Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, May 31, 2010

God's Justice and His Love

God’s attributes are the chief way He has chosen to reveal who He is to man. When His attributes are viewed from the perspective of finite man, they can seem contradictory. For years, liberal theologians have tried to drive a wedge between aspects of God’s character. The textual critics have even gone to the extreme of saying the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and justice and is somehow different than the God of the New Testament, portrayed as a God of love, grace, and mercy. These apparent contradictions stem from the inability of man throughout history to answer the question of evil. One of the seemingly most asked questions is, “if God is a good God, how can bad things happen.” This is not a new question, as the Psalmist even struggled with its converse idea: “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Rabbi Kushner’s book Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People has epitomized an entire generation who questions the nature and character of God. Part of the fallout from such questioning is, even in evangelical circles, the idea that somehow God’s attributes must be balanced against one another. For example, I once heard a conservative seminary-trained Southern Baptist pastor say that God’s wrath and justice are balanced by His love and goodness.

Though well meaning, statements like that are contrary to Scripture and an offense to the nature of God. God is an ontologically whole being whose attributes exist in perfect fullness and harmony within His personality. The idea that any of His attributes stand in tension to one another is absurd. Balance is an unbiblical, Eastern philosophical concept that has permeated Western thinking and even, as evidenced by the above testimony, crept into modern evangelical discourse. According to The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, of the 18 times a derivative of “balance” is used in the Bible, none refers to balancing two of God’s attributes or precepts against one another. All references speak of the literal or figurative weighing of objects using balancing scales. An analysis of the concept of balance reveals thinking not only excluded from, but completely antithetical to Scripture.

To illustrate the concept of balance, picture a child’s seesaw. When two items are balanced, they are counterposed to, and in constant tension against, one another. An increase in elevation of one item requires movement and decrease of its polar opposite. None of God’s attributes or precepts is in tension against another. The focus of the seesaw’s tension is its fulcrum. Hypothetically, if God’s attributes could be in tension against one another, logic would dictate the fulcrum would be the midpoint between the two truths. The balance point would be reminiscent of Aristotle’s Golden Mean or Hegel’s Synthesis, instead of revealed, absolute Scriptural Truth. In the Taoist worldview, the concept of balance is essential. For the dualist-minded Eastern mystic, the goal of life is to achieve equilibrium in the balance between good and evil – hence the derivation of Yin-yang. Some human characteristics are designated as “yin” while some are classified as “yang”. For example, they purport the negative emotion of wrath needs to be counterbalanced by the positive emotion of love. In their worldview, the ideal is reached when one is stoically “balanced”. It is obvious from even a cursory examination of the Bible that God is not “balanced” in this way. He is pure love, pure righteousness, pure grace, pure holiness, pure mercy, and pure justice. The God of the Bible deals with man out of the fullness of His attributes, not in a synthetic, Hegelian compromise between them. God’s attributes are 100% pure and full, 100% of the time and are in perfect harmony with one another because they flow from the perfectly harmonious relationship existing in the Trinity. God can only exercise true justice because He is love. By the same token, He can only truly love because He is just. There is no contradiction or tension, only perfect characteristics of an infinite God.


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