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John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

God, Christ, & The Holy Spirit

John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

Postby steve » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:53 pm

Some have inquired why activity here has slowed down recently, and some have suggested that conversations at Facebook may have been occupying the time of those who might otherwise post here. That certainly explains my absence. I have been corresponding with numerous Facebook correspondents, and it has been time-consuming. However, I still read what is posted here, and respond when asked.

One disadvantage of conversations at Facebook, however, is that, with the passing of time, things posted there recede into oblivion, whereas posts here at the forum remain available permanent access. For that reason, I am posting here a recent debate between myself and a correspondent at Facebook. The whole dialogue exceeds the maximum permitted length for individual posts here, so it will be posted in four increments.

Travis, my foil in the conversation, is arguing a position that will be familiar to long-time participants here. Paidion and I have had this discussion on at least half a dozen extended threads. Travis, however, does not seem to be familiar with those, and has been influenced more by Greg Boyd, Michael Brown and Craig Keener, to believe that it is inappropriate and inaccurate to see God as having a purpose in human illness.

Travis, who is a medical doctor, called the radio show a few times in the past weeks, and decided to take the conversation (which I paste below) to Facebook.

My position is that God is all-powerful, and can prevent any disaster or illness from occurring to any individual, if only He purposes to prevent such. When He does not prevent it, it is for good reasons, not the least of which is the advancement of His own glory. John 9:1-3, where Jesus said the man was born blind "that the works of God might be manifested in him," is the text that got this conversation going.

Travis' view, like Paidion's, is that God is so absolutely committed to honoring the free will of men and angels, that He cannot always prevent sickness or disaster from befalling innocent people. The purpose of this novelty in theology is apparently to absolve God of any "blame" for the troubling things that come into our lives (as if God has ever sought to distance Himself from them to protect His own reputation!). This Facebook exchange, like all my debates, was initiated by my correspondent:



Travis—
Dear Steve, It was a joy to discuss John 9 with you this last week. In listening to the broadcast playback, some thoughts and questions have come to me. It seems that you boil sickness and disease down to God allowing it, or disallowing it. Either God doesn't want to heal someone, or the person's faith is to weak (ex. Jesus in his hometown). We talked about Paul's thorn, about Jacob's hip, about Exodus 4, about Psalm 119, about John 9, and in all those cases, there is very good evidence to answer those examples in a way that does not impute God as the sickness giver to teach someone a lesson, or for his glory. The one case you raised that I did not get to answer was the story of Job. According to theologians like Michael Brown and Greg Boyd, Job was a case of a one-time event in history to show that hardship is not so cut and dried. There are variables we don't understand, and to reduce it down to God not wanting to heal, or a person is at fault for that lack of healing, is not a correct way to judge any one circumstance. The free will actions of men and angels (spirit beings) play a role in what we experience as reality. (Daniel 10:13) We are victims of a fallen world where the free actions of men and angels (spirit beings) influence our reality. To me, it is God's highest desire to always restore and make whole. But God does not seem to trump all reality with an iron fist and ram rod his way blowing up the choices of free agents (man or angelic). The best books that lay a biblical foundation for this way of thinking that shaped my thinking on this was Greg Boyd's, "Is God to blame" and, "God of the Possible". Of course this is an open theism view, but even MIchael Brown's traditional free will view takes the view of a Jesus looking God (Hebrews 1:3), and does not leap frog the cross to read the Old Testament without understanding that it is God's progressive revelation. (1 Peter1: 11-12, 2 Cor 3:14) Love to hear your thoughts


A Jesus-looking God would apparently be one who came to a place with a multitude of sick folks (the Pool of Bethesda), where all of them wished to be healed, healed one of them, and left the rest in their sickness.

Travis—
That was a Sabbath Day healing in John 5, just like in John 9. No one came in faith asking to receive healing. (Acts 10:38) Jesus used the Sabbath Day healing as a teaching moment in both cases. A sovereign plus factor if you will. We are not told that anyone called out in faith to be healed in either case.


Nor did the man whom Jesus healed. We are not even told that the man had faith to be healed. He didn't ask to be healed, and did not even know who Jesus was (even after his healing! John 5:12-13). Jesus just healed him because He (or His Father) wanted to. Why didn't He want to heal the others?

I agree that the healing on the Sabbath was to make a point. As near as I can tell, Jesus' entire healing ministry was to make a point. He healed the paralytic "so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." He opened the eyes of the blind to demonstrate that is the light of the world. He raised Lazarus, fed the multitudes and turned water into wine to demonstrate that He was the Resurrection, the Bread of Life and the True Vine, respectively.

To say Jesus healed because He could not tolerate sickness leaves unanswered why He left so many unhealed. If we say that some were not healed for lack of faith, I doubt if this would be a fair assessment of Lazarus or his sisters. It certainly is not a fair assessment of the dozens of people I have known who have died or remained ill while professing with all their hearts that they were "healed."
 
Nor does it explain why a woman like my friend Janie was healed of terminal cancer while rejoicing in her impending death and saying that the Lord had shown her she was going to die. She had no faith to be healed, but she was miraculously healed while others who were claiming their healings died of cancer. 

Our theology needs to take in all of scripture, and all of reality, or else it is reduced to wishful thinking, and creating a God who sentiments are pretty much modeled after our own.

You wrote:
According to theologians like Michael Brown and Greg Boyd, Job was a case of a one time event in history to show that hardship is not so cut and dried.


Why should we accept this explanation? Where does the book of Job guarantee that what God did to Job He will never do to another man? And if His doing so to Job was useful in teaching certain principles, why would not His doing so in other cases demonstrate the same principles? It would be strange for God to teach principles about reality, in Job's case, that are unique to his case, and are not, therefore, really principles of God's dealings at all. This would be especially confusing if, in Job's case, God was communicating principles that are in fact the opposite of the principles by which God deals with other righteous men. What are those principles?

Satan was only able to harm Job as God permitted it. This is indicated by the protective hedge around Job of which Satan complained. The teaching of scripture would indicate that all righteous people have such a protective hedge (Ps.34:7; Isa.54:17; Luke 10:19; etc.). No harm can penetrate that barrier without God's permission—and we can safely assume that He would never give such permission, except for some good purpose. How does this make any of our situations different from Job's?

There are variables we don't understand, and to reduce it down to God not wanting to heal, or a person is at fault for that lack of healing, is not a correct way to judge any one circumstance. The free will actions of men and angels (spirit beings) play a role in what we experience as reality. (Daniel 10:13)


In Job's case, God was not obliged to let Satan exercise his free will against Job. God did it for a purpose. According to Job's own understanding, it was "When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold" (23:10). How would this be different in any of our cases? Didn't Peter affirm this as a general rule in 1 Peter 1:7? The principles taught in Job's case are affirmed as general principles in the rest of scripture.

We are victims of a fallen world where the free actions of men and angels (spirit beings) influence our reality. To me, it is God's highest desire to always restore and make whole. But God does not seem to trump all reality with an iron fist and ram rod his way blowing up the choices of free agents (man or angelic).


You say that He does not, but He does when He wants to (hence, Satan's complaint—Job 1:10). When God chooses not to protect ,and to allow harm to come to His people, this failure to defend is not His default, but is for some special purpose. His purposes are good, whether they are comfortable for us or not.
 
As you said, God wants to restore all things. However, He takes a longer view of the process than we do—and has different priorities. To Him, curing our sin is more important that our immediate comfort. We tend to have the opposite sentiments. He is working on the long cure, while we think He should be interested in the immediate relief. When this is so, we can see what He meant in saying His thoughts are not our thoughts.

Travis—
You seem to implying that I believe that all will get healed. I have tried to make clear that I don't believe this. But I won't lay the blame at God's feet and implicate Him in bringing forth sickness and disease. Most any christian hearing your view point on this will either blame God, or blame themselves for the pain and sickness they find themselves in.


Or blame nobody, and accept the fact that sickness is a part of life—for believers and unbelievers—and that it is one of the things God can use to bring about His purposes. People who blame God for doing what they disapprove of are hardly Christians. A Christian is one who has repented of placing himself above God, and does not posture himself as God's judge.

You recognize that God does not heal everyone. Good. We agree on this point. Do you believe that God could heal whomever He wishes? If you do not, then we disagree. The man at the pool had no faith, and no knowledge of who Jesus was. Jesus healed him unilaterally. He also healed Janie, despite her total lack of faith or desire to be healed. Can God do this in a few cases, but would find Himself incapable of doing it in every other case? Who do you think is capable of thwarting Him?

If you agree with scripture that 1) not all are healed, and 2) God can heal whomever He chooses; then does it not follow that those whom He does not choose to heal remain ill for His purposes? If not, then you would appear to believe that God heals some and not others for no purpose at all. This paints a portrait of a merely capricious deity.

If God leaves some people sick for His own good purpose (whom He could heal), does it not follow that His purpose is served by their illness? If so, what would prevent His imposing the illness in the first place?

—Travis
Jesus did not walk around healing indiscriminately. (John 5:19) Acts 10:38 tells us that all that came to him were healed. Jesus responded to the Father's direction and to the faith of people coming in expectancy. The men I referenced to you, Greg Boyd, Michael Brown, and especially Craig Keener, are hardly wild eyed faith healing weirdos. They are devout scholars that have examined the whole of scripture and have a very different theology than you on this point. They can answer all of you objections without compromising the consistency of scripture, but it seems your experience and deductive reasoning won't be trumped by another view point, even if it has scriptural basis and a fair minded approach to healing. I'm really not sure what your pastor advice would be to a grieving mother if her child was born with spina bifida. Would it be, "God did this to your child because he is trying to teach you something, so rejoice because everything God does is good". Or in my case, maybe I should quit my medical practice in treating people because I am undoing what God has done, and God is trying to teach my sick patients a lesson, and I am working against God in do so. It is this simple to me, God looks like Jesus (Heb 1:3). Any other portrait of God requires we re-examine it, through the lens of the cross. Leap frogging over Jesus to get to a different portrait of God is an injustice to God's beauty and majesty. You may not think so Steve, but many, many Christians have abandoned the faith because the way Jesus is portrayed, looks more like Al Capone.


People who abandon the faith because of God's doing things they did not appreciate, or with which they do not agree, resemble John the Baptist questioning Christ's credentials because He was not doing what John thought the Messiah ought to do—namely, get John out of jail. Jesus' words to John are applicable to all—"Blessed is he who is not stumbled by me."

Your post above makes it sound as if I have accused these scholars of being wild and irresponsible, which I have not. You also write as if, since I do not agree with these three men's opinions (against the historic view of the whole church, and what I see plainly affirmed in scripture) then I am somehow being obstinate.

I don't know how much you know about me, but it is not one of my views that I am obligated to agree with any particular theologian, no matter what others may think of him. I like all the men you named. I also like lots of other theologians, who would disagree with them. I never count the noses or take a vote from the theologians in order to decide what to believe. If you do, then you have that liberty. However, I am no more to be viewed as unusually obstinate for sticking with the orthodox biblical viewpoint, than they are to be accused of obstinacy for their rejecting it.

You seem amazed that I take the historic Christian position about a subject so frequently discussed in scripture. If you disagree, then disagree. But what is so surprising about my not following trendy, novel theology?
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Re: John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

Postby steve » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:54 pm

(Continued)
Travis—
You ask every day on your show for callers to call in with a differing opinion than yours. I did that and because of the difficult nature of this topic, I have turned to writing the exchange. I wanted to press you on this topic because I love you and love your teaching. I have spent no less than 500 hours listening and learning from you. It appears that I have offended you so I'll stop this thread. Sorry for the slight. I really do love and support your ministry. I have first hand seen the collapse of loved ones that lost trust in Jesus because of hardship, illness, and tragedy. I am working hard to repair their faith by seeing God as Jesus was described in the new testament. Learning from men like Craig Keener and Michael Brown has blessed me, and I'd hardly call them neo-theologians with fancy new spin on healing. 


Travis, what has made you think I have been offended by you? Don't you know how to disagree without being offended? I have not attacked or criticized you. I have merely answered your points. I think perhaps you are being a bit over-sensitive.

By the way, to speak of the novelty of these men's position is not to discredit them as theologians, generally. It is just that they have created a viewpoint contrary to historic Christian thinking. That makes it novel. Whether it is TRUE or not would have to be determined, not by whether or not it is novel, but whether or not it is what scripture teaches.

If people lose their faith because of affliction, they sadly fail the test. I'm sorry, but I know no gentler way to say it. This is what the tests are for. It shows who is on God's side, and who is on their own side. Those who are saved have denied themselves, taken up their cross, and followed Jesus. Those on God's side actually draw nearer to God in times of affliction. Those who have a veneer of religion, but are really in it only as long as God does not disappoint them, are driven away from Him by affliction.

To say you are trying to restore their faith by making God more palatable (though really not more like Jesus, whom His contemporaries did not find palatable at all), is the wrong errand. If you teach them that they are creatures, and He is the Creator, and that their salvation is in their submission to that truth, you may actually get them genuinely saved.


Travis—
You miss read my statement my friend, I thought I offended you, I am not offended, I expected this amount of retort, I know you are a warrior with scripture and I’ve done my best, but I must confess, I am no Steve Gregg.


 I believe the first two chapters of Job are there to serve a pastoral purpose for righteous sufferers. They can only provide genuine comfort if what they are saying is true: namely, that the fortunes of the righteous are in the hands of God. No one can hurt us unless God wills it, and God never wills it, unless He judges it a good thing to happen.

This view alone can bring comfort to the afflicted. If I can be afflicted despite God's great, but powerless, desire to deliver me, then He is an impotent God, and not the God that He pledges Himself to be.
 
I will certainly suffer. I will not be delivered from all suffering in this lifetime. I can see it two ways:
 
1) God would spare me, but cannot. In that case, someone or something is greater than God, and I am at the mercy of hostile powers which God helplessly watches with chagrin. If I take this view, what possible meaning can I derive from Paul's rhetorical question: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" If this first view is correct, then Paul's question is not unanswerable; or

2) God is exactly what He says, and does exactly what He claims, and is more powerful than Satan, hostile men, natural disasters or disease. None of these things can reach me if God determines to protect me from them. This is manifestly the only scriptural position.
 
The implications of the second position are that:

a) If afflictions come, God has not chosen to prevent them;

b) If He has not chosen to prevent them, then He has wished for me to encounter and deal with them;

c) If He has wanted me to experience them, then (given His undisputed goodness) it must be good for me to experience them;

d) If it is good for me to experience them, then there is nothing requiring justification, and God can be praised, rather than "blamed," for my circumstances.
 
This is plainly the view of the inspired Psalmist:
 
"It is good for me that I have been afflicted...I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." (Ps.119:71, 75).

It was also Job's view (who "spoke rightly of God"—Job 42:8). If the Book of Job teaches any lesson, it is that Job was tested, and passed the test in his response to his sufferings. When he said, "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; Blessed be the name of the Lord!" he was recognizing God's goodness and sovereignty, and praising (rather than blaming) God for it.

We live in wimpy times. Faithful Christians in more manly times praised God and trusted Him in their trials, because they did not shrink from the teaching of the Father's discipline of His children. They knew that no discipline seems joyous, but grievous, at the time it is administered, but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who submit to it.
 
The idea that it is cruel to credit God with allowing one to be born blind is an academic sentiment of one who has never been blind. Ask Helen Keller if she thought it cruel for God to allow her to be born blind and deaf. Ask Joni Earickson Tada if she thinks God's consigning her to a lifetime of paralysis could be described as "cruelty." Those who look to God in their afflictions find grace that detached theologians may fail to take into account.

I have suffered no physical disability, but my sufferings were as severe when they were upon me as if they had been severe and unrelenting physical pain, and they lasted for years. I knew that these things came upon me while I was faithfully walking in obedience to Him, and that it was entirely in His power to prevent them. It never crossed my mind to ask God to explain Himself for failing to protect me from my tormentors. 

When you have denied yourself (the first condition for salvation) you don't think it your business to dictate or demand your own happiness. You believe your fate and fortune to be God's concern and God's prerogative. Too few American Christians have suffered significantly while leaning wholly on God. "They that trust Him wholly find Him wholly true." 

Many have, and they know what I am talking about. I have to assume that those who do not know this reality of the God "who comforts us in all our affliction" have either not suffered themselves, or have not turned completely to God in their suffering. To take a contrary view is to suggest that Paul was not realistic in his belief that God "comforts us in all our affliction." Paul spoke truly. Some know this to be true. Others do not. Those who don't know it have major lessons yet to learn about life in Christ, and we may hope that they will learn such lessons before the real tests come.

[In responding to another participant in the thread:]

I am not real clear (and I am not sure if it is going to be made clearer) precisely what Travis is, and what he is not, arguing. It sounds like he is agreeing that God could heal anyone, but there are factors that prevent Him from doing so, in certain cases. What those factors are remain undisclosed, but the one factor he certainly cannot allow to be entertained is that sickness serves the interests of God's glory. The reason why God's glory cannot be regarded as a reason, when, in fact, it is the very reason for the existence of the universe, has not been presented.

Now, I admit that I may be missing his point. The only thing he has actually insisted upon is that God does not actually make people sick. I think he admits that, once someone is sick, God will often leave that person in that condition (again, for reasons too inscrutable to identify). It seems strange that a "Jesus-looking" God would find good reason to leave someone sick, as Jesus did (if only some alien force can be found to initiate the sickness), but that the same God would not scruple to be the one who creates, or deliberately gives allowance, for the sickness which He considers too convenient to retain, rather than to heal.

The reasoning seems illogical, insofar as it has been presented to me. I acknowledge that, if I were to read the treatments of this subject by Dr. Brown or Dr. Boyd, I might find there a more sophisticated treatment. I have always marveled at how sophisticated the exegetical arguments can become when one sets out to find alternative meanings to statements of scripture, which are on the face of them rather plain, but which the scholar has found repugnant.
 
People will probably always seek the most palatable theology available, since the Bible was not written to massage our feelings or to reaffirm our post-enlightenment sentiments. This was, no doubt, a serious defect in the biblical writers—that is, that they neglected to anticipate our visceral objections to what they tell us God has done and does regularly.

Moderns have not proven to be the most robust believers, nor, sadly, the most faithful saints. There are good men (e.g., Brown, Boyd, Keener and others) whose tender hearts have set them on a search for unconventional explanations of unpopular Biblical truths. If they can find such, legitimately, they may have done a service to those who have never been able to accept the historic understanding of scriptures. However, one must wonder what it is that motivates the ingenuity required to find counterintuitive meanings to dozens (or hundreds) of passages which childlike, faithful saints have accepted on face value for 19 centuries and more.

As a child, when my father disciplined me, or denied me some coveted gift, I could never understand his reasoning. I knew what I wanted, and he seemed to me to be merely an ungenerous interferer in what I was sure would be more conducive to my happiness. As an adult, I understand his reasons better, and have no problem harmonizing his decisions with his wisdom and his loving concern for my good. If, in order to think well of my father, I had decided to convince myself that he really was not the one who was disciplining me, or denying me my desires, he would not have seemed so "mean" in my estimation. But then, I would not have known him, or recognized him, as my father, either. To my mind, such comforting reconstructions are not worth the loss of knowledge and relationship. "Shall we indeed receive good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" said a very wise man to a very foolish woman.

We should always greet theological novelties with a measure of skepticism, until they prove themselves, by superior exegesis, to compel the ouster of historic understandings of scripture. I think this is particularly true when the novel doctrine just happens to please us, and seems to remove some of the objections that the enemies of Christ have always raised. It's a win-win for everyone, with the possible exception of the Truth.
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Re: John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

Postby steve » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:56 pm

(Continued)
[In a later post]

Some thoughts about sickness and suffering:

I have always wondered why some people single out sickness as the one form of suffering that God must set Himself against and which He can never condone. Of all the forms of suffering that are universally experienced in the time of our mortality, sickness is the least-objectionable, upon moral grounds. Most human suffering (e.g., from war, from crime, from rape, robbery, social oppression, etc) can be objected to strictly upon moral grounds. They are caused by somebody's sins. These sufferings would be the ones that a morally sensitive being would find especially repugnant. 

Sickness and disability, by contrast, are generally caused by microbes, by mutations, by accidents due to innocent carelessness, etc. Of all forms and causes of suffering, sickness would seem to present the least cause for moral outrage. It strikes people somewhat indiscriminately, and without malice.

I have no interest in minimizing the significance of the suffering of those who are enduring such horrendous sufferings. My only point is that there is nothing in the category of "illness" that is necessarily more intolerable or tormenting than can be found in almost any other category of affliction.

Take persecution, for example. Richard Wurmbrandt was imprisoned and tortured by Communist jailors for 14 years. Since he was a strong Christian, he found comfort and strength in God and became a hero of the persecuted churches. In the times of the worst suffering he endured, he said that he often felt the presence of God so palpably that he literally danced for joy in his cell. Many other Christians have had similar testimonies throughout history (including Paul—read Philippians).

The suffering of torture and imprisonment cannot credibly be claimed to be more tolerable than severe and painful illness. They are different kinds of suffering, but one does not stand out as easier to endure than the other. Persecution involves additional factors that would seem to make it more objectionable than illness, because the former actually involves rebellion against God, the deliberate violation of justice, and hatred of one's fellow man. Yet, such sufferings are spoken of as something that Christians should welcome—and even rejoice in (Matt.5:11-12; Acts 5:41; 14:22; Rom.5:3; 2 Cor.4:17; Heb.10:34; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:12-14).

[Actually, the same things are said about all trials, in general, including sickness. But that is not my immediate point here—cf. 2 Cor.12:7-10; 2 Tim.2:3-4; Heb.12:5-11; James 1:2-3].

My point is that, Christians often suffer at the hands of men "by the will of God" (1 Peter 2:21;4:19). Such persecutions have often taken the form of crucifixion, decapitation, being burned and flayed alive, being dismembered...sufferings in comparison to which (I would imagine) the very difficult adjustment to a physical blindness would seem a comparably "light affliction."

Somehow, many Christians will argue that, while it may be the will of God for us to suffer persecution—and that the Bible itself declares that this is endured for the glory of God—yet God would not be sufficiently "Jesus-looking" if He were to approve (for His glory) a man being born blind. This disjunction in logic in otherwise intelligent minds can only, seemingly, occur in peaceful lands, in which persecution is unknown in personal experience, and where sickness is the only form of suffering remaining to be dreaded. The mentality, however, can only arise from a faulty evaluation of the redemptive potential of personal suffering, as taught throughout scripture. It is not surprising, I suppose, that people living in the most charmed nation of the most charmed era of history could fail to grasp the biblical teaching about suffering from which Christians in more normal circumstances have always gained strength. 

A doctor might ask, "Well, if it is God's will that some people experience sickness, then am I fighting against God in seeking to relieve the suffering?" This question would be paralleled in that which would inquire whether the presence of the poor (whom Jesus said would always be around) might argue against our intervention to relieve their poverty—or whether the assisting of a Jericho-bound traveler who had fallen prey to thieves might be interfering with God's providence, who had not chosen to protect him from them.

The existence of suffering provides opportunities for God to be glorified in their being cured (as Jesus pointed out in John 9). Their suffering provide not only a test of their faith, but of our compassion. The Christian view is that, if God permits us to relieve undeserved sufferings, we should do so, to His glory. Few people, in my opinion, glorified God through good works more prominently than did Mother Theresa. She was Jesus to sufferers who needed to see the compassion of Christ, and God was greatly honored in her activities.
 
However, there were limits to the service that Mother Theresa could provide. Most of her beneficiaries died (as all people do!). She accepted this as a fact, though she did all she could to relieve, and demonstrate the love of Christ to, the hopelessly ill. Our theology cannot omit the definition of our duty toward the suffering, but it must also acknowledge the limits of our power to end suffering, without imagining that there are any limits upon God's power to do so. When He chooses to do so, He heals and alleviates suffering of every kind (sickness is not a unique category), for His glory. When He chooses not to do so, likewise for His glory, we are in no position to doubt the goodness of Him who allows a person to die one way, instead of another.
 
The man that God heals of cancer may later die in a terrorist attack. The woman that God chooses not to heal of kidney failure, is perhaps being spared some more terrifying alternative form of death. We cannot evaluate the relative merits of one decision on God part, over against some other decision. Christians are to live in a world where their entire worldview is seen through the lens of a God who can do everything, and who is always loving and wise in the choices He makes.

Travis—
How about that God set up this world where free actors have choices that consequences. Human and Angelic free actors are given some say so and freedom to choose with ontological outcomes that God does not step in and ram rod. If free agents are not given true freedom, then everything is as you say, an either or situation where God does not step in to protect because He doesn't want to, or He cannot do to lack of faith. In all your discussions, you do not satisfy the notion that God is not the all controlling puppeteer. To you, He is an all controlling puppeteer and Machiavellian deity.


Until you can correctly represent my opinion, please do not become my publicist.

God gives people and angels moral freedom. That is, they can choose evil or good. But God has not relinquished the rulership of the world to them. They can make whatever moral choices they wish, and He will hold them responsible for their having freely made them. However, He has not given them the power to determine historical outcomes. "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (Prov.16:9). In other words, "Man proposes; God disposes" (Thomas a Kempis).

As soon as a man decides to commit a wrong act, His free-will has been honored, but God has no obligation to stand back and let that evil plan be carried out. Even if God thwarts the evil plan—"They intended evil against you. They devised a plot which they are not able to perform" (Ps.21:11)—they stand nonetheless condemned for the choice they made. That is why Jesus said that people with murderous intentions and adulterous thoughts stand culpable as truly as those who commit such acts.

I see no all-controlling puppeteer. I do see a God who, having the competence to have created the universe, has not incompetently lost His grip on the helm.
 
While I see no puppeteer, I do see an all-powerful and attentive Father, who can protect any child of His from the hostile "free choices" of another, whenever He wishes. Heck! He can even protect every sparrow—to say nothing of what He can do for His kids! You confess to having no such God in your theology. Your God can only do such things as do not violate the free will of created beings. I am truly sorry.

I presume that the god of your religion could not deliver Elisha from the free-will purpose of the Syrians surrounding Dothan.
 
Nor could He deliver Hezekiah from the free-will intentions of Sennacherib. 

Nor could he deliver Jesus when the free-will intentions of the Nazarenes had determined to throw Him over a cliff.
 
Nor could he thwart the free-will plan of Herod to behead Peter by sending and angel to release Peter from prison in the middle of the night.
 
Nor could He preserve Paul from the free will choices of forty men who determined not to eat or drink before they had killed him.
 
Such ram-rod policies against human designs are below the dignity, or the policy, of the god you describe. Any God who could violate the evil plots of free moral agents in cases like those just mentioned, could do the same any time He chooses. The biblical God can. You confess that the god of your theology cannot.

Nor, apparently, can the god you describe fulfill any of the Old or New Testament promises of protection to his people. A god who must bow submissively to the free-will choices of any thug, and cannot intervene for the salvation of the innocent, is unworthy of the title "Deliverer."

In your universe, the Deists might as well have been correct. God may be big and powerful, but He is simply not that involved. He can promise (hollowly) that not a hair on the head of His servants will perish, but He has no way of knowing whether he can back-up such promises with His own intervention, since His enemies might object!
  
Your theology has a god who is not only no puppeteer, but who is, in fact, the puppet of any free agent—human or angelic—who may wish to harm innocent people, though God would prefer to protect them. Don't blame him! He would help if he could! He's just a little tied-up at the moment.

What, then, becomes of the claim of Christus Victor? Christ defeated the principalities and powers! Unfortunately, however, He really isn't permitted to interfere with their plans—even in order to fulfill his promises of protection to His people. Astonishing theology!
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Re: John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

Postby steve » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:57 pm

(Continued)
Travis—
[Referring to article by Greg Boyd, linked here: http://reknew.org/2015/07/did-jesus-say ... blindness/]
So interesting to hear the response about this interpretation of John 9 from you. Your lectures on Romans 11 come to mind and how many times in that lecture you appeal to the original language and the added words that change the meaning of the text and/or the ideas they convey. I really thought you'd appreciate the literal way of handling this scripture and taking out the added language and going back to the text to see its real truth. Stunning, it appears the added language fits your theology so you'd rather plug your ears and hear no other possible truths. Doesn't sound like you.


There is no added language in my translation. I doubt that you have looked into the original language of John 9 (I have). I am guessing that you are trusting the words of Greg Boyd that you posted, in which he toys with two possible translations alternative to the one that most Greek scholars follow. I will follow the majority of Greek scholars. Boyd's alternative may be possible, but it is unnecessary, and contrary to most scholar's opinions. His choice to change the meaning is agenda-driven. He needs to change it in order to maintain his thesis (which the rest of scripture refutes).

Your research seems to be very one-sided. I prefer to view all possibilities, and choose the one that fits the most scholarly arguments and harmonizes with the rest of scripture. If my approach does not please you, use your own. I am more interested in truth than in supporting a particular favored view of anything.

In "God At War", Greg Boyd quotes several Calvinist authorities who understand John 9 as I do (in the natural sense of the Greek). I have looked up many additional authorities, both Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic (I am non-Calvinistic myself) who all see it the same way.

I do not follow a translation that adds words to the text not found in the Greek. The key word under dispute is the Greek word "hina" which is translated (properly) as "that" (John 9:3). A.T. Robertson (ever heard of him?) says what most scholars agree with, that "hina" has the sense of giving the purpose for something. Of course, in the previous verse, the word suggests "result", but the question posed is still that of "why" (v.2) and the answer is expected to provide insight concerning purpose.

Likewise, F.F. Bruce (ever heard of him?) says, "the clause in Jesus' reply, 'that the works of God might be manifested...' (again hina with the subjunctive) is a clause of purpose unmeaning as well as in form." Now, one is entitled to say, "I trust Greg Boyd's scholarship more than A.T. Robertson's or F.F. Bruce's," if one is interested only in picking scholars who say what one wishes to hear. However, you would be hard pressed to find anything like a majority consensus of biblical scholars who would make that judgment.

There is irony in this. Greg Boyd takes a minority view in order to defend a heterodox theory—namely, that God has no purpose in a man's sickness, and cannot be blamed. To this end (that is, the support of an emotionally-favored view) he finds warrant for taking a minority position in Greek exegesis. Fine. A man is entitled to do so.

The irony is that F.F.Bruce, showing that he too is not free of emotional sensitivity coloring his conclusions, adds, "this does not mean that God deliberately caused the child to be born blind in order that, after many years, his glory should be displayed in the removal of the blindness; to think so would again be an aspersion on the character of God."

You see, scholars will reach the theological conclusions that they allow themselves to reach. But even with this emotional commitment, F.F. Bruce does not feel the liberty to exegete the Greek other than in the way it is typically exegeted. He and Boyd have the same visceral reaction to the idea of God's glory justifying man's endurance of suffering, but Boyd changes the Greek text to help himself out of the difficulty. F.F. Bruce will not scruple to alter the text, even to support his preferred theological position. Bruce is often like this—that is, honest. But honest men also will sometimes maintain subjective final conclusions despite hostile data. He clearly does so out of an interest of glorifying God (that is, avoiding "an aspersion on the character of God"). Different men will go to different lengths, theologically, to uphold God's glory—I prefer to go as far as Jesus Himself went in doing so.

Travis—
It is all or nothing with you. It is either or with you. Please don't be my publicist either. I am taking an even handed approach by positing that God set up this world to allow free actors (human and angelic), actual say so to a certain level. It is not a free for all and God sits back powerless wringing His hands say" What in the world shall I do". God is sovereign and He can step into the story whenever He decides to for his purposes. He controls whatever He wishes, and He allows action to play out so as not to violate the say so He has given free agents in this world (or they really are just puppets). This is called a partially open view. Not a free for all where God is subject to His creation. This view shows me God in the person of Jesus. (Heb 1:3). If I want to know what God is like, I need to look no further than the New Testament and see Jesus. Jesus is exactly what God is like. You still have not shown me where Jesus goes around making well people sick for his glory. All instances in the gospels for those born with disability or disease and those that are sick later in life, are said to be a direct or indirect result of the fall and demonic agents. But it seems that you'd rather leap frog Jesus in the New Testament and find your views on God in the Old Testament whether in their shadowed perspective of God, they attributed God to wiping out entire villages and saving the virgins as spoils of war (Numbers 31), or dashes children against rocks (Psalm 137), or cause people to eat their children (Jeremiah 19). Many other examples can be given. These are harsh things to reference, but they are an example of what some of the Old Testament attributes to God. I trust God and therefore realize that something more must be going on here. I do not know all the reason's, and I am ok with living in the question. I choose to have a high regard for Jesus and see Him as the ultimate restorer, healer, life giver, and redeemer. To insinuate that a tragedy or illness can only happen to someone if God allows it, is an unnecessary either/or scenario you have set up. I think it sets people up to blame themselves (lack of faith), or blame God (He had to ok it for it to happen). In my view I can have faith to believe God for restoration and if I don't receive my healing this side of heaven, I don't blame God that He let it happen. I know that He did everything He could to prevent it or redeem it, but because He allows some free actions (of men and angelic beings) to play out in reality, tragedy happens.



Travis, you wrote:

It is all or nothing with you. It is either or with you.


Yes. Either the promises of God are true or they are not. It is either/or. These promises include His superintendence over every sparrow and every human hair. If that isn't "all" then it is certainly "nothing." If Jesus didn't mean that we could count on God's giving benevolent attention to every detail, then what in the world was He trying to say?

I am taking an even handed approach by positing that God set up this world to allow free actors (human and angelic), actual say so to a certain level. It is not a free for all and God sits back powerless wringing His hands say" What in the world shall I do". God is sovereign and He can step into the story whenever He decides to for his purposes.


If this is true, then there must be reasons why He doesn't step in all the time. If He chooses not to, why are you so unwilling to accept that His non-intervention is purposeful? How can the same purposeful Being be purposeful in His intervention, but have no purpose in His decisions not to intervene?

He controls whatever He wishes, and He allows action to play out so as not to violate the say so He has given free agents in this world (or they really are just puppets). This is called a partially open view.


Until you can present at least one datum of scripture in support of this thesis (I have presented plenty for mine) I can see nothing in your view but misguided wishful thinking.
 
It is "wishful thinking" because you hope by this expedient to remove any possibility of God being blamed for illness. 

It is "misguided" because your position fails to remove the difficulty you are seeking to avoid.
 
Your theory only works if we are willing to say, either, that God sometimes does not wish to prevent illnesses, or that our sicknesses are beyond His power to prevent (though, strangely, not beyond His power to heal) due to His higher commitment not to interfere with the free-will of Satan (who was allegedly defeated by Christ, but still prevents God from doing the good things He really wants to do).

I am very eager to see what scriptures you may have in support of such a bizarre proposition. Scripture matters to me in deciding theological points. Your discussion thus far has not convinced me that it matters similarly to you.
 
In either case, my point that the sickness exists for His glory would seem established:

1) If God does not choose to prevent illness, any charitable judgment must grant that He has His good reasons (that is my theological position).
 
2) Now, if we grant that God always has good reasons for His choices, what reason can be greater than that He should be glorified?
 
It puzzles me to read you (and Boyd, and others) so vehemently denying that God would do something we dislike for His own glory. Somehow, this strikes you as a low motive, or an unlikeable one, which would embarrass you to admit concerning God. God forbid that He would be glorified!

By contrast, the Bible indicates that the glory of God is the reason for the existence of everything, and it is the great delight and obsession of His children that His glory should dominate all of history. (I almost listed specific scriptures, but decided not to insult your intelligence, since you surely know that this is the dominant teaching of scripture).

Not a free for all where God is subject to His creation. This view shows me God in the person of Jesus. (Heb 1:3). If I want to know what God is like, I need to look no further than the New Testament and see Jesus. Jesus is exactly what God is like.


Are you talking about the same Jesus who healed one man out of a multitude, and left the others unhealed? Or the Jesus who ignored the pitiful woman begging Him to deliver her tormented daughter, because she was of the wrong race? Or the Jesus who became a stumbling block even to Joh the Baptist, by not overthrowing the Romans and springing John from prison (which Jesus could have done effortlessly by calling upon twelve legions of angels)? Or the Jesus who ignored (and offended) His best friends by not coming and healing when they demanded, and allowing His friend to die? 

Are you thinking of the same New Testament in which God struck a man blind at Paul's command? Or struck Herod so that he was eaten with worms and died? Or canceled the tickets of Ananias and Sapphire? Or describes the horrendous judgments coming from "the wrath of Him who sits on the throne and of the Lamb"?

Is this the Jesus and the New Testament that you are referring to? If so, it is the same one I use. It is the same one that teaches what I have been saying.

It is a worthy errand to seek the “Jesus-looking” God. However, you must take greater precautions, in this quest, not to succumb to the ever-present danger of creating a “Travis-looking” Jesus.

You still have not shown me where Jesus goes around making well people sick for his glory. All instances in the gospels for those born with disability or disease and those that are sick later in life, are said to be a direct or indirect result of the fall and demonic agents.


I know that you drew both of these absurd statements from the article you posted by Boyd. I am sorry that in reading them, you could not see instantly how transparently false and irrelevant they are.

1) Of course, Jesus didn't go around making well people sick. He also didn't judge the world. Jesus came to earth for a short time to accomplish something. He did not do, in that short time, everything that God does. For example, Jesus did not strike anyone with leprosy, but He believed that His Father did such things—because He believed what Moses and the prophets wrote, and He rebuked the disciples for not believing "all things that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25). Moses was the greatest of those prophets (Num.12:6-8).

Not everything was on Jesus' brief agenda—and they are not always on God's agenda either. Jesus, during His lifetime, did not create the universe, rescue Israel from Egypt, or bring the remnant of exiles from Babylon. Similarly, He did not send a worldwide flood, or destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. This would make a long "honey-do" list for anyone to accomplish in a mere forty-two months. He did not do everything, during His earthly ministry, that He and His Father have done in six-thousand years.

Jesus did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. That was His special mission. It was actually God's mission, which Jesus was "given" to do in His very brief ministry. On the other hand, the New Testament also testifies of the same Jesus ("the Lamb") bringing about horrendous carnage and destruction of life—unless, that is, we are willing to risk "taking away from the words" of the Apocalypse, and incurring its threatened penalties for doing so. I find that the Jesus in the New Testament looks exactly like His Father, of whom we read in both Testaments.

2) The affirmation (made first by Boyd, then by you) that every sickness is the work of Satan, simply cannot be found in scripture. The verse you both cite does not say this. Acts 10:38 tells us that Jesus, among other good works, healed all who were oppressed by the devil.
  
Nobody reading the Gospels would miss this fact! Jesus cured many whose ailments were caused by demonic powers—including a woman with a hunchback, a man blind and dumb, and many with what appeared to be mental illnesses. In each of these cases, He healed them by casting out the demons. Wonderful! 

However, there is no suggestion in the Gospels or in Acts that every sick person whom Jesus healed (or those whom He failed to heal) were demon possessed. There is no exegesis that can support the ridiculous claim that all of the people Jesus healed were in the same category as those who were oppressed by the devil. 

As a doctor, I would think you would know that most people who are sick are oppressed by microbes—not demons. They don't pick these up at seances or Ouija Board parties, but in innocent interactions with their children and neighbors.
  
Jesus healed more than one paralyzed man. Paralysis may, in some circumstances, be caused by demonic affliction, but, mostly, it is caused by nervous system damage. This damage is often the result of accidental falls or blunt-force trauma. Generally, no demons need apply. In view of God's promise that God has given His angels charge over us, who are capable of preventing even our dashing a foot against a stone (Ps.91:11-12), how can you maintain that paralysis caused by a tragic fall is not something that God could have prevented?

How can you, as a doctor, and without the slightest scriptural justification, claim that all illness is the special oppressive activity of demons upon the patients? Do you perform exorcisms in your practice? You should, if you have the secret information that you claim to have about the demonic source of sickness.

But it seems that you'd rather leap frog Jesus in the New Testament and find your views on God in the Old Testament whether in their shadowed perspective of God, they attributed God to wiping out entire villages and saving the virgins as spoils of war (Numbers 31), or dashes children against rocks (Psalm 137), or cause people to eat their children (Jeremiah 19). Many other examples can be given.


No sense in giving more, since you obviously don't believe the ones you have already given. That is the difference between you an me. I believe, as Jesus did, that not one jot or tittle of the Torah or the Prophets was something to be discounted. Jesus believed that what Moses said was the same as "the word of God" (see Mark 7:9-13). Interestingly, that is also what Jesus Himself is called!

These are harsh things to reference, but they are an example of what some of the Old Testament attributes to God.


So true! And in which Testament is it that we find the exhortation, "Behold the goodness and the severity of God"? (Hint: Romans 11:22).

I trust God and therefore realize that something more must be going on here. I do not know all the reason's, and I am ok with living in the question. I choose to have a high regard for Jesus and see Him as the ultimate restorer, healer, life giver, and redeemer.


To be consistent with your claims, you can only trust Him to be sympathetic. He cannot be counted on to be in control sufficiently to counteract the ill-designs of evil men and demons against you. The teaching of Jesus on this point appears to have been lost on you. 

To insinuate that a tragedy or illness can only happen to someone if God allows it, is an unnecessary either/or scenario you have set up.


I expect better logic from a man of science like yourself. If something happens that God is capable of preventing, then He allowed it. "Allow" means "did not prevent." You are not the first correspondent who has played these word games with me. Why not just be honest? If God prevented something, then it didn't happen. If it happened, God didn't prevent it—in other words, He allowed it. Why fool ourselves with semantic nonsense?

It cannot be claimed that a man was born blind because God was powerless to prevent it. If Jesus could heal it, then God certainly could have prevented it in the first place. I hope you believe that Jesus can heal all kinds of diseases. If so, then on what basis do you reduce Him to impotence in the matter of being able to prevent them?

I think it sets people up to blame themselves (lack of faith), or blame God (He had to ok it for it to happen).


I never encourage people to reach irrational conclusions. If they do so, it is not the fault of good theology, but of irrationality. Men's reaching unjustified conclusions is a sad fact that cannot be avoided (given their free will). To Einstein the comment is attributed: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.”
  
I never suggested (nor does scripture) that the reason some people are not healed can always be traced to their lack of faith. In fact, I would imagine this is seldom the case. I know many people of great faith who have not been healed.

Also, this phrase "blame God" (which I know you got from Boyd's writings) is petulant. God cannot be "blamed" for exercising His perfect love and wisdom on behalf of His creatures. When Job said, "The Lord takes away," he was not blaming God! He was glorifying God! His next words were "blessed be the name of the Lord." Job could glorify God because the God of His theology was big enough to trust and to praise. Job could praise and glorify God because He knew that God's bringing affliction would never reflect negatively on His love and praiseworthy character. "Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him" (Job 13:15). It is amazing that such an ancient a man could know and trust God so much better than some today, who have had the advantage of Christ's teaching (but apparently to no avail).

The impotent God, who really wishes to end all suffering today, but simply has His hands tied, may be a kindly soul, but nobody into whose bound hands you would want to commit your fortunes!

In my view I can have faith to believe God for restoration and if I don't receive my healing this side of heaven, I don't blame God that He let it happen. I know that He did everything He could to prevent it or redeem it, but because He allows some free actions (of men and angelic beings) to play out in reality, tragedy happens.


Then you cannot have any security in this world, except by living in denial. A God who can't help you, because the devil is too strong is no God known to Jesus or to His believing followers.

We have a choice of gods. 

On the one hand, there is the God preached and displayed in Jesus—the one who strengthened the saints and martyrs from the time of Joseph in prison to the present hour. This is the real God.

On the other hand, there are a variety of man-made gods, which are always scaled-down (since the real God could never be scaled-up) to the sentiments of humans who have trouble with the real one. The popular alternative god on offer presently is a kindly one. Too kindly, in fact, to bring about severe cures for man's severe condition. But His kindliness can give no comfort to the suffering saint, because the saint, by definition, delights in God's will being done in his/her life. The new god cannot guarantee the believer that his will shall be done, since he must wrestle with opponents who are more in charge of his universe than is he. 

For almost 50 years, I have lived by faith in the real God, and have never been disappointed in Him. I have many times been saddened and pained by circumstances, but I have never had a god less involved in my every circumstance than Job had, or than Jesus had, who, upon being delivered over to the free-will of wicked agents, was serenely able to accept this as "the cup that my Father has given me."
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Re: John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

Postby mattrose » Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:12 pm

I haven't taken the time to read that entire, lengthy dialogue. Given my superficial reading, I may be incorrect, but here are some of my initial thoughts on this exchange. Feel free, Steve, to correct me if I'm wrong on any of your positions.

1. I THINK Greg Boyd and Steve Gregg would basically agree that God is not the CAUSE of sickness.
2. I THINK Greg Boyd and Steve Gregg would basically agree that God 'allows' sickness
3. I THINK Greg Boyd and Steve Gregg would basically agree that God allows sickness, in some cases at least, because He is confident that He can accomplish some of His good purposes through them.
4. I THINK Greg Boyd and Steve Gregg would both agree that God is sovereign and the most powerful being in existence.

Where I think there is some disagreement is in the following:
1. I think Greg Boyd tends to think of God's 'allowance' of sickness as primarily the result of His initial decision to create the kind of world that He has created (a world in which 'love' is possible and that, consequently, must contain free will). Greg believes that evil forces (principalities, powers, etc.), use their free will to bring evil into the world. God isn't the sort of God who tends to reclaim a gift once given and that is why sickness is so present in the present world. I think Steve Gregg tends to view God's 'allowance' of sickness as occurring not once and for all (with the decision to create beings capable of love via free will), but in a more case-by-case basis.

I think Steve over-simplifies the options when he states that there are only 2 possibilities (as quoted below)

1) God would spare me, but cannot. In that case, someone or something is greater than God, and I am at the mercy of hostile powers which God helplessly watches with chagrin. If I take this view, what possible meaning can I derive from Paul's rhetorical question: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" If this first view is correct, then Paul's question is not unanswerable; or

2) God is exactly what He says, and does exactly what He claims, and is more powerful than Satan, hostile men, natural disasters or disease. None of these things can reach me if God determines to protect me from them. This is manifestly the only scriptural position
.

I think Greg Boyd would largely agree with the 2nd option (With some nuance), but I think he would say that some of that nuance is found in the overly-quick dismissal of the 1st option. It's NOT that God CANNOT because someone is greater than God. It's that God WILL NOT because God respects the world and the way He has set it up. God is not helplessly watching, but actively participating in the overthrow of evil forces. But God doesn't accomplish this by overpowering them in the traditional sense (removing their free will), but by conquering it with good. Greg Boyd would quite clearly argue that God will ultimately conquer all things (and, in fact, has done so in a significant sense already, through Jesus Christ).

In short, I DO think Greg Boyd may go a bit overboard in how much 'power' he grants to evil forces. But I think Steve may go a bit in the other extreme in making it sound like God's will is the only major player in the game (I may be misrepresting Steve here). After all, think of the story in the Book of Daniel where Daniel prayed and the angel was detained by the Prince of Persia. That story shows, to me at least, that evil forces do have significant power. That doesn't mean God is't more powerful, but it does seem to indicate that evil forces can actually deter God's will, at least for a time. I think Steve would basically agree with this in principle, so I tend to think that there's actually more agreement between Greg Boyd and Steve Gregg on this topic than the above dialogue lets on.
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Re: John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

Postby steve » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:13 pm

Some scattered responses:

Where Greg Boyd seems to disagree with me is in my suggesting that God may purpose to allow a person to be sick, and even to remain so for life, one is "blaming" God. This fails to see the biblically nuanced view of suffering in general—that is, that it is a result of evil in the world, but that God chooses to transform it into a surgical tool in order to cure human nature of the more tragic effects of the fall—sin. This certainly is the view expressed in Psalm 119:71; Job 23:10; 2 Cor.12:7-10; 1 Peter 1:6-7; etc.). To say that God is to be "blamed" for using such unpleasant therapies is missing the whole point of everything the Bible teaches on the subject. Job attributed his sufferings to God, but praised God, rather than blaming Him (Job 1:21).

To say that God can't simply exert His will against the powers of darkness seems to ignore the New testament teaching that Jesus bound and disarmed the principalities and triumphed over them in the cross. That the demons could put up a good resistance in the time of Daniel, before Christ came and defeated the powers of darkness is not too surprising, but when He appeared, in which of Christ's confrontations with demonic powers did He find them more than a match for Him? how could His power over them be diminished by His later exaltation to the throne of God? Even during His lifetime, prior to His exaltation, in which of Christ's confrontations with demonic powers did He find them more than a match for Him? It looks to me like He mowed them down like grass before Him.

I recognize that the demons resist us more effectively than they resisted Him, but that is no doubt owing to the low level of spirituality and faith characteristic of the church. Still, Greg's suggestion that all sickness is from the devil (based upon a non-exegetical use of Acts 10:34) is not supported in scripture. In my view, sickness can be caused by demons, or by the stroke of God (as with Miriam's leprosy), but it is usually caused by merely organic factors—e.g., infection, injury, parasites...
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Re: John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

Postby mattrose » Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:56 pm

Thanks Steve

I've been thinking through these issues for some years now. I'd love to get some feedback from you on where I'm at (if you have time). I'll try to state my beliefs succinctly.

1. I believe that "God is love" is the core of theology ('love' being defined self-sacrificial, other-oriented living... like Jesus).
2. I believe God created us 'very good' but that we were in need of maturation
3. I believe that the process of maturation would have always involved learning to be self-sacrificial/other-oriented
4. I believe that our rebellion (in Adam) has made the maturation process far more difficult (since we are selfish)
5. I believe God created a testing agent designed to help us in the maturation process
6. I believe the testing agent (and other powerful spirits) rebelled against God
7. I believe that rebellion resulted in 'terrible' 'tests' being brought into the world (like sicknesses)
8. I believe God could have set up the world in such a way that He could at any time destroy Satan and eliminate sickness
9. I believe God, instead, respects and does not retract the freedom given to the testing agent (Satan) to use his free will
10. I believe God not only decided to allow such abuses of free will, but is able in His wisdom to use them for good purposes
11. I believe one of those good purposes is, potentially, that enduring sicknesses can help us in the maturation process
12. I believe that, despite these good purposes, God still grieves the fact of sickness amidst creation
13. I believe Jesus' healing ministry was to show that God's sovereignty over sickness still exists and will one day prove complete
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Re: John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

Postby steve » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:27 pm

Hi Matt,

I think this is a very good summary, with which I am quite in agreement. Most of your statements I would affirm without hesitation. A couple of them might require some discussion prior to my affirming them fully, though I do not reject them:

1. I believe that "God is love" is the core of theology ('love' being defined self-sacrificial, other-oriented living... like Jesus).
2. I believe God created us 'very good' but that we were in need of maturation
3. I believe that the process of maturation would have always involved learning to be self-sacrificial/other-oriented
4. I believe that our rebellion (in Adam) has made the maturation process far more difficult (since we are selfish)
5. I believe God created a testing agent designed to help us in the maturation process


These statement all have my heartiest agreement.

6. I believe the testing agent (and other powerful spirits) rebelled against God


Of this statement, I can only say that is is possible. Nothing in scripture would contradict it. I am not sure that we have specific scriptures affirming it, but, based on some reasoning, we might infer it to be so.

I am not completely certain that the evils and hardships brought upon us by the malice of Satan are not the very "tests" that Satan was created to provide. If so, they might not bespeak an actual prior rebellion on his part. But I don't claim to know.

7. I believe that rebellion resulted in 'terrible' 'tests' being brought into the world (like sicknesses)
8. I believe God could have set up the world in such a way that He could at any time destroy Satan and eliminate sickness
9. I believe God, instead, respects and does not retract the freedom given to the testing agent (Satan) to use his free will
10. I believe God not only decided to allow such abuses of free will, but is able in His wisdom to use them for good purposes
11. I believe one of those good purposes is, potentially, that enduring sicknesses can help us in the maturation process


I can find no fault with any of these statements (of course, I believe, if they were faulty, you would not have made them, since I believe you are very responsible in your biblical studies).

12. I believe that, despite these good purposes, God still grieves the fact of sickness amidst creation


This is true, and it is a point not brought up in some of the earlier discussions on this topic. The Bible says, "In all their affliction, He was afflicted" (Isa.63:9), which shows that what happens to the least of His brethren He feels as done to Him. The affliction mentioned by Isaiah appears to be the affliction of Israel in Egypt, but it would seem appropriate to extrapolate this to all forms of suffering endured by His people.

God's grief, however, does not translate into His disapproval. God accepts grief upon Himself far better than we accept it. The thing that grieves Him may very well be something that He inflicts upon them—as when a parent, about to spank a child, says (quite truthfully) "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you."

13. I believe Jesus' healing ministry was to show that God's sovereignty over sickness still exists and will one day prove complete.


Well said! It is this ability to heal every sickness that gives sick Christians grounds for comfort, knowing they are "suffer[ing] according to the will of God" (1 Peter 4:19). If God does not heal, it is clearly not because He is unable, but because it is not deemed by Him to be the best thing for us, nor for His glory (as with Paul's thorn).

Those who say that it is never God's will that we suffer sickness have never provided a credible reason for His healing some and not others. His "inability" is the main recourse to those who think God's character is impugned by the suggestion that sickness can be His will for me. Yet, claiming God's inability would appear to be the one expedient that is not open to us, since the hearings done by Jesus demonstrate ability to heal any sickness at all.

Even if the "inability" plea is nuanced by saying, "God could, but, in the nature of the state of things, He cannot do so unless certain conditions are met..." the discovery of any such conditions is elusive, since there is no condition that can be named that was present in every instance of miraculous healing. God simply appears to be sovereign in the matter. Though He often healed people on the basis of their faith, this would indicate that, in such cases, the purpose of the sickness was either to encourage or to demonstrate the person's faith.

To identify faith as the sole condition lacking in unhealed cases, as some people do, is to leave unexplained the multitude of people who have such faith but receive no healing (on the one hand) and those who are healed despite having no faith (on the other). "The will of God" is the only remaining variable that can be applied in every case—and it is the only one that can comfort the unrelieved sufferer who loves God and His will.
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Re: John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

Postby Jason » Thu Jul 20, 2017 8:06 am

Steve, this is a fantastic discussion. I've only read the first half so far and plan to continue, but a scripture came to mind that I'm hoping you can address. In Daniel 10:12-13, an angel comes to Daniel in response to his prayer but says he was prevented from coming sooner (by the Prince of Persia?). I wonder how this scenario fits into the discussion about God's sovereignty. Was it God's purpose for the angel to be delayed for 21 days?

This may not be a fair extrapolation, but could someone's prayer for healing be granted by God, yet a cosmic battle prevents or delays the healing? I realize Daniel was asking for understanding, which is different, but this example came to mind while reading your correspondence with Travis.
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Re: John 9 and God's purpose in the man's blindness

Postby steve7150 » Thu Jul 20, 2017 9:01 am

4. I believe that our rebellion (in Adam) has made the maturation process far more difficult (since we are selfish)
5. I believe God created a testing agent designed to help us in the maturation process
6. I believe the testing agent (and other powerful spirits) rebelled against God
7. I believe that rebellion resulted in 'terrible' 'tests' being brought into the world (like sicknesses)
8. I believe God could have set up the world in such a way that He could at any time destroy Satan and eliminate sickness
9. I believe God, instead, respects and does not retract the freedom given to the testing agent (Satan) to use his free will








Just a few thoughts,
Why did God pass through to Adam's descendants the curses or punishments that were attributable to Adam and Eve? Why not let them mature and then test them again or simply destroy them and start over, since the wages of sin is death?
In what way did the testing agent rebel against God since he tested Eve? If he did rebel against God why punish Adam & Eve and all their descendants? If he didn't rebel against God, why curse Satan?
Why does Satan deserve free will? Why not destroy him? It seems he outgrew his mission as just a tester and is called "a murderer from the beginning" which sounds like more then a tester?
Back to #4 , Adam's rebellion made our maturation process more difficult? It didn't have to be since God could have reacted differently so it seems to allow the possibility that maybe the maturation process being more difficult is actually God's plan.
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