VOLTAIRE’S PREDICTION, HOME AND THE BIBLE SOCIETY – TRUTH OR MYTH?

A story which Christian apologists have told for years involves the French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778). The story purports that Voltaire, in his voluminous writings against Christianity and the Bible, predicted in 1776, “One hundred years from my day, there will not be a Bible on earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity-seeker.” As the story alleges, within fifty years after his death, in an ironic twist of Providence, the very house in which he once lived and wrote was used by the Evangelical Society of Geneva as a storehouse for Bibles and Gospel tracts and the printing presses he used to print his irreverent works was used to print Bibles. The story has been used repeatedly through the years by Christians as an example of the enduring intrinsic quality of the Bible and the futility of those who oppose the Inspired Volume.

For years there have been those who dispute this story as to its validity. Humanists, rationalists, agnostics, and atheists have called it an apocryphal story fabricated by Christians to bolster their argument that the Bible is inspired and possesses an intrinsic quality that enables it to withstand attacks by unbelievers. David Ross wrote an article in the Journal of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists, vol. 77, no. 1, Autumn 2004, entitled “Voltaire’s House and the Bible Society,” in which he went to great lengths to dismiss the story as having any real basis in fact. Ross contends the story has been either fabricated or it began as a misunderstanding and has spread. Ross’ article and others like it are of such a convincing nature that books like Introduction to the Bible by Norman Geisler and William Nix, left it out of later editions.[1]

The question to consider, is there any validity to the story? Did Voltaire ever make such a prediction? Is there proof that the home in which Voltaire once lived, that after his death, was used as a storehouse for Bibles? After much research, this writer has come to the conclusion that the story is true and that those who seek to discredit the story do so because it gives credence to the argument of apologists of God’s providential preservation of His Word.

Voltaire

Voltaire was born in Paris, France in 1694. As a philosopher, historian and free thinker, he became a most influential and prolific writer during what has been called the Age of Enlightenment. From the beginning, Voltaire had trouble with the authorities for criticisms toward the government. He twice served brief prison sentences in the Bastille for being critical of a Regent. His first literary work appeared in 1718. During his life he wrote more than 20,000 letters and some 2,000 pamphlets and books and was a successful playwriter. While a Deist, he vehemently opposed the Christian faith and wrote many rather scoffing works expressing his disdain for the faith and the Bible. His railings against Christianity are filled with poisonous venom, calling the Christian faith the “infamous superstition.”

Several examples of his slanderous words against the Christian faith and the Bible are cited.

In 1764 he wrote, “The Bible. That is what fools have written, what imbeciles commend, what rogues teach and young children are made to learn by heart” (Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, 1764). “We are living in the twilight of Christianity” (Philosophical Dictionary). In a 1767 letter to Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, he wrote: “Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and bloody religion that has ever infected the world…My one regret in dying is that I cannot aid you in this noble enterprise of extirpating the world of this infamous superstition.”[2] Voltaire ended every letter to friends with “Ecrasez l’infame” (crush the infamy — the Christian religion). In his pamphlet, The Sermon on the Fifty (1762) he attacked viciously the Old Testament, biblical miracles, biblical contradictions, the Jewish religion, the Christian God, the virgin birth and Christ’s death on the cross. Of the Four Gospels he wrote, “What folly, what misery, what puerile and odious things they contain [and the Bible is filled] with contradictions, follies, and horrors”[3] Voltaire regarded most of the doctrines of the Christin faith – the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Trinity, Communion – as folly and irrational.[4] And finally, “To invent all those things [in the Bible], the last degree of rascality. To believe them, the extreme of brutal stupidity!”[5]

Many more such quotes could be cited as to Voltaire’s disdain for Christianity, but those will suffice. Voltaire’s writings were so divisive that in 1754 Louis XV banned him from Paris. Relocating in December 1754 to Geneva, Switzerland, he purchased a beautiful chateau called Les Delices (The Delights). He lived there for five years until 1760 when as the result of his antagonistic writings and plays attacking Christianity, he was virtually driven from Geneva by the Calvinist Reformers. To escape the pressure from the Calvinists, Voltaire moved across the border to Ferney, France, where the controversial Frenchmen lived for eighteen years until the end of his life in 1778 at age 83. He continued to write until his hand was stilled in death.

Now the question arises as to the veracity of what some call an “apocryphal story.” While Voltaire’s disdain for the Bible is evident, did he ever make such a prediction and did any Bible Society ever use either of his residences, from where he wrote his blasphemous words against the Bible and the Christianity, as a warehouse to store Bibles? The answer to that question is an emphatic, “YES!”

The second part of the story will be dealt with first.

In August 1836, only fifty-eight years after Voltaire’s death, Rev. William Acworth of the British and Foreign Bible Society saw with his own eyes Voltaire’s former residence in Geneva, Switzerland, Les Delices, being used as a “repository for Bibles and Religious tracts.” The house at this time was occupied by Colonel Henri Tronchin (1794-1865), who served as the president of the Evangelical Society of Geneva from 1834-39.[6] The Tronchin family had long had associations with Voltaire that could be traced back to the 18th century. One of Henri Tronchin’s ancestor’s, Francis Tronchin, was Voltaire’s doctor. The Tronchin’s were prominent and wealthy residents of Geneva and even helped finance Voltaire in the publishing of some of his works.[7]

Henri Tronchin

While the Tronchin family was prominent and wealthy citizens of Geneva, they were not predominately spiritual. However, though it is not known exactly when, Henri Tronchin came to faith in Christ and embraced Protestantism. Studying literature at the Academy of Geneva, he later served as artillery captain on horseback in the Dutch army. Eventually rising in ranks to lieutenant-colonel of artillery, he married in 1824. A superb organizer and a great leader, he helped found the Evangelical Society of Geneva (c1833). He served as president of the Society from 1834 to 1839. Born 100 years after Voltaire, and occupying the former home of the infamous infidel, Tronchin used the spacious house to store Bibles and Gospel tracts. Rev. William Acworth of Queens College, Cambridge, appointed an agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1829, was an eye witness to the stored Bibles and Gospel tracts.[8]

In The Missionary Register for 1836 of the BFBS, Acworth is recounting his travels in the spread of the Gospel. Having traveled over 2,000 miles in France on the business of the Society, in the summer of 1836 his travels took him to Switzerland in August of that year. Acworth recounts: “I went through Geneva, and was much refreshed by meeting the Committee of the Evangelical Society, with whose proceedings and objects I was so much gratified, that I wrote to this Society to make a liberal grant of 10,000 copies of the French Scriptures to promote the objects of that Society. Our committee have only granted 5,000; but I have no doubt they will, err long, send the other 5,000. Before I left Geneva, my friend observed. “Probably you will like to see the house where Voltaire lived, and where he wrote his plays.” Prompted by the spirit of curiosity, so characteristic of an Englishman, to visit the house of the celebrated infidel, I was about to put on my hat to walk into the county, when he said, “It is not necessary you should put on your hat” and he introduced me over the threshold of one room to another, and said, “tis the room where Voltaire’s play were acted for the amusement to himself and his friend.” And what was my gratification in observing that that room had been converted into sort of Repository for Bibles and Religious Tracts. Oh! my Christ Friends, that the spirit of infidelity had been there, to witness the results of other vaticinations [acts of prophesying] respecting the downfall of Christianity! I know that Voltaire said, that he was living “in the twilight of Christianity” but blessed be God! It was the twilight of the morning, which will bring on the day of universal illumination.”[9]

Only fifty-eight years after his death the former home of Voltaire in Geneva, Switzerland, was indeed serving as a storehouse for Bibles and Gospel tracts. While the Evangelical Society of Geneva did not actually purchase the house, Henri Tronchin, president of the Society, resided in the house, and used some of the rooms to store Bibles which Voltaire so vehemently opposed and prophesied Christianity’s downfall! Yes, an ironic twist of divine Providence.

Let it also be noted, only sixteen years after Voltaire’s death, in 1794, the presence of the Bible began making in-roads in the town where he spent the last eighteen years of his life, Ferney, France. On the very printing presses which Voltaire employed to print his irreverent works was used to print editions of the Bible and, according to the eyewitness account of Hannah More,  were printed on paper that had “been especially made for a superior edition of Voltaire’s works. The Voltaire project failed, and the paper was bought and devoted to a better purpose [of printing Bibles]!”[10]

In the book Letters from an Absent Brother, by Daniel Wilson, Bishop of Calcutta, which chronicles his travels through parts of Netherlands, Switzerland, Northern Italy, and France, he writes to his sister from Geneva on Wednesday evening, seven o’clock, October 1, 1823, concerning the distribution of Bibles in the town where Voltaire once lived: When I arrived at Paris, one of the first things I heard was that a Bible society had been established at Ferney, chiefly by the aid of Baron de Stael. What a noble triumph for Christianity over this daring infidel. One of the first effect of the revival of true religion or even of sound learning in France, I should think would be to lower the credit of this profligate, crafty, superficial, ignorant, incorrect writer. What plea can wit or cleverness, or the force of satire or the talent of ridicule or a fascinating style, or the power of brilliant description, form, in a Christian country, for a man who employed them all, with a bitterness or ferocity, of mind amounting to almost madness, against the Christian religion and the person of our Saviour.[11]

That a Bible society had been established in Ferney, France to help financially in the printing of Bible’s in the town where Voltaire once resided, is confirmed in the 1824 Report of the Protestant Bible Society at Paris containing the following sentence: A newly established branch at Ferney formerly the residence of Voltaire, has sent its first remittance, a sum of 167 francs.[12]

Further proof that the printing presses being employed to print Bibles were the ones Voltaire once used to print his blasphemous works is contained in a transcript from the Quarterly Papers of the American and Foreign Bible Society of 1837: “A Bible Society was some years since established at Ferney, once the residence of Voltaire—the prince of infidels. This noble enterprise for the propagation of the Christian religion is said to have commenced by Baron de Stael, and a few zealous Christians in that place. In the history of Bible Societies, this is truly a memorial event. That the antidote should issue from the very spot where the poison of infidelity for so many years disseminated; and the advocates of Christianity should in that very place print and circulate the sacred volume, as a sufficient shield against misrepresentations sophistry which he had there assailed divine revelation, are the events which the brilliant Frenchman would have pronounced impossible….Oh! That the gifted infidel could have been there, to witness the result and repent of his ratiocinations [reasoning]  respecting the downfall of Christianity. But, there is a point beyond which even divine forbearance does not extend” [13]

In 1845 Bibles were still being printed on printing presses Voltaire once employed in Ferney, France. The 1846 anniversary address of The American and Foreign Bible Society, Rev. Charles G. Sommers gave a stirring report on how the Bible was making penetration into various places around the world. When speaking about the Scriptures advancements in countries around the world (including France) in the previous year of 1845, Rev. Sommers stated,
“Much has indeed been accomplished, but much more remains to be done for the millions who are still without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world. It is true, indeed, and we thank God, that in nine years this Society has printed one million of books in forty-nine different languages, but hundreds of millions must be distributed among the famishing myriads of our race. By what other means can we hope to arrest the progress of infidelity and Romanism; now marching in triumph over the fields of our fair inheritance? When Pythagoras and Confucius were filling Europe and Asia with heresies, God raised up Ezra, the prophet, to compile and publish the books of the Old Testament, as an antidote to their delusions. And when Voltaire, Diderot, D’Alembert and Rousseau were laboring to crush the bleeding cause of Christ, God raised up against them the standard of the British and Foreign Bible Society; and it is a cause for grateful exultation that the same printing press which was employed to scatter the blasphemous tracts of the prince of French philosophers, has since been used at Ferney (France), to print the Word of God. The black confederacy raised their bulwarks to impede the march of truth, but they would have been equally successful, had they forged chains to bind the lightning, that cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, as the precursor of the coming of the Son of man. Voltaire boasted that he had seen the twilight of Christianity, and that the pall of an endless night would soon cover it forever. Yes, sir, he did see the twilight, but he was mistaken as to the hour of the day—it was the twilight of morning, pouring its effulgence over the brim of the horizon of the nineteenth century, which he mistook for the rays of a setting sun.”[14]

Having established that Bibles were actually stored in Voltaire’s former Geneva residence and were being printed on printing presses he once employed in Ferney, France, did he ever make such a prediction that one hundred years after his death the Bible would no longer be read? A man who wrote 20,000 letters in his lifetime, it would be impossible to know all the statements he wrote or spoke. However, it was generally acknowledged and understood by those near the time Voltaire lived that he had made such a prediction either verbally or in writing which may no longer exist. Rev. Acworth in 1836, only fifty-eight years after Voltaire’s death, referred to the infidel’s “vaticinations [act of prophesying] respecting the downfall of Christianity! Such a remark indicates it was common knowledge that such a bold prediction had been made by Voltaire. In 1849, only seventy-one years after Voltaire’s death, William Snodgrass, an officer of the American Bible Society, stated in the giving of ABS’s annual report that “the committee had been able to redeem their pledge by sending $10,000 to France, the country of Voltaire, who predicted that in the nineteenth century the Bible would be known only as relic of antiquity.”[15] Again, such a remark indicates it was commonly acknowledged that Voltaire had made such a prediction.

Found in an interpretative book on many of the works of Voltaire published in 1823, only forty-five years after his death, the author, a contemporary of the Frenchman, details the fact that he brutishly sought to inspire contempt for the Christian faith and saw himself more influential than Martin Luther and John Calvin! Voltaire wanted a “religion to be without code, without laws, without dogma, without authority” and “laughed all these Christians who believed their religion was truly divine.” The author states that Voltaire in his fight against Christianity would stop “at nothing to annihilate” the Christian faith.[16] It is obvious those in Voltaire’s day believed his efforts were for the purpose of dismantling Christianity.

While this writer could not find the exact quote that usually accompanies the story, similar quotes could be found. In an 1855 biography of Voltaire, the author quotes him as stating in a letter to a friend, “It is impossible that Christianism survives.”[17] In an effort to assist in bringing about what he perceived would hurry the demise of “Christianism,” in 1776, at age 82, Voltaire brought to a culmination his disdain for the Bible when he published La Bible Enfin Expliquée (The Bible Fully Explained).[18] The two-volume work was Voltaire’s commentary on the whole Bible. His purpose in writing was to “make the whole building [of Christianity] crumble.”[19] Writing with feigned credulity in a satirical and scoffing manner, he wrote viciously, mockingly critical and skeptically of practically every book and verse in the Bible. His sought to expose, as he saw it, the foolishness and irrationality of belief in the Bible. Of his massive tome, in which he derided the Bible on every page, he stated, “The subject is now exhausted: the cause is decided for those who are willing to avail themselves of their reason and their lights, and people will no more read this [Bible].”[20]

From such an arrogant declaration it is clear Voltaire delusionally believed as a result of his La Bible Enfin Expliquée, he had struck a death blow to the Bible’s believability and the sun was setting on the Book’s influence and in time the Volume would become irrelevant. However, instead of the Bible becoming irrelevant and no longer believed, the Inspired Volume begins to increase in circulation….his former house, only fifty-eight years after his death, being used as a storehouse to house Bibles and Gospel tracts and printing presses he once employed to print his anti-Christian sentiments was being used to print Bibles!

Like all stories that are repeated over the years, the exact details and wording may vary, but it seems clear the key components of the story are very much true. The story of Voltaire serves as an example and a reminder that the foolish predictions and efforts of man to extinguish the Bible will come to naught. No skeptic’s scoffing hammer has ever made a dent in the Eternal Anvil of God’s Word. To those who attempt to do so, Jesus emphatically declares, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

Amen!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Notes:
[1] Norman Geisler and William Nix, Introduction to the Bible, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), 124.

[2] Sarah Coakley, Faith, Rationality and the Passions, (MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2012), 37.

[3] Voltaire, Trans. Joseph McCabe, Selected Works of Voltaire, “The Sermon on the Fifty,” (London: Watts & Co., 1911), 178-180.

[4] Voltaire, ed. H.I. Wolff, Philosophical Dictionary, “Arius,” (New York, 1924), 253.

[5] Quote of Voltaire from his work God and Man, chapter xliv, found in James Parton, Life of Voltaire, Vol. II, (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co, 1881), 429.

[6] Stelling-Michaud, Suzanne, Le livre du Recteur de l’Académie de Genève (1559-1878) (Vol 6), (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1980), 72; also, Jean-Yves Carluer, “Henri Tronchin,” December 16, 2017, http://le-blog-de-jean-yves-carluer.fr/2017/12/16/henri-tronchin/ (Accessed March 12, 2019). In 1929 the Les Delices property was purchased by the city of Geneva, and now houses the Institute et Musee Voltaire, a museum founded in 1952 dedicated to the life and works of Voltaire.

[7]On Voltaire’s relations with the Tronchin family, see Deidre Dawson, Voltaire’s Correspondence: An Epistolary Novel (New York: Peter Lang, 1994), 101–126; also, George Valbert, “The Genevese Councilor François Tronchin and his relations with Voltaire”, The Revue des Deux Mondes, 1895, 205-216

[8] William Canton, A History of the British and Foreign Bible Society, 1845-1926, (London: J. Murray, 1903), 98.

[9] The Missionary Register for 1836, William Acworth, “Bible Notices in Switzerland and Italy,” (London: L&G Seeley, 1836), 352.

[10] The Gentleman s Magazine, July, August, September 1794; Samuel Bagster, The Bible of Every Land, (London, 1860), 167. Curiously enough, Bibles were printed on paper, which, according to Hannah More, had been specially made for a superior edition of Voltaire’s works. The Voltaire project failed, and the paper was bought and devoted to this better purpose. Monthly Extracts, 1848, August, p. 793.

[11] Daniel Wilson, Letters from an Absent Brother, (London, 1824), 187.

[12]Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Vol. 7, 1822, 1823, 1824, (London: J.S. Hughes, 1824), 17-18.

[13] Quarterly Papers of the American and Foreign Bible Society, No 11, New York, July 1837, “Bible Society at Ferney,” 21-22; also,  Proceedings of the Bible Covention which meet in Philadelphia April 26-29, 1837, (New York: John Gray, 1837), 21-22.

[14] Ninth Annual Report of the American and Foreign Bible Society, Presented at New York, May 15, 1846, (New York: John Gray, 1846), 48.

[15] Annual Report of the American Bible Society, 1849, Appendix, 98.

[16] Claude Francois Nonnottee, Erreurs de Voltaire, (Paris, 1823), 285-305.

[17] Eugene Noel, Voltaire, (Paris: F. Chamerot, 1855), 99.

[18] Arnold Ages, “The Technique of Biblical Criticism: An Inquiry into Voltaire’s Satirical Approach in La Bible Enfin Expliquée,” A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures, September 6, 2013, 67-79.

[19] Voltaire, La Bible Enfin Expliquée, (Alondres), 1776, 2.

[20] Voltaire, La Bible Enfin Expliquée, (Alondres), 1776; also; James Parton, Life of Voltaire, Vol. II, (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co, 1881), 543.

RECONCILING A GOD OF LOVE WITH THE PROBLEM OF NATURAL EVIL

Theologians and philosophers when engaged in explaining the mysteries of life, wrestle with two mysteries that challenge the mind and the soul. Those mysteries have to do with the problem of evil, which has two components: moral evil and natural evil. Of the two, moral evil poses the easiest solution, as we grasp that bad things happen as result of man’s capacity to choose between good and evil. The choices one makes brings about consequences; bad choices bringing about consequence that can adversely affect the individual who made the choice and have a ripple effect that affects the life of others.

It is a lot more difficult, though, to provide satisfactory answers in the face of natural evil. Natural evil would include “evil” or “acts” that is the result from natural events that would include floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, disease and other “events” that occur which bring in our lives tragedy, pain, suffering and even death. Devastating natural disasters in life often leave one pondering: “Where is God in the midst of all this suffering, loss of life, and destruction? It is not fair or just that these often disastrous acts occur (insurance companies call them ‘acts of God’)!”

The age-old dilemma was posed by Epicurus (341-270 BC): “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil, is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” While simplistic answers are not forthcoming, approaching the subject from a Christian perspective does yield some thought-provoking insights. Six will be considered.

First insight, the Bible teaches that the sometimes “bi-polar behavior” of nature is the result of The Fall. Natural evil is a result of man’s sin, the consequences having a ripple affect which reverberates throughout creation. The Bible teaches that natural evil is a consequence of deliberate rebellion of man against his Creator, the result being that in addition to man being affected by sin, creation suffered negative consequences, as well. The present world is not the way it was created to be. As a result of man’s disobedience to God, pain, suffering and death entered the world. Paul tells us that all creation was affected by The Fall and that all creation groans and is in travail from the consequences of man’s sin and awaits the time when it is freed from the bondage of sin and death (Romans 8:20-22). The sometimes-unpredictable acts of nature were not present prior to sin entering the world. The world is broken as the result of man’s rebellion against his Creator. Creation has been subjected to the curse of man’s sin and as a result the present world is functioning abnormally from God’s original design, bringing forth “acts” that are a distortion from the way God originally created the world and man.

Regarding the consequences of the curse of sin that affects man and creation, Francis Schaeffer succinctly writes, “I do not think Christians take the Fall and the present abnormality of the world with practical comprehension and seriousness. I mean by this that although Bible-believing Christians certainly do hold to a historical Fall and the present abnormality of the world as a theological truth, when it comes down to living, this is often forgotten. In other words, we forget that everything is abnormal today and that much of the sickness in the world and sorrows in other areas are a result of this abnormality. or to say it another way, there is so much in history that God did not mean to be there, in the way that He created the world and created man” (Schaeffer, Letters, IL: Crossway Books, 1985, 157). Schaeffer’s words are most insightful in regard to the “why?” of natural evil.

Second insight, God respects the freedom of man to choose, whose decisions can lead to dangerous acts of nature being destructive. It is understood there is natural evil/acts in nature that arise through no fault of man, but man’s choices, actions and neglect can sometimes put people in harm’s way when nature turns dangerous. When man builds houses and cities on fault lines in earthquake prone areas the inevitable will happen. When homes are built on the side of mountains that are prone to mudslides the house will eventually disappear from the mountain side. When one builds businesses and homes near flood prone areas or on the ocean front there is the risk that hurricanes will sooner or later bring devastation. Human freedom allows one to construct homes, businesses and cities being in places susceptible to earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes; however, when one does, acts of nature can result in grave damage and loss of life. Also, if corners are cut on building materials or construction in order to build quickly or cut expenses, the devastation can be even worse. The Lord respects our freedom to plan and create where we choose, even though eventual disaster may lurk in the future. We want the Lord to intervene in such cases, but for Him to do so He would have to suspend our freedom to choose (John Hick, Evil and the God of Love, London: Saffron House, 1966, 12).

Third insight, God created the world to operate according to certain laws, and even though sin may have skewed some of nature’s laws as originally designed, there is a cause and effect in nature in regard to how the world works. These are more than impersonal forces, behind it all there lays the Creator God. Scientist-theologian John Polkinghorne advocates that God has created a universe with particular natural laws that make life on earth possible for the existence of humanity. Polkinghorne states that while our “knowledge of the physical world is patchy and incomplete,” the same weather systems that creates F-5 tornadoes also creates rainstorms that bring water to the needed soil and plants. The same wind patterns that refresh us on a hot day can turn into destructive gale force winds. The same earthquakes that destroy buildings are part of the very dynamic in the regulation of soils and surface temperatures needed for human life. The same kinds of bacteria that can make one sick and even bring death, also yields substances that are used to bring healing. As Creator, God has created the world to work in a certain way and even though creation has been affected by sin, what we assume to be inherently bad or unjust contains within its processes that which also brings about good and sustains life (Polkinghorne, Science and Providence: God’s Interaction with the World, Boston: New Science Library, 1989, 3-7). That our Creator God doesn’t change the laws of nature to coincide with our idea of what is good and just brings us to our fourth thought-provoking insight

Fourth insight, in addressing the problem of “natural evil” one must approach it from the perspective that the problem is not with God, but the problem begins with our assumptions about who we think God ought to be, what God ought to do, and how we determine what is just or unjust. We expect God to act in a certain way according to the way we perceive Him. We presuppose that if God is good and omnipotent then “bad” shouldn’t happen, that God should be and act in the way our mind conceives Him to be. However, we define just and unjust from a near-sighted, sin tainted perspective. Basing whether something is good or bad, just or unjust on the premise of whether it fits into one’s own understanding what those terms mean is not the basis on which such a judgement should be made. One is not to affirm the goodness of God’s character according to one’s own experience and presupposing. Surely God, who sees all thing from the beginning to the end, sees the bigger picture. His thoughts and ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).

What appears to be unjust or bad from our rationale, experience and perspective, could actually be something that is very good from a longer-range perspective, but we are only seeing from our short-sighted perspective. In our view of God, we tend to project our narrow-sighted view and experiential definitions of good and bad onto God and assume that if He is good, He must be good by our own limited standards of what constitutes good and just. When one says God needs to be “just,” most often one makes such a statement in terms of what one thinks justice ought to be or in relation to what one perceives to be just from one’s restricted viewpoint. In the process, one doesn’t grasp how justice for one might be injustice to someone else in a different setting or vice-versa. After all, do we only want a God that fits into our box of understanding or One whose basis for what is just and unjust goes beyond one’s limited intellectual capacity?

We also impose within our narrow scope of God’s omnipotence, that He should use His power to conform to our understanding of how His power ought to work in the world and in individual lives. When we superimpose our concept of how God’s omnipotence should operate in the world, we have reduced Him to our level. God’s power is not subservient to our thinking or our whims of how we perceive He ought to operate in the world and in our lives. Our conception of God too often projects our preconceived assumptions onto God whose omnipotence we contend should be within the scope of our control. What we actually want is to manipulate God to fit into our parameters of how we think He ought to flex His powerful muscle over the forces of nature. How much better it is to come to terms with the understanding that God desires to work in us and with us in the world, and help us to better reflect the image of God He has stamped on each soul even when we encounter “acts” that from our perspective are deemed unfair, unjust, or bad (Dennis R. Bratcher, The Problem of Natural Evil, The Voice, http://www.crivoice.org, 2018).

Fifth insight, “Natural evil fulfills a higher divine purpose” (Augustine) (Robert Francis Allen, “St. Augustine’s Free Will Theodicy and Natural Evil,” Ars Disputandi, 3:1, 2003, 84-90). Pain, suffering, and disorder associated with natural evil providentially bring about a higher divine purpose in the larger plan of the Lord. Natural disasters often bring out in humanity the very best of human character, as neighbors and strangers aid one another in recovery. While natural disasters are often tragic, glimpses of the marred image of God within us is seen sparkling in the wreckage. As well, it is only after such natural disasters that some people actually have their hearts made tender enough to call on the Lord for help and strength in daily life. Many times only when one’s present situation is drastically changed does one find themselves thinking about the brevity of life, eternity and one’s accountability before the Lord. Further, it is in the aftermath of “acts of God” that one develops positive and strong character traits that would not have been formed if the disaster had not occurred. In difficult times one is prompted to grow stronger and become better human beings. So, even in the midst of disaster the Lord can direct what appears to be bad or unjust to fulfill a higher divine purpose (Romans 8:28) (Barry L. Whitney, What are they Saying about Evil?, NY: Paulist Printing, 1989, 6, 25)

Sixth insight, one whose skeptically reasoned reaction to the calamitous effects of natural disasters, instead of disproving the existence of a benevolent and omnipotent God, is in reality strong evidence for His existence. In his book Mere Christianity, former atheist C.S. Lewis acknowledged he thought the injustice he perceived in the world was an ironclad argument against the truth of Christianity. But as he reflected on what he considered injustice in the world, he asked himself, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I gotten this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” He concluded, how can one appeal to an objective standard of just and unjust, if there is not a standard outside of one’s self? For if there is no God and we are only the sum total of a collection of random atoms, one’s appeal to events or acts being declared just and unjust is no better or worse than that of anyone else. Such deducing resulted in C.S. Lewis becoming a Christian and one of the great Christian thinkers and writers of the twentieth century. (Lewis, Mere Christianity, NY: Harper Collins, 1952, 38-39).

While we have sought to look at six insights in regard to the problem of natural evil, ultimately we must acknowledge our inability to answer every question posed. Our finite minds can only take us so far, and we will never be able to penetrate the infinite mind of our benevolent and omnipotent God. It is not a weakness to admit that we do not have all the answers, but this know…in the midst of disastrous acts of nature God is able, willing and desirous to bring comfort, hope, and encouragement to the hurting heart. He is a God who walked among us in Jesus Christ and He is not oblivious to our pain. Having wept through human eyes (John 11:35), He comes to embrace us in our pain that in His divine providence will bring treasure out of tragedy.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

 

THE WONDER OF JESUS

I wish there was some way I could sufficiently describe the wonder of who Jesus is, but there aren’t words yet created that will allow me to express His wonderous character. Ever since our God took upon Himself flesh and walked among us, men have tried to express the magnificence who Christ is. But like the many facets of a sparkling diamond, one can never describe the gleaming brilliance of His personhood. While my effort to communicate the wonder of who Jesus is in all His splendor will prove to be woefully inadequate, yet for a few brief moments an attempt will be made to express what Jesus means to me.

Jesus is my Sin-bearer, who bore all my sins. He is Arm of the Lord who rescued me when I was lost and undone. He is the High Priest who not only offered the Sacrifice for my offenses, He was the Sacrifice. He is the Atoning One who forever paid the debt I could never pay. He is my Friend who sticks with me through thick and thin. He is the Advocate who pleads my cases before God’s throne. He is the Door who invited me to walk through the door of salvation. He is the Light when darkness invades my life. He is the Way when my feet want to wander astray. He is the Carpenter of Galilee who is constantly constructing in my life to make me what I could never be in my own power. He is the Great Physician and Healer who has brought spiritual healing to my soul and has more than once restored me physically. He is Honey out of the Rock who nourishes me with the sweet taste of His presence. He is the Strong Root who gives stability in the adverse winds of life. He is the Bright and Morning Star in my darkest night. He is the Vine from whom I draw life and who without Him I can do nothing.

He is the Rock made without hands who in the uncertainty of life I can with certainty stand upon. He is the Water of Life who quenches the thirsting of my soul. He is the Bread of Life who satisfies the hunger of my heart. He is the Everlasting Father who never leaves me or forsakes me. He is my Beloved who loved me when I was and when I am unlovable. He is the Word who speaks to me through the Scriptures. He is the Good Shepherd who searches for me when my soul roams from the fold. He is the Rose of Sharon whose beauty never fades. He is the Lilly of the Valley whose fragrance fills my life. He is the Kinsman Redeemer who redeemed me when I could not redeem myself. He is the Prince of Peace who gives peace in the midst of life’s restlessness. He is the Divine Counselor whose advice never fails. He is the Righteous One who gave me His Perfect Righteousness for my righteousness of filthy rags. He is the Accepted One in whom I find acceptance before a holy God. He is Emmanuel who is God with me. He is the Horn of Salvation who I hold on to on stormy seas. He is the Sun of Righteousness who shines through the clouds that seek to hide His face. He is the Hope of Glory when hope seems far away. He is the Ransom who paid the price when I was held captive my sin. He is the Lamb of God who after offering One Sacrifice for my sins forever, His work finished, sat down at the right hand of the Father.

He is the Keeper of the Covenant who when I failed, He was victorious. He is the Victorious One, who in my weakness gives me His victory. He is the Elder Brother who never lets me face a fight alone. He is my Life who grants me both spiritual and physical life. He is my Intercessor who carries my petitions to the throne of grace. He is Wisdom who I look to when confused which way to go. He is the Man of Sorrows who weeps with me in my suffering and pain, but he is my Comforter who seeks to lift me out of my suffering and pain. He is the All-Sufficient One who supplies my every need. He is the Mediator who took the hand of God and my hand to bring us together. He is the Chief Cornerstone who holds my life together. He is the Faithful One who remains faithful even when I fail Him. He is the King of kings who sits on the throne of my heart. He is the Lord of lords who replaces all other lords. He is the Ancient of Day who is from everlasting to everlasting. He is the Sweet-Smelling Savor who adds sweet aroma to my life. He is the Amen who none come before and none will come after. He is the Great I Am, He is whatever is my greatest need. He is the Resurrection and the Life who has promised me that by faith in Him I will never die, I will only be transported to a Land that is Fairer than Day.

O, I wish there was someway I could adequatley describe the magnificence and majesty of Jesus to you and the wonder of who He is. But words fail me. Hopefully someday I will be able to express in words worthy of who Jesus is the wonder of my Savior.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

The Gospel of Christ vs the Gospel of Meism

One of the most dramatic chapters in the Bible is found in Acts 9. It is the story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who after his conversion to Christ became known as Paul the Apostle. As Saul of Tarsus he was a zealous enemy of Christ. Acts 8 ends with Saul consenting to the brutal stoning of the Christian martyr Stephen. Fueled by his hatred of Christianity, the Scripture records, “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this Way [Christians], whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2). Saul’s plan was to see more Christians silenced and Christianity snuffed-out from the earth. Little did Paul know, as he made his way toward Damascus, his life was about to take an abrupt detour that would change the course of Christendom!

In Paul’s own words he recalls the life-changing incident, “And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me” (Acts 22:6). “And [I] fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And [I] said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:3-5). The Resurrected Christ confronted Saul with his life and his kicking against the pricks. “Kicking against the pricks” was a Greek proverb, which was familiar to anyone who made a living in agriculture. An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The prick or goad was a pointed stick that was used to urge some stubborn animal to move. There were at least four pricks Saul kicked against: (1) The extraordinary life of the historical Jesus, (2) the bold life of the Christians, (3) the serenely, victorious death of Stephen (4) and his own dissatisfaction with the Jewish religion. Those four “pricks” were inescapable for the restless conscience of Saul, culminating into an encounter with Jesus Christ.

The rebellious heart of Saul, who became Paul, was captured and transformed by holy-love and there prostrate in the dirt the Bible records, “And he trembling and astonished said, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’” (Acts 9:6). “And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do” (Acts 22:10).  Later standing before King Agrippa, Paul recalled the Lord’s instructions to him, “For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; [for unto] the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:16-17). Paul adds, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:18). From that day forward Paul lived his life in obedience and service to Christ and reaching others for the sake of the Gospel. He put Christ and others first, with no thought of his own welfare, esteeming others above himself (Philippians 2:3).

When meditating on Paul’s encounter with the living Christ, one discovers differences in his response with those who today spout the Meism Gospel. The Gospel to which Paul surrendered was anchored in a Christocentric question, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” The Gospel of Christ, which Paul proclaimed, was first and foremost about obedience to the Living Savior who died for the sins of humanity and to whom all men owe a debt of gratitude. Paul’s encounter with Christ produced in him a profound obligation to share the glorious message of Christ’s redeeming holy-love with Jew and Gentile. The Gospel Paul espoused was about being a living sacrifice no matter the cost, even if it meant the loss of one’s own life. The Gospel Paul preached was not about being focused on saving one’s self from difficulties, but in spite of difficulties pointing others to the salvation in the resurrected Savior. The Gospel Paul declared was not about becoming comfortable in one’s sins, but repenting and forsaking the very sins for which Christ died. The Gospel Paul expounded was not about using people to get what one wanted, but helping others to discover their need of Christ. The Gospel which motivated Paul to sacrificially travel the globe proclaiming, was not about clinging to vanishing earthly possessions but admonished others to focus on the riches found in Jesus Christ. The Gospel for which Paul willingly gave his life was not about getting one’s way, but about walking obediently in His way. The Gospel that transformed Paul was not about self, but glorifying the name of Christ (I Cor 6:20).

On the other hand, the Meism Gospel preached in many circles today is Humanistic, it is all about self and putting self first. The Meism Gospel is about what can Christ do for me, not what I can do for Him. The Meism Gospel is more concerned with earthly possessions, not in laying up treasure in heaven. The Mesim Gospel is about Christ being my bell-boy, not me being His surrendered servant. The Meism Gospel is about Christ being accommodating of me in my sin, not about turning from my sin. The Meism Gospel is about other’s honoring and recognizing me, not me esteeming others above myself. The Meism Gospel is about how the church can benefit my life, not about how I can serve the church and benefit those who are members. The Meism Gospel is about giving excepting something in return, not giving out of gratitude because Christ saved my soul and if I happened to receive something in return that is an added bonus. The Meism Gospel is about God yielding to my will, not me in sacrificial obedience being yielded to His will. The Meism Gospel protects self at all costs, not about protecting the honor of Christ at all costs. The Meism Gospel is easily offended, not in extending forgiveness to others. The Meism Gospel puts self-interest first, not what is the best interest of the whole Body of Christ. The Mesim Gospel exalts self, it does not exalt the Name that is above every name, the name of Christ.

It is clear to see, the Gospel of Meism is so consumed with self-interest that it causes one to take their eyes off the true Gospel of salvation, surrender, sacrifice, soul-winning and service to the risen Savior. Since the Meism Gospel is self-absorbed it stifles one’s compassion, is annoyed with inconveniences, paralyzes evangelism, is at home with self-sufficiency, and is apathic about the welfare of the Church if it is not feeding their “needs.”

Without question we need a return to the glorious Gospel of the living Christ, which Gospel resulted in Paul in surrendered worship asking, “Lord, what would you have me do?” Paul writes to the Corinthians that “you do not belong to yourself” (I Cor. 6:19). Christ purchased us with the price of His own blood in order to set us free from the pursuit of the false gospel of Meism. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THE TRANSGENDER DECEPTION

There are many aspects to being human. Being human means we possess a physical body that allows us to move about, to hear, see, touch, taste, and experience our surroundings. Being human means we possess a mind that enables us to think, be creative and reason. Being human means we possess emotions; we feel love, hate, sorrow, joy, etc. Being human means we possess volition/will; we have the capacity to say yes, to say no, and to make choices. While those aspects of being human no one would disagree, there is another aspect of being human which by and large is ignored in our culture today…there is a spiritual aspect of being human. The spiritual aspect is the most important part of being human, because it connects us to the One who created us. We were created with the capacity to fellowship with our Creator. When we neglect the spiritual aspect of our humanity we neglect that part us that makes us distinctly human and where one finds true significance, security and identity.

When we neglect and deny there is a spiritual aspect to us we are like a glove without a hand, we are not complete. When we deny our very connection to the One who created us, and we ignore and deny there is a spiritual aspect and reality to being human, we become less than what God intended for us to be. It is when we deny that we have a spiritual identity with our Creator that we construct new ways and identities to substitute for our disconnectedness to God. The morally unconventional movements we see unfolding in our society today are schemes of the Devil to further dismiss our created identity and obliterate the image of God that is stamped on our personhood. This battle is most clearly seen today in the rising tide of the transgender movement.

At the root of the transgender movement is a spiritual attack by the Devil that seeks to separate a person from their created identity and their created connectedness to the One who created them. It is a diabolical movement which seeks to convince that one can redefine who they were created to be. Unfortunately, most transgender people are unaware of the spiritual deceptive and destructive forces that push them onto such an unhealthy and harmful path. Well-organized groups whose sole agenda is to promote sexual immorality, the liberal news media, various politicians and political groups, apostate denominations, continue to exert pressure on society to accept such behavior as normal and belong in the mainstream of accepted cultural behavior. Sadly, in these last days we will continue to see this movement grow and escalate as satanic forces and radical activists seek to eliminate the concept of gender altogether. Such a downward moral spiral is evidence of a society that has forsaken and forgotten God (Romans 1).

May I say as lovingly as I know how, the notion that one is something other than what they are biologically is a lie perpetrated by the Devil in order to further distort and destroy ones connectedness to their Creator and that spiritual aspect of their personhood. The transgender movement in reality is a direct assault on the personhood of God in that it declares you can disconnect from the identity of who you really are and who God created you to be with no negative consequences. When a child is born they are either xx or xy, which is determined genetically and physiologically. When a child is born they are immediately identified anatomically as either a boy or a girl. However, transgenderism says you can cut yourself off from the reality of who you were created by God to be and you can be otherwise than God intended. To do so is to disconnect oneself from the identity they were given by God, denies ones created existence, and insists one can be someone other than God designed one to be.

One in the transgender world has denied their identity as a person and has created a world other than what God intended for them. Transgenderism allows one to create an existence that divorces themselves from the reality of who they really are. It creates a delusional world that isolates one from discovering one’s true spiritual and physical identity that was gifted to them at birth. It is personal abandonment of one’s God given identity and divine createdness. Transgenderism in reality rejects in its lifestyle the notion that God alone can define who I am and says I will determine my own gender and identity. The damage by accepting such a deceptive lie is far reaching. It invites extreme isolation, loneliness, rejection and depression as one seeks to confusingly live apart from their created existence and purpose.

Suicide among transgenders is nineteen (19) times more likely to occur than that found in the general population. Statics released in September 2018 by the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed, “Fifty-one percent of transgender male adolescents reported at least one suicide attempt — the highest rate in the study. The second highest was among young people who are non-binary — those who do not identify exclusively as male or female — at 42 percent, while 30 percent of transgender female adolescents reported attempting suicide. The study, ‘Transgender Adolescent Suicide Behavior,’ analyzed data drawn from a ‘Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors’ survey, which collected information from 120,617 young people, ages 11 to 19, across three years beginning in 2012.” (The Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker, “More Than Half of Transgender Male Adolescents Attempt Suicide, Study Shows,” September 14, 2018).

These are most alarming statics, but reveal the deceptive, dark, and destructive path Satan takes one down as he convinces one they can create an identity other what they were created by God to be. To do so only creates confusion and chaos in one’s life and results in serious and significant problems to which a godless, secular society has no answers. There is only one answer, and that answer is found in the transforming power of Jesus Christ. And as Christians what is to be our response to one caught in the confusion of the transgender world?

First, we must not get caught up the cultural push to accept such behavior as normal. While the pressure to accept transgenderism as mainstream persists, we must lovingly, but firmly, point out that transgenderism is a deceptive perversion of God’s intended purpose for each individual. We must continue to lovingly share that God made each individual exactly the way He intended, and true purpose in life is found, not in denying our identity, but embracing our identity and developing a relationship with God through Jesus Christ who desires we walk in the purpose for which He created us.

Second, Instead of passing judgement on individuals caught in the transgender world we must in love pray for them. They are caught in a destructive world that the average person can’t identify with or understand, yet the redemptive power of Christ can restore one to their created purpose and a re-embracing of their created identity. We must, again, lovingly and firmly point them to Christ. We must strive to affirm them in who they were created to be in Jesus Christ. It is admitted there is a fine line the Christian must walk between confronting one caught in destructive lifestyles and extending compassion for those caught in transgender confusion, but it is a line we must ask God to empower us to walk in truth and loving grace.

Let us always remember, no one is ever outside the reach of God’s amazing, transforming and redemptive grace. It is to this end we must pray for those caught in behavior that destroys one’s identity of who they we created to be and the relationship He desires to have with each of us.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TRINITY AND THE ERROR OF MODALISM

When is the last time you heard a message on the importance of the Trinity? The Trinity is one of the cornerstone doctrines of the Christian faith. The teaching of the Trinity is one God in three eternal coexistent persons: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches God as one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), but then speaks of three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). While the Bible clearly teaches that there are not three Gods, but one true God, the Scripture also teaches that there are a plurality of persons in the Godhead. How to harmonize these two truths is inconceivable to the finite human mind.

One sees clearly the Trinity in Jesus’ baptism: Matthew 3:16-17,  As soon as Jesus [the Son] was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God [Holy Spirit] descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven [the Father] said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

As one reads the Epistles of Paul it is clear he was Trinitarian. It becomes evident by reading the epistles of Paul that the Trinity is indeed the unity of three persons in one, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three times we find Paul using the term Godhead (Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:9), a term of reference to God’s trinue nature. While the truth of the Trinity can be discovered throughout Paul’s writings, when one reads his masterful and majestic letter to the Romans one clearly sees the nature of the relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. In the first four verse of chapter one of this magnificent epistle, Paul refers to all three. This is one of the mysteries that makes God such a Holy Triune Being, as throughout Romans the work of the all three are interwoven in the redemption story. Neither God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit can be taken out of the salvation equation.

First John 5:7-8 is more than clear in regard to the Trinity: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. Never a more concise verse can be found regarding God’s trinue nature. (See endnote)

In Trinitarianism, God is one being who reveals Himself in three eternally co-existing persons. The doctrine of the Trinity is important because it describes the very essence of God which is beyond our limited intellect. When one attempts to understand that which appears unfathomable to one’s limited knowledge, one may conclude such harmonization is untenable. But Scripture is plain: God exists in three co-eternal, co-equal Persons. The fact that the Trinity is difficult for our minds to comprehend is evidence of its truth, for if we could fully understand it, it would lend credence against our Triune God’s transcendence and His “wholly otherness” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

One of the first heretical views that arose in the early church dealt with an attack on the Trinity. It was called Sabellianism. While the seeds of the heretical teaching began to be sowed soon after the close of the canon, the third-century Roman teacher Sabellius is credited with propagating the view. Before defining Sabellianism, which is better known as Modalism, second and third-century church leaders like Tertullian (160–220), Origen (184–254), Dionysius (3rd century), and others clearly denounced it. In the fourth-century the Councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381), denounced Modalism as falling outside the boundaries of biblical orthodoxy.

What is Sabellianism or Modalism? Sabellius taught that those who embrace the Trinity are teaching three gods. Modalism contends that God is a single person who throughout history has manifested Himself in three forms or modes (thus, Modalism). Stephen Nichols writes: “[Modalism is a] heretical view that denies the individual persons of the Trinity. It views biblical terminology of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as merely modes of existence or manifestations of the one God… [Sabellius] held that there is one God who can be designated by three different names— ‘Father,’ ‘Son,’ and ‘Holy Spirit’—at different times, but these three are not distinct persons. Instead they are different modes of the one God. Thus, God can be called ‘Father’ as the Creator of the world and Lawgiver; he can be called ‘Son’ as God incarnate in Jesus Christ; and he can be called ‘Holy Spirit’ as God in the church age” (Nichols, For Us and For Our Salvation: The Doctrine of Christ in the Early Church, IL: Crossway, 2007, 153, 235-236).

So, according to Modalism God first manifested Himself in the mode or role of the Father in the Old Testament. In the incarnation the mode God manifest Himself was the Son. After the Jesus’ ascension, the mode God manifest Himself was the Holy Spirit. These modes are never simultaneous…the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time. Thus, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all the same person, just playing different roles or in different modes or forms. Once God manifests Himself in a new mode, the old mode no longer exists; or in other words, when God existed as Jesus, God the Father was no longer existing. Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity, God is one person and has merely manifested Himself in the three modes at various times. Modalism undermines the Scriptural teaching that God never changes (Mal 3:6: Jas 1:17) as it portrays a God who changes his modes. Without doubt Modalism denies the Trinity.

Modalism has been universally understood throughout Christendom as heretical. The Athanasian Creed (500 A.D.) attributed to Athanasius, the fourth century bishop of Alexandria, who was an ardent defender of the doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ, in clear and unmistakable language defines the doctrines of the Trinity and the nature of Christ:

     Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the [universal] faith. Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.      And the [universal] faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance.
     For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
     Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.     The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
     The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one Eternal.
     As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one Uncreated, and one Incomprehensible. So likewise, the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Spirit Almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one Almighty.
     So, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three gods, but one God.
     So likewise, the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet not three lords, but one Lord.
     For as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge each Person by Himself to be both God and Lord, so we are also forbidden by the catholic religion to say that there are three gods or three lords.
     The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
     So, there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
     And in the Trinity, none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another, but all three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

Truly the Athanasian Creed is masterfully written in its defense and explanation of the Trinity. While today there are some groups within Pentecostalism, such as United Pentecostal or Oneness Pentecostalism, United Apostolic Churches and a few leaders within the Prosperity Gospel movement that adhere to Modalism, to hold to the heretical view presents serious problems. A person’s view of Christ cannot be divorced from one’s view of the Trinity. Modalism is considered heresy because it necessarily means that Christ did not actually become incarnate, but God only assumed the mode of Son. Modalism undermines the mediatorial work of Christ, as the Scripture teaches that Jesus is the mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5). The Scripture is clear that the Father sent the Son and the Son sent the Holy Spirit, all three are co-eternal yet One (John 10:3). In unity the Triune God brought about the unfolding of the plan of redemption in unity. One who denies the Trinity and embraces Modalism ignores the clear teaching of the Bible.

The truth of the Trinity is seen from the first verse in the Bible until the last chapter of the Bible. In Genesis 1:1 we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The word God in Hebrew is Elohim, which is used some 2,600 times in the Old Testament. Elohim is a masculine plural noun for “gods.” In Hebrew, the ending im indicates a masculine plural. In the very first verse in the Bible we see the Trinity. The Creator (Elohim) is one God in three eternal co-existent persons working in unity to create. All three persons of the Godhead were eternally at work simultaneously, in unity as One.

It has already been pointed out we see the witness of the Trinity at Jesus’ baptism. As well, Trinitarianism is clearly found in the writings of Paul and John. And in the last book of the Bible we see the Trinity — Revelation 22: God (v. 1, 3, 9); Jesus (1, 3, 12-13); Spirit (v. 17). From the first verse in the Bible until the last verses of the Bible the work of the Triune God is interwoven throughout the Sacred Text. Before creation our Triune God inhabited eternity and when earth and time merge into the eternal kingdom our Triune God will continue to inhabit eternity; the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal, yet One.

While there will always be an unexplainable mystery surrounding the Trinity, to deny it finds one straying from the clear teaching of Scripture. It has been said that in one’s attempt to understand clearly everything about God’s personhood it is possible to lose one’s mind, but to deny the clear teaching regarding His personhood one is in danger of losing one’s soul! This writer is most thankful that our God is bigger that our feeble minds can explain or comprehend. In the Old Testament one of the names given to God was El Shaddai, translated “God Almighty” or “Almighty God,” meaning the All-Powerful One. And that He is! As the first verse of the song “Holy, Holy, Holy” reads, let us sing:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holly, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

Endnote: While I John 5:7-8, known as the Johannine Comma, gives clear support for the Trinity, it must be noted there are notable scholars who argue the verse is not genuine to the original text having been inserted by well-meaning copyists to support the teaching of the Trinity. It is not this writer’s purpose to address the issue here, but suffice it to say there are equally notable scholars (e.g., Johann Bengel, John Fell, Edmund Calamy, Matthew Poole, John Gill, Charles Foster, John Wesley, John Calvin, Edward Hills) who argue convincingly for its authenticity. This writer has no hesitation of referencing the verse, believing it to be part of the Inspired, Sacred Text. But even without I John 5:7-8, the Bible clearly teaches the truth of our Trinue God. (It is the contention of this writer that if divine providence has not ensured the Scripture has been kept pure in all areas, how can one be assured another inauthentic passage hasn’t “slipped” into the Bible!) If one was to exclude I John 5:7-8, in I John chapter 4 John repeatedly makes reference to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; God in three persons yet One.

THE FUTILITY OF ATHEISM

I have always been intrigued by those who claim to be an atheist. It is amazing atheists will fight so emotionally hard against something that they say doesn’t exist! That is the futility of atheism, one must continually rationalize and present arguments as to why something that doesn’t exist, doesn’t exist! I have learned through the years it takes more faith to be an atheist than to accept the existence of God!! One truth I have found to be true is that the problem with those who don’t believe in God, it is not a head problem but a heart problem. The evidence that an Intelligent Designer exists is so overwhelming, one has to purposely and intentionally ignore the evidence to come to any other conclusion, yet many dismiss or ignore the abundance of evidence for many reasons.

Let me share with you eleven reasons I have observed over the years as to why one may claim to be an atheist: (1) Desiring moral independence, they are clinging to some behavior which they know if there is a God to whom they must give an account, they will have to change their behavior, so they find it convenient to dismiss His existence; (2) Some negative event has occurred in their lives which has resulted in the individual becoming angry at God (but how can you be angry at someone whose existence is denied!?); therefore, they on emotion dismiss the abundance of evidence which clearly declares His existence; (3) One narcissistically depends on their inflated perception of their own intelligence and because their finite reasoning cannot explain every facet of the majesty of who God is or fit Him into their preconceived box, they conclude He must not exist; (4) One is puzzled at the tension which exists between good and evil; therefore, in their estimation, belief in a benevolent and omnipotent God is an irrational contradiction; (5) Self-determination, men want to be their own god; therefore; they purposely will not entertain the existence of a Supreme Being who usurps their self-autonomy; (6) One intentionally adopts philosophies which dismiss God’s existence because it appeals to their rebellious nature which seeks a subjective morality over an objective morality of a Creator; (7) One sees themselves as a “macho-man” type of person who can handle all of life’s difficulties on their own, and they dismiss belief in a God as an imaginary crutch that helps individuals limp through life; (8) One has been hurt or treated unfairly by someone who called themselves a Christian or hurt by a church; therefore in their hurt they throw the baby out with the bathwater and dismiss His existence; (9) One declares that science and belief in a Supernatural Being are not compatible; therefore Divine Being is dismissed as a superstitious explanation for the world’s existence; (10) One is raised in an environment where from birth they are taught there is no God and they embrace such a view without questioning or investigating the reality of His existence; (11) One reasons since there are so many religions, and since they can’t all be right; therefore; belief in God is a concoction of man’s imaginative mind.

Every person who claims to be an atheist has their own reason for embracing non-belief. Time nor space does not permit me to address each of the eleven objections. Over the years I have studied all the stock arguments atheists offer, and may I say as lovingly as I can, I have observed that all the reasons given for dismissing God’s existence are more emotionally driven than intellectually founded. Evidence that there exists, as Paul Tillich says One who is the “infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of all being,”  is overwhelming for the honest inquirer. One might ask, “Well, if there is a God, why would He be interested in us humans who are but specks of dust in a vast universe?” That is the marvel of the Creator, He loves you and me and even though we have been marred by sin, He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ and has provided a way for us to be forgiven and the image of God He stamped upon our souls to be restored. His desire is that each person be saved and embrace Him in relationship (2 Peter 3:9).

Christianity is not founded on blind faith, but built upon historical facts, reason, logic and an abundance of evidence for the seeker who honestly inquires what is truth. Pilate, in his self-autonomy, asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Sadly, the Roman ruler did not recognize that he was looking into the very face of Truth. The Good News of Christ is that even though we all have sinned and come short of God’s glory, God seeks through His atoning cross to remove all barriers of separation whereby we can have communion with the Creator of the universe.

In my over six decades of sojourn on this earth, I am more convinced than the rising morning  sun that an Intelligent Designer exists and He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, and He desires to enter into a daily relationship with us. Yes, we may be a speck of dust in this vast universe, but that is the marvel of God’s love for humanity. To those who will honestly bring their arguments to Jesus Christ and sincerely ask Him to reveal Himself in all His splendor, will find themselves confessing the declaration of Simon Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go, thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). O, what a Savior.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN JOY AND HAPPINESS

Is it possible have joy in a world filled with sorrow and brokenness? We come into the world crying, and leave with weeping loved ones seated by our bedside. On one hand the Bible declares that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10) and on the other hand we often feel like the Jews who found themselves in captivity, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:1-4).

The circumstances and events of life have a way of putting us in a “strange land” and our tears water the willow trees and our harps remain silent. Is it possible to have joy amidst so many tears? Is it possible for one to sing a joyful song in a “strange land?” How can one sing the Lord’s song when the warmth of His smiling face seems to be hidden behind storm clouds filled with rain? We associate the words “sorrow” and “pain” with that which is negative, and we associate the word “joy” with that which is positive. The Bible tells us that joy is the power by which we should live, which enhances love, awakens our senses, and energizes our body and spirit. Is such joy only an elusive butterfly which flutters about us but can never be captured…..and if we do it vanishes like a shooting star in the night sky.

From many years in the pastoral ministry it is the observation of this writer that too often people confuse happiness with joy. There is a huge difference between the two. The terms “happiness” and “joy” are thrown into the same blender, blurring the difference between the two. Tossing the terms around like salad in a bowl, there needs to be a clarification of the meaning of the two terms for they are not the same. One can be happy but have no joy, and one can experience joy even when they are not happy. What is the difference between the two?

You see, happiness is based on circumstances. The word “happiness” is related to the Latin “happenstance.” Broken down you have “happen” (lucky, happy) and “stance” (short for circumstance). So, happiness is associated with temporary circumstances of elation. Happiness is determined by outside stimulus. If circumstances happen to be favorable then one is happy, if circumstance are contrary then one is not happy. Happiness is associated with good fortune and is based on that which is outside one’s self. Happiness is often temporary since it depends on circumstances outside one’s inner-self.

Biblical joy is not based on circumstances. Christian joy is anchored in a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ and is an inner state of being rather than a fleeting emotion. Joy, from the Greek word chara, means “to rejoice, be glad, full of joy.” The word chara is related to charis which means “grace.” Such joy is an everlasting reality of exceeding cheerfulness or gladness anchored in the grace of the resurrected Christ. Joy resides in the inner-self of a person and is connected with the life source of Jesus. Joy is not fleeting like happiness, but is derived from one’s relationship with Christ. One can have joy even though circumstances may prove contrary. While such joy enhances ten-fold one’s encounter with happiness, it also anchors the soul when tears cloud the eyes.

It says of Jesus as He faced the cross, “For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). This verse is a enigmatic mystery, as it speaks of joy and the agony of the cross in the same sentence. The key word in the verse is “for.” The Greek word is anti, which has several meanings…one being “in exchange for” in the sense of “to obtain.” This means that Christ willingly endured the horror, agony and shame of the cross in anticipation of the joy of providing atonement for the sins of humanity. Christ endured the shame of the cross for the joy of bringing salvation to fallen humanity. In spite of enduring the worst capital punishment devised by man’s cruel mind, He did so with joy that was anchored in His fellowship with the heavenly Father and in union with heaven’s will for His life. As one can readily see, the joy Jesus experienced was not based on favorable circumstances, but was a deep-seated joy that resided inwardly from His relationship with His Father.

Yes, the universal symbol of Christianity is the cross, a symbol of horrific suffering and death, but behind the cross of Christ the shining sun of the resurrection arises. Christianity is a faith uniquely characterized by joy…joy in the celebration that Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross was perfect provision for the vilest of human sin; joy in the celebration that Christ arose from the dead, joy in the celebration that Christ has sent His Holy Spirit to abide with us and in us; joy in the celebration that Christ will never leave us or forsake us no matter how dark the night; joy in the celebration that all things, good and bad, work together for our good; and joy in the celebration that when we draw our last breath we will find ourselves dwelling in an Eternal City whose Builder Maker is the God who became flesh and dwelt among us. It is a joy that sustains us when our ship is tossed about on the raging waves of life’s fiercest storms.

It is His joy Christ desires to impart to all who will embrace Him. On the night of Jesus’ arrest, as the disciples were about to face the most difficult circumstance of their lives, the Master told them, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (Jh 15:11). Circumstances were about to become unfavorable, but Jesus assured His disciples that by being in union with Him, His joy could sustain them in their darkest hours.

The Apostle Paul exhibits this joy in his writings to the church at Philippi. Some seventeen times he talks about joy while writing from a dungy and dirty prison cell. His unfavorable outward circumstances were not conducive to happiness, but because of his daily, personal relationship with Christ he had an inward joy that transcended his circumstances (1:4-5, 18-19, 15, 2:2, 17-18, 28-29; 3:1; 4:4; 4:10). Paul had discovered the only lasting and eternally sustaining joy flowed from Christ’s cross and resurrection. It was a joy he told his readers was available to all who were in union with the Savior.

This joy which Paul wrote about, I know of no one who would not long to experience such deep seated joy in the midst of contrary circumstance. Such joy resides in Christ alone. However, the key is not making a priority the pursuit of happiness for the sake of happiness or joy for the sake of joy, for to do so is to chase a temporary mirage. Our priority is to pursue Jesus Christ, to develop an intimate relationship with the Risen Lord, then all these other “things” will be added unto us (Matt. 6:33). Such joy is a byproduct of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

Joy which is found in Christ is enduring and affects one’s attitude in living. While in suffering we want our pain to disappear, because of joy in Christ we can victoriously endure. Why can we victoriously endure, because by the death of Christ and His glorious resurrection we find strength and the radiance of His splendorous presence enables us to embrace our humanness which our God identified with in Christ who fills our hearts with an eternal hope by Him “who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10).

So, let us embrace Christ wherein lies a supernatural joy which He desires to impart to us. And let us remember, that someday all suffering and brokenness will be swallowed up in His eternal presence, all despair clothed with hope realized, and death abolished in victory.

O, what a Savor!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

A CONTRAST BETWEEN GRACE AND WORKS

In the Parable of The Pharisee and The Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus teaches us some valuable lessons regarding our attitude towards our own sins and the grace and mercy of God. We see a huge contrast between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. It is a contrast that serves as a distinguishing difference between those who seek salvation by their own works and those who rest in the grace and mercy of the Lord. You are either arrogantly trusting in your own good works and your own perceived goodness to save you, or you are trusting in the Lord’s mercy and grace to save you. Before delving into the text, Luke 18:9-14 reads:

9 And he [Jesus] spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Let us examine in this passage six contrasts that are most evident.

First, we see a contrast in their Position in Society. The Pharisee was considered to be religious, well-to-do, loyal to Jewish heritage, steeped in knowledge of the Torah, and held a place in society few would ever reach. The publican or tax collector was considered a traitor as he was employed by the Roman Empire to collect taxes, he was considered to be dishonest as he overcharged what the taxes actually were and kept the rest for himself, he was considered to be unreligious as most tax collectors lived without restraint. They were polar opposites in the eyes of society.

Second, we see a contrast in their Posture in Prayer. Both entered the Temple to pray. The Pharisee proudly stands (v. 11). The word translated “stand” could be rendered “posing himself” for everyone to see. Standing with arms outstretched with palms turned upwards was the ordinary Jewish Pharisaical posture in prayer. His arms were stretched toward heaven with palms turned upward, as he proudly felt he deserved to receive something from God. He, as well, prayed by himself to avoid being “contaminated” by coming in contact with lesser people than himself. The posture of the Pharisee was one of idolatrous pride.

The tax collector, in contrast, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast (v 13). His posture was one of humility. He stood afar off, not because he was fearful he would be contaminated by others, but because he felt unworthy. He was not praying to be seen of others, but to “do business” with God. He didn’t feel worthy to lift his eyes toward heaven, his posture being that of a mourner grieving. His eyes were turned downward and he smote his breast. The posture he took was the custom of one expressing grief.

Third, we see a contrast in the Person to whom they Prayed. The Pharisee “prayed thus with himself” (v. 11). He prayed, so to speak, to himself. It was only a façade that he was praying to God, he was the object of his on idolatrous prayer. His prayer went no higher than the ceiling in the Temple.

By contrast the tax collector prayed to God. The Greek word for God is theos (θεός). He prayed not just to any god, but to the God who became a Man and came to earth as a Babe. We find in Matthew 1:23, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a Son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which translated means “God (theos θεός) with us.” The Person to whom the tax collector prayed was the One who in Christ became “God (theos) with us.” The Pharisee’s prayer was a humanistic prayer to himself, but the prayer of the tax collector was Christocentric, it focused on One outside himself.

Fourth, we see a contrast in their Pleas. The Pharisee’s “prayer” contained no plea, but was a reciting of all his good works, “I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (v. 11-12). The Pharisee bragged on his empty ceremonialism.

The plea of the tax collector was simple and to the point, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” He did not appeal to the Lord on the bases of his good works, but he appealed to the Lord on the bases of His mercy (v. 13). He didn’t approach the Living Word with a proud heart like the Pharisee. He was sorrowful for his sin, and saw no good within himself. He had nothing of which to boast; therefore, he pleads for mercy. The Greek word for mercy is hilaskomai (“be propitious to” or “merciful”), and was a word used to refer to atoning blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat in the Old Testament on the Day of Atonement which mercifully appeased or satisfied the holiness of God. The same word (hilaskomai) is used in Hebrews 2:17 where the inspired writer says Jesus came to make atonement (hilaskomai) for our sins. The tax collector cried out, “Lord be propitious/merciful toward me through sacrifice, let an atonement be made for me. I am a sinner and cannot be saved in any other way than by a satisfactory sacrifice offered in my place.” Of course, that satisfactory sacrifice was Christ.

Fifth, we see a contrast in their Plight. The Pharisee didn’t see his plight, that he was a sinner. He was blinded by his pride, arrogance, haughtiness, egotism, conceit, spirit of superiority, and self-righteousness. He saw no need for forgiveness, no need for mercy, and thought he was worthy to come into the presence of God by his own good works and self-righteousness.

The tax collector recognized his plight, he saw and sensed he was a sinner. The Pharisee thought of others as sinners. The publican thought of himself alone as a sinner. The Greek word “sinner” means to miss the mark, and the tax collector knew he had missed the mark and that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and none were righteous, no not one(Romans 3: 10, 23). He recognized he had failed to comply with God’s holy law, and was unworthy to ever save himself or come into God’s holy presence by his own good works. Like the tax collector, only those who rely upon the substitutionary grace and mercy of God as found in Jesus Christ can find forgiveness. One who doesn’t recognize their plight can never receive or experience Christ’s atoning mercy and grace.

Sixth, we see a contrast in the Pronouncement by Jesus. The Master made a distinction between the two men, “I tell you, this man [the tax collector] went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (v. 14). We see clearly the reason why the Lord said that the tax collector went down to his house justified (forgiven) rather than the Pharisee – he sought for mercy through an atonement for sin, which was the only way in which God had from the foundation of the world purposed to save sinners (Rev. 13:8).

As the Pharisee depended on his good works and observing the ordinances of religion for his acceptance with God, his inability to comply with the holy and perfect demands of God and his blindness to his own sinfulness, he found himself rejected. Scriptures declare, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Bible is clear, no man can make an atonement for his own sins, we must take refuge in Him who God’s mercy has provided in Jesus Christ. One who trusts their own good works will find themselves excluded from the kingdom of heaven.

The tax collector knew his need for a substitutionary sacrifice was no new doctrine, it was the doctrine publicly and solemnly preached by every sacrifice offered under the Jewish law. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, was the loud and constant cry of the whole Mosaic sacrificial system. From this we may see what it is to have a righteousness superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees. To be saved, to have our sins forgiven, to find acceptance in the presence of the holy-love of God, one must humble themselves before the God who has provided atonement in Christ. Christ invites those who, like the tax collector, recognize they are sinners and come before Him with a meek and humble heart, there finding eternal refuge in the perfect provision of the cross.

O, what a Savior!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

THEODICY AND THE CROSS OF CHRIST

What in the world does the word theodicy mean? The word theodicy comes from two Greek terms: theos meaning “God,” and dike meaning “justice” or “justified or right.” Dale Moody informs, “The word was coined by G.W. Leibnitz in 1710 to explain why there is evil in a world created by and under the Providential care of a God both good and omnipotent” (Moody, The Word of Truth, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981, 153). Theodicy seeks to respond to questions of how a benevolent and omnipotent Creator can be true in the light of the existence of evil and suffering. Theodicy is the endeavor to justify and defend the reality of a good and powerful God amidst evil in the world.

When God created man He did so by giving man the ability to make choices. There is a risk that comes with such freedom, as one can make good or bad choices. There are consequences that come from good choices and consequences that come from bad ones. Unfortunately, bad choices bring consequences that can manifest evil and bring about suffering and pain. We often ask, “Why did not God stop that evil act?” If God intervened to stop the evil choices of man, then He would have to suspend man from being a free moral agent. If that happened we would then ask, “Why does not God give me the freedom to choose?” We cannot have it both ways.

Being created with freedom to choose means man has the capacity to love and freedom is necessary for one to give and experience love. For love to exist that is not mechanical there must be a choice not to love. Love that is compelled or forced has no meaning. God wants us to freely love Him and in turn love others, but if one is compelled to love it is only a mechanical response that is devoid of emotion. One can program a computer to say, “I love you” but it does so without emotion because it had no choice to do otherwise. Such love is valueless. For genuine love to exist and be experienced there must be freedom of choice and that also means freedom to choose otherwise. Being created with the freedom to choose between loving and not loving, freedom to choose good or bad, there comes with such freedom the possibility of evil, suffering, pain and sorrow becoming a reality. And we know all too well the unfolding of evil’s reality in our individual lives and the world around us.

In the face of the evil we see and experience, developing an adequate Christian perspective on theodicy is the best and deepest way to strengthen one’s faith. Such a perspective must reconcile (justify) both the divine and human. When one seeks to develop a philosophical theodicy, one takes on a daunting task. Too often men have sought to develop a theodicy on rationality apart from a personal and relational perspective. P.T. Forsyth (1848-1921), the Scottish theologian stated, “No reason of man can justify God in a world like this. [God] must justify Himself, and He did so in the cross of His Son….[the cross being] God’s own theodicy” (Forsyth, The Justification of God, London: Independent Press, 1917, 14, 122). How does God defend His love and goodness in the face of evil and suffering? Forsyth answers, “He does so through the cross; the supreme theodicy is atonement” (Justification, 174). “God’s work of atonement on the cross is His self-justification in the face of evil and suffering” (Kenneth Surin, Theology and the Problem of Evil, Oxford: Blackwell, 1986, 112),

Forsyth contends that the only way one can reconcile God’s righteousness and goodness with the horrors of sin and suffering is to consciously place at the center of any theodicy the cross of Christ. It is in the cross where we find the supreme revelation of God. In the cross we don’t have to justify God, for in the cross God justifies Himself. In the cross “God shows Himself to be righteous and good in spite of the existence of evil in our world” (Forsyth, Justification, 122).

For Forsyth, the cross must be at the heart of any biblical approach to theodicy. A theodicy based solely on intellectual speculation that is devoid of a biblical foundation will prove futile and frustrating. For any theodicy to be biblical it must be centered in the cross of Christ. For it is at the cross we see God in Christ interacting with and becoming identified with man and suffers with him. God’s interactions with human sin and suffering culminate in the cross where the Creator took upon Himself the burden of and suffering with those He has created. Forsyth writes, “[Christ] brings God’s providence to the bar of God’s own promise. In Christ, God is fully justified by Himself. If any man thinks he has anything to suffer in the flesh, God more. In all their afflictions He was more afflicted” (Forsyth, Justification, 127).

Echoing Forsyth’s thoughts, Milton Crum writes, “Portraying God as fully in Christ portrays God as suffering all that Christ suffered on the cross, but it implies more than that. It implies that God suffered and has always suffered all that humanity suffers” (Crum, Evil, Anger, and God, Livermore, CA: WingSpan Press, 2008, 185). Yet through it all Christ was victorious over the worst man sought to do to God’s best. Forsyth’s theodicy is “an extension of the doctrine of the atonement” whereby Christ was victorious (Justification, 174). Christ’s victory on the cross and in His resurrection is our assurance there will be realized in actuality what was secured at the Cross.

Of theodicies’ mystery Forsyth writes, “The tactics of Providence cannot be traced, but in the cross His purpose we have, and His heart. We have Him” (Justification, 23). God’s own theodicy is a theodicy of reconciliation and relationship that comes through the victory won on the cross, a theodicy that enables trust in God in spite of unanswered questions, which in His time will be answered and every wrong righted. While all mysteries of Providence cannot be answered, the cross of Christ is God’s answer to the problem of evil and human doubts that may surround God’s righteousness and goodness.

Karl Barth seems to hitch his wagon to Forsyth’s theodicy, writing that “the unaided mind of man cannot devise a theodicy that establishes the idea of the goodness of God” (Barth, Church Dogmatics, T & T Clark, 1957, III-1, 368). Like Forsyth, Barth contended that what human theodicies could not do, on the cross God in Christ “gave Himself that He might bear and suffer what man himself had to suffer” (Barth, Church Dogmatics, II-2, 165). In the cross Barth saw a twofold justification, as he interpreted the cross as both our justification and “the justification in which God justifies Himself” (Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV-1, 564). For Barth, Christ’s cross and resurrection affirm that evil, sin and death have been overcome, and the ultimate victory over evil and suffering has been secured.

In the Event of the cross, followed by the resurrection, humanity finds the solution to a proper theodicy whereby one gains confidence that God will take action to right all wrongs and vindicate all undeserving victims of evil. One can be assured that God, through His self-justification in the Christ Event (the cross), is moving all history towards His glorious goal which the victory on the cross foreshadows (Justification, 125). “The Christian message is that the answer is [the cross], and is the gift of God….The solution is practical, not philosophical. It is not really an answer to a riddle, but a victory in battle” (Justification, 220).

The Christian with confidence can rest in the victory secured at the cross on behalf of humanity, and can take comfort in the truth that we serve a God who is not detached from our suffering but is touched with our hurts and sorrows. For when God in Christ clothed Himself in human flesh, He identified Himself with us, enabling Him to empathize with all human suffering as history marches toward its divinely ordained climax; the climax already secured because of the victory won on the cross and in the resurrection.

While some questions in this life will never be adequately answered, Christ’s victory on the cross and HIs resurrection assures us we are on the winning side…for Christ’s victory is our victory. O, what a Savoir.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan