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Archive for the ‘Problem of Evil’ Category

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This morning I had the privilege of hearing Alan Shlemon preach on “Bad Arguments Against Religion” as part of an apologetics weekend. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: A reasonable defense of Christianity is needed because false ideas are obstacles to people believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Dan DeWitt has written an excellent article titled “Atheism and the Problem of Evil.” It should be read by anyone who has ever wrestled with the question of evil and the existence of God (which all Christians should).

Here is how he introduces his article:

The biblical explanation of the cosmos is a theme emphasized in the opening verses of Genesis, where each day of creation is stamped with the words “it was good.” But can an unguided world governed by mere chance, as the atheistic worldview suggests, provide any sort of objective foundation or absolute definition of “good”?

If the world is a product of chance, is governed by nothing, and is heading nowhere, then how can we point to some overarching value of goodness? As the prominent atheistic ethicist Kai Nielsen once said, “We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view. . . . Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.” [1] And if we cannot get to the moral point of view from a purely scientific perspective, then how can an atheist use a moral point of view to reject the existence of God?

The Christian isn’t the only one who has to account for the existence of evil; so does the atheist. But how can they?

You can read DeWitt’s article here.

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cslewis

C.S. Lewis was an atheist for many years and had a big question:

If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply wouldn’t listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling, ‘whatever you say and however clever your arguments are, isn’t it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by an intelligent power? Aren’t all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious?’ But then that threw me back into those difficulties about atheism which I spoke of a moment ago.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man doesn’t call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man isn’t a water animal: a fish wouldn’t feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not that it just didn’t happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God didn’t exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found that I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out it has no meaning: just as if there were no light in the universe and no creatures with eyes we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

(The Case for Christianity, pp. 34-35. Italics in original.)

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I had the privilege this morning of preaching a sermon I had not prepared. Saturday night, I decided to preach on the biblical view of the mass murders in Clackamas and Connecticut. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: The only real answer to evil was born to us two thousand years ago in Bethlehem – a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

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Excellent words from D.A. Carson:

At the end of World War 1, that bloodiest and most stupid of wars, several English poets (Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brook, one or two others) wrote some very moving poetry about the sheer savagery of the war. One of the minor poets was Edward Shillito whose piece “Jesus of the Scars” deserves wide circulation. The poem ends by saying, “The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak; They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, and not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.”

So when we face the ravages of uncertainty, when there is suffering and agony in our lives or in the world, and we wonder what God is doing and we have no answers and we reread the book of Job (that piece of wisdom literature we saw in chapter 6) and we hear God saying through four chapters of rhetorical questions, “Be still, Job; there are many things you do not understand at all,” we can now actually add something more that we do understand: “But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, and not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.”

You can trust a God who not only is sovereign but bleeds for you. Sometimes when there are no other answers for your guilt or your fears or your uncertainties or your anguish, there is one immovable place on which to stand. It is the ground right in front of the cross. (The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story. Emphasis in the original.)

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The existence and meaning of evil and suffering is a serious question that deserves careful thought. Randy Alcorn has met that standard in If God is Good. Alcorn provides a thorough and thoughtful treatment of the problem for everyone, not just Christians.

If God is Good has some excellent features:

It’s user-friendly. Although long (494 pages of text), chapters are relatively short and each section in a chapter is clearly delineated. If you’re looking for something specific, it won’t be hard to find.

It deals with an issue rarely brought up by other treatments of the subject: non-theists, especially atheists, need to have an answer to this question, too. An atheist or non-Christian can ask a Christian, “What do you say to someone in extreme pain and what kind of meaning can there possibly be in this?” But a Christian can turn the tables and ask, “What do you say to someone in extreme pain and what kind of meaning do you think there can possibly be in this?” Alcorn presents the problems non-theists face – no basis for condemning evil, goodness, and the existence of what he calls “extreme evil.” He shows that the Christian worldview better explains evil than any other.

Alcorn is at his best when he explains why God allows suffering (Section 10) and how to live meaningfully in the midst of suffering and pain. Alcorn’s words are encouraging, helpful, and faithful to Scripture.

I highly recommend this book. You can take a look or buy it here.

(Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

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I know now, God, why You utter no answer. You Yourself are the answer. Before Your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?”

C.S. Lewis (from Till We Have Faces)

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