These studies look at the overwhelming goodness of the Triune God. Depicted by Andrei Rublev's icon of The Holy Trinity.
 

God, Creation, Providence, Freedom and Evil...
Some Cursory Reflections

By Rev. Dr. Gary W. Deddo

God has assumed all responsibility for evil in Jesus Christ. This He has done graciously and out of no necessity for himself or for humankind. There is no need for us to demand that God take responsibility. He has done so.

God is not the author of Evil. God is not tempted and tempts no one with Evil.

God has determined that evil has no future. In the end will not be at all. Its future is its destruction. Its destiny was secured in the Cross of Christ. Its effects are temporary.

Creation was originally created good through and through. There is no evil inherent in it, in heaven or earth, or in humanity.

Humanity need not fall: it was not unavoidable, inevitable, or necessary, just as Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit need not and did not sin to save us from evil and the Fall.

Humanity was necessarily temptable, as was Christ. This is because humanity, as the humanity of God, receives and so has its being and life as a gift continually given by its Creator and cannot, and could never, provide itself holiness and righteousness, but must also receive it as the gift of God through union and communion with God. This was originally and is eternally God's plan for humanity. Humanity could never have or work up its own independent righteous since it is not God, but God's good creation. Only God is righteous. Humanity can be so only by receiving righteousness from that one Source. Even if it must totter on the brink of disobedience humanity needed not fall for temptation.

Humanity could have persevered in goodness by depending upon its God-given communion to overcome and expose the temptation to evil.

The ultimate aim of evil is to destroy the trust relationship between God and his creatures by making it seem as if evil and independence are necessary as a means to Godís and or manís greatest ends. This was the essence of the Devilís temptation of Christ: human freedom must necessarily include freedom from God.

God has strictly limited human suffering and temptation and upheld humanity and His ultimate purposes for us even in our sinful state. Humans are fallen in the very nature of their being. But they are still human and not evil in and of themselves. Sin distorts and covers up true humanity.

God has not allowed anything to occur which could not be redeemed. All that God has allowed can be and is, in principle, redeemed in Christ.

There is no justification for evil. Only the justification of God and man is Jesus Christ. Evil is overthrown in Christ.

Evil is unjustifiable. God does not justify evil, but overcomes it in the cross. God never forgives sin itself, but the sinner. Sin is never converted into good, but the sinner is converted by being rescued from sin, its power, and its consequences.

Evil has no reality of its own independent of creation. It is parasitic upon the goodness of creation. It has no creative, life-giving power or potential. It is not the ontological opposite of God and creation. It has no future.

Evil has the ontological status of being a lie, a deception. It has real effects in creation, but cannot ultimately alter reality as it is determined to be in Christ. It does not have the same ontological status as created goodness and reality or eternal goodness and reality. In comparison, it is barely real. Ultimately, it has no future reality.

Evil is given its limited reality through the agency of Godís creatures. Being tempted through creatures lower than itself, in the distrust and disobedience of the Fall, Adam and Eve attempted to create ex nihilo, in a godlike fashion, something out of what God had said shall not be. They attempted to breathe life into that to which God had said No.

They did this out of their distrust that God alone should be trusted with evil. They believed the lie that for their own freedom, their own benefit and possibly the glory of God, they must render an independent judgment of what was evil, and should not rely on Godís judgment.

They believed (mistakenly) that if God knew of evil independently of them, they ought also to know evil independently of Him. We too are tempted when we believe that evil is somehow necessary for human being: to know the good, to become justified or sanctified, to give us freedom, to recognize goodness, to recognize the beautiful. Evil is not necessary for any of these ends.

God's own freedom does not consist in the freedom to do evil, for that would be to deny and violate himself. God's own freedom is to be holy and righteous. God is free to do everything and anything consistent with his character. God is free to be true to himself. That is the only freedom there is for God, and similarly for us.

But, yes, God graciously even makes use of evil, when thatís what we offer Him, making it do forced labor to contribute to those good ends.

Evil cannot be explained or understood. It is unreasonable. But it can be truly described. There is no good reason for it. It need not and ought not be. It is not needed as a necessary means to a higher end. Evil makes no sense, is not justified, and simply ought not be.

God can and has used evil for his own glory and even our benefit. However, this is not a potential that evil has in itself, but occurs by Godís gracious overcoming of it in Christ. There is nothing good actually or potentially about evil.

Human freedom represents the opportunity, the occasion, the doorway for evil, such as it is, to enter into creation. True freedom has no need for evil, although without human freedom, that is freedom's misuse, evil would have not entered our good creation.

Freedom is unidirectional. It was given to be used for one thing only, to choose God and Godís goodness for life in him. The choice of evil is not required for freedom.

All other use of freedom is an abuse and forfeiting of freedom. The misuse of freedom means its enslavement to evil. True freedom leads only to freedom, from life to life. The misuse of freedom puts our wills into bondage and leads to death and towards nonexistence.

God limits and oversees evil even if he allows it. In the end it will be no more. It has no future.

God limits and oversees human suffering. The suffering of any human individual is strictly limited by consciousness and death. He alone suffers with and for everyone. His suffering is the greatest in that his is on behalf of all throughout all time. He knows personally all suffering. No human creature can say the same.

God created us knowing human limitation and its susceptibility to temptation. However, God also made provision for the preservation of humanity by providing his own presence and word that we need not and might not fall.

God of course anticipated all possibilities, including the possibility of humanityís fall. The fall is necessarily a possibility but not an inevitability. In anticipating this possibility, God, as Father Son and Spirit, elected to do whatever was necessary for humanity to reach its God-given goal and purpose: to be raised up for an eternal union and communion with God. God in Christ was prepared to pay any price necessary for manís eternal life. Thus Godís self giving in Christ was fully anticipated from all eternity. A way in Christ was provided before we needed it. Such was Godís love and justice.

More than this, if we consider Godís foreknowledge, God, in choosing to create, did also choose to atone and reconcile for human sin in and through Christ, from the foundation of the world. Foreknowledge does not imply causation or inevitability, but sovereignty and love.

God determined that He could and would overcome human sin, once it had occurred, and that it would indeed be worth the cost involved to Him and to us. This is the greatest question: can God be trusted that it will be worth it? In Christ we see, and have already believed that it is worth it. If we believe it was worth it to Christ, we believe it was worth it for us!

Godís allowance of evil is not Godís primary will, or original will. It is true that Godís primary will was not to absolutely disallow the Fall or evil. The absolute prevention of evil could only be accomplished in the decision not to create at all. Godís allowance of evil was Godís secondary or permissive will, under his left hand. As such it is not necessary or inevitable, but it is not absolutely impossible. It represents a nearly impossible possibility. As such, it is limited, overruled, and used for his glory and mankindís own good.

Godís original will was to create a creation which, although not God, might come to partake of Godís nature and enjoy an eternal union and communion. The Garden was a perfect beginning point for growing up into eternal life in communion and union with God through the Son. It was not intended as a final ending point. Rather, it was a perfect starting point. It had within it the tree of eternal life which was never eaten. Godís intention was to make goodness concrete in creation as an overflow and reflection of the reality of goodness within the Triune Life

Yes, what God ruled out and said No to, from the beginning, must be in some peculiar way. It could exist in the mind of God as an utter abstraction, the negation of what was to be, namely, the good. But evil did not exist in the action of God among the Triune persons or in Godís purpose for creation or even as a necessary means to a greater end for it. God knew evil and evil ďexistedĒ only in this abstract unreal way. It had no other existence or reality. The reality of Godís good, even within creation, does not require the actuality of evil on the part of God or man, even as a means to a greater end.

In the Fall, humanity believed it could not trust God with this knowledge. It made an attempt to know for itself evil as well as good. However, not being God, the only way to accomplish this was to reject the concrete real good they had through the attempt to affirm and give reality in their minds and lives to that which they did not have, that which was excluded from them, that which was only heretofore utterly abstract, and unreal. They exchanged truth, reality, life, for unreality, a lie, and death. That is, they foolishly and disobediently exchanged it for that which could not ever really be, and indeed, in the end will not be.

They attempted to mimic Godís creation ex nihilo by acting in such a way as to try and make abstract and unreal evil apprehensible and accessible to human evaluation. Not being God, and cutting themselves off from their communion with God, they of course were enslaved to sin and its power. They were no Lords over evil. Human history itself will undeniably prove this.

Thus evil was given a temporary man-made reality by human agency. But this reality is very unlike the nature of evil as God knew it in its unreality and abstraction.

God allowed evil because at his own cost He determined that it should not and could not thwart His original purposes. He determined that nothing could ultimately separate his creation from his loving purposes. He determined that he could use it for his glory and our benefit. His good can even overcome evil, that which has absolutely no potential for good.

God made every provision that the Fall not occur, except its absolute impossibility. The absolute impossibility would have required no creation at all. So the Fall is a possibility, an Ďimpossible possibilityí--one that is all but impossible. Godís grace was and is sufficient so that human evil was not inevitable.

If Godís choice to create at all was worth it, this truth can only be seen clearly now, in Christ. Indeed, in believing in Christ, we already claim with him that it was indeed worth it. His resurrection was worth his crucifixion. He was no fool. In the end of history God will vindicate himself to all showing that it was worth the cost. If God has declared that it was worth it for him at his own cost, how can we deny that it was worth it for us? In the end, we who believe will be vindicated with Him.

Perhaps we can say that this is not, right now, the best of all possible worlds, but that it is indeed becoming the best of all possible worlds, with Jesus as Lord and Savior, who assumes all responsibility for evil, and humanity in him as his Covenant Partner.

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