Any successful theodicy, to fully solve the problem of evil, must come to terms with the problem of evil inside the problem of evil—the mystery wrapped inside the enigma.
Now here‘s a problem you don‘t hear many people complaining about …
“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous is an abomination to the Lord.” Proverbs 17:15 (ESV)
“However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:5 (NIV)
Do you see the problem?
How could God possibly be just in justifying the unjust? Wouldn’t that make him an abomination? In other words, how can God be satisfied with allowing imperfect people into Heaven? Part of the answer Paul gives is that the Just one voluntarily suffered sacrificially for the unjust. And God honored the amazing gesture.
God, in overcoming evil, has used a form of cosmic judo,[i] whereby the vast and manifold force of Satanically inspired human evil was freely generated and focused in its full potency upon the sole representative of divine goodness, only at last to be turned in upon itself in a final lethal reversal—the coup de grace of evil.
Jesus slew death at the cross.
Divine goodness has emerged victorious and the gate of Heaven has been securely locked open for those who trust God. At the cross, theologically, three things happened to uphold righteousness:
1. God met the demand of justice on behalf of the unjust, in that he ensured the sin debt was paid in full.
2. God met the demand of justice on behalf of the Just in that the substitution was voluntary.
3. God, by grace, honored the super-righteous expression of sacrificial love by accepting this substitutionary transaction as justice served.
How does this fact prepare a free man for heaven?
I believe God’s overall goal is to populate heaven with free beings capable of freely loving him. But what will restrain free beings from apostasy? A sufficiently reflective person should grant that free people are not ready for heaven when they die. Many try to solve the problem by supposing that the redeemed will have their freedom taken away, but that solution forgets why we are endowed with freedom in the first place.
In my theodicy, the last step to perfect holiness is taken on the Day of Judgment, when Christ personally reveals to us the depth of our corruption and the full scope of our own personal contribution to evil. We receive a postgraduate-level education in man’s potential for evil and the full depth of God’s goodness. A man who has been lost and rescued, and this at extreme personal risk or cost to his rescuer sees the value of his own future life in the eyes of his rescuer. In the eyes of Christ, we have glimpsed God’s estimate of the value our future heavenly existence. People who learn the reality of this self-sacrificial love through personal experience are almost ready for Heaven.
A free soul once unburdened by corrupting flesh, once fully endowed with knowledge of good and evil, after having been fully indicted and then shown mercy, will be ready for entry into the eschatological Kingdom, and into the full freedom of the children of God. (Rom 8.21) For in this way, by his grace, God is able to make him stand. (Rom 14.5)
“They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.”
Jeremiah 32:39-40 (NIV)
[i] This metaphor is intended to highlight the aspect of the art whereby the opponent is vanquished through a tactical redirection of his own lethal force.