Ask a Pastor Ep. 42 - Constitution and the Bible, Does God Love Satan?
Welcome to Ask a Pastor, a podcast from Orchard Hill Church! Have you ever had a question about the Bible, Faith, or Christianity as a whole? Submit your question and one of our pastors will answer on the program. New episodes every Wednesday.
This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with Geneva College professor, Dr. Terry Thomas.
Question #1 - "I would like to ask you if somewhere down the road if you could talk about how our "United States Constitution and the Bible", the " Bible and the United States Constitution" and tied together. I don't believe our children are being taught this in our schools. It fact, I believe that our schools are doing just the opposite, which is leading us towards socialism and other beliefs. All you have to do is look at how our government is making laws that are turning away from Bible beliefs. We can no longer totally depend on our elected officials to do this."
Question #2 - "If God loves us no matter how bad we are and He will forgive us no matter what, would he forgive Satan? Does He LOVE Satan since technically He created Lucifer?"
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This is an auto-generated transcript. Please excuse any errors.
Kurt Bjorklund: Welcome to today's content around Ask A Pastor. I'm joined by Dr. Terry Thomas, who's professor of New Testament at Geneva College. He also teaches for us often here at Orchard Hill Church. So Terry, welcome. Thanks for making some time to be with us today.
Terry Thomas: Good to be here.
Kurt Bjorklund: So we have a couple of questions and I'm going to read them exactly as they were written and look forward to your insights.
Terry Thomas: Me too.
Kurt Bjorklund: So I would like to ask you if you could talk about how our United States Constitution and the Bible, the Bible and the United States Constitution are tied together. I don't believe our children are being taught this in schools, in our schools. In fact, I believe our schools are doing just the opposite, which is leading us towards socialism and other beliefs. All you have to do is look at how our government is making laws and turning away from the Bible or from Bible beliefs. We can no longer totally depend on our elected officials to do this. Thanks.
Kurt Bjorklund: So Terry.
Terry Thomas: Yeah, thanks.
Kurt Bjorklund: Help us understand the concern that's here and how you would see those things tying together.
Terry Thomas: Well I would say this. I would say that there are multiple views about this. In academia presently, there's a kind of liberal spirit that tries to suggest that =the Bible didn't have that big an influence in, or Christianity didn't have that big an influence in the development of the American experiment. And if it did, it didn't have it in a positive way, you know? So in a certain sense, it's a little difficult to line up the origin of the constitution and the present day experience because in a certain sense there weren't options available to the constitution people that there are today. So you didn't have any postmodern [inaudible 00:02:03] back in the late 1700s. Actually in the United States at that time, I think the vast majority of people, 95% plus, would've been Protestant Christians, or at least would have said that they were Protestant Christians. So that would have a heavy influence on those people at that time.
Terry Thomas: We don't have that same situation in America today. Plus also philosophically we've changed in terms of just the cultural issues that have been brought up and so forth. So you don't have people looking to make that connection because of the changes in sort of philosophic thought and so forth. However,
Terry Thomas: There was a guy who, he wrote a book called Reading the Bible With the Founding Fathers, and he makes a pretty good argument for a significant influence of the Bible on the writing of the constitution and the early approach to the American republic. His argument is kind of threefold. One is that he says the people of that day were, I guess we said Protestant, and this was a powerful influence in their life, and had been for many people who had immigrated to, religious reasons where the very reasons for coming. So you wouldn't think that somehow they would go all the way to immigrating because of religion and then drop it, to say let's just get another idea for now. So he says just seems ridiculous to think that these people wouldn't have brought their model of what, getting direction for life to at that point.
Terry Thomas: Then secondly, part of the belief was that the Republic of some kind would require for people to self govern in a way that would require a virtuous citizenry. In other words, you couldn't have self government in a democratic kind of way and then who cares about the way people would have developed. Clearly in the late 1800s, although there were enlightenment influences, humanistic influences and so forth, you'd have to say Christianity was still the most powerful notion of where you were going to see some kind of discipline of virtuousness develop within people. And so, again, a little silly to see, to think that people wouldn't have been influenced by that.
Terry Thomas: Then what you have is you have a bunch of information, not always directly quoted in the constitution, say for instance itself, but by the founding fathers about their way of seeing things in a kind of biblical perspective where they quote the Bible. And by the way, they quote the Bible even by people who you wouldn't consider to be necessarily confessing Christians. You get people who, Thomas Paine or you get, what's his name, Ben Franklin. These guys are, they're not necessarily Christians, but they still think that the Bible holds some kind of persuasive authority [crosstalk 00:05:18].
Kurt Bjorklund: Significance for ...
Terry Thomas: Yeah, as given a directive for things. So you see that it's a little hard to say then that these, that the inside the document itself though, the argument I think is even a little stronger. One of the things you'd see is something like this, that there had been a great influence by a reformed thinkers, reformed theological thinkers, particularly from the Netherlands I think, in the origins of the United States in terms of the separation from England because they'd had that same situation in separating from Spain earlier. Then they tossed the inquisition on top of that, which didn't serve real well. Then a lot of people left from there. But they began to hey, isn't it always the case, or it doesn't seem to be the case, that when a country gets to have supreme power of some kind, they tend to show the worst of themselves in it?
Terry Thomas: So the idea of, for instance, just one of the things in , the separation of powers for instance, the checks and balances, they're built by the three pieces of government, that I think is pretty clearly a reflection of people holding to some notion of depravity, total depravity, that you supreme power corrupts supremely. So you got to protect yourself from that and the person that you can trust the least is the person who has power. So you want to make sure that you save them from themselves as well as you save it from other people. I think it's historically and biblically driven idea and I think you could make an argument for that kind of thing.
Terry Thomas: Also in the constitution there are things about people making oaths about their office and so forth. Oath making is not exactly a postmodern notion of any kind. It would've come from that idea that people should take seriously the things that they commit themselves to. I think it has a kind of notion connected to it of some kind of a final judgement about the activities of human people. So in other words, you want people to take seriously these things, make them take an oath because that oath carries with it some sort of future accounting of it. And where would that come from in a naturalistic world, there's no future other than the pure circumstance of things? So you have that sort of notion. And of course, the Bible is very concerned about taking oaths. It makes that point over and over again. The Bible's concerned about the separation of powers it'd be from that thing about the total depravity.
Terry Thomas: Then I think there's another thing, is that I think that when people got together in that time and they were thinking to themselves well, we have this influence in our own lives and what would we look at for an idea of what the law in a state, they'd look to the Bible and they would look to particularly the Old Testament and to the first five books, the Pentatuch, I think to get those ideas of what that would look like. So you see a lot of our laws oftentimes are reflective of those things, things that you don't think... One of the ones in the book that I mentioned, was a surprise. I never realized that in order for you to be convicted of treason, you have to have at least two witnesses to corroborate. You think, you think gee, I wonder where that came from.
Kurt Bjorklund: Connection here.
Terry Thomas: [crosstalk 00:08:53] connection, yeah. So you have a lot of that. And also, you don't want to say this though. You don't want to say that the only influence of the constitution is the Bible. So you can't equate the two of them. When you equate the two of them, that's when problems begin to happen.
Kurt Bjorklund: What do you mean by that? Say more about that.
Terry Thomas: Well, I think what happens is you begin to absolutize your particular historic moment. In other words, you think somehow you have the authority of God on your side for everything you do as long as you don't violate the constitution in some way. And so you justify it, it can be the kind of source of being able to self justify everything you do. You hate to say this, that if America was a Christian nation, the founding fathers who at the declaration of independence, they must've missed something with that whole slavery thing. It took a long time to kind of figure that out, a really long time and we're still dealing with race issues in relationship to that.
Terry Thomas: So it's not like, they didn't act like a Christian station immediately. So apparently it wasn't driven as pure. Yet sometimes I think we have that sense that if we are a Christian nation and our general direction has been determined by this document that's driven by biblical insights, so then it's right. And what we do is right and we can self justify all these issues. I think that's a kind of nationalism that we want to avoid. I don't think there is anything, Christianity is transnational. It's not national. It should be any particular nation, as soon as they absolutize their nation as being God's country, it tends to slip into being able to use that as a rationale for doing whatever it is that you want to do.
Kurt Bjorklund: And we see a lot of things where people claim God's led them to do it and you say I wouldn't pin that on God.
Terry Thomas: Right. And I think the other thing is that, the experiment in the Netherlands which I think influenced through the Calvinist routes into the United States, it had a willingness to, because of the problems that it experienced in persecution, it had a willingness to say hey, we want to make room for people who dissent. In the typical modern day, if you don't bend your knee, or if you do bend your knee [crosstalk 00:11:21], there's something wrong with you. Can we imagine though, that somebody for religious reasons would not feel that they could give their all. Matter of fact, should any Christian give their ultimate allegiance to a nation of any kind of? No, I don't think so. And if you begin to do that or you act like you do that or you criticize people who don't do that, then you slip into this kind of nationalism, which I think is dangerous.
Kurt Bjorklund: Well, thank you. Let's transition to a second question.
Terry Thomas: Okay, thank you.
Kurt Bjorklund: And the question basically is does God love Satan? So let me read this because it's well worded and thought out. So my 10 year old son likes watching some of the Ask a Pastor segments with me and I've been watching and I've asked him what he'd like to learn. Recently were discussing the armor of God. We were doing a kid's Bible study. Anyway, he had a question that I for sure couldn't answer and later came back and asked if he could ask a pastor. So here it is. He came back and asked. If God loves us no matter how bad we are and will forgive us no matter what we would do, would he forgive Satan? Does he love Satan since technically he created Lucifer? I wish I were making this question up, but I'm challenged by this kid on a daily basis. He thinks about everything a lot.
Terry Thomas: First thing I'm going to say is that this 10 year old kid already has a scholarship to Geneva College to study Biblical Studies because he's asking some questions that a lot of people never get to at 10 years old. And here's my, first I want to take this approach. I wonder why he asked the question. What motivates the asking the question? And if you read that passage that he said he was doing the Bible study on, this is in Ephesians six. It says be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. So all of a sudden the devil jumps right into the story there. It says this, for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers and against authority and against powers of the dark world, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Terry Thomas: So again, I think he's getting a feel for this passage and the place that Satan plays in it and he's worried about Satan, which you should be worried about Satan. Then it goes on, starts to put on the different pieces of the armor of God. One of them is that you should put on the shield of faith, which can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. So at least three times in about 10 versus there Satan gets mentioned in the midst of this struggle for some kind of consistency in your Christian life. So he's got it in that sense. He's got the right idea that there's something important about the nature of Satan and who he is.
Terry Thomas: On one hand, you wonder this though. I don't know, and this is pure speculation on my part, but you might think yourself maybe I put the shield down for a moment and a couple of those flaming arrows from the Satan got into me. And maybe as a result I have actually sided with Satan rather than been opposed to him. And as a result, maybe I deserve whatever punishment Satan deserves. Now, the great thing about the way this was stated previously was there seemed to be the recognition that God loves you unconditionally and that there's nothing you could do that would be so bad that he wouldn't offer you grace.
Kurt Bjorklund: But maybe the question behind the question is could I ever go so far that I end up wherever Satan is and therefore, yeah.
Terry Thomas: So the good news is no, you can't go that far. There's no way, your status with God is not based on what you do. It's based on what God's done for you. So as a result, that should be good news to him, namely that even if I messed up and I seem to have sided with Satan, I'm I'm not going to end up where he ends up at that point. So that's really good news.
Terry Thomas: The second part is a little more complicated. One is, I would say in one level God does love Satan. And the way so is because he's a creation of God's and God loves his entire creations. And everything that God creates is a reflection of his goodness and his beauty and his love in the way that he creates and he pours, the very creation itself is the outpouring of the love of God into the world with all kinds of great possibilities, including Satan as one of those heavenly beings. And created marvelously, as we hear about. Beautifully even, that God took some time to make him special.
Kurt Bjorklund: Yeah, he was spectacular.
Terry Thomas: So you'd have to say in that kind of metaphysical way to speak to speak, yeah, God loves Satan in the sense that he is a representation of his nature in terms of being part of the creation. However, morally, he does not love Satan. Satan gets a pretty dragged over the rocks pretty worldly for all the things that he is. He's a murderer, he's a liar, he's a deceiver, he's an accuser, he's a, you name it. There's all kinds of things that he gets pointed out as being here, there and elsewhere. So in that sense, he's not to be loved by those things. And morally, he's not loved by God, the same way that people who are in sin are not morally loved by God.
Terry Thomas: What requires them, in order to be morally loved by God, is for there to be an atonement for their sins. And God offers that love unconditionally to those people through the atoning work in person, work of Christ. The difference is that Satan is an angel, not a human being. So the atoning work of Christ is not offered to [crosstalk 00:17:40].
Kurt Bjorklund: So why not? I mean, if God is on a mission to redeem all of creation, and certainly that's a reformed viewpoint understanding of the scripture, why is Satan outside of that then? This is my own question now for you.
Terry Thomas: Okay, well, I got two answers to that. I get two answers to that. One is it's not like somehow the justice of God in terms of his punishment for sin is outside the whole redemptive frame. Seeing justice done his part of the redemptive picture of God. By the way, that's good news to a lot of people, I think, especially those people who have experienced a lot of injustice to know that in the end it isn't going to sit. God will not let this happen. So it's not like punishment in terms of judgment, of the wrath of God. It's outside the redemptive scope to begin with.
Terry Thomas: Now the question of why would we not, well, I don't know. I'd. Maybe God has some plan, but I just don't have any idea how he would do it. But I can say this. The redemptive work of Christ is limited to human beings, not it doesn't involve... This is a great passage that talks about this. This is the second chapter of Hebrews, where it says it's not the angels that he subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there's a place where someone has testified what is man that you're mindful of him, the son of man you care for, a man a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor and put everything under his feet. Then he talks about this. He says in this Christ comes. Then what he does is Christ represents an experience through his suffering of the grace of God so that might taste death for all people. Then he goes on to talk about who is it that he tastes death for. It says he tasted for his brothers. He becomes a human being like human beings. That's the atoning sacrifice for human beings. It's not for angelic beings.
Terry Thomas: Then it says this. Since the children have flesh and blood, that's talking about us, he too shared in their humanity so that his death might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil. So the redemptive work of Christ actually carries with it the punishment of Satan in it. Then it says this. And freeze those who lives were held in slavery by the fear of death, for surely it is not for angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants.
Kurt Bjorklund: So a clear statement.
Terry Thomas: Pretty clear that the redemptive work revealed in the Bible and the personal work of Christ is limited to human beings, not to angels. Now, could God figure out some, I'm not going, I don't know. Do we have one more minute?
Kurt Bjorklund: We do, barely.
Terry Thomas: Okay, well...
Kurt Bjorklund: Just a minute.
Terry Thomas: Okay. Here's what I would say. There's one other issues that I think this question brings up, what I'm pretty sure he probably didn't have in mind, and that is the origin of evil. You can talk about God loving Satan before he falls, but then you have, eventually you're going to ask the question why did he let him fall? And then you're going to back to that which is one of those presently unanswered questions of theology.
Kurt Bjorklund: It's the chicken egg question so to speak.
Terry Thomas: Yeah, how do you have a God who's all powerful and loving and sin come into the world, and without him being the origin of evil? And I think that question is connected to that, which makes it muddier in some ways. So I guess my answer is sort of metaphysically God loves Satan in the sense he's part of the creation. Morally, he doesn't, and he doesn't participate in the possibility of an atoning work of Christ because he's not a human being.
Kurt Bjorklund: All right. Thank you. Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Terry Thomas. If you have questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be happy to take advantage of your desire for content in future episodes. Have a great day.