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Divine Sovereignty, Human Responsibility, and the Problem of Evil Part 3

Now that we've briefly canvassed divine sovereignty and human freedom, we will look at the implications of our sketch on the questions of whether or not we humans are responsible for our actions and also the problem of evil.

From my previous sketch of human freedom it should be clear that we are morally responsible for our actions. God works in and through our actions to bring about his desired purposes, but he never violates our will. We have the freedom to choose good or evil, however due to our fallen condition we persist in choosing evil. As an aside, while I do believe that the thrust behind the notion of irresistible grace is right, I don't particularly care for the name. God's electing purposes never fail. All of those whom he chooses come to him, but we do come freely. We don't have any desire to resist his grace.

I also think that my approach sidesteps some of the perennial problems surrounding the problem of evil. As we’ve mentioned above, God never wills evil.…

Books of the Year: 2010

This year was a good year for me. I read lots of good books so picking just 5 is tough, but here are the five books that I liked best and learned the most from:

5. James by Craig Blomberg and Mariam Kamell


I read several good commentaries this year. My favorite was the inaugural volume of the ZECNT series. I'm a big fan of the layout of the series and the quality of the commentary is pretty good too. My understanding of James was greatly enhanced by reading it. (see review here)

4. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God by Christopher Wright


Chris Wright is one of the great synthetic minds among Old Testament scholars. His treatment of ethics was rich, innovative, and Scriptural. I also appreciate that he allows the accents to fall where Scripture lays them. I never felt that he was forcing his argument or that the system overwhelmed specific texts. (see review here)

3. Praying with the Church by Scot McKnight


I read a few books on prayer this year, as it's an area that I need t…

Divine Sovereignty, Human Responsibility, and the Problem of Evil Part 2

This is the second post in a series of three looking at the relationship between divine sovereignty and human freedom which then will propel us to further discussion on human responsibility and the problem of evil. The first post in this series looked at the sovereignty of God. In this post we will discuss human freedom and the relationship between divine sovereignty and human freedom.

Do human beings have a free will? The chorus of Scripture is univocal, whether it is from the Pentateuch, historical books, wisdom literature, or the prophets in the Old Testament; or the Gospels, Acts, or the Epistles in the New Testament. Free will is rooted in creation. In the fall, Adam and Eve sinned against God in an exercise of their free will. They chose to eat the fruit that God commanded them not to eat (Gen. 3:1-6). Free will does not seem to have been completely lost as a result of the fall, either. Another clear text in the Pentateuch on the freedom of the will is Deut. 30:11-20 where God, s…

Book Review: James

Thanks to the folks at Zondervan for providing a review copy and a slot in their blog tour. Make sure to check out the first batch of reviews here.

The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament is a new series on the market geared towards pastors. I've heard excellent things about each of the volumes so I was looking forward to getting my hands on a Blomberg's and Kamell's work. I won't detail the features of the series in this review (you can see my description at the bottom of my commentary series overview post). I will say, though, that the layout is unique and very helpful. One concern that I had seeing the commentary proper split into so many sections, was that there would be substantial overlap of material. My fear proved to be unfounded. The authors and editors did a stellar job at fully utilizing the format. I also must say that they hit their intended audience dead on. The amount of technical information was just right. They don't bog you down wi…

Galatians 3:15-29: The Law, in Canonical Context

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! Fo…

Divine Sovereignty, Human Responsibility, and the Problem of Evil Part 1

This is the first of a three part series on Divine sovereignty, human responsibility and the problem of evil. The first two posts will function largely to prepare us for the final post where most of the conclusions to the more difficult and controversial issues will come. I want to keep this initial post largely devoid of those matters to give the Scriptural contours the emphasis that they deserve and lot them be overshadowed by the later debates of church history and philosophy.

Divine sovereignty is a linchpin of the entire Bible. God’s sovereignty is rooted in his identity as the creator of everything. The tie between God as creator and king is clearly made in Ps. 145 (the analysis below is largely drawn from Goldingay). Vv. 1-2, 10, and 21 express commitment to worship Yahweh. In vv. 1-2, the psalmist commits to worship ‘the king,’ thereby expressing God’s sovereignty over the whole world. In vv. 10 and 21 all of creation joins in the worship. Taking the two emphases together, th…

Blomberg and Kamell on Honoring God

The very people reading this book may be among those most prone to deceive themselves into thinking they are obeying the gospel, precisely because they are studying detailed reference works like this one! They are probably scholars, pastors, teachers, or serious and committed lay people if they go into this much depth in their analysis of Scripture. But countless Christians with access to and interest in such resources often fool themselves into thinking that new insights, proclaiming God's word in their spheres of influence, or the good feelings that come from communing with God and others in the process of studying the Bible can substitute for actual obedience to Scripture's commands. By contrast, those whose devotion to God's word leads to greater obedience to his will not only demonstrate the reality of their faith, but find blessing in the very process of honoring God through their behavior (Blomberg and Kamell: James 98-99).

More Calvinist than Calvin?

I'm working on a paper on the topic of divine sovereignty and human freedom. Occasionally on this topic (or the subtopic of election) you will hear people through out the barb at strong Calvinists that they're 'being more Calvinist than Calvin.' After having read Calvin carefully on the issue I don't think that there's any validity to that charge. I don't see a material difference here between Calvin and say John Piper. Here are several quotes from the Institutes to prove my point.

'All events are governed by God's secret plan.' I.xvi.2

'Governing heaven and earth by his providence, he also so regulates all things that nothing takes place without his deliberation.' I.xvi.3

'Nothing happens except what is knowingly and willingly decreed by him.' I.xvi.3

Calvin explicitly rejects a limited providence, 'one that by a general motion revolves and drives the system of the universe, with its several parts, but which does not specifcally…

Giving Thanks By Giving

We've just passed Thanksgiving, a time where we remember and give thanks for all that God has done for us. He has blessed us in a multitude of ways, especially in material prosperity - almost embarrassingly so. At the holidays many of us like to express our gratitude to God by giving to those in need. I wanted to alert you to a worthy outlet for your giving. I know that some are suffering from fatigue from being asked to give to Haiti, but there's still an enormous need that we cannot forget or overlook. Let's not grow weary in giving thanks to God by giving.

A friend of mine, named Jenny Bahng has been to Haiti twice on short term mission trips since the earthquake. While there she spent her time ministering to children in some of the worst slums in Haiti. In January she's gong back for six months and she's raising money both for herself and for the children of Haiti. She's started a blog that you should check out. Read more about what she will be doing and if …

Paul's Argument in Galatians 3:15-29

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! Fo…

A Personal Update

I don't write many posts of a personal nature, but I think that it might be of interest to some of you, and I would also appreciate any advice and prayers that you may have. For the past three semesters I've been taking classes part time at TEDS while working full time at a marketing research firm. The first year this went splendidly. Life was busy, but I was able to juggle everything. It's been tougher this semester. Having a baby is life altering in many ways. My free time for studying has greatly decreased and it's increasingly difficult to find a way to put in all of the time that I need to for my studies without abdicating my role in the family. When this was compounded with teaching a class at church in September and early October, I was doing too much. To be clear, none of this is a complaint. I am so happy to have my daughter and I loved teaching on Daniel. I love school and at least for now my job is a necessity (and is pretty good as far as jobs go).

Something…

Other Regard and Ethical Kenosis

It is possible to think of sin as "a compulsion towards attitudes and actions not always of [humans'] own willing or approving" a power which prevents humankind from recognizing its own nature. This may be a compulsion to desire status over against God, the compulsion on which the Genesis 3 account focuses. But it may be a compulsion to gain power over others or to use sex for sex's sake or to satisfy a craving for an excess of alcohol, drugs, food, or sensation of whatever kind. All of these draw us into idolatry; they make of a substance or experience a kind of substitute god. All drain away the freedom that comes from worshipful dependence upon God. Such appetite consumes more of the world's fullness than is our share. The application of this principle of kenosis of appetite is widespread; it applies to deforestation to expand farmland for excess export crops, but also to the high-food-mile demands of the West that fuel so many unsustainable practices, to the …

Book Review: Colossians and Philemon

The NCCS series is off to a stellar start. I greatly enjoyed Keener's commentary on Romans (see my review) and I picked up Colossians and Philemon by Michael Bird with some anticipation. I have to say that I was very pleased on the whole.

The introduction of the commentary was very, very good, perhaps even the strength of the commentary. Bird deals with the question of authorship at some length, clearly exposing weaknesses in arguments against Pauline authorship. In particular, he notes that the language in Colossians is different than the undisputed Paulines because Paul quotes a lot of traditional material and the opponents he's facing are a bit different than the Judaizers (6-7). It is not fair to say, though, that Bird believes that Pauline authorship of Colossians is of the same nature as Pauline authorship of Galatians. He sees it as being co-authored by Paul, Timothy, and perhaps others. This accounts for some of the distinctiveness of Colossians when compared to the und…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 3:6-14

6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to th…

Commentary Review: Daniel

In my opinion, Daniel is not the best covered Old Testament book as far as commentaries go. This isn't an uncommon phenomenon among Old Testament books. Though I've looked at them, I'm not going to review some of the older Evangelical Daniel commentaries (like e.g., Baldwin). They don't provide much that you can't get in either Longman or Lucas. If you're unfamiliar with the series that one or more of these commentaries are in check out my commentary series overview.

It was a very close call but my favorite commentary on Daniel is Goldingay's. While there were a few places where I disagreed with his interpretation, I found the commentary to be exemplary. If you're going to teach Daniel, especially the apocalyptic portions, you need a commentary that provides you with a lot of background material. Goldingay, while not as broad as Collins, certainly provides you with quite a bit. His exploration of the background to the apocalyptic symbolism is very helpfu…

Commentary Series Overview

When I write commentary reviews, one of my main goals is to assess how well the commentator hit the intended audience of the commentary and utilized the format of the commentary. This often necessitates cluttering up the post discussing issues of format. To eliminate that, I thought that I would make some general remarks about the format and audience of each of the series that appear in my reviews. Terms like liberal, conservative, etc. are not used pejoratively but simply as descriptors. Many of you are familiar with Jeremy Pierce's commentary series overview. If you don't see a particular series covered here, check out his post to see if it's reviewed there. I am making no attempt at covering every series, just the series that I use. Additionally, new series (such as the NCCS) have been started in the five years since he wrote his very helpful guide, so I thought that it might not be completely out of order to have another person tackle commentary series overviews. This…