Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, August 18, 2017 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

What is theodicy? I stole this term from Voddie Baucham in his sermon “The Supremacy of Christ and Truth in a Post Modern World.” He used it when quoting skeptical students trying to trip him up with fancy terminology they learned in one semester of philosophy. Here is how it starts (near the 38:00 mark):

Student: I just wanted to ask you, if you believe in a God that is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then how do you reconcile the issue of theodicy?
Voddie: To which I respond: You took a semester of philosophy, right?
Student: Oh, yes, how did you know?
Voddie: Because if you hadn’t, you’d have just said, “Listen, if God is just so powerful and so good, how come bad stuff happens?”

So forget the term “theodicy”; this is the standard problem of evil. Many skeptics ask the issue this way: “If God is good, he is powerless to do anything about it. If he is all-powerful, he is malicious and evil.” Some others have put it this way: “If your God commanded you to kill your child, would you do it?” He was referencing Abraham and Isaac when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, the child of promise. What about the conquest of Canaan? What about all those babies that drowned in the Flood? God is responsible for all that. Ever heard these?

This is an issue that has stumped many, many Christians. I’ll give Voddie’s response to the question further down. When Christopher Hitchens proclaimed that one of Christianity’s most horrible contributions to society is the idea of being tortured forever in hell, his debate opponent, Douglass Wilson, asked this: “Horrible by what standard?” Hitchens never could recover from that question.

By what standard can God be called wicked, evil, or immoral? Most people I discuss this with just offer their opinions, but amazingly, one actually admitted all he offered was his opinion. But it was an opinion he held as absolute fact and argued as though I should agree with him just because he thought he was right. When most do offer some standard other than themselves, it is usually “society.” Society’s morals are arbitrary and constantly changing. What they consider moral one day is immoral the next and vice versa. It’s not a standard you can go by because it is not trustworthy. However, that is a result of relativism. What is true for you may not be true for me. Yet, no one ever lives that way or wants anyone to. Why? Because they know how quickly it can turn on them. They just don’t want God to be the standard.

By what standard is anything called “good”? Today, most people turn to humanism for that answer: “Whatever makes me feel good or whatever benefits me.” These people usually think of the here and now, not taking into consideration the long-term effects. The same people who say drinking, drugs, sex, etc. are good will not tell you of the hangover, the drug crash, or the lack of satisfaction, let alone the much higher risk of STDs and shortening of lifespans. How can the brief highs be called “good” when the long-term effects never are good? Either the whole thing is good, or none of it is.

Another angle many people take is this one: “Why doesn’t God stop the child rapists, thieves, murderers, etc.? Surely if God was all-powerful, he could stop them?” A key thing to note here is in all of these arguments, there is one thing in common: the skeptic blames God for what is wrong, even when said skeptic does not even believe God exists. You can’t have it both ways. You cannot claim God does not exist and then blame him when things are going ill for you. Let me return to Voddie Baucham’s answer to the question of “theodicy.”

Voddie: But I’m not going to answer the question until you ask it correctly.
Student: I worked on that all week. What do you mean ‘ask it correctly’?
Voddie: You’re not asking the question properly.
Student: What do you mean ‘ask it properly’? It’s my question. You can’t tell me how to ask my question.
Voddie: I will answer your question when you ask it properly.
Student: How do I ask it properly?
Voddie: Here’s how you ask that question properly: You look me in my eye and ask me this: “How on earth can a holy and righteous God know what I did, and thought, and said yesterday and not kill me in my sleep last night?” You ask it that way and then we can talk. But until you ask the question that way, you don’t understand the issue. Until you ask the question that way, you believe the problem is out there. Until you ask the question that way, you believe there are somehow, some individuals who in and of themselves deserve something other than the wrath of Almighty God. Until you ask me the question that way, until you flip the script, and ask the question this way, and say, “Why is it that we are here today? Why has he not consumed and devoured each and every one of us? Why? Why, oh God, does your judgment and your wrath tarry? When you ask it that way you understand the issue. When you ask it the other way, you believe in the supremacy of man.

I love that response. It puts the real issue on the table. How can man judge God unless man has earned the right to do so, by being perfect as God is perfect? The book of Job is one many skeptics will cite if it comes to mind. How could God make a bet with Satan and let Job go through hell just to prove a point? Job asked that question from Job 3 through 37. He constantly asked: “What did I do to deserve this? God answer me.” God did in Job 38-42. When God was finished asking him by what standard and by what abilities Job had to question how God ran things, Job responded with repentance. He realized how small he was and how much God had under control throughout the whole thing. What many people fail to realize is that Job’s trials only lasted about a week or so. Prior to that, he was untouchable. After that, he not only got more than what he had before his trial, but he was untouchable again. God had already done far more for Job than what most think about.

Is God a good God or a bad God? I have to put this simply. It does not matter what you think of God. He is God, you are not. If you think you can do a better job than God, good luck. The movie Bruce Almighty dealt with that issue and Bruce realized he could not do it. We have to play by God’s rules whether we like them or not. Why? Because he is God and we are not. If God does treat us like chess pieces on a board, that is his choice. He made us and he can do with us as he wishes. All that being said, God has also revealed his character to us. Not only does he claim to be good, kind, loving, gracious, and merciful, but he shows it. But he doesn’t just show those attributes. He also shows his justice, his righteousness, his holiness, his purity, his wrath, and his sovereignty. Call him a bad God all you want. He is God and he rules. But he is a good God and he does not desire any to perish in the judgement. He has provided a way out, which he has offered every time he brings a judgment. Will we take it? Or are we going to “take our chances”?

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