EVIL & SUFFERING

SERIES: BARRIERS

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Journey Church

 

  • Recent national poll: “If you could ask God only one question and you knew He would give you an answer, what would you ask?” Most common response: “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?”

 

  • Theodicy: Why a good God permits the manifestation of evil

 

  • Much more PERSONAL than that for us

 

  • “Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms…But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.” – CS Lewis, upon the death of his wife

 

  • This may be the #1 challenge that skeptics, agnostics, and atheists issue.

 

  • “Every philosopher believes that the most serious challenge to theism was, and is, and will continue to be the problem of evil.” – Ronald Nash (Philosopher, professor)

 

  • “Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able to but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Why then is there evil?” – David Hume (Scottish philosopher, skeptic)

 

  • “It’s as if He’s not even there. The world behaves exactly as you would expect it would if there were no Supreme Being.” – Julia Sweeney (actress, author, lecturer)

 

The BIG QUESTION comes down to: “How can an omnipotent (all-powerful) and benevolent (good) God allow evil and suffering in the world?”

 

The Bible does not avoid this question as some other religions do. It faces it head on and provides the most satisfying answer in the marketplace of ideas.

 

New Age (borrows from Eastern religions)

  • Evil and suffering themselves don’t exist
    • Negative events or moral evils are not “real” they are simply an illusion (maya – Sanskrit = “not this” something made up in our minds but doesn’t exist)

 

Hinduism

  • Suffering results from karma (what goes around comes around)
    • This is based on our actions in this life or past lives (dharma)
  • This idea justifies and even legitimizes suffering in this world

 

Atheism (Secular worldview)

  • The presence of evil and suffering prove the absence of God
  • Bad things happen to us because there is no such thing as a good, loving God

 

Christian response to this:

  1. Simply saying God can’t exist if there is evil doesn’t make it true.
    1. Alvin Plantinga (greatest living philosopher): Christians believe in five basic premises about God and evil:
      1. God exists
      2. God is omnipotent (all-powerful)
  • God is omniscient (all-knowing)
  1. God is wholly good
  2. Evil exists

 

  1. Why must we assume that every case of evil is one that God could eliminate without, at the same time, eliminating a greater good? Or what if in order to stop this evil act, God had to violate human free will? Or what if stopping an evil act today would set in motion a butterfly effect that would cause a great artist or scientist not to be born in the future?

 

 

  1. The existence of evil and suffering actually points toward God, revealing Him, rather than disproving
    1. When a skeptic acknowledges categories of “evil” and “suffering” it presents a problem for them. Where do these categories originate?

 

  1. We sense in ourselves and in the larger culture that there is an inherent moral order to the universe. There is a way things are supposed to be.

 

  1. Bible: God, “has put eternity into our hearts.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11 (506)

 

  1. Moral law / Moral law giver (week one in the series)

 

  1. Atheist: Good/evil developed in our brain circuitry over hundreds of thousands of years as what is best for our species

 

  1. If that’s true, then there is no actual truth to any of our beliefs, because we’ve just developed those beliefs to survive as a species
  2. Bigger problem: Those decisions would be in opposition to evolutionary survival

 

What does Christianity offer us in understanding evil and suffering and reconciling it with the existence of a good and powerful God?

 

  1. We live in a fallen and broken
    1. Genesis 3

 

  1. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (825)

 

  1. Moral evil and natural evil exist.
    1. Natural evil – earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, diseases, etc.
      1. Creation itself is fallen and awaiting redemption
      2. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. – Romans 8:19-22 (862)

 

  1. Moral evil – Evil committed by humans toward each other
    1. Fallen state of human nature
    2. The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. – Genesis 6:5 (6)
  • God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right…If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. – CS Lewis, The Case for Christianity

 

  1. Bible: God uses suffering to make people who they are – to refine them.
    1. EX: Joseph in Genesis (sold, enslaved, imprisoned…)
    2. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:20 (43)
    3. Esther, David, Ruth, Moses, Noah, the prophets, the disciples, Jesus, the early church – stories of suffering

 

  1. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain

 

The reason we struggle with suffering in the western world today is because we see the point and purpose of life as happiness.

 

  • The result: For generations we have embraced a secular worldview that the material world is all there is, so pain has no meaningful part to play in life.
  • “In the secular view, suffering is never seen as a meaningful part of life but only as an interruption.” – Tim Keller (pastor, author)
  • That’s why when tragedy strikes, culture has to borrow from religion. Because it doesn’t have anything to offer. So “thoughts” and “prayers” are offered.

 

  • And we know that in all things God works for the goodof those who love him, who, have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (862)

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

  • One last thing about the Christian worldview: This world isn’t all there is. It’s not the end goal.

 

  • I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. – Romans 8:18 (862)

 

  • “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo,” he says, “the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer.” – Sam to Frodo

 

  • And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” – Revelation 21:3-5 (961)

 

  • This is the great hope of Christianity. Is it your hope?

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