Bahnsen’s TAG VI

[Map: Intro, I, II, III, IV, V, VI]

I’m trying to wrap up this series and get on to planned subsequent topics. In this post I will consider the Problem of Evil (PoE), and hopefully I’ll wrap up next time. The typical TAG response to PoE can be summarized like this:

Atheist: How can there be evil in a universe created by an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God?

TAG: Evil? Who said you can talk about evil? You don’t believe in a God to establish a standard of good and evil, so it is ridiculous for you to ask such a question!

In long form, “The Great Debate” between atheist Gordon Stein and Christian Greg Bahnsen gives an example of an actual interchange along these lines. In his opening statement, Stein states the problem well enough:

…In addition, we have a number of things, which I wouldn’t call proofs, but I would call evidence which make the existence of god even more improbable; and one of them is the problem of evil. If an all-good god exists, why is there evil in the world? We are told with god that all things are possible. If all things are possible, it would be possible for him to create a world in which the vast mass of suffering that is morally pointless, such as the pain and misery of animals, the cancer and blindness of little children, the humiliations of senility and insanity were avoided. These are apparently inflictions of the creator himself, or else we have a god that isn’t omnipotent. If you admit that, then you deny his goodness. If you say that he would not have done otherwise, you deny “with him all things are possible.”

Bahnsen addresses PoE at the end of his rebuttal:

Well, we have one minute left here. I want to answer very quickly those few things that Dr. Stein brought up in his second presentation so that I might rebut them. He wants to know about the problem of evil. My answer to the problem of evil is this: There is no problem of evil in an atheist universe because there is no evil in an atheist universe. Since there’s no god, there’s no absolute moral standard and nothing is wrong. The torture of little children is not wrong in an atheist universe. It may be painful, but it is not wrong. It is morally wrong in a theistic universe, and therefore there is a problem of evil, of perhaps the psychological or emotional sort, but philosophically the answer to the problem of evil is, you don’t have an absolute standard of good by which to measure evil in an atheist universe. You only have that in a theistic universe, and therefore the very posing of the problem presupposes my world-view, rather than his own. God has a good reason for the evil that he plans or allows.

The effect of this tactic on Stein (and other atheists I have heard this line used on) is to send him into an attempt to defend a utilitarian definition of ‘good vs. evil’ based on maximizing global happiness. It is important to expose the arbitrariness of any moral system which does not derive its authority from an eternal, unchanging God. But at bottom, this answer is merely a redirection — smoke and mirrors to distract the eye from the real Problem of Evil. Whether or not it is true that “there is no evil in an atheist universe”, the question about the Christian universe stands.

Not to say that Christianity (and TAG) has no answer for PoE (and Bahnsen’s very quick answer is buried in the statement above) — my point is that PoE has the proper logical form to be a true defeater for Christianity, so it is incumbent upon the Christian to demonstrate the invalidity of its premises. The logical form can be abstracted from Stein’s statement above:

IF (God is omnipotent AND God is omnibenevolent) THEN evil can not (does not) exist.

If that properly formed logical assertion is TRUE, then so is its contrapositive, which has the form

IF (evil does (can) exist) THEN (God is not omnipotent OR God is not omnibenevolent)

So it falls on both parties to address this logical assertion. Working within the confines of the logical statement, one way is to prove that evil does not (cannot) exist. Bahnsen’s point is that this is the atheist solution to PoE (as an effect, the questions of God’s omnipotence or omnibenevolence (or even existence) become irrelevant). Alternatively, one could demonstrate that God is not omnipotent, or that God is not omnibenevolent. Obviously, none of those logical techniques are acceptable to the Christian. The final way to address the question is to demonstrate the the assertion is not valid, and this is the right way to go.

First, note that statements of the form “IF (X is able to do Y AND X wants to do Y) THEN Y” are not always true. What if “X” is “a man” and “Y” is “steal” or “murder” or “rape” or “lie” or “cheat” or “eat a dozen donuts” or “be faithful to one’s wife” or “give to charity” or “join the peace corps”? Has it never been the case in all of human history that someone has not done what they really want to do, not because of compulsion, but by self-discipline (or lack thereof)? Or how about if X is “a high school principal”, and Y is “give a signed diploma to every student”? Or if X is “a parent” and Y is “discipline his children”?

We are getting to a point where it is important to clearly understand what is meant by “able” and “willing”, and it is at this level that we can deal with Stein. Stein opens up with, “We are told with god that all things are possible. If all things are possible, it would be possible for him to create a world…” with no evil. This evidences a common misconception of omnipotence. As my children can tell you, the correct answer to the question “Can God do all things?” is “Yes; God can do all his holy will“. So when Stein concludes “If you say that he would not have done otherwise, you deny ‘with him all things are possible,'” then I reply, “you are correct — you were wrong in the sense that you understood ‘with God all things are possible'”. Jesus has a proper perspective on the Father’s omnipotence in Mark 14:36:

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.

So with a proper understanding of omnipotence, the question then becomes “Why would an omnibenevolent God will that evil exist?” And this is indeed a difficult question. In his limited surplus rebuttal time, Bahnsen hints at the answer: “The torture of little children…is morally wrong in a theistic universe, and therefore there is a problem of evil, of perhaps the psychological or emotional sort, but philosophically the answer to the problem of evil is…God has a good reason for the evil that he plans or allows.”

I also have limited time, so I’ll leave it at that.

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29 Responses

  1. If you want more on a practical application of the PoE, you might want to read this.

  2. God decrees evil and sin for his own glory. That doesn’t make him the author of sin. Man is the author of sin. God uses man’s sin for his own glory, even foreordaining it to have taken place.

    Bottom line: if there were no sin, how could God’s love have been so manifested to us as it is in the redemption wrought by Christ? Christ laid down his life, becoming a curse, for us sinners, who by our sin had become his enemies. That’s amazing love. Without sin, that display of God’s love in the death of Christ for us becomes impossible.

    Echo_ohcE

  3. Echo, I agree, but the problem of sin is a little different than the problem of evil. Many people would say, I’m sure, “that’s fine, but why couldn’t God display his gracious love without killing my sister in a car crash, or however many thousand in New Orleans with a hurricaine, or >100K with a tsunami, etc.?” It’s easy enough to see how some evil is the result of sin (murder, rape, child abuse, genocide, etc.), but evil which is nobody’s fault is harder to explain. For instance, if you go here and listen to this, towards the end it is easy to detect, among the blasphemy, a common tendency to blame God for grief, or to believe that God must not exist, because there’s no way God could have allowed X to happen to me (for instance, ffwd to 58:55). There is very real pain out there that is standing between people and God, and there is no easy answer to the Problem of Evil — there are only difficult answers, because at the bottom, PoE is a very difficult question. Probably the most difficult question there is.

  4. Hmm, RubeRad. You seem to be equating the Problem of Evil with the Problem of Pain. Between the two, I suspect most people think of PoE in terms of Echo’s equation (human intention) over yours (natural catastrophe).

    Ultimately, though, whichever equation is followed, the Problem of Evil can be boiled down to this: what I want to happen doesn’t happen. Or in other words, I am not in control. And what could be more evil than that? ;-)

    On another note …

    The effect of this tactic on Stein (and other atheists I have heard this line used on) is to send him into an attempt to defend a utilitarian definition of ‘evil’ based on maximizing global happiness.

    … and of course this is ridiculous because the very least a strict materialist can fall back on is evolution, and evolution has nothing at all to do with happiness — only successful reproduction. This can be the only possible standard of morality for the strict materialist. (And even then, evolution places no value on reproductive success or failure — it doles out consequences blindly. We are the ones who might anthropomorphize these consequences as “reward” or “punishment.”)

    That atheists would venture beyond the limitations of their own worldview suggests that they do indeed crave religion — a religion of their own creation, with an arbitrariness that is unnoticed or even forgivable because it aligns with their own fancies. From a strict materialistic standpoint, we might see them as straining against the demands of their own chemically-evolved brains, which are hardwired to construct moral and religious fabrications as means of social networking that result in successful reproduction.

    Still, we’re not fooled. We know eternity is written in their hearts. They crave Law even as they deny it.

  5. I’m reminded of the verses in James 1:13-14.

    13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, “(AC)I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
    14But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”

    Adam and Eve actually made a choice in the garden and the choice was based on their OWN lusts. This to me is one of the greatest reminders that if left alone to decide, we sinners will choose to sin.

    I don’t know if it’s just by chance but 99% of athiests I have conversed with turned out to have had “bad experiences” with church. They were mostly fueled by anger and the fact that they feel the need to disprove something they claim is not in existence tells me plenty.

  6. … and of course this is ridiculous because the very least a strict materialist can fall back on is evolution, and evolution has nothing at all to do with happiness — only successful reproduction. This can be the only possible standard of morality for the strict materialist.

    Before limejelly shows up to correct me, allow me to clarify this point. Atheists can be very moral, and believe in standards of morality other than the one I cornered them into above. But as they would readily admit, these standards are not absolute or universal, but instead social contracts. “Global happiness” can be a moral standard only to the degree that we all subscribe to it. In this sense it is arbitrary, binding on one’s conscience only as far as society can impose its collective will, psychologically or legally, on the individual. Different standards might easily be imagined — “global health,” “global safety,” “global strength” — any one of which would conflict with others depending on circumstances.

    So yes, atheists can be moral and virtuous. Indeed, their practice of morality in many ways echoes the moral practices of Christians as they restrain their impulses in deference to principles that oppose raw individual instinct. But their moral standard itself is less grounded, since Christians subscribe to a universal, absolute standard that atheists in principle reject.

  7. Rube,

    RE: #3

    Yes, God is ultimately in control of everything but he also gives us freedom of choice. Choices are so important to God that he emphasizes wisdom. If I choose to live right on the beach in La Jolla I better understand that there actually is a slight possibility of a Tsunami living so close to the water. The same goes with hurricanes and buying a house in Florida. Wise choices are important but even if I was somehow capable of ALWAYS making the wise choice(which is impossible) wouldn’t mean my “neighbor” would also. Like in the case of the tragedy at VT it was the shooters sin that caused him to choose to kill those poor victims, not the students unwise choice to go to school that day. Same goes for 9/11. We humans need no help from God to sin.

  8. “If all things are possible, it would be possible for him to create a world in which the vast mass of suffering that is morally pointless, such as the pain and misery of animals, the cancer and blindness of little children, the humiliations of senility and insanity were avoided.”

    Isn’t that what He did create? Isn’t that what Eden was?

  9. the Problem of Evil can be boiled down to this: what I want to happen doesn’t happen.

    Good point. In a similar vein, over at The Narrow Mind, the fake atheist “The Discomfitter” won the 2006 “Monkey’s Uncle” award for “Best New Argument Against Christianity”, which is based on “I got funk in my shoe”

    … and of course this is ridiculous because the very least a strict materialist can fall back on is evolution, and evolution has nothing at all to do with happiness — only successful reproduction. This can be the only possible standard of morality for the strict materialist.

    I appreciate your clarification, and I’ll add some more. There are many arbitrary measures that a strict materialist could choose as the goal of a moral code; global maximization of the electrochemical effect commonly known as ‘happiness’ is but one of them. Why not maximize the happiness of just one person, instead of trying to balance the happiness of all? Why not maximize global suppleness of skin, or why not minimize ecological impact to our habitat? As you note, the point is that the standard is arbitrary, and so it’s pretty tough to argue that it’s normative, except on a pragmatic basis. “Well, the rest of us all agree that happiness will be maximized if you don’t do that, so you better not, or we’ll — we’ll — we’ll minimize your happiness!” Might makes right.

  10. Adam and Eve actually made a choice in the garden and the choice was based on their OWN lusts.

    That’s kind of tough to say, though, because there must have been a point before their first sin, at which Adam & Eve did not have any sinful lust. Otherwise, God created them pre-sinful!

    Isn’t that what He did create? Isn’t that what Eden was?

    So the question is, why did God’s plan for humanity involve sin and redemption? We don’t want to say that Adam & Eve forced God to change his plans — that redemption is Plan B. Whatever your view of sovereignty, if you’re not a complete and utter heretic, God at least foresaw that Adam & Eve would pollute his very good creation — so why didn’t he prevent it? Why didn’t he create Adam & Eve differently, so they couldn’t sin? I think Echo has given the right answer in #2 already, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow, really. As long as we do not see him face to face, we don’t know the greater good behind the evils (and pains) we experience, and we have to exercise faith that God does indeed have a good purpose.

    I think the question thus boils down to: do you have (has God given you) sufficient faith to believe that pain is meaningful, and ultimately glorifying to God, or does pain force you to conclude that a loving, all-powerful God can’t exist?

  11. Rube,
    You said: “That’s kind of tough to say, though, because there must have been a point before their first sin, at which Adam & Eve did not have any sinful lust. Otherwise, God created them pre-sinful!”

    I say: All we know is God created man and because of what took place in the garden we now understand man to be insufficient without God. From what I read in the Bible man was never created perfect(unable to sin).

    You said: “I think the question thus boils down to: do you have (has God given you) sufficient faith to believe that pain is meaningful, and ultimately glorifying to God, or does pain force you to conclude that a loving, all-powerful God can’t exist?”

    Pain in a believer’s personal life forces a constant looking to the work Christ did on the cross to help keep things in perspective in our own mind.The same cannot be said of the unbeliever who is completely hope-less.Keeping things in perspective(in our own mind) does not heal the pain but mearely allows you to function(through Hope) until the day we see Him face to face.

  12. Watch here for material relevant to this topic, and more to come!

  13. From what I read in the Bible man was never created perfect(unable to sin).

    Well, the Bible tells us that Adam did sin, so he must have been able to sin. (On a side note, theologians through the ages have been arguing about whether Jesus was able to sin). That doesn’t mean he was created imperfect. He was created without sin, and Jesus explains that lust is sin, even without acting on it. Maybe I should make a new, separate post to discuss whether the first sin was the outward act of biting the fruit, or the previous inward sin of listening to the serpent, and/or disbelieving/misquoting God’s word…

  14. As long as we do not see him face to face, we don’t know the greater good behind the evils (and pains) we experience, and we have to exercise faith that God does indeed have a good purpose.

    Agreed that we don’t know the greater good, we don’t see all, we can’t know God’s mind fully.

    Yet it must be noted that our position now in Christ is superior to Adam’s before the Fall. Adam lived sinlessly in the full presence of God — but we live fully justified with a greater righteousness than our own, and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. We stand not only before God, but in Him. Angels long to look into these things; we live them.

    So was that God’s deliberate intent from the beginning — to allow sin in order to bring us to a consummation, preparing a bride for Himself?

    Or, to quote an Ultimate frisbee saying, did God simply take a bad pass and make a perfect dive?

    Either way, we win. And so does He.

  15. I think I’ve found a way to think of marriage and the problem of evil and the doctrine of limited atonement all at once.

    [RR: The whole story originally used to live in this comment, but then it was posted fresh over here — you should go read it, and all the rest of the stuff on that blog!]

  16. Yeah Rube, go ahead… [RR: done, and let me know if I condensed/advertised badly — really, people, go read it! (and that includes you, Albino — I think you’ll like his take on the dreaded ‘L’ in the comment trail)]

  17. TAG has two parts, though. The one is negative (showing that they can’t account for X), and the other is positive (showing that they are presupposing X-ianity).

    Bahnsen developes his theodicy in other places though.

    FWIW, I develope my own in response to an atheist (he actualkly said he didn’t think we had a problem of evil after he read it).

    Mine is a mixture of Frame and Bahnsen and Helm et al.

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/10/emotional-problem-of-evil_28.html

  18. Thx for the link — that’s the one I was really looking for earlier. My point is that a 100% honest evaluation of the problem of evil is not “you evil-denying atheist, you can’t ask about a Problem of Evil”, but “Atheism has no problem of evil, because in the atheist worldview, evil is not a meaningful concept. In a Christian worldview, where apparent evil is really evil, the Problem of Evil needs real explanation.”

  19. Thanks for the props. I didn’t see that till now.

  20. Rube,

    I agree.

    I also had an extended dialogue/debate with a rather intelligent atheist defending a type of moral non-realism.

    I didn’t really get into a Christian answer but spent my time showing that a moral anti-realist can’t raie the problem of evil and therefore loses a big gun in the atheist arsenal. To use the PoE one must presuppose a realism about moral statements, but a realism is best accounted for given the absolute-personal-God of Christian theism. The debate also makes a few arguments for realism which are actually stolen from what used to be a major reason to conclude that ethics are relative – the fact of moral disagreement. I argue that real disagreement presupposes that someone is right and someone is wrong. If relativism is true, no one is wrong and therefore to debate moral claims is similar to debating flavors of ice cream. People don’t debate flavors of ice cream (at least not seriously!), and so if non-realism is true, people shouldn’t debate ethical claims. So, contra the relativist, ethical disagreement presupposes realism. Anyway, if anyone wants to read it:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/02/if-evil-then-god.html

  21. a moral anti-realist can’t raise the problem of evil and therefore loses a big gun in the atheist arsenal.

    But that’s exactly my point, that you can’t really say that.

    To use the PoE one must presuppose a realism about moral statements

    Exactly, therefore the atheist has every right to use PoE as an internal critique of the Christian worldview, just like the presupper shows that, within the materialist worldview, their presuppositions (with which we don’t agree) logically lead to internal worldview conflict. Since they cannot resolve that conflict, they are wrong.

    However, to the extent that the Christian is unable to resolve the apparent conflict of the PoE from within the Christian worldview, the Christian fails to meet a proper logical requirement (fails to defeat a defeater), and thus fails to win the debate.

  22. But that’s exactly my point, that you can’t really say that.

    Understandable since you probably didn’t read our discussion. There’s a distinguishment between *internal* and *external* critiques. I admit that a moral anti-realist can raise an internal critique, not an external one. All internal ones fall flat on their face, esp. when given against a Calvinistic view of God.

    Exactly, therefore the atheist has every right to use PoE as an internal critique of the Christian worldview, just like the presupper shows that, within the materialist worldview, their presuppositions (with which we don’t agree) logically lead to internal worldview conflict. Since they cannot resolve that conflict, they are wrong.

    But I said disagreement presupposes realism, therefore the anti-realist refutes himself if he’s not giving an internal critique.

    But, I fully agree that people can give internal critiques. If the debate is read this will come out in fuller detail.

    However, to the extent that the Christian is unable to resolve the apparent conflict of the PoE from within the Christian worldview, the Christian fails to meet a proper logical requirement (fails to defeat a defeater), and thus fails to win the debate.

    I don’t know how ‘unable to resolve’ is being used? Are you saying there’s a *formal* internal inconsistency? Where? Does it mean “fully answer?” Psychologically or logically?

    And, a defeater must be *accepted* as a defeater. A Christian might have a defeater-defelector and not need a defeater-defeater.

  23. the anti-realist refutes himself if he’s not giving an internal critique.

    That’s an important point. You are correct that most atheists probably don’t realize that PoE can only be raised internal to Christianity, and that claiming that evil is real conflicts with a materialist worldview. And I think it is worthwhile to teach this to the atheist so that (1) he can understand our internal critiques of his worldview, and (2) he can understand how–internal to his own materialist worldview–he truly cannot raise the PoE (or as I say earlier, he resolves the apparent problem by denying the reality of evil)

    I don’t know how ‘unable to resolve’ is being used

    I just mean an actual answer needs to be given to the actual question of PoE — an answer from within the Christian worldview. Just to say “you can’t ask about evil from within your materialist worldview” is like throwing sand in the atheist’s eyes and running away.

    And again, not to say that Bahnsen did that with Stein; in the limited time of the debate format, he made a passing allusion to a fuller answer, and I have heard him explain well in other contexts.

  24. And now that I actually made time to read (most) of your link, I see that you understand my point quite well. Good job over there.

  25. Hey there.

    I only bring this up since I don’t see anyone mention it. I don’t know anymore if this is a valid argument or not anymore, but I know people use it here, so I’ll contribute it. I would definitly be interested in what Whacky has to say about it.

    So, what if ‘evil’ is just like ‘darkness’ where ‘darkness’ is not a ‘real’ thing, but actually an ‘absense’ of light. Could it be that ‘evil’ is an absense of good? And so in that sense, just like ‘darkness,’ we need a word to describe it, but it really doesn’t exist. Therefore we don’t actually have a POE.

    My senses tell me that this is a weak argument, but I don’t have the faculties of late to think them through.

    kazooless

  26. At a stretch, it may be possible to rationalize natural disasters and sins of omission as “absence of good”, but since any definition of evil must also include sins of commission, i.e. willful, active disobedience, I don’t think your argument would work. If evil doesn’t really exist, then there is no need for sacrifice, atonement, redemption.

  27. Jeff,

    That argument ultimately comes from Plotinus and Augustine after him. It’s the great chain of being argument. Some consequences of it — which could be spelled out later, too busy right now — is that you end up lowering Christ’s human nature and making it potentially sinful since as you move away from the ultimate good you eventually get to matter which is just a few notches above non-being – evil.

  28. I’m with WF on that one. Evil as the privation of good is bad ju-ju. Lots of problems result.

  29. Rube,

    Re: 13

    You said: “On a side note, theologians through the ages have been arguing about whether Jesus was able to sin.”

    He could have in one sense, but in another he couldn’t have. But first of all, we have to begin with the understanding of the significance of the virgin birth. He literally was not of the seed of Adam. This is why they were circumcised in the OT. It symbolized that God had redeemed their seed. And I literally mean the man’s seed that impregnates a woman here. This is how the sinful nature is transferred. So that Jesus was born of a virgin means that he was not born guilty under Adam. This is a very important point. Adam was not Christ’s covenant head in the covenant of works, precisely because Christ was born of a virgin, and thus no male seed was involved.

    That said, in his human nature, Christ was just like Adam originally was in the Garden. Without inherent sinfulness, but still able to sin if he so chose to do so. That’s why Satan tempted him. He was trying to get him to sin.

    However, in his divine nature, we say that no, he was and is not able to sin. It’s impossible. It would be contrary to his will, and God is always and only able to do what he wills to do. This is the difference between us and God. God always does what he wants, never fails to do what he wants, is always able to do what he wants, and is never able to deny what he wants, because his will is just that powerful.

    So to elaborate a bit on this point, we might ask why it is that sometimes we restrain ourselves from doing what we want. Well, isn’t it because we decide that the consequences of doing something would outweigh the pleasure derived from doing it? For example, if someone cuts you off on the highway, maybe you want to murder them. But you don’t do it, because you’d go to jail for the rest of your life, and no one wants that. So you control yourself. Or maybe you refrain from eating cake because of your diet, or a thousand other things every day.

    But God never wills that which is wrong. In fact, what he wills is the standard of what is good and what is evil. What he does is good by definition. There is no standard higher than his will according to which he judges himself. It’s not like he wants to cause an earthquake, but refrains because he’ll get in trouble. Who is his judge? Who is in authority over him? He does as he pleases, and what he pleases is good by definition. We have no right to judge what he does.

    But he has a right to judge what we do.

    So Jesus, in his divine nature, cannot sin. But remember that in his humanity it would have been at least logically possible for him to have sinned. But of course, he didn’t. Now some would say that that’s ONLY because he also had a divine nature as well as his human nature.

    But there’s an important reason not to say that. We CANNOT say that it would have been impossible for Adam to have done the right thing. We cannot say that. Well, since God ordained that Adam WOULD sin, we DO have to say that given God’s decree, it WAS impossible for Adam not to sin, but this is actually a separate issue. We can’t talk about Adam’s free will and God’s decree at the same time. We have to talk about one or the other when speaking of possibilities, but not both.

    So the decree aside, Adam could have done the right thing. He could have condemned the serpent for his blasphemy and put him to death. Or after his wife ate the fruit, he could have put her to death along with the serpent. But he did none of those things. He pitied his wife, and thus he compromised by not putting her to death and the serpent. That’s why he told God that it was his wife’s fault that he sinned. He couldn’t bring himself to put her to death, even though it would have been just. So this compromise was the seed of sin that suddenly burst forth in his heart and gave rise to his eating the fruit. Anyway, he should have killed her. He COULD HAVE killed her. We have to say that he could have done that.

    If we don’t say that he could have done that, then the fault of his sin doesn’t lie with him, but with God. If we say that Adam couldn’t have done the right thing, then God didn’t create us upright and holy, but created us in such a way that we HAD to sin. Sin isn’t our fault if that’s the case; it’s God’s fault, and of course we don’t want to say that.

    But that brings us to the decree. Couldn’t God have decreed otherwise? Couldn’t he have decreed that Adam would NOT eat the fruit? Yeah, he could have. But he would not have maximized his glory that way. He would not have been able to reveal himself fully to man that way.

    God does everything he does to reveal and glorify himself in our eyes. That’s why he created us and all things, to reflect his glory. That might seem self centered to some, but God is the one being for whom being self centered is actually just and righteous. The reason why it’s wrong for us to be self centered is that we are not God, and we should therefore be God centered, not self centered. That’s why putting others first is good, because that is the God centered way of living. Anyway, so God does all he does for his own glory. That’s what he’s all about.

    He is MORE glorified by our sin and his response to it, namely our redemption through Christ, than he would have been had Adam not sinned and we all would have been perfected based on that fact (for as Christ earned glorification for us, so too Adam would have earned glorification for us). God’s justice, mercy, love, etc would not have been revealed had Adam not sinned.

    How would his justice be revealed if there were no sin to punish? How would his mercy be revealed if there were no sin to forgive? How would the greatness of his love be revealed if he had no enemies for whom to die?

    Look at this:

    Exo 33:19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

    Exo 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
    Exo 34:7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

    This is God’s name: mercy and justice in paradox, both fully upheld, neither one excluding the other. This is the confounding thing about God that is revealed in the cross, where his justice is upheld in that Christ paid for our sins, but his mercy is also upheld in that Christ paid for them, not us. This is the paradox of the cross that confounds the world and confuses them.

    And along with all this self revelation of his character, we get his righteousness in return. So he solves the problem of the sin that brought us to this moment all at the same time that he reveals himself. And all of this works together for his own glory.

    This is how he has chosen to reveal himself, because this is how he has been most clearly revealed. So since he wanted to reveal himself more clearly, it was a natural choice for him to decree the fall as well as our redemption through the shed blood of Christ. I mean, every last detail of the creation works together so that God could tell us this story. This is the reason why we have blood, so that Christ could spill his on the cross, and so that we would understand what it meant. This is why we have bones, so that none of his would be broken, because he didn’t cling to life as long as possible, fighting against the death that demanded to overtake him as did the prisoners whose legs had to be broken that they might be overtaken; no, he gave up his life voluntarily, he did not fight against it. He let it go, committing his life into his Father’s hands. This is why we have bones, that this story might be told. This is why the Roman Empire was raised up, this is why God called the Israelites his people. This story is why there is a sea, that Christ might silence it, why there are storms, that Christ might calm them. This is why there are fishermen, that Christ might make their nets to burst; this is why there are blind men, that Christ might open their eyes, and the deaf and lame, that he might open their ears and strengthen their legs, that they might go running and leaping as a demonstration of what Christ has done.

    This is the point of it all, that he might reveal himself on the cross. There is no other story, everything is just so many props and side-plots to the grand story of Jesus Christ, God become flesh, who gave up his sinless life that we might live. Everything else that exists is window dressing, and so many clues and hints as to how to understand that one great story.

    And the one story can be summarized this way: Christ is our righteousness.

    Here is the meaning of life, indeed, even of death. For to live…is Christ. Christ is the meaning of it all.

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