Jesus Christ is God’s emphatic disallowance of all evil. How that disallowance “unfurls” itself over time and space is the real issue. “Unfurling” is an underused word worthy of some serious metaphorical meditation.
Obviously, that term brings to mind flags and banners being “unfurled” from a folded or rolled-up position so that they may be hoisted and fully displayed overhead. But the “unfurling” concept is also used in nature.
The Koru is the Maori word that relates to the “unfurling” growing-tip of the native Ponga fern. The Koru is said to symbolize emerging life. This is the perfect metaphor for the kingdom of God. It is in a furled state within each of us. Our individual and corporate faith hoists and hastens its unfurling, while our individual and corporate disbelief hinders and husks its unfurling within us.
Christ’s kingdom of love, life, and light is already unfurling within each of us at different rates and intensities according to our respective hearts’ focus and devotion. Some are richly aware of this unfurling. Some are barely aware of it. Others have not yet to perceive it at all. But it is there. “Christ is the true light that lights every human who comes into the world.” John 1:9.
Our cooperative devotion waters and fertilizes His kingdom’s inner-quickening and unfolding within our sphere of influence, while our lethargy and lukewarmness delays its full blossom. But it can only be delayed, not stopped. Christ’s life will eventually sprout, unfurl, and emerge in each of us, whether it’s in this age or the age to come.
And not only is this kingdom unfurling progressively within us individually, it is also unfurling within us corporately, as His bride and body. May this metaphor of the Ponga fern help us all to focus on our “growing tip,” the Spirit of Christ which is unfurling within us even as we speak.
But what about the problem of evil?
Why does God allow evil?
Or, to be fair to God by not presuming we already know the answer, DOES God, in fact, allow evil? At all?
“This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness AT ALL.” -1 John 1:5. If God has ABSOLUTELY no darkness in Him, then how on earth could He in any sense be said to “allow” evil (certainly, the ultimate darkness) without also being a necessary “permission giver” and “co-conspirator” in the subsequent evil that occurs?
So, again, what about the problem of evil?
The common proposition which must always be assessed, challenged, and rebutted is, “Since God is in absolute control of all events, both good and evil, He clearly ordains, allows, and wills evil since He could so easily stop it.”
This is a horrendously abstract Calvinistic presumption and forces us to believe God is in meticulous control of child rapes, child murders, and child slavery. I also don’t believe that “whatever happens God obviously allows” since “He has the power to stop it.” No, Scriptures instead teach that the gifts of God are without repentance/recourse. He doesn’t take them back in other words. The gift of some level of creaturely freedom so that the possibility of true love may be oxygenated isn’t a gift He moodily takes back whenever He feels like raping our will, our words, and our ways.
First, the questions as stated presume God is a puppet master constantly pulling all the causative strings (or refusing to pull certain causative strings), therefore making Him the sole cause of all events —good and evil. God here becomes a necessary party complicit in evil’s occurrence. God is pictured as a hyper sovereign “control freak” who allows some child rape (but not others), some child murders (but not others), some child tortures (but not others), some sex trafficking (but not others), and a thousand other horrors (but not others).
Jesus, who, through His incarnation and resurrection, displayed the fullness of the Godhead’s nature —- NEVER allowed (when faith was present) the oppressions of evil to go unhealed and uncorrected (Acts 10:38) and which were in His immediate sphere of influence. The view of God Jesus explained (John 1:18) in fullness is 180 degrees incompatible with the presumptions on which these two questions are based.
In Mark 6, at Nazareth, Jesus arrived ready, willing, and able to perform mighty curative acts and powerful deliverances from all the evils in their midst. Yet, the passage paints a very different picture of God that the one painted by the two questions you presented. Jesus “COULD do NO mighty works” because of “their” corporate “unbelief,” an unbelief at which Jesus “marveled” (marveled NOT in a good way).
Now, if the two questions’ view of God was correct, Jesus “obviously allowed” those at Nazareth to disbelieve because He didn’t immediately take over their minds forcibly, performing a mass mind rape in essence, and MAKE them to believe and MAKE them receive His gifts right then and there. The two questions say God “could” do this even though the Mark 6 passage says Jesus “couldn’t.” I think the two questions’ view hasn’t gone deep enough in considering the nature and quality of creaturely freedom. If God can unilaterally revoke, manipulate, force, and coerce us to speak, act, or think as He commands, then we have no true freedom to begin with and we are nothing more than robotic puppets pulled (or not pulled) by God’s causative hand. Some puppet humans’ strings are pulled and forced to love God and other puppets, while other puppets are forced to hurt and hate God and other puppets, while still other puppets are neglected altogether. The hyper sovereign God contemplated by the two questions describe a deity would instantly and unhesitatingly penetrate the mind of every puppet by taking over their actions and thoughts. Since God “could” stop all the hate, all the violence, all the evil…. and He “doesn’t,” then the paradigm behind the questions concludes God is sovereignly complicit in allowing evil.
What the two questions are predicated on is the philosophy of monergism. Monergism says that everything that happens is God’s sovereign will and bears His stamp of approval. Even what God refused to stop becomes His affirmative, sovereign, and ordaining will. “God’s permissions are His purposes,” as Calvinism famously claims. We humans, by contrast, are inert. We do nothing, believe nothing, allow nothing, initiate nothing, accomplish nothing, affect nothing, and impact nothing. It’s all Him. None of it is us. And while that sounds God-honoring at first, it ultimately defames Him by laying evil events on His doorstep.
Synergism, in contrast, says it’s God AND us co-operating together in a fluid dance where we elect to yield (or not) to fervently follow where God passionately leads. When He speaks in grace, we can elect (or not) to hear in faith. When He offers grace, we can elect (or not) to act on it. When He calls with grace, we can respond (or not) with faith. Seen from this angle, God is non-coercive and will never force our will to DO anything. He will woo our will, empower it, enhance it, energize it, but He will never coerce it.
Under synergism, we CAN inhibit the grace of God, never totally, and never permanently, but in the short run we can delay and diminish its full manifestation in the here and now. This happened to Jesus in Mark 6:5-6 where He could do no mighty works because of their corporate unbelief.
Because God’s nature is non-coercive, He has equipped us with a limited ability to say NO to Him, at least during this earth age. Love can only be received, never coerced. We have the power of consent, and even though this power may only be the width of a gossamer wing, the slightest of contributions in other words, it still is vital. We are God’s assigned agents of awe on this earth which elect (or not) to consent, allow, enforce and endorse the Lord’s will.
If we don’t choose synergism as our mindset, we will end up assigning all good AND all evil to God’s monergism. Under monergism’s view, we all are just paraplegically reclined in some thickly-pillowed cosmic “opium-den” of grace where God does EVERYTHING while we just lay there puffing ourselves high on visions of grace.
Monergism, in my opinion, is a road we dare not take.
We are called to be the active, energetic, and synergistic sons of God upon the earth. The whole earth is waiting for these champion sons of God to manifest. Monergism will never get us there. If it did, we would already be there. Synergism WILL get us there. Jesus is waiting for US to put His enemies under OUR foot here on earth—fear, wrath, sin and death— just as these enemies have already been put under Jesus’ foot in Heaven. All we need do is endorse, enforce and execute Jesus’ already-accomplished victory to MANIFESTLY conform this realm to His reign. He awaits our consent.
The freedom of angels and men often combine to form interference patterns of resistant force with which we must diligently deal. The Lord is always willing to manifest to all men, but He often needs our synergistic cooperation to fully penetrate the situation at hand. He won’t (and can’t) coercively rape reality with His interventions. He travels on the yielded faith of men. This allows Him the consent He needs, the cosmic elbow room to deliver the situation by catalyzing it with the delivering energies of Christ.
I think where we sometimes err is in thinking that there either IS freewill or there ISN’T.
It’s not so black and white.
There is a third option– we have a measure of freedom, not complete but partial, just enough to oxygenate the possibility of love.
If we say that there is no freewill at all, then God becomes omni-causative, the sole and immediate cause of everything that happens 24/7. He immediately becomes the author of cancer, child molestations, rape, and a thousand other perversions, destructions, and devastations. “Back-door” Calvinism needs to be shown “the back door.”
God stops resembling Jesus and instead resembles the Greek tyrant God Zeus who can use his cosmic lightning bolts to instantly incinerate evil the millisecond before or as it occurs. The Greeks believed that what Zeus didn’t incinerate he was allowing, which is why he was seen as ultimately inscrutable and amoral. He was then understood as a fickle, temperamental, and sadistic divinity based on what he allowed to happen.
This presumes that God is is like the Greek God Zeus— full of lightning bolts ready to incinerate evil people, evil thoughts, and evil events the second before they are about to occur. Since He doesn’t intervene to stop evil, God obviously allows it. This errant view of God is the essence of Calvinism. Myriads upon myriads of theologians don’t believe Calvinism to be coherent or persuasive in the slightest. So the matter isn’t at all as obvious as you
The New Testament repeatedly portrays Jesus as an antidote to all things satanic, all things carnal, all things helpless, and all things hopeless. So, Jesus is the Godhead’s decisive and all encompassing response to evil:
— He is the one who, during His life’s personification and expression of God’s absolute will against evil, “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
— He is the one who has conquered all fallen principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15).
— He is the one who eternally defeated death and hell (Revelation 1:18; 20:14).
— He is the one who transfused His curative energies to permanently reside both within us individually and among us corporately as His body, bride, and personal presence here on Earth. (Ephesians 4).
— He is the one who came to destroy all of Satan’s works (1 John 3:8).
Satan is the one Jesus thrice called in the book of John “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), also calling him the “liar and murderer from the beginning” of mankind in Genesis (John 8:44). Paul likewise called Satan “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), an illegitimate usurper John the beloved told us “in whose power the whole world lies” (1 John 5:19) to some residual degree– at least until Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 are both fulfilled by the mature church bride.
Since Jesus was in some sense the curative “lamb slain since the foundation of the world,” I likewise see Him as God’s “disallowance of evil since the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
NOW HERE IS THE KEY. Exactly HOW the revelation of Jesus as evil’s antidote has “unfurled” itself over all time and all space is another question. The Christus Victor flag of “OUR deliverance from evil” and “GOD’S disallowance of evil” was put into effect simultaneously, if not even before, the Genesis fracture of creation.
This “unfurling” concept is crucial. It deserves some extended meditation.
So I don’t see God as allowing evil in any sense. I believe HOW His disallowance “unfurls” itself over time, and how our corporate unbelief slows down that unfurling, is the real question. Peter said our corporate faith and agape action can actually “hasten the day of the Lord,” or the manifest unfurling of His victory standard over all forms of subjective and objective evil on earth and it has already been fully unfurled in heaven.
The flip side is that our individual and corporate unbelief can delay the manifesting of the sons and daughters of God as the generation that will fully and manifestly enforce Christ’s absolute victory over all evil. So, how a non-coercive God disallows evil looks far different than how a lightning-hurling Zeus would disallow it, or an omni-causative puppeteer would disallow it.
How a non-coercive God, who has injected a measure of creaturely freedom into earthly existence, overcomes evil is another matter altogether. Through divine “faith” and divine “patience,” we will “possess our souls” in virtue, and “inherit all the exceeding great and precious promises of God which provide us all things for life and godliness” (Luke 21:19; Hebrews 6:12; 2 Peter 1:3-5).
There remains another related challenge to reconciling the problem of evil with God’s sovereignty, an issue which is routinely raised by philosophers. This is usually expressed in the following argument: “If God is all-powerful, then He could have created the world without allowing evil’s existence. So, since evil clearly exists, God either isn’t all-powerful, or, in the alternative, God IS the creator and approver of evil.”
Here is my response to the above flawed argument.
God IS all-powerful, but only within the context of His character. There are certain qualities that are NOT in the divine nature, a nature which God won’t EVER violate. Men certainly violate these qualities, but not God, not Jesus, not the Spirit.
For instance, Scripture says that it is impossible for God to lie. Titus 1:2. But, some would say, “Sure God can lie, He is all-powerful after all.” But, no, it is impossible for Him to act outside of His flawless nature of love, light, Spirit, truth and grace. He won’t lie because it is AGAINST His nature.
This is easy to see in the context of lying, but what about other qualities which are NOT to be found in the divine nature of God? What if violence, coercion, brutality, manipulation, and pettiness are NOT in His character? Well, there can be only one conclusion: God’s omnipotence must always be defined within the context of His character. He is all-powerfully good, all-powerfully forgiving, all-powerfully healing, all-powerfully truthful, all-powerfully patient, all-powerfully restorative, etc. But, He is NOT all-powerfully cruel, all-powerfully condemning, all-powerfully vindictive, all-powerfully violent, all-powerfully coercive, etc.
Thus, God wont lie to us, kill us, coerce us, manipulate us, brutalize us, abuse us, threaten us or terrorize us. God will protect us, bless us, correct us, teach us, convince us, strengthen us, encourage us and deliver us. Consider the following passage from Saint Anselm:
“How can you be omnipotent, O God, if you cannot do all things? How can you do all things if you cannot sin – – if you cannot lie, if you cannot make false what is true? If you are unable to sin, you cannot claim to be able to do all things. Or is it that sin stems not from power, but from powerlessness? For those who commit sin have so little power over their own natures that they actually harm themselves. They are at the mercy of forces which they cannot oppose . . . .The more people have power to commit sin,the more they are powerless. So, Lord God, you are in fact more truly omnipotent because you cannot act through powerlessness.” Proslogion, Chapter 7.
So, the next time somebody pulls out the worn out argument that if God is all-powerful, He would immediately zap to oblivion all evildoers with His Zeus-like lightning bolts, THEREFORE whatever happens must be His permissive will or He would have zapped it into oblivion, you know what to say. Jesus is God. God is all-powerful LOVE. Anything outside of LOVE is not in God’s nature. God does save us to the uttermost, but ONLY by His limitless virtue. He always overcomes evil one way and one way only, with patience, love, and goodness.
The day I removed the terms “force” and “coercion” out and away from my image of God’s character, and replaced them with “wooing” and “influence,” so many things began to change for me spiritually.
I stopped viewing God as an omni-causative “control-freak,” an obsessive cosmic puppeteer who pulls all the causative strings of His creation 24/7.
I stopped viewing God as a bipolar “reality rapist” who would capriciously force His will upon us to either execute His wrathful will or His coercive love whenever He “felt like it.”
I stopped blaming God for my/our individual and corporate misuses of my/our creaturely freedom.
I stopped blaming God for the resultant evil which filled the vacuum caused by the angelic and human misuse of their creaturely freedoms.
In short, I stopped blaming God.
Instead, I began cultivating and esteeming “God’s immutable and unchangeable will to all goodness.” ~~ William Law.
I became fully convinced that, “God is light and in Him is no darkness– at all.” 1 John 1:5.
I resolved to never think, say, or insinuate that God has any causative connection to evil, or that He uses evil as a sculpting tool on us in any way, either passively or actively. James 1:13-17.
I began to realize that Jesus IS God’s complete “disallowance of” and “deliverance from” all evil. Now, again, exactly HOW that disallowance and deliverance unfurls itself over all time and all space is the real question. There are several other factors which can either hasten or hinder the speed at which this “unfurling” of God’s disallowance of evil manifests itself openly to all our senses.
The most important factor is the maturity level of His church, bride, and body. The quicker we corporately mature in unity and love up and into Christ’s full headship, the quicker the unfurling openly manifests (see Ephesians 4). Conversely, the slower we corporately mature, the slower the unfurling manifests.
Hence the admonishment from Hebrews which asks “How shall we escape [the talons of evil] if we neglect our so great a salvation.” Corporate and individual neglect slows the “unfurling,” while corporate and and individual devotional diligence hastens the unfurling.
This is what what Peter means when he exhorts us to “hasten” the fullness of the Lord’s coming– i.e. we CAN “hasten the day of the Lord’s fullness.” 2 Peter 3:12. The two master ingredients in this are the corporate Bride’s faith and patience. Hebrew 6:12.
I have concluded that God, for His part, always “hastens to the highest available good” in any and every situation, subject of course to all the various limiting dynamics which exist in a temporally free creation.
Until Christ is fully and openly manifest though US as His body and bride upon the earth, the scorched sky of unbelief, misbelief, and disbelief will continue to hinder His will from fully manifesting on earth as it is in Heaven.
The Bride’s role is to continue to diligently punch holes in this scorched sky so that the Son’s curative light can FULLY shine Heavens’s will on all our circumstances. Paul tells us all creation is groaning for this scorched sky to be fully dispelled. Romans 8:19-22.
Here is a thought experiment on Jesus’ omni-willingness to intervene and decisively “disallow evil” in our life situations with His curative powers.
I think we can agree that if Jesus, during His incarnation, was PHYSICALLY present while a woman and her child were being physically assaulted by a gang of cutthroat brigands, we intuitively know Jesus would have quickly intervened to stop it (as He did with the woman caught in adultery).
Jesus might have used some natural means, but more than likely, sticking to His normal modus operandi, He would have used some supernatural means to save the victims. He used supernatural wisdom to disarm the mob mentality seeking to kill the adulteress. Jesus Himself supernaturally slipped right through and past hostile mobs who were trying to kill Him on several occasions.
But, in any event, the Jesus revealed by BOTH the Gospel AND our Spirit-quickened consciences would NOT have stood idly by doing nothing. That’s inconceivable given the parameters of our thought experiment.
Jesus would not have:
–continued to walk past the event to keep His ministry events on schedule
–stood by watching and shaking His head in empathy while the abuse continued
–turned His face the other way in revulsion, planning to later help the victims cope with their injuries, assuming of course they survived.
As sure as the Sun rises, we know the Jesus of the Gospels would have stopped this brutality– immediately, decisively, and skillfully. Acts 10:38 tells us that, “Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, and went around doing good, healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” No Gospel narrative (other than the events surrounding the Crucifixion in which Jesus voluntarily lowered His divine defenses) describes Jesus EVER allowing any form of physical brutality, demonic activity, or physical infirmity to go unchallenged which was afflicting any third party who was in His immediate presence and who was seeking His help.
Now, to continue the thought experiment, change the peril to any one of a hundred menacing scenarios.
–the woman and her child were in the death throes of a plague
–the woman and her child were decomposing from leprosy
–the woman and her child were being victimized by an abusive husband/father
–the woman was suffering from a severe mental disorder and was attempting to smother her child
–the child was having an epileptic fit and had swallowed his own tongue
–the mother had just suffered a stroke related to her brain cancer and was now unresponsive on the ground as her weeping child tried to awaken her
–the woman and her child were about to be killed by a rockslide
REGARDLESS of the peril, what would the Jesus of the Gospels have done in coming physically upon these situations? It’s obvious. Jesus’ immediate presence would have stopped each of these tragedies dead in their tracks.
Here then is the point. We KNOW the will of God is to always heal and protect when Jesus is PHYSICALLY present. It’s clear and irrefutable. How is it then that we have come to LOSE that knowledge of His healing will when God is only SPIRITUALLY present— here in our modern day life situations in other words?
How can we now say God’s will towards healing has gone from kinetic (moving) in Jesus’ day to static (not moving) in our day? Has Jesus changed His willing mind or curative nature? Or, is the problem imbedded somewhere on OUR side of the CORPORATE equation?
Is it possible that something is hindering or obstructing Jesus’ total willingness to do mighty works of curative deliverance here today? If so, could it be the same dark dynamic which hindered Jesus from doing mighty curative works in Nazareth as detailed in Mark 6 (except that He still healed a few sick people), where despite Jesus’ absolute willingness, their CORPORATE (not individual) unbelief kept those works from manifesting in their midst– a corporate unbelief which caused Jesus to “marvel” (and not in a good way) that they were missing the time of their curative visitation.
Nazareth is so instructive, because in that narrative we have all the relevant elements– an always willing-to-heal Lord NONETHELESS obstructed by a corporate (not individual) mindset and heart-set of unbelief.
God, as most theologians readily acknowledge, is in some sense omni-present. God is present everywhere in some continuous capacity today, here and now. But, that by itself isn’t enough to release His personal presence (which I would define as the kinetically curative Jesus revealed in the Gospels) to full manifestation.
So, again, I have to conclude that some dynamic on our CORPORATE side of the equation is “quenching” Jesus’ kinetically curative presence back into static latency.
The widespread failure to heal today simply can’t be Jesus’ LACK of willingness. So again I go back to Nazareth as the template of explanation for His un-manifested mighty works. There was a scorched sky of CORPORATE unbelief in Nazareth which kept the Lord’s healing light from fully shining through to do the mighty works which were in His heart to do. Again, He was able to heal a few sick people, just as a few sick people today continue to receive healing from time to time through prayers of faith, but not nearly on the wide scale we would see as ideal for a fully functioning body of Christ. The reason? We are living today in a postmodern Nazareth laboring under a scorched sky of corporate unbelief.
The freedom of angels and men often combine to form interference patterns of resistant force with which we must diligently deal. The Lord is always willing to manifest, but He often needs our synergistic cooperation to fully penetrate the situation at hand. He won’t (and can’t) coercively rape reality with His interventions. He travels on the active faith of men. This allows Him the consent He needs, the cosmic elbow room to deliver the situation by catalyzing it with the delivering energies of Christ.
The question then is NOT “whether” or “why” God intervenes or not in human affairs.
Rather, the question is “whether” or “why” WE (corporately as the body of Christ) intervene or not.
God’s interventions of deliverances need OUR corporate synergistic faith, catalyzing prayer, and enabling action for His deliverances to fully manifest here on earth as they are already manifest in Heaven. God has already intervened to the max in every past, present and future situation. His Spirit fills all things (Ephesians 1:23; 4:7-10). His pre-destinies (Ephesians 2:10) swirl around us like butterflies coiled in potentiality, eagerly waiting to be sprung into actuality by our prayers of faith. But our corporate unbelief can “quench” and “bench” these potentialities into the realm of the unrealized.