This is another note in response to Jonathan’s question about my God and Haiti post.
There are two causes of suffering in the world: natural disasters and human evil. The former is part of creation; the latter was not “arranged” by God, but was a consequence of God’s good decision to allow human freedom. I’ve said the alternative to both is a programmed determinism of both nature and humanity. So how will the new heaven and earth avoid being a dull, programmed affair?
At the last day, there will be no more sea. The creation — which was formerly deemed “very good” (Gen 1:31) — will be made perfect. We’ll go from “very good” nature, with unpredictability built in, to something better — an Edenic creation in total (not just that pocket of perfection called Eden, localized and distinct from the rest of creation). This means one cause of suffering — the one which is not inherently evil — will be gone.
The second part — human evil — will also be eradicated, and this is the area where the “will we just be good robots now?” question comes in. The answer is no. In the original Edenic situation, humanity had freedom, and options of good and evil. The final eschaton (is that redundant?) does not entail an eradication of our imaging of God — our freedom capacity — it entails the eradication of evil. The result is that we will still be free, but evil won’t be on the table. Before Adam sinned he wasn’t a robot. It wasn’t evil and the ability to choose evil that made him free. He was free because he was made like God. We will retain that imaging status and be even more like God in the new heaven and earth. We will be as much like God as is possible, and so still free to choose the good things available to us in the new Eden.
Thanks for the clarifier, Dr. Heiser. I was wondering, do you remember when John Walton (in his book The Lost World of Genesis Chapter One) mentioned that the whole “very good” thing was not talking about a moral quality of creation but about the functionality of creation (that is God said-basically-“it *works* just like it’s supposed to…very good”? I tend to side with this now in light of his views and arguments, do you think this hurts our “Good To Perfect” conclusion or does it fit? I could see, e.g., that the perfectness of the sea-less new earth will function perfectly in terms of its regulating principles (new functionality) but if we say the point is of a moral perfection, then does this discredit Walton’s view at all?
First of all, I personally have come to conclude by biblical deduction and my logic that God will transform our bodies from corruptibility into incorruptibility and that in the new heaven and earth, he will lock us up into perfection by restoring the original intent God had with Adam. Evil will no longer be there to tempt us.
Because what if one us would sin in heaven in that realm of eternity? What would God do then if that were the case?
I personally think that God will lock us up into perfection (without being a robot, with free will, the ability to make decisions) because we have accepted redemption and his salvation. Because if God doesn’t, then what will prevent another being from becoming a Satan all over again, whether a human or an angel?
Yes, I know, we’re directing the discussion a bit more into the unknown and speculative ground. Sorry.
Second of all, I think I would agree with John walton when Jonathan Molina says that the “very good” statements of God refer to the functionality of the created systems and not to its morality. When would have to retrace the Hebrew idiom to find out how it was used in that context.
You answer this question for us Mike.
I don’t think so. I have to say I’m not sold on Walton’s understanding of bara’, but I don’t think it’s essential to the general argument he lays out in his intro and first chapter.
I’ve learned much from this and the earlier post Mike. Could you do a post on Job’s suffering? That is a hard one to explain to non-Christians. How could God withhold protection and let Job’s chidren and servant’s die simply to prove a point about himself to Job and everybody else? At least, that’s how the non-Christian sees it. And in this instance, it seems that nature’s disaster is caused by evil influence. Or is the Satan not really behind the natural disasters in the story?
not a bad idea. I’ll put it in the queue.
(Oops – I posted this under the first blog post on Haiti, then I saw this follow up…This excerpt addresses the issue of Job, by the way.)
This is a great commentary on whether God causes natural disasters. It is an excerpt from Randy Alcorn’s book “If God is Good”
I looked over the excerpt from Alcorn’s book but can’t say that it answers questions that non-Christians will ask about God’s goodness. It is not about whether God has control over everything, it is about how a good God could let Job’s children and servants be killed just to prove a point about Job’s unshakable faith and His own undisputed sovereignty. It makes God seem, at least in the eyes of some unbelievers, as a tyrant who will kill innocents on a whim if anybody challenges him.
@aeneas: yep; can be read that way.
i had asked the same thing about Job on the first post about Haiti…great to see that we will see something on it soon….thanks
“soon” is relative; likely this weekend.
Many, call them perfectionists, would not call something good, much less very good unless it were perfect. Of course given their human limitations their efforts are frustrated. Hence their dysfunction. You agree that God is perfect in every way and also all powerful. A perfectly functional perfectionist if you will. How then can you so easily see Gods handiwork (in material, functional, or moral spheres) as anything less than perfect before he would stamp it good, much less “very good”?
Gods good in any sphere seems to be perfection can very good leave any doubt? After all does this not also answer to why we need the perfect blood of Christ to be seen as good before God?
Are you importing your preconceived theology into the passages in question? Have you really had a go at it the other way around?
God can call good what he deems good; it has only to meet his standards. Perfect character does not require perfection in what is created any more than good human character is unable to embrace or tolerate another fellow human being with flaws not shared.
I don’t see God as a perfectionist anyway. If he was, he would have forsaken Israel at the exile (and gotten rid of all of us to boot) instead of calling the exile chastisement and forgiving Israel. And why in the world would the ultimate perfectionist choose imperfect humans to run his world (Adam and Eve could not, by definition, be as perfect as God is, and so they are imperfect in some way — and yet he gave them the dominion mandate and even called them his imagers). Why would the ultimate perfectionist incarnated choose stupid, fallen humans to evangelize the lost… etc., etc.
Further, if only God is completely perfect, than all else isn’t. And if God is a perfectly functional Perfectionist (i.e., a perfectionist to the nth degree or par excellence), we would seem compelled to the conclusion that he could only tolerate himself.
I’m thankful God isn’t a perfectionist, but condescends to work with humankind.