Welcome to the Gum, Geckos, and God Blog Tour! I was delighted to be invited to participate. I not only enjoyed reading the book, but interacting with Jim has been fun, too. Jim Speigel is Philosophy Professor at Taylor University in Indiana. (Also, Jim and his wife just launched a new blog as well, called Wisdom and Folly.) I had a hard time confining my questions, so I asked Jim a series of questions. I'll be posting a new one every couple of hours, and I hope you find these engaging. Here's the third installment.
Embarking: As I was reading through chapter 16, What if I Sin in Heaven, I was struck by a fairly new thought. You talk a lot about how pain and struggle builds patience and helps us to be formed into the people God desires. For instance, you say, "... if God took away all the bad things in this world, then he would also be taking away some really good things, like forgiveness and courage." The trigger for me was when you answer Bailey's question about why God doesn't just stop all this pain right now, you say, "Well, I think it's because he wants to make us better." Ok, this is going to sound really strange, but is it possible - and I know this sounds heretical - that God intended, or even desired (ooh that sounds bad) sin because it allowed for things - like forgiveness and courage and redemption - that would simply not exist without something to overcome? I once watched RC Sproul and his son argue about the locus of the origin of evil, and they put it in different places... but both of them ultimately put the responsibility for evil on God - even if it was in calculating (or foreknowing as you've stated) that evil would be a response to his creation. In an American court, that would at least make God liable. Was sin and evil a part of God's plan - for certainly he wasn't surprised by it, given his foreknowledge? If so, then how does that affect our understanding of God, if at all? This was heightened for me when you said, "Even the God-man was perfected through suffering." In some ways, God's glory seems dependent (ooh, that doesn't sound good, either) upon overcoming sin and evil, and by doing so becomes more glorious than if sin and evil didn't exist.
SPIEGEL: These are big and difficult questions, and for my full and nuanced treatment of the problem of evil I recommend readers to chapter six of my book The Benefits of Providence. There I develop and defend the "soul-making" theodicy which says that God's purpose in evil and suffering is to make us more mature disciples of Christ. (For biblical grounds for this, see James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:5-7, among many other passages.) As for God's sovereignty over evil, I don't think it can put any more bluntly than it is articulated in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which asserts that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. And why does he ordain what he ordains? To bring glory to himself. That says it all, I think. And while it is a difficult teaching to accept, I think it is biblical.