We checked into Shawn McCraney's show the other day to see where he's at these days. Nothing has changed other than he appears more entrenched than ever in his speculative propositions and above all he was reiterating again that he just can't imagine or believe in a God that ie., would sovereignly designate some for eternal punishment. . . .
And that is the crux of so much errant interpretation! The human thinker, based in his own limited, emotional preferences tries to understand and interpret scripture/God through that defective lens. Everything is colored by his own bias of how he tries to imagine or believe God should be--rather than first looking at God as He is and letting God define Himself.
I believe this distinction is the key to everything. It drive straight back to the first misstep--the original sin--questioning and then reinterpreting and defying God.
"I simply can't--I WON'T believe in a God who ___________ (ie., sends people to Hell; elects some and not others; Who permits so much suffering and evil in the world etc.)"
And so it goes. THERE is the rebel's yell. Next follows the creating of idols (instead of acknowledging the real God, as He is) to worship, fashioned according to the rebel's personal preferences and inclinations.
In essence, what is actually being said is: "I will not believe in or follow the one, true, living God; but I WILL follow the god of my own making, with whom I am more comfortable."
As to the "problem of evil" and it's related issues, this is my current understanding (based in scripture, as it were, letting God describe and show Himself and His plan as He has.)
God is perfect, holy, just, love. . . . All that is created is created to bring glory to Himself. The world, the universe, all creatures . . . are created in exhibition of God's glory. WE were created to glorify God.
When God first created something and someone, it was other than Himself, and so, immediately bore the possibility of error, of evil. When He saw what He had made, remember, He did not say it was perfect; He said it was "very good". Almost perfect perhaps, but not quite. At once, being not perfect, the possibility of that lurking imperfection stood by to begin running its course, like how rust can begin to appear if the conditions are there to allow it.
Now, if the purpose in all of this . . . is that it redounds to and magnifies the glory of God, then that supreme purpose should be remembered topmost in all analysis.
For instance, the skeptics often ask and charge: "If God is all powerful and all good why didn't He just make everything perfect from the beginning? Why allow all the evil and suffering to take place, only to have to come Himself, suffer a horrible death at the hands of His own creatures and then send all those who won't believe in Him to eternal punishment? Why do all of this?"
Lurking behind that question is usually the pre-supposition that creation is made for the comfort and glory of the CREATURES--the CREATION.
But if we remember that the purpose is THE GLORY OF GOD (not us) then it is easier to see why He did what did and does what He does.
If God had made the angels and humans and all creation perfect in the first place, so that we could not err and go against God, look at all that would NOT be revealed about Him! In other words, look how much less His glory would be revealed and furthermore shared (for we know that along with His primary purpose to glorify Himself, He also, out of His love and beneficence wills that He has a family of individual creatures who He will share His glory with, forever.)
By making a creation . . . that had the capacity to go wrong, go bad, rebel etc., He was then able to show His character and attributes in greater depth, color, subtlety, profundity etc. Through the Plan of Salvation, He shows that He is "self" sacrificing . . . compassionate . . . humble . . . generous . . . loving . . . justice loving . . . lawful . . . creative . . . dramatic . . . and a host of other incredible qualities (considering we are talking here about the self existent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent I AM THAT I AM Who sustains all things in the crook of His "hand"! It shows that He is involved and intimate down to the smallest, meanest of levels ALONG with being so big, so incomprehensible, so powerful . . . that it staggers the imagination!
How much more does His glory shine and show as it is compared to the darkness and corruption of a creation that tried to exist apart from Him, against Him. All of this is a demonstration, a divine exhibition made all the more profound and clear because of the example made of what it looks like without Him, so-to-speak!
Now there will come a time when His creation and creature will exist in perfection and glorious harmony with Him, in the Heaven to follow, but only after His various and holy attributes have been on full display beginning with Adam, through Christ, on to judgment and then full redemption manifested!
What business do I have--a fallen, limited, currently finite creature--questioning how God chooses to reveal and magnify His glory; when I know that He is perfect, holy, gracious, loving, all-knowing, infinite? Surely, of all possible ways it could be done, He has chosen the best!
Another mistake that human-centered reasoning makes when looking at all this . . . is to assume that everybody created WANTS God, but that He cavalierly decides to choose some (who WANT Him) over others, dooming the rejected ones to Hell, against their will.
The actual case is that NONE want God and He regenerates some of those so that they DO want Him. Those He created to demonstrate that part of His character which loves justice--which IS justice--are not deprived of something they want or wish to have (relationship with God). It is not as if the damned are pining for righteousness and eternity with God, but He callously rebuffs them, choosing others. No. Those damned are are going right where they want to be. The Bible says they were made for that purpose; it is in their nature to "love the darkness".
Does the ant wish it could drive a car? Does the whale lament not being able to fly? Does the deer languish for not being able to live in the crevice of a sea rock as the crabs do? No. They are made as they are for their created nature and purpose. The "children of the devil" were made for a purpose and that purpose we know is perfect, just, holy and good--it glorifies God. "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires." --John 8:44
When the big picture is understood NOT from a limited, fallen, human-centered perspective, but from the perspective of God, we can see that there is no "problem of evil". Evil is allowed for the purpose of the divine exhibition of God's complex, fascinating, wondrous character--all to magnify (and for those who He has designed for the purpose to WITNESS and share) His glory.