Michael Boling – Theodices and the Problem of Evil



The problem of evil is an issue that has continually perplexed humanity. Philosophers such as David Hume, John Hume, J. L. Mackie, and Alvin Plantinga, along with theologians such as Augustine have developed theodices in an effort to provide an answer to not only the existence of evil, but also why an omnipotent God allows the existence of evil. Many, when attempting to postulate a solution to the problem of evil still ponder the ancient philosopher Epicurus’ age old question: “Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

How one engages this complex issue greatly influences their perception of God as well as His interaction with humanity. One must broach the problem of evil through the lens of scriptural exposition. Given finite man is incapable of holistically understanding the actions of an omnipotent God, any theodicy will encounter difficulties explaining the existence and purpose of evil. This paper will outline four respected theodices arguing for a combination of the ideas presented by Augustine and Alvin Plantinga as the basis for both a biblically sound approach to an ultimate solution for the problem of evil based on the concomitant ideas of God’s goodness and man’s sinfulness.


John Stott rightly commented, “the fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith.” In a world fraught with suffering, it is necessary for the believer to develop a cogent theodicy. The multifarious solutions presented by philosophers and theologians have only served to obfuscate the underlying issue that must be addressed, namely how an omnipotent God allows evil to exist. C. S. Lewis saliently explains the prospect of answering [the problem] depends on showing that the terms “good” and “almighty,” and perhaps also the term “happy” are equivocal: for it must be admitted from the outset that if the popular meanings attached to these words are the best, or the only possibly meanings, then the argument is unanswerable. But wait, there’s more!

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Jeremiah Burroughs – A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness

Chapter One: Doctrine: There is a great difference between a wicked man and a godly man. The one minds the earth; the other’s conversation is in heaven

The Text Opened, Philippians 3:19 , “…who mind earthly things…”

This precious Scripture clearly holds forth the different dispositions of wicked and of godly men, especially of such wicked men as set themselves against the Gospel, for it relates to such as were professed enemies to the cross of Christ, that labored as best they could to hinder the success of the ministry of Paul. You will find, if you look back a few verses, that this is meant of that kind of men especially, for he tells us that many walked so, as they were enemies to the cross of Christ. They were those that opposed the preaching of Paul and his ministry. He describes those men by divers characters, but I’ll treat none of them but this, who mind earthly things, who savour or relish earthly things, you may translate this as well. It is a general word comprehending the actions and operations of both the under-standing and the will. It is, in Scripture, applied to both, but most commonly to the actions of the will and affections. We will deal particularly with actions of the will.

Earthly things are those that are on the earth, whatever they are, the beauty, the glory, and pageantry of the earth; the profits that are earthly, the pleasures and honors of the world; who mind any things inordinately that are sublunary accommodations. But we carry and behave ourselves as free citizens of the city of Heaven, for so the words in the original are, if we should thus read them, “Our city, where we are citizens and where we have rights, is heaven.”

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Michael Boling – Exegetical Paper on Psalm 72


Psalm 72 has been explicated by biblical scholars as Messianic due to similarities with Messianic prophecies contained in Isaiah 11:1-5 and Isaiah 60-62. As noted by Derek Kidner, “as a royal psalm it prayed for the reigning king, and was a strong reminder of his high calling; yet it exalted this so far beyond the humanly attainable as to suggest for its fulfillment no less a person than the Messiah.” The hyperbole utilized in this royal psalm that finds its fulfillment only in the persona and work of Yeshua has resulted in this psalm being classified, at a minimum, as indirectly Messianic.

Authorship of this psalm has been attributed by some to the psalms penned by King David; however, strong arguments have been made for it being a work of King Solomon. Scholarly debate on this matter resides on the interpretation of the superscription which alludes to Psalm 72 as a Psalm of David with King Solomon as the subject and not the author. Franz Delitzsh argues for Solomonic authorship in his statement that Psalm 72 is for the most part distichic, which has less of original freshness and directness than of an artificial, reflective, and almost sluggish manner, the geographic range of view, the richness in figures drawn from nature, and the points of contact with the Book of Job…these are coincident signs which are decisive in favor of Solomon.” Scholars are divided on the issue of authorship; however, strong arguments have been put forward for this Psalm being a prayer of blessing for the reign of King Solomon or more appropriately, a prophetic declaration of the Messiah. Perhaps the best argument provided for Davidic authorship is given by James Mays who comments that “Superscription and colophon taken together ask that the prayer be read as David’s intercession for his seed and successor, a prayer that the vocation of God’s king be realized in his son.” Continue reading “Michael Boling – Exegetical Paper on Psalm 72”

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Book Review – A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old and New Testament


I have owned or own numerous single volume or collected sets of introductions to the Bible. Some have been quite helpful in my studies, personal or academic, and others have been shall we say a bit lackluster and somewhat disappointing. Given the plethora of biblical introduction style commentaries that have made their way in and out of the market, I am always interested to see what a new addition has to offer, if anything, to the discussion.

Recently, two such additions made their way to the new release offerings and I figured why not take a look. These new releases are A Biblical-Theological Introduction the Old Testament and A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament edited by Miles Van Pelt and Michael Kruger respectively with contributions from numerous heavyweights in Old and New Testament scholarship. With an admitted bit of skepticism which I typically have with books of this type, I dug into the material. Let me just say my original attitude of skepticism was very quickly replaced with appreciation for the excellent work provided by the contributors.

For starters, these are not minor contributions to the biblical introduction category of study. At over 1200 pages combined, they contain serious scholarship. Now mind you mere size does not determine the quality of scholarship as an author or editor can include a lot of fluff, big words, and concepts that are of no use or that are quite frankly wholly incorrect. One will not find useless fluff and incorrect biblical theology in these efforts. This is serious, quality, purposeful, and important biblical scholarship.

Additionally, these are gospel focused texts. I realize the term “gospel-(insert word)” is a popular title these days and is often just that, namely just a set of words that carries little if any meaning. When I state these texts are gospel focused, it means they actually use as a start and end point the message of the gospel as expressed in the front and back halves of Scripture.

An example of the focus on the gospel found in these helpful biblical introductions and more specifically the reality that the core message of Scripture is the promise, coming, and future return of or Redeemer can be observed in the introduction of the Old Testament volume:
“Jesus is the theological center of the Old Testament. This means that the person and work of Jesus as presented in the New Testament (including his birth, life, teachings, death, resurrection, ascension, and return) constitute the singular reality that unifies and explains everything that appears in the Old Testament.”

Far too often the Old Testament is skimmed over in an effort to skip right to the Gospels or writings of Paul. Without establishing the foundation found in the front of Scripture and recognizing the connectedness of the whole of Scripture as it relays the message of redemption, understanding Scripture’s coherent and unified message will be difficult if not impossible. The contributors do not fall prey to the temptation to spit apart as unrelated the Old and New Testament texts. Conversely, they aptly outline for the reader a sound biblical, gospel-centric approach.

Each book of the Bible is engaged with the all-important elements of background information, authorship, literary analysis, structure and outline, message and theology, with any relevant major themes of each book receiving in-depth discussion. Something I am always appreciative of are helpful bibliographies. Okay….call me a book nerd, but I am a stickler for authors both referencing the work of other scholars and providing helpful tools for further study. At the end of each book of the Bible that is engaged in these volumes the reader will find a great list of resources. Also provided are some very interesting appendices that discuss anything from Daniel’s 70 weeks to New Testament Textual Criticism.

To put it simply, these are excellent works that I encourage not just seminary students and pastors to consider purchasing. It would be a shame if these books only found their way to the shelves of the academic minded individuals. They are truly useful for the average laymen as well in their study of Scripture. In fact, I recommend splurging a little and purchasing both volumes as a set. You will not be disappointed and I submit you will greatly appreciate the amount of sound scholarship provided and more importantly, I am confident you will grow in your knowledge of Scripture and in your relationship with God as a result using these helpful tools as part of your Bible study repertoire.

These books are available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here and here.

I received these books for free from Crossway Books and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michael Boling – A Form of Godliness: Fasting, Social Justice and the Sabbath: An Exposition of Isaiah 58:1-14


Exposition of the Text

The pericope of Isaiah 58:1-14 is an exhortation-laden oracle denouncing Israel’s lack of spiritual perspicuity and their penchant to acquiesce to pagan cultic rituals as a method to coerce God into action. Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared that a complete dénouement to such behavior was a precursor to the renewal of a covenant relationship with their Creator. If Israel was to experience the benefits and blessings of the covenant, a cessation of a form of godliness was in order. True godliness, according to Isaiah 58, must evince a concern for the poor and downtrodden, a rejection of selfish motives, and a delight in the original intent of the Sabbath. Isaiah 58 evinces the need for the people of God to reevaluate their relationship with both God and their fellow man. Additionally, it reiterates an ongoing message in Isaiah’s prophetic discourse; God desires obedience rather than sacrifice.

Matthew 22:37-40 states the entirety of the Law and the Prophets hinges on loving God and loving others. The Isaiah 58:1-14 pericope reveals that attempts to manipulate God through selfishly motivated acts of piety, while having the appearance of probity, are repulsive to God. As noted by John Walton, the Israelite’s attempts at godliness were “selfish and oppressive. Instead of their religion making them a blessing to those around them, as God intended it made them a curse.” As such, their devotion was nothing more than a verisimilitude preventing God from pouring out his justice and mercy on them. Ironically, it was God’s blessings which Israel hoped to acquire through means of their cultic expressions. In order for Israel to experience the covenant blessings and thus enjoy Sabbath rest, a paradigm shift was required. But wait, there’s more!

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Book Review – Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God

Visual Theology

Admittedly I am a very visual learner. Many times when my wife is attempting to describe her vision for a future home renovation project, it is difficult for me to put her words into a mental picture of what she is trying to get across. I need a blueprint or a picture at least to put some context and connections to the vision being relayed. Once I have that in hand, the grand vision and to a large degree the details begin to come into focus.

Tim Challies, noting that many others fall into the same visual learning category as myself, began to offer on his website a series of infographics. These well down visual depictions of a number of theological truths, were something I continually looked forward to as I found them quite helpful besides being visually appealing. Using that idea, Challies and Josh Byers have provided a book aptly titled Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth about God in which they utilize a number of excellent infographics to help the reader make needed connections on matters of theology.

For starters, this is a visually stimulating book. This is not a statement I often make about books dealing with theology. Typically I comment on the plethora of footnotes or the expansive bibliography or the manner in which the author elaborates and exegetes a particular element of theology. Make no mistake that this book deals with theology. The authors examine a number of important theological topics. They just do it in a somewhat unique manner, namely through the use of full page and colorful infographics.

I am sure most remember trying to memorize that dreaded periodic table of the elements. I recall trying to put to at least my short term memory for a test all the facts concerning the elements such as the abbreviation, weight, and other facts. Challies and Byers used that periodic table picture concept to present the books of the Bible. I mention this because it is rather clever and it represents just a small sample of how these infographics are quite helpful in driving home facts and concepts. In the case of the books of the Bible periodic table, they provide an abbreviation for each book, the “long name” if you will, the author, and the date of authorship. What a great way to depict some basic facts that would be very useful in a Sunday School classroom or for my personal purposes, as part of a homeschool curriculum.

There was even one of my least favorite types of infographics, namely a flowchart. I encounter these at work and I usually cringe when trying to follow the process that is being depicted. Challies and Byers use a flowchart to outline how to mortify sin. I humble admit that I was able to completely follow the train of thought and the yes/no decisions throughout the flowchart. Furthermore, besides being visually useful, the information was spot on theologically, an important element after all for a book discussing theology.

This is a book I highly recommend, especially if you are a visual learner or you interact with visual learners. As I noted, this is a tool I will be using as part of my homeschool curriculum this coming year. What is even more useful is the various graphics provided in this book are available for purchase and download here. Pick up a copy of this book. I am confident you will find it very useful in your study and application of God’s Word.

This book is available for purchase from Zondervan Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Zondervan Academic and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review – The Garden, The Curtain, and the Cross

The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross

Children (and adults for that matter) love good stories. The introduction of the characters, the building up to the climax, and the resolution, if written well by the author, will capture the reader’s imagination and thoughts. There is nothing better in my humble opinion than an author who ably takes profound theological truth and presents it in such a way that children (and adults yet again) can grasp.

Carl Laferton’s book The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross, shares the most important story of all. The best thing about this story is it true and it impacts every person who has ever lived. This is of course the historical reality of the process of salvation history from the Garden to this period of sinful rebellion we know reside in with the climax of history being rooted in a return to the Garden for the righteous.

For starters, Laferton’s book is wonderfully illustrated. I have found the children’s books from The Good Book Company have a tradition of excellent artwork that draws the reader into the specifics of the storyline. This offering is no exception. Words on a page are great, but when it comes to a children’s book, it is important to have accompanying illustrations that will help imprint on the minds of kids visual cues that will help them understand what they are reading.

Secondly, Laferton remains true to sound biblical truth. It is very tempting to overly dumb down a topic as profound as salvation and redemption. It is also tempting to incorrectly present through illustration certain elements of the story (i.e. the bathtub version of Noah’s ark we so often see). This book avoids all those pitfalls as it accurately follows the biblical message from Genesis to Revelation. I submit that many thick theological texts do not do as good a job of outlining the message of salvation and redemption as is found in Laferton’s effort.

I fully appreciated the use of the phrase “keep out sign” to describe the impact of sin. In fact, Laferton provides an excellent definition of sin – man doing what he wants to do in a spirit of rebellion against their Creator. Sin cannot exist in the presence of a holy God, thus the removal of man from the Garden. As Laferton saliently notes, in the Garden there was no death or anything bad or sad because such things are a result of sin. After sin, things went south. Man continued to rebel against God. Then Jesus came to deal with sin, tearing apart that “keep out sign”.

Lafterton expertly notes that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can find life and restoration of relationship with our Creator. While sin still impacts us today, he wonderfully states we look forward to a time when we once again will dwell in the perfection of physical relationship with God on earth when all things will be restored and redeemed. What a wonderful story and it is all true.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you have young children. This would also be a great addition to any Sunday School classroom. Full of sound biblical truth, wonderfully illustrated, and written so a child can understand it while remaining true to the underlying scarlet thread of redemption woven throughout Scripture, this book is a must have. The Good Book Company has well – hit a grand slam.

This book is available for purchase from The Good Book Company by clicking here.

I received this book for free from the Good Book Company via Cross Focused Reviews and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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John Piper – 1 Peter 2:18–20, Part 3: God Will Reward Every Wrong Endured

Jesus says that those who follow him will suffer, and many of you will suffer for doing good. In this lab, John Piper reminds us of God’s love for us in every trial, and uncovers the promise that one day he will make every wrong right.

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Michael Boling – Lessons From the Garden: Existence, Relationships, and Processes – State of Perfection in the Original Creation


In the book of Genesis, we find God as Creator. The first two chapters of Genesis outline God’s creative activity, most notably His description of that activity as being good with the final conclusion by God that everything He had created was very good.

It is absolutely vital to understand what the phrase “very good” means. If it simply means everything was just okay and good enough as a starting point (the position of many Old Earth Creationists and Theistic Evolutionists), then it becomes difficult to assert the original creation as being devoid of death and decay. If the phrase means something much more, specifically noting a state of perfection, then we can make the claim that death and decay were not part of the original creation.

Why is this even worth discussing? What does it matter if the original creation was completely perfect or not? If we look at our starting premise, namely that all of life is intimately connect to existence, relationships, and processes, in looking at the clear movement towards restoration and redemption found in Scripture, it begs the question as to why is there such a forward movement if nothing really needs restored or redeemed. If death and decay were part of what God meant by “very good”, then we have a hard time explaining the impact of sin on existence, relationships, and processes. An alternate storyline apart from that provided in Scripture must be created and if that is the case, then we have moved away from sound biblical truth into presenting an idea of our own imagination. This is a dangerous road to travel.

So let’s take a look at that important phrase of “very good”. A starting point when looking at a word or phrase should always be that of its definition. We find “very good” in Genesis 1:31 which states, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” God reviewed everything He had made. Let’s stop there for a second. God reviewed everything. Nothing was left out of this review. Next we see God reviewed everything He had made. Thus far we have God reviewing every single thing He had made. How did God make everything? By His word and in the case of man, by His hands given He fashioned Adam and Eve. After reviewing everything He had made, God declared the entirety of His creation to be very good. The phrase “very good” in Hebrew is meod tob. Tob means good and meod is an adverb describing the degree of goodness. According to Strong’s Concordance, meod is defined as “exceedingly, much”, thus referring to the extreme magnitude of goodness.

Interestingly, as a point of textual comparison, we see the adverb meod used in Deuteronomy 6:5 which states, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” The word translated as might is the Hebrew word meod. In this passage, the people of God are commanded to love Him not just a little or to a certain acceptable starting point. The magnitude of our love for God is to be that of everything we have, the fullness of our existence with no sense of lack being a part of the equation. In God’s description of the original creation, there was no lack of goodness. Everything was perfect.

If we circle back to our beginning premise that all of life is connected to existence, relationships, and processes, then what would those three look like in the perfection of the original creation? To some degree it is beyond our imagination. We live in a place marred by sin, but we can surmise a few things from Scripture.

For starters, when it comes to existence, if death is a result of sin, prior to sin, the existence of God’s creation would be that of eternality. No death equals an everlasting existence. If we do not die, then all that is left is quite frankly no death.

In the Garden, God gave Adam a single command – “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:26-27)

This was a very simple command with profound implications if disobeyed. Do not eat of the tree and you shall live. Eat of the tree and the process of dying leading to death (dying you shall die is the proper Hebrew phrase in the text) would ensue. We know at least for a time, Adam and Eve did not eat of the tree. If they would have obeyed God, they would have lived with death being completely absent from the picture. Their existence would have been eternal with their progeny living in a universe of perfection on planet earth. This was heaven – man in perfect existence with the Creator.

When we move to the issue of relationships, in the original creation, the relationship between both God and man and between man and woman was completely perfect. Marital spats, lying, cheating, manipulation, coercion, and all the other hallmarks of broken relationships were foreign to the original state. Adam and Eve were both naked and were not ashamed (for my post on what that being naked and not ashamed means, click here). They had complete intimacy, not just physical, but also emotional and spiritual intimacy with one another. Nothing was lacking in their relationship. They were the epitome of oneness. We also find that God walked with man in the Garden. God cannot and does not dwell physically with unholiness. Since unholiness is defined as sinfulness (i.e. lack of holiness), God walking with man in the Garden demonstrates the perfection of relationship between man and Creator. We also find that man was vegetarian (Gen. 2:16), meaning there was no hunting taking place of animals and thus no enmity or fear existed between man and animals.

Finally, we come to the issue of processes. In the original creation, the cyclical process was that of perfection, provided man did not stray from God’s covenant command to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Stay within the confines of that command and the process of perfect existence would be the norm. Stray from those confines and a different process, that of dying you shall die would be the new norm. The process of life extended to all of creation. Again, what this looked like is truly beyond our imagination. We are used to for example the typical seasons of each year with growth and decay followed by growth being the present reality. Man and animals, the nephesh beings, would not experience the process of death in the perfect creation environment as that was the covenant promise God made with Adam.

Existence, relationships, and processes. In the Garden of Eden before sin, everything was very good. Our existence was eternal, our relationships were perfect, and the process of life in no way included death or decay. Something went horribly wrong to impact all three of those elements of life. We will take a look in the next post at exactly what happened to so negatively affect our existence, relationships, and processes.

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