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In the book of Job, as best as I can see, God ruined Job's life over a bet (Job 1:9-12, 2:4-6). People and livestock who weren't even involved died (Job 1:13-19). Moreover, God literally made this deal with the devil.

It seems that Job's life (and the lives of his children and livestock) is just a game or one big cosmic joke to God and Satan. We can explain Satan's behavior by saying he's evil. But God is supposed to be all-good and all-loving.

How do Christians reconcile God's bet with Satan with a God of love?

Important Note: This question is not about the problem of evil. It has nothing to do with Job. It's about God's behavior in the book of Job, i.e. the bet with Satan. If your answer has anything to do with why the righteous suffer, you're probably answering the wrong question.

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I don't have an answer for you as I struggle with many of the same things you do. You might find my answer to a different question to be of some use. –  Jon Ericson Jul 26 '12 at 16:09
    
Also, see here for further explanation on the apparent discrepancies between a "God of love" and the "God of the Old Testament". –  Jas 3.1 Jul 26 '12 at 16:27
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Good plan. For others, please see this room. –  Jon Ericson Jul 26 '12 at 17:00
    
John Piper delivered an extended message on Job at the 2008 Desiring God conference: Part 1, and Part 2. –  Philip Schaff Jul 27 '12 at 3:47
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Classic Christian approach does not see this as a bet. –  FMS Aug 23 at 20:59

9 Answers 9

up vote 10 down vote accepted

How do I, as a Christian, reconcile the story of Job with a God of love? What part of this story demonstrates any hatred by God towards Job? Satan presents himself in front of God, requests that God remove his protection from Job. God grants his request. There is no bet, and no hatred on the part of God. Who killed the livestock and the children? Satan. Who is responsible for his suffering? Satan.

All things in the Bible are written for our instruction. This story of Job is an example of how to praise God even when there seems to be no reason to do so. It also demonstrates that there are things that happen that we may not understand, Job got some things wrong and comes to some faulty conclusions as all this is happening to him but he keeps his faith in God.

Job also understands that everything we have, including our children are a gift and that these things belong to God, as demonstrated in this verse:

Job 1:20-22

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Job is wrong though, the Lord did not take these things away, Satan did. If I give my child a gift, I don't take it away. Someone else may, and I may allow someone else to take it, but that does not demonstrate hate, or evil on my part. What the person took away I can restore. It is the same with God. We see that after Satan is done, failing to get Job to curse God, that God then doubles what Job had to begin with. And even blesses him with more children.

Job 42:12

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.

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This is more satisfying. Good answer. –  Eva Jul 28 '12 at 3:19
    
Question has been edited. –  FMS Aug 23 at 23:56
    
Satan presents himself in front of God, requests that God remove his protection from Job. God grants his request. Why would a good loving God grant Satan's request? Question shifted here but is not answered. –  FMS Aug 24 at 6:58
    
I am trying to point out the false premise in the question. I believe my answers does just that. Granted instead of using the word "request" I think "appeal" would have been a better choice of words. Regardless the outcome is the same, it is clear that there is no bet, bargain, deal, etc. You ask "Why would a good loving God grant Satan's request?" That is a different question based on the fact that the scripture tells us that God does grant appeals. For example the appeal of Kane, or the Gerasene Demoniac. If you would like to ask a question on that topic I will surely answer. –  dcreight Aug 26 at 21:37

First a disclaimer –

Your question is another form of the renowned problem of evil. How can God be loving and kind in light of all the suffering that exists in the world?

It is easy to try to give over simplifying answers especially when I myself haven’t gone through the problems many other people have to face. I do not think I can fully answer your question, all I can offer is some speculative arguments.

End of disclaimer.

The problem of evil is not an easy one and as such one could not expect its answer to be simple (And not expect it to come from a simpleton like me). The problem has been dealt innumerable times by many Philosophers and Apologists.

Leibniz and Lewis come to mind. (I would recommend The Problem of Pain) Nor is the problem essentially a new one. Even the prophets of God had the same confusion –

Habakkuk 1:2 How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

I think the crux of your question is the premise that humans are innocent until they do something very terrible like murder.

Innocent people and livestock died.

And it is this premise that I'll focus on –

  1. We all think ourselves to be quite innocent. There are a few faults here and there but there’s a good reason for those.

    Proverbs 16:2 All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.

    All our goodness is accidental or circumstantial. I have never stolen anything in my life. Though I'd like to believe it's all because of my good nature it might be because I've never really needed to. While we humans can only look on the external actions of a person and make our judgement on that basis, God is not fooled by appearances.

    By the way of an analogy the user of a software system can only tell if a program malfunctions by analyzing the output. On the other hand a programmer can read the code and make an estimated guess if the code will actually work. Badly written code executing in an ideal environment may work. While a code of mathematical precision may break under extensive regression test. In these cases a programmer is (and as God is in our case) - not fooled.

    It is in this context that He says -

    Matthew 23:26 I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

    And -

    Matthew 23:6 " ... first clean the inside of the cup"

  2. Our sense of goodness is in out of touch with reality. Have you ever watched a documentary on Khmer rouge or the war crimes in World War II?

    Innocence is the last characteristic one could attribute to the human race. - Monika Michael

    And -

    1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

    Also -

    The more I know of men, the more I respect dogs. (Author Monika can't remember)

    And also -

    Jeremiah 17:9 The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?

  3. God does not owe His salvation or His favor to anyone. Nor does He need to explain Himself to anyone.

    Psalm 50:12 ... all the world is mine and everything in it.

    Matthew 20:15 I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.

Now directly onto your question. We don't know exactly what happened, we aren't given much information. There are two possibilities (in my mind) -

  1. Perhaps Job's sons were wicked, not God fearing like their father. (Example, David and Solomon, Eli the high priest and his wicked sons) And God decided to use the situation and kill two birds with one stone. Bring judgement on his sons and set a personal matter straight with Satan.

    In the end all things even those not in approval to His immediate commands will accomplish only His purpose.

  2. Perhaps Job's sons were not wicked. They died in a dramatic fashion and so we ask the question - what was their sin? Again we're judging based on appearances. If someone dies quickly we think it's because of sin. If someone dies by age we thinks its all right.

    The fact is that we all have sinned and are going to die one day or another. The timing of our death has nothing to do with it. The righteous may live few days and the wicked may flourish (I'm in my full old testament rhythm today) but in the end each man will get what he deserves.

    The Apostle Peter was not rescued from the prison because he was sinless but so that he might preach the gospel. When he had finished his job he did have to die. Similarly maybe Job's sons were innocent as you say. But they did have to give up their souls to God one day. He took it early. Whether he takes it right now or 60 years later is His prerogative.

    In the end all I can say is -

    Romans 9:20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?

    Perhaps Jobs sons were holy and righteous (like me) and they died, well then -

    Philippians 1:23 I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

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+1. Ochen Horoshor! –  Affable Geek Jul 26 '12 at 11:00
    
Thank you for your involved answer. However, my question is not focused on the death of Job's children. Tis focused on God's action in making a bet with Satan that resulted in the death of Job's children (among other things). In relation to the bet, Job's children were completely innocent. They did nothing to incur a bet that would end their lives. But again, their untimely deaths are not the focus. –  Eva Jul 26 '12 at 11:03
    
@AffableGeek Spasibo bolshoe.. :) :) chto udivitelno. Вы говорите порусски??? :) –  Monika Michael Jul 26 '12 at 11:08
    
@AffableGeek Shto? Tbi gobopish po-pyccki? –  Narnian Jul 26 '12 at 12:06
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Why is Google Translate failing me here? –  Eric Jul 26 '12 at 14:19

There seems to be an underlying assumption in questions like these, specifically that if God is really loving, then He is obligated to prevent any harm from ever coming to anyone. In fact, He should create a world where everything is perfect--which is actually what He did, but even in that world mankind rejected God.

It is also instructive to note that bad things can often have good results. In fact, as Romans 8:28, God works out even bad things for our good. When we experience death and loss in this life, is it not a potent reminder that we were not made for this world, but for another? When we see evil, is it not a great teacher that all people desperately need the power of God to transform our hearts? Do not all the trials and frustrations of this life teach us that there is more to life than physical life?

This is the problem with the question--we view things from a worldly perspective, wanting to see all the blessings of God confined to a few years on this planet, and if we don't, then God must not be loving. The Bible teaches about an eternity where all the infinite riches of God's blessing can be experienced. Job will no doubt, as does a woman giving birth, forget the pain for the joy to come.

The story is told of a missionary who spent his life in a distant country bringing the gospel of God to a remote tribe. In his later years, he returned home on a boat, which, once it came into port, was greeted with much fanfare--none of which was for him. There was no one to welcome him home or thank him for his sacrifice, even though many had come to welcome home others who were aboard.

The man prayed and asked God, "I have given my life and strength for your kingdom. Why is there no one to welcome me home." Then the man felt the Lord saying to him, "You're not home yet."

Conclusion

So, was God playing a cruel joke on Job? No. Did He allow evil to happen? Yes. In fact, all evil that ever happens could certainly be prevented by God. And if God's ultimate goal was the physical well-being of all mankind, then He would certainly do so.

God's ultimate goal is much greater than that--it is the spiritual well-being of all mankind. God desires for all mankind everywhere to see the vanity of all this world has to offer and to turn to Him that He may bless us richly, not merely in physical ways and not merely in this life.

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Perhaps I did not phrase myself well. I do not think God was playing a joke on Job. I think God was joking with Job's life. There's a difference between God allowing evil to happen, and God actively participating in the evil. I think that making a bet with Satan is not necessarily evil, but is definitely not good. My question is about how to interpret the bet with Satan. –  Eva Jul 26 '12 at 13:43
    
Question has been edited. –  FMS Aug 23 at 23:56

I'm not going to give an involved answer, just a more simple one. I'm also only going to address the "bet" part, not the goodness or supposed evil of what happened to Job.

God does not bet. He exists simultaneously in every place, at every time that has ever, or will ever, exist. He doesn't know the future, he is in the future, right now, and a million years ago. Time is a construct of humanity and our physical system, God is not bound by it. So then, how can you bet against God? He doesn't just know the future, he is in the future. Satan, as he did with the fall, saw himself stronger than God, capable of manipulating those that God had called or that followed Him. God used the "bet" to show Satan his utter weakness compared to Himself. The bet could not be evil, because God cannot bet, it is as simple as that. At least for that part of Job.

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Unsatisfying, but I was expecting something unsatisfying. –  Eva Jul 26 '12 at 14:55
    
C.S. Lewis, in one of his books, used an interesting, though admittedly imperfect analogy to comment on how God sees time. The analogy was that we see time like the characters in a book: from the perspective of an individual character, at any one point in time in a chronologically written story -- from any one page, that is -- we can see the present and the past only. God, however, is the author, can flip to any page he likes, and -- in any event -- knows the story all the way through. –  Philip Schaff Jul 27 '12 at 3:42
    
@Eva if you are resigned to unsatisfying answers, why did you even post the question? –  Jeff Jul 21 '13 at 3:17
    
@JoelFischer when exactly did humanity create time? –  Jeff Jul 21 '13 at 3:18
    
@Jeff I was hoping I would get a satisfying answer, but also expecting most of them to be pessimistic. –  Eva Aug 13 '13 at 3:08

Concerning the "misfortune" that happened to Job and his family: We live for God, and not for ourselves, as Christ lived for us. I know that if I'm living for God, and I am in good faith, that anything that happens to me that I perceive as negative has some greater good for God's will and/or His kingdom, because God is good.

If I were Job, and I knew that by me displaying my faith and devotion to God amidst this horrific situation would be a testimony to the world over for centuries/millenniums to come, I would find much satisfaction and joy in that. Even if I were his children, who really got no recognition (everyone knows Job and this incredible story), I would still find much satisfaction and joy in God's divine purpose for the incident (plus God called me home early!), even more so because nothing should be for our own glory, but all is for God's.

IMO, God was not making a "bet". As I mentioned, God used the situation for a much greater purpose.. not to simply show up Satan.

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Still unsatisfying, but at least it answers my question. –  Eva Jul 28 '12 at 3:20
    
Question has been edited. –  FMS Aug 23 at 23:57

I would say that this whole story of Job has a very straightforward message:

God by doing this (bet) in case of Job, wanted to proclaim his glory to Satan. God knew that here is a man who will stand besides Him and live up to His expectations, no matter how much He would torment him. This would allow Him to show his glory- the glory that he sought from his creation “Adam and his descendants” through obedience at the time of his creation. In spite of Job having free will to do things that would have made the Satan the winner of this bet, he continued to be loyal to his Creator. Before we placate God to be not “all-good” and not “all-loving” we can also try and apply this attribute to Job for not caring and not “all-good” and not “all-loving” about his children and livestock. Otherwise, he should have done something that which is against God so that God would lose, Satan will win, and everything would be as it is for Job.

God is demonstrating to Satan the character of Job, a Hard core devotee of Himself. More than this God demonstrates his pride to Satan, in an ideal man who is so much loyal to him in spite of all the sufferings and that too when Job had the free will to undo everything that God won through these bets with Satan.

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It seems like you're explaining the reason for the bet. Which I didn't understand either, but my question is about how we can reconcile the bet with God's supposedly all-good, all-loving character. Explaining by saying that Job isn't all-good or all-loving doesn't work either. Humans aren't defined to be all-good and all-loving, whereas God is. –  Eva Jul 27 '12 at 18:42

When we evaluate God's actions with our limited brain and limited moral light, all death and loss in Book of Job may seems to be wrong and against our concept of ever loving God. Yes only when we evaluate God's actions within our conceptual framework... Just think who are we to evaluate God's actions? Who are we to evaluate the level of love of God. Didn't He allow His only Son our Lord Jesus Christ to suffer so huge humiliation, persecution, pain, agony and death. Isn't that real Love?

In other words our pride is the culprit when we try to evaluate God's actions. Pride is a base sin which produce further more sins like self justification and hypocrisy. This pride is the only sin Job had before he is visited by God. Job seems to self justify his actions and condemn God for His inequity. The moment Job heard God, he was transformed and says he was wrong. This pleases God and He justifies Job and gives back all his lost possessions.

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Who are we? People. We are the creators of the word "love" and the authors of its definition. A definition of love must allow the possibility that God is not loving, otherwise the word is meaningless. That's not pride; it's linguistics. –  Eva Aug 26 '13 at 22:46
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Welcome to the site. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? Also, while I certainly agree with what you're saying, I'd also recommend reading What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Aug 27 '13 at 0:10
    
Sorry @Eva, I was talking about God and His Love and my level of understanding of it. Never about language and linguistics. Love for me is not just a word in language but also a feeling, responsibility and actions emanating from or resulting into that feeling or fulfillment of that responsibility. –  Biju Varghese Aug 28 '13 at 8:58

I think the question contains a false premise. "How can God be loving in light of his behavior with Job?" presumes that the behavior attributed to God in The Book of Job is truly God's behavior. I think the short answer is that God is indeed loving, that the behavior attributed to Him in the book of Job is not loving, and that whoever wrote The Book of Job incorrectly attributed the bad behavior to God. Problem solved. Whether the author of The Book of Job knew he (or she) was making a false report or not is another matter. I would add that I believe we all bear some responsibility not to accept a report about God that characterizes him as morally imperfect, regardless of the source.

A close review of the The Book of Job reveals that it is inconsistent with gospel teaching in numerous respects. Some of the gospel truths that the book of Job denies include:

  1. no one is good and righteous except God only,
  2. no man pleases God by his good behavior,
  3. God has no fellowship with Satan, rather God revealed himself to destroy the works of the devil,
  4. every person who seeks finds, and God rewards those who diligently seek him, and of course
  5. the goodness of God.

For evidence of Job's denial of these attributes of God see:

  1. Job 1:1 (cf Rom 3:12, Ps 14:3), also Job 1:3b (cf Rom 3:22b), Job 1:8 (cf Ps 148:13, Lk 18:19)
  2. Job 42:7 (cf Gal 2:16, Rom 3:20, Heb 11:6)
  3. Job 1:8 (cf 1 Jn 3:8b, 2 Cor 6:14, Jn 1:5)
  4. Job 19:7, 30:20, 9:33, et al (cf Mt 7:7, James 1:5, Acts 17:27)
  5. Job 1:12, 2:6, 38:4 (cf Acts 10:38, Rom 5:8, 1 Jn 1:5, 1 Jn 4:8)

But there are many other passages in The Book of Job which are contrary to gospel principles, e.g.

  • Job 5:7 (cf Heb 6:9, 2 Cor 2:14)
  • Job 7:16 (cf 1 Jn 2:17)
  • Job 8:9 (cf 1 Cor 2:16)
  • Job 9:16 (cf Heb 10:39)
  • Job 9:33 (cf 1 Tim 2:5)

...and so forth.

The Book of Job, quite apart from the issue of grossly misrepresenting God's character, paints the depressing picture of a man with no covenant, no mediator, no sure promise, no guarantee. How bleak! It's a reminder to me of what I myself have been given, and it makes me think "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Cor 9:15)

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Can you please justify your claims that Job denies those truths? –  curiousdannii Aug 22 at 12:57
    
I think it's disingenuous to claim that God is not ultimately responsible for Job's sufferings - especially since God specifically assents to Satan's actions toward Job (Job 1:12). –  Matt Gutting Aug 22 at 15:45
    
I think the question contains a false premise. It does indeed! PS Question has been edited so you might want to adjust your answer. –  FMS Aug 24 at 7:07

I read this as a challenge and not as a bet

Evil has challenged Good

Please see: What should be done with a question based on a false premise? - duplicate


Answering

This answer with its references does not approach this topic as 'How do Christians reconcile God's bet with Satan with a God of love?' but as the answer and the references approach it. That is the classic Christian approach to the topic. It is precisely this way of thinking, i.e., that God made a bet with Satan, that leads to more complications in the understanding of God. With this view, God seemed to the OP as capricious.

It is not as if God approached Satan and says, 'Let's bet ...'

Plain reading of the text shows that God points to Satan that there isn't anyone as righteous as Job is in all the earth and Satan responds that he would not be righteous if God had not surrounded him with favor. This is more challenge than bet. God knows the genuine and true love that Job has for him. At the end of the book what is known to God is now revealed to all. Herein is a mystery: that the good man continues to be surrounded with God's favor even amidst his misfortune and his sickness. If God had not been with Job, he would not have persevered.

Evil has challenged Good. With this view, we are still faced with why a Good and almighty God can permit evil to exist let alone allow evil to challenge the Good that it cannot defeat, and knows it cannot defeat. Herein is the mystery that cannot be divorced from any understanding of the Book of Job.

From the above, it is seen that the problem of evil and it besetting the good man, is central to the book of Job

I am also reminded of another mystery of God that prompt people ask why God would 'test' Abraham (via enjoining him to obedience) when he knew him and then go on to say:

Gn 22:12 (RSVCE)
12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”


Presenting the classic Christian approach to the Book of Job

The Introduction to the Book of Job in the Jerusalem Bible Popular Edition has:

The main character, Job, is a famous figure from ancient history, traditionally regarded as a model of virtue; he is used by the author to exemplify the problem of the good man who is punished by misfortune and sickness.


The questions raised in the book of Job
(Excerpts from A Guide to the Bible | Antonio Fuentes)

The question of a why a bet or even that there is a bet is not presented

The book does not answer the initial question posed; indeed no answer is forthcoming until almost the era of the New Testament. According to Vaccari it does advance to the position of realizing that God has wisely but mysteriously disposed that sometimes even the just are made to suffer despite their innocence. However, God will eventually reward their virtue. The problem posed by Job is, basically, what is the origin and purpose of suffering?

Job's question remains unanswered: he does not discover the reason why innocent people suffer. The furthest he gets is to realize that suffering is part of God's plan; that it has to be accepted as long as it lasts; and that God does not abandon the sufferer. In this connection it raises other basic points which later revelation - especially that of the New Testament - will be more specific about:

a) suffering tests the genuineness of a person's virtue;
b) it protects him from pride and makes him more humble;
c) when suffering comes a person's way he should abandon himself completely into God's hands.

The entire book opens up a new perspective - that of the reward which awaits, in heaven, those who do God's will on earth. Job's suffering, the suffering of a just man who bears it patiently and continues to seek mercy and forgiveness, acquires its fullest meaning in the New Testament. Thus, this text of St. Paul provides an answer to Job's complaints:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [cf. Rom 8:18 (RSVCE).].

In other words, no matter how much we may suffer on earth, it is nothing compared with the vision of God which awaits us in heaven. Job did not realize that the just man does not attain fulfillment through possession of material things, and never attains it completely in this life. He also knew nothing about what happens to souls after they leave the body. Happiness and immortality are totally connected to one another; but it took human reason centuries to discover this. [...]


In the New Testament, the good man remains faithful even in the face of death, and in so doing and by their LORD, definitively conquering Satan.


Prior to the section above, the guide states:

There is a happy ending and the moral is quite clear, even if Job does not grasp it. But he does realize now that there is no reason why God should have to account to anyone for what he does: man cannot grasp the mysterious ways of providence. in permitting the innocent to suffer and even to die and in not punishing the evildoer during their lifetime, God has his reasons, even if man cannot grasp them.


Ending commentary

Divine Revelation and Church Teaching tells us that the types in the Old point ultimately to the Messiah, Jesus Christ the Son of God, God's suffering servant, God himself.

Someone once couldn't have put it better when they said, 'God himself took his own punishment.'

With this, we are reduced to silence.


Answering OP's comment to my answer I don't know why people see Job and think my question is about the suffering of the righteous without actually reading it. Even after I removed that weird edit someone who gave the wrong answer made, this still persists.

Because classic Christian approach to the book of Job is that it exemplifies the problem of the good man who is punished by misfortune and sickness.

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I don't know why people see Job and think my question is about the suffering of the righteous without actually reading it. Even after I removed that weird edit someone who gave the wrong answer made, this still persists. My question is not about Job. I don't care about Job. I care about God's deal with the devil. God's reasons for Job's suffering were not mysterious in the slightest. It was very clearly spelled out in the first two chapters. He made a bet with satan. My question is about why His not-mysterious bet was righteous. –  Eva Aug 23 at 18:14
    
@Eva From references I have given above, The topic is to be approached in a holistic way. Approach it this way and you may have an understanding of your question. This answer refuses to be drawn into looking at this topic as: How do Christians reconcile God's bet with Satan with a God of love? and so has the selected answer. –  FMS Aug 23 at 18:44

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