The above words, written in around 60-62 AD, are some of the words the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians in Philippi. Paul was a (deeply) religious man—a man who well understood the depravity (fallenness) of the human condition. Paul’s life was transformed when he was confronted with the person of Christ. But it was not just his experience that convinced him of the ‘person of Christ (‘..first who he is, then what he did..’).Paul was a very learned man, who enquired as to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed he went up to Jerusalem on at least two occasions (firstly within three years of the resurrection and again after fourteen years) in order to get further detail of the life and work of Christ. Paul was a pretty convinced man—he was a man who had previously persecuted Jesus’ early followers.
What can he mean by ‘to die is gain’?. He was most definitely not suggesting that there was simply something better on ‘the other side of death’ so that we can all be comforted by a false hope of a ‘life of bliss postmortem’—no not at all. Paul was not concerned with opposition (he was beheaded—obviously sometime after writing to the Philippian Christians. Paul’s life was about telling others that Jesus was, indeed ‘the way the truth and the life’; he was convinced that ‘not one person’ came to God except through Christ—that’s how he was convinced that ‘to die was gain’—it was far better than ‘the now of life’—however bad or ‘good’. So, when Paul says that ‘to die is gain’ he is not making a sweeping generalisation—he is talking about the destiny of true followers of Christ. Listen to what he says:
“As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice!”
What can he mean? Well, he most certainly isn’t referring to the formation of any kind of charitable organisation etc.—not that he had no concern for the deprived or disadvantaged. His main concern was,however, to make the Gospel of Christ known to a dying world. Paul was obviously attracted to the ‘heavenly’ option (he’d some experience of what that would be like—‘I know a man…’)
Paul was a man who ‘rejoiced—always’ [in] Christ’. He knew in whom he had believed in—and who was able to bring about the best of possible results. His life was both a life of commitment to the cause of his redeemer and a life of celebration:
“And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit (J )! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here.”
I have a strong recollection of my time in the spinal injury ward in Southampton General in late 1975 (recently persuaded of the Gospel of Christ—seriously unwell) when a precious friend (the person who had led me to Christ) came to visit; he chose to read some words from the letter to the church in Philippi:
“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!” Philippians 4:4-5 (Message)
Dear professor of the Christian faith—believer/follower of Christ: We have much to rejoice about—even amidst the most difficult of situations. May our ‘rejoicing in The Lord’ overflow into our professing of Christ to others: Who he is and what he has done and continues to do. “For me to live is CHRIST—to die is gain.”
In this article I shall briefly, though importantly, address the notion of ‘God’ as the ‘ground of being’ rather than as a determinate entity; in other words that the creation, though not purely the product of chance and necessity, was not the ‘design product’ of ‘personality’ of ‘personal ingenuity’.Should the term ‘God’ refer only to a ‘ground of being’ first cause, i.e. a first cause that defies description or a ‘first cause’ that may be loosely described as ‘nature’—then there would be no case to answer for the existence of evil/suffering—at least not on ‘God’s’ part, because there would be no personal creative-agent against whom a charge may be brought. It is the case that,should the term ‘God’ refer only to a ‘ground of being’ first cause—a first cause that defies description or that may be loosely described as ’ONE’ (as in Pantheistic Monism) or as ‘NATURE’ (as in Naturalism and Atheistic Materialism) then there is no case to answer—for there is, indeed, no personal agent that may be found guilty of failure of any sort.
The notion of a ‘Ground of Being’, presumably, thought by its advocates, to deal with, what might be considered, as a more ‘intellectually coherent’ case for ‘god’ or that might better fit with the problem of natural evil , does nothing of the sort apart from demeaning the God of the Bible. However, it is such a view that is commonly espoused by scientists and philosophical theologians such as Wesley Wildman. Wildman opines (2011) that any notion of ‘ultimate reality’ aka ‘the God of the Bible’ is bizarre but adds that ‘most theologians and a few philosophers are captivated by such (ultimate reality) speech’ and that they even choose it while understanding its ‘final futility’. In his section on ‘Determinate-Entity Theism’ Wildman, regarding this alleged futility, asks what kind of entity the divine reality is? His conclusion is that the God of the Bible seems to be made in the image of its authors (not an original thought). In short, God’s determinate nature is known in our longings. Everything else we say theologically (Wildman suggests) must serve this overridingly important version of ultimate reality, and this (according to Wildman et al.) becomes the crucial criterion of determinate-entity theism. Wildman’s ideas seem to have little to do with any perceived notion of the goodness of the Triune God of Scripture as Wildman’s picture of God bears no resemblance whatsoever to this God. Wildman’s rationale seems to be that, “Speaking of God as The Ground of Being removes the possibility of proposing a divine character that is profoundly different from the character of the world.” i.e. the evolved/evolving biosphere. Wildman is correct in his assertion that “Determinate-entity theism requires a divine goodness that our best scientific vision of the cosmos does not easily support, and so positively requires some ontological distance between God and the world and a layer of theological explanation for why the world is the way it appears to be—despite the purported impeccability of God’s moral character.” I agree with Wildman when he says that, “Ground-of-being theism needs neither to explain a discrepancy nor to distinguish among events to articulate the divine nature.” (Wildman 2007). The question needs to be voiced:
Is this a valid reason for the ‘fabrication’ of a ‘god’ made in the image of other theologies or made in the likeness of ‘prevailing ’ world-views?
Wildman’s views are clearly expressed. Indeed, it would seem that the notion of God as a ‘determinate entity’ creates huge philosophical questions—especially with regards to the problem of [natural] evil. It is, of course, possible that the God revealed in the Bible is a figment of the imaginative wishful thinking of latter-day ‘hominins’—particularly the authors of the Old Testament. Wildman states that the ‘divine goodness’ described in the Scriptures is a ‘difficult fit’ with the apparent evidence. However, it is striking that many distinguished theologians and philosophers are content to hold to a more classical approach. Keith Ward (2008) comments that to call God good is to say that God actualizes within himself the best of all possible perfections—moreover, Ward suggests that “If such a God produces a universe like this, then God remains good, whatever the universe may be considered. A supremely good God might, then, necessarily create this universe, or some universe with similar characteristics.” By ‘necessarily’, I take it that Ward means that the sovereign God chose to create this universe in order to bring about the best of possible circumstances, i.e. the ‘best possible world’. However, this does not imply lesser capabilities on God’s part, but rather that this world is the best of possible worlds in which God’s ultimate ‘Good’ purposes can be achieved.
As far as Biblical Theism is concerned, there should be no willingness to dilute God’s attributes; however, should there be any attempts at ‘dilution’ the most likely candidates would be those of omniscience, omnipotence or benevolence. Should God be declared ‘less knowing’ or ‘not quite as powerful’ as previously thought, the question of God’s benevolence becomes less crucial. Any deity that is neither omniscient or omnipotent cannot be held responsible for that which is outside the scope of its influence. The attributes of omniscience and omnipotence, however, remain crucial to any theodicy that takes the legitimacy of the biblical narratives seriously. The ‘God is not omniscient or omnipotent’ view, in removing the notion of omniscience and omnipotence from the ‘stage’,leaves room only for the God of Open Theism or even worst: the ‘god’ of ‘no personality whatsoever—the ‘god’ of Monism—i.e. ‘the universe’. For proponents of the view that the cosmos is the #genius of some kind of ‘ground of being’, the argument is likely to be that this ‘god/nature’ does not have the necessary characteristics that enable ‘it’ to behave with consistent benevolence—leaving room only for some kind of dualism or impersonal monism–even Panpsychism .Wesley Wildman gives an outline of the possibilities: Firstly, he makes clear in his view that, (a) a personal, benevolent, attentive, and active deity cannot create through evolution and (b) that therefore God the creator is not a personal, benevolent, attentive, and active deity. He states that we can preserve those affirmations symbolically (for whatever reason), but goes on to say “… they no longer refer to a divine being with intentions and awareness, with feelings and intelligence, with plans and powers to act; rather, they refer to the ground of being itself, to the creative and fecund power source in the depths of nature, to the value structures and potentialities that the world manifests. They refer to the God beyond God, which is to say the truly ultimate reality that hovers behind and beneath and beyond the symbolic gods we create and deploy to satisfy our personal needs, to make sense of our world, and to legitimate the exercise of social control.” (2011)
There is neither time or space to discuss Wildman’s assertion that the God of the Bible could not have created through an evolutionary process, though I disagree entirely with Wildman’s conclusions that, somehow, this would be an improbable scenario. However, it is accepted that this does offer, to some extent, a challenge regarding providence within the evolutionary process. Wildman’s ‘god’ though lacks ‘substance’ lacks any notion of benevolence—indeed lacks anything in real terms. Naturally, this ‘god’ cannot manifest personal concern for the products of any likely creative processes because this ‘ground of being factory’ has no ‘mind’ (consciousness being another matter) and no personality from which to proceed. Nevertheless, Wildman’s alternative is somehow able to ‘allow for’ the transformation of the material in the cosmos that, in turn, allowed for the evolution of the biosphere.
Wildman’s apparent disillusionment with the biblical notion of God seems to have provoked him to strong language. Clayton and Knapp (2007) make the following reference to Wildman’s disdain, quoting him thus:
“Frankly, and I say this with the utmost reverence, the personal God does not pass the test of parental moral responsibility. If God is personal in this way, then we must conclude that God has a morally abysmal record of inaction or action.”
Wildman’s view, as pictured here, offers a not dissimilar view to Sigmund Freud. Freud’s view offered by Nicholi (Nicholi, 2002)—that the very idea of ‘an idealised Superman’ in the sky—is so patently infantile and so foreign to reality seems, most likely, to stem from a total miscomprehension—even caricature of the God of the Bible. It is no doubt the case that some may naively interpret the biblical notion of God in the way that Freud expresses;but some (an increasing number even) may, due to this kind of reasoning or lack of a plausible notion of the God of the Bible, wish to find an alternative ‘god’; this, is totally the wrong direction to take as it leads to another path—a path void of any notion of ‘God’ whatsoever—at least to anything other than an unworthy caricature of the God that Scripture reveals. Wildman’s view is that ‘ground-of-being theologies’ are important because of their denial that ultimate reality can ‘possibly’ be a determinate entity—that this establishes a valuable theological contrast with determinate entity theisms. The ‘ground-of-being’ view of the ‘personhood’ of God as well as God’s possible interaction with the world may, as Wildman suggests, produce an enthusiastic intellectual response to these pervasive evils. But, at the same time, this view favours, what Wildman considers to be, philosophical logic over and above the revelation of Scripture.
Derek White (September 2019)
 Wildman says, regarding the use of the word ‘evil’, that ‘suffering is a more useful category than evil because suffering is more neutrally descriptive and does not prejudge the moral character of…[?] regarding natural disasters, predation and the like’. Here, Wildman may well be correct.
It is most likely a coincidence that some of the most profane and profound words in the English language only have four letters; more than likely several words come to mind—words that, nowadays, form a part of General English Usage. Here are three others that may not have immediately come to mind: ‘evil’ ‘love’ and ‘pain’. All three of these words have a connection. Love can cause both pain and evil. Pain is often thought to be the result of evil: something inflicted, by God, as punishment for wrongdoing, by another party as an act of malevolence or as the consequence of a physiological malfunction.Pain can also be thought of in the positive sense in that ‘pain’ is that which alerts the recipient to something that is ‘wrong’–a bit like an alarm going off . In the case of ‘higher order creatures’ such as humans, one might argue that the acute discomfort experienced is a necessary ‘evil’ in that it is the ‘price to pay’ for advanced sentience.
Evilcould be considered a kind of generic term for many of the world’s ills. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘Evil’ both as an adjective and as a noun: Adjective: (a) deeply immoral and malevolent. (b) embodying or associated with the devil. (c) extremely unpleasant Noun. (a) extreme wickedness and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force. (b) something harmful or undesirable. The problem of ‘Evil’ is an insurmountable hurdle for many people; for those who affirm the notion that God is good, the evidence, from the (human) perspective, for that goodness remains rather elusive.
The Problem of Evil is most certainly a barrier to faith i.e. the problem of how it is possible for God (in particular the God of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures) to have allowed for the evolution (i.e. predation,parasitism,plague) of life on earth and to retain his goodness—remains a mystery. However, ‘the problem of evil’ is not usually perceived as a personal problem—something related to me personally—that ‘I’ might, in some way, be culpable–that ‘I’ might have caused the unnecessary suffering (mental or physical) of another (sentient) being(s).
Bookshelves are replete with titles such as: ‘Horrendus Evils and the Goodness of God’, ‘The Problem of Evil & the Problem of God’, ‘Evil & the Love of God’, ‘The Groaning of Creation’, ‘Nature Red in Tooth & Claw’, ‘The Flaw in the Universe’,‘Evolution,Evil and the Goodness of God’, ‘Goodness, Omnipotence and Suffering’, ‘God is not Great’. And there is (among others) weighty tome of Thomas Aquinas, ‘On Evil’. God, it seems to me, has had too much bad press at the hands (computers) and from the mouths of those who think that God is unjust or simply cannot exist as the contradictions are far too great. Continue reading →
A Message of Encouragement for Dr. Jordan Peterson et al
A message of encouragement for Jordon Peterson et al…
Dear Dr Peterson,
I fułly understand your cynicism when considering the ‘mountains of contradictions’ you have observed, both in your reading of the (Judeo/Christian) history of belief and praxis and in your observation of its apparent failings. There are enormous contradictions yet there have been tantalising signs of integrity as (Christian) belief has produced enormous amounts of ‘good’ throughout the world. The Gospel is about ‘rescue & reconciliation, redemption & renewal. It is, ultimately about Justice: The Justice of God rather than the beliefs and ideas of man.
The Admission of SIN & Cry for Help
14 We know that the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Reconciliation (Redeemed. Rescued, Ransomed)
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Taking Redemption Seriously/ Wade in The Water
23Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Dr Peterson, please do—Wade in The Waters of Grace, pick up the cross and follow Christ, who alone is The Way, Truth and Life. NB. Christ’s yoke is not burdensome.
And he (Jesus) said to all, ’If anyone wishes to come along after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his SOUL will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake, this one will save it. For what profit is there for a man gaining the whole cosmos but losing—or being deprived of—himself.’(Luke 9:23)
You do not exist—in fact ‘you’ were only ever a figment of metaphysical conjecture. indeed ‘you’ were not the person you once were—especially if ‘the mind’ has been ravaged by the effects of any form of degenerative disease (My wife and I when caring [over seven years] for my father-in-law evidenced the physical effects of such deterioration —from the accomplished engineer to the hapless victim of advanced dementia).
The view of Empiricist Philosophy is that, at birth, there exists the physical: That which is revealed at birth is a blank slate (tabula rasa) on which physiology and social mores dictate the outcome; well that is the normal state of affairs. However, Jesus cannot be referring to the kind of self of the above reasoning; there has to be something else—for if qualities that cannot be defined by physical laws, e.g., ‘redness’ or, in this case, ‘human identity (imago Dei) there has to be more to the story—a reason why the Gospels should record such a scary narrative, e.g., ‘the loss of personhood’. Edward Feser  offers the following:
For if sensible qualities as we experience them do not exist in the external material world, then they do not exist even in the brain and nervous system either, for these are, according to the Mechanical Philosophy, made up like everything else in the natural world of nothing more than colourless, odourless, tasteless particles governed by exceptionless laws of nature. And if these qualities do exist in the mind—and there is nowhere else to exist. According to Mechanical Philosophy—then the mind necessarily cannot be material, or at the very least not wholly material, since these sensitive qualities themselves cannot be material. The mind must instead be something like the soul as conceived of by Plato, an immaterial or non-physical substance, existing apart from the body and brain. P.190
There is, so much more to ‘me’ than meets the eye of the beholder—whether through what the latest medical technology has to offer or from the enquiring ‘musings’ of the most sophisticated philosophical enquirer.
Returning to the question posed by ‘the one who was, and is and is to come’—even Jesus. What would be the benefit of your or of my soul being lost for eternity? Of course, the challenge of following Christ is too much for so many of ‘us’; we’d rather not answer the King of King’s gracious invitation. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.” (Deitrich Bonhoeffer). Moreover, Christ challenges us to live.
Derek J. White (03/01/22)
 The Last Superstition: A Refutation of New Atheism. 2008, P190
Beyond ‘The Realm’ of Darwinism [THEODICY] Most ‘Post-Darwin,’ attempts at a defence or theodicy avoid any notion of the prevailing state of affairs being the result of any major shift in the order of creation. Few, if any, offer an Adamic Fall as the reason for the existence of predation, plague and parasitism though some offer an Angelic Fall as an alternative—a fall that brought about and continues to bring about major negative effects on the Creation—effects that God is not responsible for, but that He allows. The majority of these defences/theodicies adhere to a theistic-evolutionary perspective—William Dembski’s ‘The End of Christianity’ being an exception/variation.
This section interacts particularly with the views of Stephen H. Webb—as given in his book entitled ‘The Dome of Eden’ (2010). Webb’s view is that evolution works under divine permission and that the emergence of Humankind has particular significance within an evolutionary paradigm ( ). Webb notes that evolution leaves a trail in history—marked by blood and anguish. However, what Webb avoids saying here is that it is this very ‘trail of blood and anguish’ (made possible by the natural laws) that the Triune God ‘commissioned’ and ordained. Along with Webb’s views, the argument here is that it is this very state of affairs that allows for the victory of God over both sin and death. Indeed, the song the faithful will sing and that the creation will echo is that of the Victory of God over sin and death; it will be a continual song declaring the gracious mercy and goodness of the Godhead ( ). It is this world (a world ordained and created by God) that is the only possible world—in which the free will of conscious beings can pertain with all of the resultant consequences and, most importantly, the redemptive act of the crucified son of God could possibly take place. We concur with Webb’s views on the ‘emergence’ of humankind as being a significant ‘event’: Compos mentis, intelligent, incredibly creative, morally aware and, most importantly, ‘God Conscious’—within, what can be described as, the physical evolution of carbon-based life-forms.
Webb’s views coalesce with the argument that is given in this book, i.e., that God [incarnate], at the eschaton, would dwell with a redeemed creation, having rescued and redeemed the creation from its bondage to corruption. The question of the whereabouts of this redeemed world—this ‘New Heaven & New Earth’, in which physical laws ave a different outcome, is presently unknown. Yet we may assume—indeed more than assume—that in the light of the promises of God there shall be a life-experience for the redeemed creation in which there shall be no more plague, predation, parasitism or indeed pain, for as Scripture attests, ‘the former things [shall] have passed away.’ (Revelation 21:5). This ‘future world’, however, cannot surely be the world in which the present physical laws obtain—it is another world yet to be revealed. Yet this present world is, and has always been, a ‘Necessary World’. ‘Humankind’ (imago Dei) is meant to be here. The ‘arrival’ of humans has been a major part of God’s ‘creation project’. We hasten to add that the argument in this book does not devalue the rest of creation or suppose that God has little more than a utilitarian purpose for it—but that this world is the way it is—not as the result of natural processes alone but as the result of the ‘Telos of God’. For the God of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures is Benevolent, Omnipotent and, indeed, Omniscient.
Robert. J. Russell advocates that the suffering of creatures cannot ‘alone’ be justified by the evolution of Homo sapiens and their destiny with God: “Instead, the suffering of creatures is taken up individually by God in the incarnation, suffered by God in the crucifixion, and redeemed by God in the Resurrection. This eschatological act of God is to be seen as proleptically present to and with each creature at its death. “(2012) Russell’s view may be considered speculative, but it is nevertheless plausible. Indeed, the effects of the Cross of Christ need to be viewed in proleptic terms—as it is in Christ’s life, death and resurrection that we have sight of the ‘big picture’. However, as is argued elsewhere in this book, there needs to be an argument that addresses the origin of evil—God’s reason for allowing it to remain within the created order, and, most importantly, an affirmation of God’s attributes, i.e., God’s Benevolence as associated with God’s Omniscience and God’s Omnipotence. Webb makes the point that, if God chose this universe (this world) with its prevailing set of physical laws as the stage for the ‘arrival of humanity and the incarnation of ‘The Second Person of The Trinity’, then there must be something unique about both planet earth and humanity (i.e., the imago Dei). Indeed, Webb argues that one of the corollaries of Christ’s primacy is that humans have the form (and image) precisely because God intended to give a human form to Christ from the beginning. Webb states (unapologetically) that the Old Testament has not only an anthropomorphic view of God but also a ‘theomorphic’ view of humanity, i.e., that humans take the form they do because God has the form he has—in Christ the Son. Webb makes it clear that sceptics will view his position as anthropomorphism, in the most negative of terms. He understands the reason for the critique well enough but points out that they are mistaken to claim that Christians think of everything from a human perspective, and he suggests that “God made the world with mankind in mind, to become friends of the Son and to accompany him in praise forever.”
Webb contends that theologians who argue that this world is the only world that God could have created—in their attempt to justify God’s relationship with natural evil—run the risk of ‘portraying’ the world as thoroughly and necessarily evil. That is, if there is no possible world that God could have created that would have been without evil, then the very existence of matter is thoroughly saturated in and inseparable from evil. If evil is built into nature, however, it is God who put it there. Webb’s point—that if evil is built into nature, it is God who put it there, clearly rules out the possibility of a third party—or even ‘third parties’ being responsible for, at least, natural evil. It is exactly this question that we seek to address in this book, i.e., the culpability of GOD. Webb is, in our opinion, correct in that God has allowed certain of his creatures the gift of choice and that, consequently, this ‘gift’ has allowed for the inflicting of an enormous amount of harm. However, this does not mean that God is guilty by default, rather that God has allowed for the kind of creation that is able to express itself. This, surely, is a good outcome rather than a bad outcome. Webb makes a salient point when he says that evil (in the natural world) is real, whereas entropy is exactly “what one would expect to find at the level of physical processes”. Evil (Webb does not differentiate between natural and moral evil) is, from this perspective, a malevolent factor, whereas entropy is, simply, the consequence of certain physical conditions. Webb, however, points out that even though the temptation to equate evolution with evil is understandable. Equating nature with evil runs counter to the Christian tradition, most notably the claim ‘exegeted’ from Genesis chapter one, that nature is good, which for Webb seems to mean ‘moral’ rather than ‘utilitarian’. The view here is that creation does not necessarily have the moral dimension that Webb may wish to assign to it. In this sense nature is amoral. Indeed, Webb reminds us that groups that considered nature evil (Manicheans and Cathars in particular) have always been considered heretical. He maintains that any adequate theological account of evolution has to explain how God (as the source of all that is good) bears no responsibility for evil evident within the evolutionary cycle of life. Webb here uses the term ‘evil’, but a more appropriate word would be ‘harms’—as the results of [natural] entropy need not be considered ‘evil’ per se. The argument in this book is that neither God’s universal laws nor the outcomes of these laws are ‘naturally’ evil, in and of themselves; they are nothing of the sort. That there are ‘harmful outcomes’ to these laws is a de facto given; that these outcomes are, most often, horrendous—even maliciously harmful to life’s outcomes—is accepted. However, this does not prove that this world is not the best possible world for the purposes of God; neither does it prove that the natural laws themselves are morally deficient. The outcomes of the effects of the natural laws on carbon-based life may be reprehensible (from our perspective), but that is all that they can be.It may be acceptable to bring judgement against God with insufficient evidence; to do so is common practice—as C.S. Lewis points out: “God is guilty—as ‘proven’. He (man) is the judge: God is in the dock. He (man) is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defence for being the God who ‘permits’. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. However, the important thing is that man is on the Bench and God in the Dock.”
As has previously been alluded to, Webb’s view is that entropy is what one would expect to find at the level of physical processes, whereas evil is something other than ‘evil’; this demands an explanation. For Webb, the answer to the problem of evil has to be located outside of the evolutionary paradigm rather than within. This is. Indeed, a sentiment concurred within the argument here—particularly with regard to the ‘labelling of nature as evil’. However, the conclusions here are somewhat different from Webb’s. His views, though, are relevant to the argument here, as they helpfully open up a vista that offers some clarity regarding the rebellion of Satan and the angels: Satan’s fall is a fall from grace and is not to be confused with a ‘fall from heaven to earth; the argument here is that Satan’s fall from grace could be considered a ‘pre-creation-of-the-physical-universe event’; in other words, outside of the space-time-continuum, whereas Satan’s being cast down to the earth was, probably, not. We have no detail of ‘when’ it was that Satan et al. were cast ‘down’ to the earth, but we can presume that the state of affairs on earth would never be the same again.
Eden was a real place though not ‘real’ in the sense that we can plot its coordinates on the space-time-continuum that we experience today. If Eden is a real place, and if Satan tries to battle God in nature from some point in the space-time-continuum, then there has to be some kind of ‘reality’ that divides Eden from the rest of the world. The effects of moral deviancy had to cross into Eden in order to disrupt it and, to corrupt its latest arrivals—as Scripture indicates. The ‘evil’ that Webb refers to is that which can be described as ‘moral’ rather than ‘natural’. This evil comes about as the result of the deviant behaviour of advanced created intelligence: extra-terrestrial and terrestrial alike. The outcomes of this evil, though affecting/infecting certain aspects of the created order, do not bring about major changes to the laws that God had ordained for his creation ordinances—though it may be argued that there was, as a result of this deviancy, a significant change—not least to the effects of the physical laws. The reason for Satan’s Fall to come full circle (i.e. the fall of angels to the fall of the creature bearing the image of God) is the same reason for creation as a whole, i.e. that God created the world because ‘God the Son’ had determined to take on the form of a man—and the form God the Father gave to the Son is the same form that God gave to humankind:” In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God is, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him, all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5 & 14 (NIV)
Webb opines that “the world and all that is in it is a gift to the Son from the Father. If something like the human species, with its intelligence, its eyes and who knows what of other parts and features, is inevitable, then biology must have been conditioned from the very beginning to unfold the human pattern” (Webb, 2010) Moreover; Webb’s view is, that this is exactly, what the Primacy of Christ leads us to expect; Indeed the Primacy of Christ can be considered the metaphysical precondition made necessary by the phenomenon of evolutionary convergences.” Robert C. Doyle (1999) argues that it is clear from the contents of Genesis chapters 1 to 3, as well as the way Scripture uses these chapters, that the basis for any understanding of the last things is in the understanding of the first things. Doyle’s observation is that the beginning of the Bible—the beginning of time, the world, humankind, and humankind’s relationship to God and the world—is pregnant with purpose, i.e., the purpose, the end (the eschaton) is implicit in the beginning. Regarding the six days of creation, Doyle proposes that these six days find their significance in the seventh, “…the divine rest on the seventh day indicates the goal of creation.” Along with Doyle, we maintain that ‘the seventh day’ is the goal which shall be maintained, “…despite any rebellious efforts to vitiate it.” The argument here offers the same reasoning as Doyle’s summary, i.e., that God’s plan for the creation is purposeful, that it incorporates the alpha and ‘the’ omega with the telos of creation being finally revealed at the eschaton. Ergo, it is the case that God’s sovereign purposes rather than the ‘Royal We’ of material processes that obtain.
Derek J. White
Chapter 5 (another EDEN: Gaining a Fresh Perspective on Evi; Evolution & The Purposes of God)
It is the case that: a longing for a better place, i.e., thoughts of a place in which harms threaten not, and thoughts of an environment where notions of death are expelled from the mind is the norm for the thought-life of the majority of us. Any such thoughts are often accentuated by a realization that—though the creation is indeed wondrous in its beauty and complexity, the environment in which we live, and breathe and have our being is nevertheless a hostile environment in which potential harms lay in wait—to spoil the idyllic day to which Manley Hopkins alludes. Heaven is our desire because this world is not and may never be such an environment.
Reading the words of St John’s Gospel at the head of the funeral cortege is a most surreal experience:
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,…(John 11:25,26).
This particular occasion was the funeral of someone with whom one was well acquainted (a ‘young’ forty-six-year-old), someone that we had met on a reasonably regular basis. Such an occasion as this person’s funeral is particularly poignant.
This is not the place to speculate as to the post-mortem destiny of any particular person—or to philosophize as to the actual/temporal post-mortem state of affairs prior to the biblical notion of ‘The Judgement’—save to say that, according to the Bible, there is the promise of ‘personal existence’, i.e., the survival of the person after death. However, it is the author’s opinion that, even though ‘the matter’ (no pun intended) isn’t settled regarding the actual nature of man, i.e., whether or not there is a dualistic factor ‘within’ that is presently undetectable, there is a strong argument for there being a ‘dimension’ to humanity other than meets the critical eye of the materialist thinker. The philosopher J.P.Moreland () opines that “…if the dualist arguments are successful the principle/seat of life and consciousness is a transcendent self or immaterial ego of some sort.” () (2014)
It is often said of someone who has died that they are ‘with the angels’ or even that they have ‘joined the stars in heaven’. If this is the opinion of someone we know and love, someone who is referring to a deceased relative or friend, we are not likely to question the sentiment behind the aspiration. However, as far as we are able to comprehend the ‘reality’, it is the case that, in order to function as individuals, it is necessary to ‘inhabit’ the ‘space,’ i.e., the physiology that makes up the material—the DNA that, it is perceived, makes us who we are. Ergo in order to continue to exist post-mortem, we shall, most likely, need something akin to our physical bodies with which to function.
The idea of there being any such thing as post-mortem survival is, of course, anathema to both Materialists and Monists. Indeed, it is the apparent conclusion of persons ascribing to a worldview that allows for no such possibility at death. For the Monist ‘soul-life is a social construct that evaporates into the oneness of a universe that is seen as having a soul-life of its own—a non-personal figment of a lively imagination—that, somehow, denies the potentiality of the soul-life of the individual person whilst allowing for the alleged creative capacity of an indescribable ‘ultimate reality’. However, the Monist notion of this alleged ultimate reality need not be confused with the God of Judeo/Christian Scriptures, which is an entirely different proposition.
If heaven is such a ‘wonderful place’, then one might expect that it has an altogether different set of physical laws than experienced on earth and in the known universe. Scripture gives a strong impression that, in heaven, there is a different environment. In the book of Revelation, we read the following words of comfortable promise:
I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea. I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighbourhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people; he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” Revelation 21:1-5
The book of revelation is exactly that—a REVELATION. It is addressed to the seven churches in late first century Asia Minor (present-day Turkey)—churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. There isn’t the space to delve further into the life of these seven centres of Christian life and worship save to say that they were vibrant centres of community life—moreover, churches that were experiencing rather mixed fortunes. Dennis E. Johnson describes Revelation as a letter for a church (churches) under attack, “Its purpose, to reveal ‘things which must soon take place’ is not to satisfy idle eschatological curiosity or feed futuristic conjecture but to fortify Jesus’ followers in steadfast hope and holy living.”()
Getting back to ‘Heaven’, we are reminded of an international student who, while travelling in the school minibus, would often sing words to the effect of ‘Heaven is a wonderful place’. We were never too sure whether the words were anticipatory or cynical. If we take the words offered above, i.e., that, in heaven, things shall be rather different in that, in the heavenly abode, there shall be ‘no death; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ This would have to be an entirely different environment indeed.
In his considerably thorough book on the subject of Heaven, Randy Alcorn reminds his readers that the story of the Christian Faith begins with a story of an idyllic garden in which God was intimately present and in which the progenitors of the human race made the worst possible decisions—bringing about a curse that was to adversely affect the entire biosphere. In order to understand the narrative, it’s necessary to refer to the first book of the Bible (A part of The Pentateuch): “Because of you cursed is the ground.” (Genesis 3:17).
Alcorn asserts that:
…when the curse is reversed, we shall no longer engage in painful toil but shall enjoy satisfying caretaking. No longer will the earth yield ‘thorns and thistles’ (Genesis 3:18) defying our dominion and repaying us for corrupting it. No longer will we return to the ground—from which we were taken (3:19) swallowed up in death as unrighteous stewards who ruined ourselves and the earth.
Alcorn continues when he opines that our welfare is inseparable from the earth’s welfare—our destiny inseparable from that of the earth’s. (P.103) Alcorn’s expectations are ‘other worldly’ yet rooted in the earth’s flourishing. With regards to the effects brought about by the physical laws, in particular the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Alcorn suggests that there may have been some changes brought about by the creator and sustainer of the biosphere as a result of God’s promised judgement—according to Scripture. This, naturally, creates difficulty in that, according to current scientific consensus, the biosphere is the product of natural processes evolving over some 3.5 billion years.
For the purpose of clarification there is, within the Christian tradition, an increasing disparity—or rather a polarization between the view that sees a newly refurbished earth on which the incumbents, somehow, live a ‘New Heaven & New Earth existence’, and the view that has a less than earthly hope, i.e., the view that realizes the belief that the Sovereign God—creator and sustainer of all that exists—known yet unrealised.
The argument here is that any ‘permanent abolishment of death must take seriously the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 that should death be swallowed up by victory, there would be a totally different state of affairs in operation—even ‘different physical laws’:
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man in heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither does the perishable inherit the imperishable…and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ ‘O death where is your sting?’ (1 Corinthians 15:49,52,53,54,55). The writer of the letter to ‘The Hebrews’ refers to ‘a better country’, i.e., a ‘heavenly country’ (11:14) and ‘a kingdom that cannot be shaken’ (12:28}. The implications are obvious: Heaven, wherever its location, cannot be a renewed version of the old—it has to be an altogether different state of affairs (in heaven—on the ‘new/refurbished earth’) than exists anywhere on Earth. Clearly, there shall be an altogether ‘different’ order. And yet there are many well-meaning, well-informed, theologians who insist on informing us that everything created has always meant to be ‘material’—and all that there will ever be—at least to do with the created biosphere—shall only ever be ‘material’. Materialism, as Edgar Andrews outlines (), is based on the idea that every effect, including every human experience, must have a physical cause. Richard Middleton () poses the question of why it is that the idea of an ‘other worldly destiny in heaven’ has displaced what Middleton refers to as ‘the biblical teaching of the renewal of the earth’. Middleton, we believe, is ‘half-way’ correct. ‘Heaven’ is, we suggest, ‘worlds apart’ from the material world on offer by those with a fixation on a return to a ‘biospheric utopia’, which was, most likely, never the ideal home of men or even of angels
There are a number of nouns that are synonymous with the word extra-terrestrials: Little Green Men, Space Beings and Martians come to mind. Oddly Angels are, most often, not included in this category though sceptics may suggest that, however, defined, these creatures are too ‘anthropomorphic’ to be taken seriously. Though we get the point, we think that this is an argument that has seen better days. Moreover, it is not the basis for any kind of evidential thesis.
The Genesis text unequivocally states that God’s conclusion, on ‘the sixth day’, was that the creation was, indeed, ‘very good’. The question, however, arises as to how this ‘very goodness’ can apply to an evolutionary creation. The key, we suggest, is in the literary function of the “And God said” phrases—sometimes referred to as ‘divine fiats’—occurring, as they do, at least nine times in chapter one of Genesis. Firstly, it should be noted that there is no need to assume that the ‘time’ and location of the creation of the devil (an Archangel) and the other angels should be accounted for in the Genesis story of creation. Moreover, it is important to maintain the notion of these extra-terrestrial beings as having the will to choose ‘wrong’ from ‘right’: to bring about a state of affairs that might not be the preferred will of God but, rather, the outworking of minds opposed to the good. NB. This is not to say that God’s ultimate purposes were subjugated by the will of created beings—whether angels or humans…
There can be no reason why angels could not be endowed with the kind of abilities with which, even scientists, have no present/personal acquaintance. Indeed, even though God may be incorporeal, i.e., without physical form—God, nevertheless, cannot be restricted to any particular ‘reality’ designated by either science or philosophy—as if God, who is spirit, could not possess, within God’s life, such things as personality, will, intellect and ‘personal existence’. Angels (both holy and unholy), though usually without form (incorporeal), may, as Scripture makes clear, inhabit the ‘physicality’ of carbon-based life forms. Moreover, as with God, who is Spirit, angels have personal qualities that are far superior to that of mankind. These creatures were, according to Scripture, privileged beings with powers that far surpass those of human agents. () Hebrews 2:7-9 (also Psalm 8:5) refers to the ‘position’ of the incarnate ‘son of man’ who was, ‘…for a little while lower than the angels.’ ()
Made a little lower than the Angels…
That God is ‘Triune’ is an essential element of the Christian faith—the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity an essential part of the ideas in this book. The notion that Christ ()should be no more than a prophet or an angel is therefore in error. It is not only in error in terms of unwarranted assumptions from other worldviews, which is particularly the case regarding the teachings of Islam, but it is also in error because it implies a misunderstanding of the person and character of God.
That Christ was a prophet or an angel rather than the second person of the Trinity is not a new idea—though this notion has been rigorously championed—especially since the 19th century, and further explored by others as a part of the ‘quest for the historical Jesus’ (2000). Or the ‘quest for evidence’ that would either prove that Christ was a non-historical person, or that Christ was simply ‘a man’ or [perhaps] an ‘angel’—but not ‘The Son of God’. (Ehrman, 2014). Louis Goldberg notes that the connection between the angel of the Lord and the pre-incarnate appearance of the Messiah cannot be denied:
Manoah meets the angel of the Lord and declares that he has seen God. The angel accepts worship from Manoah and his wife as no mere angel and refers to himself as ‘Wonderful’; the same term applied to the coming deliverer in Isaiah 9:6 (Judges 13:9-22 ). The functions of the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament prefigure the reconciling ministry of Jesus. In the New Testament, there is no mention of the angel of the Lord; the Messiah himself is this person. (Goldberg, 2009)
Goldberg’s conclusion is disputed by others who argue that—while New Testament authors could regard Jesus as “..pre-existent and present with the Israelites in their sacred history (see 1 Corinthians 10:4,9; Jude 5), there is no indication that he was ever identified with the angel of the Lord, not at least until the time of Justin Martyr in the second century.” (2014) Much has been written and continues to be written on the subject. The apostle Paul makes much of the subject—especially with regards to the resurrection of ‘Christ’, whom Paul assumes, was not an angel and did not become an angel—post-resurrection but rather is THE incarnate Deity—the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity. The apostle’s words in 1 Corinthians chapter fifteen clarify Paul’s conviction regarding the resurrection of the ‘man’:
Now, if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God because we testified about God that he raised Christ,…But, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
(1 Corinthians 15:12-14,20)
‘Ecce homo’ (Behold the Man) John 19:5
Michael F. Bird argues that:…among the Church Fathers, the strange ‘angel of the Lord’ in the Old Testament was regarded as an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ (i.e., a Christophany), a tradition that is as early as Justin Martyr in the mid-second century…the descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1:13-16 and 14:14-16 do have angelomorphic qualities as Jesus is described in terms reminiscent of angels…So, is Jesus simply the human manifestation of the ‘angel of the Lord’? Did Jesus morph into an angel after his exaltation to heaven? (2014) Bird most certainly refutes the likelihood of the above though others continue to look for answers that are considered more acceptable. Bird makes the point in ‘of Gods, Angels and Men’ that anyone whose presuppositions will not enable them to consider the existence of God, let alone the incarnation are not likely to be persuaded otherwise—though an angel may be acceptable for some. () Larry Hurtado makes the following apposite comments—referring to the ‘remarkable’ feature of early Christian devotional practice where Jesus was given the sort of place that was otherwise reserved for God alone:
Also among the constellation of specific devotional actions involved were songs/hymns concerning Jesus (and sometimes sang to him) that formed a characteristic feature of early Christian worship, the well-known passages commonly thought to be ‘Christological hymns’ and thus the earliest extant artefacts of this particular practice. (Hurtado, 2005)
Michael Heiser notes that: “…as Christians affirm that God is more than one person and that each of these persons is of the same essence—we affirm that Jesus is one of these persons. He is God. But in another respect, Jesus isn’t God—he is not the Father. The Father is not The Son, and the Son is not the Father. But they are the same essence.” (2015) In his comprehensive work on the identity of the ‘Angel of Yahweh’ Heiser puts forward the following arguments, which are offered here in a condensed form rather than in their entirety; though even in this condensed form they are easily identifiable as being of sound argument. Firstly Heiser points out the fact that the concept of a ‘Godhead’ in the Old Testament has many facets and layers. Abraham’s spiritual journey includes a divine figure—that is integral to Israelite Godhead thinking: Heiser refers specifically to the appearance of the Angel of Yahweh in Genesis 22:1-9. This passage relates to the appearance of the Angel of Yahweh to Abraham as, under God’s instructions, he proceeded on his journey to Mount Moriah—where he would offer his one and only son as a burnt offering. Heiser points out that the angel speaks to Abraham, but immediately after doing so he commends Abraham for not withholding Isaac ‘from me’! “There is a switch to the first person, which given that God himself had told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-2), seems to require seeing Yahweh as the speaker.” Besides this one example, Heiser highlights other examples—offering the strong possibility that the Angel of Yahweh—is:
Genesis 26:1-5 marks Yahweh’s first appearance to Isaac: “Isaac went to…Gerar…and Yahweh appeared to him.” In Genesis 26 (vv23-25), Yahweh appears to Isaac again—Isaac receives the same divine approval—in a series of ‘visual encounters with Yahweh. In Genesis 39: 28-29, we read that Jacob names the place Bethel—‘House of God’—and erects a pillar to commemorate the conversation he had had with Yahweh (18,19). Genesis 32: 28-29 makes it [reasonably] apparent that ‘the man’ with whom Jacob wrestled was a divine being—indeed this mysterious combatant himself says: ‘You have striven with Elohim’—a term that can be translated either as ‘God’ or ‘a god’. According to Heiser, the narrative, “…nowhere says Jacob’s encounter was only a vision. This Elohim is tangible and corporeal.” NB. The apparent ‘corporeal’ nature of the Angel of Yahweh need not be confused with that of the future incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity—as being in the form of mankind—but that it was, in a real sense a tangible presence—perhaps akin to the resurrected body of Christ. This is, of course, speculative but not beyond the realms of possibility.
In Exodus 3:12, we read that the Angel of Yahweh appeared to Moses out of the burning bush. Verse 6 informs us that ‘Moses hid his face.’ Why would Moses have hidden his face from a burning bush—apart from wishing to protect himself from the heat? There was clearly an appearance—a Theophany—the Angel of Yahweh. What does the ‘angel’ say? Well, according to the text, the ‘Lord’ speaks in the first person—about His dealings with the people of Israel. In verse 19, we read that—“Moses said to God”—not to a mere angel but to the Angel of Yahweh, who is, most likely, Y-H-W-H. Joshua 5:13-15 and 1 Chronicles 21:16 both explicitly name the Angel with the drawn sword as the Angel of Yahweh. Heiser argues that the connection is unmistakable—on two accounts. 1) Joshua bows to the man—an instinctive reaction to the divine presence. 2) The commander orders Joshua to take off his sandals—because the place on which he stood was holy. There is a lot more to say on this issue, but space will not allow for further comment. The point is that the Christophany referred to as the Angel of the Lord can be identified as the second person of the Trinity—the ‘Word’ that was to take on the form of man.
These references pertain to the ‘position & power’ of angels: Psalm 34:7; Psalm 82:1; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Isaiah 37:36, 63:9; Ezekiel chapters 1 & 10. Ezekiel 28. The book of Revelation is replete with examples of such creatures as angels. Genesis 6 also makes mention of their being creatures other than humans ‘on earth’; this it can be assumed was a reference to pre-history.
As Christ was made in the form of a man and had subjected himself to this position (Philippians 2:7-8); he, temporarily, had made himself ‘lower than the angels’.
 Son of Man: Daniel 7:13;John 5:27:Matt. 24:30;Mark 13:24,27; Luke 21:27 Angel of the Lord: Genesis 16:7-14; Judges 5:23, 13:9-22; 2 Kings 19:35; Joshua 5:13-15; Isaiah: 9:6; Zech.1:12. J.
 Michael F. Bird, Craig A. Evans, Simon J. Gathercole, Charles E. Hill and Chris Tilling add considerable weight to the opposite notion that—Indeed Jesus Christ is the Son of God and not an angel. (2014)
I am pleased to announce the publication of the book I’ve been working on since the beginning of the 2020 Covid-Lockdown. The book is entitled ‘another EDEN: Gaining a Fresh Perspective on Evil, and The Purposes of God’, and is available on Amazon.
Essentially, the book is a further development (though less academic in its content) of my Post Graduate work at The University of Exeter (2011-2015).—of which, as you’ll no doubt recall, you were one of my external examiners. The book addresses the Problem of Evil (Natural and Moral) in a world that is considered to be the result of natural processes or has, alternatively, been enabled (by God) to ‘create itself’, i.e., a naturally selective processes that either denies the immaterial or insists upon any likely intervention of God in the process as being an undesirable possibility—due to its conflict with the priorities given by a purely naturalistic (Darwinian) interpretation of the creation/evolution of the biosphere; the book discusses how this corresponds with the Creation of the world by a Benevolent Omnipotent & Omniscient Creator, i.e., The God of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures. The book is, mostly, not difficult to read—and does offer an argument for ‘The Goodness of God’ from a different perspective. NB. It is not a work that defends a Young Earth Notion—or one that denies an evolutionary process.
The raison d’être for the writing of this book is, first and foremost, to offer an argument for the Sovereign purposes of the God of The Judeo/Christian Scriptures.
To offer an argument for the absolute goodness of the God of Judean/Christian Scriptures.
To opine that, what are described as ‘Universal Physical Laws’ are, necessarily, in existence so that the God of The Judeo/Christian Scriptures, who is both omnipotent and benevolent, may bring about the best possible outcome creative processes—so as to allow for the causes and effects of the free will action of both Men and Angels.
To opine that the presence of the physical laws that permit the ‘ills and effects’ evidenced within the biosphere may be considered a necessary state of affairs.
To address the notion of whether it can be argued that there may have been different—if not better possibilities regarding the de facto state of affairs referred to as ‘Nature Red, in Tooth and Claw.
To address the notion of this world being the ‘only possible world’ that God could have possibly imagined or engineered, i.e., that this world is the best of possible worlds according to the purposes of the Sovereign Creator and sustainer of the universe.
To offer an argument regarding the state of affairs necessary to offer an ‘other-worldly’ Hope for Heaven.
NB. I previously engaged with a publisher I am acquainted with—and he advised me that the likelihood of any Publishing House taking the (financial) risk of publishing such a work was negligible; consequently, I am publishing the book with KPD Publications.
While finite minds make sense in a universe created by a Divine Mind, they are exceedingly difficult to account for in a naturalistic universe. Physicalist approaches to explaining mental properties ultimately fall short because mental properties possess unique characteristics that cannot be reduced to physical states, events and properties. J.P.Moreland 2014,P109
April 2nd 1968, might have been what occurs at the end of a nine-month term of pregnancy—the arrival of a newly born with all the associated joys that help balance all the negative experiences of human childbearing and birth.
In the early evening, I had arrived at the hospital to be informed by my young wife that ‘we were having twins’. What she meant was that we (well, she) had given birth to twin girls. We had had no idea that ‘we’ were expecting more than one; at the time the technology wasn’t able to predict any such outcome. The twins were rather tiny and were in need of a bit of extra care. Now, some fifty-three years later, they are parents and grandparents. Rebecca & Esther were not identical twins though they looked/look very much alike. But even identical twins don’t have the same DNA. Esther has lived abroad in Australia for over twenty-five years, whereas Rebecca has lived mostly in the UK. It is said that twins have a special—even telepathic bond. When something is amiss with one (no matter the space between them), the other is somehow aware.
“The body like a prison be, locked in for life’s mortality.”
I wrote the above poem during the ‘transitional period’ of my journey from atheism to Christ. Then, as now, I had been considering the problem of suffering; I hadn’t at that time enquired into some of the more esoteric ideas of religious philosophy but had been thinking about the possibility of the transmigration of ‘the soul’—that, somehow, there was such an entity as the soul and that somehow it was personal—moreover that it pre-existed any present incarnation. I was so pleased with the poem that I typed it out put it on display in the kitchen. The ‘poster’ was noticed by a friend of my wife, who happened to be the wife of a Baptist Minister. Although she was aware that, at the time, I was not a Christian believer, she nevertheless passed on some comments through my wife, who was also a committed Christian. The message was that the idea we (us) pre-existed prior to our conception and birth could, most certainly not, be defended from a Christian perspective. This question is of the upmost importance. If human beings, like any other animal, are merely the result of the interaction pf physical forces then we should not expect to survive that material existence. It would be a case of ‘when you’re dead, you are done for’. Ergo, from this perspective, we are all the products of our genes–inheriting most, if not all of our parents’ physical characteristics. If we were to study Rebecca and Esther’s features—and some other traits of which we might not be too fond. We would see that the twins exhibit a likeness of both of their parents—and even grandparents. However, our personal DNA is unique to all of us. So might there be something ‘within us’ that science has yet to ‘pinpoint’? Is it possible that, somehow, we may survive our apparent demise? The argument here is that we do and that, moreover, we retain that which we have obtained throughout our earthly lives. ‘WE’ shall survive. The implications are large—for those of us who have retained a sense of personal identity and those, who through accident or illness, seem not so to do.
The time has come,” he (Jesus, that is)said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” [find it in Mark 1:14,15]
For some readers/hearers this may seem like just a personal call to change their way of living. Well,it is most certainly that. BUT it is NOT just that.Absolutely not: Here we have Jesus announcing an arrival of universal significance—things would/could never be the same again. So let’s be clear, it is nothing particularly to do with our escaping judgement —but all to do with what it means to live as if this ‘Kingdom’ has any clout in our personal space. In other words that anyone/everyone claiming to have been redeemed into this Kingdom must fully understand the implications of its effects/challenges/claims on our/your lives—no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it seems to be working out. NB. The other thing is: Who do you say Jesus is? Your profession makes little difference if your ‘heart’ is not moved to act on this profession. Fellow ‘professors’ we cannot remain unchanged. The Kingdom of God has arrived (present perfect tense).DJW/09/04/21
It is only from the perspective of our ‘mental life’ (the ‘imago Dei’ factor) that we can imagine how God’s ‘being’ might be, and how God might act in the world that God has created and that the Triune God sustains. If we should deny God ‘his mental life’, i.e., God’s distinctive ontological existence, we might imagine anything other than the God of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures. (Derek White 2021)
In the foreword of the 2017 book, ‘Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Critique, Sociology Professor Steve Fuller writes:
The cumulative effect of the set of papers assembled in this volume is to suggest that the ‘God hypothesis (or what philosophers call divine action) remains very much as a scientific explanation for events in the history of life.
Fuller’s charge against Theistic Evolutionists, especially those employed in the scientific endeavour, is that they tend to leave their religious commitments when they enter ‘The House of Science’ (P.28). Fuller’s comments aside, there is an Elephant in the Room here, e.g. The Materialist’s view is that ‘nature is all that exists’—yet often ‘praising’ the magisterium of Natural Selection. The Theistic Evolutionist, whilst giving praise to God, i.e., to the same magisterium—the ‘creator of an apparently ‘natural world’ in which God is not allowed creative intrusion. Indeed, advocates of Theistic Evolution, most likely,reject the notion of God’s intervention in the biotic world of nature; seemingly, because Natural Selection offers a whole package whilst notions of ‘intelligent design’ offer an unnecessary confusion—allowing for ‘the god of the gaps’—who, it is opined,may well disappear as science offers an all-encompassing picture of nature’s ability to allow for the continued cycle of life. This, idea, whilst allowing for the ‘magisterium of creation’ renders the God of Scripture to the role of a helpless onlooker whose passivity might be excused by the incarnation, death and resurrection of the second person of The Trinity. However, for this world to be anything like ‘God’s Best of Possible Worlds’ there has to be space that allows for God’s plans and intentions—in other words God’s Goal (telos) for Creation.
In his book entitled ‘The Origin of Higher Taxa…’ T.S.Kemp poses a question:
Are major evolutionary transitions adequately accounted for by normal Darwinian natural selection, proceeding for a sufficient length of time or are unusual genetic processes and/or special environmental circumstances required? The default explanation expressed implicitly if not explicitly by the vast majority of evolutionary biologists is that Natural Selection acting on an interbreeding species population is ‘sufficient’ explanation and that the particular genetic changes and environmental conditions are of no special significance beyond the contingencies of each individual case. However, the very act of making this reductionist prior assumption universal leads to the automatic exclusion from consideration of other possible evolutionary processes that might exist…(P.1)
It is reasonable to suppose that, in spite of any objections raised by ‘prevailing materialistic paradigms’, God may be allowed to have aspirations, i.e., ‘plans and purposes’—a goal (telos) for creation’s raison d´etre.
In 2016, thirty years after the publication of his book entitled ‘Evolution: A Theory In Crisis’, Michael Denton produces an equally challenging volume entitled ‘Evolution: A Theory Still In Crisis’. The biochemist’s continued questioning is not to do with natural selection per se but with implications brought about by the notion of its being the ‘sole progenitor’ for biological changes/adaptions. In other words that the whole of the history of biotic life on earth has been contingent on a material process—a process without reason, blueprint or direction. Denton opines that:
…because of an unshakable commitment to the contingent view of life—and perhaps because to embrace ‘a biology of law’ might be seen as the first step towards a re-introduction of teleology into biology—many Darwin skeptics are among evolutionary scientists unable to cross the dangerous waters and leave behind the realm of contingency. …Whatever the ultimate cause of things, whatever teleological implication or otherwise may be inferred, the validity of structuralist claims and my advocacy of lawful biology are supported by the scientific evidence. (Denton, 279 &.281)
In order to establish as to, whether or not this world is ‘God’s best of possible worlds’, it is not necessary to prove that this is the case—but to allow for such a possibility. Given that this world is not to be confused with any utopian state of affairs (e.g. Heaven)—a state of affairs that, one could imagine, is not presently available for inspection—it is necessary to imagine that God shall provide such a state of affairs. Moreover should we allow for the notion that this world—at its beginnings (Genesis 1:31) was not perfect but very good—we shall be able to realize the possibility that this world is that which God (allowed) intended for God’s purposes.