Monday, 21 August 2006

Fighting for justice

I was pondering double predestination yesterday, not studying in-depth: it just popped into my head with something someone said. And my thoughts were running something like: 'What's the problem? Everyone deserves hell, so God is just. The problem is not sending wicked people to hell; the problem is his mercy saving some. And that was shown to be just at the cross...' Then this morning, voilà - Challies posts something along the lines.

16 comments:

TheologyJohn said...

Not sure I agree with this line of reasoning completely - while double predestination would be a whole lot harder to justify if they didn't deserve it anyway, I'm not sure that double predestination *appears* entirely logically consistent with the biblical view of God (although I do tend to think it's a biblical doctrine, and so right - and I guess I'll understand why someday).

The Christian view of God is dominated by love - both love within the trinity (not sure whether only between persons or whether each person loves themselves also - I tend to the former), and for His creation. God is also just, but that justice was sufficiently 'dealt with' at the cross, such that it would not require anything extra for the reprobate to have been elect, other than a different decree of God concerning the effectiveness of the redemption purchased at the cross. Which leaves us wondering - surely God's love for His creation should dominate over above His justice, when that could so easily be fully and consistently dealt with?

Yours sleepily,

Theology John :)

Dave K said...

Some hastily typed thoughts.

I think there is a problem with thinking of Love and Justice as separate warring ways-of-being within God which are only satisfied at the cross. Esp if it is then concluded that love wins the war.

It is loving of God to be just. It is loving of God to exclude evil from the New Jerusalem. It is loving of God to bring low the haughty, and then lift up the humble. It is because God loves us that the earth cries out about the blood that has been shed on it and demands recompense.

You often hear evangelicals saying that we don't want justice but want mercy. But the bible writers call for both justice and mercy regularly, and often together.

As is usually the case it seems that the reason for dislike of Calvinism is an assumption about what certain concepts are about.

Finally, consider what Mary says:

'My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts
;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.' (Luke 1)

I certainly don't have it all together but I don't hear the magnificat very often anymore (bring back the liturgy!). This may well be because it us who are the rich, the proud and the mighty.

Dave K said...
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TheologyJohn said...

Dave wrote:
"I think there is a problem with thinking of Love and Justice as separate warring ways-of-being within God which are only satisfied at the cross. Esp if it is then concluded that love wins the war."

I don't think this is what I was saying - perhaps I wasn't clear enough. I definitely wouldn't want to say that love wins the war - the cross definitely shows both attributes being completely satisfied insofar as God deals with the elect. I would describe love and justice as being (seemingly) different attributes; certainly in the bible God's love is portrayed as him having mercy, while his justice is portrayed as punishment. Therefore, while I'm sure God is not at war with himself, I can't easily reconcile all aspects of the relationship between God's love and His justice/wrath.

You suggest that God being just towards us creates the same outcomes as him being loving towards us (are you perhaps going further and suggesting that God's justice is a part of his love? It doesn't seem to fit in with your comment in the first paragraph about love winning, but the next paragraph I would instinctively assume meant otherwise in other circumstances); while I can certainly see that in some cases that is true (your example of the exclusion of evil from the New Jerusalem is one obvious example), I would suggest that it definitely isn't in others - especially in the particular example concerned here of God passing over and thence condeming the reprobate, for example, seems to display his justice, but not his love.

I really cannot see the two attributes being completely consonant with each other. If you can explain it to me, I would be really rather surprised - but also grateful.:)

(For what it's worth, I wouldn't really say I have a problem with Calvinism - I'm never sure whether I lean closer to Calvinism or Amyraldism, but I'm certainly no Arminian or anything.)

I completely agree with you about missing liturgy though.

Dave K said...

You say that in the bible 'justice is portrayed as punishment' but while that is clearly true, it is not the only emphasis. It is also seen as salvation, as Evil, and those who perpetrate it, are conquered and destroyed.

You say: 'in the particular example concerned here of God passing over and thence condemning the reprobate, for example, seems to display his justice, but not his love.'
God loved these people so much that he sent his son, that he tolerated their immorality and gave them every chance to repent - I may even dare to say that Jesus died for them. There was no lack of love to them, although in the end they are excluded from his love by their own choice. But that exclusion is also motivated by love, although it is the special love that he has for his people. We recall that the people of Israel often called out for mercy - but what they meant, and what God delivered was judgment on their enemies.

I realise that in this comment and the last I have probably brought up more questions about how we think about love and justice, and so the cross. I have no idea how to tie all the things I think are true together.

I guess I just wanted to challenge the notion that God’s love and justice were separate and opposed to each other.

You say that I ‘ suggest that God being just towards us creates the same outcomes as him being loving towards us’ and you are right. I am certain that it is biblical too (the psalms come to mind most of all), but I realise that road leads to justification by works, and makes the bible’s talk of ‘mercy’ non-senseical. Perhaps there is some resolution in thinking of our participation in Christ. In Christ we are vindicated when God judges, but he is merciful to include us in his son in the first place. Maybe it is in these two levels that we get the resolution of two competing biblical themes.

To be honest I really don’t know, and I think I have drifted into rambling.

So I probably haven’t succeeded in explaining how ‘the two attributes [are] completely consonant with each other’ - if I have done do explain because I missed it.

I am looking forward to understanding these mysteries more some day too – although even given eternity and a totally renewed mind it may be too much for me.

Good night, thanks for making me think John.

Dave K said...

I just came across this. I don't know that it adds to the discussion but it was interesting:

It's common among evangelicals to say that the gospel is about God solving the tension between His justice and His mercy. As a just God, He must punish sin; as a merciful God, He seeks to save. The cross combines the two.

At one level, I have no problem with this. But it is problematic both theologically and exegetically. Theologically because it reifies the attributes of God and implicitly denies the simplicity of God. Exegetically because, as John says, it is precisely the "righteous" God who "forgives us our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness." Forgiveness is not a contradiction of God's justice, but a manifestation of His justice.

étrangère said...

Welcome, John! That's quite a discussion you've been having while I've been away, and I'm not going to fully jump in when you've got this far. I don't understand your first comment's final question though John, - or the part from 'God is also just, but...' Could you explain a bit more your thinking there?

As for where the discussion's headed, although we clarified that no-one is here intending to play off God's attributes (love & justice) against each other, that's what struck me at first too when reading the first comment, and the idea just gave me the shivvers and painful memories!

I very much agree with Dave's Leithart link. Though I'm not sure either whether it helps the problem we seem to be reaching. Ach weel.

Slightly sleepy ramblings then? Count me in.

TheologyJohn said...

Hiya guys,

Apologies Dave for not replying sooner - I've been away! Also apologies, because I'm not replying now - I have to prepare 4 bible studies by tomorrow! And I'm about to go away on conference for a week and a half!

(I do know that the first thing I'd ask you is just how the idea of God's justice being love towards his people in the defeat and destruction of evil exactly relates towards the question at hand - surely the evil of the reprobate could equally be saved through simply electing them, defeating their evil and establishing justice through the cross.)

I just figured I could clarify the questions Rosemary asked me fairly simply, whereas I'll have to think before I reply to yours!

So Rosemary... not sure if you'll read this until after I meet you, since relay 1 is but 17 hours away now, but hey! :)

"God is also just, but that justice was sufficiently 'dealt with' at the cross, such that it would not require anything extra for the reprobate to have been elect, other than a different decree of God concerning the effectiveness of the redemption purchased at the cross."

I guess by "sufficiently 'dealt with'", I didn't mean to say that God defeated his justice, but rather that it was utterly and completely fulfilled. I think that was why I put 'dealt with' in . Thus through the cross, God can entirely punish us sinners (through our participation in Christ - thanks Dave, it always cheers me when I see evangelicals talking about that - much too little discussion in evangelical circles about that when it's all through so many NT authors, esp John), while manifesting His love towards us. It becomes somewhat confusing in that it leads us aware that he doesn't seem to have manifested His love towards His Son in that respect, but we can see that being resolved (to some extent, at least) through the fact that God the Son was willing, and I guess it's kind of good that that stuff blows our mind, anyway.

So basically, in the cross we can see God's justice utterly and completely revealed, and his love utterly and completely revealed, FOR THE ELECT. For the reprobate, on the other hand, one can only see his justice being fully revealed towards the reprobate - while Dave suggests that perhaps Jesus died for the reprobate and I wouldn't necessarily disagree (although technicallyn Dave that makes you an amyraldist, not a Calvinist, I'm sorry to say!), the "horrible decree" still doesn't seem to be as loving as it could be towards the reprobate - not as loving as the decree towards the elect in saving us is.

I suspect that that explains your question about my last question, but if not do ask - I'm kind of in a rush to finish my bible studies before relay1 so I haven't really had time to go through properly!

I have to say, although I don't see God's justice and mercy as being ultimately opposed to each other or even *necessarily* agree with the concept of attributes of God at all, it does seem that the best way we have of talking about YHVH in human language is to talk about individual attributes - the whole thing doesn't fit in either our language or our minds!

Looking forward to meeting you Rosemary - Matt Churchouse recommended you highly. :)

étrangère said...

Hey John, d'you not realise you'll be meeting Dave sooner than you will me? Bish is one of those to whom grace has been given to be on the Relay Staff team - R1 and all. Enjoy, and safe travel with Anna. Look forward to meeting you at Forum, though by then you'll indubitably be in the dazed state brought on by 500 people descending on you after a week of intense conference and lack of sleep :D

Oh and as for Churchy's recommendation, you can't take too seriously someone whose current word of approval is 'Safe!' ;-)

I'll actually read your comment in the morning.

TheologyJohn said...

Oh right - I just assumed that all staff went on relay1! I guess I'll see you at forum then!

Hmmm... Dave are you some kind of UCCF staff or some such? I ask mainly 'cos I'm curious because my brother

Churchy's main word of approval is not "safe", it's "saphe"... or maybe it's spelt "saph" or something. Not quite sure! But anyway, however it's spelt, it's obviously a whole lot more trustworthy. Seeing as he gave me one of my references for relay - and it can't have been too bad since I got into relay - I tend to like his judgement! :)

Hmmm... "you'll indubitably be in the dazed state brought on by 500 people descending on you after a week of intense conference and lack of sleep :D" - to be honest, I think you'll soon discover that I spend a lot of time in that state, so meeting me in it will probably give you a fairly good idea of my general personality.

Oh deary me, why am I *still* on the internet rather than preparing my relay1 bible studies? :-o

TheologyJohn said...

Hmmm... I meant to complete that half-finished sentence in there...

"Hmmm... Dave are you some kind of UCCF staff or some such? I ask mainly 'cos I'm curious because my brother is based in York and although he isn't a part of any CU (not least because he's not a student), he certainly has a fair bit of contact with you guys through people at his church and the like, and I'm wondering if there's any connection between the two of you."

His name is David Ievins, btw.

étrangère said...

John, 'I spend a lot of time in that state' - no money for guessing why? I hope you eventually got offline and got to sleep, never mind preparing those studies. You could have deduced from my post that Dave is a CUSW Reading & Guildford (ok the geography was less deduceable) since he's about to see you on R1. You need sleep man.

TheologyJohn said...

One could argue that it was somewhat overly obvious from that statement that he was UCCF staff... I couldn't possibly comment.:)

I guess I was confused by the fact that his blogger profile claims he comes from York, where I thought the only staffworker was called Paula Love. Although I guess that could have been his name on weekends. And what is university if it isn't one long weekend?

As for sleep... I did actually go to bed rather shortly after I posted that. Then I woke up unexpectedly early after about 4 hrs sleep, which was annoying, but I don't actually feel less alerty today - perhaps more tired, but rather less alert!

I do actually tend to mostly get a reasonable amount of sleep in the average day I think. I just get it at different times to the average person!

étrangère said...

Oh pants, I was confusing Daves. Too many ppl are called Dave - sorry Dave, didn't realise twas you; thought it was Dave. Dave isn't a CUSW and you won't see him at R1; Dave is and you will. Neither Dave is Paula Love.

Dave K said...

Oh dear...

Sorry about the confusion. It's happened one too many times, probably because as I hang around many of the same blogs that Dave Bish does, so I have updated my profile.

A few preliminary things

As to your brother John I'm afraid I don't know him, although I know a handful of students and those who hang around them.

I think I’ll continue calling myself a Calvinist despite your suggestion John. I sometimes think that I’m a 4 out of 4 point Calvinist because I think that if you agree to answer the question ‘do you believe in a limited atonement?’ you will always give a wrong, and unhelpful answer. I think Calvin would have agreed with me to. But I won’t get to upset whatever you label me as.

I’m sorry if my comments are a little off topic and not really dealing with the subject at hand. I have a tendency to do that – for too many reasons to bore you with now. I’ll try and get back to the subject.

The subject I’m supposed to be talking about

When I think about the bible’s witness I think I come back to Rosemary’s point. All the reasons I can think of why the various biblical writers that anyone is punished and others are not is either:

1. They are evil and deserve it.
2. They have attacked God’s people in some way.
3. It is part of God’s great plan to bring salvation to the world and redeem creation.

These are obviously interconnected most of the time.

If you then turn round and point out that everyone is evil, or ask why some are saved and others not then the only answer ever given is love and mercy for the saved. I think that Rosemary in her post does the right thing in turning the question round, and putting as spin on the return. This is what the bible does on the rare occasions where the question comes up.

Calvin always said we ought to tread carefully, and not go beyond what is written, when dealing with this subject. And although it looks like he is ducking the issue, I am going to go down the same route.

The only answer I know to the question is that God will ultimately punish some to ‘show his wrath and to make known his power’ (Rom 9:22) but I think that is misapplying the verse, and won’t go down that route.

I will make one more observation. You say that ‘the "horrible decree" still doesn't seem to be as loving as it could be towards the reprobate - not as loving as the decree towards the elect in saving us is.’ I hinted at what I thought about this in my second comment. You seem to be trying to measure something which I think is immeasurable. Mathematicians may know that 2/0 > 1/0 even though both are infinity but I don’t think you can do the same here. I’m not sure I can justify by belief but there is still a suggestion in your comment that there is a lack of love towards the reprobate but I simply cannot accept that.

I suppose that leads me on to my final point.

You say: ’it does seem that the best way we have of talking about YHVH in human language is to talk about individual attributes’ but I disagree. I may be tying myself in knots with my reasoning in this comment but I think this is precisely because we are trying to talk about ‘attributes of God’ and what that means about ‘individuals salvation’. The bible only ever talks about the attributes of God as explanations and motivations for why God does something that has happened. The starting place for understanding concepts like ‘love’ or ‘justice’ (which we humans know so little about) should be the actions of God. We should not start from what we think are God’s attributes and then try and work out what that will mean in terms of his actions.

Please feel free to pick apart the fallacies in my argument. I have a suspicion this comment may be full of them. I am just trying to find my way while groping in the half-light… maybe I should turn round and go back to safer and less speculative ground.

feraset said...
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