Chapter 2 begins with “Therefore,” which means we immediately have to find out what Paul was talking about before this passage. In chapter 1, Paul was encouraging the Philippians to stay focused on the work of the gospel, even in the midst of trials and persecution, just as he himself was doing. The verses that set up our current passages are 1:27-30. Paul encourages them to “stand firm in one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you…For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…” This sets up the picture of being identified with Christ and sharing in his sufferings, yet focusing on the goal of the spreading of the gospel which is so much part of the theme of the whole letter. It is at this point that Paul says, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ…” There’s that theme of being united with Christ again. Paul goes on to talk about what all the believers have in common because they are all in Christ together. They have (1) comfort in his love, (2) a common sharing of his Spirit, and (3) tenderness and compassion which comes from being united with Christ. Paul says that since they share all these things, they should remember to be of one mind and one spirit, not looking to their own interests, but in humility, preferring one another above themselves, the same way Christ Jesus did. It is then that Paul expounds on Christ’s whole attitude, using Christ himself as the example of how the Philippians should act toward one another. For example, even though he was God, Jesus humbled himself and became a servant, even to death. Compare that with verse 3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests…” Therefore, verses 6-8 are a description of the example Christ was in how Paul was asking the Philippians to treat one another. Verses 9-11 show the reward that God gives when we do so. When we humble ourselves here on earth for one another’s benefit, God will exalt us with Christ. But more importantly, Christ will be exalted which will further the gospel. This goes with Paul’s flow of thought back in chapter 1 which focused on the advancement of the gospel as his goal.
The problem of evil is a major theological and philosophical issue affecting mankind. It causes people to wrestle with the seeming incongruity of the presence of evil in the world with the existence of an all-powerful, all-good God. Specifically, this issue calls us to seek to understand moral and natural evil, the existence of sin among mankind, and then to provide a consistent theodicy whereby God’s nature and role in the midst of evil is better understood.
Moral evil may be defined as man’s disobedience to the laws of God, while natural evil is the harmful occurrences in the natural world. Some of these harmful occurrences include the ground being cursed with thorns, sickness and disease, poverty, and natural disasters. Job, for example, experienced several of these disasters, and Paul tells us in Romans 8:19-22 that creation itself groans for God’s redemption to be completed. While moral evil, then, is not a direct cause of specific natural evil events, the disobedience of man is the underlying cause of all natural evil.
Moral evil, and thus the effects of natural evil, had its beginning with the fall of the human race when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s specific command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This disobedience brought “tragic spiritual, physical, and social deprivation to the entire human race” as well as the whole of creation. There are two reasons why this is so. First, Adam being the representative of the whole human race, all mankind who came after him inherited the consequences of his disobedience (Romans 5:15-19; 1 Corinthians 15:22). Second, since Adam was given authority over all the earth (Genesis 1:27-28), the whole creation experienced the tragic results of his fall (Romans 8:20; Genesis 3:17-19).
Throughout history, many have attempted to justify the ways of God to man (theodicy). Gottfried Leibniz, for example, constructed a theodicy that says that since God will always operate on the basis of sufficient reason, and since God is all-good, this explains why this present world must be the best, in spite of the presence of evil. In spite of the lack of sufficient Biblical support in his theology and the weakness of insisting that God must do everything in accordance with man’s reason, Leibniz does positively hold a high view of God’s goodness.
John Hick contended that God allowed evil to exist because it is used to develop man’s character and spirituality. Even though it seems as though some souls are not being built by evil, he argues that God will cause all souls to eventually make it into the kingdom of God. The claim that God does use evil to build people’s character and make them more like Christ is Biblically supportable (1 Peter 1:6-7). However, to make a theodicy where this is the sole underlying reason for God allowing evil stretches the bounds of Biblical revelation.
These theodicies focus solely on the effects of evil in this present world and fail to take into consideration the larger picture that God solved the problem of evil in the cross of Christ. He is patient, wanting all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). The outcome of Christ’s death and resurrection is that God is making all things new and there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4).
With all their weaknesses, it is important to note that Leibniz’ and Hick’s theodicies do adhere to one of the basic necessary points that make a theodicy relevant, that of internal consistency. Both men have constructed theodicies that solve the problem of evil in an internally consistent manner where nothing in their systems contradicts itself.
This consistency is also seen in the theodicy mentioned above involving Christ’s death and resurrection. There is no contradiction in seeing a God who, though allowing for evil in the world, sovereignly displays His glory through not only the redemption of man (thus solving the problem of moral evil), but also the renewing of creation itself (thus solving the problem of natural evil).
We find, then, that theodicies have the potential to greatly impact one’s relationship with God. This is true especially when we personally experience evil in the world. In the tragic example of Charles Templeton, a famous evangelist and contemporary of Billy Graham, the absence of a relevant, non-contradictory, and Biblically sound theodicy resulted in the desertion of his faith completely.
In the end, God’s character is perceptively at stake. When the problem of evil is introduced into man’s circumstances without a consistent, Biblically sound theodicy, man is too often faced with confusion. God’s glory and character consequently suffer in the eyes of the world around them.
Demarest, B. “Fall of the Human Race.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.
Feinberg, J.S. “Theodicy.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.
Gerstner, J.H.. “Evil.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.
Stroebel, Lee. The Case For Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000
 J.H. Gerstner. “Evil.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001, 412
 B. Demarest. “Fall of the Human Race.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001, 435
 J.S. Feinberg. “Theodicy.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001, 1185
 Ibid., 1186
 Ibid., 1184-1186
 Lee Stroebel. The Case For Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000, 7-9
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I wish to begin by asking your forgiveness for my earlier misunderstanding of your true views of creation. I likened it to deism which basically states that God created the beginning of all matter and then stepped back and allowed all things to evolve from there. I have since learned that many of you believe that God continued to be involved even in the evolutionary process, and that my former characterization is better labeled “deistic evolution.” And while the differences are slight, nonetheless they are large enough to warrant my apology.
As a brother in Christ as well as a pastor, I would still like to appeal to you regarding a few issues of theistic evolution which I feel are points that merit greater conversation. First, let me define what I know to be a working definition of theistic evolution as taken from a seminary textbook “Theology For Today” by Dr. Elmer Towns.
Similar in certain respects to deism, theistic evolution teaches that God began the creative process by bringing the first organism to life. He then discontinued His supernatural works, though He intervened to modify the process, and to insure the successful evolutionary trends. Unlike deistic evolutionists who limit God’s involvement to the initial life-giving force, the theistic evolutionists teach that God, as a necessary factor, has occasionally intervened to aid the evolutionary process. Through God’s agency, major gaps that breach a specific kind of species are the direct result of His intervention.
There are several weaknesses that I see in this theory which demand an explanation. Some of them include:
1. TE’s allowance of macro-evolution (interkind development). Dr Towns states,
Any view that allows for macro-evolution (interkind development) as opposed to micro-evolution (intrakind development) fails to recognize the important data of mendelism (the science of genetics) which corroborates the Genesis record of “after their kind.”
2. The possibility (indeed probablity) that God created things with the appearance of age. Assuming for a moment the existence of Adam as a single, real human being, Genesis is fairly explicit that he was an adult when he was created. This would make it consistent that everything else could have been created with the appearance of age as well.
3. The language in Genesis which demands the probablity of six literal 24-hour days. The inclusion of “and there was evening and there was morning–the first day,” becomes incredibly hard to analogize what a “day” was. This, coupled with the corroboration of what constituted a Jewish day, the establishment of the Sabbath day on the seventh day of the week in the Law of Moses, and the fact that we currently have seven literal days in our week, all point heavily toward a literal 24-hour period of time.
4. The undeniable effects of a world-wide flood would have on the geology of the earth.
5. The problem having to force the Genesis account into a symbolic, analogous story. Where would this analogy end? Would it end with Noah, or was that story analogous, too? Would it end with the beginning of Abraham in chapter 12? What would make one think that the analogy ended there and a “real” historic account began?
6. If Adam was not a single, literal, historic person, why did Paul refer to him as such in Romans 5? “For if, by the tresspass of one man…” (Romans 5:17, et al.)
7. The fact that we have marriage between one literal man and one literal woman today that looks back to Genesis 2:23-24.
8. The fact that there is no indication in the Genesis account where anything that was created began in any other state besides their completed state. I.e., the reference to plants bearing seed, trees bearing fruit, etc.
I am further more perplexed concerning the reasons one would adhere to the belief in theistic evolution. The possibilities are not very attractive in the context of Christianity.
1. The amount of weight placed on reason alone. We are reasonable beings and were created as such. But we also have finite reason and finite understanding. We forget we are dealing with an infinite God who often does things beyond our ability to comprehend.
2. The amount of weight placed on science. I am not an opponent of science. Nor do I discount the great scientific discoveries. But science, good, honest science, has always corroborated with the literal account of Genesis. But one thing that is constant in science’s history is that it is constantly changing as more and more evidence is found. Along with the changing empirical evidence always comes changing theories. This cannot be denied. My point is, historically, anyone can trace the records of the changing theories and notice the parallel attempts by athiests to discount Genesis and the existence of God. If the incomplete evidence science has presents a weakness to atheists in forming a world view, how does that exempt theistic evolutionists? And what of our finite ability to interpret the evidence we do have? All we can go on is whatever our minds can come up with by limited reason. But again, we’re dealing with an infinite and all-powerful, and sovereign God.
3. Lastly, and most disturbingly, the refusal to believe the Word of God. I know, I know, I may have just stepped on some toes. But if through telling the truth some come to realize their error (as I did in this post by acknowledging the true belief of theistic evolutionists), then let the toes be lovingly stepped on. When we put more credence in the material evidence and refuse to believe the Bible with child-like faith, we deceive ourselves.
This is my take. What’s yours? I look forward to the dialogue!
You can learn a lot about the way people think by reading comments to a blog.
I recently read a blog that had to do with creationism and theistic evolution (the belief that God created the beginning of everything and then it evolved over time). I was shocked at how many professing “Christians” are now holding this theistic evolutionary view. But as I pondered the issue further, I became even more disturbed by the reason why they hold this view. Many of these people trust more in their interpretation of empirical scientific evidence than what the Bible says. Here’s a sample:
- “If being a biblicist or being a “biblical Christian” means that one would choose the Biblical evidence over non-biblical evidence, then I’m not a “biblical Christian.” Let’s say that there’s some way to conclusively establish that the biblical writers and the original audience believed that creation was a fact that took place over the course of 6 24-hour days in the relatively recent past (4-5000 years ago). Would that trump the observational evidence from science that the universe is billions of years old and that live evolved over hundreds of thousands of years? Not for me. I prefer to follow the advice of Meister Eckhart, who said that if he had a choice between believing the truth and believing God, he would always take truth over God.”
My beef here isn’t with science. Science was given to us to point us to God, to discover what He has made and how He made it. My beef is two-fold. First, how easy some people who call themselves Christians write off the Bible, as if it is just a bunch of old tales. But second, my beef is in the fact that these professing “Christians” think that they actually know how to interpret the empirical scientific evidence that has been discovered, and that there is no more knowledge to acquire.
Scientists interpret evidence by the means that they understand, and compare that evidence with other evidence that they understand. Their whole rationale is based on what they understand. Do they suppose to have all knowledge in interpreting scientific evidence? For instance, when scientists evaluate a fossil and determine how old it is, by what standard do they determine it? Who set that standard? Or is the standard simply determined by what is rational and readily understood?
Here’s another example from another commenter that illustrates what I mean:
- My children attend a University Model School which is a private, Christian, classical school blends of classroom and homeschooling. The school determines the curriculum and the kids attend class 2 days/week. The books we use for science are called Apologia. Last year’s studies were zoology or “Land Animals of the 6th Day.” In this book was an illustration of Noah taking dinosaurs on the ark, if that tells you anything. The first three chapters of this book were mostly quoting Scripture. I read the book aloud to my then 4th and 1st grader on our homeschool days. On the third day of mostly Bible verses in the science book my oldest daughter let out a loud sigh and said, “Bible again?! I thought we were going to learn science!” She also asked, “We know how long a day is by when the sun rises and sets. And the sun wasn’t created until the third day. So, where did the first two days come from?” She already understands the scientific method better than the writers of her science book do!
My fear is that this bent toward theistic evolution is actually a symptom of a larger sickness, the slide toward rationalism.
Rationalism is defined as “the principle or habit of accepting reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct. The doctrine that reason alone is a source of knowledge and is independent of experience.” The theological definition is very telling: “The doctrine that human reason, unaided by divine revelation, is an adequate or the sole guide to all attainable religious truth.” Simply put, it is the belief that whatever is rational, whatever can be concluded by understandable evidence, is what defines truth.
This is a slippery slope, and it’s no accident that this attack is against creation. The belief in a Creator is the very foundation of all the Christian faith, because if God created the universe then He has authority over it. And if he has authority over it, then we are accountable to Him. Also, if God created the universe, He alone defines what reality and truth is, and that means that He defines what sin is. Then all of a sudden, we find ourselves talking about the very idea of salvation itself.
What inevitably happens next if we choose rationalism over the Bible is that we join the unregenerate in saying, “Well, no one can really walk on water. That’s just a parable.” And then, “Well, we all know that nobody can really rise from the dead!”
And there we are. We went from giving a little here and giving a little there to denying the whole Christian faith.
I say, what if God, in His omniscience, has knowledge beyond our knowledge? What if the scientific evidence we find only serves to whet our appetite to learn more about this mighty Creator God, and in the process to stand in awe of His infinite wisdom? After all, reality is not defined by our perception. It is defined by God alone.
O that we would learn from Job as he stood before the God of all creation and felt the power of His mighty breath upon his being!
“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:2-4)
Indeed. Where were you?
Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. Attempts to reconcile and clearly define this truth can be traced back to the earliest days of Christianity. To understand God’s salvation of mankind fully and scripturally according to the New Testament, one must indeed espouse the truth that Jesus was both God and man, two complete natures in one single person.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus’ full humanity is clearly revealed. In the Synoptic Gospels, for example, we see Jesus being born (Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:6-7), growing (Luke 2:40), eating (Mark 2:15), and sleeping (Matthew 8:24). In John’s Gospel, Jesus is called the Word that was made flesh (John 1:14). Paul refers to Jesus’ birth (Galatians 4:4) and becoming a man (Philippians 2:7-8), and the writer of Hebrews declared that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels (2:9), became fully human (2:17), faced temptation (4:15), and did other human things (5:7-8).
Of equal importance as Jesus’ humanity, the New Testament also declares that He was fully God. Jesus Himself declared this truth many times in the Gospels, either by inference or direct statement. In John’s gospel, for instance, Jesus calls Himself the “I AM” (John 8:58) which is a direct reference to the eternal God of Israel. He also refers to His preexistence in John 17:5, saying that He had glory “before the world began,” and asserts that He and the Father are one (John 5:19, 30; 16:32), implying a unity of being and nature with the Father. The writer of Hebrews also states that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3).
As reflected in the definition of the faith produced by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D., Jesus, who was eternally and fully God, took on a second nature which was fully human and which was inseparably united with His divine nature eternally into one person. This hypostatic union is possible only with the omnipotent God who “can do everything that is in harmony with His nature and perfection.” This doesn’t mean that Jesus is only partly man and partly God in one nature such as what Eutychianism teaches, but rather one person having two full natures of which one is fully divine and one fully human.
Only a Christ who was fully God and fully man could bring salvation to mankind. In other words, it was necessary for Jesus to become incarnate to save humanity. The author of Hebrews states this clearly when he wrote, “he had to be made…fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
This truth is further developed by Paul when he draws the comparison between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21, and their roles as representatives of mankind. As sin came into the world through Adam the first human, so Christ had to become human, the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), in order to bring redemption to the world.
There is great danger in denying either the humanity or divinity of Jesus. Denying His humanity is to deny Jesus’ ability to identify with mankind as their representative and high priest. Denying His divinity is to deny that Jesus was qualified to become the perfect, sinless offering to atone for the sins of mankind.
Some of the common and best known objections to this traditional understanding of Christology include docetism which taught that Christ’s humanity and sufferings were apparent, but not real, and Arianism which denied that Jesus was eternally divine, but rather created from nothing before time began. For the reasons stated in the previous paragraph, these two views are dangerous and do not represent sound doctrine.
Jesus, after washing His disciples’ feet, said that He was providing an example He wanted them to follow, of being a servant to one another (John 13:15). This example was lived out completely by Him in “being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). As our example, it is His desire that we follow in His footsteps in being a servant to others, even if it calls for the greatest of sacrifices.
The importance of acknowledging Christ’s full humanity and full divinity cannot be overstated. The Christian faith, if it be a true Christian faith, must be firmly established upon the belief that Christ, in His humanity, was able to identify with and become the perfect high priest for the human race; and in His divinity, being worthy and able to become the perfect and sinless sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
 R.S. Wallace, and G.L. Green. “Christology.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001, 240
 C. Blaising. “Hypostatic Union.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001, 583
 Towns, Elmer. Theology for Today. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning, 2001, 121
 C. Blaising. “Hypostatic Union.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001, 584
 J.H. Hall. .”Chalcedon, Council of (451)” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001, 219
 R.S. Wallace, and G.L. Green. “Christology.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001, 241
 Ibid., 242
When we are talking about things that pertain to society and life in general, we cannot forget that God Himself is the author of law, indeed of all things moral and ethical. Where else would it come from? Our very laws that govern our nation are derived from God’s law, as much as many would love to deny that. And I’m not inferring that the US is in any way a “Christian” nation. But it is true, though, that morality and law in any society finds its ultimate beginning and end in God Himself. It’s just truth. Therefore, when we talk of things like homosexuality or gay marriage, we need to, indeed, we MUST look as such things in light of what God Himself has revealed to us about how He thinks about such things. And if we were to be honest before God and ourselves, we would see clearly that we are not dealing with a “civil rights” issue here, but one of a fundamental moral nature, one that happens to be a major fabric of one of the most basic and sacred institutions of all: marriage. Indeed, as Paul points out in Ephesians, marriage itself is far more than just a man and a woman being legally bound to each other. It is a picture of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:25-33).
Now that leads me to what our role as the church should be in all this. We (the church, the body of Christ), are commissioned, yes, commanded, to not only spread the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (which, by the way, can set even homosexuals free from their bondage, as well as any other sinner from theirs), but we are called to defend the truth with our very lives, and in this way and others, we are salt in the earth and light in the world. This is our calling. And if no one else does it, our society, and especially those who don’t know Christ, will have no hope to be free from their sins and from God’s judgment.
I say these things, not for political reasons, nor to be mean or bigotted. I say these things because we have good news to share with the world, and their eternal destinies are on the line. Therefore, if we know that a certain lifestyle is clearly a sin and we know that sin leads to death, how is it compassionate to support such a lifestyle by voting to allow the sin to continue? Do you not know that our laws uphold God’s order in society and are designed not only to keep order but to preserve society from corruption? Why do we support laws that make murder illegal? If we allowed murder in our society, society would be destroyed. Why do we support laws that make adultry illegal? Because if everyone was allowed to sleep with everyone else’s wife, society would be unbearable and the very nature of trust and fidelity would be nullified.
So now we come back to the issue at hand. Why do we support laws that define marriage as being between a man and a woman? Because if we didn’t, people would live to the contrary in greater and greater numbers and not only would the sacredness of marriage be nullified, but in embracing such a stand as allowing same sex marriage, we are actually saying that it’s O.K., and it is normal, and then the sin of homosexuality would spread in society until it had corrupted the very soul of the people. No. I cannot, will not, and we MUST NOT support such a thing, even in our laws. This is the only compassionate and loving response we can have as the people of God.