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What are the main principles of the warfare worldview?
In my book God At War (IVP, 1997) I flesh out what I call the “warfare worldview” of the Bible. This is the view that the world is a battle ground between God and good angels, on the one hand, and Satan and fallen angels, on the other. In my book Satan and the Problem of Evil (IVP, 2001) I try to give a philosophical account of this battle. How is it possible for a world created by an all-good and all-powerful God to become a warzone between good and evil? I propose six theses which, if accepted, help explain this fact.
Love Requires Freedom: By definition, love must be freely chosen. We are able to program computers to obey our commands perfectly, but we don’t consider them “loving.” They lack the capacity for love because they have no choice but to do what we program them to do. Humans would be in the same category as computers if God merely “programmed” our actions. In order for creatures to be loving, they must have the freedom to do otherwise (to not love).
Freedom Implies Risk: The freedom to choose or reject love constitutes a risk for God. Creatures may make choices that oppose his will for their lives and the lives of others. This risk is illustrated throughout Scripture, beginning with the Garden of Eden. Many of us have experienced the painful consequences of misused freedom in our own lives. God considered love to be well worth the risk inherent in giving his creatures freedom.
Risk Entails Moral Responsibility: God’s creatures are held responsible for how they use their freedom. We don’t hold computers responsible when they fail because their failure is ultimately the responsibility of their programmers. They could not do other than what they were programmed to do. Because we are free to choose or reject love, we can be held accountable for how our choices affect those around us.
Moral Responsibility is Proportionate to the Potential to Influence: The potential a creature has for love is proportionate to the creature’s potential for evil. The greater the creature’s potential for love, the greater risk their freedom entails, for they may choose to use their potential for evil instead. Greater potential also entails greater responsibility for how the potential is used.
Power to Influence is Irrevocable: Genuine freedom must be irrevocable. If it can be revoked, creatures cannot be held responsible for their use of it, nor can they fully realize their potential for love. Within the parameters of the freedom God gives creatures, God must tolerate evil. Since God is omnipotent, he is able to accomplish his will within these parameters without compromising his own integrity or limiting the potential of his creatures by revoking their freedom.
Power to Influence is Finite: God’s creatures are finite. Although their freedom cannot be revoked, it can be thought of as “probational.” The scope and duration of their freedom is conditioned by many variables and ultimately determined by God’s will. The warfare between God and creatures who choose to use their freedom for evil is not eternal. Christ will vanquish his enemies in the end and creatures will be free to fully participate in the triune love of God at last.
Tags: Q&A, Spiritual Warfare, Warfare Worldview
Topics: Spiritual Warfare, Cosmic Conflict
Good From Evil
The Bible is very clear that God has nothing to do with evil. There is “no darkness” in God. (I Jn 1:5). Far from intentionally bringing about evil, God’s “eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Hab. 1:13). All evil, therefore, must be ultimately traced back to decisions made by free agents other than…
Q&A: If God is So Great, Why Would He Care About Us?
Question: I’ve read that scientists estimate that the number of stars in the universe is 10 to the 24th power (10 with 24 zeros after it). I’m told that finding the earth amidst all these stars would be like finding one particular grain of sand in a sand pile the size of the United States piled…
Black Lives Matter, the Police, and Spiritual Warfare
Christ calls us to stand for a different kind of kingdom and this requires that we think in different ways about the violence that is gripping our country. In this short clip from Greg’s sermon this last weekend, we are introduced to a different way. Listen and hear the challenge to understand the deeper reality…
The Victory is Already Won, But Not Yet
Christ came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), to disarm “the rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15), and to “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb 2:14). The result of this victory is that he is seated on his rightful throne, the whole cosmos is…
Don’t Wilberforce’s achievements refute your stance on the separation of faith and politics?
Question: William Wilberforce was a Christian whose passionate involvement in politics almost single-handedly brought an end to the slave trade in 19th century England. Don’t his achievements show the importance of Christians being involved in politics, thus refuting your contention that Christian’s should keep their faith and values separate from politics? Answer: First, while I…
How do you respond to Isaiah 14:24, 27?
The Lord of hosts has sworn: As I have designed, so shall it be; and as I have planned, so shall it come to pass… For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who will annul it? his hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? The fact that Scripture frequently speaks of…