God “Allows” Bad Stuff, Tim Keller Tells us, But Loves Everybody

Tim Keller— “We are an interfaith gathering today, and I freely acknowledge that every faith has great resources for dealing with suffering and injustice in the world. …Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s Son, divinity became vulnerable to andinvolved in suffering and death. He didn’t come as a general or emperor; he came as a carpenter…..True, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the cross is an incredibly empowering hint. It’s only a hint, but F U grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength. ”


Keller is a PCA clergyman who has signed on to the Westminster Confession which explains in its chapter 3, first paragraph: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will freely ordain whatever comes to pass.” This is not “allowing”.

Paragraph three of the confession chapter 3: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death.”

For the manifestation of His glory—that is how the Bible itself explains it. Romans 9:13 declares “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:22 tells the truth: “God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory.”

The Bible was written to those who believe the Christian gospel (not the message of tolerance and loves everybody), so when Bible readers see a “loves us”, they need to ask the question Tonto asked the Lone Ranger: “who’s the us?”

According to the Bible, God does not love all sinners, and that love is never conditioned on the sinner. God has ordained evil things to happen to both the non-elect and the elect, but the promise of Romans 8:28 is that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

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13 Comments on “God “Allows” Bad Stuff, Tim Keller Tells us, But Loves Everybody”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    every time they accuse—‘you don’t care”
    they add
    “like I do”
    yes, we are narrow and self-righteous
    that’s why we need the forgiveness of our sins, past and future…

    but why say we if you mean you
    if you don’t mean yourself, please don’t mean me
    if you mean me, then say you
    say what you mean, and mean what you say

    I don’t claim to be Reformed
    I don’t claim to be Baptist
    I don’t claim to be us
    I know I am not the we

    Tonto is too pure to be in the same group
    with the white man

    but Tonto’s going to get killed too

    either as the Lone Tonto
    or with the Ranger

    neither will survive
    despite their different self-deceptions

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Calvin: These instances may refer, also to divine permission…But since the Spirit clearly expresses the fact that blindness and insanity are inflicted by God’s just judgment [Romans 1.20-24], such a solution is too absurd. It is said that he hardened Pharaoh’s heart [Ex.9.12], also that he made it heavy [ch.10.1] and stiffened it [chs. 10.20,27; 11.10; 14.8]…for if “to harden” denotes bare permission, the very prompting to obstinacy will not properly exist in Pharaoh. Indeed how weak and foolish it would be to interpret this as if Pharaoh only suffered himself to be hardened!…from this it appears that they had been impelled by God’s sure determination.” (Institutes, Book 1, ch.18, P.2).

    “To sum up, since God’s will is said to be the cause of all things, I have made this providence the determinative principle for all human plans and works, not only in order to display its force in the elect, who are ruled by the Holy Spirit, but also to compel the reprobate


  3. markmcculley Says:

    McDermott acknowledges that Edwards never consciously embraced inclusivism, at least in his published writings or private notebooks.” He concludes, though, that Edwards’s thought contained elements that might eventually have led him to it.”


  4. markmcculley Says:

    Tim Keller—-You need more than just an abstract belief in your legal exemption from punishment; you need a renovation of your view of God.

    mark mcculley—-You need more than an abstract belief in faith as the condition of “union” and then “renovation” follows, because you need legal exemption from not only punishment but guilt.

    Tim Keller—while good works are in no way the reason for our justification, they are absolutely necessary evidences that we have justifying faith. Nevertheless ) such “evangelical obedience”—never in any way become part of our standing as justified before God, a standing that cannot be lost, even when we fall through sin under “God’s fatherly displeasure.”

    mark mcculley–So 1. Without enough works, we can lose the evidence that we thought we had of being justification. So it’s not out water baptism that gives us that evidence, and it’s not our being “in the covenant” nor is it God’s “promise to us” that God will “be our God”? 2. As long as we say that works give us assurance and that works don’t give us the not yet aspect of our justification, no problem? 3. How many works are enough, assuming perfection is not possible? Does the answer to “how many works” depend on what ability God has given us, or does it only depend on what God’s law calls sin? If we do just enough works so that our faith is “not alone”, does that prove that we really have faith? if we do just enough works, does that prove that our faith excludes these works as being any part of our standing? Can we have faith that our works prove our faith without ever believing in our works for salvation?

    Stoever, A Faire and Easy Way—“John Cotton professed himself unable to believe it possible for a person to maintain that grace works a condition in him, reveals it, makes a promise to it, and applies it to him, and still not trust in the work. Even if a person did not trust in the merit of the work, he still probably would not dare to trust a promise unless he could see a work…”

    “Grace and works (not only in the case of justification) but in the whole course of our salvation, are not subordinate to each other but opposite:as that whatsoever is of grace is not of works, and whatsoever is of works is not of grace.


  5. markmcculley Says:

    Tim Keller—“To grow in grace comes not simply from believing more in our justification. Growing flows from using the gospel of grace on the root of our sin—the mistrust of God’s goodness and the inordinate love of other things When we behold the glory of Christ in the gospel, it reorders the loves of our hearts, so we delight in him supremely, and the other things that have ruled our lives lose their enslaving power over us. This is not merely telling yourself that you are accepted and forgiven.”


    Tim Keller—Owen argues that the root of our sinful behavior is an inability to hate sin for itself, and this stems from a tendency to see obedience as simply a way to avoid danger and have a good life—not as a way to love and know Jesus for who he is.

    So is Ferguson agreeing with Kant that we need to get the self-interest out of ir, or is he agreeing with Piper (and c s lewis) that being motivated by the benefits is not a problem, but then also (again like Piper) always questioning our ,motives–do we love God enough?

    It’s an one-two punish—they say, now that you are definitely sanctified (regenerated, in union with, have Christ indwelling you) NOW YOU ARE ABLE to love God and to hate sin, but then 2, they keep asking, but do you love God, and will you tomorrow?

    Cary, Good News for Anxious Christians, p 84–”There is nothing more self-centered than the project of being unselfish. Why would genuinely unselfish people bother trying to be unselfish? Love is not about itself. We need to love our neighbors, not our motivations. So it would be perverse to wonder whether you had the wrong motivation for seeking their good. If what you’re trying to accomplish really is good for your neighbor, then that’s good enough. For Christian love is about the good of your neighbor, not how good your heart is.

    mark—and yet, how can we know it’s not dead fruit until we know first that it’s not a dead tree? The irony is that Cary makes me think more and be more anxious (not less) about my motives

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:21 pm | Permalink
    Bashir: So where does that leave the millions of Muslims, Sikhs, and Jews? Are they sadly and completely deluded?

    Tim Keller: People who never heard about Jesus, or never really got a hearing about Jesus . . .

    Bashir: I’m not talking about them, because some of those people have heard (about Jesus). I’m talking about the millions of Muslims, Sikhs, and Jews who have heard about Jesus. Where does your thesis leave them?

    Keller: Where they are right now, it means that if there’s never any change, they don’t get Jesus. If he is who he says he is, then, long term, they don’t have God. If on the other hand…all I can always say about this is God gives me, even as a minister with the Scripture, a lot of information on a need-to-know basis.

    And a need-to-know basis means, “Here’s all I can tell you: unless you get Jesus Christ who created you to start with, unless you are reunited with him sometime, there is no eternal future of thriving.” It just makes sense. Again, I’m trying to go back to this idea that, that, if he is who he says he is, you’ve got to have him. If right now a person doesn’t have him, he or she needs to get him. If they die and they’ve never, if they die and they don’t have Jesus Christ, I don’t know. In other words, I have a need-to-know basis, the only thing I know is you need Jesus.

    I certainly know that God is wiser than me, more merciful than me, and I do know that when I finally find out how God is dealing with every individual soul, I won’t have any questions about it. . . People in other religions, unless they find Christ, I don’t know any other way; but I also get information on a need-to-know basis so if there’s some , if there’s some trapdoor or something like that, I haven’t been told about it.


  7. markmcculley Says:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2010/10/those-pesky-shelf-doctrines/ Mouw openly agrees that he does not teach what the other famous Reformed guys don’t teach either

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Anne Lamott– “if we are to believe that there is meaning in our brief time here on earth, that mercy is the ground of our being, and love is sovereign — do we explain childhood cancer, earthquakes, addiction? Where is mercy in a beloved’s suicide? In the Christian tradition, we say that Christ continues to be crucified, in tsunamis, sick children, political prisoners, and that we must respond.

    This is what I believe, so I show up and get water for people, real people, which is to say, annoying people. Cradling strangers at dawn is very romantic, but in life, there’s also your thirsty bigoted father, your lying sister, the whole human race, living and dying and rising with Christ.

    In the rabbinical tradition, there is great insight in the notion that when we see suffering, we remember that this is only the sixth day. We’re not done here. The good news is that God isn’t, either. God is searching with us for a cure for cancer. God rejoiced at the cure for smallpox.”

    OPC pastor preaching his father’s funeral–we were not created to die, because God loves us too. But death cuts us off. Death puts a stop to that. God did not create us to stop loving. He did not create us to stop living. He created us to join his eternal love. God didn’t create us to say goodbye to our Fathers. That’s why it is so hard.
    . Jesus wept. — you should read the whole chapter. You might not believe in God, you might not believe the Bible is his inspired word. But as a piece of literature, the eleventh chapter of John’s Gospel is one of the most remarkable stories you will ever run your eyes over.Jesus wept at the sight of his friend’s grave

    Francis Spufford,Unapologetic,

    The theodicy that comes nearest to working is probably We suffer because the world is NOT AS GOD INTENDED IT TO BE, and indeed, it has a long and distinguished history as a Christian idea that’s compatible both with experience and with keeping GOD’S LOVE THAT WE CAN RECOGNIE…The state of things requires, in turn, an explanation of how they got like that…

    You get more for your money, emotionally speaking, if you just howl, and kick as hard as

    r it is one of God’s functions, and one of the ways in which He’s parent-like, to be the indestructible target for our rage and sorrow, still there, still loving, whatever we say to Him. The element of useful truth in this last and best of theodicies is the reminder it contains that the creation is not the same as the creator. He may sustain it all, He may be its bright backing, He may be as near to us at every moment as our neck-veins: but creation is not Him, creation is in some mysterious sense what happens when God isn’t…

    How, then, do we deal with suffering? How do we resolve the contradiction between cruel world and loving God? The short answer is that we don’t. We don’t even try to, mostly. Most Christian believers don’t spend their time and their emotional energy stuck at this point of contradiction. For most of us, worrying about it turns out to have been a phase in the early history of our belief. The question of suffering proves to be one of those questions which is replaced by other questions, rather than being answered. We move on from it, without abolishing the mystery, or seeing clear conceptual ground under our feet…We take the cruelties of the world as a given, as the known and familiar data of experience, and instead of anguishing about why the world is as it is, we look for comfort in coping with it as it is.

    We don’t ask for a creator who can explain Himself. We ask God to be a friend in a time of grief, a true judge in a time of perplexity, a wider hope than we can manage in time of despair…The only comfort that can do anything—and probably the most it can do is help you to endure—is the comfort of FEELING YOURSELF LOVED. ..Our hope is not in time cycling on predictably and benevolently under an almighty hand. Our hope is in time interrupted, disrupted, abruptly altering from moment to moment. We don’t say that God’s in His heaven and all’s well with the world; not deep down. We say: all is not well with the world, but at least God is here in the world with us.

    mark mcculley—which “we”, dude?

    in any case, who cares about love when things don’t go as God intends

  9. markmcculley Says:

    God uses means in condemnation

    II Thessalonians 2: 8 The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and will bring him to nothing with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working, with all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders,10 and with every unrighteous deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a strong delusion in order that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they will be condemned—those who did not believe the truth but enjoyed unrighteousness.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Mark 4: 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they indeed see but not perceive,
    and hear but not understand,
    lest they should turn and be forgiven.” Isaiah 6:9

    Acts 2: 23 Though Jesus was HANDED OVER according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, with lawless people used to nail Jesus to a cross and kill Jesus.

    God does not need to harden any sinner to condemn that sinner.

    It is idolatry to only know a God who is sovereign. The true God is also just and righteous. It is unbelief and rebellion to deny that God is just and righteous. Psalm 51:4-6—“Against you have I sinned and done what is evil, so that you are justified in your words and blameless in your judgment..Behold you delight in truth…”

    God is just and true. We sinners are false. Both are true. We take sides not only for God but against ourselves

    We cannot repent first and then believe the gospel. It is our duty to both believe the gospel and to repent of our sin in disobeying the gospel.

    If you are not elect, then you can’t elect yourself. if Christ did not die for you, then no amount of asking or jumping up or down will cause Christ to die for you.

    The sinner is a result of God’s wrath

    sinners are handed over by God to sin

    sinners are handed over to sinning

    sinners are handed over to other sinners

    God causes every human to be born in Satan’s kingdom

    God keeps every non-elect human in Satan’s kingdom


  11. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 8: 32 God did not even spare His own Son
    but HANDED HIM OVER for us

    where there is no sin, there is no wrath

    where there is no sin, there is no grace

    where there is sin, there must be wrath

    where there is sin but also grace, there must be wrath on the Son

    where there is wrath on the Son, and the Son’s death is imputed to the sinner, there must be no wrath on the sinner

    where there is sin but no grace, there must be wrath on the sinner

    where there is sin, there is nothing about God which says there must be grace

    where there is sin, there might not be grace

    where there is sin and no grace, there will be wrath on the sinner

    He went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; TAKE AWAY THIS CUP FROM ME: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt” Mark 14

  12. markmcculley Says:


    Matthew Levering’s Predestination is, like everything he writes, clear, thorough, judicious, rich, biblically and historically informed. He starts with the church fathers and takes the story to the present worries (from David Hart among others) that predestination endangers the innocence of God.

    Levering recognizes the limits of patristic treatments of the topic: “the Church Fathers develop insightful but almost inevitably one-sided approaches to the New Testament’s teachings on predestination. . . . Origen emphasizes the Creator’s unlimited love for each and every rational creature, and he assumes the predestination of all to salvation. Augustine insists that the New Testament teaches God’s utterly gratuitous predestination from eternity of only some rational creatures. John of Damascus highlights the power of created free will to rebel against God’s love, with corresponding limitations as regards God’s eternal providence in bringing about the salvation of rational creatures.” According to Levering, “each of these perspectives responds to certain aspects of the biblical witness while neglecting other important aspects” (8).

    Levering gives a careful, dispassionate treatment of Calvin. He highlights Calvin’s rejection of scholastic notions of “permission,” and traces Calvin’s opposition to a concern about distancing God from creation and about raising questions about the goodness of God.

    On the first point, Levering writes, “After giving a variety of biblical examples of God willing evil deeds so as to punish the wicked and bring about salvation, Calvin notes that by contrast the doctrine of permission makes God aloof from salvation history. The God construed by the doctrine of permission cannot truly be the active Lord of history. For Calvin, those who rely upon the doctrine of permission depict God ‘as if he sat in a watch-tower waiting for fortuitous events, his judgments meanwhile depending on the will of man.’ This aloof, detached, passive God is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible, Calvin observes, acts within the minds of human beings not only to enlighten them, but also to blind them and to intoxicate them. God thereby compels the wicked to serve him” (103).

    The second point is counterintuitive, given the widespread impression that Calvin’s doctrine of predestination implies that God is an oppressive ogre. Levering writes, “The danger with the doctrine of permission is that it seems to question the goodness of the omnipotent God’s eternal decree. In observing that predestination means ‘the eternal decree of God, by which he determined within himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man,’ Calvin puts his finger on the difficulty: God’s permission of everlasting rebellion cannot be disjoined from God’s eternal will. God fully knows and freely wills this order, which includes everlasting rebellion. Since God is free and all-powerful, he is not constrained to create this kind of order. God wills an order in which some are left out from union with God, and so this must be a good order, one that does not need the covering of the doctrine of permission. Calvin senses that the doctrine of permission originates in doubts about the justice of reprobation ‘by the just but inscrutable judgment of God, to show forth his glory by their condemnation.’ Discussing Paul’s interpretation of Malachi 1:2–3 (see Rom. 9:13), Calvin urges that the doctrine of double predestination in fact elucidates the scriptural doctrine of undeserved grace, God’s bounty rather than harshness” (106).

    The notion of permission is a way of opening a gap between the ultimate outcome of history and God Himself, the Lord of history. Calvin on the contrary insists on the goodness of God’s plan,which is a plan that includes the destruction of the non-elect

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