Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

The Glory of God in Allowing Christians to Sin and in Allowing the Holocaust

I wrote a blog about evolution being taught in public schools and my belief that it should either be taught differently or not taught at all. An extremely intelligent atheist named Ron responded to my blog, and we began a discussion that has accounted for most of the 60 comments on that blog.

The discussion with Ron, along with my thoughts on why God allows Christians to sin, led me to contemplate both why a loving God would allow Christians to sin and why He would allow enormous tragedies such as the Holocaust, as well as how I could declare that God is just although He allows both sin and tragedies to happen.

The short answer to the “why?” on both issues is for the glory of God. I would have given that answer before the discussion with Ron, because I have been told that all things happen for the glory of God and I believe that to be true. But I could not have begun to answer how allowing those things to happen glorifies God. I believe that I can now answer the “how?” on both of those issues in a way that is at least satisfactory for me and hopefully will benefit others.

How does allowing Christians to sin glorify God? God hates sin. God would prefer for us not to sin. God could prevent us from sinning if He wanted to. But we do sin. Why? God can do all that He pleases, therefore it must be pleasing to God for some reason and in some way to allow Christians to sin. A better way to say that, I believe, is that there must be something that is more preferable to God, for the sake of which God allows Christians to sin. There must be another variable that comes into play, and for the sake of that variable, God prefers to allow us to sin. That variable, I believe, is God’s honor, or to say it in another way, His glory and His name.

For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him. –Romans 1:21

And because “they” did not honor God as God or give thanks to Him, God gave “them” over to all this. So when people do not honor God as God and give thanks to Him, God allows them to sin. This applies to Christians and non-Christians alike, and in all people this glorifies God. The question then is: “how does this glorify God?” This glorifies God because when we honor Him as God and give thanks to Him, He gets the glory; not us. When we do not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, we get the glory. Therefore, it is just and good and loving of God to allow people to sin when they do not honor Him as God and give thanks to Him, because He is worthy of honor and He is the giver of all. If we were able to abstain from sin apart from God, then we would do so at the expense of God’s name and God’s glory. If we were able to overcome sin apart from God, on the basis of some quality that we possessed, then we would not need God.

If I overcome sin on my own and apart from God, then my name and my glory are inflated, and God’s name and God’s glory are insignificant and unnecessary. Therefore, for the sake of His name and His glory, God must allow us to sin when we do not honor Him as God and do not give Him thanks. Although He hates sin, allowing us to sin is preferable to the defamation of His name and His glory. And that is why each and every strategy for overcoming sin that is not centered on honoring God as God and giving Him the thanks that He so greatly deserves will fail.

So we now move on to the Holocaust.

I believe that all evil in the world that is performed by the hands of men is an example of what I have just discussed. And, I believe that the rest of Romans 1:21 and verse 22 shed more light on this subject:

For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools

Futile thinking and foolish hearts. Does that sound like Hitler and the Nazis? Did they not claim to be wise? The blood of the victims of the Holocaust is unquestionably on the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. However, if there is a loving God, then He either refused to prevent the Holocaust from happening or He was unable to. This is the issue that Ron brings up, and it is a big one. I can very easily identify with Ron on this one. If He didn’t have the power to prevent it, then He’s not worthy. And if He had the power to prevent it but didn’t, then He’s not worthy. I believe that He is worthy, so I have some reconciling to do.

Some might try to “get God off the hook” here, so to speak, and say that God didn’t want the Holocaust to happen. That angle leads to what I just mentioned- if God didn’t want it to happen, then He was either unable or unwilling to prevent it from happening. Saying that God was unable to prevent it from happening, either based on evil in the world or the free will of man that God cannot interfere with, paints a picture of God that I really don’t like. That view of God implies that God is at the mercy of evil in the world or the free will of man, and if that is the case I might have to side with Ron and say that that God is unworthy.

However, I do not believe that to be the case. I do not believe that God was unable to prevent the Holocaust from happening. Which leads us to the question: “If God was able to prevent the Holocaust, why didn’t He?”

I believe that the answer to that question is the same as the answer to why God allows Christians to sin. Just as God allows us to sin, even though He hates sin, when we fail to honor Him as God and give Him thanks, He allowed the Holocaust, even though He hated the Holocaust, because Hitler and the Nazis failed to honor Him as God and give Him thanks. His name and His glory are so important to God, that He allows both sin and tragedy to take place when He is not given the honor and thanks that He deserves.

So, God allows us to sin when we fail to honor Him as God and give Him thanks, even when our sin will affect others who had nothing to do with the sin. And when governments and leaders fail to honor God as God and give thanks to Him, the results of their sins can affect a great number of people.

Just as Pharaoh did not honor God and let the Israelites go, until His refusal brought down plagues on His people that culminated in the death of the firstborn of every Egyptian, so Hitler and the Nazis’ failure to give honor and thanks to God resulted in the Holocaust. And just as Pharaoh and Hitler’s decisions resulted in an unfathomable amount of innocent bloodshed, so the failure of America to give honor and thanks to God has resulted in the murder of 40 million innocent babies in the name of Roe v. Wade. Pharaoh, Hitler, and any leader who believes that “the woman’s right to choose” supercedes the life of an innocent, defenseless, unborn baby may believe that they are wise, but they are fools, with futile thinking and darkened hearts.

Honor and thanks be to God, who is the Creator of all and the Giver of every good and perfect gift!

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December 29, 2007 - Posted by | Christ, Christian, Creator, Giver, glory, God, Hitler, holocaust, honor, Jews, Nazi, Religion, sin | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 Comments »

  1. You appear to be an intelligent person, although your explanations are laughable. I hope you’ll be so bold as to check out my site http://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/ even though the questions I post for god worshipers will most likely rub you and yours the wrong way. I’ve categorized all my posts on the left. Take a few minutes to read through a few. Leave a comment if you like. Take Care.

    Comment by doubtingthomas426 | December 30, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thank you for the comment and for the compliment. I would love for you to expand on what you see as laughable explanations.

    Don’t worry about rubbing me the wrong way with your questions, just try to be as honest as you can with why it is that you are suppressing the truth! 😉

    Comment by bigham | December 30, 2007 | Reply

  3. Great word, Dave!

    I would only add that God allowed an even greater evil in the death of his son, and by allowing that evil he acheived the greatest boon for mankind that we could possibly imagine: a way to be reconciled to God and have our sins forgiven because his justice is satisfied in the death of Christ.

    What a Savior!

    Jim

    Comment by Jim Hamilton | December 30, 2007 | Reply

  4. Hi again David–

    Many thanks for your kind remarks. And believe me, you were being kind. Reeeaaally kind.
    It’s been a good dialog. And remember–I’m not trying to harsh your buzz. If being a Christian is where your heart is, then go with the flow, dood.

    Back to bizness–

    I notice you didn’t try to tackle the problem of hell, which I consider to be the single largest moral dilemma facing Christians. The torment of Anne Frank in life merely for being Jewish is awful enough. The idea that God is presiding over her eternal torment in hell can only be described as vulgar; to me at least. But that is what scripture says. And yet, if she stayed Jewish in spirit–if she did not convert to Christianity–that’s exactly what is happening right now.

    It seems to me that to call any God like that ‘good’ is to rob the word of any meaning. Likewise with Jim’s comment; to say the crucifiction of Jesus is a greater evil than the slaughter of 6 million Jews is incomprehensible to me [especially when you consider God actually intended for Jesus to be crucified].

    I mean, what kind of a God needs the screams of 6M holocaust victims in order to be glorified?

    ” Just as God allows us to sin, even though He hates sin, when we fail to honor Him as God and give Him thanks, He allowed the Holocaust, even though He hated the Holocaust, because Hitler and the Nazis failed to honor Him as God and give Him thanks. ”

    That God will stand by and allow the undeserved suffering of billions of children and the slow, eternal torture of helpless souls like Anne Frank because humanity didn’t flatter him enough doesn’t depict a God worthy of worship, at least to me.

    Epicurus said it pretty well:

    “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?”

    Comment by Ron | December 31, 2007 | Reply

  5. Ron,

    Happy New Year!

    A couple things: I think the “little Holocaust”- the one we know about- gives us a glimpse of the “big Holocaust”- Hell. And I think that in a couple of ways they are similar. For the sake of God’s glory and His name and His honor, He allowed the Holocaust to happen, even though He hated the Holocaust in and of itself- because ungrateful sinners failed to honor and thank Him as God. Similarly, He allows hell, even though He hates hell in and of itself- because ungrateful sinners fail to honor and thank Him as God.

    Both cases do not make sense, unless you realize how valuable His name and glory and honor are. I think that John Piper makes a great case for the fact that God is ultimately for Himself, which is the only way that He can be for us in this sermon from 1980: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1980/242_Is_God_for_Us_or_for_Himself/

    Piper quotes Isaiah 48:11 in the sermon, which says: “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”

    Also, you forget that Judaism is kind of a “parent religion” of Christianity. All of the Old Testament is about Jews, Jesus was a Jew, and all of the authors of the New Testament books were Jews. So Christianity does not have an exclusive claim on salvation throughout history. This is why “Jews for Jesus”-an organization of Jews who have converted to Christianity- call themselves “true Jews” or “completed” or “fulfilled” Jews.

    Jews in the Old Testament were saved by faith in God, and in His promised Messiah as future atonement for their sins to reconcile them with God. Christians are saved by faith in God, and in His Messiah who came and died as an atonement for our sins to reconcile us with God.

    If Anne Frank is in hell, then her unforgiven sins condemned her there. It is not merely that she was Jewish. We all fail to honor and thank God as God, and the penalty of that is death. The question is whose death will pay your penalty. You will pay your penalty with an eternity in hell, unless you have faith in Jesus Christ and let His death pay your penalty.

    Hell is only just if God’s glory is worth enough to warrant such an extreme punishment.

    Christianity for me is not a “buzz” and I am not a Christian merely because it is where my heart is. I am a Christian for two specific reasons. First, I believe that He was resurrected from the dead, proving that He was supernatural and that He was and is God. And second, I believe that my sin separates me from God, and therefore I need a Savior.

    Comment by bigham | January 1, 2008 | Reply

  6. Happy New Year to you and yours David–

    A couple things: I think the “little Holocaust”- the one we know about- gives us a glimpse of the “big Holocaust”- Hell.

    There’s one important distinction. The Holocaust was man-made from start to finish. Hell, on the other hand, is all God’s doing. Sending people to hell for not flattering God enough wasn’t Anne Frank’s idea, or my idea, it was all God’s idea.

    Similarly, He allows hell, even though He hates hell in and of itself- because ungrateful sinners fail to honor and thank Him as God. [emphasis added]

    If he allows hell to take place then:

    “Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.”

    And besides, he didn’t allow hell. He made hell. Saying God <allowed hell is like saying the Nazis allowed Auschwitz.

    Comment by Ron | January 2, 2008 | Reply

  7. Ron,

    The able vs. unable, willing vs. unwilling thing applies to both, I think. In the book of Job, the things that happened to Job were attributed to Satan. And yet Job says, “shall we accept good from God and not evil?” I think the implication there is that, even though evil can be attributed to Satan and the demons, they have no power outside of what God allows them to have.

    So, with the Holocaust, I would say that He was absolutely able and unwilling to prevent it from happening. On the surface and with only the two variables of a loving God and the Holocaust, that appears to make God “malevolent” as your quote says- that or non-existant. I believe that this, like most things in life, is both too dynamic and too complex of an issue to be understood on the basis of only those two variables, when so many other issues come into play.

    The all-important variable is the glory of God, and that is the key that unlocks every door. You might not agree with the justice of the situation as it stands in our discussion now, but possibly if we qualify it: IF you were to accept that the glory of God is supremely valuable, of a vaule greater than either of us could fathom, would you agree that that would declare God righteous for both allowing the Holocaust and for allowing those who are not saved by faith in God to go to hell, for the sake of His supremely valuable glory?

    Maybe an analogy would help. If we said simply that you were standing near a cliff. And there is a woman who is falling off of the edge of this cliff. And you have the ability to save her from falling off of this cliff. And you decided not to save her from falling off of this cliff. On the surface, and with only that information, you appear to be both cruel and unjust, right?

    What if we were to add that the reason that you did not save the woman was because your young child was falling off of the cliff at the same time, and you had to make a split-second decision as to which of the two you would save. I don’t think that anybody would call you cruel or unjust for choosing to save the person of greater value to you, even though it meant the woman’s life.

    On the surface, hell seems to be the gavel of guilt in God’s trial. But, if He made hell and allows people to go there for the sake of another variable, then our trial is more complex, right? If there is another variable, for which God created hell and allows people to go to hell, then our trial rests not merely on whether or not God was able or willing to prevent anything. Our trial rests on the value of the all-important variable.

    I believe that God created hell as a punishment for offending His glory. And I believe that God allows people who offend His glory to spend an eternity in hell- unless they have faith in Jesus Christ. So, I believe that God’s righteousness or guilt stands on this two-part question: Is God’s glory truly valuable enough to warrant the creation of hell and allowing faithless sinners to go to hell? My answer to that question is a resounding YES!

    Comment by bigham | January 2, 2008 | Reply

  8. D–

    I believe that God created hell as a punishment for offending His glory.

    That’s just one of the reasons I don’t worship your God. That, plus he’s probably not there anyway.

    Comment by Ron | January 2, 2008 | Reply

  9. Big Bad Ron,

    Let us get back to the “supernatural” issue, shall we? I think we need to define our terms, and to understand what we shall call “supernatural” we need an operational definition of “natural.”

    What sort of definition for “natural” shall we use?

    Comment by bigham | January 3, 2008 | Reply

  10. Hey David–

    Defining terms is always a good idea. In this case, I use the term ‘supernatural’ the way it’s commonly used:

    “departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature b: attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit)”–from Webster’s Dictionary.

    Comment by Ron | January 5, 2008 | Reply

  11. See what I mean, David? There’s no answer for it.

    Comment by Ron | January 13, 2008 | Reply

  12. Ron,

    how are you doing man? sorry its been a while, but I do believe that every question has an answer. I’ll side with Ayn Rand and say that I don’t believe there are any contradictions- only flawed premises that lead to apparent contradictions.

    The delayed response is a result of two things- that I have been busy lately, and also that I was unsure of what direction to take. My intention with defining our terms was to show that regardless of what definition we come up with for “natural” we can always find something that is “super” by comparison, thereby proving the supernatural.

    But I received four C.S. Lewis books on CD’s for Christmas, and I was divided between staying the course that I just mentioned or departing from it to follow Lewis’ thinking in his books “The Problem of Pain” and “Mere Christianity.”

    I have decided to do both. I think that I can tie what I’ve learned from Lewis into proving the supernatural. He starts off “Mere Christianity” by discussing the “moral standard” that all humans have- what people call on in all quarrels. Any time people have a dispute, it is because one person believes that the other has acted in some way against a superimposed “right” way that all people should live by. He says that some might argue that different societies have different moral standards, but that any studies will show that, although there are slight variations, all societies have for the most part the same moral standards.

    So, back to the quarrels: all quarrels involve one person claiming that another has acted contrary to this moral standard, while the accused claims that he has not.

    In “The Problem of Pain,” Lewis discusses pretty much what we have been discussing- the argument that pain in the world proves God to be either incompetent or nonexistent. He also touches on the issue of the supernatural, of which he says that, although in one sense God is able to do anything and everything He pleases, in order to have a world that has any reliability there must be certain laws- such as gravity- that God either never or very rarely defies.

    So although the Bible does speak of several instances of miraculous defiances of the laws of the universe- the creation of woman from the rib of the first man, the parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River, the miracles, resurrection, and ascension of Christ being a few- it is best to discuss first the way that God acts in supernatural ways within the “natural” laws of the universe.

    So I think your second definition would fit into the category that I shall set aside for the time being, as we discuss the first for the time being. You say that a supernatural thing departs “from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature.”

    First of all, I would say that the fact that we have any “laws of nature” at all to begin with points to the supernatural. Where did these laws come from, why are they here, and how is it that they are consistent regardless of geographical and sociological factors? I will take another page out of one of Lewis’ books here, as he points out that darkness has no meaning without light. If there were no such thing as light, then we would all be unknowingly blind and therefore would have no need for the word “dark.”

    Similarly, I think that without the “supernatural” the only thing to expect would be a chaos in which there would be no such thing as “laws of nature.” So just as light necessitates both darkness and the word “dark,” the “supernatural” necessitates both the natural and “the laws of nature.”

    Nonetheless, I am glad that we do have these “laws of nature” to start with. And I am even more glad that I have Lewis’ thoughts on the “moral standard” within humanity to take the first step from “the laws of nature” towards the “supernatural.”

    Lewis points out that this “moral standard” is a law that, unlike physical laws such as gravity that require compliance, merely tells us what we “ought” to do. Whereas the law of gravity requires that I am pulled towards the earth, the law of “moral standard” supernaturally tells me what I ought to do in any given situation. (I just had a thought- one might argue that the law of gravity is supernatural. One would expect, without the knowledge of gravity, that we would float off of the earth when we jump. However, due to the “supernatural” law of gravity, we are attracted towards the earth- although in some “supernatural” way 😉 so as to allow mobility.)

    So, for example, this “moral standard” law is in some way written on all people such that it tells us that it is wrong to murder, even when committing a murder would in some way be beneficial. I think that this “moral standard” is also the reason that “less significant” crimes such as shoplifting are so much more common than murder. Societal and parental influences are probably more or less equal in qualifying both murder and shoplifting as “bad.” But people are, I believe, much more likely go give into the temptation to shoplift when it would be beneficial and has a decent chance of going unpunished, than they are to murder, even though the opportunity to murder may provide both a greater benefit and a better chance of getting away with it.

    Well, I’m at my brother’s and he’s running me off because of a care group that they host- and I’ve rambled a bit- so I’ll cut this off here.

    Hope all is well with you!

    Comment by bigham | January 16, 2008 | Reply


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