Saturday, February 26, 2011

JP2 on Evil

Some good points from John Paul II:
"Evil always exists in what is good."
This is awkwardly stated, a better phraseology would be (borrowing from C. S. Lewis) - "evil is a twisting or rejection of what is good". That is: good can exist in a vacuum, evil cannot. There is no "being evil for evil's sake" (despite the villains on Captain Planet). He says this later:
"Evil thus is not a thing but the lack of a good in a being in which what is lacking should be present."

"Suffering normally, however, is a sign that something is wrong in a real world."
That's precisely what I said in "The Problem of Evil".

It is interesting how Arminian he was:
"The possibility of evil is contingent on the possibility of freedom and love."
"Those who refuse the gift of grace, however many there be, are left with their choice. God cannot take that away from them. This is the limit of the divine mercy."
I thank God that He overrode my choice to reject Him! That He chose me, even when I was His enemy (Col 1:21).

Monday, February 7, 2011


"Thus Spake Zarathustra" (Friedrich Nietzsche). I must admit, this book was terribly painful to read. I first checked it out before Thanksgiving, so it has taken the better part of two months...

The translator is Thomas Common, and he has gone with a sort of KJV version. It didn't really work for me.

On top of that, the style is all in parables. When Jesus tells a parable, you can figure out what He is talking about. Nietzsche just kind of mumbles.

It's sort of like Robert Heinlein's social commentary - is he seriously putting forth an idea, or is he playing straight with his ridicule? Hard to tell.

Nietzsche is always held up as the ultimate atheist (Ravi Zacharias says he was true to his beliefs - he died cold, alone, and insane). It must be me, but it is sufficiently vague that you can read a lot into it...

Page 8:
"Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman"
The most important idea in Nietzsche is that of the "Superman" (ubermensch). This is not a guy in tights, but a stage of evolution. The ubermensch, as it is usually retold, is the next stage of human evolution (I am unconvinced, but I am probably wrong).

His statements about Jesus seem to place him thoroughly in the unbeliever camp (page 77):
"He [Jesus] died too early; he himself would have disavowed his doctrine had he attained to my age!... But he was still immature. Immaturely loveth the youth, and immaturely also hateth he man and earth."
What about "God is dead"? He does say that (first on page 6). He also says (page 294) to "the ugliest man":
"thou art the murderer of God" (italics in original)
It is not evolution or rationalism which has killed God (elsewhere, he says "pity" killed God) - it is man's ugliness (what I would call sin).

And did God remain dead? Page 320:
"Only since he [God] lay in the grave have ye again arisen."
I am reminded of Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me".
And as the book closes (page 366-368):
"slowly seated himself [Zarathustra] on the big stone... The doves, however, were no less eager with their love than the lion "
"'I come to seduce thee to thy last sin' [says the soothsayer]"
And with that, I believe, Zarathustra died (seated on the Rock, with the Dove, and the Lion).

So is the "higher man" the rational atheist? Or the man born from above?

I don't think Nietzsche understood Christianity. I think his intent is more mocking (he comments on laughter being a weapon). But I think he was familiar with the language and ideas. Also, he has harsh words for the preachers of his day. Yes. So would Spurgeon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Models Again

Denis Alexander, at Biologos, has taken an aside from his model talk (which I commented on previously).

Alexander gives us a lot of insight into his thought processes, but I didn't find any compelling arguments for his case...

"We have the possibility of fellowship with God through freely willed choice. Our nearest cousins, chimps and bonobos, to the best of our knowledge, do not."
I think this reveals a lot about his underlying assumptions (Arminianism). This is creating more problems for the Gospel at Biologos - as their train comes further off the tracks, and heads deeper into "trainwreckville".

He does seem to get something of the point:
"It is not Genesis that poses the questions, though Genesis is clearly relevant, but rather the Christian theology of creation, sin and redemption."
"the Retelling Model doesn’t do a very good job on the biblical notion of sin... the tendency is to think of sin more as unfortunate sociobiology, poor humans in thrall to the dictates of their genes, but fortunately ‘saved’ by evolutionary theories of altruism... But I think such accounts are profoundly deficient from a theological perspective. "
"In biblical thought, sin is a theological concept which only makes sense in relation to God and to God’s will. If there is no God then there is certainly no sin, and what you’re left with is human misbehavior, certainly not ‘evil’ except as a socially convenient label."
This seems to be his main point. That sin is sin because God says so (which is true - consider the eating the fruit of the forbidden tree).

However, the Law is supposed to be an expression of God's character - what pleases Him. So, how is it that when animals (and human animals before "Homo Divinus") do something, it is pleasing to God - but then afterward, it is not?

An interesting point on federal headship:
"the first sin impacting upon the world not through inheritance (as in Augustine), but via the theological notion of Federal Headship, involving a lateral rather than a linear fall-out."
I actually don't have much of a problem with this. As Jesus' perfect account is credited to us (without us being His physical descendants), so can Adam's faulty account be charged. I think the biggest problem is one of freely giving grace vs. unjustly accounting law breaking... (but this is actually one of the smallest problems in these Old Earth models!)

"both Models have to give account as to how/why/when sin entered the world and in what sense sin ‘spread’ or ‘became relevant’ to the rest of humanity."
I hope Alexander goes into more depth in the future. This is actually a serious problem for the Gospel according to Biologos. As you spread the Gospel (including God's definition of sin) - you are making people previously exempt from the Law suddenly beholden to it!

Given historical conversion rates, this makes spreading the Gospel a very bad idea indeed!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Doctrines of Creation

An interesting introductory post to a new guest series at Biologos.

It's just making an outline at this point, little argument or conclusions. The big points I see:
  • it [creation] has the kind of nature and functionality God intended it to have
  • God could have made any kind of creation He wanted but chose to make this particular creation
The first will be the sticking point. Is a world full of death and sinful analogue behavior in animals the world God intended? If so, how does this relate to the Law? (Why does God give us a sinful nature - which is good in animals - then tell us it is bad, and not to obey that nature?)

The second is a good counter to those who preach a "best of all possible worlds" - that God was limited (usually by human free will) from creating a better world.