Does God Take Pleasure in the Damnation of Sinners?

Recently a friend on Facebook asked this question and there were some interesting answers, I thought I would share mine here on my blog.

When I think of God’s relation to the damned I have to give way to Edwards because he has such a firm grasp on the issue. I don’t know if anyone could ever say it better. I recommend reading the Justice of God in the damnation of sinners at the following link http://​www.jonathan-edwards.org/​Justice.html but here are some brief excerpts I pulled from it that could be helpful when thinking of how God takes “Pleasure” in all things he does. Edwards writes:

God is in debt to none; and if he gives to some that he is not in debt to, because it is his pleasure, that does not bring him into debt to others. It alters not the case as to you, whether others have it, or have it not: you do not deserve damnation the less, than if mercy never had been bestowed on any at all. Matthew 20:15. “Is thine eye evil, because mine is good?”

Edwards goes on to say

“It is meet that God should order all these things according to his own pleasure. By reason of his greatness and glory, by which he is infinitely above all, he is worthy to be sovereign, and that his pleasure should in all things take place.”

Deuteronomy 28:63 and Psalm 135:6-12 are pretty strong verses as well in regard to this question.

If I understand Edwards correctly (and the Bible as well) God does not take direct pleasure in the damnation of the sinner, nor does he work directly in the sinner to damn him as he does to save him. However, God does take pleasure in redemption and justice of sinners through his Son and is ultimately glorified in both.

This is where I think a covenant view of scripture gives us a clear perspective on redemption. It clearly is not about us as human beings as much as it is about the eternal covenant between God the Father and the Son. It only is about you in as much as Christ died for you and by that act of grace you can be saved. Saved from what? The damnation your sin places on you and the wrath of God it brings.

Christ did not come into the world to condemn it. Why? Because it is already condemned, but with Christ there is no condemnation. The question then seems wrongheaded from the start and should read Does God take pleasure in the salvation of the wicked? Thankfully we can answer yes, but not because of anything we do, but what Christ did for us.

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If God created all things, did he also create evil?

This is a question that we get often from both Christians and those who do not believe but are seeking answers, and it is probably a question that everyone who is thinking about such matters asks at some point. It seems to be coming up more often these days which I think is encouraging on one hand since people are indeed thinking which is good, however I am also discouraged at how many Christians simply do not have a cogent answer. In an age of so called “Enlightenment” it is more important than ever for Christians to be able to defend their beliefs logically and coherently to those who are seeking answers.

So where does evil or sin come from? It is very simple for us to follow the line of logic that says God created everything, God created evil, God must be evil or at least have the ability to do or force evil, God can’t exist. This seems logical on its face, but if we look at what the Bible says we can come to a clear understanding of how God and evil exist in the world.

Most of us will admit that evil (or sin) does indeed exist. Just a cursory look at the world would seem to attest to this fact, and I always say that explanations of the world need to pass the sniff test and this certainly does. So how does God fit into the picture? To understand this completely lets go to the beginning and work our way forward.

Sin, which we will refer to as evil from here on out, was in the world before man. We see this in the Bible where it explains the angels fall before the fall of man in the garden. There is no mention of another force or being equal to God from eternity and the Bible is clear that there is only one God and he created all things so we can rule out any ideas of dualism in this regard.

Working our way forward we see that the Bible is clear that we should not blame God directly for the sin of man. In James the Bible says “God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one”. However there are many verses, too many to post, where God is clearly shown as the one who ordains evil both generally and in specific situations. After all, God did ordain the death of Christ, which was the most tragic event in all of history when the sins of everyone were put on him and God poured out his full wrath so we could avoid it. We also see how God ordained sin in the world as a means for his ultimate purpose that is always good.

All of this being considered what are we to make of it? The logical conclusion is that although God ordained evil from the foundations of the world he did not create it, in fact, there is nothing that says God created evil at all. When God finished with creation he called it all good because everything that he had made could only be good. Evil is not a substance or being and it does not eminate from God, rather good eminates from God and evil is any rejection of that good. Therefore we can say that God allowed for the rejection of his grace and goodness which is sin or evil, and that rejection of goodness and grace is the complete responsibility of the creature that carries it out.

What we can say further about this is that God is indeed in control of these evil actions and even planned for them from all eternity, because if he did not then there would be potential for evil to have an outcome that is not good. Was it possible for the death of Christ to have any other outcome then the one God intended which was to save the world from God’s ultimate wrath? Obviously this is not the case and this works with the argument against dualism since evil is not equal with good because evil is ultimately controlled by God which is good.

How can God be omnipresent and yet not exist in hell or in the hearts of the unfaithful

It is clearly stated in the Bible that God is indeed Omnipresent.  This would not mean that God consumes all physical space in the universe like furniture takes up space in a room, but that the spirit of God is everywhere with all of his power and majesty (Jer 23:23-24, Acts 17:24-28).

So what then is the Bible talking about when it talks about people being separated from God like Cain in Genesis chapter 4 or Israel in 2 Kings 17?  And what about the descriptions we read of God being present in a specific location like Heaven?  And doesn’t this mean that God is in Hell as well?

First on the topic of Hell, although I have heard people say that Hell is an eternal separation from the presence of God, it doesn’t seem that this can be true in the literal sense.  Psalm 139:8 says If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  So the presence of God is everywhere and there are no spacial limitations including Hell.  We have to hold to this logically if we say that omnipresence is an attribute of God.

I would agree then that Hell is eternal separation from the presence of God’s grace and mercy, but that God’s wrath and justice will be present as judgment.  If this were not the case, then what would the person who rejects God ultimately have to fear in an eternal state without God?

This seems to be the case with unbelievers now on earth.  As Jeremiah says none of us can escape God’s presence in general, but God also says that He will remove people from his presence.  This must mean then that the unbeliever is in the presence of God, but that God can choose to remove himself in a spiritual sense so that the unbeliever is blind to it or “spiritually dead” (See Isaiah 59:2).

So how would we explain the passage that says “Depart from me for I never knew you”.  I think that this does not mean depart from the presence of God entirely, but instead it means to depart from the grace of God that sustains anything good in this world and go into total darkness as a symbol of God removing the light of his goodness and grace.

In summary, the presence of God is everywhere in some sense of his being even in Hell.  In Hell you have the presence of God in his wrath and judgement, in Heaven you have the presence of God in all of his glory and holiness, and on earth you have the presence of God in his grace and mercy which is given to all he chooses (Exodus 33:19 I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy).  God is also in the presence of the unfaithful apart from which they would not exist, however he is only spiritually present in those that are regenerated, to the rest he is “far away” from them (Ephesians 2:13)

Should Christians always be tolerant of other views?

This question could be looked at in a couple different ways. On one hand Christians should always be ready with an answer for what they believe and be able to do so with kindness and respect of others. However, today there seems to be an idea that all views are equal and therefore shoud be tolerated on the basis that, as Oprah says, there can’t just be “one way”.

So lets break down the word “tolerant”. If all views such as Christianity and others are valid, then by definition Christianity is valid. However, the Biblical Christian world view says that not all views are valid so in fact this simply doesn’t work. In addition, there is no reason to “tolerate” someone that we agree with, we tolerate people that we have issues with. If all world views are equal and all ways point to Heaven then logically there is no need for tolerance in the first place.

One of the biggest problems today is moral relativism which seeks to avoid the issue of tolerance altogether. If there are no absolute truths then everything is relative and we need to tolerate all other view points since what is truth for you might not be truth for someone else. In opposition to that, Christianity does claim an absolute moral truth and although Christians are sinners and approach others with tolerance as such, it is not done to the point where the truth of God’s word is compromised.

So to the Christian, true tolerance for people is shown through being Christ like in our compassion and respect for others. At the same time holding true to the absolute truth taught by Christ that there is only one God and one Mediator between God and man and that is Christ. True tolerance is understanding that different people need revelation in different ways and that God reveals that truth in his own time and place so we are to present the truth and not hide from it.

Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by flesh. Jude 1:22-23 (English standard version)

How do we have the desire to live in this world, when people do such evil things to each other all the time?

This question really has two different answers. The first answer is more direct which is that our desire and purpose is to glorify God in the things we do. There is evil in the world no doubt, but the fact that there is evil should not give us pause in fulfilling God’s plan for our lives. In fact you can’t have evil without good and there is no good without God. We also have to remember that when God declares that evil happens then we have to say that it is good it occurs because God is altogether good in what he ordains.

The other thing to remember, which is not so direct, is that sometimes we decide what is good for us and then put God in our own little box. We forget that all of us start off in a depraved state and would be eternally separated from the grace and mercy of God if not for Christ. The question we should be asking instead of this one is why is it that God does not punish all evil and sin? Why does he show any of us mercy when we all deserve judgment?

If we get ourselves in this right frame of mind then our time here on earth will not be spent wondering why bad things happen to good people, but rather why good things happen to anyone at all. We will then also answer this question by understanding that it is only by his grace that we are saved and it will be our desire to glorify him for this reason.