SERIOUS TALK ABOUT EVIL AND SUFFERING: Every world view must address the issues of evil and suffering. What your world view is? If it is Hinduism, they believe in “karma.” People get just what they deserve. Bad deeds bring bad karma. Islam believes that whatever happens is “the will of God.” And naturalistic atheism has no moral law. It is amoral. “For evil to exist, good must also exist to measure evil by. For good to exist there must be a moral law. And a moral law requires a Moral Law Giver.” – after rzim.org. So the atheist cannot have it both ways. He is inconsistent to speak of evil when amoral atheism denies an objective moral law exists. How does morality arise from amoral matter? Or amoral gases? Or amoral slime? Or amoral non-life? Or amoral fish, apes? The Judeo-Christian world view is the only one where addressing evil is reasonable. – after Stealing From God, rzim. A classic book that has helped many is THE PROBLEM OF PAIN by C.S. Lewis. Lewis was a soldier in the WWI trench warfare. His view of suffering is broader than just an ivory tower.
Can materialists, atheists do moral reasoning as they claim? Former atheist and the late, Cambridge English Lit Professor, C.S. Lewis saw the flaw in their reasoning. It helped prompt his leaving atheism. In his book Mere Christianity he sees the blind spot as follows:
“The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a Real Right, independent of what people think.” (13)
Ravi Zacharias puts it similarly: To have evil, you must good to measure evil by. And to have good, you need a Moral Law. And to have a Moral Law you must have a Law Giver.
So how can atheists seem so sure that they are able to know right from wrong? All people are created in the image of God. This package includes a conscience. Materialists borrow from God, from the metaphysical. The conscience is a wonderful grace of God. He gives it, not dirt, rocks, starlight or atmospheric gases.
Suffering in the world is a very serious question. It deserves deep consideration---more than these brief FB comments. My thoughts as a Christian of many years.
- God in His eternal wisdom has not chosen to answer every question about suffering for us. Why? Why do wise parents not explain everything to their five year old son? Why do generals or corporate presidents not reveal all they know to employees or outsiders? Humility and respect for different roles is assumed.
- Suffering has purpose. SERIOUS searchers can find some TEN different reasons and causes for suffering and evil in the Bible. Are there more drive-by mockers throwing rocks than those desiring lasting truth where ever that leads?
- Sin was SO serious in a holy God’s eyes that He allowed His only Son to die a horrendous, painful death on the Cross. God is not distant from suffering. Jesus CARED enough to suffer for you! (Rom 5.6-9).
- Job suffered much yet it deepened his respect for God. And God ultimately blessed Job with TWICE what he lost materially. Trust Him.
- “Since he did not even spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?” (Rom 8.32).
Is it “in the beginning God” . . . or . . . Evolution’s out of nothing came everything and everybody? . . . Darwinism imagines how life forms developed over time. This is quite differ ent from explaining how matter began. For example, the Big Bang theory presupposes the existence of matter for it to work. Who created that pre-existing matter? Without pre-existing matter the Big Bang has no ingredients to work with.
Matter cannot be both cause and effect. Ford cars do not create themselves. They require something else to make them. Evolution is a fable agreed upon. It would rob me of my heavenly Father and all His blessings, my soul’s eternal home, my forgiveness for sin, peace and joy, abundant life now, Christian fellowship and my wonderful, personal relationship with Jesus. I dare not succumb to sophistic intellectualism’s charms. I will not swap God’s riches for man’s fads and fairy tales. Dead leaves must fall. I’ve escaped magic’s grip. Find truth, super sleuth.
“Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility” just two of Jane Austin’s popular novels are popular “because of her eloquent portrayal of how politeness [kindness, gentleness] is tied to deeper morality. . . . In Austen, manners for bad people are only skin deep; for good people, they are expressions of inner values. . . Civility is a hallmark of Austen’s novels. . . In fact, morals and manners, depth and surface, are inseparable in any healthy society. . . . In Austen, good manners are also a conduit for learning about another person in a careful and deliberate way . .” –Paula Marantz Cohen, dean and English professor, Drexel University.
Austen would seem to be wonderfully close to how the Bible and Christians view this. These are core values of genuine Christian living. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other . . (Eph 4.32) . .”but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control . . ” (Gal 5.22-23). (boldness marking is mine).
This is an important way God wants His values to permeate the culture.
- Do you believe that outsiders to an academic field know more about it than insiders? Name some academic fields where outsiders know more than the insiders who have studied it (medicine, chemical engineering, nuclear physics)?
- What was the purpose of the gospel of John? According to its author, John, why was it written? (Jn 20.30-31).
- Which NT book devotes eight chapters to explaining in detail (1) why man is not righteous before God; and (2) how does man become righteous before God?
- What is a main theme and key verse for the book of Galatians?
- To have a balanced view of the Bible, list the conservative biblical books or other resources you have read?
- Assuming that all church goers are not going to heaven, hypocrites included, explain the difference between being a real believer and having external religiosity. (Rom 10.9-10,13).
- List six distinctives unique to Jesus Christ that no other religion has.
- If you have rejected the Judeo-Christian world view, name the view which has a more cohesive solution to the issues of origin, meaning, morality and destiny. Is it pantheism, Islam or atheism?
I do not devote much time at all to debating the various systematic theologies. See the rationale for this in the questions asked below. But occasionally I am approached with a question. I try to deal with it briefly and return to more fruitful issues.
I have close friends that belong to reformed churches. It never crosses my mind to discuss it! In seminary I had both biblical theology and reformed professors. CT is considered an acceptable segment of the evangelical family. Extreme forms of CT, including Hypercalvinism, can be more controversial.
CREAM is an acrostic for my views though I hold no glassy-eyed devotion to debating them nor foist them upon others.
QUESTIONS/ISSUES FOR CALVINISM, HYPERCALVINISM :
- How has Calvinist theology (CT) impacted your zeal to fulfill the Great Commission and winning the lost ( Matt 28.18-20; Mk 16.15; Act 1.8)?
- Apparently not a few reformed CT churches have backed away from full scale evangelism and even usage of Bible terms including ‘saved,’ ‘born again.’ For some this CT slant on election seems to preclude the need to reach those who not elect. Is this biblical?
- It is reported that none of the Puritan writers adopted CT. (see apuritansmind.com)
- There is a mystery interwoven in God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Is it wise to go beyond what the Bible tells us? CT seeks to resolve this heavenly mystery by eliminating man’s responsibility. Is this wise or biblical?
- Paul opted to major on majors not minors: “For I was determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2.2).
- ‘In [salvation] essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity.” – old saint.
- God is using men I disagree with. -Warren Wiersbe’s Bible commentary
- Is the zealous Christian wiser to devote his time to the harvest field or cleaning out his neighbor’s theological fence rows?
Complete Atonement – Christ died sufficiently for all people, but effectively only for the elect – Jn 1.12
Ruined Nature – Man’s condition is lost, separated from God -Jer 17.9; Rom 3.23
Eternal Security – assurance of salvation for those trusting Christ’s payment alone for their sin debt – 1 Jn 2.25
Abundant Grace – God provides sufficient grace for “whosoever will’ receive Jesus Christ as his Savior – Rom 10.13; John 1.14-17; Rev 22.17; Eph 2.8-9
Moral Accountability – despite his sinful nature, moral responsibility has not been waived. Choices matter. He is eternally created in the image of God. His God-given conscience has the potential to respond to the wooing, the drawing of the Holy Spirit’s conviction -Lu 13.3; Romans 10.13.
T: Total depravity – Every facet of every person everywhere has been marred by sin.
U: Unconditional election – God chooses those to be saved based solely on His will.
L: Limited atonement – Christ died only for those who are elect.
I: Irresistible grace – The elect cannot resist God’s call to salvation.
P: Perseverance of the saints – The elect cannot lose their salvation.
D: Diminished depravity – Humanity is depraved, but God uses prevenient grace to restore man’s ability to respond to Him.
A: Abrogated election – God bases His election on His foreknowledge of those who freely choose Him.
I: Impersonal atonement – Christ died for everyone, making salvation possible for everyone.
S: Sedentary grace – God calls everyone to salvation, but many freely reject it.
Y: Yieldable justification – The saved can fall from grace and lose their salvation.
*The DAISY acronym is much harder to pin down as there are several different versions (I’ll discuss another when analyzing Arminianism). Also, many Arminians do not like the acrostic. Several versions of DAISY have been pushed by Calvinists as caricatures of Arminian theology. Many Calvinists seem to also enjoy making the lame joke that the Arminian flower is a daisy because they pull the petals off saying, “God loves me. He loves me not.”
R: Radical depravity – Every aspect of humanity is depraved, but we are not always as bad as we could be.
O: Overcoming grace – God’s grace is persistent in the life of the believer, but it can be resisted.
S: Sovereign election – God desires the salvation of all, but our salvation is based on His choice not ours.
E: Eternal life – God grants believers eternal security in their salvation.
S: Singular redemption – Christ died sufficiently for all people, but efficiently only for the saved.
*Timothy George, a Calvinist Baptist, uses the same acrostic as Kenneth Keathley, a Molinist. The differences lie in way the terms are defined. I will focus on the Molinist understanding as we will discuss the various forms and moderations of Calvinism with the TULIP.
Hinduism claims that god is pantheistic . . . everything is god . . . in all things . . . . but not a personal god one can form a relationship with. Ever tried to form a meaningful relationship with a galaxy, cloud, rock or glass of water?
This pantheistic world view if taken seriously, should be able to answer a few basic questions:
- Karma is one’s good and bad deeds being recorded to determine if one must be reincarnated to pay off his bad karma. Question: if god is impersonal who is keeping track of all human beings good and bad karma? Where is the accounting office?
- Karma seems cruel not to tell people how and where they have come up short. Why keep an account but not tell the person so he can learn from it?
- Reincarnation involves coming back as some animal life to pay off prior bad karma. Question: if one returns as a bumble bee how does it pay off bad karma? Is it ‘told’ to collect double the normal flower nectar or what?
- Being so vague, how do I know that this concept is not just another of the Hindu myths?
I ________ take you,________ , to be my God-ordained husband. I will have you and hold you from this day forward, until death do us part. I will continue to choose you each day, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, in tragedy or in triumph. I will love you and cherish you, and I will honor and respect you as the head of our home under Christ. I will joyfully submit to you, and faithfully remain by your side all the days of my life. All this I pledge by God’s grace and for His glory.
I _______, take you, _____
To be my God-given wife
To have and to hold
From this day forward, for the rest of my life, with all of my life
For better and for worse
For richer and for poorer
In sickness and in health
To love you unconditionally
To nourish and cherish you
To humbly serve you like Christ does for the church
To lead and shepherd you in God’s will for our lives
Til death do us part
By God’s grace and for His glory, I will!