Posted: Sat Sep 27, 2014 11:56 pm
by Fe4rG0d
Wow there's been a lot of talk here lately!
I'm got a bunch of thoughts, which I've tried assembling in a logical order :)

Why does the 'image of God' require us to have the same Free Will as God, since clearly not every aspect of God is recreated within us? Why do we think God has 'free will' to start with? What do we mean when we say God has 'free will' (e.g. can He ever act against His character? Could He, given his omnipotence and knowledge, have chosen anything other than what He has chosen?)
If all you mean by Free Will is the ability to 'choose', then we agree, but I suggest that this is not what is commonly defended as 'Free Will' by most people.
We actually function very much like 'programable people' in reality. Advertising companies risk billions of dollars on the assumption that we are programmable in a predictable way. Children from abusive homes are many times more likely to abuse their own children, for example. Yes their parents are responsible, but it doesn't take away their own need for change, or personal moral depravity.
Incidentally, these two aspects (the need for change, and the fact that the outcome says something meaningful about the character) are my definition of responsibility. 'Guilt' per-se features very little here, as I think it does in Scripture.

People have been talking as if 'Free Will' is a more basic understanding of things, and existentially evident, and that further speculation is unnecessary, risky, and creates difficult conclusions that are ONLY created by this speculation. I disagree with all of this! Free Will itself requires a lot of assumptions and uncomfortable conclusions, which I think are difficult to support Scripturally (unless of course you resort to Paradox or 'mystery' to avoid these conclusions). The fact that we experience 'freedom' from our perspective is meaningless - if what I'm saying about 'Free Agency' is true, you would have no way of distinguishing it from true 'Free Will'. Finally, speculation is ALREADY necessary (unless you want to resort to paradox of mystery) because there are EXISTING conclusions in Scripture, which are difficult to explain otherwise.

Its not that, given my commitment to determinism, I can't see a way that God IS NOT responsible for 'evil'. I think the Bible actively teaches that God is gloriously ultimately and solely responsible for all things, including sin and what we call 'evil'. I think it teaches that God deliberately does all things precicsely because it is a necessary component of the greatest possible expression of Good (this includes specifically allowing sin and 'evil', when He has the power to do otherwise). I think it teaches there is no such thing as ultimate 'evil', only temporary incompleteness in our perception of the grand scheme of things, making us perceive it as 'less-than-perfectly-good' (but that this false perception will itself form part of the perfect good).
And I think it teaches that God is exactly the author of evil (if by author, we mean the person who first conceived of it, desired it (not necessarily for itself, but for its effects in integration with everything else in the story), brought it into existence (usually through secondary causes, e.g. characters or events in the story), and sustained its existence and ultimate glorious purpose throughout the story.
Stating that God has done 'evil' is to agree with Scripture (Isaiah 45:7, Romans 11:32). And to state that there is no such thing as 'ultimate evil' is to agree with Scripture. There are, indeed, temporary disturbances in our perception of God's goodness (which we term 'evil'), but for God to do these things in no way makes Him evil, for the reasons Dan stated. On the contrary, if God could see a better 'Good' outcome which involved more temporary clouding of this good (i.e. evil), would He not be ethically obligated to perform it? Or obligated by His Free Agency (given the fact that He is, fundamentally, Good).

Yes, determinism does make God desire multiple things at once in different ways. Is this so hard to imagine? We do this all the time (e.g. disciplining children is not comfortable, even when we think it is for their good). But anyway, God is not ultimately 'willing' two opposite things - He is willing one ultimate Good, which is reached through two separate methods. There is an an instruction to Godly people, and the actual acts of God which do NOT comply with this instruction, and which cause others to not comply. Murder is part of the ultimate Good because of what it leads to (think e.g. the murder of His Son), but the command to not murder is also part of this ultimate Good because of what it leads to. The command reveals God's ultimate aims (and help us define true 'good'), and encourages those who have the spirit to desire them also. It also encourages us to trust God and follow His instructions, while also trusting Him to specifically PLAN each deviation for Good. It also demonstrates our incompatibility with God's ultimate desire (i.e. we desire murder as an ultimate aim) or our lack of trust in God (i.e. we desire the greater good, but take it into our own hands to achieve it, with massive and unnecessary risk). There is definite purpose to the instruction, EVEN WHEN God sometimes deliberately creates deviation from it.
I know you say that God does not 'require' evil. Yet He allows it in your view. If this is for any reason other than absolute necessity, to me that makes God ACTUALLY evil (i.e. with sinful intentions, allowing true ultimate evil when it is not in fact a necessary part of the greatest good outcome).

Of course there will be questions about how we should, then, react to evil. There were similar questions about sin when Paul argued for justification by faith alone. But the answer is similar - just because God deliberately creates / allows sin (and evil) for a purpose, does not mean we should pursue it. The very suggestion throws doubt on the desires of the person asking (not implying that your genuine concern is such a suggestion :) ).
Also, our concept of Good and Evil is still valid - we still judge God based on these concepts, but we have the judge the entire outcome of all His actions (which will be Good in a way we can understand). The fact that God a person's horrendous suffering is somehow designed by God as part of their ultimate Good, in a way which they will understand in the end, should give us cause for rejoicing and hope, but should not reduce our efforts to oppose this evil as God expects of us. We still apply the same morals to PEOPLE that we currently apply. Responsibility still applies as discussed above.

In heaven, we will be consciously aware of the suffering of Christ. We will be singing about it. If we admit this was evil, does this imply that the perfection of heaven is somehow lessened by this consciousness? I totally disagree with the statement that goodness should not require evil, based mainly on this. But even if I concede Free Will, we are still saying that this (along with the necessarily consequent 'evil' that God foreknew) is somehow required for 'Good'. Anyway, there are other ways I can think of that evil can enhance goodness. If goodness included an anti-evil aspect in any way, then conscious perception of that goodness must include an understanding of the evil it is opposed to. Evil also doesn't need to be consciously present to change our perception of evil, which is how (I think) our tears can be wiped away while still leaving a lasting beautiful mark on our soul. I would also argue, for a similar reason, that a truly redeemed and perfected adulterous relationship would outshine any 'good' relationship for whom there is no concept of forgiveness and redemption and this ultimate example of sacrificial love.