Come to God vs Evil

God vs Evil Promotional Video from UFC-Utas.

A week of public events at UTAS Hobart addressing the issue: 'Where is God in a world of evil and suffering?'

31st July - 7 August 2012.

6 topics, 5 speakers,
6 events, 3 locations
1 week, 1 subject

Details at

God's Will vs Ours

On the problem of the relationship of God's will and ours, D. Broughton Knox quite insightfully explained:

“The problem of the relationship of God's will to the created will is not to be solved by denying God's sovereignty, as though through the creation of human wills and demonic wills he had delimited an area within his creation over which he had given up control. Not only is this contrary to the whole of revelation, but it would be unbearable and terrifying were it true, and prayer and trust would become impossible. God has not limited himself in any way at all. The Bible knows nothing of such an idea.

Nor is the problem of the relationship of God's will and ours to be solve by denying the reality of the human will, as though it were not what we experience it to be, namely a true will. The word 'free' adds nothing to the meaning of the word 'will' and the denial of the word 'free' is meaningless, so long as we are talking about what we experience as will, which is the only will of which we have direct knowledge. Although our wills are free wills, it is incorrect to say that they are independent wills over against God's will. The possibility of this concept was the false suggestion of the devil to Adam, grasped at by man but certainly not achieved by him, though man thinks he has attained to it and that he is in fact free from God's sovereignty. Adam's mistake was that of thinking that by rebelling against God he would become sovereign. But no creature can ever become sovereign over against its almighty Creator, and no will can be free if by this is meant independent of its Creator.”

(The Everlasting God, D. B. Knox, Evangelical Press, 1982, p. 103-104).

God and Evil

Evil exists. So how can God exist?

Either God is bad [he does evil himself], God is limited [his power cannot prevent evil], or evil does not exist in the first place; or so we might be tempted to think anyway.

But none of these three positions work. A bad God is a contradiction in terms, as is a limited God. In both cases the God we would be talking about would not actually be God.

A God who is bad would be evil himself, because he would not be separate to and against evil in the first place. A limited God who cannot prevent evil, would not be able to rule all things in the first place. But in asking about whether God exists separate from and above the existence of evil, we are of course asking about a God over and against evil.

And of course the non existence of evil is only a theoretical concept adopted by atheists. Christians do not deny the existence of evil in order to uphold belief in God; we are the first to unequivocally affirm the reality of evil.

Evil exists. So how could such a God at the same time exist, a good God with power over evil?

But how can evil exist in the first place if God does not exist? By definition evil can only exist if God does too. In order to deny the existence of God, atheists must deny the existence of evil too. But the problem with atheism is that it is not true to the world we see and the lives we live, lives full of the experience of evil.

Evil is the distortion of what is good; it is the perversion, the twisting of what is right in the world. And so by denying the existence of evil, atheists also deny the existence of everything we know by nature to be both good and right.

But to deny evil is to deny the existence of things that we know are bad. And to do that we must deny that things can be wrong in the first place. This stems from a denial of the existence of objective moral values, or laws. Laws must be given by one who has ultimately responsible; the owner, the director, responsible for our governance and judgment. It is in order to deny accountability to judgment that atheists want to deny both God and evil.

But evil exists, and so does God too.

And this God can only be good [so hating evil and always doing good] and all powerful [above all, controlling even evil].

So we have only one consistent option:

Since evil exists [and therefore God must exist] then God must be using evil for good.

The concept of 'using evil for good' raises many questions, but it is throughout the Bible affirmed again and again; that the all good and all powerful God reigns over and against evil by using it to magnify both his goodness and his power.

Elsewhere in Evil and the Sovereignty of God I have given a survey of the Bible's teaching on this subject; God, far from doing evil himself or being a victim of it, rules evil by making it achieve what is ultimately good.

This certainly can be hard to understand. But the problem of the existence of God in view of evil is not solved by denying the existence of God, as though by questioning God's existence we can make more sense of evil in our world, or at least cope with it better. For if God does not exist then we really do have no body to complain to; no body to question; and in fact, we are faced with a false reality in which we must deny our own perplexity, anguish, grief and turmoil, because by rejecting God we have denied the reality of all the evil itself that we suffer. This would be more terrifying, surely, than holding onto belief in a God over evil -- a God who we can call out to with our arguments; a God who we can turn to.

Nor is the problem of the existence of evil in view of God solved by denying the existence of evil. Evil is real, we know it, we feel it, we suffer it. It is not good, it is not right, and we know that it really is bad and wrong. But the denial of the existence of evil makes all the atrocities, all the pain and hurt, the war and genocide, the rapes and murders, the exploitation and the greed and lies; it makes is all 'disadvantageous', a subjective sadness relative to us -- but really and actually just "a part of life". They may be unfortunate for us, but not wrong as such; an inconvenience but not bad actually; an unhappy happening, but not an evil. The mature modern mind will just "accept them" and "move on". All the bad and ugly and evil of our world would simply by cause and effect, time and chance, and survival of the fittest and the lucky.

This is more unbearable, surely, than holding onto the reality of evil in the face of our suffering -- evil that is real, and that we can really hate.

How it is that God in his goodness and power actually uses all our evil ultimately to magnify his own goodness and power, we may never really comprehend this side of heaven; the most we might aim for is childlike faith.
But one thing is easy. Since evil exists, God must exist.

Raising the tone of our conversation

The Posting Policy of The Geneva Push website is so good I'm posting about it. I actually found these guidelines assuring as I read through their challenge to self-control on the web and their requirement to maintaining a high-level 'tone' in all conversation on their site.

It begins:
"The Internet is a brilliant place to witness people behaving badly. The belief that the web is somehow unreal has encouraged unbelievable behaviour. It is a sad fact that even believers have been known to express themselves in a particular way online that would be considered sinful in any other context. As a Christian network, The Geneva Push encourages its members to speak the truth, but to do so in love."

In general this is a rebuke much needed by our generation I think. It is commonplace today to be exposed, even regretably involved, in the fierce fighting of Christian argumentativeness, even amongst reformed Evangelical circles (such as the long comment threads recently on The Briefing).

Ironically, we children of the reformation show off our 'maturity' by pulling apart one another in critique and debate, often beginning with theology but ending in personal conflict and even fall out. Are we using our knowledge to love or to pull down?

Sadly, in a world of speed limits and regulation, guidelines are needed because we as people need to be told how to behave; by nature we are creatures that fail to govern ourselves internally and automatically. We need external controls to impose standards upon us; we need to be lead by God's Spirit.

Offline we are generally more careful to show self-control because our cultural etiquette, which itself is an external force providing norms of acceptance, provides us our much needed help in governing our behaviour.

But in the last decade or so, blogs and Facebook have of course allowed a new space in our lives where we can find it so easy to forget to apply these norms and in this sense forget 'ourselves'. Like failing to think about the risks of entering into a friendly game of gambling, we can leave ourselves open to losing many of our usual restraints. We can so easily become lazy, and ultimately careless, because without these automatic rules for engagement, we have no necessary commitment to a certain standard of communication that will likely be appreciated by all parties involved in our conversations.

Ironically these are often the most public of spaces where we can do the most damage to our community, to our churches.

So it's probably fair to say that in recent times Facebook (and the like) have become not only a force for much good, but now also one of the most significant forces for bad within our community life. Just as for Businesses and other organisations more generally, the effect of Facebook upon the dynamics of our community life have surely emerged as one of the greatest challenges now for church leaders.

Perhaps we need to follow the lead of The Geneva Push; perhaps we need our leaders to give us policies to help us govern our use of social media as members -- not necessarily as prescriptive regulations, but as guiding principles that would help us to think through and apply the gospel of grace, the command to love, and the call to growth in maturity within the context of our online community relationships.

Andrew Heard on Independent churches

Andrew Heard went 'independent' when he planted the Central Coast Evangelical Church (EV), but not too long after begun The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC), ironically to escape their independence. FIEC also has the goal of planting 100 new churches across Australia in 15 years. Reminds me of Vision 100, but we're of course aiming for that in the small state of Tassie though perhaps over a longer period.

Almost humourously, Heard now argues that 'independence' is three things:

1. Impossible
2. Unchristian
3. Stupid

A great video introducing FIEC.

Welcome to EV video

I'm looking into what they do differently at Central Coast Evangelical Church, familiarly called "EV church" (as per my last post, Reaching the charismatics).

The first thing that struck me is they've done a really great Welcome Video, which is at the same time really bad in terms of its production. And that's the point. What I mean is that the video itself is no better than a backyard video for Funniest Home Videos. And yet as a Welcome, this video is ideal. It is so warm, inviting and perfectly achieves its aim of drawing me into EV, giving me a real great picture of who they are and what they're on about, making me want to come along on Sunday, and making me already feel welcome [having not been there yet]! Here it is; welcome to EV church:

It's not just about the friendly and passionate people in it; thought that is half of it! The style actually disarms me; the fact that they have done a budget production and majored not on quality of production but on sincerity of the messages the contributors are presenting, this makes me feel like they're just on the other end of Skype; I'm just being introduced to a friend, that's all. It shows me I'm going to get a church full, not of perfectionists, but of caring, welcoming and loving Christians; a church where I could feel 'at home'.

So the poor production quality actually helps in some strange way. Goes to show what I've often suspected - in today's day and age you don't need to do video well in order to do a video that serves your purpose well. And now I've got a great example.

Reaching the charismatics

Reaching our own brothers with the gospel; that should be our goal, even our first priority, as a family of believers, right? As reformed Evangelicals, we want to reach everyone everywhere with the gospel; shouldn’t we then especially want to rescue what remnant might by God’s grace be given us from among the Pentecostals, those of our own ‘race’?

Sadly the rift between the charismatic movement / Pentecostalism and reformed Evangelicalism only seems to be deepening and widening as the decades have rolled by in Australia. And there are good and perfectly understandable reasons why this has occurred. It is in fact biblical, in the sense that the Bible does call for disunity in such situations. But we wish it would be otherwise, don’t we? We want to be united with our own brothers, first and foremost, more than any, right? After all, Pentecostalism arose from within Evangelicalism itself. While we do ministry to the world, and seek to save the pagan, we surely and especially want to earnestly minister to our own, and seek to save the members of our own household, our broad and wide family that we call Evangelicalism.

In this interview, Phillip Jensen makes a great point about the importance of ‘reading charismatics’ before preaching to them: As reformed evangelicals we can be too harsh in our condemnation of the errors of charismatic theology when we're speaking to Pentecostal or charismatic Christians who have come to Christ through their experiences within that movement.

To quote part of that interview:
"Tony Payne: Throughout the 80s and 90s, there was significant conflict within Christian circles over the charismatic movement. In fact, as a young charismatic arriving at your church many years ago, I found your strong stance on those issues a difficult thing to wrestle through. Do you think you made any mistakes in the way you responded to charismatic issues?

Phillip Jensen: This may sound strange, but I think we should have fought harder quicker. By the time we understood what was going on, we had already lost a lot of ground and a lot of people.

But I also made mistakes by taking too long to realise that there were two basic kinds of charismatics. There were the ex-evangelicals who became charismatics, and who were moving away from evangelicalism. And then there were non-Christians who were converted in a charismatic or Pentecostal church, and were moving towards evangelicalism. The problem when you met a charismatic was that you had to work out which direction they were travelling, in order to know what to say.

Rarely did the ex-evangelicals ever come back to the Bible. They tended to keep going into more and more charismatic extremes and often out of Christianity. But for the non-Christian who became a charismatic… usually that was their first ever taste of the gospel of Jesus, and when they had it explained more clearly to them they continued on a trajectory away from charismatic theology. So there were several years in which I was preaching as if the congregation were ex-evangelicals, when they really were ex-non-Christians. I was being too harsh in what I was saying because I was misreading the people who I was speaking to."
(The Mistakes of Phillip Jensen, The Briefing, Matthias Media, 12 March 2012)
It’s a great reminder; we need to read people before we speak to them. Too often I have bypassed the charismatic as an individual, associating with them all the beliefs of Pentecostalism as a doctrinal system. But very rarely will a charismatic or a Pentecostal completely hold to the theological system called Pentecostalism, even if they identify themselves as part of that movement. And when I assume these things, I’m misreading and ‘judging’ incorrectly the person; it’s no wonder if they then feel ‘condescended’ upon.

How I speak to the doctrinal system which is Pentecostalism must be different to how I speak to a charismatic Christian; how I speak to a leader or a teacher of the theologies of Pentecostalism must be different to how I might speak to a member of his/her church. This is partly because teachers must be critiqued and indeed will be judged more strictly. But it is also because, as Jensen points out, a ‘Pentecostal’ (or a Catholic for that matter) may not at all be on the road away from the truth of the Bible. But via Pentecostalism he or she may actually be on a trajectory towards maturity in Christ; and my task is and must be to help them onward and toward that destination.

However, there is an undercurrent in some of these sentements that concerns me. The comments of Jensen might be read by some to infer that ministry to evangelical converts to Pentecostalism is likely to be unprofitable and ineffective. We might read Jensen implying "Rarely [do] the ex-evangelicals ever come back to the Bible. They tended to keep going into more and more charismatic extremes and often out of Christianity. "

But that can't be right. First of all, I was an ex-Evangelical myself who after a long lead-time into the charismatic movement, became fully committed to the Pentecostal system, both theologically and practically. And yet, by God's grace, I am now as 'reformed' as they come. To borrow a Pauline phrase and mis-quote out of context with a paraphrase:

"Did God reject his people? By no means! I am now a reformed evangelical myself, out of the tribe of Hillsong."
And are not all Pentecostals ultimately ex-Evangelical? The whole movement is ex-Evangelical by its origin. And still today, by virtue of its unprecedented growth, most new Pentecostals are converts from within Evangelicalism. So the question is simply, is ministry to Pentecostals worthwhile, or likely to bear fruit?

But who would dare to ask such a question? It is the wrong question, because of course, all ministry is as unlikely to be fruitful because our own human inability against the power of sin, but is equally as likely to be fruitful because of the Spirit's power in the gospel.

So where do these undercurrents come from, if not shared by Jensen then generally by our overall laziness in our efforts towards charismatics and Pentecostals as a family of reformed Evangelicals? Why do we make so little effort; why do we reach out so little? Why are we not planting churches to reach the charismatics? Do we lack the faith?

As I began by saying, how can we deny or ignore our own? We believe in the power of the gospel; that God speaks with power to save whenever the Scriptures are read and proclaimed. So it's not a matter of power; but of love. Is it grace that we are lacking?

And of course, true to God's mercy, there are some beginning to do it; there are reformed Evangelicals who are leading the way by reaching charismatics.

I know of one respected evangelical minister who has been proactive in adapting his ministry to care for charismatics. They are the Central Coast Evangelical Church (EV church), under Andrew Heard. While retaining his reformed edge, Andrew Heard's church has grown in part as a result of Pentecostal transfer. And it would probably be fair to say that this may not have occurred unless they had considered carefully how to properly love Christians from Pentecostal backgrounds as they began arriving. I'm told they don't set out to attract ex-Pentecostals; but they do make every effort to ensure that charismatic explorers of their church are not culturally cut off when they come and encounter reformed theology for the first time. Ironically, many of these newer and 'weaker'/'younger' brothers come to experience a deeper Christianity, and seem quite struck with the God of the Bible for the first time.

What EV under Andrew Heard seem to be doing a bit better than most of us, is seeing that love towards our suffering brothers, weakened by the charismatic focus, is a beautiful expression of maturity in Christ. I want to hear more from these guys, and hear more about what they’re doing differently, and it seems effectively, by way of evangelical ministry in a charismatic context.

In many ways, this was the reason for my other blog, Talking Pentecostalism. My blog to Pentecostals might be criticised for failing to begin with the Bible itself; Talking Pentecostalism starts first in seeking to understand Pentecostalism itself, before then critiquing the basic beliefs of that movement and system against the Scriptures. My philosophy was to first seek to understand, then to be understood (Stephen Covey). I also wanted to acknowledge the vital influence that historical developments in Christian subcultures have on our understanding of theology, and the importance of deconstructing our presuppositions if we want to get beyond reading the Bible through our own modern frames of reference. I thought that if Pentecostals could see for themselves how their movement has been a reaction to developments in historical theology, which were themselves a result of historical and cultural developments of our time, they would see that their reading of the Bible itself has been biased.

Phil Colgan has said in this excellent review of Sinclair B Ferguson's book entitled, The Holy Spirit,

“One of the great difficulties in dealing with this issue [the charismatic view of the work of the Holy Spirit] is that most of the literature on the Holy Spirit is polemical in nature. Much recent popular work on the Holy Spirit begins with the phenomena associated with the charismatic movement and then seeks to support or deny its authenticity from the Bible. My experience of these books, sermons or articles is that they become a study in proof texting: both sides line up verses that support their position and then explain why verses that appear to support the other position actually don’t. All these sorts of studies tend to do is confirm people in the position they already hold.”
(The Holy Spirit, The Briefing, Matthias Media, 15 April 2010)
This criticism is fair in part, particularly about arguing with a proof-texting approach. In fact, I have elsewhere recommended the same approach as Colgan and others in answering Pentecostalism, which is Biblical Theology, Goldsworthy style. So thank you Phil, and I recommend this article and the book it reviews to everyone.

However Biblical Theology itself is influenced by one’s own perspectives and presuppositions that we bring to the text, even when aiming to do Biblical theology, and exegesis from Genesis to Revelation. In the end, apologetics needs to get to the point of properly understanding any theological system such as Pentecostalism on its own terms, and then proceed by moving back and forth from the Scriptures seeking to sincerely weigh up and review and eventually evaluate the presuppositions behind it and the notions it puts forward according to the weight of evidence from the biblical data.

So I don’t go all the way with what Colgan implies in his critique, “All these sorts of studies tend to do is confirm people in the position they already hold.” If Jensen is right, by pointing to the importance of reading charismatics in terms of the one of two directions they will be heading, a charismatic thinker after reading Ferguson's The Holy Spirit will still in general react by seeking an alternative Biblical Theology of the Holy Spirit written by a Pentecostal (who reads and exegetes Genesis to Revelation from a charismatic perspective). Ferguson himself has been deeply influenced by John Owen, as a frequent digest of his writing on the same subject (See preface to John Owen, The Holy Spirit—His Gifts and Power, Christian Focus Publications’ 2007 edition).

Although Jensen may at present be generally right in his approximation, that “rarely [do] ex-evangelicals ever come back to the Bible,” it must be said that it in fact is not as rare as he implies that ex-evangelicals do come back. And it would be awful if these sentiments were to discourage earnest ministry to the Pentecostal movement with the aim of bringing holy and evangelical reform.

To be fair, Jensen is actually only reflecting from his experience of what he has observed, and largely in the past. "Rarely did [he witness or notice that in the short term in his time that] ex-evangelicals ever come back to the Bible." But I think it is fair to say that many 'tend [not] to keep going into more and more charismatic extremes and often [not] out of Christianity.'

We must be careful not to dismiss our charismatic brothers; not to overlook them; not to ignore our enduring an abating debt to love them (Romans 13). Are they not worth the effort? Have they gone too far to warrant our concern? Or do we doubt that in another 100 years, Pentecostalism Proper might barely exist under the sovereign mercy of God if by his grace that were his decree to bring them back into our fellowship?

As someone who was once an ex-Evangelical, who after my exit into Pentecostalism has now found deep reform in true evangelicalism, this is of course slightly ‘personal’. But also, I know now, after some years of ‘talking Pentecostalism’, that good ministry to Pentecostal Christians is not only much needed, but it has in small measure across Australia yielded very beneficial fruit over recent years.

And going forward, ministry to ex-Evangelicals in Pentecostalism is an unavoidable and essential aspect of Christ’s mission with the gospel to save his church. As now the second largest family of Christianity next to Roman Catholicism, in 21-st century Christianity there is now no part of the world that we can go and not encounter the effects of Pentecostalism.

If we go to reach people with Christ in South America, we will encounter the effect of Pentecostalism there. If we go to Africa, or India, we will encounter it there. And in many places, the significance of Pentecostalism will far exceed what we are dealing with here in Australia.

Pentecostalism is here and everywhere, for now at least. And just as Christ’s mission involves calling atheists and liberals, Catholics and Mormons, Muslims and Jews, back to the God of the gospel in the pages of the Bible – we need to keep doing this to Pentecostals and charismatics too.

But what I’m interested to learn is how I can be moving from the ‘negative’ approach and paradigm of first seeking to critique, to a philosophy that first seeks to affirm and accept – an approach to ministry that first identifies the grounds for the unity that we do already have; and seeks to build onward and outward from there toward the common and mutual goal of fullness of love in the truth.

Perhaps a trip to EV might be in order?


Argumentativeness is ungodliness.

I am very opinionated; I'll be the first to concede that. But what's worse, I always speak as if "I am right", even when I don't actually have this conviction in a particular conversation. It's actually only the beginning of my problems. Then there is the tone of my voice; I always sound deadly serious, even when I'm trying to be light or humorous. And then there is my track record; I know I'm cantankerous because I've been told all my life by everybody that I actually make a point of disagreeing with people I disagree with. Am I the only one with this problem?

Phillip Jensen in this great Interview talks about his argumentativeness and what he learned about it over the years:

"As a young man I enjoyed a fight too much. I grew up in a family of brothers. We fought a lot, and I grew up through debating and arguing, and I liked a good argument. A very kind senior academic came and talked to me years ago, and pointed out that when the Bible urges us to “flee the passions of youth”, it’s not talking about sex. It’s talking about argumentativeness, if you look at the context (in 2 Tim 2). The Lord’s servant must not be argumentative, but teach patiently and pray that God may change your heart. So as a young man, my own personality and argumentativeness was too strong. So that was a lesson to learn."
(The Mistakes of Phillip Jensen, The Briefing, Matthias Media, 12 March 2012)
Like Jensen, I was brought up in the rings of the debating team, and baptised in a household of brothers and boxing gloves.

So what do we do about it?

Part of the challenge is that the same Scriptures that talk about guarding against error and fighting for the truth, also instruct us to keep ourselves from unprofitable arguments and descending into fights about points of secondary importance.

One thing I've been trying to do over the last few years: Only disagree with somebody when either,

(1) it is a matter of life and death (this is body, soul or spirit of course), or
(2) they are inviting or would welcome your 'argument' because they are already or would actually wrestle with the issue themselves when you raise your concerns with them.

Is this too simplistic?

Either it's so important that damaging the relationship pales into mere insignificance in comparison to the significance of the issue in your view; or you know directly or indirectly that the person is going to actually thank you for telling them the truth about what you believe about the issue, regardless of whether they agree with you, because they are genuinely open to changing their minds.

Of course (2) is effected by 'how' you tell them in the first place. And (2) implies that a person who wants to argue about it only because they are 'open' in the sense that they want to talk about it to exploit the debate as a platform for promoting their views, that person is not at all in this category. Anyone who argues with these people opens up everyone concerned to divisive and unprofitable arguments that only spread ungodliness.

Even though I've got an immensely long way to go in this area, one thing at least I can see now after years of debating and disagreements, there is nothing more embarrassing than a Christian who wants to take up every fight over every issue with anybody who manifests a distinctively different opinion about an issue than themselves. It goes without saying that I'm forever embarrassed about my track record in this regard.

Whether it's parenting, or 6-day creationism, or baptism or Israel's future--as Christians we should not be arguing about these things.

I've talked previously about Christians arguing about schooling. I've also discussed creationism. I'm not saying don't talk about your views; but what I am saying is that whenever you find yourself disagreeing with another over them, stop it there: we shouldn't argue over these disagreements, but maintain our unity by keeping the peace over differing views on disputable matters within the church.

To be clear, I've explained elsewhere that this call to 'peace making' does not apply whenever true and pure Christianity is the subject of threat; by for example questionable 'Christianity', false teaching, and persistently disobedient Christians. The gospel itself, the purity of the church and the health of christians is at risk here; these are examples of where the Bible does call for disunity. In contrast to our response to disagreements over secondary matters, here we should and must divide for the sake of the churches purity. And about these matters we should of course argue; because that's about the life or death of Christians (1). In fact, it's this perspective that shows us why we shouldn't be argumentative about anything else; because we need to save our arguing and fighting for these matters that are of vital importance.

But bare in mind that I've been talking here about arguments in the church. None of this applies to the world. In fact, I don't believe we should ever be arguing with the non-Christian. Even on (1), when it's a matter of life or death -- it's about the gospel we preach -- Jesus commanded that if they don't welcome you or listen to you, turn around and walk away (don't throw your pearls before swine; protest simply with your feet). And about those matters that are to the church itself of primary imporance, about the world Paul says, "in that case you would have to leave the world" (1 Corinthians 5).

Yes we must be outspoken; yes we must denounce the sin of our world. As did John the Baptist, we must put our necks on the line and be unafraid to be hated by the world, because we 'testify to it that what it does is evil'. But we do not fight. We speak, but we do not argue.

It's not only for practical purposes that we shouldn't be arguing with the unbeliever [afterall, we can't expect unbelievers to be doing anything but sinning], but it's also for theological reasons: we are not their judge, but unworthy sinners ourselves. Though we certainly are called to judge one another in the church, we must leave all judgment of the non-Christian to Christ for that Last Day.

So although we are called to argue with our Christian brothers over those things of gospel importance, before the world we mustn't be argumentative at all.

And in the church, over all other issues except for what is related to the fundamental essense of Christianity itself, and is of fundamental importance to the gospel, over all other views and beliefs let's just agree to 'have views', or be quiet.

Discussing our views can be constructive, if it falls into the category of (2). But otherwise it's actually descructive to the church, and brings shame where we are meant to be bringing glory to Christ in the church.

It was to the church in Rome who had not learnt to simply accept one another regardless of the different views of its members about food, drink, the Sabbath, etc., that Paul found it necessary to command:

"Whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God" (Romans 14)

So there's my view of it. But what about you? Do you agree? 

The Modern Theory of Idolatry, Or Atheists don't Exist

Have you seen Prof Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe? He's the young and 'hard science' version of Sir David Attenborough and his wildlife documentaries, which have for decades wonderfied the world. Brian Cox has done with the same breathtaking beauty, but with images of stars and the physics of stellar evolution, what David Attenborough has done with biology and the theory of evolution.

Of course, people have been in awe at life on our planet and the wonders of our skies since the most ancient times. Today, science has if anything only increased our wonder; and given a new basis for our idolatry.

The modern mind, just like ancient peoples, idolises creation; our society still looks to the stars and to images of animals, rather than listening to the voice of the Creator. Modern science teaches that the Cosmos is our Father, and Nature is our Mother. They believe this because cosmology teaches that the life-cycle of star birth and death seeded the elements of the creation of life on this planet; and in turn the theory of evolution teaches that the environment's processes of constant change gave birth to life itself and eventually created all the kinds of creatures that have ever developed. In other words, our creator is none other than our wonderful world.

As D. Broughton Knox, in The Everlasting God (1982), pointed out:

"In our own times idolatry, which was a universal substitute for the creator God, has been replaced by the widely held theory of evolution. Both are substitutes for the concept of the creator God. Just as the ancients and the heathen today deified and worshipped the creature as the creator, modeling images of man or birds or animals or reptiles and worshipping these, so for western secular man the modern theory of evolution deifies nature, and acknowledges it as creator of all we see around us. All the beauty and intricacy and all the marvelous arrangements of the natural world are supposed to have evolved by a thoughtless, purposeless, mechanical operation of nature, and in this way the God who made the world is as effectively shut out of the minds of those who are enjoying the blessings of his creation as he was by the false religions of idolatry. Just as the idolaters could not see the foolishness, indeed the stupidity of worshipping gods of wood and stone, which have no life nor purpose nor mind, so modern believers in the theory of evolution cannot see the foolishness of that theory..." (p. 30-31)
For the theory of evolution does not merely acknowledge, as we do, the natural process we see by observation in the changing creation around us -- that the process of natural selection has adapted and continues to shape creatures to survive in their changing environment --but the theory theorises that by this process alone, the 'laws' of the Universe and Nature have created us; that is, the Creation is our Creator, the Universe is itself 'God', the real and only and 'living' deity behind all in the past, causing all in the present, controlling all of the future. This is idolatry, new improved.

D. Broughton Knox was right to also point out:

"Creation implies purpose. In contrast, impersonal evolution is purposeless -- things happen by accident without plan. But creation is a personal activity of an almighty supreme God. Personal action implies purpose and this in turn implies assessment. The doctrine of judgement is closely related to that of creation (p. 34)...

"Creation and judgement are the two focal points around which human life moves. These two truths, closely related because they both spring from a supreme purposeful Creator, should not be far from the thoughts of any. They are central in the Christian gospel, but neither purposeful creation nor future assessment finds any place in the alternative explanation of reality which the modern world embraces and which goes by the name of [the theory of ] evolution." (p. 38)
Brian Cox and David Attenborough are both atheists. They answer, "I do not believe in a Creator; I believe God does not exist." But the Bible's reply of course is, "You believe in a Creator, the Universe; the Creation is your God."

This is the modern idolater; they in fact commit in essence the ancient practice of idolatry. But by making creation the creator, they can call themselves atheists in order to deny the existence of a God who is outside and above Creation, who can and will give judgement. And of course the denial of judgement is the whole purpose of ditching the God who is over all in favour of worshipping his creation instead. But this is not really atheism; they don't exist.


D. Broughton Knox, The Everlasting God, Evangelical Press, 1982.