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Is God Responsible for Human Wickedness?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
January 14, 2021 12:01 am

Is God Responsible for Human Wickedness?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 14, 2021 12:01 am

Since God is both sovereign and good, why is there evil in the world? Today, R.C. Sproul wrestles with the question of how sin and evil fit into the Lord's righteous purposes in history.

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Since God is good, why does evil exist good leave created a world where there was no possibility of pain and suffering stay with us. RC Sproul will address those questions next on Renewing Your Mind.

Welcome to the Thursday edition of our program on the web and that were studying the providence of God.

This week probably seems like an outdated term these days. It was used frequently. A couple of centuries ago, but it is a present reality of biblical reality and is what Paul acknowledged in one of the most quoted verses in Scripture. Romans 823 says that we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. God's prophets. February 12, 1938, two men had a private meeting in a mountain retreat house in the course of their conversation.

One of the men said to the other one. I have a historic mission to fulfill and that mission shall be fulfilled because Providence has destined it to be so. As his men were having this discussion, the man who made the statement about a historic mission used the term Providence and form of the word destiny. These two go together. This man had an understanding that the goal and the purpose of his whole life was under the shaping influence of divine providence. He went on to say to the other gentlemen in the course the conversation anyone who is not with me shall be crushed.

I'm sure that you guessed by now that the man who made this claim to a providential destiny was Adolf Hitler's also interesting to me as we read the history of that. That when Joseph Stalin was elevated to the role of Premier of the Soviet Union that the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church rejoiced in this stroke of providential success as they were convinced that God had raised Stalin up to be a divine instrument for the leadership of the people of Russia, and yet when people gather to discuss the question of diabolical evils that have been perpetrated on the human race. The two names I think we hear more frequently than any others associated with human wickedness are Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Now any time were studying the question of Providence in the question of divine government and we hear that the Scriptures teach us that God raises up nations and brings nations down we have to face the question how is divine providence related to evil governments, evil individuals and indeed the whole question about evil in our last session I quoted from the Westminster confession of faith from the third chapter was says that God from all eternity.freely and immutably ordain whatsoever comes to pass those that mean then that God ordained Hitler or the God ordained Stalin is evil, something that is ordained by the providence of God in the 19th century European liberal theologian by the name of Strauss made this statement that the existence of evil in the difficulty that attends explaining evil in the light of the concept of an ultimate God who was supposed to be good is the Achilles heel of Christianity. God ordains everything that comes to pass. It would seem unnecessary inference from that that he must ordain evil and that of God ordains evil. This would seem to indicate that he is evil. Again we remember the philosopher John Stuart Mill when he raised his objections to Christianity. He said that there is an internal irreconcilable, illogical thesis about Christianity, a dilemma that cannot be resolved. He said if God has the power to free the world of evil and doesn't do it, then God is not benevolent. That is, God is not good if he is good and is not free the world of evil that can only mean that God is not omnipotent and Mill was saying there's no way that he can conceive of a God who was both all-powerful and all righteous in the light of the undeniable reality of evil. We said since the beginning of our discussion of Providence that the crisis of our entire understanding of Providence in our day focuses on questions about causality and that question is nowhere more cute than when we talk about the question of the cause of evil. Remember teaching 17th century modern philosophy course the big name of 17th century philosophy. The French mathematician and scholar Ren Descartes.

You've all heard of Descartes, you know, I think, therefore I am well he argued for the existence of God on the basis of saying that this universe requires a sufficient cause a cause that is able to perform the task to give the result that we know observer and so he argued from cause to effect reasoning backwards from the universe back to God when one of the principles that Descartes you in that argument for the existence of God was this principle.

He said there can be nothing in the fact that is in first in the costs order stated another way, there cannot be more in the effect than that which inheres in the costs of that principle which is been espoused not only by Descartes but by thinkers for millennia I think is a valid principle is critical to other arguments for the existence of God. One argument, for example, that we use to prove the existence of God is the argument from human personality. We can prove that there has to be a first cause and the first cause has to be self existent and eternal, and so on and after we do that people will often say will all right there has to be something out there that is the self existent eternal power source of all that is in the universe agree with that. How we know that God is personal and not just some kind of impersonal force in one of the considerations that you look at in discussions about a source I well are we persons is there such a thing as personality that involves volition intelligence, affection, and if people will agree that human beings are personal, that they have intelligence and that they have intentionality in volition choosing and that sort of thing. That of course the philosopher would say well you can't have intentionality accidentally. You can have an impersonal source for personality. There has to be personality and intentionality in the cause. If you're going to have intentionality and personality in the effect that's the way that Descartes reasoned to argue that God was personal, but you see if your thinking with me now and thinking ahead. Do you see how that particular argument is valid as it may be can backfire on the Christian.

The critics of Christianity sought a civil item and if there Really more in the a fact if not already inherent in the cause. What does that say about the character of God that he must be evil because of God is all good. We have an effect here that's evil. There can't be more in the a fact that is inherent in the cause. So if evil exists here must've existed back there. The conclusion we come to irresistibly is that God himself is evil.

Here's a case I think where we have to understand ladies and gentlemen that more is less. What I mean but only to speak nonsense or talking contradictions away say that there is something more in the creature them resides in the creator.

All we mean by that is, there is obviously something that is found among human beings is not found in God and that's something that is found in human beings that we don't find in the closer scrutiny of the deity is sin that is there is something in us. That's not God met something we call evil, but that doesn't mean that the creature has something greater then the creator. Rather, the creature has something or less, then the creator and to focus on that. I want to take a couple of minutes to recapitulate our definitions historically of evil, asked the question what is evil, as were talking about evil here were not talking about natural evil or metaphysical evil were talking about moral evil and the thing that human beings have in common with the deity. At one point at least.

Is this that we are moral creatures. We are moral be. We are capable of actions that may be deemed right or wrong, I realize were living in a time where there are a host of people who were denying that proposition were saying really ultimately there is no such thing as good or evil only actions preferences everything is relative and there is no such thing. Ultimately, as good or evil with good or evil are simply societal conventions that we have received through various traditions thought about that last week when I went through the experience of having my golf clubs stolen the golf course called the police and the police came and I had to file a report to give all the information to the police officer who was there and in the mist of that discussion. I said to him. Candidly, I've never quite been able to understand the mentality of people who speak. We always have a reason for our sins, or an excuse that we tell ourselves, because nobody wants to look at the mirror and say you're a no good rotten person. We minimize to our best ability. The evilness of our own evil when I said this placement how to set how does a thief look himself in the mirror, how can he go home at night and see anything in the mirror, but a person who's unspeakably selfish. It astonishes me policemen didn't have to be encouraged pretty because his vocation was to deal with this kind of problem every day of anyone. He said you know he said the worst things that I find with people who have been victims of violence are theft is the personal sense of invasion of privacy and violation that one feels when they have been robbed by another. I say all that to say this, we really don't need a complex philosophical argument to prove the evilness of stealing it self-evident. Dissonant people know that to steal somebody else's property is wrong and we may say that there's no such thing as evil and argue about it philosophically, but the argument ends when somebody helps himself to our wallet. Then we say that's not right. It's not good that's bad, but again like a waste time arguing about the reality of it. We all know that evil is real, it's destructive, it violates persons we've all committed.

We've all been victims of it. What is it what is again the Westminster catechism. The answers this question.

What is sin. Listen carefully. Sin is any want of conformity to or transgression of the law of God and a want of conformity to or transgression of the law got the confession defines evil here in two ways. One is negative one is positive. There are sins of omission sins of omission, but it's the first part of the definition. I want to zero in on sin is any want of conformity.

What does that mean want of conformity warden want here is not used as a synonym for desire. Is it what is a synonym of for Alaska. Okay, that sin is a lack of conformity to the standard that God establishes for righteousness in philosophical terms, the ancient philosophers, medieval theologians and trying to define evil defined it with the use of these terms that evil was defined in terms of providing video and not Gaudio. That is evil is defined in terms of the negation of the good negative terms or a privatization of goodness, a lack of goodness, something that falls short of the plenitude of righteousness is evil.

Know what the philosophers were getting at was that the only way you can describe and define evil is in negative terms that by its very nature evil is parasitic. It's a parasite. It depends upon its host for its very existence at the point of creation. Ladies and gentlemen, we have an eternal God, who is altogether good and who is a moral agent creating other moral agents that are good but the great difference the grand difference between creator and creature get this point. Is this that God is eternally immutable.

A good where the creature was made you terribly good. That is, he was made with the possibility of changing in his performance of conformity to the law of God.

Now does God do evil absolute priority of biblical teaching is by no means there is no shadow of turning in God and God in his providence is utterly incapable of performing evil, yet we've been saying all along that God ordains everything that comes the past and some of the things that come to pass, are in fact evil.

So let me ask the question another way, put your thinking. Does God ordain evil ladies and gentlemen, there is only one biblical answer to that question and the answer is absolutely yes because if God did not ordain evil there would be no evil because God is sovereign but we tripped and stumbled over the word ordain. We think that ordain the divine ordination means that God either does the evil or he can pose that is upon a righteous creature and forces innocent people to do sinful deeds. No no no no no, what he is ordained is he is ordain to create creatures with the capacity for evil. He doesn't force them to exercise that capacity, but he knows that they are going to exercise that capacity and at that point, the deity has a choice you can destroy the creation say like allow the person to take place moment that serpent came into Adam and I even began to suggest disobedience. God could have snuffed out the servant or snuffed out adamantly be no sin, God, for reasons known to God made the decision to let it happen. Now, we asked the question why and I have to say at this point I'm glad that our time is running out because I have no idea why God allows evil to besmirch his universe. Nobody has noticed there like to deny its potency or its reality is there. I know that God is sovereign over it. But here's one more point I want to take when God ordains anything come to pass. His purpose in doing so is altogether and absolutely good. Be careful, as is RC Sproul saying now that evil really is an illusion in the final analysis evil really is good. Not enough. I'm saying it must be good. That evil exists or it couldn't exist because God only will sovereignly providentially ordain what is good and in terms of God's eternal purpose God has sustained a good that evil should be allowed to happen in this world that does not mean that therefore the sins that I do and so for contributing to the providential plan and government of world history are, in fact, virtuous like Pharaoh in the Old Testament and was a vessel of destiny as Judas was subjected to the divine providence in God's plan for the redeeming of the world through the treachery of Judas Judas couldn't possibly have delivered Christ. The pilot were it not for the providential decree of God.

We know that this was therefore determined counsel of God and yet God did not put evil in the heart of Judas.

God did not coerce Judas to do his diabolical sin and Jews cannot stand up on the last day and say look what I did. If it had been for me you wouldn't be able to celebrate Good Friday or Easter because there'd be no cross.

There'd be no atonement there be no salvation because on the one that made it all possible. An amount from Judas's perspective. What he did his intent and design was utterly but when God ordains all things that come capacity ordains not only the ends, but also the means those ends, and that he works through all things to bring about his righteous purpose will a great comforting verses of Scripture is all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Only a sovereign providence could make a promise like that, ladies and that statement does not mean that all things are good, but all things work together for good in their only way they can work together for good.

Even the theft of my golf clubs is working for my good, because over and above all evil, all acts of human wickedness stands sovereign's who has appointed destiny of the universe, and of you as an individual and that destiny is perfectly consistent with his own. We read in Proverbs that the lot is cast into the lap, but it's every decision is from the Lord. Even though the things that happen the life seem to be random and by chance God is in control and in charge. There's comfort in that knowledge. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind. I'm Lee Webb, thank you for being with us today. The message we just heard is from the series, the providence of God in six lessons RC scroll looks at how God can guide all the events without destroying human freedom would be glad to send you a three CD set for your donation of any amount to litigator ministries you can make your request or you can call us at 800-435-4343 and would like to include another resource at no charge. Our monthly devotional magazine table talk deals with the different to theological topics and next month's issue is on God's providence and if you never contacted us before we like to send you the February issue of table talk just to mention it when you contact us at 800-435-4343 what tomorrow will continue the series on God's providence and will look at the subject of free will. The question of how my free decisions corresponds to God's sovereign providence is one of the most excruciatingly difficult questions that have to struggle with in theology is in it, indeed it is and the RC will help us understand human freedom in his message tomorrow. We hope you'll join us Friday for Renewing Your Mind

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