God the “Narcissist”?

narcissus.jpgThere has been something of a debate unfolding in the comments of my previous post, “John Piper on the Calamity in Minneapolis.” The lines of the debate are fairly neatly drawn between those who are determinists and those who are not. The determinists are arguing that God was in control of the collapse of the bridge, and the non-determinists attribute the tragedy to the activity of Satan or some other non-divine source.

One commenter argued that belief in God’s sovereignty over such calamities means that all tragedies would then be nothing more than “the narcissistic expression of an all powerful being.” This comment brought a question to my mind that I will throw out to you the reader.

Is it possible for God to be a “narcissist”? Of course we get our word “narcissist” from Greek mythology, but the term’s meaning in common parlance is “inordinate fascination with oneself.” So the question can be rephrased as follows. Is it possible for God to be inordinately fascinated with Himself? Or as the myth goes, can God be so enraptured with the reflection of His own image that it becomes a vice?

I would argue that the Bible teaches that in this sense it is not possible for God to be a narcissist. God is the only being for whom self-exaltation is not a vice, but a virtue. That God would exalt the beauty of His own perfections for others to admire is the essence of love. That is why you have texts in the scripture that express God’s jealousy concerning His own worship and glory: “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8).

Only with God is self-exaltation a virtue, since He is the first and best of beings, the only One who can satisfy the soul. When sinful humans exalt themselves, it is not loving because it is a distraction from the One who truly can meet the deepest needs of fallen humanity. It is a vice for sinful people to call others to admire them and so to distract them from admiring God.

God is love. Therefore He must exalt Himself so as to draw people into worship. This is not narcissistic because it is no vice for Him to exalt the beauty of His own perfections for His creatures’ enjoyment and blessing.

71 Responses to God the “Narcissist”?

  1. Bryan L August 8, 2007 at 9:28 am #

    “God is love. Therefore He must exalt Himself so as to draw people into worship. This is not narcissistic because it is no vice for Him to exalt the beauty of His own perfections for His creatures’ enjoyment and blessing.”

    At the same time when you say this you affirm also that God creates some people to damn to hell (I’m assuming you affirm double predestination, I could be wrong) who have no choice in enjoying and worshipping him and that all those who do come to enjoy and worship him have no say in the matter because he determined it. So in the end he’s not drawing them so much as pushing them. None of it is free. If I created a bunch of robots to worship me irrespective of any free choice it would be narcissistic and I think the same could be said of God. True he is the only one worthy of that exaltation but if he expresses it by creating creatures that have no say in that but are just puppets in a show put on by God then what is so great about that? Now if God can get people to worship him, exalt him and give him glory in spite of everything else that happens in this world, and because of who he is and the great salvation he offers then that is saying a lot; a lot more in my opinion than a God who forces and determines it all to happen.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  2. GUNNY HARTMAN August 8, 2007 at 9:42 am #

    I don’t have a problem with seeing God as a cosmic narcissist, though as you note it would not be a vice for Him to be such.

    If He wasn’t worthy, then it was be an errant vanity, but He would be wrong to focus on on anything less than His own glory.

    Like ours, God’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Himself forever.

  3. Luke Britt August 8, 2007 at 10:03 am #

    Bryan,

    There is a line between our freedom and God’s freedom that is hard to interpret. But from my study of the Scriptures it seems that man chooses what he wants all of the time. I choose to ignore my wife and kids. I choose to read my Bible. I choose to eat too much. I choose to praise and worship God. However, at the same time God is the one who must change our hearts in order for us to truly want what is true and right. (This is complicated and is what I think Paul is explaining in Romans 7). By nature we are children of wrath, not of love. God’s wrath was hovering over us because of our sin, but he chose us for redemption. The great choice is God’s choice, not ours. We respond to the what the Lord has done because he has begun his work in us.

    The doctrine of election is a tough one, but we must remember that God does as he pleases and that is not up for debate.

  4. Daniel August 8, 2007 at 10:11 am #

    If determinism is true, then the holocaust was nothing but a cosmic puppet show. Do you really think that brings glory to God?

    Calvinism ultimately robs God of His glory by making Him the first cause of all evil.

    Traditional Arminianism teaches that God is still in control of evil. He allows it. He permits it. But He is not the cause of evil.

  5. Kristian Ellefsen August 8, 2007 at 10:31 am #

    Daniel –

    I am passing through here but thought I would respond very quickly.

    Calvinism does not teach that God is the cause of evil nor the author of evil. It simply teaches that He orchestrates it and ordains it to be. The difference is huge and it is an undeniable fact when Scripture is read as Scripture.

    Read the story of Job and you will see God as the orchestrator and ultimate ordaining force of Job’s calamities. Job never attributes any of his calamities to satan…only to God. And God never rebukes Job for attributing all of these calamities as from His hand. Satan is the evil one who is choosing to do his evil – but that evil is not apart from God’s plan nor does God simply “allow” it – He plans it this way. The mystery line between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility is difficult to understand…but to say that God simply allows evil is to rob God of His glory as the ultimate sovereign Lord of the universe.

    As John Piper said in his sermon on Chapter 1 and 2 of Job: “God reigns…satan is a lackey!” Satan does his evil…God uses that evil in the plan He ordained before Satan was even created. How can satan be responsible for the evil he does when God ordained that it be so? Read Romans 9 and you will see that the answer is simple – who are we to talk back to God and tell Him that it’s not our fault we were made this way!

    I liked your post Denny!

    God is not a “narcissist” because when He admires His own glory He does so in a trinitarian way. The Father loves and adores the Son and glorifies Him…the Son loves and adores the Father and glorifies Him…the Holy Spirit loves and adores…etc. Of course, God is one but maybe that helps explain why it is not narcissism for God to admire Himself and His glory.

    Blessings,

    Kristian

  6. Garrett August 8, 2007 at 10:43 am #

    Daniel,

    Even worse than the Holocaust was the denial, betrayal and crucifixion of the Son of God. And yet:

    “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23)

    “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur” (Acts 4:27-28).

    If God’s predestination of an event makes it a “puppet show”, then that is all that the crucifixion of the Son of God amounts to. I, for one, am thankful that that is not the case.

    Garrett

  7. jigawatt August 8, 2007 at 10:44 am #

    Daniel said:
    “If determinism is true, then the holocaust was nothing but a cosmic puppet show.”

    Many reformed folks (such as Piper) have responded to these kinds of accusations. I would really like to hear you respond to the substance of their arguments.

    Imagine how you would feel if I went around making comments like “If traditional Arminianism were true, then people are saved by works and not by grace.” I hope you would call me out on it.

  8. Daniel August 8, 2007 at 11:18 am #

    In Grudem’s Systematic Theology, he describes the relationship between God and man in determinism as that of an author and the characters in his story.

    The characters can only play the part that the author writes for them. So if Grudem is an accurate voice for Calvinism, (and most folks would say that he is), then Hitler did what he did because that was the part that God wrote for him. Or Judas betrayed Christ because that was the part written for him.

    That doesn’t seem like genuine freedom to me. And it just rings hollow as an explanation for human suffering and sin.

    To say that sin is in the world simply because God decided to make up characters that would play certain parts robs God of His glory.

    In the Bible, the relationship between God and man is much deeper than that of an author and his characters.

    That’s not to say that God doesn’t have a plan over the course of history. I just can’t buy the divine manipulator view of God that determinism teaches.

  9. Daniel August 8, 2007 at 11:23 am #

    BTW,

    In Job, most commentators now point out that “Satan” should be translated “the satan” or better “the accuser.”

    The author of Job probably wasn’t referring to the devil as revealed in the NT.

    But that’s kinda a rabbit’s trail.

  10. Garrett August 8, 2007 at 11:39 am #

    Daniel said: “That doesn’t seem like genuine freedom to me. And it just rings hollow as an explanation for human suffering and sin.”

    Please don’t take this the wrong way, but the test for truth is not what “seems” right to you, but what the Bible actually says (To take just two examples, see the passages I quoted above). If we were committed to only following the Bible as far as it “seemed to make sense” to us, then we are going to be in a lot of trouble with the Trinity, the person of Christ, and on and on it goes. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility is by no means the only doctrine in Scripture that is beyond our ability to fully understand.

    Daniel said: “To say that sin is in the world simply because God decided to make up characters that would play certain parts robs God of His glory.”

    This would only rob God of his glory IF this in fact isn’t the way things actually are, which of course is the very thing in question. In other words, you’re assuming the very thing as true that you are supposed to be proving.

    Daniel said: “In the Bible, the relationship between God and man is much deeper than that of an author and his characters.”

    This is certainly true, and is something I’m sure Grudem would admit to. Every illustration is imperfect, especially when we are talking about something as mysterious as this. But it’s not an issue of whether or not the illustration is perfect, but whether or not the spiritual truth that the illustration is attempting to portray is Biblical.

    Daniel said: “That’s not to say that God doesn’t have a plan over the course of history. I just can’t buy the divine manipulator view of God that determinism teaches.”

    Pejorative language such as this does nothing to further the conversation. Again, the issue is one of exegetical fidelity. Was God acting as a “divine manipulator” when he predetermined the crucifixion of His Son, and the events surrounding it (again, see above scriptures)?

    Take care,

    Garrett

  11. Bryan L August 8, 2007 at 11:58 am #

    Kristian,

    “Calvinism does not teach that God is the cause of evil nor the author of evil. It simply teaches that He orchestrates it and ordains it to be.”

    Please excuse me if I don’t see the difference, but if Hitler never killed one person in the Holocaust yet is the cause of the Holocaust then what is the difference?

    Regarding Job, it is primarily a wisdom book (maybe an extended parable and not based on actual history) and I don’t think it’s wise to build your theology of theodicy from the book of Job and his statements or everything that is literally stated in the narrative. If anything it seems like the main purpose is to counter the common belief that bad things happen because of our actions or sins. Job is never given any insight into heaven and God’s answer summed up is basically it’s too complicated for you to understand. Unless you are willing to believe that God goes around making bets on our lives with Satan, or believe that everyone of Job’s statements accurately reflect God’s nature for example Job 1:16-18
    “16 If I hold my head high, you stalk me like a lion and again display your awesome power against me. 17 You bring new witnesses against me and increase your anger toward me; your forces come against me wave upon wave. 18 “Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me.”

    “The mystery line between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility is difficult to understand…but to say that God simply allows evil is to rob God of His glory as the ultimate sovereign Lord of the universe.”

    The way you define sovereignty is controlling this whole discussion though. I’m sorry but I don’t think we are robbing God of any glory unless you think it’s glorious for someone to do or cause evil.

    Romans 9 is curious because it is appealed to that God is the cause of evil for secret purposes because of his Glory. Yet Paul seems to be speaking of God’s choice in choosing who he will for his purposes (noble and common) and he specifically addresses this in terms of Jews and Gentiles (who I’m guessing were made for destruction.) Yet what Paul says brings God glory is his patience with those who he made for destruction. In fact I’m not sure the Bible speaks of God being glorified in the way you speak of (secretly by causing tragedy and evil). If God is glorified by tragedy it’s glorified by people either in repentance to his punishment or because his punishment on one people ended in salvation for another.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  12. Josh Gelatt August 8, 2007 at 12:07 pm #

    The doctrine of the Trinity has greatly helped me understand this issue of God’s supposed “self-love”. I would respectively disagree with the statement that it is a virtue for God to be self-interested. It would be the most horrible of vices for God to be so.

    So how does this relate to the Trinity? While I admit the Bible uses language of God’s self-interest, we need to look “deeper”, and the doctrine of the Trinity helps us with this.

    God is the eternal and divine “other-interested” God. The Father eternal pours out love and adoration for the Son and Spirit. These likewise do the same for the others. Instead of self-interest or narcissism, each person of the Trinity exalts the others.

    In this sense, God is the most self-less (not the most self-interested) being there is.

  13. Gary H. August 8, 2007 at 12:08 pm #

    There’s something preposterous about humans ascribing an attribute to God (narcissistic) that God has not ascribed to Himself.

    Christianity is a “revealed” faith. Let’s go to the revelation, the Bible, to learn who God is.

  14. Bryan L August 8, 2007 at 12:10 pm #

    Garrett,

    The appeal to the crucifixion in this discussion is often unhelpful, especially since it is not in anyway similar to the other evil in the world you are attributing to God. Jesus chose to go to the cross. The Godhead decided to sacrifice itself and take the punishment of sin on itself instead of man and came to earth to take care of it. Jesus wasn’t some unlucky sucker who had no choice in the matter and didn’t know why it was happening to him. Instead he was the one who brought it on and the one who decided to sacrifice himself. I think something like Aslan’s action in the Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe or the Trojan Horse in the myth of the Trojan War are good analogies of what was happening. God defeated evil by exploiting it for what it is; completely evil and consuming even to the point of being self destructive and the cause of it’s own downfall. Again this act was so different and unique from anything in history that it does no good to use it as the basis of how God could have a purpose for all this evil that happens in the world (third world kids dying of hunger, or being raped and murdered, abortions, tsunamis, suicide bombers etc…) and worse be somehow mysteriously glorified through it.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  15. Kristian Ellefsen August 8, 2007 at 12:10 pm #

    Daniel,

    Last time I checked…Satan is referred to as the “accuser” in the NT! Check out Revelation 12:10

    But, as you say, it is a rabbit’s trail and does little to disprove God’s absolute sovereignty in the calamities of Job. It doesn’t matter if it was a horse or a fairy who carried out the evil in Job’s life…per the Scripture it was ordained and willed by God in Job’s life.

    Notice how God “offers” up Job to the satan – “have you considered my servant Job?” It’s as if God is setting Job up and dangling a carrot in front of satan.

    And once the calamities have taken place, Job says:

    “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Job 1:20-22

    “‘Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Job 2:9

    You would be hard pressed to find more blatant evidence for God’s will in sinful events. It is not that “The Lord gave and satan took away” but “The Lord gave and the Lord took away.” It is not that good comes from God and trouble/evil is from satan – it is “shall we receive good from God and not evil?” The inference is that to think differently regarding evil is to be foolish. It does not say that God authored or did the evil…simply that he ordained it. The author specifically states on both occasions that Job does not sin in attributing the calamities in his life directly to God.

    Again, nowhere does it state that God authors the evil, but it does state that God ordained it and had purpose in it.

    The trick is to also realize that God is not only absolutely sovereign – He is also absolutely good. He is love and all He does is good.

    Along with Amos 3:6, Romans 9, and the verses in Acts listed by Garrett – Job shows a picture of a mighty, sovereign, good, merciful, powerful God who is to be worshipped. If God “allows” sin or scratches His head when it happens, or must “bend it” and correct it when it does happen – we are no longer talking about the God of the Bible but a God of human imagination. The Bible simply does not teach that it is so.

    Blessings,

    Kristian

  16. Bryan L August 8, 2007 at 12:25 pm #

    Garret,
    Daniel said: “To say that sin is in the world simply because God decided to make up characters that would play certain parts robs God of His glory.”
    You respond “This would only rob God of his glory IF this in fact isn’t the way things actually are, which of course is the very thing in question. In other words, you’re assuming the very thing as true that you are supposed to be proving.”
    It’s only because y’all are being elusive in stating what you believe. It’s a moving target which is impossible to argue against. One will say they believe that and the next won’t. Sorry but we see determinism as meaning God determines everything. We’re not trying to prove anything. Y’all are arguing for determinism. We are drawing out the implications of what determinism means. If you don’t believe this is what determinism means then explain what you do believe. For the sake of clarity why don’t you state your position? If you believe in determinism then how do you define it? Don’t leave us to have to piece together your views based on a statement here and there.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  17. jigawatt August 8, 2007 at 12:59 pm #

    Bryan L. said:
    “The appeal to the crucifixion in this discussion is often unhelpful, especially since it is not in anyway similar to the other evil in the world you are attributing to God.”

    I think the example of the crucifixion is very helpful in this discussion. Jesus did indeed make a choice to go to the cross, but how would he have done that unless there were people who set up the cross and nailed him to it? Pilate, Judas, the Jewish leaders, they all took part in this of their own (dare I say it) free will. But somehow their choices were part of God’s plan all along.

    Acts 2:22-23 (NIV)
    “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

    The crucifixion itself was carried out by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge, and yet the people who did it are still held accountable for that sin.

  18. Garrett August 8, 2007 at 1:08 pm #

    Bryan L said: “For the sake of clarity why don’t you state your position? If you believe in determinism then how do you define it? Don’t leave us to have to piece together your views based on a statement here and there.”

    I sincerely apologize Bryan, as I wasn’t trying to be elusive about where I stood; I thought it was clear based on what I said what my position was. I hold that God does indeed determine everything that comes to pass, but that He does so in such a way that He is never able to be charged for the guilt of the sin that comes about as a result of His determination. In addition, He determines everything in such a way that man remains a REAL (not a robot or puppet), responsible moral agent, always acting according to his own desires, and is never forced to do something against his own will.

    If I were asked to write a paper on this, I would probably tease it out even further, but I think this should suffice in the context of the discussion.

    Thanks for allowing me to clarify this.

    Garrett

  19. Luke Britt August 8, 2007 at 1:10 pm #

    #4 Daniel,

    Was God too weak to stop the holocaust?

    I assume you don’t think so. So maybe this is a better question:

    Why did God allow the holocaust?

  20. Garrett August 8, 2007 at 1:24 pm #

    Bryan L said: “Jesus wasn’t some unlucky sucker who had no choice in the matter and didn’t know why it was happening to him. Instead he was the one who brought it on and the one who decided to sacrifice himself.”

    This is certainly true, but Jesus could have died a myriad of ways. The point is not just that God predetermined that Jesus would die (and that Jesus just consented to dying, generally speaking), but that God also predetermined the SPECIFIC WAY in which Jesus would die, a way which included many sinful acts on the part of other men which were themselves predetermined by God.

    Bryan L said: “The appeal to the crucifixion in this discussion is often unhelpful, especially since it is not in anyway similar to the other evil in the world you are attributing to God.”

    It is similar in the main sense that is under discussion, i.e., that God caused it. I would agree that it is unique, but my point in bringing it up was because it is particularly illustrative of the broader Biblical idea that God does predetermine the evil that comes to pass in this world, but does so in such a way that He is not charged with guilt, and that those who are involved act freely and bear the guilt of their actions.

    Bryan L said: “Again this act was so different and unique from anything in history that it does no good to use it as the basis of how God could have a purpose for all this evil that happens in the world”

    But this seems to change the focus of the discussion, as the “Why?” question is different than the “what?” question. I would agree that the PURPOSE behind the evil that occurs in this world is oftentimes mysterious, but that doesn’t change the fact that God is still the one who determined it.

    Garrett

  21. Chase August 8, 2007 at 1:28 pm #

    God is in Heaven, He can do whatever He wants and is not unjust. He owes no human any answer for anything. Will the creation say to the Creator, “why did you make me like this?” Who are humans to question God?

  22. Bryan L August 8, 2007 at 2:24 pm #

    Garret,

    You are asking Daniel to prove that determinism does not equal divine puppet master, and that this is the reason that sin is in the world, yet your position is the one that does not make sense logically and is in need of a serious defense. Our characterization of determinism flows naturally from it and doesn’t need a defense. To say it doesn’t is to throw all logic out the window in an attempt to try to defend God from the natural conclusions of your beliefs.

    You say “that God does indeed determine everything that comes to pass, but that He does so in such a way that He is never able to be charged for the guilt of the sin that comes about as a result of His determination. In addition, He determines everything in such a way that man remains a REAL (not a robot or puppet), responsible moral agent, always acting according to his own desires, and is never forced to do something against his own will.”

    That doesn’t make sense. If God determined my desires then yeah they’re my desires but they are only so because God determined them to be. Your position is contradictory and makes no sense and it’s plain to everyone, that’s why you must appeal to mystery to explain it, or else you would have already explained it easily and we would need to defend our position. Instead the only defense I’m seeing is an appeal to “that’s what the Bible says”. The Bible does not say that. Y’all are inferring that from the Bible.

    If I determine everything including evil then, then you could say that without me determining it, evil wouldn’t have happened. Tell me then how then I wouldn’t be the cause of evil if it can only happen by me determining it?

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  23. Bryan L August 8, 2007 at 2:25 pm #

    Luke Britt,
    You said, “Why did God allow the holocaust?” You’re asking the wrong question. You are assuming that everything in the world must go through an approval process with God. God allows free will. Sometimes he overrides it because he’s free. Why? Who knows. It could be any number of reasons like response to prayer, or judgment or whatever. The spiritual realm is complex, just look at some of the apocalyptic material in the Bible. There’s all kinds of stuff going on up there; battles are being waged. Sure we can ask why did God allow something like the Holocaust, but a better question would be why did we allow it to happen? Why did a nation give a man the freedom to do this and why did it take so long to intervene? How our we responsible for our actions? God gives us free will and we must use it responsibly. Much evil happens because we don’t. The point is not to ask why God allowed something to happen. Must God intervene and stop us from using our free will whenever we are going to use it in a way he doesn’t approve. It wouldn’t be free will then would it. We would still be robots.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  24. Bryan L August 8, 2007 at 2:29 pm #

    Chase you’re right God doesn’t need to give any answers and he can do whatever he wants. What does need an answer is a theology that says that God determines everything that happens even the evil in the world and then attribute it to God’s glory; a theology that appeals to what is obviously contradictory and then tries to say it’s not by some divine mystery.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  25. Daniel August 8, 2007 at 2:33 pm #

    Luke Britt,

    I think that is a much better question.

    “Why did God allow the Holocaust?”

    I’m not sure that I know the answer to that question. I could guess, but ultimately that answer would be imperfect. Maybe we will know in the new heavens and earth. God definitely had the power to stop it.

    I would take issue with anyone who would say that God caused the Holocaust or the Cross. Determinism connects evil too close to God. God’s holiness should make us think once or twice about doing that.

    Chase,

    You’re right. God can do anything He wants. However, God always wants to do what is holy and perfect. Sin is always an insult to His character. God would never want us to sin. God would never make or cause us sin. When we sin, it’s our own fault. He is never the cause of our sinful behavior.

  26. Garrett August 8, 2007 at 2:46 pm #

    Bryan L said: “If I determine everything including evil then, then you could say that without me determining it, evil wouldn’t have happened. Tell me then how then I wouldn’t be the cause of evil if it can only happen by me determining it?”

    Aside from an overabundance of the use of “then” =), I think you may have misunderstood my position, as I never denied that God was the “cause” of evil. I only said that though God is the ultimate “cause” or “determiner” of evil, He is not chargeable for the guilt of that evil, not to mention that the evil is brought about by second causes.

    Bryan L said: “Instead the only defense I’m seeing is an appeal to “that’s what the Bible says”. The Bible does not say that. Y’all are inferring that from the Bible.”

    And you are inferring your position from the Bible. I would honestly hope that we all are! But the question is, which position does the Bible actually support? Granted, I’ve only quoted two verses, but I have yet to see you wrestle with them. There are a lot of other verses I could bring out, but don’t have the time or space here. If you are interested, see Piper’s article “Are There Two Wills in God?”.

    Bryan L said: “That doesn’t make sense. If God determined my desires then yeah they’re my desires but they are only so because God determined them to be. Your position is contradictory and makes no sense and it’s plain to everyone, that’s why you must appeal to mystery to explain it, or else you would have already explained it easily and we would need to defend our position.”

    It might not make sense to you, just as the doctrine of the Trinity and of the two natures of Christ don’t make sense to a lot of people. My appeal to mystery may seem like a cop-out, but at the end of the day, it becomes necessary as we can only go as far as the Bible takes us. But merely calling my position nonsense and contradictory doesn’t make it so :D If you want to prove me wrong, it will have to be on the basis of Scripture.

  27. Wesley August 8, 2007 at 3:01 pm #

    Perhaps a distinction should be made between moral and amoral “evil”. God is not responsible (and therefore does not ordain) moral evil. But God does command amoral types of “evil”, such as floods and lightening strikes, and possibly bridge collapses.

    I’m Augustinian in my view of moral evil, so I would say it does not “exsist” in any positive way, but is the lack of any goodness.

    I also don’t see determinism nor non-determinism in the Bible. I cannot say God ordained the holocaust, but I can’t say he was too weak to stop it either.

    I do have some questions for the determinists:

    1) if God is in control of every action by determination, then it seems to follow that my actions are done by his control or command, therefore when I sin, do I sin by the command of God? And if so then does God not command sin?
    -Note: this is not the same objection as in Romans. I am not objecting to how God made me or anyone else (he can ordain sin if he wants to, and can ordain some to sin and punish them if he wants to) the question is over logical consistency. If your theology leads you to say “God commands sin” and the bible says he doesn’t, then the theology needs to be reevaluated.

    2) How can determinism square with Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:1-8? Jesus’ whole point seems to be if the Judge is influenced to act quickly due to the woman how much more is God influenced to act due to the elect. If determinism is true, then prayers are per-determined and this parable would be meaningless.

    3) how come we humans experience actual choice? Is it merely an illusion? Why would God give us that illusion?

    4) If Adam and Eve were determined to Sin and after that we all sin because God has determined it, can you really hold to total depravity? All that happened is that god decided two people would sin and everyone after them would continue to do so, at which point no part of human nature needs to be changed, because sin would not come out of human nature, but out of God deciding to make them act in sin at a specific time.

    5) Is glorification merely the state when God decides we will no longer sin? If so then (similar to above) is there any real total depravity that needs to be “undone”? And if not, then can you really still hold to determinism?

  28. Nate August 8, 2007 at 3:46 pm #

    Bryan L,
    I would be curious as to how you would interpret Isa_10:5-19.

    Isaiah 10:5-19 ESV Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger;
    the staff in their hands is my fury! 6 Against a godless nation I send him,
    and against the people of my wrath I command him,
    to take spoil and seize plunder,
    and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. 7 But he does not so intend,
    and his heart does not so think;
    but it is in his heart to destroy,
    and to cut off nations not a few; 8 for he says:
    “Are not my commanders all kings? 9 Is not Calno like Carchemish?
    Is not Hamath like Arpad?
    Is not Samaria like Damascus? 10 As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
    whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, 11 shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols
    as I have done to Samaria and her images?” 12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he[1] will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. 13 For he says:
    “By the strength of my hand I have done it,
    and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;
    I remove the boundaries of peoples,
    and plunder their treasures;
    like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones. 14 My hand has found like a nest
    the wealth of the peoples;
    and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken,
    so I have gathered all the earth;
    and there was none that moved a wing
    or opened the mouth or chirped.” 15 Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
    or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?
    As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
    or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood! 16 Therefore the Lord GOD of hosts
    will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,
    and under his glory a burning will be kindled,
    like the burning of fire. 17 The light of Israel will become a fire,
    and his Holy One a flame,
    and it will burn and devour
    his thorns and briers in one day. 18 The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land
    the LORD will destroy, both soul and body,
    and it will be as when a sick man wastes away. 19 The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few
    that a child can write them down.

  29. Luke Britt August 8, 2007 at 3:49 pm #

    “Both (divine sovereignty and human responsibility) are thus guaranteed to us by the same divine authority; both, therefore are true. It follows that they must be held together, and not played off against each other. Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent. God’s sovereignty is a reality, and man’s responsibility is a reality too.”

    I haven’t yet stated my position on determinism, but I do think that Dr. Packer’s words (Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God pg. 22-23) are relevant to our conversation. It’s not either or or; it is both. That is why it is difficult. We must say that people freely come to Christ, but we must also say that God is the one who begins the work. We must say that we are free to choose good or evil. But we must also say that God uses us for his purposes. God is fully in control and man is able to make genuine choices.

  30. Andre August 8, 2007 at 4:34 pm #

    Totally off Topic here but I thought it was cool as I was reading John Piper’s blog that he quoted Denny…That is pretty cool…

    Andre

  31. Bryan L August 8, 2007 at 5:26 pm #

    Garrett,

    “And you are inferring your position from the Bible. I would honestly hope that we all are! But the question is, which position does the Bible actually support? Granted, I’ve only quoted two verses, but I have yet to see you wrestle with them. There are a lot of other verses I could bring out, but don’t have the time or space here. If you are interested, see Piper’s article “Are There Two Wills in God?”.”

    What I mean by inferring is that the verses you cite only say a little bit, but then you are taking them further then they were intended to be. They say God predestined Jesus to be crucified and then you say well this must mean that God predetermines everything or is behind every bad thing that happens: God would have had to determine all the individual events that lead to the crucifixion or else he wouldn’t have been able to guarantee it would happen. That’s taking the verse far beyond what it was intended to say. Romans, Acts and Job are the ones most often quoted in this debate (you’d think there are no others), yet none of these verses say or imply that God determines everything that happens in the world and in history. The generally have to do with one event or even one person and it is specifically revealed that God was behind that, and there is still plenty of freedom involved in those events that God didn’t predetermine. The Biblical writers did not assume God was behind everything and that he determined everything or else it wouldn’t have needed to be explicitly stated when he was behind certain events. They seem to assume the opposite instead; that God has created us free and that he has not determined everything and in fact his creation often disobeys him and does what he does not want them to; that his creation is in rebellion to him and he didn’t determine that to happen. Just read the whole Bible. It presupposes this. Read the narratives and how God interacts with his creation. Read his prophecies and notice how they appeal to God punishing his people because they did not do as he wished. Throughout the whole Bible it pretty much assumes human freedom and a non-deterministic worldview. Sure there might be a few passage here or there that says differently but those are the odd ones out and the ones that are the exceptions that prove the rule. They may in fact say nothing more than God does sometimes override freedom or determines things here and there, but definitely not everything.

    The problem that then happens is that you assign those few passages hermeneutical priority and use them to interpret the rest of scripture, instead of using the rest of scripture to interpret those few passages as you should be doing. This then creates a contradictory theology where you affirm that God determines everything (even all the evil that happens) but is somehow not responsible and man is still responsible. And then you try to say it isn’t contradictory, when everyone can clearly see that it is or it wouldn’t be the big problem that it is.

    It’s a lot easier to affirm we don’t know why some things happen but that God is sovereign and he will have the last word, than it is to say God controls and determines everything including the bad things that happen but he’s not responsible for the evil that happens or the evil we do (even though he determined that we would do it.)

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  32. Daniel August 8, 2007 at 6:36 pm #

    Nate,

    Is there something in particular that you have in mind in bringing up Isaiah 10?

    I fail to see how it exactly applies. Just dropping a passage on the conservation without explaining it doesn’t bring any clarity.

    God uses the evil actions of one nation to punish another evil nation. That doesn’t mean that the Bible supports determinism.

    Isaiah 10 fits into Molinistic or Arminian theology just fine.

  33. Lucas Knisely August 8, 2007 at 8:42 pm #

    Bryan L said:
    “That’s taking the verse far beyond what it was intended to say. Romans, Acts and Job are the ones most often quoted in this debate (you’d think there are no others), yet none of these verses say or imply that God determines everything that happens in the world and in history. The generally have to do with one event or even one person and it is specifically revealed that God was behind that, and there is still plenty of freedom involved in those events that God didn’t predetermine.”

    Arguing from silence is just as grave an error as “taking a verse beyond what it was intended to say”. Hopefully nobody here wishes to add to the Bible or insert their own theological agenda. But I must show that what you are claiming is not an accurate representation of the Scriptures.

    Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things

    Job 37:10-13
    10 By the breath of God ice is given,and the broad waters are frozen fast.
    11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning.
    12 They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.
    13 Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

    These are two quick examples off the top of my head. In neither of these instances is there a specific time or place being referred to. The providence and sovereignty of God is being defined and defended. Something that is needed today, as proof from the very debate we are having.

    Bryan, you say all these examples “generally have to do with one event”. Well, I must ask you how the above passages deal with one event? And if by some stretch you attempt to show that these are specific instances, where does it say that God doesn’t always control the weather? Where does it say that God doesn’t always control calamity? You will be forced to argue from silence, which as I stated above, is just as grave an error as taking a verse beyond its limits.

    And keep in mind I’ve done nothing but quote the verses. I’m allowing their plain wording to argue for me.

  34. Bryan L August 8, 2007 at 8:49 pm #

    Also the interesting thing about Isaiah 10 is that God punishes Assyria because it tries to go further than God wants them to. They are set on dominating all the nations and God just wants them to be his discipline and punishment on Israel/Judah. But they want to go further than God wants them to go and in the process they blaspheme God. It is another example of the vicious cycle of evil that it eventually self destructs. This is an evil people, but their own evil nature will be their demise as they lift themselves up even against God.
    Yeah, I’m not surprised that God would let evil take it’s course on it’s self but as Daniel has pointed out “God uses the evil actions of one nation to punish another evil nation. That doesn’t mean that the Bible supports determinism.”, especially when you consider that he’s punishing each nation because they are doing what he doesn’t want them to. He’s not determined that Israel and Judah will be disobedient and the Assyria will be blasphemous and tyrants, which they are and which He’ll punish them for. Again the prophetic books are filled with examples of God’s creation rebelling against him and doing what he doesn’t want them to do.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  35. Garrett August 8, 2007 at 10:00 pm #

    Bryan L,

    This is going to be my last comment, though I do appreciate the interaction. I simply don’t have the time to do justice to all of your points, so I’ll just part with a few brief thoughts. Again, I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to check out some of the standard works if they desire more support for my position. Piper’s article “Are There Two Wills in God?” is especially good, as are Carson’s book “How Long Oh Lord?” and Robert Reymond’s systematic theology. If these men are unable to convince you, then I highly doubt that I will be able to! That being said, here are a few parting words…

    Bryan L said: “What I mean by inferring is that the verses you cite only say a little bit, but then you are taking them further then they were intended to be. They say God predestined Jesus to be crucified and then you say well this must mean that God predetermines everything or is behind every bad thing that happens”

    I didn’t mean to imply that those two verses by themselves are the lone support for my position (Though I’ve yet to see you seriously interact with them). I feel like I could quote literally a hundred similar verses (Again, see the works I referenced above for more support). Rather I was simply quoting a couple of verses that I do think are particularly illustrative of a general principle that is found throughout the Bible. Also, the verses I cited do NOT just say that God predestined that Jesus would be crucified, but they also say that the events surrounding his crucifixion were also predestined; see Acts 4:27:28.

    Bryan L said: “Romans, Acts and Job are the ones most often quoted in this debate (you’d think there are no others), yet none of these verses say or imply that God determines everything that happens in the world and in history.”

    Again, there are FAR more verses than just those from Romans, Acts and Job. Your comment here makes me wonder if you have ever read some of the standard works on this subject from the Calvinistic viewpoint? I don’t mean to sound demeaning, but I can’t imagine someone saying that who has read Piper or Reymond on the subject, not to mention Carson, Helm, Schreiner, Grudem, etc. You may not agree with our position, but at least be honest enough to admit that we attempt to bolster our position by quoting from more than just three books of the Bible :D

    Bryan L said: “The Biblical writers did not assume God was behind everything and that he determined everything or else it wouldn’t have needed to be explicitly stated when he was behind certain events.”

    That may explain some of the verses, but it doesn’t cover those that are of a more general nature, e.g., Prov. 16:4, 9, 33; Eph. 1:11, just to name a few.

    Bryan L said: “Sure there might be a few passage here or there that says differently but those are the odd ones out and the ones that are the exceptions that prove the rule.”

    I guess my question here is, “How many exceptions do you have to have before you realize that the rule you are setting up needs to be reformulated? How many exceptions do I need to show you?”

    Bryan L said: “This then creates a contradictory theology where you affirm that God determines everything (even all the evil that happens) but is somehow not responsible and man is still responsible. And then you try to say it isn’t contradictory, when everyone can clearly see that it is or it wouldn’t be the big problem that it is.”

    But isn’t that exactly what those passages from Acts 2 and 4 are affirming? And if it’s not a contradiction there, then why would it suddenly become one if I affirmed that God works that way in every detail of history, and not just the crucifixion of His Son?

    Bryan L said: “It’s a lot easier to affirm we don’t know why some things happen but that God is sovereign and he will have the last word, than it is to say God controls and determines everything including the bad things that happen but he’s not responsible for the evil that happens or the evil we do (even though he determined that we would do it.)”

    You are setting up a false dichotomy here, as I would affirm BOTH sides of the equation. Again, you are confusing the “What?” question and the “Why?” question. I have no problem affirming that we don’t always know “why” something happened, in terms of how this particular even is working out for God’s glory and the good of His people. But that doesn’t mean that I have to be in doubt about the “what”, i.e., that He DID determine it to take place, etc.

    Bryan L said: “Again the prophetic books are filled with examples of God’s creation rebelling against him and doing what he doesn’t want them to do.”

    Yes, but this in no way militates against my position. Think once more of the passage in Acts 4. Is murder a sin? Yes. Does God “want” people to commit murder? Obviously not, as He has specifically commanded us not to. And yet, the passage explicitly says that those who crucified Jesus were doing exactly what God predetermined beforehand to happen.

    Two other verses that are helpful in this regard are Ezek. 18:23 and 1 Sam. 2:25. I would just point out (quoting from the NASB) that the word for “pleasure” in Ezekiel (“Do I have any PLEASURE in the death of the wicked…”) is the SAME WORD in the Heb. that is translated “desire” in 1 Sam. 2 (“…the Lord DESIRED to put them to death”).

    So which is it, does He or doesn’t He “desire” or take “pleasure” in the death of the wicked? I don’t see how the force of these two passages can be avoided, as they seem to clearly show that God can indeed will or desire in one sense, what He does not will or desire in another sense. For additional support, see the Piper article referenced above.

    Well, that’s all I have Bryan. Again, thank you for the interaction.

    Take care brother,

    Garrett

  36. Mason Beecroft August 9, 2007 at 12:11 am #

    Someone asked Luther what God was doing before the creation. He paraphrased Augustine and answered, “Creating a special place in hell for people who ask such questions.”

    We ought not to look into the hidden mind of God in an attempt to understand why tragedies and holocausts take place, but rely on what He has revealed to us. He has revealed Himself in His Son, who bore the weight of all evil in His body on the cross. The cross is the only answer to the question of “why” in the midst of unexplainable tragedy.

    Lutherans like to make the distinction between the hidden God and the revealed God. There is much that is hidden about God. But He has revealed Himself in His Son and through His Word. This Word, however, does not give pure or total insight.
    Election is certainly a biblical teaching, although it does not demand a deterministic worldview. Again, we do not look into the mind of God, but we look to what He has revealed to us concerning the salvation of the world. We look to Jesus and His cross, trusting in His work on our behalf. This is the revealed location of our salvation. If we begin to probe the mind of God in election for salvation, then our focus is on our fruits and, if honest with ourselves, we can only be deadly afraid.

    We can play “what if” games until we are blue in the face, but the reality is that we do not know exactly how God works through such things. We only know that He is at work for His ends. Humans are certainly free, but their freedom is limited according to its sinful nature that leads to profound evil. Our freedom is bound by sin. Only God’s unmerited grace can free us from our diseased freedom. God is free, and His freedom allows Him to do whatever He wishes according to His limitless knowledge and mercy. His freedom is bound by nothing other than His ineffable love.

    BTW, the calvinism/arminianism debate is really late on the scene. It usually devolves into a debate over some particular scriptures that lead to one side labeling the other either as Gnostic determinists or Pelagians. I can find Scriptures that argue well for both… but God cannot be fully understood or reduced to these narratives. He certainly reveals Himself, but does not completely reveal Himself. To do so would mean that He is less than God.
    +Mason

  37. Bryan L August 9, 2007 at 12:35 am #

    Lucas,

    I’m not making the argument from silence you are. I’m appealing to what the text clearly says (that God caused these particular tragedies to occur) and asking that we not go beyond that. That’s all it says, I believe. You are trying to argue further than what it says. It doesn’t say anything else about God’s role in the rest of the evil in the world. Yet you want to take a passage like that, which is limited in what it says and run with what it doesn’t say and apply it broadly to all the event that happen in the world.

    That might be plausible if it weren’t for the fact that much of the evil in the world occurs by the evil choices that humans make. And we constantly have God telling his creation not to do evil and exhorting them to do good. And then you want to say that because Job may say that God was behind Jobs suffering that all of the sudden he is also the source of all suffering and the evil choices that people make that he explicitly tells them not to do and is grieved when they do it.

    Lucas please just take some time to look through the Bible, and see how God treats and reacts to evil and ask yourself if God appears like he’s the cause behind it. Forgive me if I see all this evidence leaning one way (towards God not determining evil) and this makes me cautious about reading more out of verses in Job or Acts, especially when they don’t demand that I do. I believe God can cause things to happen (even seemingly bad things through punishment). I just don’t believe that he causes everything to happen and I don’t see your verses as supporting that.

    I could give an answer to your Isaiah and Job verses but as you stated you are not interested in that. As soon as I explain them and show them addressing a particular context you will just demand that I prove that it doesn’t say that God doesn’t always cause weather issues or calamity. Why would I want to do that? That would be going beyond what the text actually says, which is something I am arguing we don’t do. I can’t win according to your rules.

    Truthfully I don’t feel it is beneficial to go round and around giving riddles to each other trying to outwit each other. My time would be better spent elsewhere.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  38. Bryan L August 9, 2007 at 12:56 am #

    Garret, I agree with you, I don’t have the time either, nor do I see it as beneficial to keep going back and forth on this (it’s already taken too much out of my time, but hey I’m a sucker for these debates). And I won’t be able to respond to your whole post, which is unfortunate since you make some good points. Although you are quoting many verses, it seems most of the scriptures seem like proof texts and it would take an inordinate amount of time and space to go through all of them explaining them in their context, and why I don’t see the as supporting your case and just as soon as I get through with one someone else will throw another one out there. I keep bringing up the whole narrative of the Bible and the way we see God interacting with his creations and his attitude towards evil and it seems like I get countered over and over with 2 passages in Acts. Anyway…

    The only thing in your last comment that I want to specifically respond to is your questioning of what I’ve read. Actually I first started out on this by reading those you mentioned. Piper’s article was one of the first I ever read on this subject in the book Still Sovereign and I read Carson’s dissertation on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility early on as well. These were my introductions into the subject. I used to adhere to their teaching, but I just found too many holes in their arguments (IMO) and no longer felt I could honestly subscribe to their views, especially since to me too much of it seemed like special pleading or unlikely harmonizing of scripture. I think it’s funny that so many of y’all assume that if a person doesn’t agree with you then they must have just not read the right books, which y’all then proceed to recommend (I can’t believe how often Piper is appealed to in these discussions.) Thanks for your time.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  39. Lucas Knisely August 9, 2007 at 6:08 am #

    “My time would be better spent elsewhere.”

    I agree, since you didn’t answer my questions. You simply restated that the verses are about specific situations without proving or showing how that is actually true.

  40. Bryan L August 9, 2007 at 7:42 am #

    Lucas you jumped in the game rather late. Forgive me if I’m already burned out from 11 comments I’ve left already (some of which were very long) to 6 different people. Not to mention I just got finished being in one of these long debates on another blog that Denny often links to.

    Sorry I didn’t answer your questions to your satisfaction. All you did was argue that I was making arguments from silence (which I tried to show I wasn’t) and then give me some task to accomplish which you’ve already told me won’t satisfy you. So sorry if I don’t feel like continuing this, but it takes a lot of my time and neither side ends up happy. Don’t take it personal. It’s nothing against you.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  41. Garrett August 9, 2007 at 8:15 am #

    Bryan,

    I know I said that my above comment was my last, but I did want to clarify one thing before leaving; so this IS my last comment! For real this time!

    Bryan L said: “I think it’s funny that so many of y’all assume that if a person doesn’t agree with you then they must have just not read the right books, which y’all then proceed to recommend (I can’t believe how often Piper is appealed to in these discussions.)”

    It was not the fact that you disagreed with my position that caused me to question whether or not you have read any of the standard works in this area. I’m not surprised at all that you could read men like Piper, Reymond and Carson and come away disagreeing with them. People do it all the time! What shocks me is that you can come away from reading the Bible without agreeing with my position :-P

    No, I said what I did because of your comment about people who hold to my position only defending their view with a few select verses from basically three books of the Bible! Anyone who HAS read some of the works I recommended (Which you say you have) would know that that is simply an erroneous, pejorative, and irresponsible statement.

    And yes, Piper is often appealed to in this discussion, for whatever reason. I like to recommend him because I feel he writes with uncommon clarity on this issue, and in a way that can be understood even by those who haven’t read a lot of theology before. Also, I like the fact that almost everything he has ever written is available for free online for people to read.

    Anyhow, I just wanted to offer those clarifications to what I feel may have been a misunderstanding on your part.

    Garrett

  42. Sally L August 9, 2007 at 8:38 am #

    I have never responded to a blog site. But after reading all the debate over whether or not God ordains suffering, I have to weigh in.

    I understand why a world full of unrepentant sinners would belly ache over all the bad things that happen. They haven’t seen the light yet and haven’t realized what sinners they are. But for those of us who have come to realize how desperately we need a Savior…shouldn’t we be asking…WHY WOULD GOD ORDAIN ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO HELL DESERVING SINNERS?!!

    Honestly, folks, knowing what sinners we are, why is it that Christians would quibble over why a JUST God would ordain suffering!! Shouldn’t we stand in awe and amazement that a JUST God would ordain all the blessings you and I enjoy every single day. How could God be GOOD when He seems to reward the evil?!

    I’ve got to ask…do we Christians get what is really going on here? If God were to PLAN for nothing but happy times for a world full of ignorant blind sinners…would we understand the difference between real good and evil? God plans the suffering…and the truth is that suffering is JUST for sinners. But God also ordains the Blessings we enjoy…and for a bunch of fallen sinners doesn’t that MAGNIFY HIS GOODNESS AND HIS GRACE?!!

    It shouldn’t be difficult for Christians to understand why God ordains the suffering. It amazes me that no one is struggling to understand the MYSTERY OF GOODNESS AND GRACE. Why would God use His power to BLESS us?

    I stand with John Piper when he tells us that the message of the collasped bridge in Minneapolis is “you too will perish if you do not repent.” We are all hell deserving sinners…and it’s not an EVIL thing that those who deserve HELL get a strong taste of pain and suffering. It’s nothing like the Hell that is to come for those who do not trust and throw themselves upon the GOODNESS AND GRACE OF GOD supplied for us at the Cross of Jesus. When I suffer…I weep at the taste of what I would have received more of if God had not graciously saved a wretch like me. I’m only reminded of what a very GOOD God has done to remove all the pain I EARNED for sinning against him.

    When we Christians quibble over whether or not God has ordained the evi that happens, aren’t we communicating to a world full of unsaved sinners that a Just God needs a defense for why SINNERS SUFFER? It should be obvious why a Just God ordains suffering. When we tell unsaved people that God wouldn’t ordain this suffering aren’t we telling them that GOD DOESN’T CONSIDER THEM TO BE EVIL AND HELL DESERVING? Aren’t we ILLIMINATING the Fear of God in their lives?

    God’s Wrath is upon this world for the sin. Of course He would ordain that we suffer. He wants us to know He is angry at Sin. He is helping us FEAR Him properly. We should Fear his judgments because we are sinners…and we should trust in His goodness to undeserving sinners because He is willing to save us from His wrath.

    My dream is to some day find an ongoing debate on Christian blog sites about the Mystery of God’s goodness to a fallen world. Imaging with me what it might do to turn the unsaved of this world on it’s heels to find Christians talking about why a Just God would allow so many blessings to happen to so many bad people!! Why would God ordain that so many faulty bridges didn’t collaspe today across this world? Why did He ordain that so many planes reach their destinations safe and sound when everyone on board deserved to perish?

    And I have to ask those who believe that God merely “permits” suffering…Does God also only merely “permit” blessings? If you want to say that God’S hand has DETERMINED TO BLESS, which I presume every Christian wants to say…then we have to be consistent and say God’s hand DETERMINES the suffering we experience as well. Yes, Job…you were correct when you declared, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

  43. Bryan L August 9, 2007 at 10:03 am #

    Garrett,
    You saId,
    “What shocks me is that you can come away from reading the Bible without agreeing with my position :-P”

    Lol

    “No, I said what I did because of your comment about people who hold to my position only defending their view with a few select verses from basically three books of the Bible!”

    Maybe I should clarify. What I was speaking on was general experience in debating this issue in the last couple of weeks over 3 different threads. I kept seeing the same verses and arguments appealed to over and over by different, unrelated people as if those I was discussing this with hinged their whole beliefs on 3-5 main passages. It was like everyone was reading from the same Calvinism/sovereignty of God apologetics book. : )

    I realize that there are a whole lot more verses appealed to in this wider discussion (which have to be wrestled with and can’t be assumed to say what they may appear to be saying out of their context) and I realize the Piper and Carson and the others arguments are way more sophisticated. Again my comment was referring to the experience of the debates I’d been in recently.

    Blessing,
    Bryan L

  44. Rick Garner August 9, 2007 at 10:05 am #

    #2 Gunny
    You said, “Like ours, God’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Himself forever.” That makes no sense. Since God created man, and man messed it up, it stands to reason that God messed up His own Glory.

    #3 Luke
    You said, “We respond to the what the Lord has done because he has begun his work in us.” I’m hoping for the day that you love God because you choose to not because God made you.

    Bryan L
    Good analysis.

    Denny
    I mainly read your blog to know what the CC students are saying. On a personal level I’m amazed of the theological shift from Criswell Colleges’ earlier days and what she is becoming. Sometimes when I read the blog I conclude that its love fest to JP and AM. BTW both good men, I believe. Just for giggles maybe you could quote WA occasionally, you know the college’s namesake.

    Now about your topic;

    1. You quote “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8). If God seeks his own glory that is narcissistic which God is not. To not share his glory is called Righteousness which God is completely. Isaiah’s meaning is not seek his own but share his own.

    2. You have a logical fallacy. You write, “God is the only being for whom self-exaltation is not a vice, but a virtue.” A line of logic can go something like this;

    God seeks his own self-exaltation.
    Man should be like God.
    To be like God, seek self-exaltation.
    Well, no. That’s called pride. Pride is sin whether you do it perfect or imperfect.
    To take a vice, in this case narcissism, and elevate it to the state of “pure” narcissism and then calling it a virtue is illogical and probably biblically irresponsible.

    So lets try this logic with other vices. Can we say “God is the only being for whom lying is not a vice, but a virtue.” Well, no. Lying is a sin regardless of how “perfect” a lie is.
    Or how about this one: “God is the only being for whom stealing is not a vice, but a virtue.” Well, no. Thievery is a sin regardless of how “perfect” thievery is.

    3. You say “God is love. Therefore He must exalt Himself so as to draw people into worship.” This doesn’t sound like “For God so loved the world that he GAVE…or, “as a ransom for many.” God is the self-sacrificing God, full of giving and grace, not a self-serving God full of getting glory out of falling bridges, holocausts, and magnification of people pre-determined to hell.

    4. And last, I wrote “A theology like this, forces one to say that God killed those people (either directly or indirectly). Do you not believe that Satan is actively destroying lives today? Must every disease, turmoil, and death be turned into a narcissistic expression of an all powerful being.” Well, do you?

  45. Andre August 9, 2007 at 1:40 pm #

    Dude it’s getting hot in here and I don’t think I can handle the heat!! hahaha

  46. Barry August 9, 2007 at 2:42 pm #

    Denny,
    45 comments so far. You know how to pick a topic.

    Mason,
    To paraphrase Denny on other occasions, “True ‘dat.” I see that no one has interacted with you. You are quite right: God has indeed revealed Himself to us truly, but has not revealed Himself to us fully. Good word. Tell Lisa that Jessica says hi.

    Barry

  47. Kevin Jones August 9, 2007 at 4:21 pm #

    Rick Garner:

    “God seeks his own self-exaltation.
    Man should be like God.
    To be like God, seek self-exaltation.
    Well, no. That’s called pride. Pride is sin whether you do it perfect or imperfect.
    To take a vice, in this case narcissism, and elevate it to the state of “pure” narcissism and then calling it a virtue is illogical and probably biblically irresponsible.”

    Rick,

    I believe your logic includes a false statement (or at least “partially” false):

    “Man should be like God”

    True, we are to be like Him in His loving attributes BUT we will never be like Him in His NATURE – that is – Infinite, Immutable, All-wise, All-knowing, etc.

    We will NEVER be “like” God and even Lucifer thought He could be!

    Think about this:

    God only glorifies Himself
    We are to be “like” God
    Therefore, we are to glorify only God

    This logic works because it is GOD centered and not MAN centered.

    To God be glory for ever and ever, AMEN!

  48. Kevin Jones August 9, 2007 at 4:26 pm #

    I Cor. 10:31

    Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

  49. Rick Garner August 9, 2007 at 5:07 pm #

    Kevin,

    “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” Eph. 5:1

  50. Kevin Jones August 9, 2007 at 5:28 pm #

    Rick:

    “God is the self-sacrificing God, full of giving and grace, not a self-serving God full of getting glory out of falling bridges, holocausts, and magnification of people pre-determined to hell.”

    True, God is “self-sacrificing” and “full of giving and grace”…

    But what do you do with the following in Romans 9?

    14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,“For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

    19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

    As I see it…all this conjecture about what I “think” God is like falls into the category of Romans 9:20. The funny thing is this: the ones saying they believe God is all-loving and NEVER would create a person (Pharoah) for the specific purpose of showing His wrath and proclaiming His name (His GLORY) througout the earth, are the ones who claim to be under God’s grace.

    Think about this:

    Does God pre-determine who will go to hell? Not exactly! ALL OF US are bound for Hell! He pre-determines to save those who will call upon the name of the Lord. One BIG problem…our dead, lifeless spirits can not see or understand the things of God. Apart from His regenerating our spirit by His Holy Spirit we would never call upon the name of the Lord. (John 3)

    Rick, speaking of PRIDE, which of the following scenarios is prideful?

    1. “Thank you God for having mercy and grace on me by unblinding my eyes and opening my ears to your Truth – if not for your grace in my life I would be in Hell”

    2. “I sure am glad that I believed in you Jesus and I decided to call upon you while my friend sitting next to me decided not to…whew! I sure am thankful that I was smarter than my friend!”

    I think the answer is clear…which one gives GOD ALL the glory?

  51. Kevin Jones August 9, 2007 at 5:43 pm #

    Rick:

    “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” Eph. 5:1

    Rick,

    Classic example of pulling a verse out of context. If we are to imitate God in all things then we can be wrathful on sin as well. But what does Ephesians 4:31 say just 2 verses before 5:1? God says vengeance is His..not ours. Therefore we are NOT to imitate His vengeance…right?

    Also, if we are to glorify (worship) ANYTHING but God (the only truly glorious and infinitely valuable being in existence) does that not make us an idolater? Of course it does. Therefore, if God is to glorify anything or anyone but Himself that would make Him an idolater. By the way, we do imitate God when we glorify Him. All that he does if for His glory and He is JEALOUS (is jealousy a vice for us and not God?).

    Exodus 20

    1And God spake all these words, saying, 2I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

  52. Kevin Jones August 9, 2007 at 6:07 pm #

    Who is the greatest “imitator” of God? Who said to theirself “I will be like God”?

    Rick,

    I believe your logic is as follows:

    God does not seek to glorify himself (Not in the Bible?)
    We must imitate God (Eph. 5:1)
    Thus, we must not seek to exalt ourself (TRUE)

    If you can show me Biblically that God is NOT about His own glory and seeks to glorify someone (or something) other than himself then I will take back ALL of my previous comments and post an APOLOGY. Please show your biblical evidence that God glorifies (exalts) anyone other than himself (Father, Son & Holy Spirit).

    PLEASE PLEASE show me your verses for this.

  53. Mason Beecroft August 9, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    Barry,
    Thanks for summarizing in a few words what took me several rambling paragraphs to hint at! I have only been in the parish for six years and I am already getting long winded and convoluted.

    I will pass the greetings to Lisa and I pray that all is well with your family.
    +Mason

  54. dennyrburk August 10, 2007 at 12:32 am #

    I wish I were able to respond to all of the comments. Since the post was inspired by Rick’s comment under my previous post, I’m just going to respond to him.

    Rick (in #44 and #49),

    You said that my logic leads to an absurd implication. You phrased it this way: “A line of logic can go something like this; God seeks his own self-exaltation. Man should be like God. To be like God, seek self-exaltation. Well, no. That’s called pride. Pride is sin whether you do it perfect or imperfect.”

    I have not said nor would I ever say that “man should be like God” without some kind of a qualification. I accept the standard distinction that theologians make between God’s communicable and incommunicable attributes. While there are some attributes of God that man is morally bound to imitate (the communicable attributes of love, mercy, justice, etc.), there are other attributes of God that it would be blasphemy to feign even to imitate (the incommunicable attributes of omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, etc.).

    In other words, every faithful Christian will find that there are certain ways in which we must imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). But there are other ways in which we cannot. I cannot die vicariously for another man’s sin (Psalm 49:7). To even try to do so would be blasphemy.

    According to Galatians 5, I must bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, gentleness (communicable attributes). But I must never call on others to worship me, to exalt me, to regard my will as ultimate, etc. In the latter case, God does all of these things, but it would be a sin to imitate Him in doing them. I cannot imitate Him in those things.

    Every time that God commands His creatures to worship Him, it is a self-exalting command. Such commands are all over the Bible. Thus it is no vice for God to call on the heavens to declare His glory (Psalm 19) or to command humans to give Him glory (Psalm 29:1-2). God would not be God if He did anything less than command His creation to exalt the glory of His name.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  55. Kevin Jones August 10, 2007 at 7:06 am #

    AMEN! Denny, you are much more eloquent than me.

    Kevin

  56. Rick Garner August 10, 2007 at 2:33 pm #

    Kenny:
    According to God, God did glorify someone in addition to Himself. And of all his created creatures it is man in general and then redeemed man in particular. No retraction necessary. :D

    “But there is a place where someone has testified:
    “What is man that you are mindful of him,
    the son of man that you care for him?
    You made him a little lower than the angels;
    you crowned him with glory and honor
    and put everything under his feet.” Hebrews 2:6-8

    “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30.

  57. Rick Garner August 10, 2007 at 2:37 pm #

    Denny,
    Clever.
    Of course we are not God, die vicariously for others or worship self.
    The flawed “logic” demonstrates the absurdity of making a “vice” a “virtue.”

    But the question remains unanswered. Must every disease, turmoil, and death be turned into a narcissistic expression of an all powerful being?” Or in this specific case, “must the carnage of the collapsed Mississippi Bridge be the self-expression of God for no other reason than for God to glorify God?”

  58. Kevin Jones August 10, 2007 at 9:58 pm #

    Rick,

    Please finish the thought in Hebrews 2:6-10.

    We lost our glory due to sin (by the way, God planned that we sin…otherwise, why would he have let satan have his way with tempting Eve?) God never intended on man retaining the glory that He gave him. He created man to glorify His Son thru His wonderful saving grace.

    We are glorified ONLY in Christ and not apart from Christ.

    Romans 11:33-36

  59. Bryan L August 10, 2007 at 11:02 pm #

    I love the train of thought Kevin. God gave us glory but only so we could loose it which he planned and carried out by making us sin. He never really wanted us to keep it but he still wants us to give glory to his son and then as long as we are in Christ we can share in his glory. Interesting.

    By the way I found this verse, concerning God giving someone else glory, interesting
    NIV Daniel 2:37 “You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory;”

    What do you think? Does this qualify? I’m thinking you might say God gave someone glory so that He would be glorified. So that whenever God gives someone else glory it is still so that God will be glorified. Am I understanding you and where you are going?

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  60. Kevin Jones August 11, 2007 at 7:36 am #

    Bryan,

    You are correct in you understanding. By the way, God did not “make” us sin. That thought would take an eternity to figure out and I am not going to try.

    All I know is that the Giver gets the ultimate glory and we are only receivers. Therefore, ALL of the glory belongs to God and Him alone.

    Romans 11:35-36

    “Or who hath first given to him, and it shall recompensed unto him again? For OF him, and THROUGH him, and TO him, are ALL things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen!”

    To GOD be he glory,
    Kevin

  61. Kevin Jones August 11, 2007 at 7:13 pm #

    Bryan L,

    Why don’t you give us your interpretation of Romans 9?

  62. Bryan L August 11, 2007 at 7:39 pm #

    The whole chapter? That’s a whole lot of interpretation to do. Why don’t you just go read a commentary? I’m sure it will be a whole lot more fruitful than reading what I have to say. After all what good is my interpretation? I’m just some guy who comments on blogs. But thanks for being interested.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  63. mlm August 11, 2007 at 8:12 pm #

    I’ve read all the comments under your first Piper post and some under each post thereafter. It doesn’t make sense to me that so many of us quote the Bible yet totally forget to look at the life of Jesus, who was God in the flesh and the will of God in action. We never see Jesus suffering in order to learn lessons or become more holy. Seems He lived a sinless life and still had communion with the Father. We also never see Jesus placing suffering upon others, to teach them a lesson or draw them closer to God. He heals the sick, raises the dead, and sets at liberty those who are bound. When accused by the relgious folk of being the cause of the torment “just so he could set them free,” Jesus rebukes the religious leaders and says that a house divided against itself cannot stand. So apparently God doesn’t cause evil in order to work good. Why quote Job when we can quote Jesus?

  64. Kevin Jones August 11, 2007 at 8:35 pm #

    Bryan,

    Because of what you said on your own blog

    “It’s funny, since I’ve been debating a lot recently concerning Calvinism and Arminianism (especially the issue of divine sovereignty and theodicy) I find particular passages being brought up over and over. One of them has to do with the section in Romans, 9. Inevitable someone always says “What do you do with Romans 9?” The question is always stated rhetorically, not in a way that someone is actually wondering how I would interpret the passage but instead assuming that Romans 9 is a nail in the coffin to my theology.”

    I have read commentaries on it and I am a VERY recent “convert” (about 4 months ago) to the biblical doctrines of grace. It took many months of SERIOUS study, meditation, and prayer before my man-centered theology came crashing down and resurrected as GOD-centered theology.

    I find it interesting that many commentaries say that Paul is talking about nations and not individuals in Rom. 9. Since when does God save an entire nation? In fact, Romans 9 is Paul’s argument as to why it seems that the entire nation of Israel have rejected their Messiah. God is reserving to Himself a remnant from physical Israel. But a true Jew is a spiritual Jew (Rom. 2:28-29).

    You know, the whole book of Romans is dealing with the salvation of individuals. Why would Paul insert a history lesson in the middle other than to show why God has turned from saving the entire nation of Israel to saving individuals (the remnant) by calling them out of physical Israel and the Gentiles (Rom. 9:24)?

    By the way, who are the “called” in Rom. 8:29?

  65. Kevin Jones August 11, 2007 at 8:49 pm #

    mlm,

    John 11:1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

    Why did Lazarus get sick? Why did Jesus wait to resurrect him after he was in the grave for days? By the way, who allowed this sickness?

    Seems that Jesus knew all about it and let him die then resurrect him so He (Jesus) would be glorified.

    Rom. 9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles

  66. Bryan L August 11, 2007 at 9:43 pm #

    Kevin,

    If you had a question about what I said on my own blog why would you try to bring it on Denny’s blog? I know you probably still want to debate this but I think everyone has kind of moved on. I’m glad you are really interested in this subject though and I hope you keep studying and reading into it more. If you want my opinion on what I believe about Romans 9 then check out some of the commentaries I listed. They’ll give a better more in depth answer then I ever could (or even wish to attempt right now).

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  67. Kevin Jones August 11, 2007 at 10:42 pm #

    Bryan,

    I can not post on your blog due to me “not being a team member”. I tried to.

    Kevin

  68. Bryan L August 12, 2007 at 7:21 am #

    Oh. Maybe it’s because you don’t have a blogger profile. I don’t think I allow anonymous comments.
    Bryan L

  69. LG March 27, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    The fact that God requires you to worship him (i.e. he needs to be told how great he is all the time) implies that God is narcissistic.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Denny Burk » Greg Boyd Responds to John Piper - August 13, 2007

    [...] Greg Boyd has responded to John Piper’s reflections on the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After summarizing what Piper wrote (which was discussed extensively on this blog), Boyd writes this about Piper: “I respect this pastor as a man of God, but this teaching honestly concerns me.” It turns out that his “concern” is an understatement. Boyd contests the entire theological foundation of Piper’s essay. [...]

  2. God the “Narcissist”? « Already Not Yet - August 26, 2007

    [...] Aug 26th, 2007 by Peter Cockrell Here’s a great post from Denny Burk. One of the most often asked questions when I preach on God being passionate for his own glory above all else is, “doesn’t that make God selfish?”, or such like. Here’s Denny’s response. [...]

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