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Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Theology Q&A

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
Theologian

Dr. J. Rodman Williams answers questions from CBN.com readers like you!

More from Dr. J. Rodman Williams


4. Creation - Providence, Predestination, Angels


Category Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 QA Index

 

 


Dr. Williams: I beg to differ with your statement that God did not create evil ... He said He created good and evil in Isaiah 45:7. Please expound further on this.

I stand by my statement that God did not create evil. The verse you quoted in Isaiah 45:7 is best rendered, "I am the light and create darkness" (as in the NIV translation of the Bible). God from the beginning has created darkness. Recall Genesis 1 where darkness has no connection with evil.

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify this.

 

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My unbelieving husband tells me that one of the reasons that my Christian faith doesn't make sense to him or any other "SANE & SENSIBLE NON-BELIEVER" is: WHY DID GOD CREATE SATAN? He must have known that he would be 'EVIL' so therefore it follows that "GOD ALSO CREATED EVIL." I must admit that my theology is somewhat lacking because I just don't know how to answer that one.

It is important to say that God did not create evil. The foreseeing of it, which God surely did, is one thing; the actual doing of it is another. Satan is the author of sin followed by Adam. Both used their free will, God-given and created, to act against God and His command. No, God did not create evil.

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Are we predestined ... chosen by God ... to become believers?

There is a proper way to put it. Rather than to say that we are predestined to become believers, we should say that we are predestined as believers. There are always two sides interchangeable: God and faith, God's sovereign action and our choice.

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What do you think about a devotion to St. Michael the Archangel? I frequently call on him when I am faced with a situation where I must hold firm in my beliefs. Some Christians think it is wrong to pray to anyone but God, even as an intercessor. I was raised to believe that St. Michael is there to defend us in the battle against evil. Do you believe it is right to call on his help when we are faced with it?

Since the Christian worships the triune God---God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit---all of whom are available to our intercession, what need we more? Indeed, though Michael is an angel of the highest order, he is still a finite creature. He ought not to be worshiped or invoked in prayer.

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If we have free will and choice, how can we be predestined and chosen (Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:4)?

While predestination and free will seem logically contradictory to each other, from God's perspective they are not. They are actually complementary. God predestines through the free choice of people. This is a part of the mystery of how God works with man. For example, if God predestines my salvation, my freedom of choice comes into play. God is sovereign and therein human choices are confirmed.

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Many times the Bible says that God has chosen certain individuals ahead of time to be His flock (sheep versus goats). Does it explain why He's done this in the Bible? What happens to the people who were never drawn to Him?

The words of Jesus in Matthew 22:14 are quite relevant, "For many are called, but few are chosen." This does not mean an arbitrary choice in regard to those chosen; rather the call is unlimited, and those who say "yes" are the chosen ones. Thus they are "God's chosen" by their own decision in answer to God's call. God's desire is to draw all people to Himself.

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  I am a Christian and believe in God's love for mankind. But I have for a long time now been bothered by this question: why did God create mankind? The Bible tells us that God is perfect and complete unto Himself, so God couldn't have needed mankind, either as partners in love or as worshippers. Can you please explain why God created mankind?

You are right. God did not create mankind to satisfy Himself---as if God were a lonely God and therefore needed fellowship with some created being. God being love desired human creatures to share that love in fellowship with Himself and with one another.

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  If God is perfect, if heaven is perfect, then why did so many angels rebel against God?

Among the highest perfections of all God's creatures is the freedom of the will. This applies to angels as well as human beings. Freedom of the will also includes the possibility of rebelling against God. Actually, if there were no freedom of the will the situation would be less than perfect.

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  When dinosaurs lived, were humans there?

My nine-year-old son asked me this. If God made Adam and Eve and the earth, how come when the dinosaurs lived no humans were alive? I didn't have an answer. Is this something you could help me answer? Will I find this information in the Bible?

According to Genesis 1, all the animals were made before Adam and Eve. Verse 25 reads, "And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. The beasts of the earth surely included dinosaurs alongside other creatures. The next verse speaks of God making man, "Let us make man in our image." Thus dinosaurs existed before man was created. It was a good world that God made.

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  If God has a plan for everyone and knows what is best for us, why do we pray? Certainly it is not for Him to change His mind. Should we just pray to be strong enough to handle whatever is in God's plan then? Is it possible for us to sway God's plans?

We need to pray so that we might know what His will is and to receive strength and direction to carry it out. This applies to God's overall purpose and our daily activities. It is not a matter of seeking to sway God's plans, but to give glad and grateful obedience to whatever His will may be.

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  Are certain people (like Adolph Hitler) damned to hell from birth? If life is predetermined from birth, then could it be that certain people (like Adolph Hitler) are born damned to hell from birth?

God, to be sure, is in sovereign control over every human life, but He does not thereby determine our actions. Freedom to decide is an essential element in human nature (see Renewal Theology, 1: pages 215-219, "Man is that Entity Made to be Free"). Hitler (like Judas in Acts 1:25) was condemned by his own evil actions.

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  What is predestination taught by Calvinism and by Arminianism? And what does it have to do with salvation?

Both Calvinism and Arminianism affirm predestination in relation to salvation: those who believe do so as a result of God's prior decision and action. Both agree with the words of Paul, "Whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified" (Romans 8:30). However, Calvinism holds that since predestination precedes salvation (that is, calling, justification, and glorification), only those whom God has predestined, or predetermined, can be saved. Arminianism goes back to Romans 8:29 that begins, "Whom He foreknew, He also predestined," and holds that God's act of predestination depends on His foreknowledge of those who will believe. On that basis, He predestines them to salvation. Calvinism stresses that salvation is the result of God's decision prior to our faith; it is in no way based on our believing. Arminianism, to the contrary, holds that only those who believe are predestined to salvation. (See Renewal Theology, 2: chapter 1, "Calling.")

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  Why did God, who is Love, create us all knowing that many would go to hell?

I think and believe that God (the only Creator) sent us His Son to be Christ our Savior. I also believe that He knew how every individual person would end up in the End. Why then did He go ahead and create us all knowing that most people were going to hell with Satan and his angels. I say that on the basis of the Scripture that says that God is love. I don't believe I would do so with that knowledge and power of those I love. Maybe I just don't understand what love is.

God in creating us foreknew that sin, death, and hell would eventuate. Where then is God's love? It lies in the marvelous fact that He determined in Christ to pay the cost. Christ on the cross accordingly suffered the eternal punishment that is mankind's due, with the terrible darkness, its fiery pain, and total abandonment by God. With the cry of agony, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Mark 15:24), Christ bore the full weight of sin, death, and hell. In the words of Calvin, "Christ bore in His soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man." Thus hell is no reality foreign to God in that He has already experienced the worst that any person will have to endure. This truly is love beyond all comprehension. (See Renewal Theology, 3: page 477.)

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   How do we reconcile that God has His will for us, but He also says to ask anything in Jesus' name and it will be done for us?

To pray "in Jesus' name" is not a magical formula for answered prayers. It really means to pray in the same spirit as Jesus prayed who always did the Father's will. We should only ask for those things that God Himself wills for us. Jesus sometimes struggled to know the Father's will-how much more we-but He always discovered it. Praying in Jesus' name is a challenging and exciting adventure!

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   How are we to understand the "six days" of creation?

According to Genesis 1:1-2:4, the process of creation occurred over a six-day period.

The most obvious understanding of the days would be that of six or seven 24-hour periods, in other words, what we know as the 24-hour calendar day. Such a reading is possible but, upon careful scrutiny, rather unlikely. The word "day" itself is used in several different ways in the Genesis 1:1-2:4 passage. First, it refers to the light that was separated from darkness: "God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night" (1:5). Second, it refers to light and darkness together: "And there was evening and there was morning, one day" (also 1:5). Third, it refers to all the days together: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens" (2:4 KJV). This last statement is a summary of the "generations" (literally, "begettings"), which seems to refer to all that has preceded over the six days, hence the word "day" in this case covers the whole process of creation. That the word "day" does not refer to a 24-hour calendar day also seems apparent from the account of the sun and moon not being made until the fourth day. How could there be calendar days which equal solar days, when the sun is not yet present to mark them out? Finally, attention may be called to the New Testament statement that "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8).

From the evidence above it seems quite likely that "day" represents a period of time, however short or long, in which God was accomplishing something. This seems to accord best also with reflection upon the content of many of the six "days." Although God, of course, could accomplish such acts as making all the plants and trees in one calendar day, all the luminaries in the heavens on another, all the fish and birds on another, all the beasts and man on still another, it hardly seems likely, nor even like God, who often works slowly over long periods of time. Hence, in light of the internal evidence the preferable interpretation is to view the six days of creation as periods of time, even ages, in which God was bringing the process of creation to its climax in man.

Here we may look in the scientific direction, and note that geological and biological data say much the same thing. It is now generally recognized that prior to man's arrival on the scene there were lengthy periods of time. For example, vegetable life appeared long before animal life, and animal life long before human life. Each of these "days" could have been thousands or multiples of thousand years (recall 2 Peter); the exact length is unimportant. The important thing is that God completed a work during that period. Its completion therefore is the completion of a day.

(See Renewal Theology, 1: page 108.)

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  I would appreciate your discussing the words of Jesus in John 14:12: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do yet shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do."

In John 14:12, Jesus says two extraordinary things. First, those who believe in Him will also do the works ("works" equals miracles throughout the Gospel of John) that He did. The works/miracles that Jesus had done to this point in the Fourth Gospel include turning water into wine (John 2), the healing of an official's son by simply speaking a word (John 4), the curing of a man long crippled and helpless (John 5), the feeding of the five thousand (John 6), the giving of sight to a man born blind (John 9), and climactically the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Miracles in the believers' life accordingly would include everything from turning water into wine to raising the dead-and all in-between (as recorded not only in the Book of John but also in the Synoptics).

Now this, to say the least, is a startling promise by Christ: those who believe in Him will do (not may do or may possibly do) His works, His miracles. All miracles that Christ did in His earthly ministry will be done by those who believe in Him.

Second, and far more startling, is the further declaration that those who believe in Him will also do greater works than Christ did. This unmistakably means works beyond everything mentioned in the Gospels! Whatever miracles Jesus did on earth will be transcended by the miraculous works of those who believe in Him. How is such an astonishing thing possible? The answer is given in Jesus' own words: "because I go to the Father." Jesus in heaven will have power and authority far beyond what He had during His earthly ministry, and thereby He will enable those who believe in Him to do greater works than even the greatest that He had done within the confines of His own earthly existence.

In summary: not only will miracles continue after Jesus' earthly ministry, but they will be even greater. And they will be done not only by apostles, prophets, and the like, but also by others who believe in Him. This accords well with Mark 16:7 that begins: "And these signs [i.e., miracles] will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues…." Those who believe will do Christ's earthly works and even more through the entire age of the proclamation of the gospel. (See Renewal Theology, 1: chapter 7, "Miracles.")

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  Should we expect visitations of angels in our time?

On the matter of experiencing angels, it is probably wiser to speak more of their presence than of their visitation. There were indeed visitations in biblical times, and they surely may occur at any time again. But in the Scriptures the emphasis for the believer rests mainly on the continuing presence of angels. We observe this in statements about the angels encamping around and guarding believers (Psalms 91:11-12), about believers having angels who constantly behold the face of God (Matthew 18:10), about the worship experience in which angels are present in festal and joyous assembly (Hebrews 12:32), and so on. This is a matter largely of their unseen but very real presence. The emphasis is wrongly placed when the focus is on angelic visitation; indeed, expecting, looking for, or hoping for such visitors is nowhere encouraged in God's Word. We are rather to pray for and expect, especially in our day, a greater visitation of the Holy Spirit (that's where the action is!). And, as far as angels are concerned, we may rejoice in their invisible but continuing providential presence. (See Renewal Theology, 1: chapter 8, "Angels.")

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  Do the words of Jesus in Luke 13:4-5 about the tower in Siloam have relevance to our present crisis? "Those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think they were worst offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

Jesus basically makes one point: The unexpected falling of the tower is a call for repentance, not just with eighteen but all other inhabitants of Jerusalem. Those upon whom the tower fell were not worse sinners than others in Jerusalem. This is a very sobering message in relation to the need for all peoples to repent before it is too late. The eighteen represent those for whom repentance came too late. Thus they are a warning to all people to repent before it is too late.

Our present crisis calls for a renewed vigilance against the foes of freedom and a heartfelt compassion for the thousands of casualties and their families. The words of Jesus are a clarion call to deep repentance of our nation that needs to return to God. The words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 become critical now, "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." Billy Graham is quoted as saying, "If God does not judge America soon, He will need to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."

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  Explain to me the New Testament understanding of predestination.

We may well begin by quoting the words in Ephesians, "God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. In love He predestinated us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself" (1:4-5 NASB). Hence, predestining points to the same prior action of God, with the emphasis more particularly on God's sovereign action in choosing. Predestining also points more directly to the end to which we are called. Later in Ephesians 1 Paul speaks of our "having been predestined according to His purpose…to the end that we…should be to the praise of His glory" (vv. 11-12). Having noted these things-the broader meaning of God's sovereign action and the larger meaning of direction-we now observe that the word "predestine" may serve for "choose" or "elect."

This is illustrated in Romans 8:28-30. Paul first speaks of calling: "those…who are called according to His [God's] purpose." He then proceeds to say, "For those whom he foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…. And those whom He predestined He also called…." The end of this sequence is glorification: "Those whom He called He also justified; and those whom He justified He also glorified." Again, both God's sovereign action is stressed-quite strongly through the whole sequence of events-and the ultimate intention: glorification.

It is important (in the light of many misinterpretations) to observe that the word "predestinate" is never used in the New Testament to refer to anything other than the arena of salvation-as we have noted, adoption as sons, living to the praise of God, glorification. Accordingly, a view of "double predestination"-a predestination referring to death and damnation as well as to eternal life-has utterly no basis in Scripture. This does not mean that there is no death or damnation, but such does not belong to God's predestining action, which refers only to the general arena of salvation.

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