Saturday, October 31, 2009

Letter From a Skeptical Friend: Part 2

You've all been demanding it, and now here it is: Part 2 of "Letter From a Skeptical Friend." You may recall that in August we posted a letter from a friend of ours named Wizard. In this letter, our friend expressed some doubts about the Christian worldview in favor of the atheist worldview. We have been waiting and waiting for his next letter, and yesterday I finally received his next list of theistic issues he wanted to bring up. In the letter, he briefly expressed a few concerns. Rather than listing all of them here (he brought up three main issues), I am just going to print the first problem he raises and then attempt to address it in the comments section, just like we did with his last letter.

I would like to briefly bring up the argument of morality again. Let me say from the start that I cannot think of an atheistic explanation for morality. I would also like to restate that the Biblical understanding is that while God ordains everything that comes to pass His intentions are always good even when the intentions of the creature (which bring about the ordained event) are evil. But God cannot be accused of evil because His intentions were good. I did want to bring up one more objection that can be raised. If R.C. Sproul is correct that if there is one maverick molecule in the universe then God is not sovereign, then from where do the evil intentions of man come? If the evil intentions of the creature is not ordained or ruled by God then would it not follow that God is not sovereign? Furthermore, it brings into question how God could know the intentions of man before hand if he did not ordain the intentions. If the evil intentions are a result of God's ordination then how does it make a difference that God's intentions are good? I get to the point where I feel that I have accepted the compatiblistic argument, but then I come full circle and cannot see how the argument really makes a difference so that is why I mention it again.


  1. Well, Wizard, in no sense would I ever say that there is any maverick molecule in the universe. This includes any and all evil thoughts which human beings have.

    Lets review the compatiblistic argument once more, for the sake of those reading, and for ourselves so we know what version of compatiblism we are really dealing with.

    Compatiblistic freedom says that one is free if they are acting according to their strongest desire at any given moment. One is not free if they are acting against their strongest desire (which is impossible) at any given moment. It sounds like you are accepting the truthfulness of compatiblistic freedom, which greatly simplifies our discussion here.

    The evil intentions of man come from within his own heart, and they are properly and in every sense his own. Providentially speaking, God ordains these intentions, He makes them certain, and He is even the primary cause behind these actions. The Westminster Confession is very clear that God's providence does not ruin, but rather, establishes secondary causes:

    ", as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established." -WCF 3.1

    This means that even though the evil of mankind is a result of God's providence, each evil thought and intention still proceeds from its very own agent, and the agent really and properly "owns" its own evil.

    Lets discuss God's intentions for a moment. Intellectually, we agree that God's intentions are always good. But what does it mean that God's intentions are always good? Well first of all, it means that God does everything out of a supreme regard, ultimately for His own glory. Anything less would be idolatry. As such, we talk about God's intentions being good as if He simply wants to let things happen which we personally regard as good; things which by our natural standards seem good. In reality, the primacy of God's glory means that when he ordains the horrors of history and of day-to-day life, He is doing it, ultimately that the light of His full glory might be manifest to the universe. It means that the evil intentions of mens' hearts are ordained by God because He will ultimately be seen as supreme.

    Perhaps, Wizard, you can share your own thoughts on this, and we can move from there.

  2. Wizard,

    Just so we are clear, this issue is a very difficult one. In fact, R.C. Sproul says this is the hardest theological question to answer. Adam has done a fine job outlining a good biblical answer. But at the end of the day, if we take the Bible as the word of God, then we must accept that God ordains everything that comes to pass, even the evil actions of men. In other words, I hold the view I do not because I get there philosophically, but exegetically.

  3. I agree with Josh, but I'm a big fan of chasing the fox over the cliff, come what may. ;-)

  4. I will be glad to share my own thoughts, although you may find my thoughts dissapointing. I do agree with compatiblism. I agree with campatiblism because it is the only view of the will that can make sense at all of God's ordaining history and man's will. I agree with everything Adam said. Furthermore, let me clear, I think compatiblism goes much further in the question of theonomy than libertarian free will could ever get. Still, I cannot see how Christians can meaningfully disagree with Atheists when the argue that God is really not all Good since ultimately evil finds its source in God. I affirm that the atheist cannot posit any morality of his own (consistently anyway) but just because the atheist cannot do something does not mean that the Christian automatically has the upper hand.

  5. All right, I know I seem overly fond of this show, but I just saw an atheist experience show (, and it is episode 630) that made a good point. What would you do if God came to you personally and told you to kill your own children?

  6. In what form would God come to me in this scenario? A voice? An angel from heaven? A confirmable dislay?

    I suppose if you were certain it was God, by whatever high (in my case, VERY high) epistemological standards, you would have to do what Abraham did. In his case, he was told by God to sacrifice his only son. According to the writer of Hebrews (I think that reference is right), Abraham planned to go forth with God's command but he believed that God would raise him from the dead. This is the faith that Abraham was said to have had.

    Having said that, I do not believe that audible voices or miraculous appearances are the normative way that God communicates with his church. He has given all we need to know about His will for our lives in the Bible.


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