RE: [asa] (ancient theodicy, 'ancient theology') Deism, Apologetics, and Neglected Arguments

From: Dehler, Bernie <>
Date: Mon Aug 24 2009 - 11:57:19 EDT

Merv said:
" To be sure, a large swath of passages from all over the O.T. do attribute calamity to sin, and prosperity to righteousness. But don't let it be thought that this sentiment remained always unchallenged even by their own ancient observations."

I just a new fascinating book I was looking at. It is "God's Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship" by evangelical Christian Prof. Kenton Sparks ( ).

According to the author/professor, the bible should not be seen as one document. It is a collection of books with many different ideas from different authors. I agree with the author, who makes his point with many examples, and you sound like you may also agree. It is a different message from how I hear about a 'systemic theology' from the whole bible because the whole bible really doesn't portray a consistent message in all areas. An example in the NT: in 3 gospels Jesus says to tell no one of his miracles, then in Gospel of John he tells people to believe in Him because of His miracles. Which one is it: miracles to validate his mission, or miracles done in secret? (I haven't studied it myself- taking it on faith that the prof knows what he is saying is true; and it sounds true from what I know on the surface... and there's a ton of other fascinating examples.)


-----Original Message-----
From: Merv Bitikofer []
Sent: Saturday, August 22, 2009 9:24 AM
To: Dehler, Bernie; asa
Subject: Re: [asa] (ancient theodicy, 'ancient theology') Deism, Apologetics, and Neglected Arguments

I too, am fascinated by Jesus 'repent or perish' passage you quote

below. What comes through loud and clear to me is his message that "you

who survive now" are no better than those who suffer misfortune. But

beyond that, I'm not sure what we are supposed to make of the other

things in the passage. "Unless you repent, you too will perish"?! What

does that mean? Is Jesus switching the meaning of "perish" mid-lesson?

Obviously all his audience are dead and perished now ---we all succumb

to something, be it accident, disease, or time itself sooner or later.

So what can he possibly mean by seeming to hint that repentance could

save you in some physical sense? My guess is that this is a parable

about a real situation where "perish" has multiple meanings. That is the

only way I can make sense of it.

Regarding your comments below where you summarize the ancient approach

as "tragedy is due to sin" ( sure are good at spinning out these

one sentence summaries of entire epochs of culture, Bernie, and I seem

to be ever drawn to responding back to you with ...'yes, but what about...')

So continuing in that flavor of exchange, I would point out that the

ancients should at least be credited with having some nuance or further

depth to their observations in these regards. To be sure, a large swath

of passages from all over the O.T. do attribute calamity to sin, and

prosperity to righteousness. But don't let it be thought that this

sentiment remained always unchallenged even by their own ancient

observations. Try some of these passages --I'm sure there are more,

especially in the Psalms.

Job 21:7 "Why do the wicked live, Become old, yes, and grow mighty in


Psalm 10 (the entire chapter)

Or in Ecclesiastes, Solomon speaks of the race not being to the swift,

the battle not to the warriors, nor bread to the wise, or wealth to the

discerning, .... (dare we add 'blessing not always to the righteous?')

but that time and chance overtake them all. Some may right this off as

Solomon's existential musings of despair, but who will deny the wisdom

of observation in these words?

You may fairly say that the exception proves the rule, and also that

while these ancient authors agonized over these situations they still

often concluded that in the end, everybody will eventually get what they

deserve. They also perceived that in these situations there was a

"perversion" that they interpreted and agonized over as signaling God's

absence. I.e. not all is well in the world, and they pleaded for God to

attend to them again. So in these senses, I think you summary is a fair

one, Bernie. But even back then they wrestled over the same obvious

"exceptions" that we still struggle to come to terms with today. There

is nothing new under the sun in these questions of theodicy.


Dehler, Bernie wrote:


> If only Jesus would have taught how to deal with things like the

> tsunami or 911... Wait, I think He did!


> I think this passage is the same thing:


> *Luke 13*


> /Repent or Perish /


> 1Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the

> Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus

> answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than

> all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you,

> no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or those eighteen

> who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-do you think they were

> more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no!

> But unless you repent, you too will all perish."


> 6Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his

> vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.

> 7So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years

> now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't

> found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'


> 8" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll

> dig around it and fertilize it. 9If it bears fruit next year, fine! If

> not, then cut it down.' "


> People then knew about a terrible evil that Pilate had done. Jesus,

> how do you explain that? Or when the tower fell and killed so many

> innocents- everyone heard of it- how do you explain that?


> I think 'ancient theology' explains it this way: these tragedies are

> due to sin.


> Jesus modifies it with saying those people probably died because of

> their sin, but wait, you better take note and your use of a 'second

> chance' because you really aren't much better. I think that is Jesus'

> answer to theodicy, but theologians don't like it today.


> Yes- I'm aware of the other passage (John 9:2) when Jesus was asked

> who was responsible for the man's blindness, the man or his parents,

> and Jesus said neither because it was a set-up for Him to do a miracle

> and prove His powers. I think that was a special case to the general

> theodicy (ancient theology) answer of sin being the reason behind

> sickness. I think Jesus' disciples where asking Jesus if the 'ancient

> theology' on theodicy applied to this guy, verse 2 : "His disciples

> asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was

> born blind?""


> ...Bernie


> _


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Received on Mon Aug 24 11:58:18 2009

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