Inspiration: Romans 9, God is Righteous in Electing Grace

Dear Inspiration Seekers,

Paul reviews the theme that he has been working through about the Jews inheriting the law, and by their inability to adhere to the law, death.  He reiterates that should the Christians in Roman require that the gentiles follow the law as part of believing in Christ, that they will fall short of the goal also.  Instead, Paul claims that God’s mercy atones us without our effort.  This reminded me of an essay which I wrote, during my first adventure in college education, on the orgin of evil.  The question I asked was, if God created good and all that is good, who created evil?

The basic argument, which I recall making, was that if God is the only creative force in the universe, then God must have created evil.  Humans and angles (e.g. Lucifer, et al.) could chose to act in either good or evil ways.  But, neither humans or angles had the capacity to create anything, other than using already created resources.  What I was really getting at, in my smart-ass fashion, were questions about our definition of God as being only good, yet the source of evil.  I think the resoultion I came to was that God creates potential in all objects and actions.  How we use them determins whether the outcome is good or evil.  So, we are now up to the doctrine of free will.

Free will is an individual’s decision to believe, to act according to those beliefs, to make errors, as well as to recognize our shortfalling and correct our actions.  As I discussed in the last blog, I view most of our errors as somewhere in those grey areas, where we do not meet the “good” standards, but we are not fully “evil”.  We are just rather mediocre.  As much as we might desire to have a transformation from evil to good, most likely, we are going to do better as being a little more righteous, or stated contrarily, as little less wretched.

If my habit is to get away with something as long as I am not caught, I am not likely to turn around and consider other’s interests first.  Maybe I will first begin to recognize that doing something for which some authority would sanction me is not what I want to do, but I still do it.  Then, I might start to recognize when I have the impulse to act this way, and question whether this action is consistent with what I think that I believe, but still do it.  Then I might start to inventory what actions and attitudes would be more consistent with my beliefs, but carry on with my prior habits.  Then I might start practicing those alternative behaviors, gradually substituting a more desireable action for a less desirable action.  With more repetitions, I might integrate the new behaviors while reducing the number of times I do the old habits.

Once we have these new habits developed, we can face a couple possible challenges.  Most often this is in the form of some crisis.  We usually revert to past behavior patterns when in demanding situations.  Those prior neurological pathways bring us right back to years of responding to prior crises.  The newer behaviors take a lot more effort to implement under stress.

The other situation we might approach is when we realize that our newer behavior patterns are  better, but still inadequate compared to our ideal.  We can start the process of change again, comparing our current action with more desireable behaviors, and then starting to figure our how to act differently again.  This is what change and growth are about: realization, recognition, determination, and utilization of our free will to direct our behavior toward the better end of the continuum.

So, what would be the purpose of God creating the potential for good as well as evil behavior and attitudes?  Contrast.  We could not recognize good actions if we did not have evil actions for comparison.  If we had no capacity for being butt-heads, we could only be goody-two-shoes.  We would have not free will, or sarcasm.  By knowing slavery, we can better appreciate freedom.  Slave… Serf… Indentured Servant… Employee… Self-Employed…  Where are we along a continuum?

Until next time, Inspiration Seekers.

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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2 Responses to Inspiration: Romans 9, God is Righteous in Electing Grace

  1. The Vicar says:

    Ahh Hermit, it sounds as if you were channeling Augustine in your college days. Yet your discussion on the origins of evil was much more understandable.

    “God is good, yea, most mightily and incomparably better than all his works. But yet he who is good has created them good; behold how he encircles and fills them. Where, then, is evil, and whence does it come and how has it crept in? …. But, then, whence does it come, since God who is good has made all these things good? Indeed, he is the greatest and chiefest Good, and hath created these lesser goods; but both Creator and created are all good. Whence, then, is evil? Or, again, was there some evil matter out of which he made and formed and ordered it, but left something in his creation that he did not convert into good? But why should this be? Was he powerless to change the whole lump so that no evil would remain in it, if he is the Omnipotent? Finally, why would he make anything at all out of such stuff? Why did he not, rather, annihilate it by his same almighty power? Could evil exist contrary to his will? And if it were from eternity, why did he permit it to be nonexistent for unmeasured intervals of time in the past, and why, then, was he pleased to make something out of it after so long a time? Or, if he wished now all of a sudden to create something, would not an almighty being have chosen to annihilate this evil matter and live by himself–the perfect, true, sovereign, and infinite Good? Or, if it were not good that he who was good should not also be the framer and creator of what was good, then why was that evil matter not removed and brought to nothing, so that he might form good matter, out of which he might then create all things? For he would not be omnipotent if he were not able to create something good without being assisted by that matter which had not been created by himself.”
    Confessions Book VII, Chapter V

    God’s grace trumps karma, because if we ultimately got what we deserved based on our behavior towards others, we would all end up worse off. Restoration is the process of transformation through the power of God’s Spirit living in us which creates in us a new default towards good and away from evil.

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