Why Does God Allow the Devil to Live? (and a Couple Other Good Questions)

A friend of mine posted these questions, which her children had asked her, on Facebook today.  They were such good questions, and they struck me as the kind of questions people are asking at every age–certainly not just in childhood. I humbly submitted my response (which were written for kids, mind you), and I share that now with you.

The questions:

  • Why did God just not send Satan to death?
  • Why didn’t God just restart the world?
  • God knew that Satan was going to keep doing bad stuff so why didn’t He just put him in a cage or something?
  • Why did God create Satan if He knew he’d do bad things?

My response:

The Bible answers these questions, but not always exactly in the way we would like! There are three perspectives the Bible offers to the question.

First, God is God, and His ways are not our ways. We know He is good, but He is also WAY smarter than we are (obviously! He’s GOD!). Romans 9:20 says “But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God?” In other words, at some point we just have to trust Him, that He knows what He’s doing!

Second, God is so GOOD, that He has a plan to make everything work out for good. He has already planned it out ahead of time. He has even planned it so that, when bad people or spirits (like the devil) choose to do evil things, God makes those bad things work out for good in the end. That’s pretty amazing, right? Romans 8:28 says that, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers (who had been super evil to him), “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good!” The worst thing that ever happened was when the Son of God, who had NEVER done ANYTHING wrong, was killed. Satan probably thought he had won–that he had beaten God! But God used that terrible sin to save all His people! The joke’s on the devil, because Jesus wins every time!

Third, we can have peace about these questions, the more we get to know Jesus. In Philippians 4:7, God tells us that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The more we live with God, trusting in Jesus, following the Holy Spirit who lives inside God’s children, the better we feel about life, and God’s control over the world. The Bible says (in Romans 1:17) that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel (the good news about Jesus) “from faith for faith.” In other words, when we trust in Jesus, God gives us His Holy Spirit who helps us trust in Jesus more and more and more.

So to summarize it…

  1. God knows what He’s doing… even though we don’t!
  2. God’s plan is not just to make a good world, but to bring about a good world in which good completely wins the victory over evil. God will bring every bad thing that the evil devil does around for good. Take that, Devil!
  3. God will help you understand and trust Him more and more–even when you don’t totally get it, because He’s always with you!

Does the Trinity Matter in Apologetics?

The truth that God is Triune (“God is Three, God is One”) was not something I had previously given much thought to in doing apologetics. However, at a time when many Christian apologists are trying to convince non-believers of “bare theism,” I have now come to see that the Doctrine of the Trinity is absolutely vital to the defense of the Christian faith.

I came to this conclusion while researching and writing one of my Capstone papers (like a Master’s thesis) for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, which addressed the question, “What is the role of the Trinity in John Frame’s Apologetics?”

In the paper, I dig into the writings of John Frame (in my opinion, one of the most important theologian-philosophers doing work today) and his unique contribution to the world of theology, namely triperspectivalism. Don’t know what that is? You aren’t alone. It’s unfamiliar to many, but incredibly important, and incredibly cool once you find out how it works. I submit this paper as a resource for thinking about doing apologetics in a more biblical way.

Access the white paper at the Resources tab or here.

Read more by Dr. Frame here.

Catechism Q5

How much does God know? 

God knows everything! 

Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking plainly. You are using examples that are clear.  Now we can see that you know everything. You don’t even need anyone to ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

John 16:29-30 (NIrV)

Jesus spoke to him a third time. He asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter felt bad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He answered, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:17 (NIrV)

If our hearts judge us, we know that God is greater than our hearts. And he knows everything.

1 John 3:20 (NIrV)

So far, we have seen that there is one true God, who exists in three Persons. Question five teaches us that God knows all things. He is omniscient [omnishuh nt], or all-knowing.

Theologians disagree about how exactly the Lord knows everything.

Is God like an observer, standing outside time and viewing it all, as one might look down at a village in a valley from the top of a mountain, where the houses in the village are moments in time, all laid out before Him?

Or does God know the future because He has declared it? Does He know all things because He is the Author of the universe’s story? This certainly seems to be what the Bible teaches. The Lord is portrayed in Scripture as not only an observer but as the Author; yet He did not just pre-determine what would happen and then sit back.

The Bible presents God as intimately involved in the narrative of the world. And of course, the ultimate example of His involvement is in the person of Jesus Christ–God in the flesh, who entered into our world to experience humanity firsthand and save us from ourselves.

God is the God who knows us, both by virtue of being our Designer, as well as by His own experience.

What does all this mean for you and your family? It means many things, but among them is the truth that God really knows you–not just about you. If you are His child, if you are part of His family, then He knows you as a Father. Everything you have ever thought, said and done–and all that you ever will–is laid out before the Lord who wrote your story and knows everything.

He has been providing for you since the moment you were conceived. This is the God who invites you and your children into a relationship with Himself–as His servant, as His subject, but also as His child and His friend.

As the New Covenant Catechism for Little Ones progresses, we will get into the weeds of the human story, what went wrong with us, what is our only hope, and how to enjoy a relationship with the all-knowing God. Stay tuned. And again, if this has been helpful to you, your family, or your church, please let me know in the comments.

Gospel vs. Nonsense

1 Timothy 6:20-21 (my translation): “O Timothy, guard the deposit, turning away from the profane nonsense and contradictions of the falsely-called ‘knowledge,’ by which some, in professing it, have deviated concerning the faith. Grace be with you all.”

Paul the Apostle warns his protege, Timothy to “Guard the deposit.” In guarding the deposit, which is “the faith”–that body of biblical truth encapsulated in the Gospel of Jesus Christ–the young paster is admonished to “turn away from… falsely called knowledge.”

There are myriad systems out there in opposition to the Gospel, claiming to be “knowledge.” Paul says about these would-be Gospel competitors, that they are characterized by “profane nonsense” and “contradictions.”

That’s exactly right! In my studies I have encountered many other worldviews than the biblical one, including Mormonism, Buddhism, Atheism, Cultural Christianity, Secular Humanism, Jehovah’s Witness-ism, and Roman Catholicism. Once you get past the flowery language and sophistry,(profane nonsense), each one is absolutely filled with fatal, self-contradicting truth claims (“contradictions”).

I don’t say this to condemn anybody who adheres to any of those above worldviews. Instead, I say this because I love people in those worldviews, and to encourage my fellow believers in Jesus Christ:

There is only one coherent, cogent, cohesive and (most importantly) universally true worldview, and that is the one put forth in the Bible. Deviating from Scripture must necessarily lead a person into systems which are rife with profane nonsense and contradictions. That is no way to live. Your human mind was created to find truth and to sort out contradictions.

I encourage you, Christian, to stand steadfast upon the Bible as the true word of God. And I encourage you, if you are not a believer, to come to the Bible and let it speak on its own terms. To echo the last words of Paul in this book, “Grace be with you all.”

Parakaleó

Parakaleó.

The word is a verb, in the ancient form of Greek in which the New Testament of the Bible was written. It means, “I invite,” or “I appeal,” or “I encourage.”

In his second letter to the Corinthian Church (listed in your Bible’s table of contents as 2 Corinthians), the Apostle Paul uses it this way:

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20.

This short passage from Scripture is the basis for the title of my blog, “An Urgent Appeal.”

This blog is for people who aren’t Christians. 

The appeal being made in that passage is that non-Christians might be reconciled to God. And the one making the appeal is none other than God himself–as the Apostle writes, “God making his appeal through us.”

That God is appealing, or inviting human beings to be reconciled to Himself tells us something. It tells us there is a divide between God and humanity. If there were no divide, there would be no need for reconciliation. Picture a deep, broad canyon, with all of humanity on one side, and a brilliant, shining throne on the other side, symbolizing God. We are on our side, and God is on His side, and He is calling certain people over to His side. “Be reconciled to Me,” He says, making His appeal.

That God is inviting human beings to be reconciled to Himself also tells us something else: this is a loving and merciful God. The reason for the great divide between humanity and Divinity is summed up in a single word: lawlessness. God is the Creator, and as such He is entitled to make the laws governing the behavior of all his creatures. Those creatures include you and me–and all of humanity. But we humans have not obeyed His law. In fact, we break it every day. Be honest: you have not even lived up to your own standards of right and wrong today. How much less have you perfectly kept the Creator’s moral law?

Therefore what might we expect to hear from such an offended King as God surely is–offended by our lawlessness and our indifference toward his authority? Instead of an appeal to reconciliation, we might expect to hear a pronouncement of doom. Indeed, that is what lawbreakers and rebels like us deserve. And certainly, it is the inevitable destiny for every human being who dies in a continuing state of lawlessness–having never been reconciled to God.

However, the Creator King, God, is in fact so loving that He has made a royal decree to save traitors like you and me, and to transform them into loyal, royal heirs.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (HCSB).

God loved, so He gave His Son. Jesus, the Son of God, crossed over to humanity’s side of the canyon, so to speak. And when He got here, we betrayed Him, we denied Him, we turned Him over to evil men, and we had Him crucified. He was buried. But God raised Him up again, and now Jesus is alive! He has gone back to the Father, for now, but He will return (as judge. That will be when all that doom and judgment we mentioned earlier will happen).

In the meantime, He has sent the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity that God is; it is kind of a long story) to dwell inside every person who hears God’s appeal, turns from their lawlessness and trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection to save them from God’s wrath. Those He saves are given the right to live forever (“eternal life”) as God’s royal children.

So, while life persists, there is still time. There is still time for you to hear God’s appeal and respond to it. There is still time for me to join with my brother Paul and let God make His appeal to you. There is still time for me to “implore you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

One day, your time will run out. And that makes this appeal an urgent one. Hence the name of this blog: “An Urgent Appeal.”

Who knows?* Maybe some day this will be the name of my 501(c)(3) non-profit ministry. Or maybe I will get bored with this title, scrap it, and come up with something else. In the meantime, however, it aptly summarizes my purpose for this pastoral blog: to convey (1) the appeal God is making to His the people He has chosen, and (2) the urgency of that appeal.

This blog is for Christians, too.

In fact, because of what I will be writing and sharing, this blog will be primarily for Christians.**

What can my Christian brothers and sisters expect from this little endeavor? Come back here for exposition and explanation of Bible passages, for thoughts on defending and sharing the truths of Christianity, and for other things that I think will build up the Church and invite (parakaleó) more people to come in, through trust in Jesus Christ.

One aspect of this blog I am especially looking forward to is the opportunity to share with you the books and articles I’m reading, the videos I’m watching, the sermons and podcasts I’m listening to, and the discussions I’m having–in the hopes that you can use these resources to build up your own faith and develop a stronger walk with Jesus Christ.

Until next time, Settecase out. 

*God does.

**Though this blog will be primarily for Christians, this is the first post, and so I had to start things off with a clear explanation of the Gospel. If you are ready to know more about being reconciled to God, shoot me an email at jsettecase@gracepointe.us.