THEODICY† AND† EXEGESIS
††††††††† Life is characterized by uncertainty.† It has been said that the only things one can be sure of are death and taxes.† Everything else flows and changes at a pace that often bewilders the mind of man.† He sets up rules and then finds a multiplicity of exceptions.† He defines moral standards only to see them outdated or replaced by ďsituation ethics.Ē† He codifies laws and finds the legislative task still unfinished.† He tries to achieve an approved mode of communication and then finds his grammar books in need of revision.† By observation he soon discovers that where there are rules, there are always exceptions to the rules.† Absolute ideals are impossible to apply in the real world of changing relativities.
††††††††† Now, if only death and taxes are the absolute certainties of life, the assured result must be a cynical pessimism.† Fortunately, however, there is a brighter side to the picture, and that is the absolute dependability of the character of God.† When one contemplates Deity, he enters into one realm of thought where exceptions are not allowed.† Consider the following immutable realities:
†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† ††††††††† God is always good, never evil.
†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† ††††††††† God embodies love, never hate.
†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† ††††††††† God inspires with truth, never error.
††††††††† These ideas all go a long way in dispelling any philosophy of cynicism that might result from a fatalistic fixation on the unique finality of death and taxes.† No.† There is at least one other Absolute in the universe, and that Principle is good, true, and benevolent.
††††††††† Now it is unfortunate that the Bible does not always support this ideal, for there are passages in Scripture that seem to imply that God has sometimes committed evil acts and made errors and has been motivated by hate.† This raises the question of theodicy, which is the theological term for the study of Godís righteousness.† This issue of theodicy is primary to exegesis, Bible interpretation, for the affirmation of Godís essential goodness necessarily requires the rejection of every doctine or belief that would attribute evil or error to the supreme Deity.† Once theodicy is resolved, it is possible to develop certain criteria for Bible interpretation, such as those given below:
††††††††† God is good; else, He is not God.
††††††††† ††††††††† Scriptures to the contrary are therefore false.
††††††††† Godís goodness is as Jesus revealed it.
††††††††† ††††††††† Scriptural interpretation must be ďChristocentric.Ē
††††††††† Godís goodness will be reasonable to man.
††††††††† ††††††††† Orthodox doctrines can be defined and understood.
††††††††† Godís goodness is unchangeable.
††††††††† ††††††††† Error in early Scripture is corrected in later Scripture.
††††††††† Godís goodness precludes His control of manís free will.
††††††††† Godís goodness is disclosed in His purpose for Creation.
††††††††† Godís goodness is revealed through His omnipresent Spirit.
††††††††† Godís goodness means His world will be an ultimate success, not a failure.
††††††††† Godís goodness is affirmed by the resurrection of Jesus
††††††††† ††††††††† and the immortality of mankind.
††††††††† Godís goodness assures an afterlife where good and evil
††††††††† ††††††††† can be fairly recompensed.
††††††††† Whenever the Bible does not support these attributes of Deity, the only course of action is to maintain an exalted view of God and reject any Scripture passages to the contrary.† When the test of theodicy is applied, several teachings of the Bible must be rejected.
††††††††††† ††††††††††† Erroneous Bible Doctrine†††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† †† Theodicy
The ascription of evil to God (Isa. 45:7, Ex. 4:24, Amos 3:6).†††† ††††††††††† God is good.
The approval of the practice of genocide (Josh. 6:21, 1 Sam. 15:3).†† ††††††††††† God is humane.
The arbitrary predestination of souls (Rom. 9:17-18).†††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† God is fair.
The approval of slavery (Ex. 21:2,7, Col. 3:22).†††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† God is impartial.
The exaltation of Israel as the master race (Deut. 7:6, 1 Chron. 16:13).††††††††††† God is impartial.
The subjection of women (1 Tim. 2:11-15, 1 Cor. 11:8-10). ††††††††††† ††††††††††† God is impartial.
The evil nature of sex (Lev. 15:18, Ps. 51:5, Rev. 14:14).†††††††††††† ††††††††††† God made sex.
The condemnation of intelligence (Ps. 131:1, Eccl. 7:16, 2 Pet. 1:20).††††††††††† God made mind.
The approval of alcoholic consumption (Deut. 14:26, Ps. 104:15).†††† ††††††††††† God dwells in the† †† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† temple of the body.
The imminence of the Second Coming (1 John 2:18, 1 Cor. 7:29).†† ††††††††††† Godís good purpose† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† for the world not yet †† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† complete.
††††††††† This is a sample of faulty beliefs that can be rectified by the application of the criterion of theodicy.† Let it be understood that if any doctrine rests on the premise that God is evil or that He condones evil actions, it must be rejected.† Paul advised, ďLet God be true, and every man a liarĒ (Rom. 3:4).† He used this maxim as a premise for dealing with false teachings in his day, and it is no less admirable as a rule to apply any time dedicated people grapple with issues of orthodox belief.
†††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† ††††††††† Richard L. Atkins