Saturday, November 14, 2009

Explicit Contradiction

Tonight I read chapter 4, titled “Ruling Through Creation: Divine-Human Concurrence,” from Bruce Ware’s book, “God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith.” (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004).

Bruce Ware tells us from the outset:

“Since God’s control of evil does not extend from his own nature, it cannot be ‘direct’ in the way his control of good is. That is, evil does not extend from God as good does, and hence, evil never is produced, as it were, ‘out of’ God’s own being and nature. Furthermore, GOD CANNOT WILL DIRECTLY AND IMMEDIATELY TO CAUSE EVIL, SINCE ALL THAT GOD WILLS TO DO HIMSELF (IMMEDIATELY) IS GOOD (e.g., Gen. 1:31; James 1:13, 17), AND IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO DO EVIL OF ANY KIND” (106).

Ware then presents us with an analogy of how God provides opportunity for “freedom of inclination”:

“Undercover police often use the mechanism of a ‘sting operation’ for catching criminals in the act of committing a crime. When this is done correctly, the police do not cause or coerce the criminal to commit the crime, but they do intentionally provide a setting in which the criminal, out of his own nature, will have the opportunity to develop a strongest inclination to commit the crime. Undercover policemen may pose, for example, as buyers seeking to purchase illegal drugs, and by so doing they place before the nature of the drug dealer a set of factors that may lead him to want most strongly to sell drugs to the men posing as interested buyers. When the drug dealer hands over the drugs to the buyers and receives payment for them, the crime has been committed and he is arrested and will be held morally (and legally) responsible for his crime. When this operation is done correctly, the criminal is not coerced, nor is he caused to commit the crime. Rather, he is presented with a setting to which his own nature responds the way that it does, wanting most strongly to carry out the illegal activity. The criminal, then, was free; he did what he wanted most to do, and he was not forced or coerced in the process. Yet the situation was ‘controlled’; factors of a situation were DESIGNED AND INTENTIONALLY PRESENTED to the criminal so that his nature would be given opportunity to manifest what it truly wanted to do. The cause of the choice was the nature of the criminal; some key factors leading to the choice were provided by others who sought to expose the criminal’s nature for what it was. When he made his choice, he showed what truly was in his heart, and in this he was free, and for this he is morally responsible” (123).

In this sting operation, however, the purpose behind it is a righteous one—to catch a criminal, someone who is disobeying the laws of their society. This is in no way an evil act, because righteous judgment in society consists of criminals being caught and “paying the price” for their deeds.

However, this is remotely different when it comes to the problem of evil. This is what Bruce Ware writes about God’s “meticulous” and absolute control:

“Finally, is it not clear that God is able not only to know what impact a certain set of influences will have upon our decisions, but that SINCE HE IS GOD, HE IS ABLE TO ADJUST AND REGULATE THE INFLUENCES THAT COME INTO OUR LIVES, so that by controlling the influences HE CAN REGULATE THE CHOICES WE WILL MAKE?” (82)

Notice that Bruce Ware believes that God can “adjust and regulate” influences in our lives so as to produce certain decisions from us that are in accordance with His plan. And for those who don’t believe this involves evil, let’s keep reading:

“God is always able to permit ONLY THOSE OCCURRENCES OF EVIL THAT HE KNOWS WILL SERVE HIS PURPOSES AND NEVER THWART OR HINDER THOSE PURPOSES. He is able to do this because, for any evil that may occur, it is always in God’s power to prevent that specific evil from happening” (107).

So now, the only evil used is that which “He knows will serve His purposes and never thwart or hinder those purposes.” Evidently, there is an evil that can thwart the purposes and plan of God that God doesn’t allow. If ANY evil can thwart God’s purposes, then how can He even prevent it from happening (since the evil itself is powerful enough to overcome God’s very own purposes)? If such an evil exists, then evil becomes eternal, just as God is eternal. Now, Bruce Ware has now made evil a “necessity,” and evil itself as eternal as God (and more powerful, since some evil can trump God’s plans).

I’ve established, that, according to Bruce Ware, God uses only that evil that He needs to accomplish His purposes; secondly, I showed that Ware believes that, like the sting operation, God sets up situations and “regulates influences” in our lives that move us to act according to our own desires.

If this is the case, then what about evil? If God sets up conditions such that we will commit evil, and He needs us to commit evil because it serves His purposes, then HOW CAN GOD NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR EVIL? This is what Ware writes regarding the Joseph story of Genesis 50:

“This Ishmaelite caravan just ‘happens’ to show up right exactly at the time needed. Recall, Reuben HAD TO BE GONE! And GOD HAD TO GET JOSEPH TO EGYPT. Clearly, the brothers didn’t care at all where Joseph might be taken. But God cared. So, IN PART BY GOD’S DIRECT-CAUSATIVE AGENCY,NO DOUBT...GOD ACTED TO ENSURE THAT JOSEPH GOT SENT TO EGYPT” (129).

The phrase I want us to observe is: “in part by God’s direct-causative agency...God acted to ensure that Joseph got sent to Egypt.” Remember Ware’s words earlier:

“Since God’s control of evil does not extend from his own nature, it cannot be ‘direct’ in the way his control of good is. That is, evil does not extend from God as good does, and hence, evil never is produced, as it were, ‘out of’ God’s own being and nature. Furthermore, GOD CANNOT WILL DIRECTLY AND IMMEDIATELY TO CAUSE EVIL, SINCE ALL THAT GOD WILLS TO DO HIMSELF (IMMEDIATELY) IS GOOD (e.g., Gen. 1:31; James 1:13, 17), AND IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO DO EVIL OF ANY KIND” (106).

Ware just told us that God cannot be “directly” responsible for evil. Yet, in his analysis of Genesis 50, God had to get the brothers to sell Joseph so that he would go to Egypt ("direct-causative agency)! According to Ware, since God wanted Joseph in Egypt, the ONLY WAY He could bring it about was through the cruel act of selling Joseph into slavery. By the way, the Lord prohibits slavery in His words to the Israelites (Leviticus 25:39-42).

Ware attempts to get God off the hook by merely claiming that He is not responsible for evil. But then, he turns around and claims that God ordains the means by which evil will be committed, not to mention that He “regulates and adjusts” the influences of men and women so that they will do EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTS (whether good or evil). Yet and still, he can turn around and claim that “in regard to human volition, because the freedom given us is the freedom of inclination, God is able to control those factors influencing a person’s strongest inclination or deepest desire, and by this he can control the choices and actions that a person will make or do” (109). What kind of a God does Bruce Ware worship, where God does all the “controlling,” but places blame on man for the inevitable sin and evil that God has designed?

Ware’s remarks are not only contradictory to what he said earlier; they also contradict one of the passages he cited, James 1:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, NOR DOES HE HIMSELF TEMPT ANYONE” (James 1:13, NKJV).

Let’s use an example: a Pastor who has been married for 15 years commits adultery. According to Bruce Ware, the pastor committed adultery because of “freedom of inclination”—the pastor did it because he wanted to. Bruce Ware would then turn around and make the man responsible for his act. However, there’s a problem with this claim: Ware would make the pastor responsible, but he would then claim that GOD REGULATED AND ADJUSTED THE INFLUENCES AND SET UP THE CONDITIONS in order to get the pastor to commit adultery. And why? because, as his book title states, for “God’s Greater Glory.” In Ware’s thought, God needed the pastor to commit adultery in order to bring about a greater good—that “greater good” being that the church could see that the pastor and his wife were having problems in their marriage and, as a result, offer counseling for married couples contemplating separation.

But does God REALLY have to have this pastor cheat on his wife in order to get the church to offer counseling for married couples having problems? Of course not! But if you’re Bruce Ware, or share his theological beliefs, evil is necessary to the plan of God. But how can God not be responsible, if evil is NEEDED in His plan?

We would all agree that the pastor bears blame for his actions. Would the pastor get off the hook if he said, “I cheated because I NEEDED understanding...and my wife wasn’t listening to me’”? Of course not! Everyone would blame the pastor for his adulterous act. But when it gets to God, and God NEEDS evil, suddenly, God is in no way, shape, or form responsible! How can this be?

Ware’s argumentation also contradicts common sense. Discussing one of the most atrocious events in world history, Edward Meadors of Taylor University writes,

“For while it may be true that Hitler never personally killed a single Jew, no one can question legitimately that he was morally responsible for the atrocious holocaust that he conceived with his henchmen. Hitler is thus universally recognized by all sane people as an evil figure in world history, even though he merely conceived but did not personally implement the holocaust. By analogy, something of this sort would indeed be true of God if he were the ‘BEHIND THE SCENES’ primary agent of the moral evils that his created secondary agents perform” [“‘It Never Entered My Mind’: The Problematic Theodicy of Theistic Determinism.” Bulletin for Biblical Research, vol. 19, no. 2 (2009): page 203 (total article is 185-214)].

Bruce Ware commits here what I call an “explicit contradiction.” He claims that God is not responsible for evil, but then turns around and makes God responsible for evil. All he does is give “lip service” to the goodness of God; but his arguments say otherwise...

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