November 30, 2007

A Case Study: Satan & The Problem of Evil

I have decided to post a summarization of a book I had read several years ago regarding Open Theism and the problem of evil. I decided to write new post in order to carry over a conversation I was having with fellow blogger "Chris". The original comments and post can be found here. The following is a summarization of Dr. Greg Boyd's 6 Principles of Free Will and can be obtained from his book "Satan and the Problem of Evil". Although my post here is not a thorough or complete explanation (as Dr Boyd does a much better job!), this does in my opinion provide a good overview of how the Open View explains Satan and the problem of Evil and subsequently free will of all moral agents (angels and mankind).

Several years ago renowned theologian and pastor, Dr. Greg Boyd, wrote the book Satan and the Problem of Evil. This book was written to help Christians understand the requirement by God to have or allow freewill to exist in the universe. These six principles are based upon sound Christian philosophy and show the love and benevolence of God our Creator.

1. Love must be freely chosen (Freedom to choose Love). – In order for a being to choose love, they must do so according to their capacity for freewill. For example, when God created Adam and Eve he desired to have a loving relationship with his new creation. However, in order for this love to be real and genuine, he had to allow them to make that choice freely and not coerced. This decision to choose love could not be pre-program or preordained, but it must be genuinely free. If God coerced or preordained this choice, then God is being controlling or manipulative, and thus impugn God’s character. Even though the subjects would not realize they had been programed to love God, God Himself would still know that this love was not at all genuine - but rather coerced.

2. Freedom implies risk – In order for God to allow mankind the freedom to choose to either love him or sin against him, then there is an implied risk associated with this freedom. In other words, because God gave mankind the freedom of choice (freewill), then He also was aware there was an implied risk associated with this freedom. With any freedom there is an associated or inherent risk that beings could chose unwisely or wrongly. Another example is the US Constitution, although we have tremendous freedom and liberty in this country, we also have the risk of citizens making incorrect or wrong choices. This risk however is an acceptable one given the benefits of living in a democracy.

3. Risk entails responsibility – In the event a being should happen to chose erroneously, God would then act or respond responsibly. In the case of Adam and Eve, in the event they should fall (not that he had planned on them to do so) He was prepared to react responsibly by putting into effect his redemptive plan for mankind.

4. Moral Responsibility is proportionate to the potential to influence other. The easiest way to explain this principle is the greater amount of responsibility a person or being has, then that amount of responsibility is equal to or proportionate to their potential to influence others. For example, a king of a country has a tremendous amount of moral responsibility to his subjects. Because of his position of power and authority, so to is his ability to influence others. God therefore has the greatest position of moral responsibility and influence than any other being ever created. God knowing this has a responsibility to persuade or influence his creation to chose love or moral obedience over rebellion.

5. The Power to Influence is irrevocable – Once a being has the power to Influence others – whether it be for good or evil, this power is irrevocable.

6. Power of Influence is finite or limited – The best case example of this principle is God Himself. The God being a benevolent being, will never violate ones freewill because this would violate Principle No 1 – Love must require freedom. If God is all-controlling, He is not truly benevolent in his nature. Therefore, God’s ability to influence or persuade is limited because of his character. It is only limited to whom he is trying to influence or persuade. God will not influence someone to the point they can not freely choose to love or sin against him. Note: God does from time to time control or influence a persons decisions in order for his plans to be accomplished or fulfilled. These are in no way to control the persons love or hatred of God. When this does occur it is an exception and not the rule.

CASE STUDY: Lucifer and the Problem of Evil.

The following statement is made by Dr. Boyd to prove his 6 Principles when explaining the problem of the creation of Lucifer and his fall:

In short, these 6 Principles take us a long way in explaining Satan and the Problem of Evil, for Satan represents the paradigmatic case of free agent turned bad. God created Lucifer as a freewill being, for he created him with the potential to love (Principle 1). This meant that there was a risk involved in creating Lucifer (Principle 2), as there is in every free agent, for Satan’s potential to become evil and to harm others had to be proportionate to his potential to become loving and bless others (Principles 3& 4). Unfortunately, Lucifer choose an evil course that God must tolerate (Principle 5), until the power of Satan’s influence is spent (Principle 6). The incredible amount of destruction Satan has brought about in God’s creation is a testimony to the vast amount of love and benefit he could have brought had he chosen a different path. God could not have hoped for the former, however, unless he was willing to risk the latter (this is where we get the expression the good outweighs the bad).

The same principles apply to the fall of mankind. God did not predestine man to fall, but was aware of the risk in the event they did choose unwisely. In the event they did fall, he had a plan of salvation in place to rescue the human race and reconcile mankind back to the Father.

Side Note: This may also help explain why many Christian and Non-Christians alike ask the ever pressing question of “why doesn’t God just destroy Satan at the point he rebelled?” Again this would have violated the benevolence of God and would have possibly damaged God’s character with the other created beings in heaven (angels).

The war-torn nature of our cosmos reflects this tragic fall and ongoing war. Satan’s fall was catastrophic, which is ultimately why we experience catastrophic horrors in this world. Yet this fall was not altogether cataclysmic, for even in this worst case scenario God is still victorious. Though he must now operate in a terrible war zone, God’s goal of acquiring a bride cannot be thwarted. Satan and all who align themselves with him will ultimately be overthrown, and God and all who align themselves with Him will ultimately reign victorious.

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