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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

"Don’t Waste Your Cancer" by John Piper

Ben Myers has posted a very interesting response to John Piper's recent article which appeared at Desiring God minitries web site on Feb. 15th, 2006. This article was written by Piper just prior to his surgery to remove cancer from his prostate.

While I love John Piper, his preaching, and his ministry, I do take issue with his views on suffering and especially his theodicy. I simply disagree that God creates or designs "things" such as cancer or other "evils." Evil is certainly not a thing to be created or designed for that matter. I have posted on this issue here - Is God the Cause or Creator of Evil? (Part One) and here - Is God the Cause or Creator of Evil? (Part Two).

While I certainly understand Piper's views regarding the sovereignty of God (and agree with much of what he espouses in this issue), to include in God's sovereignty the creating or designing of evil is very problematic, and not accepted nor taught in Church history (Augustine seems to have the definitive work on this issue).

However, Ben posted some comments by Karl Barth as an alternative to Piper's views. Having read those remarks, I am not convinced that Barth is actually answering the issue any better than Piper. These are the comments from Barth that Ben posted, "“[Sickness] is opposed to [God’s] good will as the Creator and has existence and power only under his mighty No. To capitulate before it, to allow it to take its course, can never be obedience but only disobedience towards God. In harmony with the will of God, what man ought to will in face of this whole realm ... and therefore in face of sickness, can only be final resistance” (CD III/4, pp. 367-68).

My complaint of the above remarks made by Barth is that he seems to be declaring that we get cancer (or allow it to happen) out of disobedience to God (unless I am misunderstanding this out of its complete context). This is also problematic in various ways. On the other hand Piper declares, "It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design." I take issue with these comments since it certainly seems to communicate that God is the designer of evil, but I respond that evil is not a thing that is designed (or created for that matter).

Piper has already had the surgery, and from what I have heard it went well. I do pray that Piper recovers and is able to continue in his minstry at Bethlehem Baptist Church. However, with all due respect to Piper and his ministry, I simply disagree with his views of suffering and theodicy. If you have the time I recommend that you click on the link for Ben's response and also click on the link to Piper's article, both are worth the read.


Blogger T.B. Vick said...

In the comments section of Ben's blog, he responds to my concerns about Barth's comments. I have included his response here to help clear up any confusion I may have cause with regard to my response in this post about Barth's comments (whew, that was a keyboard full!).

Thank you for the response Ben, it did in fact help clear up my concerns about Barth's remarks.

Just to offer a quick response to TB's question about Barth: No, Barth definitely isn't saying that we get sickness as a result of disobedience to God. The passage I quoted comes from Barth's section on ethics, so he is not discussing the "cause" of sickness, but the ethics of sickness: i.e., what does God require of us in sickness? Barth's answer is that God does not require us to submit to sickness with Stoic resignation, but rather God requires us to struggle against sickness (via medical intervention, etc). A mere resignation to sickness, Barth says, would be "disobedience" to God, since God commands us to resist. (Obviously, as in all ethical questions, there are definite exceptions here: in certain cases a person may choose not to prolong his or her suffering through medical intervention.)

Anyway, I hope this clarifies Barth's view. Barth would never have anything to do with simplistic notions about sickness resulting from disobedience, or from "the fall", etc.

4:42 PM, February 18, 2006  
Blogger Mike Spreng said...

I don't think God MAKES the evil, but he USES it to bring forth his good. Here is a peice from my website:
God even allows the wicked - those that will never be under Covenant with God (Rom. 9:14-18) - to live, prosper and even persecute the Church so that the Church may overcome through faith and conquer evil (1 Cor.15:25), demonstrating true faith and power. God obviously did not create us in eternity; otherwise we would be unable to know His mercy and grace. The book of Romans tells us how God has given the minds of men over to evil (Rom. 1:28-29), and there is also the infamous Romans 9:22-23; “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.” God allows the evil so that goodness of God may be evident.

John Calvin comments on this subject in one of his sermons on 2 Samuel:“God cannot allow the kingdom of Christ to flourish more perfectly than it does lest we fall asleep, to which we are to much inclined. If the church were at peace and the Gospel received without contradiction, and if there were no kings or princesses who were not opposed to it, we would promptly become accustomed to our ease and Jesus Christ would reign as consequence of our belief and not by His power. God therefore wishes that the kingdom of Christ should be placed in the midst of his enemies in order that we might be kept under a short reign.”

God is in control and he even uses the wicked to bring forth his redemptive plan. From the first chapter of Job we can see that Satan presents himself before God (Job 1:6; 2:1) to receive his commands (Job 1:6; 2:1). Satan has a different motive when he presents himself before God, but nonetheless he cannot do anything unless God wills it. Satan did his best to drive Job crazy and strip him of his possessions. Job, in his Godly wisdom recognized that all of this was divinely initiated by God. Absolom, defiles his father’s bed through fornication (2 Sam. 16:22), yet God declares this work to be from Him (2 Sam. 12:12). Jeremiah declared that every evil that the Chaldeans committed against Judah was God’s work (Jer. 1:15; 7:14, and 50:25). The Assyrians He calls the rod of His anger (Isa. 10:5). In the New Testament we can see how Pilate and his soldiers, as evil as they were, were directed by God. Acts 4:28 says “to do whatever your hand and your Purpose determined before to be done.”

10:54 PM, February 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have been evangelical believers for 20+ years and we are strong in the Lord. Although God has been getting the glory for the great things He was, is, and will be doing through my stage 4 cancer diagnosis, I find Piper's little pamphlet to be highly offensive. You can pray for me or offer me a glass of cold water in the name of the Lord, but don't hand me a handy dandy outline on the blessing of cancer. Cancer is a cruel disease of this fallen world. God is good. Piper seems to have the two confused.

10:47 PM, March 12, 2012  

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