‘Righteous Evil’: A Response to the Traditionalist
By Kevin Straub, Jan. 25, 2012
By K. Straub, Jan. 25, 2012
In discussion of the advancing light on the character of God, THE TRADITIONALIST REMINDS US of how the Bible reads:
"‘I kill and I make alive,’ (Deut. 32:39). And who sent the flood, destroyed Jericho, or....?”
RESPONSE OF THE 4TH ANGEL, sent to shed the glory of God in the earth:
The traditionalist enjoys sharing many passages such as we just read in Deut. 32:39. The students of the advancing light quote them also. How about this one:
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].” Isa. 45:7.
Or how about this next one, which entirely confirms the above:
[God speaks to David] “…because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give [them] unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.” 2 Sam. 12:10b, 11.
Is it thought that David’s wives, after being taken by other men and treated as sex objects, under a theological system that attributed such treatment to the direct action of God, are going to say “Praise the Lord, He is good, His righteousness and mercy endureth forever?” How could they possibly think that this was a GOOD God? To them, would He would be a misogynistic tyrant, the god of and no more righteous than the culture to which they found themselves subject.
We have to be very careful on this matter of what we say about God. Here we are given a scripture verse from Deuteronomy to imply that God is a killer. The traditional view holds it out to support the idea that God wields destructive power in a proactive sense, i.e., initiated from within Himself and He does this at such a point in time and place as determined by Himself, the “full cup.” God knows where the full mark is and that is when He does the thing that is sung in the song displaying the “motivate-by-fear” paradigm, “Awesome God”:
When He rolls
up His sleeves [to get busy in
He ain't just putting on the ritz [He isn’t fooling around]
(Our God is an awesome God)
There's thunder in His footsteps [be afraid, be very afraid, lest He be coming for you]
And lightning in His fists [with which He will personally smite the wicked]
(Our God is an awesome God)
And the Lord wasn't joking
When He kicked 'em out of Eden [actually they were afraid and ran because they were lied to about God]
It wasn't for no reason
That He shed His blood [because God’s wrath was avenged on Jesus, the Father needed to be appeased through bloodshed, human sacrifice]
His return is very close
And so you better be believing that [or else]
Our God is an awesome God…
Judgment and wrath [by fiat order of fire from the
sky, creative power turned to destruction, the wielding of weapons of mass
destruction, as in carnal war]
He poured out on Sodom…[just like that…God-did-it]
This song adequately expresses the traditional paradigm as shown by my notations. We therefore have understandings that are in diametric opposition.
The traditionalist is in opposition to the new view that has been prophesied to come to God’s people. Those with the new view are amazed, filled with admiration, as they marvel at the singular effectiveness of love alone without any use of physical weaponry causing destruction and death. What about you, my traditionalist friend? Are you “breaking out in triumph?” If you are fighting against this message, you have nothing to invoke jubilation and rapture within your soul. There is no breakthrough in maintaining the status quo, such as you are doing. There has to be something in your teaching that would reflect a sent message regarding the character of God which is stretching your mind into new territory. But search as you may, it will be found that you are not holding anything that could be considered “new views of truth” regarding the “character and attributes of God,” much less anything to cause the heart to soar in wonder and declare His “awesomeness.” But we can do that. We “break out in triumph” in that we see how He wins a tremendous, universal war of ideology without ever firing a shot, but by pure demonstration of the principles of agape love, such a love that dies for its enemies rather than harm them, ever. Now, I am not making any of this up:
“…my prayer to God was that the power of the enemy might be broken and that the people who had been in darkness might open their hearts and minds to the message that God should send them, that they might see the truth, new to many minds, as old truth in new framework. The understanding of the people of God has been blinded, for Satan has misrepresented the character of God. Our good and gracious Lord has been presented before the people clothed in the attributes of Satan, and men and women who have been seeking for truth have so long regarded God in a false light that it is difficult to dispel the cloud that obscures His glory [character] from their view….” FW 81.1.
“At no period of time has man learned all that can be learned of the word of God. There are yet new views of truth to be seen, and much to be understood of the character and attributes of God,--His benevolence, His mercy, His long forbearance, His example of perfect obedience. ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.’ This is a most valuable study, taxing the intellect, and giving strength to the mental ability. After diligently searching the word, hidden treasures are discovered, and the lover of truth breaks out in triumph….” FE 444.2.
What she is speaking about in these passages is the very subject that is coming to the forefront and maturing into a full message in the times in which we are now living. The “new views of truth” that are to be understood are specifically concerned with the “character and attributes of God.” Every Seventh-day Adventist needs to be engrossed in this topic, laying aside every other study. Getting the character of God right will open up the understanding in all other subjects. It is a “most valuable study” that builds intellectual muscle. God tells us this directly through His messenger, as we have read.
“New views of truth” never come easily to those immersed and entrenched in established institutionalized thinking, which is exactly what denominationalism is by its very nature. We understand that we must meet heavy resistance, in particular from those in leadership. This thought is shared as a gentle warning not to expect your teachers and pastors to help you advance in the study of the character of God, because they already have their teaching on the subject and expect to keep the flock in line with orthodoxy. They view this as their role. In discussion on this very subject of the advancing light on God’s character, we have heard the conference man tell us, in a private meeting, in person, 1“We have to teach what the church teaches.”
1”The church,” in their thinking, would apparently be the hierarchy of authority in which they have implicit faith as the medium that channels the voice of God. We do not believe this. We have a more simple understanding that the church is every person who hears the voice of God as individuals. We do not believe that the lack of a human hierarchial power and economic structure means that His church has no nucleus and is a scattering of “independent atoms.” The Head of the church is Christ and He teaches the church by His Spirit without having to be mediated by human committees, rule books and worldly corporate law for purposes of tax free status. None of this is to say that He does not raise up teachers and elders, etc., or have a unified body in the earth. He does. Yet it is the responsibility of each individual to trust God, not teachers and elders, so they must investigate for themselves, as good Bereans (Acts 17:11) to see if the truth is being taught. This is the course of action that scriptures call “noble,” “honorable” (Acts 17:11, 12), and “approved” (2 Tim. 2:15). It can be expected that the establishment will come in to cause trouble in any independent line of investigation (Acts 17:13)
Under the heading: “Many Adventists Brace Themselves Against the Light” it is written, again with regard to a message to come:
“There is to be in the [Seventh-day Adventist] churches a wonderful manifestation of the power of God, but it will not move upon those who have not humbled themselves before the Lord, and opened the door of the heart by confession and repentance. In the manifestation of that power which lightens the earth with the 2glory of God, they will see only something which in their blindness they think dangerous, something which will arouse their fears, and they will brace themselves to resist it. Because the Lord does not work according to their ideas and expectations they will oppose the work. ‘Why,’ they say, ‘should we not know the Spirit of God, when we have been in the work so many years?’--RH Extra, Dec. 23, 1890. LDE 209.3
“The 3third angel's message will not be comprehended, the light which will lighten the earth with its glory will be called a false light, by those who refuse to walk in its advancing glory.--RH May 27, 1890.” LDE 210.1
In this confrontation of the traditional belief system with the advancing light on God’s character, the traditionalist is presented with options. Such a one can:
1. “go the distance” with our view, that is, determine by investigation if traditional thought can bring peace and satisfaction, while maintaining Biblical integrity in its answers to the questions that are posed, or;
2. avoid the work and trouble, dismiss the discussion with a wave of the hand and label it as heresy, deeming it ridiculous, clinging even more tightly to the traditional paradigm, or;
3. throw up one’s arms in the air in confusion and give up on any hope of understanding the scriptures or God, avoid the discussion, or go out into the world.
2“The glory of God is His character.” ST, September 3, 1902 par. 6
3When the “third angel’s message” is spoken of in the context of the message that “lightens the earth with the glory of God” in power, it is a reference to the fourth angel work of Rev. 18, which is a repeat of the three angel’s messages, under the latter rain outpouring which is to perform the task of closing up the work in the earth, ending the great controversy. The term “third angel’s message” refers to the package of truths contained in all the messages of the three angels. They are built on the platform of the righteousness of God, as brought to the Advent people in 1888 and rejected. This historical study is important for believers to undertake today and I recommend a reading of Ron Duffield’s The Return of the Latter Rain to get the true history. Most of what is promoted today is a revisionist history. The fourth angel work and message not only gives added impetus and power to the established truths but includes also “the additional mention of the corruptions which have been entering the churches since 1844” (EW 277.1) and, most importantly, it sets forth the advancing light on God’s character, the “glory of God.”
God has promised light to those who seek Him with all their heart, so He will not give up the honest seeker to the third option. The souls that take the second option are automatically disqualified from the discussion by choice and as earth’s history draws to a close, will find themselves increasingly sidelined in the work of giving the last message of mercy to the world. There is only one correct choice that qualifies as valid inquiry and to take this nobler approach, which is the God-ordained approach, there must be an honest and probing appeal to the scriptures and the Spirit of Prophecy, employing a hermeneutic derived primarily from the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Christ.
So, in putting this quote of Deuteronomy 32:39 on the table in this fashion, it is apparently implied that we are to consider it a valid understanding that God kills proactively because it is in His character to do just that. There is no need to be shy about it, Mr. Traditionalist, because you are in good company! But now it is time to do some learning as well as some unlearning and God will help you do that. What I am bringing under the microscope here in these few thoughts is the traditional Adventist theology as published in the official church papers such as Signs of the Times; as found in books such as Steve Wohlberg’s The Character of God Controversy; as held forth from top theologians such as Frank Holbrooke of the Biblical Research Institute and as preached by leading media ministries evangelists such as Doug Batchelor of Amazing Facts.
In the traditional view, it is to be understood that God kills only when He can do so righteously, when the circumstances call for it, according to Divine judgment. In the traditional view, God’s statement, “I kill,” as mentioned before, is presented in the sense that He does so proactively, by direct executive action. This begs some questions, such as that if this is true, then:
· Why would we not read, Isa. 45:7, “I create evil,” in the same way?
· Is there anything in the contexts of these two passages that would indicate that there are two different principles operating?
· Can the traditional theology clearly point us to them or provide us any Biblical keys that would show us how to make a differential application of dichotomous principles?
At the same time, while it is maintained that God can only kill when He can do so righteously, we would have to apply the principle that He can only create evil when He can do so righteously. Phrased another way, as the traditional view must admit that God kills in righteousness, so also must He create evil in righteousness. I know that for those who are on their toes and following closely, this is really getting into a thorn patch, but I’m not done yet. It’s about to get even more prickly!
Stay with me as we bring in the third text: Now that we have a principle established we can apply it to our reading of the passage that says He gave up innocent women to be sexually abused. This must be an example of the righteous evil raised up and performed by God. God says through Isaiah that He “creates evil” and in 2 Samuel 12:11 the prophet records that He “raised up evil.” These both have to function in the same way. They have to be done in righteousness. I leave this to percolate for a moment.
Believers in God trust that the scriptures – ALL scriptures -- are given so that we may understand Him better and grow to love, trust and serve Him with gladness of heart. I would presume He would have intended also for those wives to know and understand Him by the same things -- that He kills and creates evil -- because He loves them just as much as He loves us. He would want them to understand how it was that God was raising up the evil that was perpetrated on them.
Is there something that is troubling or unsettling in all of this? Why? Can you not apply the same principle in one (“I kill”) as in the other (“I create evil”)? Why not? Where is the evidence that He may kill proactively but when the language changes to creating evil, it is no longer by executive action, but by giving over to external forces? Is there not some arbitrary assignment taking place, here? The traditionalist is obliged to answer these things, for he/she must also believe that the truth can afford to be examined closely and stand up to the litmus test of not only logic and reason, but it must also appeal to and agree with the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy. Most of all, it must harmonize with Christ’s life, teachings, death and resurrection. “The church has always taught it,” is not acceptable. Don’t even think to go there.
The problem here is that He kills proactively according to the standard view set forth in its exegesis of Deut. 32:39 and we have no way of establishing in the text that He creates evil by another principle than that by which He kills. This would therefore be a human imposition, a private interpretation.
I believe that the traditionalist is compelled to deal with the “elephant in the room” on this. I do not believe that in the traditional paradigm there is any sensible, logical, way to sort these things out except that arguments are produced that are not found in the scriptures nor are they found in Christ. I believe, on the other hand, that we have scriptural principles given in clear statements and in Christ and that we can take these and apply them across the board, to all of scripture. There is evil evil in contrast to “righteous evil”, and we can show the precise Bible keys whereby we may sort them out according to the principles. This is what the true “character of God message” does and it does it well, in my opinion.
In the traditional paradigm, if there is the case on one hand where God’s justice is handed down in that He proactively destroys and kills and if there is the contrasting case on the other hand where justice is done in that He gives the wicked over to evil, to the results of their choice, by “hiding His face,” (Deut. 31:17,18), then the teacher of the standard theology should be able to set up two columns, according to principles clearly delineated from scripture. He would place every destructive act of God under either one or the other heading. The teacher of the traditional view would be able to make these placements by clearly showing the Biblical principle whereby the student would be able to follow along and clearly identify every scenario as it is being read in the scriptures, according to contextual clues. Everyone would be able make proper classification, according to one or the other principle.
For example, we could say, “Where the Bible says that ‘God slew Saul’ and we find that he committed suicide, we have the ‘giving over’ principle in use; where we find the walls of Jericho falling, we have the ‘proactive destruction’ principle,” pointing to the identifying characteristics in each case that would place them in one or the other category, according to the Scriptural keys of interpretation wherein the teacher of the standard view would have instructed us. (I would utilize them in this example if I knew what they were.) This would be true exegesis. Anything less than an exegetical approach, or an application of valid scriptural principle, as derived from the scriptures, would be an appeal to whatever we think is best, reading into the text, according to the externally imposed principles of human logic and using external keys to interpretation such as the dictionary. Anything less than true exegesis would be inadmissible, private interpretation, eisegesis.
As mentioned above, there is also the approach that opts out of the discussion and sidelines oneself by saying, “We can’t understand it, it’s just one of those things that we’ll have to find out in the kingdom.” But the kingdom is within us. Jesus is teaching us. To say, “We can’t understand” the character of God, specifically how it relates to how He punishes and destroys, is to deny Christ, the scriptures and the Holy Spirit.
So here is the crux: The problem with all of this is not that there is a righteous killing and a righteous evil, but that it is said that He kills proactively, at His own discretion and determination, by direct manipulation of the elements or by fiat. Unless the traditionalist can show otherwise, this would necessitate that, by the same token, He creates evil proactively. This makes God an evildoer, which is unrighteousness, obviously, so we have to “go back to the drawing board” on this.
Walk with me, now: there is a sense in which God does kill and He does create evil. The scriptures say this, as we have read. In order that we do not make God out to be an evildoer, we have to look at how God can both kill and create evil righteously. This is where we find that God’s ways and thoughts are not anything like man’s ways and thoughts, (Isa. 55:8,9). We also find that God’s wrath is not anything like man’s wrath, (James 1:20). Therefore, we would have to reexamine the premise upon which the two columns were created, as discussed above. It is found that one of these columns is not valid, as it would be evil evil and therefore not attributable to God. We are talking about the “proactively destroying-God” column. We find that God’s acts of killing and destruction all come under “the hiding of His face” from the sinner, the “giving up,” “giving over,” or “sparing not” the sinner to the consequences of free choice. This column can be called “righteous evil,” in keeping with the Biblical parlance, as it would harmonize with the God who said “I kill,” “I create evil” and Who did many things as expressed in this language, such as “raising up evil” in David’s house, (2 Sam. 12:11), “hardening Pharoah’s heart,” (Ex. 4:21), “sending the flood,” (Gen. 6:17), “choosing delusions” for the wicked, (Isa. 66:4) or “sending strong delusions,” on those who do not love truth, (2 Thes. 2:10, 11), “sending evil spirits,” or “evil angels,” (Judges 9:23, Ps. 78:49), “taking off their chariot wheels,” (Ex. 14:25) and hundreds more of the same.
The Bible language which portrays God as doing that which He allows to play out to destructive ends is one and the same as what I call “the language of wrath” and which I am here calling “righteous evil.” In other words, “Biblical language,” “the language of wrath,” and “righteous evil,” would all be synonymous terms, referring to the same principle that defines God’s wrath, which is nothing like man’s wrath. Man cannot do righteous evil, only evil evil. This is because man is not the Creator God and Sustainer of Life. For one man to reject another man will not destroy him, unless that other man is a tyrant and would kill him. This is how we have viewed God, as if He were a man. For a man to reject God will destroy him, but not in the same way. It is not God that will kill the man, it is the nature of the rejection in that Life itself is being rejected. God says, “Come to Me, for why will you die?” (Eze. 18:31, 32; 33:11; Matt. 23:37,38) This principle keeps us in harmony with the testimony of Jesus, Who said, “I did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them,” and of John, who tells us that God is light and in Him is NO DARKNESS, AT ALL. It removes all the contradictions that come of a surface reading or a private interpretation of the scriptures and/or the Spirit of Prophecy. It lets us behold our God, Who is unchanging in all His dealings with men; Who operates always and absolutely upon pure and righteous principles that see Him only as a Giver of Life; as a Giver of Himself, the Light/Life of men, (John 1:4).
Only by having a working principle in place that harmonizes all of the “language of wrath” with the “no darkness” principle can we know Him aright.
“God does not stand toward the sinner as an executioner of the sentence against transgression; but He leaves the rejectors of His mercy to themselves, to reap that which they have sown.… The destruction of Jerusalem is a fearful and solemn warning to all who are trifling with the offers of divine grace and resisting the pleadings of divine mercy. Never was there given a more decisive testimony to God's hatred of sin and to the certain punishment that will fall upon the guilty.” GC 36.1
Note that the destruction of Jerusalem goes under the “hiding of His face” column in that He gave up Jerusalem to the destruction that befell them under the Roman sword. This is the only mechanism that describes the “certain punishment that will fall upon the guilty.” There is no “lightning in His fists.”
Practice reading through new eyes:
“Speak, Thus saith the LORD, Even the carcases of men shall fall as dung upon the open field, and as the handful after the harvestman, and none shall gather [them].
“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise [man] glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty [man] glory in his might, let not the rich [man] glory in his riches:
“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I [am] the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these [things] I delight, saith the LORD.
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all [them which are] circumcised with the uncircumcised;” Jer. 9:22-25
Cross-reference with the following:
“Say unto them, [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Eze. 33:11.
What do you see in these texts? Here’s what I see: notice that in Jer. 9 we have death, judgment and punishment in the context and God invites us to understand and know Him. This would also mean that He wants us to know how it is that He delights in all of these things. The judgment which results in the punishment of death is in keeping with principles of righteousness and lovingkindness. It is a judgment in which the Lord delights. Yet, in Eze. 33:11 we have the clear statement that God has no pleasure, no delight, in the death of the wicked. Their will to die is all their own. If God willed that they should die, it would come from Him. His punishment, judgment upon them, and their resultant death is found only in the principle of His letting them go to the results of their choice to follow other gods which are no-gods and to follow the inclinations of their own hearts. He delights in this in that His government stands true and perfect, because it is founded and grounded in principles of freedom of choice and non-coercion and He will ever have a universe entirely rid of rebellion, populated by sons and daughters that serve Him and each other freely, with unspeakable joy and gladness. He does not delight in the fact that some did not choose life and that in spite of all that He did, giving His Son, He lost them in the end.
“Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God [is] not among us?
“And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.” Deut. 31:17,18.
In conclusion, I hope it is well understood why I have to ask any person who would come back with a one line retort such as we have discussed in this study, that is seemingly posed with the chin up and the jaw thrust out in defiance, saying, “God says, ‘I kill’…So who sent the flood?….”
I have to ask, “Are you willing to examine some properly developed and supported answers from our view?”
It will take a commitment of time and effort, on your part, to delve into articles, discussions and such. Would you answer the questions I would ask you, such as I have asked, above? Would you read a book? These will answer the questions you ask, but if they are asked with the attitude that this “new” view couldn’t possibly be right and you would only want to hear what we have to say so that you may rebut, cavil, snort, and defend the status quo, then it would not be fair that you ask me to spend my time explaining why I am settled and sure in the new view, for you would not be prepared to engage in a genuine undertaking. You will have then written yourself off in “option two.” I am looking for “option one” people.