Archive for the ‘theodicy’ Category

Note: This is a guest post since presently I am overseas.  This is by “pray2christ.”  His blog be found here.

Suffering and death in the Christian Life

A wise man once said; If any gospel does not warn people of the coming struggles, but only focuses on having a blessed life, this gospel has been cheapened.  The recipients of this gospel message may not be ready for hard trials, and could fall away.


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theodicy van til

This is an unpublished “book” by the famed Reformed apologist Cornelius Van Til that was put together by Monergism.com!


Here’s the website description:

In treating of Evil in relation to Theodicy it is quite impossible to leave out of consideration metaphysics and epistemology. The views of sin will vary as the conceptions of God and man vary. If we view God as infinite, eternal, and immutable in His being, intelligence, and will, and man his organic creation, if we accept the supernatural, grant the need of special revelation, accept the fact of special revelation and the fall of man, we must needs also come to the Biblical view of sin with redemption and restoration. If on the other hand we deny these premises, we must begin with man and experience as we find them, and construct our own views as to the nature of God and man and therefore also of sin, and we come to a fundamentally different theory of Theodicy.

We have accordingly two main theories of evil and two kinds of theodicy. The one is the product of a system of thought that bows before the authority of supernatural revelation and studies the phenomena of experience in the light of the Scriptures. The other is the product of the philosopher who also views the phenomena of experience but feels that it devolves upon him as a rational creature to give an account of things to himself, and that he is able to do so. This may lead him to skepticism or phenomenalism but he will not seek aid from supernatural revelation. “The philosopher as philosopher and irrespectively of his attitude toward the Christian faith, approaches a question as if there were no truth which claimed to be revealed. For him the plan of the world may or may not have been divinely disclosed to man; it awaits discovery or interpretation through the exercise of reason.”

Here’s the table of content:

Part 1—Philosophy


Epistemological Basis

Greek Philosophy—Plato


Stoicism And Epicureanism



Modern Philosophy



Locke And Empiricism

Berkeley And Hume




F. R. Tennant


Part 2—Theological



Mediaeval Scholasticism And Mysticism

Calvin And The Reformation



Schleiermacher And Müller



God Is His Own Theodicy


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How did Evil Come into this World Edgar

(This booklet is available from Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore)


This is a book by the Christian apologist William Edgar who teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary.  I must say that I had high expectations even before I read the book for the following three reasons:  1.) Other works in this series (Christian Answers to Hard Questions) has been helpful such as The Morality of God in the Old Testament and Did Adam Exists? (our review can be accessed here and here respectively) 2.) I find most writings by the faculty from Westminster Theological Seminary to be theologically stimulating and 3.) I enjoyed the author’s previous work on Francis Schaeffer.  Perhaps due to my high expectation the book was not what I anticipated.

From previous advertisement of the book the booklet was originally titled “Science and the Problem of Evil” though at present the title is How Did Evil Come into the World?  I was disappointed since I presumed that the book was merely renamed but it was still going to deal with the interaction of science and the problem of evil.  Discussion of science and the intersection of theodicy, specifically with the claim that science challenges the Biblical account of evil was only mentioned in passing towards the end of the book.  What was said was very meager.  Edgar made the point that scientific theories continues to be challenged and modified so one should not base much on current scientific conjecture to dismiss what Scripture clearly teaches.  I concur with Edgar but wished he could have expounded more on the subject.

The book rightly point out that there are a lot of areas that remain mysterious for man concerning the origin of evil.  For instance, concerning the role of God’s sovereign ordination and how God could remain “not guilty” in ordaining them, Edgar writes that this is a mystery.  The book is helpful in setting up orthodox and Reformed boundaries in addressing the problem of evil.  Yet more could be said.  I wished the author could have articulated a compact form of the Ex Lex approach towards theodicy as advocated by Gordon Clark and Jay Adams as I find it personally helpful.

I must also say that the book’s proposal of a distinction between God’s metaphysical attributes and His covenantal qualities is not as helpful when it is used to address the difficult subject of the origin of evil.  I do think that as a concept for theology-proper the metaphysical-covenantal attributes of God is helpful as Edgar’s colleague Dr. Scott Oliphint wonderfully demonstrate in God With Us.  But there’s less mileage for theodicy.  The metaphysical attributes here deals with God as He is in his asiety while the “covenantal” attributes is concerned with God’s characteristics in special relationship to man.  After making this distinction the author noted that God ordain all events from all eternity but covenantally he abhors evil.  However I would add that God‘s ordination of events must be covenantal as well, since there is nothing that must necessarily come to pass in human affairs other than God’s free decision that it be so.  God’s ordination of events is the working of God’s covenantal attributes since it involves the relationship of Him to man.  We are back to the same problem where we started with.

I would recommend the book for an introduction to the discussion of the problem of evil and for Christians to know the theological boundaries one must embrace in conversations about the origin of evil.  Digging deeper require one to study other Reformed writers on this subject.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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Scott Oliphint apologist

I think 2013 has been a very productive year for Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary; he has done many interviews, written several articles for a general Christian audience and released a book after publishing another book previously last year.  Dr. Oliphint is definitely on a roll!

Last week Dr. Oliphint ministered at Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Tampa, Florida.  He was a speaker for the church’s “Conversations that Matter” Series on the topic “If God is Good, Why is there Suffering and Evil?”

The Hour Long message can be seen here:




[HT: Westminster]

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Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

This is a book on the problem of evil that I fully agree with, though not many Christians even those who are Reformed are willing to accept readily. The only other book that I can think of that is in similar vein is Gordon Clark’s God and Evil. If you want to see a treatment of theodicy that takes God’s sovereignty into account and the issue of where does one get the standard of right and wrong from in the first place, this book is for you. The book does not appeal to the free will argument for the problem of evil which I feel is rather inadequate as a remedy (philosophically and biblically). Jay Adams also note how those who are Reformed sometimes stop short and appeal to mystery with the problem of evil when there are more that Scripture reveal on the matter. I’ve always thought Job 38-42, Romans 9 and Habakkuk have been underutilized in formulating a biblically centered theodicy. Focusing chiefly on Romans 9 (though there was mention of Job) the author points out that why God allow evil is really for a grand demonstration of His Holy wrath and also for the elect it is a contrast to demonstrate God’s mercy, grace and patience. Of course, Jay Adams picks up the Apostle Paul’s attack on humanistic autonomy which sets up it’s own standard against God such as those who wish to prohibit God from doing things that Scripture itself does not say God cannot do. Jay Adams notes from James 4:11b that if we judge the Law we are not living it. This work also explains the differences between fatalism and predestination in a clear and concise matter. Here are some notable quotes from the book:

“To begin with, the very fact that Paul indicates that this question will be asked proves that what I am teaching about the matter in this book is the same thing Paul taught. Paul says that whenever this truth is taught people will ask that question” (44).

“After all, what is fairness? And from where does your sense of fairness come? Fairness is based on a standard of right and wrong. But it is God, Himself, Who has given us that standard” (46).

Difference between decretive and directive will of God: “To speak of the decretive will of God means that the writer is telling us what God will do. One perspective has man in view as the actor; the other, God” (59).

Fatalists and Predestinarian distinguished: “Fatalists say, ‘If I’m going to be hit by a truck on the corner of Fifth and Main on July 5, 1992, it will happen—no matter what I do.” Que sera sera. But in stark contrast, predestinarians say, ‘If I’m going to be hit by a truck on the corner of Fifth and Main, on July 5, 1992, it will happen—because of what I do.’ It will be because you were watching that attractive blonde rather than the traffic. Fatalists say ‘in spite of’; predestinarians say ‘because of.’ The former view destroys responsibility; the latter establishes it” (68).

“God does not have to ‘overrule’ what man does in order to bring about His purposes (as Hughes supposes); rather, He works out these purposes by means of human beings who are ordained to freely choose and decide in a responsible manner” (68-69).

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