Friday, October 11, 2019
If God is good why is there evil in the world? Essay
Introduction The problem of evil is as ancient as humanity itself. Since the dawn of man, thinkers, philosophers, religionists and practically every human being who have suffered at the hands of evil have pondered this enigma, either as a logical-intellectual-philosophical or emotional-religious-existential problem. The preponderance of evil as a reality in human existence, and manÃ¢â¬â¢s fascination with it is everywhere evident. Open a newspaper, switched on the television, look around the office, school, family and practically every social environment and context, and the imprint of evil is as it were, omnipresent. Evil, whether physical as in natural disasters and calamities, or moral, as in lying, cheating, unrighteousness, harming others, killing, murders and lawlessness in general have been woven into the very fabric of human nature and existence. The reality of evil is brought home to human existence in that it causes human suffering. So much so that evil and its effect has become a great preoccupation and fascination among men. One does not have to go far to see the truth of this statement. Imagine if you will a story, a movie, a novel or great literatures of the world without any mention of evil and its accompanying consequenceÃ¢â¬âhuman suffering. Such a work if it existed at all would not do well commercially. It would universally be judged monotonous, uninteresting and boring. In fact it is no exaggeration to say that the extent and cleverness toward which evil and its many faces is painted (and sometimes overcome) in works of literature set its attractiveness index in the eyes of readers through the ages until the present day. The enigma of evil has lost none of its Ã¢â¬Å"lusterÃ¢â¬ to the present generation. If anything its sinuous tentacles have penetrated an ever younger population. Conduct a cursory survey of titles for young adults in any bookstore near you. The panorama of subjects on crimes, killings, murders, vampires, demons, fallen angels, evil spirits, ghouls, witchcraft, and sorcery tells of a whole new generation that is being exposed to the notion of evil as something of a novelty on a massive and unprecedented scale. The disguise of evil upon our young as forms of entertainment may engender a familiarity that breeds contempt. And so by and large if we are not watchful, the corruption that is evil may no longer be so evil, at least in perception and appearance to a new generation. Evil is a Mystery While Christians rightly sorrow and sympathize with the suffering that evil brings, it should also come as no surprise that the work of evil has and will escalate in the last days. Aside from natural disasters and calamities, manÃ¢â¬â¢s inhumanity to man is writ large on the face of history. The last century alone has seen untold sufferings and unaccountable lives lost to two great wars. This century itself, opens with a manmade disaster that staggers the imaginationÃ¢â¬âthe destruction of the twin Towers through acts of terrorism. The vivid imagery of the implosion of both Towers, and the senseless death of thousands of innocents following the run-in of the two hijacked passenger planes are forever edged in the minds of the world as 9/11, a reminder of the maliciousness of evil in a most graphic form. Indeed in scripture there is a mystery that is evilÃ¢â¬âthe mystery of lawlessness. As portrayed in Thessalonians, this mystery is already operating in nation and human society to bring about a divinely directed situation for the ultimate exposure of evil in the last days prior to, and heralding the LordÃ¢â¬â¢s second coming (2 Thess. 2:2-4, 6-7, 8a). These passages clearly depict the present state of the world with its various manifestations of lawlessness, evil and sufferings as the result of the operation of a mystery, the mystery of evil and lawlessness that is even now operating everywhere, culminating in the unveiling of evil incarnateÃ¢â¬âa man of lawlessness, the son of perdition. The teleology of evil is ultimately embodied in a person, the person of the enemy of God. Let it not be forgotten then at the outset of our discussion on God and evil, that the rampant lawlessness and many faces of evil that we see around us is not just the mere issue of manÃ¢â¬â¢s doings. It is according to Saint Paul, none other than SatanÃ¢â¬â¢s operation (v. 9a) in all power and signs and wonders of a lie, and in all deceit of unrighteousness (vv. 9b, 10). The modern mind with its scientific enlightenment, and anti-supernatural outlook, easily askew the personification of evil. But the clear testimony of scripture is that evil is not just a Ã¢â¬Å"thingÃ¢â¬ , a mere act of wrongdoing or transgression. It is all that to be sure, but even more so, the true nature of evil is that it is personified in scriptureÃ¢â¬âthe evil one (Matt. 13:19, 38; Mk. 9:39; Jn. 17:15; Eph. 6:16; Col. 3:9) as scripture calls itÃ¢â¬âwith a mind and will of its own, that is totally and irrevocably opposed to God. Even as good is a person, God Himself, for no one is good except God alone (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19); even so we need to realize in the depths of our being that evil is no less a person, Satan himself. To believe otherwise is to downplay the reality, nature and insidiousness of evil. According to divine revelation (2 Thess. 2:1-3), the exposure of the mystery of lawlessness (and therefore the ultimate unveiling of the mystery of evil) will precede the revelation of the mystery of God (Rev. 10:7). This is not to say that evil has priority over God in any way, but that evil is a shroud, a veil of darkness upon man, that is even now being lifted, that man may see the full glory of God. In other words, amidst a world that has been corrupted by evil, God Himself is working through salvation history to expose, overturn, undo, nullify and depose the mystery of evil and all its outworking, following which the mystery of God will be unveiled in all its glory. Thus evil should be recognized for what it is. We should not forget even for a fleeting moment that evil is more than just an intellectual or emotional problem. It is an anomaly of cosmic proportion amenable only to a solution that comes from an all-powerful, all-good, and all-wise God. To embark on a discussion of theodicy with respect the goodness of God and evil is to plumb the depths of mystery: the mystery of God, and the mystery of evilÃ¢â¬âaround two persons, God and Satan. It is no surprise then that Frame opines in his Doctrine of God1 that the problem of evil is the most difficult problem in all of theology. In what follows we will attempt a prolegomenon on a discussion of this very difficult question, Ã¢â¬Å"If God is good why is there evil in the worldÃ¢â¬ from the following perspectives: 1. The formulation of the problem of evil 2. The various solutions to the problem of evil as conceived by man 3. GodÃ¢â¬â¢s creation unveiling His eternal intentionÃ¢â¬âwhence evil? 4. The unveiling of the mystery of God and the mystery of ChristÃ¢â¬âthe divine answer to evil The Formulation of the Problem of Evil Ã¢â¬Å"Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil? 2 EpicurusÃ¢â¬â¢s unanswered question The presence of evil in the face of a good God has been called the problem of evil. As eloquently stated by Epicurus and David Hume, it is a triad (quoted above) of propositions that implyÃ¢â¬âsince there is evil, there is no God. This formulation of the classical problem of evil assumes that God and evil cannot both co-exist. In this understanding, and from a logical and existential perspective, God and evil are incompatible and therefore mutually exclusive. But it has been pointed out by several philosophers, particularly Alvin Platinga3 that all that is needed to resolve the purported logical contradiction as stated by Epicurus and Hume, is to posit that an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God may have morally sufficient reason for allowing evil. Building on this, Groothius suggests that the classical form of the problem can be reformulated as follows4: 1. God is omnipotent and omnipresent 2. God is omnibenevolent 3. There is objective evil 4. For any evil that God allows, God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing this evil, even if we do not know this morally sufficient reason is in some cases. Thus from a deductive-logical perspective, the actual existence of evil in a world created by God is not incompatible with an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God. As Platinga puts it, Ã¢â¬Å"A good God will eliminate evil as far as he can without either loosing a greater good or bringing about a greater evil. Ã¢â¬ 5 Consequentially, there is no contradiction between a good God and the existence of evil in the world. Perhaps this is the reason Frame begins his discussion on the problem of evil with the assumption that God exist,6 as opposed to the more traditional classical formulation that says GodÃ¢â¬â¢s existence in the face of evil cannot be taken a-priori, but rather must remain as a proposition with truth value as yet to be demonstrated. In FrameÃ¢â¬â¢s reformulation the argument assumes the following form: 1. If God is omnipotent, he is able to prevent evil 2. If God is good, he wants to prevent evil 3. But evil exists Conclusion: either God is not omnipotent or he is not good The issue for Frame then is not GodÃ¢â¬â¢s existence in the face of evil, but what kind of a God is He that is affirmed by Christian theists, and whether such a God is incompatible with the existence of evil in the world. Coming from an evangelical Reformed tradition, Frame emphatically affirmed the biblical testimony that God is all-powerful, all-good, and all-wise. The implication here is that any solution to the problem of evil that runs counter to these biblically attested attributes of God are inadequate to account for the problem of evil in a world created by an all-benevolent, powerful and wise God. The various Solutions to the Problem of Evil as conceived by Man In his Doctrine of God, Frame surveys three categories of solutions to the problem of evil as conceived by man, albeit some more biblically sound than others. The first focuses on the nature of evil, the second on the ways in which evil contributes to the overall good of the universe, and the third on GodÃ¢â¬â¢s agency with regard evil. In this section we will present a synopsis7 of FrameÃ¢â¬â¢s critique of these approaches from a biblically sanctioned perspective, and draw a conclusion as to his stand with regards the problem of evil. The nature of evil: In this category Frame presents the views of those who regard evil as illusion, such as in Hinduism. This proposal fails as a solution because of the reality of the suffering that evil afflicts. If evil is an Ã¢â¬Å"illusionÃ¢â¬ , why is Ã¢â¬Å"sufferingÃ¢â¬ so real? A more widespread notion held by Christendom that finds adherents in Augustine, Catholics and post-Reformist scholastics, and many modern apologists and theologians is evil as privation. Evil in this view is not an illusion. Rather it is an absence of good where good should be. As such it is a privation, a deprivation of good. In GilsonÃ¢â¬â¢s version and exposition, since God created all things good, everything is good in so far as it has being. Therefore in his consideration evil is non-being, and God does not create nonbeing. But even if granted that evil is a lack or privation of being, FrameÃ¢â¬â¢s contention is that it would not absolve God of blame for evil. 8 Another objection is that scripture does not speculate whether evil is Ã¢â¬Å"beingÃ¢â¬ or non Ã¢â¬Å"beingÃ¢â¬ , and doing so takes the evil out of evil and reduces the righteousness-sin relation to metaphysics, and therefore depersonalizes and detracts from the weightiness of sin. So, from a biblical perspective, the privation argument also is inadequate as a solution to evil for it does not recognize evil for what it isÃ¢â¬âan objective reality in the world. Some good things about evil as it contributes to overall good: This is the argument that evil in the world is good when seen from a broader perspective. The goodness of God is such that He does bring about greater good from evil. Scripture testifies that God does utilize evil to test His servant as in Job, to discipline His children (Heb. 12:7-11), to produce patience and perseverance in believers (James 1:3-4). This so called greater good defense is contingent particularly upon GodÃ¢â¬â¢s lordship attribute of control, that God is sovereign over evil, and can therefore use it for good. Christian stand against evil is firmly rooted in faith in an all-benevolent God who has provided for its defense. In this regards, the apostle Peter, while acknowledging the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:4), reminds believers that God has granted to them all things pertaining to life and godliness, and precious and exceedingly great promises that they should persevere with all diligence, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly love, and love that Christians would be fruitful amidst a contrary world (vv. 3-8). In this vein, Saint Paul also writes that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). While cautioning readers on such items as the proper definition and GodÃ¢â¬â¢s standard for good, that it is for GodÃ¢â¬â¢s greater glory; the need to evaluate GodÃ¢â¬â¢s action over the full extent of human history; and the necessity of faith given the future orientation of this ultimate theodicy, Frame acknowledges that the greater-good defense is basically sound. But interestingly, he says, seemingly by way of postscript, Ã¢â¬Å"Ã¢â¬ ¦ it leaves us with a sense of mystery. For it is hard to imagine how GodÃ¢â¬â¢s good purpose9 justifies the evil in the world. Ã¢â¬ 10 Evil and GodÃ¢â¬â¢s agency: Here Frame goes through a whole gamut of verbs in an erudite attempt to give an appropriate delineation for GodÃ¢â¬â¢s relationship to evil: authors, brings about, causes, controls, creates, decrees, foreordains, incites, includes within His plan, makes happen, ordains, permits, plans, predestines, predetermines, produces, stands behind, and wills. Among these Frame cautions against the use of authors, incite, stand behind, wills and create. Ã¢â¬Å"AuthorsÃ¢â¬ seems to suggest that God (like the author of a book) not only brings evil about but approves of it. Contrary to scripture Ã¢â¬Å"incitesÃ¢â¬ and Ã¢â¬Å"stand behindÃ¢â¬ can mean that God encourages people to do evil things. Ã¢â¬Å"WillsÃ¢â¬ is ambiguous, since it can mean God approves of evil, or simply that He brings it about. FrameÃ¢â¬â¢s view is that Ã¢â¬Å"createsÃ¢â¬ can be awkward because evil is a quality, not a thing, and God creates things, not qualities. Even so, it should be noted that Isaiah 45:6-7 says, Ã¢â¬Å"I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating evil11; I am the LORD who does all these. Ã¢â¬ According to Frame, all the other terms listed are less controversial. They differ only in connotation and can be appropriate descriptors at one time or another depending on context. Amidst his remarkable virtuosity on words, the crux of the matter is whether God merely permits evil, or whether He actually brings evil about in some sense. Scripture teaches that God controls human decisions (Gen. 45:5-8; Prov. 16:9; Acts 2:23-24), even when these decisions are sinful. As a testament to GodÃ¢â¬â¢s absolute Lordship and control over the whole realm of creation, Christian scripture attest unequivocally that God controls all events; He makes everything happens as it does (Lam. 3:37-38; Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph 1:11). Astonishingly as it sounds, we cannot even become believers of Christ unless God draws us (John 6:44, 65; Acts 16:14-15). For these biblically founded reasons, Frame affirms that God does bring about sinful decisions of human beings. Frame is a compatibilist who does not subscribe to a libertarian view of agency. A popular premise of libertarian argument is that it is better to create free beings who may fail than to create beings who are Ã¢â¬Å"robotsÃ¢â¬ or Ã¢â¬Å"automataÃ¢â¬ or Ã¢â¬Å"puppetsÃ¢â¬ as such. Certainly there is truth in this, but contra scripture, libertarians ascribe to manÃ¢â¬â¢s freewill12 an autonomy that is quite absolute but alien to biblical thinking. Libertarianism holds that nothing in an agentÃ¢â¬â¢s environment or in God Himself or even in the agentÃ¢â¬â¢s character compels him from doing or not doing something. In this view, freedom of the will and determination of the will from factors outside of the will are therefore incompatible. For the libertarian or incompatibilists, the power of contrary choice is a necessary choice for moral agency. Notable adherents of libertarianism include the early Augustine to C. S. Lewis, Alvin Platinga, Richard Swinburne and Norman Geisler among others. These have championed libertarian agency as the basis of defense for the problem of evil. As Geisler puts it, Ã¢â¬Å"Ã¢â¬ ¦ if it is good to be free, then evil is possible. Freedom means the power to choose otherwise. So in this present world if one is free to do good, he is also free to do evil Ã¢â¬ ¦ Any alleged. Ã¢â¬Å"freedomÃ¢â¬ not to choose evil rather than good is not really freedom for a moral creature. Ã¢â¬ 13 Frame on the other hand concludes his argument on the problem of evil by saying, Ã¢â¬Å"Ã¢â¬ ¦ [the] answer to the problem of evil turns entirely on GodÃ¢â¬â¢s sovereignty. It is as far as could be imagined from a freewill defense. It brings to our attention the fact that his prerogatives are far greater than ours Ã¢â¬ ¦Ã¢â¬ 14. No doubt FrameÃ¢â¬â¢s stand on the absolute sovereignty of God is a very hard teaching because at one level it makes the problem of evil more intractable. But Frame has suggested that it is also reassuring because if evil comes from some other source other than God, it would be very disturbing, as it implies evil may ultimately be beyond GodÃ¢â¬â¢s purview and control. Such a state of affair would be undesirable indeed, if not at all unthinkable. As conclusion to FrameÃ¢â¬â¢s survey, there are a few points worth reiterating. The main take home lessons from among the three categories of proposals on the problem of evil is that any biblically sanctioned solution must hold in tension the following scriptural truths: 1. Evil is an objective, and undeniable reality in the world. It is neither an illusion nor a privation of sorts. But there is a veil of inscrutability to the mystery of evil, and therefore we should not expect to completely penetrate the enigma that is evil. We must acknowledge in all humility that we are not meant to have complete understanding of the problem of evil this side of eternity. 2. The existence of evil in the world is not incompatible with an all-powerful, all-good and all-wise God. On the contrary scripture attests that GodÃ¢â¬â¢s goodness and sovereignty in His attribute of lordship and control is such that He utilizes evil for our overall good, and to His greater glory. As this is future oriented, it requires the exercise of our faith. 3. Given GodÃ¢â¬â¢s absolute sovereignty, human freedom and agency must be understood in a Ã¢â¬Å"compatabilisticÃ¢â¬ manner, that is, it is compatible with GodÃ¢â¬â¢s agency in foreordaining all our decisions. In this regards any libertarian solution to the problem of evil that curtails, or put a limit on. GodÃ¢â¬â¢s attribute of total lordship and control is contrary to biblical testimony. GodÃ¢â¬â¢s creation unveiling His eternal intentionÃ¢â¬âwhence evil? In this section we examine pertinent biblical evidence on the subject of evil more closely. It is worthwhile noting here that out of 1,189 chapters in the sixty-six books of the Bible, only the first and last two (Genesis 1-2; Revelation 21-22) are without evil. That leaves 1,185 chapters in which the problem of evil is dealt with in the light of GodÃ¢â¬â¢s eternal plan for His creation. On the one hand we should recognize evil for what it is. But we should also be careful not to overplay that card. For it is well to remind ourselves that evil like all things else, is under GodÃ¢â¬â¢s complete control. In the huge canvas of biblical narratives, and in light of GodÃ¢â¬â¢s goodness, wisdom and sovereignty, evil is just the negative background against which God unveils two glorious mysteries: the mystery of God (Col. 2:2), and the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4; Col. 4:3) for the fulfillment of His divine economy in creation. GodÃ¢â¬â¢s creation unveiling His eternal intention. Evil needs to be seen in relation to GodÃ¢â¬â¢s eternal intention for man before the fall. If we would understand GodÃ¢â¬â¢s intention, we have to pay careful attention to the first two chapters of Genesis before evil and sin entered the world of man. In these two chapters, God created the heavens and the earth in good order (Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31), and committed the man whom He created in His image and likeness with His authority to rule over all created things (Genesis 1:26-28). Man is in the image of God in order to express God, and he has received GodÃ¢â¬â¢s authority to represent God. In order to have the full image of God to express God, and realize the full authority of God to represent Him, man must have GodÃ¢â¬â¢s life in him15. Therefore, in the first two chapters of Genesis, there is not only image and authority (Genesis 1), but also life, signified by the tree of life (Genesis 2:8-9). Although man, created in the image of God and committed with GodÃ¢â¬â¢s authority in Genesis 1 is very good, he is not yet perfect with respect GodÃ¢â¬â¢s original intention for him. Frame is right in distinguishing between that which is merely Ã¢â¬Å"goodÃ¢â¬ in Genesis 1:31 and that which is Ã¢â¬Å"perfectÃ¢â¬ 16. In Genesis 1, although man was created good, he has the potential to sin. It seems that for Frame, to be Ã¢â¬Å"perfectÃ¢â¬ , man must also possess the God-like quality of not being able to sin. So after Genesis 1, we have Genesis 2, where man was placed in Eden with the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil (also in the midst of the garden). GodÃ¢â¬â¢s intention was that man should take in the tree of life, representing God as life, and reject the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that the created man may be Ã¢â¬Å"perfectÃ¢â¬ according to GodÃ¢â¬â¢s original design. It is by eating (partaking and receiving into him) the fruits of the tree of life, that he may have GodÃ¢â¬â¢s eternal life (cf: John 5:51 and Gen. 3:22. Also see explanatory note 15 on page 14) and hence the ability to be conformed to this life in all its innate goodness, including the ability to not sin. In other words, man was created as a special vessel (Rom. 9:20-21) with GodÃ¢â¬â¢s image and likeness, but if he stops in Genesis 1, that is all he hasÃ¢â¬âthe outward form of GodÃ¢â¬â¢s image and likeness. As such, he will not be Ã¢â¬Å"perfectÃ¢â¬ , because though Ã¢â¬Å"goodÃ¢â¬ , he has the potential to sin. This is like a glove which was created in the image of a hand. The glove is Ã¢â¬Å"goodÃ¢â¬ because it has the exact outward image of the hand, but this is not Ã¢â¬Å"perfectÃ¢â¬ because the five fingers of the glove is just an image. They are not able to function Ã¢â¬Å"perfectlyÃ¢â¬ the way a hand can. According to its original design, the glove can only fulfill its full potential and be Ã¢â¬Å"perfectÃ¢â¬ if it receives the hand into it as content. Likewise in manÃ¢â¬â¢s original created state, the image and likeness that he possessed is Ã¢â¬Å"goodÃ¢â¬ but not Ã¢â¬Å"perfectÃ¢â¬ . To be Ã¢â¬Å"perfectÃ¢â¬ according to GodÃ¢â¬â¢s eternal intention, man must have GodÃ¢â¬â¢s life in him. Whence evil? Unfortunately, before God could come into man as life17 and carry out His purposes, the embodiment of SatanÃ¢â¬âthe subtle serpent, caused man to fall (Genesis 3:1-7). Due to the fall, the race of Adam failed God. Romans 6 tells of the tragic consequences of the entrance of sin and evil upon the worldÃ¢â¬â¢s stage when Adam disobeyed GodÃ¢â¬â¢s command to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Paul says that through one manÃ¢â¬â¢s disobedience, evil entered the worldÃ¢â¬â¢s stage, and through sin, death passed to all man because all have sinned (5:12). Furthermore, the apostle adds that through the disobedience of one man the many were constituted18 sinners (v. 19). Even more than just an act of wrong doing, sin in Pauline understanding is an inward constitution, the nature19 of sin within man (7:20b, 23). Through his fall Adam received an element that was not created by God. This was the satanic nature of sin. Thus evil entered the world as sin, which became the constituting essence and main element of fallen man. It is this constituting essence and element that constituted all men sinners. So we are sinners not primarily because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. Whether a man does good or evil, in Adam he has been constituted a sinner. This is due primarily to an inward element in fallen man, which is prior to his outward action of wrongdoing. This constituting element is the element of sin, and through sin death passed to all men because all have sinned. Hebrews 2:14 exposes the devil as the one who wields the power of death. Death is like a tool in the hand of the evil one. It is the power of incapacity that is now operating in fallen man. Through the power of death, the devil renders mankind incapable of obedience to God. For in every sinner, death lords it over him (Rom. 6:9b), reigns in his mortal body (v. 12), and makes him a slave to sin (v. 16). And so the devil, sin and death can be likened to an evil trinity that is now operating as a mystery in fallen manÃ¢â¬âthe mystery of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:7a). Out of this come all the moral, natural, and physical manifestations of evil in the world. This then is the subtlety of the entrance of evil as sin and death into the world created by God in good order. The unveiling of the Mystery of God, and the Mystery of ChristÃ¢â¬âthe divine answer to evil Our thinking concerning the problem of evil tends to be man centered, probably because of the existential reality of suffering that evil brings. From such a standpoint, it is psychologically difficult to appreciate what greater good can issue from the afflictions caused by the existence of evil in the world20. The apostle Paul however councils that human sufferings are but momentary lightness of affliction (when seen in the light of GodÃ¢â¬â¢s eternal intention for man), for suffering works out for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Cor.4:17). But these things are God-centered, things of faith which eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, and have not come up in manÃ¢â¬â¢s hearts, things that God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9). There is a glorious and greater mystery than evil that God desires to reveal and work out through the Spirit that searches all things, even the depths of God (v. 10). To indicate that GodÃ¢â¬â¢s eternal intention is higher than that which man could conceive, the New Testament uses the word mystery to qualify it. Ã¢â¬Å"MysteryÃ¢â¬ occurs 27 times in the New Testament21, of which 24 are positive and 3 negative. The three negative cases refer firstly to the mystery of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:7), and lastly, the mystery of Babylon the Great (Rev 17:5, 7). As we have seen, the mystery of lawlessness is the mystery of evil, the mystery of SatanÃ¢â¬â¢s operation. This will consummate in the mystery of Babylon the Great as the finality of SatanÃ¢â¬â¢s work in the world. But over and against the mystery of SatanÃ¢â¬â¢s operation, there are 24 positive references to the mystery of GodÃ¢â¬â¢s operation in the New Testament. The first group concerns the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of God in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 13:11; Mk. 4:11; Luke 8:10). This is followed by 23 usages of the word mystery (20 of which are Pauline) to describe GodÃ¢â¬â¢s eternal purpose, GodÃ¢â¬â¢s will, Christ, the gospel, the believerÃ¢â¬â¢s salvation, the believerÃ¢â¬â¢s stewardship, the believerÃ¢â¬â¢s hope, the transfiguration of the body, faith, the church and the Body of Christ. The last reference is Revelation 10:17, in which the apostle John proclaims that the mystery of God is finished. Clearly God Himself is working out a mystery through the ages to effect the recovery of a fallen world back to His eternal intention, which according to Saint PaulÃ¢â¬â¢s writings can be summed up as two great mysteries: the mystery of God, who is Christ Himself (Col 2:2), and the mystery of Christ, which is the church as the Body of Christ (Eph. 3-4, 9; 5:32). The Mystery of GodÃ¢â¬âChrist. God is a mystery, and Christ as the embodiment of God to express Him, to make Him known, is the mystery of God (Col. 2:2-3, 9). With the entrance of sin and death into the world, the man created by God was spoiled by His adversary. But the unchanging and everlasting God would never change by annulling His eternal purpose which He made in eternity past for eternity future (Eph. 3:9-11). Thus He had to rescue the man whom He had created for His unchanging purpose, even at the cost of His only begotten Son (John. 3:16). GodÃ¢â¬â¢s solution to the evil, sin and death that has come into the world is Christ Himself as the mystery of GodÃ¢â¬âin whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col:2:2-3). It is for this reason that even in eternity past Christ as the second of the divine Trinity was preparing to come into time (Micah 5:2) to die for fallen man according to the divine determination made in the council of the divine Trinity in eternity past (Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:18-20). GodÃ¢â¬â¢s incarnation in Christ, His death and resurrection, is negatively to solve the problem of sin and death, and positively to re-open the way back to the tree of life that man lost in Genesis 3, that man may receive God as life. In fact, the whole process of ChristÃ¢â¬â¢s incarnation, human living, death, resurrection and ascension is a mystery, the great mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16) by which God resolves the problem of evil, sin and death. The problem of sin is resolved through JesusÃ¢â¬â¢s death on the cross. Through the cross He accomplished what may be termed judicial redemption22 (Romans 5:10a), in which is forgiveness of the believersÃ¢â¬â¢ sins (4:7), justification of the believers (3:24), and reconciliation of the believers to God (5:11). Without the accomplishment of redemption with forgiveness, justification and reconciliation, there would be no basis for a righteous God to forgive a sinful people, and no way for sinful man to approach Him. The problem of death is resolved through GodÃ¢â¬â¢s organic23 salvation in life (Rom. 5:10b), an aspect much neglected, if not in doctrine at least in emphasis. This aspect of GodÃ¢â¬â¢s salvation is carried out by ChristÃ¢â¬â¢s life in the Spirit. In order to accomplish this, in resurrection He became a life-giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45b). We receive this Spirit through regeneration (John 3:6). Whereas before we were dead in our trespasses, transgression and sin, now we are made alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1, 5). Today, Christ indwells believers through the Spirit. This is Christ in us, our hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Christ is our life waiting to be manifested (Colossians 3:4). He is our life! Scripture attests that the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, even Christ Himself, is in us today (8:9-11)24. This heavenly ministry of JesusÃ¢â¬âpost resurrection and in ascensionÃ¢â¬âis within the believers as the Spirit, and it spans the whole spectrum of GodÃ¢â¬â¢s organic salvation in life from regeneration (Titus 3:5), through sanctification (6:19, 22; 15:16), renewing and transformation (12:2b) to conformation (8:29) and glorification (8:30). It is indeed a salvation Ã¢â¬Å"so greatÃ¢â¬ (Heb. 2:3a), for its eschatological goal is for Christ to make His home in our hearts through faith and that we may be filled unto all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19). And so, through the process of GodÃ¢â¬â¢s salvation in life our spirit is enlivened (Rom. 8:10), our mind becomes life (Rom. 8:6b), and even our mortal bodies also will receive life through the Spirit who indwells us (Rom. 8:11b). Over against the reigning of sin in death in fallen man, much more we who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ (5:17b). Thus in GodÃ¢â¬â¢s salvation our whole being comes alive in order that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (5:21). In this way Christ destroys the hold of him who has the might of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14)! The Mystery of Christ. Christ is also a mystery, and the church as the Body of Christ to express Him, to make Him known, is the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4, 9; 5:32). This mystery is GodÃ¢â¬â¢s economy, or GodÃ¢â¬â¢s administration to head up all things in Christ. The Bible affirms that God created the heavens and the earth for a purpose. Ephesians 1:9 reveals to us that God has a good pleasure.