Monday, August 29, 2011

Best of All Possible Worlds

I ran across an interview done on Justin Taylor's website back in 2008 with John Frame. I respect John Frame and his work immensely, though I often disagree with him. In the interview he was asked about the notion that this world is 'the best of all possible worlds'. Here's the exchange:

Why do you argue that it is merely possible that this is the best of all possible worlds?

People sometimes say that God must make the best possible world because he himself is perfect. So they think that although evil exists now, this is nevertheless the best world God could have made. That is one traditional attempt to solve the problem of evil.

I disagree, however. Genesis 1:31 says that God made everything good, but not perfect. “Perfect” would mean not only good, but also incapable of becoming evil. Clearly God did not choose to make that kind of world. In that sense, the new Heavens and the new Earth (Rev. 21:1) will be a better world than this one, for that world will be confirmed in goodness, incapable of becoming evil. So the world in which we presently live is not the best possible world. God is free to make a world that is imperfect in some respects.

Could God have made a better world than this one? Certainly. He could have made what we call the “new Heavens and new Earth” right back at the beginning. Why, then, did he choose not to do so? I don’t know. That is essentially the problem of evil. I think there are some biblical ways of addressing the problem, but I don’t think we will have a completely satisfying resolution of the problem during our present life.

Here's on of those times I disagree with Frame - I think this is the best of all possible worlds given God's goals. Obviously the world isn't perfect, at least not in the sense that it's without taint, without flaw, incapable of evil. In that sense, I'd agree with Frame. Who wouldn't? But, it is perfect in the sense that it perfectly accomplishes it's telos - it is the perfect means to the perfect end, namely, God's glory.

It certainly has been tainted by our sin, but doesn't our sin have a role to play in God's overarching plan to see his glory maximized? Certainly. Without sin there would be no need for grace, mercy, compassion and hence no appreciation of them. Without sin there would be no need for redemption, no need for a slain lamb, who was, after all, slain before the foundation of the world. Without sin we would not be witnesses to the awesome wisdom of God as displayed on the cross. (Please note, I'm not at all intending to call sin good. Best the read this in light of Joseph's words to his brothers - we meant it for evil, God meant it for good. Also look to Paul in Romans 6:1-4 & Romans 9:19-24). Read again the wonderful verses of Eph. 1:7-10:

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment —to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ."

Given that God is a wise God, an omnipotent God, and a good God, it seems inevitable to me that we would affirm this is the best of all possible worlds. Wisdom is, to quote Tozer, that philisophical powerhouse, "Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means."

Does Scripture directly teach that this is the best of all possible worlds? No. Does it teach it indirectly by asserting God's wisdom, by reminding us that God does what God pleases, by holding up for worship a God who is sovereign and omnipotent? I think it does. Seeing this as the best of all possible worlds certainly requires a shift in viewpoint - we must see it against the backdrop of God's eternal and inviolable purposes. Only then can we see it's ultimate perfection.

Song of the Week

At one point, I owned several NIN cds. I still really like the music and think Reznor's lyrics honestly convey his nihilism. I do, however, like Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt" more than NIN. Here's an interesting comparison of the two versions by Russell Moore:


Monday, August 22, 2011

Song of the Week

Maybe sometime this week I'll get around to a real post. Till then, here's a great song from a band my neighbor turned me on to:

Black Country Communion, "The Battle for Hadrian's Wall"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Song of the Week

Reflecting on our camping trip from last week, this song was a must for the week ;)
Love ya Lynn.

Guns N' Roses, 'I Used to Love Her'

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Camping

We survived, though it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. Lynn made two trips back the house last night between 9pm-12am, once to get the kids ready for bed, the next time to get herself ready. Between Midnight and 5:30am the boys were up three times to go to the bathroom and once because, somehow, they had gotten all turned around in the tent. It took em about 20minutes to sort that out. The boys and I tore down camp while Lynn traveled home again to get herself ready for the day. Home by 10:30, set up tents in the back to dry. Now I'm ready for a nap.

It was fun. Probably will be more fun in memories than actually being there, if you know what I mean.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Song of the Week

I actually found a Metallica CD I didn't already own at my neighbors yard sale. Great bonding moment with a neighbor when we realized we're both closet metal heads.

Metallica, "Stone Cold Crazy"

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Does God Belong in the Science Class?

Ok, stick with me here for a minute. Last night I had the boys at the Ellettsville Library. I was looking through the new books section in the kids area and stumble upon a book about religion for kids, What Do You Believe?. I picked it up and almost put it in the basket just out of curiosity - what was the premise of the book? I went with a newer Spiderman book instead.

Anyway, as I was looking at it, I thought to myself that if Caleb or Jacob had to read this in school I'd make sure I read it first to engage their questions. It came out, in my mind, as a resolution: 'Read any books dealing with religion that my kids read'. Then I quickly added, again in my mind: 'Oh, and read any science books they are reading'. Then I began arguing with myself, 'Why the science books? Why not the history books?'

The obvious answer is because the science books my kids read teach theories that leave God out, or, worse, are hostile to what we as Christians believe (though I have never read a book that says, 'God did not create'). But again, is that different in the history classes? Is God the God who creates but not the God who rules the nations?

Maybe the answer is, 'I should read the science books because issues related to science are the ones being hotly debated now'. Ok, but why are they being debated? Because we, as Christians, have decided to take a stand there and not allow God to be pushed out of the science classroom. I am pretty sure the debate would get pretty heated if we insisted on God being in the history classroom! Try arguing that the Civil War was God's punishment on the United States for tolerating slavery (a position articulated pretty clearly by Lincoln himself!). Or, that 9/11 was God's judgment, or Katrina, or ...

Think that would cause a stir!? (I remember Caleb came home one day and asked, "Do you think what Hitler did to the Jews was God's punishment for crucifying Jesus?" I begged him never to ask that question in school!) I honestly don't know what my point is here. I could go either way now, though I'm leaning in one direction so far I might fall over. I could say, "Stop focusing so much about the science classroom, look, God has been removed from the history class also...and the math class...and the gym floor...the ethics class (the Air Force Academy just removed classes which use the Bible as the basis to teach ethics, especially Just War Theory). We need to fight to get God back in the classroom, period" I affirm that God is the King of Creation, the Lord of all things, Sovereign over every sphere of life (and death). But does every question, every time, need to be traced back to God. I'm not leaning that way.

On the other hand, I could say that we, as Christians, need to worry less that God has been removed from the science classes. Let the science teachers do what they do, much in the same way the history teachers and math teachers do what they do - without recourse to providence or divine intervention. Make it good science and it will be agreeable to what the Bible teaches (when we understand the science and the Bible rightly)! When explaining why the square root of 9 is 3, do I need to go all the way back to God creation of an orderly world? When I talk about WW2, can I talk about the error of appeasement, or do I need to talk also about God's sovereignty over nations? When we talk about the beginning of the universe, do we need to say God did it, or can we talk about the natural mechanisms by which he did it (and there will certainly be gaps in what science can explain because God was working in direct ways that science can't account for). Will the science be complete without God? No, it can't be. But, is the history complete without reference to God? No, it can't be (unless you are a deist who doesn't believe God is active in his world anymore). By way of ultimate explanations, God is always there, always important. But I can/should be laying that groundwork for my kids at home. The church can/should be laying that groundwork at church. Does it need to happen in the classroom too?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Song(s) of the Week

I just downloaded this album from NoiseTrade. If you like the sound of groups like the Black Crowes, you'll dig the Dirty Guv'nahs