Here of late I have debated sean samis. This post is in response to three carefully considered comments.
- The first comment Sean left in response to WHY DOES GOD ALLOW EVIL?
- The second and third comments Sean left in response to THE SEARCH FOR THE MOST VIRTUOUS VERSATILE BLOGGER — PART 9.
Both of the posts Sean commented upon focus on the subject of evil. Sean’s concern is the relationship between God and evil. Sean insists God is capable of evil.
In his first comment, Sean argues that God is capable of evil. In a purely literal sense, Sean is correct. That is, God has the physical capacity to perform an evil act. However, were God to do evil, then He would fail to be God. Consider how we define God.
God is the Creator. To do evil would be to harm His own creation, and that would not be a logical act. Remember what Jesus observed about Satan’s kingdom:
Matthew 12:25 Amplified Bible (AMP)
25 And knowing their thoughts, He said to them, Any kingdom that is divided against itself is being brought to desolation and laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will last or continue to stand.
If we think it makes no sense for Satan to defeat the purposes of his own devils, why would we choose to believe God would harm his own creation?
What does it mean for God to be perfect and omnipotent and omniscient? If God wanted to do evil, God could do evil, but God is love, God is power, and God is wise. God would not want to do evil. Therefore, we say God is incapable of doing evil. Similarly, when we say we love someone, we say we are incapable of hurting that person we love.
In addition, Sean disagreed with a proposition offered by Ravi Zacharias.
If you argue from the existence of evil to the non-existence of God, you are assuming the existence of an absolute moral law in order for your argument to work. But if there is such a law this would also mean that there is such a God, since God is the only one who could give us such a law. And if there is such a God to give us this law, then the argument itself is flawed, since you have had to assume the existence of God in order to argue that God doesn’t exist. It is an attempt to invoke the existence of an absolute moral law without invoking the existence of an absolute moral law giver, and it cannot be done. (from here)
The phrase “God is good” is meaningless if “good” is whatever God does or says to do. There must exist moral facts or moral order distinct from God for that phrase to be meaningful. There must be a law God might conform to or not.
Is Sean’s assertion true? I do not think so. Creation is of God. What God created does not exist apart from God. Therefore, the Laws that God’s creations must obey are also of God, but that does not mean God is subject to the Laws of Creation.
Consider the definition of “free will.”
n : the power of making free choices unconstrained by external agencies [syn: discretion]
We operate within the context of God’s creation. God does not; God existed before Creation. Thus, we can assess whether God has left us free to choose between good or evil. Whether we think God will do evil towards us depends on whether we think God loves that which He has created.
How do we know if God loves us?
- We can study God’s Creation and learn what it reveals about the character of its Creator.
- We study the moral law God wrote in our hearts.
- Christians say we can also study the Bible. Christianity is the belief that says God loves us, that He sacrificed His Son for us to save us from ourselves.
What is moral law? Does it exist? Is the moral law from God? Each of these questions involve separate discussions and arguments. The full expression is “natural moral law,” and explanations of it can get a bit windy (see here, here, and here). Essentially, what it comes down to is what our conscience directs. Here is how the Apostle Paul explained it.
Romans 2:12-16 Good News Translation (GNT)
12 The Gentiles do not have the Law of Moses; they sin and are lost apart from the Law. The Jews have the Law; they sin and are judged by the Law. 13 For it is not by hearing the Law that people are put right with God, but by doing what the Law commands. 14 The Gentiles do not have the Law; but whenever they do by instinct what the Law commands, they are their own law, even though they do not have the Law. 15 Their conduct shows that what the Law commands is written in their hearts. Their consciences also show that this is true, since their thoughts sometimes accuse them and sometimes defend them. 16 And so, according to the Good News I preach, this is how it will be on that Day when God through Jesus Christ will judge the secret thoughts of all.
When we care for our neighbors as we care for ourselves, our consciences–the Law written in our hearts–directs us appropriately. Then we do that which is good. Unfortunately, we can find numerous excuses not to love our neighbor. Why is that?
There is nothing indulgent about the Moral Law. It is as hard as nails. It tells you to do the straight thing and it does not seem to care how painful, or dangerous, or difficult it is to do. ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (from here)
In this comment, Sean considers two subjects.
- Is God All-Powerful and All-Knowing? Sean restates this topic as God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience.
- Is God really a Person?
God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience
Sean started by trying to define the limits of God. Since I don’t actually disagree with his conclusions, I will let that part of the discussion pass.
Here, at least for the sake of argument, Sean answers the question (Is God all-powerful and all-knowing?) in the affirmative. He then argues that if God all-powerful and all-knowing then he must be able to do evil. That is, if God has an “informed free will” he must be able to choose to do evil. To answer that argument, please refer to my responses in the First Comment section above. I think Sean and I differ here less than he thinks.
What I find of interest in this section is what Sean says about an “informed free will.” Here Sean forgets to mention what informs our decisions. Information is important, but information is only a small part of what drives our decisions to towards good or evil. We do good only to those whom we love. Otherwise, in self-love we plunder and pillage those we regard as weak.
Is God Really A Person?
Sean begins here with this paragraph.
If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, and yet cannot choose to do evil, it is reasonable to doubt that God has volition: the ability to actually choose what to do. This is an odd thought because it would mean that God would lack a power humans have (the free will power to choose to do evil).
Here Sean speaks of God as a person. In one respect, God is a person. That person is His Son, Christ Jesus. Beyond that, I doubt that God is a person any sense we would ordinarily understand (Who can explain the Trinity?). That God has the ability to choose and to act, I do not doubt. However, if God is holy, and not evil, then God will never choose to do evil. Effectively, God knows evil is not worthwhile; evil is destructive. So He abhors evil, and He will not do evil.
God is perfect. If God is perfect, God never does evil. He has totally renounced evil. Does that make God less than human? No. It just means that God has a perfect understanding of good and evil, and He has no fear of the pain, the danger, or the difficulty of doing that which is right.
Here Sean went directly back to the subject of the post, evil.
Tom wrote that “Consider also that evil is nothing. Thus, creating evil would create nothing. Evil is nothing more than disobedience to the will of God. When we disobey God, that disobedience is evil. The one does evil creates the consequences that we call evil.”
This is an incoherent definition of evil. If evil creates nothing, then evil creates no harm or consequence; evil creates no damage or barrier. If evil is truly nothing, then it is nothing. Punishment for “evil” would be punishment for nothing. (continued here)
Sean went from here to a discussion of the difference between love and hate. Here Sean responded to a comment (here) I had made on the same post. In that comment I argued that evil and hatred stem from the lack of love.
Consider the definition of heat. Heat is real. Apply heat and we raise the temperature. Similarly, if we apply cold, we lower the temperature. However, what is cold? It is simply the absence of heat. When we apply cold, what we are really doing is using mass with relatively little energy to drain the heat from a warmer object.
Good and evil are similar to the hot and cold. Love is analogous to heat. When we want to increase the good, we add love. When love dissipates, what replaces love is indifference. That is because hatred is not any more real than evil. Hatred stems from pride, a preoccupation with one’s self, an overly protective, misdirected self-love. If there is any such thing as perfect evil, then it stems from an infinite pride, a pride that makes the bearer of that pride indifferent to anyone’s welfare save his own.
We confuse good and evil for the same reason we confuse love and hatred. Good is simply a measure of love. The more people love each other the more “good” they do for each other. The less people love each other, the more their self-love rules. Where self-love–pride–dominates, people take advantage of other. They are indifferent to each other’s needs. In such communities, because people do not care for each other, in their pride, they react angrily and defensively, and their pride ultimately manifests itself as that thing we call hatred. The prideful hate anyone who refuses to meet what they define as their personal needs.
In a community where people do not love each other, the people squander their creative abilities in feuds. The result of this activity is not something; it is chaos. When we are full of pride, we do not see the world as it is. Because we do not have a realistic measure of our own merit, we do not take the opinions of others seriously. Therefore, the prideful squander their time and their talents in fantasies of their own creation.
Love allows us to be creative and to protect that which we have created. Will a mother defend its baby from a dangerous predator? Yes. Will that mother hate the predator and attack it with all the ferocity she can muster? Yes, but what we see–that hatred–is not actually hatred. What is real–what we do not see when battle rages–is the mother’s love for her child. The good that mother does for her child comes from a mother’s love.
Is there something worse than pride? Probably not. Nonetheless, we can be guilty of loving no one, not even our self. Then we can slip into acedia and even despair. The modern expression for despair is depression, which can result from a medical condition.
The Wrath Of God
The Old Testament in particular is noted for the wrath of God. Because of sin, God has destroyed almost all of mankind (Noah’s Flood). Later, He annihilated Sodom and Gomorrah, allowed the Hebrews to run the Canaanites out of Canaan, and punished the Jews by scattering them from Israel more than once. Moreover, the Book of Revelation says more is to come.
Does God’s wrath make him evil? Does His insistence that we obey His Laws make Him evil? No.
Instead of blaming God for His wrath, we should consider the weight of our sins, and our stubborn refusal to quit sinning. God refers to us as His children.When God punishes us, He is trying to correct our behavior.
When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, he did so as an act of love. God knew the Jews would never be able to obey the Ten Commandments, but those commandments still serve a purpose. They show us and the Jews that we need a savior. That savior is Jesus.
Want a good explanation of how the Ten Commandments show God’s love for us. Check out God Carved His Love in Stone, a video of a sermon by Dr. David Jeremiah.
Intellectually, most of us understand that we should do what is right. However, we do not have perfect knowledge. Thus, we must fill the holes in our knowledge with faith. We must have faith in what we know is true. We must have faith that our Creator is not capricious. God, however, does not require faith such as we understand it. God has certainty of the truth. God is Truth.
When we debate the characteristics of God, we can forget we were only made in the image of God. Unlike God, we are not perfect. Therefore, we do not always make sense, and we do not alway do good instead of evil. Because God is perfect, God will always choose to do good.
We can only try to be wise, and sometimes some of us seem to make almost perfect sense. Yet none of us ever approach the perfection of God. Only God is perfect. God is perfect in Wisdom and Virtue. That perfection–so outside our experience–we find difficult to grasp or to explain, but that perfection means God is devoid of evil. Only God is holy.