were not spared. They did not deserve life. None of us do. That we experience life at all is a sign of the grace of God.

That God’s people stood ready to enter the Promised Land was a sign of the grace of God. They did not show themselves worthy of the honor:

6 Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. 7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against the Lord from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place. (Deuteronomy 9:6-7)

So why was God being kind to Israelites? It was because of love:

7 It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples.8 It was because the Lord loved you . . . (Deuteronomy 7:7,8a emphasis mine)

Salvation begins, not with people and their righteousness, but with God and His love. Your salvation, and mine, begins not with our righteousness, but with God’s love.

And God was kind to the Israelites because of promise:

8 It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:8 emphasis mine)

God had promised Abraham a blessing and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. This wee bit of justice poured out on the peoples of Canaan was part of a plan that would lead to a whole load of grace being poured out and made available to the whole world. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the single greatest focus of God’s blessing. But it is a long journey from the promise of blessing to Abraham to the fulfillment in Jesus. The destruction of the Canaanites is part and parcel of that journey to blessing.

What kind of God is it that calls for the destruction of people? The same God that was ensuring that we need not face destruction: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) God’s nurture of His people through dark and dangerous places and times is part of the unfolding of His grace so that we will not face condemnation when we turn to Him in repentance.

Shall we condemn God for working out His purposes of salvation? We have no right to condemn God. He has every right to condemn us. But out of love He has made reconciliation possible.

If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. (Romans 8:31-34)

Unless noted otherwise all scripture references are taken from the NRSV.

October 11, 2015

Christian Cosmology and the Problem of Evil in the World

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (Psalm 139:7–8, NIV84)

Today we return to visit the blog of John P. Richardson, but his regular readers of his blog in the UK knew him as the Ugley Vicar. Note: This is the middle 40% of a much longer article, you’re encouraged to click the title below to read everything.

Sadly this was the last thing that John posted on the blog.* He passed away later in 2014.

Christian Cosmology; Incarnation and ‘Evil’

Ugley Vicar - John P. RichardsonMorality Matters to Matter
…But why would God ‘uphold’ such a world, where undesirable states and circumstances occur so often? (This is the old ‘Why would a good God create a world of suffering?’ in another guise.)

It would be foolish to think we could answer such questions completely. Nevertheless, the points about the Universe we have considered already may give us some hints.

1. The Universe has a personal origin, being created by a personal deity for himself.

2. At the heart of God’s purposes in creation is the relationship between himself and human beings whom he has created in his image. The world exists ‘for them’ as well as for God.

3. The relationship between God and human beings, however, is flawed and distorted by their inclination to disobey him. Out of this flows sin and evil.

4. The Universe nevertheless continues in its existence moment by moment because it is ‘upheld’ by the personal creator, and yet the creatures who matter most in his creation are separated from him and mired in sin.

We venture to suggest, therefore, that this distorted relationship between God and his creatures impacts his ‘upholding’ of the Universe. What he ‘upholds’ is a Universe inhabited by and, as regards this planet specifically, presided over by creatures who reject him. There is a broken relationship between God and his ‘imaging-creatures’ at the heart of creation. We should not be surprised at the suggestion that this impacts the creation God upholds, so long as that situation persists. As the Apostle Paul puts it in his letter to the Romans:

19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:19–21, NIV84)

The picture the Bible gives is that the created world is the way it is because of human sinfulness — in other words, that morality matters to matter. We have a clear indication of this early on when God is recorded speaking to Adam after the latter has disobeyed him:
To Adam he said,

“Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” (Genesis 3:17, NIV84)

It might seem odd that it is the ground which is cursed rather than Adam because of what the latter has done. Yet if we can posit a relationship between human moral actions and the fabric of creation uphold by the God against whom humanity rebels, this perhaps makes more sense. In any case, the curse on the ground rebounds against Adam and becomes a form of judgement on him as it makes his life more difficult.

Thus we suggest that the physical nature and behavior of the Universe is affected by human behavior because human behavior affects our relationship with the God who upholds that physical universe.

All Will be Redeemed

A Christian cosmology, however, also contains the fundamental principle that all is not lost. Certainly there are profound problems, but they are not without resolution. On the contrary, God has always intended that the problem of sin would be resolved. And as we have seen above in the words of St Paul, this will have cosmological implications: ‘the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay’.

The key to this act of rescue is, in Christian theology, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Thus Paul again writes,

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19–20, NIV84)

We may wonder why the death of this particular individual should have such massive implications, but the claim of this passage, and of Christian theology in general, is that the being of God interpenetrated the physicality of this person: ‘all his fullness [dwelt] in him’. Thus what happened to this person happened, in a sense, to the creator and upholder of the universe. Moreover, it brought about reconciliation between God and his image-bearing creatures. Given that the outcome of that broken relationship is an hostility between the fabric of the world and the human race and that the ultimate expression of this hostility is God, we should not be surprised that the effecting of reconciliation involves death in particular — both the act of dying, which is the ultimate physical judgement, and the overcoming of death…

[continue reading at the link in the title]


* There’s a background story to how we came to use this today, and learn, more than a year later, of the author’s passing. Click here to read that.

December 16, 2014

The Gospel Speaks to Suffering

Gospel Centered CounselingThis is the second of two Zondervan book excerpts we’re doing here. This one is from Robert W. Kellemen’s new book, Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives

Applying the Gospel to Suffering
by Robert W. Kellemen, Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives
 

The Gospel of Christ’s grace deals thoroughly both with the sins we have committed and with the evils we have suffered. Somewhere along the way, some of us may have gained the mistaken notion that to address suffering means minimizing sin and capitulating to a secular psychology perspective on victimization. While I understand that concern, biblically it is unwarranted.

In fact, biblical counseling that deals only with the sins we have committed is half-biblical counseling. This means that it is also “half-gospel-centered” counseling. Unlike the Bible, we sometimes tend to make Christ’s victory over sin predominantly individual and personal, rather than also corporate and cosmic. Christ died to dethrone sin and defeat every vestige of sin. Christ died to obliterate every effect of sin — individual, personal, corporate, and cosmic — including death and suffering, tears and sorrows, mourning, crying, and pain.

That’s why twice in Revelation, John sees the culmination of the Gospel narrative as the end of suffering and sorrow:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. – Revelation 21:4

Question 52 in the New City Catechism asks, “What hope does everlasting life hold for us?” John in Revelation answers, “All our greatest sorrows will be swallowed up!” Christ died to defeat every enemy, every evil, including the Devil, who holds the power of death (Hebrews 2:14-15), and the last enemy — suffering and death (1 Corinthians 15:25; Isaiah 53:4).

Certainly the Gospel is about payment for and forgiveness of personal sin. Equally certain is the Gospel’s eternal overthrow of the curse of sin — including suffering. That overthrow has already begun! Christ invites us to share with one another his healing hope in the midst of suffering today.

It is only through the hope of the Gospel that we can truly face suffering and find hope in suffering.

Kevin Vanhoozer, in pondering the drama of redemption, explains that tragedies deal with catastrophes. The Gospel, while never denying the catastrophe of sin, deals with what he calls eucatastrophe — Christ has accomplished something extraordinarily amazing out of something horribly evil.

This insight helps us to develop a biblical sufferology — a Gospel-centered theology of suffering.

We’ll see that the Gospel way to address suffering follows the twin paths of brutal honesty — it’s normal to hurt; and radical reliance — it is possible to hope.

The Pathway to Hope Straddles the Precipice of Despair

Olaudah Equiano, a Christian and an enslaved African American, began his life story with these words, “I acknowledge the mercies of Providence in every occurrence of my life.” His words might sound trite until we realize that they introduce the narrative of his harrowing kidnapping and enslavement.

Equiano was born a free man in 1745 in the kingdom of Benin on the coast of Africa. The youngest of seven children, his loving parents gave him the name Olaudah, signifying favored one. Indeed, he lived a favored life in his idyllic upbringing in a simple and quiet village, where his father served as the “chief man” who decided disputes, and where his mother adored him.

At age ten, it all came crashing down:

One day, when all our people were gone out to their works as usual, and only I and my dear sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our walls, and in a moment seized us both; and, without giving us time to cry out, or make resistance, they stopped our mouths, tied our hands, and ran off with us into the nearest woods: and continued to carry us as far as they could, till night came on, when we reached a small house, where the robbers halted for refreshment, and spent the night.

His kidnappers then unbound Equiano and his sister. Overpowered by fatigue and grief, they had just one source of relief. “The only comfort we had was in being in one another’s arms all that night, and bathing each other with our tears.”

Equiano and his sister were soon deprived of even this comfort of weeping together:

The next day proved a day of greater sorrow than I had yet experienced; for my sister and I were then separated, while we lay clasped in each other’s arms; it was in vain that we besought them not to part us: she was torn from me, and immediately carried away, while I was left in a state of distraction not to be described. I cried and grieved continually; and for several days did not eat anything but what they forced into my mouth.

It was during these evil circumstances, and many more to come, that Equiano acknowledged his heavenly Father’s good heart and Christ’s merciful providence in every occurrence of his life.

In his autobiography he makes the sweeping affirmation that even in the face of human evil, God is friendly and benevolent, able and willing to turn into good ends whatever may occur.

Equiano believed that God squeezes from evil itself a literal blessing:

I early accustomed myself to look at the hand of God in the minutest occurrence, and to learn from it a lesson of morality and religion; and in this light every circumstance I have related was to me of importance. After all, what makes any event important, unless by its observation we become better and wiser, and learn “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God!”

Olaudah Equiano moved beyond the suffering. He faced his suffering candidly, reminding us that it’s normal to hurt. He suffered face-to-face with God, recognizing that it’s possible to hope. His story reminds us of Paul’s story in 2 Corinthians 1:8–9:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

Like Equiano and Paul, we’ve all endured hurt that has driven us to the precipice of despair. Unfortunately, we’ve likely been sent subtle messages:

“Christians don’t hurt.” “Spiritual Christians don’t talk about their struggles.”

Paul, inspired by God, tells us that’s a lie.

In fact, he shows us that when we deny our hurt, we deny our need for God.

And he demonstrates that the pathway to hope often straddles the precipice of despair.

Moving beyond the suffering first requires moving into the suffering.


Excerpted from Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives by Robert W. Kellemen, copyright Zondervan 2014

August 6, 2014

Excerpts from Mere Christianity

Occasionally we take a break and do a day of quotations from a top Christian author. Today, all the quotations are not only by the same author — C. .S. Lewis — but from the same book, Mere Christianity. These are all from the GoodReads website and at the end is a link so you can read more.  The scripture verses are not part of the quotations or the website, but have been added by me afterwards!


 

C. S. Lewis“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
 II Cor. 3:18


 “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 patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16:16

“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.”

“When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7


“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Luke 9:57


“I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner. …I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Isaiah 64:6


“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.
Romans 5:5 (AMP)

Here’s the link to the quotations.  There are eight pages.  Choose a couple that I have not selected here, read them slowly to get an idea of what they’re about, and then ask yourself, what scripture verse might I attach to Lewis’ thoughts on this subject?

January 15, 2013

The Ever-Present Problem of Evil

Evil is inherent in the risky gift of free will.
~J.B. Phillips as cited in today’s reading.

Issues dealing with the Bible’s view of issues involving gender and sexuality are on the top of the list of issues the uncommitted have with Christianity, and also up there among their objections is the problem of why there is suffering and evil in the world. In his classic work, Know Why You Believe, the late Paul E. Little discusses this.

…We must also recognize that God could stamp out evil if he chose. Jeremiah reminds us, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because his compassions fail not. (Lamentations 3:22 KJ) A time is coming when he will stamp out evil in the world. In the meantime, God’s love and grace prevail and his offer of mercy and pardon is still open.

If God were to stamp out evil today, he would do a complete job. His action would have to include our lies and personal impurities, our lack of love and our failure to do good. Suppose God were to decree that at midnight tonight all evil would be removed from the universe — who of us would still be here after midnight?

…To speculate about the origin of evil is endless. No one has the full answer.  It belongs in the category of “the secret things [that] belong to the Lord our God” (Deut 29:29)…

…[quoting Hugh Evans Hopkins] “The problem arises largely from the belief that a ‘good’ God would reward each man according to his deserts and that an ‘almighty’ God would have no difficulty in carrying this out. The fact that rewards and punishments, in the way of happiness and discomfort, appear to be haphazardly distributed in this life drives many to question either the goodness of God or his power.”

But would God be good if he were to deal with each person exactly according to his behavior? Consider what this would mean in your own life! The whole of the gospel as previewed in the Old and New Testaments is that God’s goodness consists not only in his justice, but also in his love, mercy and kindness. How thankful all men should be that “He does not deal with us according to our sins, or requite us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him” (Ps. 103:10, 11).

The concept of the goodness of God in which he deals with a person on the basis of “just deserts” is also based on the faulty assumption that happiness is the greatest good in life… Sometimes in his infinite wisdom, God knows there are things to be accomplished in our character that can be brought only through suffering. To shield us from this suffering would be to rob us of a greater good. Peter refers to this when he says, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish and strengthen you” (I Pet. 5:10).

…That there may be a connection between suffering and sin is evident, but that it is not always so is abundantly clear. There is the unambiguous word of Jesus himself on the subject. The disciples apparently adhered to the direct retribution theory of suffering. One day when they say a man who had been blind from birth, they wanted to know who had sinned to cause this blindness — the man or his parents. Jesus made it clear that neither was responsible for his condition, “but that the works of God might be made manifest in him” (John 9: 1-3).

…[O]ne of the profound truths of the whole of scripture is that the judgment of God is preceded by warning. Throughout the Old Testament we have the repeated pleading of God and warning of judgment. Only after warning is persistently ignored and rejected does judgment come. God’s poignant words are an example: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked… turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel” (Ez 33:11).

From there, Little goes on to discuss the issue of judgment, justice and God’s wrath in general, and the issue of hell in particular. With over a million copies in print, this book continues to be helpful to many, and I would recommend making a print copy part of your library.

I want to end with the first two scriptures in updated translations:

AMP – Lam. 3:22 It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not.

CEB – Lam. 3:22 Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through!

NLT – Deut. 29:29 “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.

MSG – Deut. 29:29 God, our God, will take care of the hidden things but the revealed things are our business. It’s up to us and our children to attend to all the terms in this Revelation.

June 28, 2012

Apologetics in Action

I hope none of you feel cheated when I use a video post instead of text, but today I’ve actually got two for you.

The first is Ravi Zacharias shown at his best, taking questions from the audience during what I presume to be a university appearance.  This one is on the subject, ‘Are people born to be good or born to be evil?’

Do you feel Ravi answered her question? Or was he trying to answer, ‘the question behind the question?’

The second one is an audio reading from C. S. Lewis.  It’s a really great explanation of how God can permit free will even though within the range of that free will we choose that which is not God’s ‘will’ for us.

I would like to be able to memorize this (in more contemporary language) to the point where I was able to present this to others. I’ve listened to it three times now, but would next need to take notes to follow the logic of the presentation.

Interesting enough, the Lewis clip was posted to YouTube on the channel ‘Islamic Worldview.’

I Peter 3:15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. (NLT)


Here’s a previous edition of Apologetics in Action from December, 2011.

… And almost exactly a year ago, we featured a number of Ravi Zacharias Quotations.

…Finally from January, 2011, C. S. Lewis on Life, Atheism and God.

March 22, 2012

Focusing Our God Picture

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. …

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ”What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow. …

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God….

It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.

All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him….

The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges….

The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. ‘When they knew God,’wrote Paul, ‘they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.’

Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, Chapter 1

Source: Crossroad

January 15, 2012

Too Much Salt, Too Much Light

This morning at church, the pastor read the familiar “salt and light” passage from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.  If you’ve been in church for a long time, it’s hard to imagine hearing anything new and different on this, and yet, the text is so rich that I am always amazed at the “take away” you can get from this passage.

First of all was the emphasis on being salt and light in the world.  There’s no thought of ‘salt for salt’s sake,’ or ‘light for light’s sake;’ but rather, the analogy exists to guide the Christian in living in a broader society.  

That said, salt is reactive, while light is more proactive.  The former deals with how we respond to the world around us, the latter deals with what added value we are infusing into that world.  

But then the pastor talked about the fact you can have too much salt.  In terms of the seasoning nature of salt, it’s easy to overdo it; and in terms of light, it’s not helpful if you’re shining it in someone’s eyes.  

And then he gave a rather interesting example that I’d never considered before.  He talked about people who feel the need to respond with a Bible verse who also give the reference, and how foreign that concept is to people who are outside the faith and/or outside the church. I’ve heard people say that we should know references so that we can open up a Bible and point them to what the Bible says and where it says it; but I have to agree with the pastor that conversationally, there’s no need to do that; we just need to pass on the heart of what God’s word says; the truth element of it without the precision of a GPS reference.

Really, it comes back to being able tell people — without reading it off a script — about the ways of the Lord. 

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; Whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, And the righteous will walk in them, But transgressors will stumble in them.  (Hosea 14:9 NASB)

Our job is to know God’s ways in order to instruct others, but we are the best translation of scripture and our words should flow out of a general sense of God’s will and God’s ways.  When I start spouting chapters and verses (or Greek and Hebrew) to a non-Christian it all sounds like when my son who takes engineering starts talking scientific terminology.

And frankly, people who read a blog called Christianity 201, and obviously want to go deeper and be deeper are at the greatest risk of overdoing this.  We know a lot of stuff, and it’s easy to allow pride to creep into the equation as well.

…Today some people despair over ‘seeker sensitive’ sermon approaches that they say has had the effect of ‘dumbing down’ the gospel.  But there is something to be said for “putting the cookies on the lower shelf.”

  1. First, when we’re able to express the gospel in its rawest simplicity, we’re closer to the essence of the gospel, the profound nature of the gospel.
  2. Second, as stated, when dealing with unchurched or unevangelized people, we run the risk of scaring them off with responses or explanations that are too complex, even while we admire and relish the great complexity and mystery of the gospel ourselves.
  3. Third, in an increasingly Biblically illiterate culture, we’re going to increasingly be dealing with people within the church for whom what we consider basic theological and doctrinal discussion is more than they can handle

We want to be salt and light, but we have to be careful not to over-salt, or turn the lights up blindingly high.

December 4, 2011

Useful and Useless Evil

There are actually two posts today at C201; a worship song video, and this one.  This appeared at Ryan Dueck’s blog under the title The Uses of Evil.

Last night I attended the last of a three night lecture series hosted by a local church where my former professor, John Stackhouse, was speaking about the problem of evil.  Of course, there is no “solution” to the mystery of evil and suffering—no rational explanation that explains what pain and waste and evil are doing in a world presided over by a good and merciful God.  All theodicies leave holes.

There are, however, better and worse ways of thinking about God and evil.  Some holes are bigger and unmanageable than others.  When we discuss theories about how God and evil fit together, we are, in a sense, deciding upon which holes we can live with and which we cannot.  Stackhouse very helpfully focused our attention not on making all of the logical pieces line up, but on the character and trustworthiness of God in spite of the existence of evil.

One of the issues that came up at various points over the last few nights was that of the “necessity” of evil—of there being no such thing as “useless evil.”  On the one hand, this makes sense and flows directly out of what we understand the nature of God to be.  If God is in control of the world, if God is good and wants what is best for the world, and if whatever evil does exist is thought to be part of God’s sovereign plan for redemption, it logically follows that nothing exists that God has not somehow allowed/ordained, and through which God is not working to bring about what is good.  To predicate anything wasteful or unnecessary is to call into question either God’s governance or his goodness.

On this view, evil—however horrific—has a use.  It is useful in bringing the “lords of creation” to maturity and completeness.  It is through the fires of suffering that our faith is tested and refined.  Evil has the capacity to produce character and strengthen faith.  This is a version of what is often referred to as the Irenaen theodicy (after 2nd century bishop St. Irenaeus) articulated more recently by philosopher John Hick.  Where St. Augustine located the origins of evil in human freedom, Irenaeus argued that evil was created by God as a means of gradually perfecting human souls.

Of course, not all are convinced by this view of God and evil.  Some would rather locate the holes elsewhere.  But even if we grant that evil exists for this purpose, does this require that there be no useless evil?  Could some evil be simply collateral damage in a ruptured cosmos?  It seems to me that some suffering can have the effect of producing maturity and character.  Some suffering leads to good.  And I think all suffering, however atrocious, contains the seeds of redemption within it.  But part of me still resists the idea that the amount and variety of evil that our planet has witnessed—the amount and variety of evil some individual lives have witnessed—is necessary.

I think I’m ok with unnecessary evil.  In fact, I may even need it. I don’t want mass-starvation and the spectacular waste of war to be an indispensable part of God’s design.  I don’t want the rape of a child to be part of God’s necessary plan for the cosmos.  I don’t want a once vibrant loved-one withering away into the foggy dismay of dementia to be an essential piece of the divine puzzle.  This isn’t to say that I don’t think that good can come out of even these things.  But I have a hard time seeing such things as necessary.

I think I would rather say that God can work even out of events that were not necessary—events which the world and God’s project of reclamation could have just as well done without, but through which God can still bring goodness and hope.  I like what Miroslav Volf has to say in The End of Memory:

We do not need for all of our lived life to be gathered and rendered meaningful in order to be truly and fully redeemed…. no need to take all of our experiences, distinct in time, and bind them together in a single volume so that each experience draws meaning from the whole as well as contributes meaning to the whole. It suffices to leave some experiences untouched…, treat others with the care of a healing hand and then abandon them to the darkness of non-remembrance…, and reframe the rest.

Evil undoubtedly has a role to play in the drama of the cosmos—in the drama of our individual lives.  This, I do not deny.  Perhaps the above is just an exercise in rearranging or reframing the holes in my calibration of how to think about God and evil.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter if evil is necessary or not.  Perhaps it is enough to say that evil is not the last word.  Some evil strengthens and emboldens us, enlivening our faith, sharpening our character, and drawing us closer to God.  Some evil wounds and scars us as we stagger toward eternity.  All evil can be overcome by God.

~Ryan Dueck

It is not given to men to make God speak. It is only given to them to live and to think in such a way that, if God’s thunder should come, they will not have stopped their ears.

Peter Berger

April 29, 2011

What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?

In the wake of the Zondervan release, Four Views on Divine Providence, since I didn’t get to read the book but consider the topic somewhat vital, here’s what reviewers are saying…

  • There are plenty of hardcore theological and philosophical issues which arise when speaking of God’s providence; issues such as divine sovereignty and human responsibility, the relationship between God and time, divine foreknowledge, suffering and evil, etc. Here four different theological perspectives, including open theism, Molinism, and classic Reformed thought, weigh into the debate in a thrust and counterthrust format.   Bill Muehlenberg
  • Volume contributors are Paul Helseth (God causes every creaturely event that occurs); William Lane Craig (through his “middle knowledge,” God controls the course of worldly affairs without predetermining any creatures’ free decisions); Ron Highfield (God controls creatures by liberating their decision-making); and Gregory Boyd (human decisions can be free only if God neither determines nor knows what they will be). Introductory and closing essays by Dennis Jowers give relevant background and guide readers toward their own informed beliefs about divine providence.   Publisher Blurb
  • I mentioned this “Counterpoints” series as a commendable way to study and learn about different views and that they have them on more than a dozen topics.  This is a brand new one and raises this huge question about God’s rule over the world, one of the key questions as we reflect on the heartache of theodicy.  Four evangelical authors are included and they each respond to the main chapter of the other three.  Included are views that they describe as “God Causes All Things” “God Directs All Things” “God Controls by Liberating” and “God Limits His Control”  This not only is an example of meaty theological and Bible discourse but, of course, it is immensely significant for our prayers and praise, our confidence and doubts and how we talk about grief with others.  Highly recommended, even if it may be that no one is fully right.   Hearts and Minds Bookstore

I was some astounded at how little advance material and/or reviews were available online for what I would think is a rather serious topic. (The middle “reviewer” it turned out, was just quoting the publisher.) One retail site noted that the debate gets quite heated or “intense” at times and Greg Boyd, one of the contributors noted in his own blog:

…[T]his “four views” collection is a bit idiosyncratic in that, as Craig notes in his opening essay, there are actually two versions of the Calvinist view included in this book. Not only this, but while the editor, Dennis Jowers, clearly tries to remain neutral in the Introduction and Conclusion of this book, his passionate Calvinistic convictions shine through rather unambiguously, in my opinion.

Let’s review the four options the book presents:

  • God causes every creaturely event that occurs
  • Through his “middle knowledge,” God controls the course of  worldly affairs without predetermining any creatures’ free decisions
  • God controls creatures by liberating their decision-making
  • Human decisions can be free only if God neither determines nor knows what they will be

What’s your opinion?  Does it matter?  I believe it does for several reasons of which this is one:  Our purpose, our delight and our desire should be to begin to form an understanding of how we see the ways of God.  This will eventually map on to a larger personal systematic theology which should eventually “work” inasmuch as all the doctrinal pieces of the puzzle fit to form an appropriate picture.

My personal take on this and yours may differ.  We see through a glass darkly.  (We see through glasses that are covered in Vaseline.)  And we should be open to friendly discussion with people who resolve this differently.  But our desire should be to look into the face of God and seek Him with all our hearts.   When we do that, a God-picture will slowly form that may, over time, need adjustment or modification, but as long as our go-to source is scripture and not our own reasoning, we will be moving toward, and not away from, an accurate understanding of God’s character, God’s nature and God’s dealings with His people.

For those of you for whom Molinism is a new term, here’s some highlights from Theopedia to get you thinking further:

“The most famous distinctive in Molinism is its affirmation that God has middle knowledge (scienta media). Molinism holds that God’s knowledge consists of three logical moments. These “moments” of knowledge are not to be thought of as chronological; rather they are to be understood as “logical.” In other words, one moment does not come before another moment in time, rather one moment is logically prior to the other moments. The Molinist differentiates between three different moments of knowledge which are respectively called natural knowledge, middle knowledge and free knowledge.

  • Natural Knowledge – This is God’s knowledge of all necessary and all possible truths. In this “moment” God knows every possible combination of causes and effects. He also knows all the truths of logic and all moral truths.
  • Middle Knowledge – This is God’s knowledge of what any free creature would do in any given circumstance, also known as counterfactual knowledge. It is also sometimes stated as God’s knowledge of the truth of subjunctive conditionals.
  • Free Knowledge – This is God’s knowledge of what He freely decided to create. God’s free knowledge is His knowledge of the actual world as it is.

And yes, I know some of you are now saying, “I’m glad we cleared that up.”