Tag Archives: evil

God, Guns and an Evil World

On June 6th, 2013 Chris Zawahri killed his father and brother in their own house. After setting that home and corpses inside ablaze the 23 year old walked the sun-drenched streets of Santa Monica, California with a .44-caliber handgun that had been in his family for years, and Santa Monica Shooting - Students - USA Today Imagesan AR-15 type rifle, clad in body armor and an intent that can only be described as evil.[1] He opened fire randomly at passing cars, wounding drivers, eventually taking one woman hostage while carjacking her.[2] Mr. Zawahri made his way to Santa Monica College where the shooting continued. Reports are starting to shed light on this very scary and dark event, one that took the life of at least five, two of the victims a father and daughter.  During a time when most college campuses are preparing to celebrate a graduating class, this years celebration will also be a memorial.[3]

On December 14th, 2012 a young man took his mother’s Bushmaster riffle and while she was sleeping pulled the trigger at point-blank range, killing her instantly. From there the young man drove to a nearby elementary school in the Sandy Hook community of Newtown,Sandy Hook Shooting - Angels - Episcopal Digital Network Connecticut armed with that Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, a Glock 20 SF handgun, a SIG Sauer handgun, and a loaded shotgun.[4] He entered the school around 9:35 AM by blasting his way with the high-powered rifle through the locked front doors. Once inside Sandy Hook elementary school 21-year-old Adam Lanza went from classroom to classroom, murdering any and all he saw. When this tragic day was over 27 people lay dead in that school including Mr. Lanza who took his own life, along with six faculty members and 20 children, most of which were kindergarteners.[5]

These events have intensified a debate that’s been raging for years.[6] The debate as reported by blog sites and major media outlets has mainly focused on gun control legislation and the availability of medical help for the mentally ill.[7] But are the answers we are really looking for wrapped up in these and the other topics that rule the media’s attention? Some have been writing in recognition of another topic all together, something much more pervasive. While still treated peripherally these events have reminded us that we are surrounded by evil. And as such other questions have been asked, questions that are usually for the theologically minded and relegated to the “Religion” section of the paper, if included at all. “Where was God?” and “How could God allow such a thing to happen?” are two of the more popular. When events such as the most recent ones in Santa Monica and Newtown take place we are often left wondering these and other questions. Often in the midst of tragedies people have difficulty understanding them in context of the existence of God, for many these questions serve as an objection to God’s existence. In fact this is one of the most popular objections to God, known as “The Problem of Evil.” Dr. Keith Yandell writes, “The existence of evil is the most influential consideration against the existence of God.”[8] Below I hope to explore the problem of evil by first discussing the existence of evil. The problem itself is actually made up of two sub-problems, the intellectual problem of evil and the emotional problem of evil. For our purposes here we will only be discussing the intellectual problem of evil. At the conclusion of our discussion we will see that this problem is not a problem for the theist at all and it is quite the opposite actually.

Evil - 123rf

“The fact is that there is evil in the world…”[9] This is something that is clear to us all; it’s considered brute or basic knowledge. The events discussed above serve as evidence that evil exists. We often ignore evil, having become desensitized to it; that is until a man murders 26 innocent people, most of them children or he walks the streets of a wealthy suburb randomly shooting innocent human beings. Then we are jostled and shaken, as if being awakened from a sleep or trance to a cruel truth. Evil exists. Greg Stier, a contributor to the Christian Post writes, “What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School was at a level of malevolence beyond any earthly explanation or solution.”[10] About the Sandy Hook shooting Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy said, “Evil visited this community today.”[11]

Sam Harris, outspoken critic of religion and prolific atheistic author gives his own example of what evil is in a Huffington Post article,

Somewhere in the world a man has abducted a little girl. Soon he will rape, torture, and kill her. If an atrocity of this kind is not occurring at precisely this moment, it will happen in a few hours, or days at most. Such is the confidence we can draw from the statistical laws that govern the lives of six billion human beings.[12]

Atheist William Rowe, professor emeritus of philosophy at Purdue affirms the existence of evil, “Intense human and animal suffering, for example, occurs daily and in great plentitude in our world. Such suffering is a clear case of evil.”[13] In that same publication Paul Draper, who is quite well regarded in the area of the evidential argument of evil and also at Purdue equates evil with pain and defines it as “physical or mental suffering of any sort.”[14] The Psalmists writes “Evils have encompassed me without number.”[15] Jeremiah pleads, “Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?”[16] And Saint Paul tells us “the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now.”[17]

It is evidentially clear that evil exists but what exactly is “evil”? The dictionary definition of evil is “morally reprehensible, sinful, wicked.” We will use this definition as we explore the problem of evil. At this point it is important to note that the burden of proof here in the logical problem of evil rests on the skeptic being that this argument is supposed to be a positive argument for the non-existence of God. It is up to the skeptic to lay out an argument that concludes with “Therefore, God does not exist.”[18] With that let us examine the most often used argument against God.

The Intellectual Problem of Evil

Yandell plainly explains the intellectual problem as such, “That there is evil seems to many a feature of the world that God would not have allowed. Thus they argue that since evil does exist, God does not.”[19] The intellectual problem of evil itself has two lines of argumentation.The Problem of Evil The first is the logical argument from evil, which asserts that it is logically impossible for God and evil to exist. The second way the intellectual problem of evil is expressed is known as the evidential argument of evil and tries to show that it is highly improbable that God and evil exist. We will begin by exploring the first of these, the logical argument from evil.

The Logical Argument from Evil

The logical Argument is usually presented in the following format:

O1. An omnipotent God exists.

O2. An omniscient God exists.

O3. An omnibenevolent God exists.

E4. However, evil exists.

G. Therefore God does not exist.[20]

This problem as stated relies on the notion that it is logically impossible for an all-powerful, all knowing and all-loving God to exist while evil also exists. The skeptic reasons that either God is not O1, O2 and/or O3, given that evil exists, or evil would not exist. Since evil clearly exists (as we have seen), God, as according to traditional monotheism, does not exist.

But why think that O1, O2 and O3 are inconsistent with the existence of evil? This is where the skeptic must own the burden of proof; it is up to them to show that there is a contradiction between them. But there is no explicit contradiction here; that is, one statement is not the opposite of the others. In order for this argument to follow logically the skeptic must bring to the table at least two hidden assumptions,

O4. If God is O1, He can create any world He wants.

O5. If God were O3, He would prefer a world without evil.[21]

In light of these two hidden assumption the argument is that an all powerful and all-loving God could and would want to create a world without suffering. Therefore, it follows that because there is suffering in the world (E4) God does not exist (G). However, for this argument to follow logically the atheist must now show that O4 and/or O5 are necessarily true, a task they cannot accomplish.[22] In order for the skeptic to show O4 and/or O5 to be necessarily true there must not be any logical exceptions to them. In other words to show either or both of the premises false all one must do is provide a possible scenario that would show that God, while being all-powerful could not create any world he wants.

Is O4 (if God is omnipotent he can create any world He wants.) necessarily true? Not in a world in which God created people with free will! It would be logically impossible to create a free people and then force them to do or not to do anything against that free will. This would be the equivalent of having a married bachelor or a four-sided triangle. God, in his omnipotence cannot create illogical impossibilities. On this very subject William Lane Craig writes,

If people have free will, they may refuse to do what God desires. So there will be any number of possible worlds that God cannot create because the people in them wouldn’t cooperate with God’s desires. In fact, for all we know, it’s possible that in any world of free persons with as much good as this world there wouldn’t also be as much suffering. This conjecture need not be true or even probable, but so long as it’s even logically possible it shows that it is not necessarily true that God can create any world that He wants.[23]

In light of this it is clear that O4 is not necessarily true. What about O5, “If God were all-loving, He would prefer a world without suffering.” Is this necessarily true? This premise is easier to navigate for the simple reason that we can all imagine situations in which the allowance of suffering or evil can bring about a greater good. Garret DeWeese rightly points out that when answering this question we are not attempting to show what God’s actual reasons are for allowing evil, this would be equivalent to claiming to be omniscient. We are only showing that there are possible reasons for God to allow evil while remaining all loving and it would seem quite simple to imagine a world in which God could have reasons for allowing evil.[24]

If you are a parent then you have real-life experiences where allowing pain or suffering (evil) accomplishes a greater good, and done so out of love. I have two little girls and a third on the way; just yesterday we brought our youngest to the doctor where blood needed to be drawn, this caused pain to Phoebe but the results from the blood work will hopefully give the doctors clues as to what might help her. Out of our love we allowed our daughter to experience an evil in the hopes of a greater good being accomplished. Similarly God could have perfectly good reasons for allowing evil while loving us perfectly!

The free will defense can also be applied to O5. Given free will it may simply be impossible for an all-loving God to eliminate evil. As a point of fact the free will defense has been astonishingly successful throughout the history of philosophy. So much so that philosophers no longer believe the logical problem of evil exists. “No one can disprove God’s existence by the logical problem of evil.”[25] In conclusion, the skeptic simply cannot stand under the weight of the burden of proof assumed by his hidden assumptions. “It’s widely admitted by both atheist and Christian philosophers alike that the logical version of the problem suffering [evil] has failed.”[26]

The Evidential Argument from Evil

We have seen that the logical argument from evil for atheism fails but the evidential argument from evil is another challenge to theism within the larger context of the intellection problem of evil. The evidential argument from evil, unlike the logical argument, does not contend that there is a logical contradiction between the existence of God and evil. Instead the argument tries to prove that it is improbable that God would exist in light of the evil in the world. William Rowe expresses the evidential argument from evil as,

1. There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without therefore losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad.

2. An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

3. There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.[27]

In his discussion of this argument Rowe uses an example of a fawn burned in a forest fire stated by natural causes (an example of natural evil). In this example the fawn not only dies but also suffers for five days without anyone ever knowing. Rowe concludes that this is an example of a sentient being suffering unnecessarily without any good that could offset that suffering. As a result it is more probable than not that God does not exist.[28]

Rowe's Problem of Evil - Wikipedia

Simply put Rowe says that [1] it would seem that there is no justifying reason for God to permit certain evils. [2] Therefore, it is “probably true” that there is no justifying reason for God to permit certain evils. He follows that if [2] is correct then it is probably true that the God of traditional monotheism does not exist. This reasoning seems true; if you or I search exhaustively for a reason to justify a certain evil and come up with nothing, it would be logical to conclude that there is more likely than not any justification for the evil done.

However Rowe does not go unchallenged. Dr. Gregory Ganssle of the Rivendell Institute approaches Rowe from the position that Rowe’s “grounds are insufficient for thinking that it is probably true that there is no justifying reason for God to allow the particular evil.”[29] This objection is based upon the notion that going from “seems” to “probably true” is a weak inference, and quite a jump in reasoning.

In order to see how Rowe’s argument breaks down we have to understand what kind of inference he is asking us to make. For example, “It seems as though there is no B-52 bomber in my dining room, therefore, probably there is no B-52 in my dining room,” is an example of a strong inference. It is reasonable for me to look up from my computer and see that there is no B-52 in my dining room, and then infer that there probably isn’t one. However not all inferences are equal. For example, “It seems as though there are no radio waves in my dining room, therefore, there probably are no radio waves in my dining room,” is a weak inference. Anyone can see the difference between these two examples; one is more reasonable than the other.

Ganssle uses the statement, “If there were a X, we would probably know it.” to test whether an inference is strong or weak.[30] The weaker the inference the less likely it is to be true. Going back to our examples, replace the “X” with “B-52 bomber” results in a statement that is true because we would see it. Replacing the “X” with “radio waves” we get a false statement because even if there were radio waves in this room we would not see them.

So, is God’s allowing some certain evil event akin to a B-52 or a radio wave? The statement we must test as true or not is, “If God had a justifying reason to allow a particular case of evil, we would probably know what it is.”[31] When phrased like this it is clear that we should know God’s justification for certain evil events, but there are other events that we would not and should not know God’s justification for. To claim otherwise would be to claim to be omniscient. Remember, we are not trying to ascertain the actual reasons for God to allow an evil event but instead we are trying to determine whether it is reasonable to think that there are justifiable reasons for God to allow that evil event.

Looking at most evils in the world it would be fair to conclude that there are justifiable reasons for God to allow them. In other words often times good can come from evil, even if we aren’t privy to that good in the midst of the evil. This can be said about most evils; good can and often does come from them. Greg Koukl, in his article A Good Reason for Evil says,

“It’s not good to promote evil itself, but one of the things about God is that He’s capable of taking a bad thing and making good come out of it. Mercy is one example of that. Without sin there would be no mercy. That’s true of a numbr of good things: bearing up under suffering, dealing with injustice, acts of heroism, forgiveness, long-suffering. These are all virtues that cannot be experienced in a world with no sin and evil.”[32]

But what about an event like the Santa Monica shooting? Or the shooting at the elementary school in Sandy Hook, CT? As far as I can tell there is no good reason for God to have allowed those people to die in this manner. However, this does not mean that it is more likely than not that God does not have a justifiable reason. Actually I would conclude that if God exists there should be certain parts of reality that we would not understand due to them being beyond our grasp. If God exists I would expect a certain amount of mystery in any number of life’s experiences. In sum Ganssle writes,

The fact that there is mysterious evil is just what we would expect if there were a God… If this is about what we should expect, it cannot be counted as evidence against God’s existence. So even though it might seem, at first glance, that there are no good reasons to allow certain evils we see, this does not provide strong evidence that these evils are really unjustified. The evidential argument from evil, then, does not make it likely that God does not exist.[33]

Contrary to what the skeptic thinks it has become clear that instead of providing evidence against God’s existence, evidential argument from evil actually provides evidence for His existence. The fact that we cannot find justifiable reasons for God to allow all the evil in the world is exactly what we should expect if there were an omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omnipresent deity.

Conclusion

Above we have explored only one of the arguments employed by atheists and other skeptics to prove that God does not exist. We have seen that their arguments fail for a number of reasons and for these reasons and others too it is “dubious that the existence of evil is in fact evidence against the existence of God.”[34]As a matter of fact we have seen that their arguments actually point to the existence of a Being that is consistent with traditional monotheism.

With that we have also seen that no matter the merits of the argument or the debate that is had, evil is real. Many times, and often in theThoreau Quote wake of tremendous evils such as public shootings it becomes clear that many do not take seriously the fact that evil is all around us. Going further and from a survey of headlines by major media outlets and what our politicians have to say about such events many do not take seriously the fact that there is only one solution to evil, and more legislation on this or less legislation on that with more social programs is not it. The solution is found nowhere but in God. It is becoming clear that the further away from God we move the more frequent these evil’s will become. Henry David Thoreau is credited with saying “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil one strikes at the root.” Throughout human history there has only been one person who has been successful at striking the root of evil and that is Jesus Christ. And that we will have to discuss at a later time.


[1] Robin Abcarian, Jessica Garrison, Martha Grove (June 10, 2013). “Santa Monica Shooter’s background steeped in trauma, violence”. LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0611-santa-monica-shooting-20130611,0,1490078.story)

[2] John Bacon (June 10, 2013). “Santa Monica shootings claim fifth victim”. USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/09/santa-monica-shooting-john-zawahri/2405015/)

[3] (June 11, 2013). “Santa Monica College To Celebrate Graduation, Remember Shooting Victims In Dual Ceremony”. CBSLA (http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/06/11/santa-monica-college-to-celebrate-graduation-remember-shooting-victims-in-dual-ceremony/)

[4] Steve Almasy (December 19, 2012). “Newtown shooter’s guns: What we know”. (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/18/us/connecticut-lanza-guns/index.html accessed Dec. 19. 2012)

[5] Richard Esposito, Candace Smith, Christina NG (December 14, 2012). “20 Children Died in Newtown, Conn., School Massacre”. AP. ABC News. (http://abcnews.go.com/US/twenty-children-died-newtown-connecticut-school-shooting/story?id=17973836#.UOIAHEKhosk accessed on Dec. 17, 2012).

[6] James Barron (December 14, 2012). “Nation Reels After Gunman Massacres 20 Children at School in Connecticut.” The New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/nyregion/shooting-reported-at-connecticut-elementary-school.html?_r=0 accessed Dec. 17, 2012).

[7] CNN Editorial Staff (December 14, 2012). “After school shooting, how do we stop the violence?” CNN. (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/14/us/school-shooting-violence-irpt/index.html accessed Dec. 17, 2012)

[8] Keith E. Yandell. Philosophy of Religion: A contempary introduction (New York: Routledge, 2004), 124 -125.

[9] Keith E. Yandell. 125. [Just: Ibid., 125]

[10] Greg Stier (December 27, 2012). “Gun Control Is Not the Answer.” The Christian Post Online. (http://www.christianpost.com/news/gun-control-is-not-the-answer-87291/ accessed Dec. 19, 2012)

[11] Susan Candiotti, Chelsea Carter (December 15, 2012). “‘Why? Why?’: 26 dead in elementary school massacre.” CNN. (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/14/us/connecticut-school-shooting/index.html accessed Dec. 17, 2012).

[12] Sam Harris (October 6, 2005). “There is No God (And You Know It.” Huffington Post. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/there-is-no-god-and-you-k_b_8459.html? accessed on Dec. 13, 2012).

[13] William L. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” In Philosophy of Religion: A Reader Guide, ed. William Lane Craig (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ, 2002), 318.

[14] Ibid, Paul Draper, “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists,” 329.

[15] Psalm 40:12, RSV.

[16] Jeremiah 15:8, RSV.

[17] Romans 8:22, RSV.

[18] William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending your faith with reason and precision (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 153.

[19] Yandell, Philosophy of Religion, 125.

[20] Garrett DeWeese, “Solving the Problem of Evil.” Biola University recorded lecture series.

[21] Craig, On Guard, 155.

[22] Necessarily true statements are statements that cannot be untrue in any situation. Logical truths are widely agreed to by necessarily true statements across religious and philosophical spectrums.

[23] Craig, On Guard, 156.

[24] DeWeese, “Solving the Problem of Evil” Biola Lecture series.

[25] DeWeese, “Answering the Problem of Evil.” Biola lecture series.

[26] Craig, On Guard, 157.

[27] William L. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” In Philosophy of Religion: A Reader Guide, ed. William Lane Craig (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ, 2002), 318.

[28] Ibid, 320-322.

[29] Gregory Ganssle, A Reasonable God: Engaging the New Face of Atheism (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2009), 157.

[30] Ibid, 158.

[31] Ibid, 158.

[33] Ibid, 159.

[34] Yandell, Philosophy of Religion, 161.

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All Religions Lead To The Same Place: A quick response

So often today we hear the comment that all religions are ultimately the same. This is an expression of pluralism. Just the other day a coworker mentioned to me that they’ve been looking into religion and asked for a book recommendation. A conversation had begun and it wasn’t long until she did it too, “Well, I look at religions as paths up the mountain of truth. They all lead to God, just in different ways.” I put my pen down, quickly prayed in my mind and prepared for a deeper discussion.

“Penelope, what do you mean by saying all religions lead to God, just in different ways?” She answered with an example. She said that it’s like climbing a mountain. There are going to be many trails up and in the end they all lead to the top. She went on to describe a “Buddhist/Hindu” trail, a “Jewish” trail, an “Islamic” trail, and of course a “Christian” trail. They all start on what the hiker think is the correct path; some of the paths even intersect at times she said. But in the end each one ends at the very same overlook site at the top of the peak.

I responded this time not with a question but with a pointed answer. I first agreed that sometimes the world religions seem to have some similarities and “cross paths,” but what about the differences? Examining the world’s major religions, we see they all differ drastically when it comes to the nature of God, sin, heaven, hell, the nature of man, and salvation. So to put it simply, all religions are dissimilar in a great many more ways than they are similar.

For example let’s compare the religions mentioned. Islam, Christianity and Judaism believe that there is a singular, personal God who is holy, omnipotent, just, omniscient, and who is creator of all. These three all believe that we are sinful human beings in need of salvation by way of God’s forgiveness. They each believe in an eternal afterlife in a heaven or a hell. Buddhists deny each and every one of these things. They believe “god” as not really a god at all but an ultimate reality. This ultimate reality is impersonal and that everything is uncreated. They deny the self, meaning there is really no sin and as such no need for salvation. Buddhists also believe that life’s goal is annihilation not an eternal life in heaven. And Hindus believe in millions of Gods. You see not all these paths lead to even remotely the same place.

I went on to explain that sometimes we do see similarities between these world religions, especially between the main three, Islam, Judaism and Christianity as we saw above. One reason for this is that they all stem from the same religious root. But even these religions differ greatly and in ways that are irreconcilable. The most drastic and important difference is in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In order to understand this we need to look to the claims of the New Testament (NT) about who Jesus is. Jesus first and foremost claimed to be God, and the NT authors claim that Jesus was crucified, died and rose again. In fact it’s on this claim alone that the Christian faith stands or falls. Saint Paul writes, “if Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain” and that Christians are to be “pitied above all man.” Judaism and Islam both deny Jesus is God or even claimed divinity and that he died and was raised. In denying the main beliefs of Christianity, making them all irreconcilable and clearly on paths that lead to a different places.

I finished my response by telling Penelope that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” And in doing so he made invalid the claim that all religions lead to the same place. The pluralist position fails due to the law of non-contradiction. Jesus cannot be God and not God. He couldn’t have been raised and not raised. So since all religions teach different, contradictory things they cannot all be true. They can all be wrong, but they most certainly cannot all be true.

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Pacifism and C.S. Lewis: Oh, and what I think too.

Introduction

It is the purpose of this post to explore critically two arguments Lewis uses to conclude in his essay “Why I’m Not A Pacifist” that pacifism ultimately fails. This essay was originally presented to a group of pacifists in 1940, addressing the specific issue of whether it is moral to serve in wars under the command of a civil society.[1] Lewis presented four main arguments to support his conclusion that it is in fact morally just to participate in war. Of these four we will explore the two which are most contentious. The first we will title “Personal” or “Basic Intuition” and the second “Authority” which is further split into two subcategories, “Human Authority” and “Divine Authority.” Once discussed it’s my belief that we will have no other option but to side with Lewis. However, this is not to say that everything Lewis holds is agreeable. Along the way we will be interacting with some ideas that are disagreeable, when they arise it will be noted. We would also be remiss if you did not start by mentioning something Lewis writes very early on, war is always a very unpleasant thing. “First as to the facts. The main relevant fact admitted by all parties is that war is very disagreeable.” I also feel that it should be plainly stated that no joy is found in war, to this I believe Lewis would agree. With that now, let us explore the arguments brought by Lewis in Why I’m Not a Pacifist.

Arguing from Basic Intuition

In this argument Lewis points to the basic intuition that love is good and hatred bad; that helping is good and harming is bad. He explains that this intuition leads the pacifist to believe that by doing good we can or must help all. For example, it is not enough to help one homeless person, for if you help one you must help all that you see. He then goes on to refute the pacifist claim by pointing out that by doing good, we choose to whom the good is being done while also to whom the good is not being done. Implicit in the argument is what Lewis describes as the law of beneficence which “involves not doing some good to some men at some time.”[2] This then turns into a slippery slope where helping one while not another slowly turns into helping one while having to ignore the plight of another and then to helping one at the expense of another, the final slip in the slope is helping one while causing harm to another.[3]

Shifting the focus from the individual to society as a whole, Lewis addresses the pacifist underlying assertion that war is always the greatest evil. He goes on to say that the absorption of one society by another and the oppression of religion is in fact worse than the war to prevent it.[4] However it’s here that Lewis makes an assertion which I disagree with wholly. Trying to justify the loss of life during war, Lewis contends that one can be comforted to know that the dead gave their lives while fighting for what according to them was the right or just side. I don’t find this comforting or even true; especially in a world where people are coerced to fight by threats of torture or death and children are kidnapped and forced to fight after being pumped full of drugs and beaten. I would like to ask Lewis if he truly believed all of Hitler’s SS men wanted to be there. Here, while it doesn’t alter the arguments conclusion, I think Lewis falters. In fact I would say that forcing someone to fight is actually a greater evil than war or oppression.

Lewis addresses an attempt by the pacifist to prove their position once they are forced to give some ground; this time through the use of a more political and calculating mode of intuition. When forced to acknowledge that war may not be the worst evil they may rebut, “But every war leads to another war.”[5] And with this the pacifist implies an infinite regress of wars, leading to the conclusion that we must focus our attempts to do away with war. To accomplish this they might suggest that society should propagate the pacifist philosophy far and wide; eventually permeating all societies and cultures globally. To this Lewis responds,

This seems to me wild work. Only liberal societies tolerate Pacifists. In the liberal society, the number of Pacifists will either be large enough to cripple the state as a belligerent, or not. If not, you have done nothing. If it is large enough, then you have handed over the state which does tolerate Pacifists to its totalitarian neighbour who does not.[6]

I find this argument basic, correct, and convincing. C.S. Lewis sums it up nicely with the statement, “Pacifism of this kind is taking the straight road to a world in which there will be now Pacifists.”[7] It’s important to understand that while we are not able to eliminate suffering and war, it does not follow that we should ignore the plight of those affected by these things or cease working to a better end. As an alternative to the pacifist position it might be more effective to focus efforts instead of on large, incurable tasks like eradicating suffering, to objectives that are limited. Lewis lists abolition of slavery, prison reform or curing a disease as good examples.

Arguing from Authority – Human Authority

Lewis appeals to human authority by surveying history’s rulers, wars and their heroes. From this survey he concludes that “the world echoes with the praise of righteous wars.”[8] As proof of this names of world leaders who did not shy away from war are listed. He includes in that list his school, parents and even great literary works. He says that to be a pacifist, one must ignore and “part company with” all of this. In effect Lewis asks his hearers to either cast aside these select champions of time or their pacifism. His rationale, since we look at the rulers and men of war with honor and respect, it is therefore proper to also view the battles they waged as just and even  necessary. He also interprets this historical support of war as wars justification.

It is here where I part ways with C.S. Lewis most drastically. I think if we look between the lines of Lewis’ list we see a different picture. Where’s Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan or Napoleon in the list? What about some of Lewis’ contemporaries such as Hitler or Stalin? Why did they not make the cut? While I agree that battle can produce heroics, and with Lewis’ general beliefs regarding there being a just war, I think it fails just to look at the men who fought or waged the wars and say “here is your proof that battle is necessary and good.” And I think it fails as well according to Scripture. A pacifist friend in discussion of this very issue rightly points out that all men are under the effects of Satan.[9] And as such wars are waged both for good and evil. What’s more, Scripture tells us that not one of us is righteous so why would we conclude, as Lewis does, that our wars mostly would be? I don’t think we should or can. War is never to be praised and Lewis misses this. After all King David was refused permission to build the Temple of the Lord due to his many battles (1 Chronicles 22:7-9).

Arguing from Authority – Divine Authority

We now look to what Lewis has to say in regards to Divine Authority. Beginning his apologetic Lewis says that the Christian Scriptures are largely silent on this issue but that the pacifist basis their philosophy on a small selection of Jesus’ sayings and teachings. Most central is Matthew 5:39. He then bolsters his argument with the Thirty-Nine Articles, teachings of Aquinas, and the words of Augustine all showing their support of the Christian’s participation in war.

I was left under impressed with Lewis’ mentioning of  Augustine, Aquinas and the Thirty-Nine Articles for the same reason I cannot agree with Lewis’ argument from human authority. While I agree with his ultimate conclusion, and these things do support that conclusion, I can see why a Christian pacifist would not find these convincing enough to abandon their philosophy. I would rather have had Lewis spend more time discussing Scripture; after all this is where the debate should lie for us. Either the Scriptures justify the saints’ participation in battle, or they don’t. And this is where I find the most support for the view that Lewis and I share.

Matthew 5:39 is the biblical passage most often given in support of the pacifist ideology. C.S. Lewis deals with it well.[10] He says that the scripture should be applied in the context of individual relationships, not to the conduct of soldiers or governments engaged in war. Lewis says, “I think the text means exactly what it says, but with an understood reservation in favour of those obviously exceptional cases.”[11] What Jesus was clearly saying here is that we are not to cause harm to others except in that instance where we are preventing the harm of ourselves, families or neighbors. Surely Jesus did not mean that we would not be justified to protect innocent life from violence with the use of force, even if that force is in the context of war. [12]

Conclusion:

While not everything Lewis asserts regarding the issue of pacifism and military service is agreeable I think it is clear that as saints, we are justified to use violence in certain instances. In Learning in WarTime Lewis writes what I think serves as a wonderful conclusion to this discussion.

The rescue of drowning men is, then, a duty worth dying for, but not worth living for. It seems to me that all political duties (among which I include military duties) are of this kind. A man may have to die for our country, but no man must, in any exclusive sense, live for his country. He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself.[13]


[1] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses “Why I’m Not A Pacifist.” (New York: Harper Collins, 2009)  [Kindle Fire version] p. 64, Location 612

[2] Ibid

[3] By way of example: saving a drowning man while leaving another slipping to saving the life of a man while taking the life of another.

[4] Lewis, “Why I’m Not A Pacifist” p. 77, Location 734

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid p. 78, Location 734

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid p. 81, Location 772

[9] Moore, T.C. “Why C.S. Lewis Was Wrong About Pacfism,” Academia.edu.  http://gcts.academia.edu/TCMoore/Papers/387653/Why_C._S._Lewis_Was_Wrong_About_Pacifism (accessed May 7, 2012) p. 10

[10] Resist not evil: but whoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

[11] Lewis, “Why I’m Not a Pacifist” p. 82, Location 784

[12] Ibid p. 85, Location 815

[13] Lewis, “Learning In War-Time.” p. 52: Location 1866

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Truth in an Increasingly Pluralistic Society

“For most of us truth is no longer part of our minds; it has become a special product for experts” – Jacob Bronowski

“Truth matters more than man…” – George Steiner

I’m merely an infant as a Christian!  However through my experiences trying to discuss my faith with both believer and unbeliever alike there seems to be one issue that so many want answers to.  This question is rooted in the ever-increasing pluralistic worldview.  In today’s world to say that what I believe is correct while someone else’s beliefs are wrong is considered… well… wrong!  Somewhere along the line it has become politically incorrect to declare something as being the TRUTH.  What’s more, it seems that when trying to discuss these oh-so-very important issues on faith and life there is far more heat generated than there is light.  For us to learn we must be patient.  We must listen to each other.  Most importantly we must dialogue about the issues and process the words fully with open minds!   Below I am going to try and tackle the issues of absolute truth in a pluralistic worldview.  I’m not going to cut any corners so this might be a long ride but one well worth your time.

At the risk of offending some readers I’m just going to jump into the issue at hand.  Jesus says “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6 NIV)  Then Peter, speaking of Jesus, tells us “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12 NIV) 

This is the TRUTH. 

I am claiming this as FACT. 

I know it may seem wrong to many of you for me to make a truth claim.    But I know without a doubt in my heart, soul, and very much in my mind that this is unequivocally TRUE.  By stating this I am also fully implying that Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), Confucius, Bodhidarma, Muhammad, Songtsan Gampo, Charles Russell, Gerald Gardner, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, L. Ron Hubbard, and even our beloved Oprah Winfrey were and are… wrong.  This is not to say that some of what they taught and teach isn’t “good” or “nice”.  In the end though, no matter how “good” or “nice” it sounds it is still… not the truth!  There’s no grey area, no picking and choosing of teachings that best suit our lives.  Plainly, there is but one TRUE God and the only way to God is through Jesus Christ. (For more on my beliefs look HERE.) 

In G.K. Chesterton’s 1909 Orthodoxy he writes about the modern rebel or activist.  Although over 100 years have past since he penned this it is still so relevant:

“But the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

The idea of TRUTH regarding almost any subject matter has fallen by the waste side.  Nowhere more is this exemplified than in the subject of religion.  Yet as a Christian, this is exactly what my faith contends.  In fact it is the only religion that makes that truth claim and produces solid evidence on it’s behalf!

Let’s look at the teachings and logic of the New Testament to first learn what it is I, as a Christian, belief, assert and defend. “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)  Here, Paul is reminding the new followers of Christ about what life was like before their salvation.  Paul uses the opening chapters of his letter to the Romans to show just how fallen humankind was.  In Romans 1:20 he writes ”For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  He also reminds us that God’s moral law has been written on the hearts of everyone in Romans 2:15 as it was written in stone in Exodus.  God offers us all an everlasting life in eternity through His general revelation in nature and conscience as long as we respond to it appropriately.  This is made clear in Romans 2:7.  Sadly ever increasingly, people of today choose to brush God aside.  They choose to give in to sin’s temptations and temporary fulfillment.  Take a look at Romans 1:21-32.  What we must now realize is that we are all fallen people.  We all sin and in Romans 3:9-12 Paul tells us this.  Paul then clearly addresses an issue that has been raised so many times in my presence.  He tells us that simply living righteously is not enough.  “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:19-20)  This is where Jesus Christ enters into the picture.  Rob Bell on page 107 of Velvet Elvis says it so well “Humans are guilty because of our sin, and God is the judge who has to deal with our sin because he is holy and any act of sin goes against his core nature. He has to deal with it. Enter Jesus, who dies on the cross in our place. Jesus gets what we deserve; we get what Jesus deserved.”  It is through Jesus we can be saved and spared an eternity of death.

It is completely clear what we have been taught by God in the New Testament.  One, the entire human race is without exception sinful.  And more importantly two, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ’s death and His resurrection provide the only salvation from our sins.

Paul’s claim to knowing the truth literally cost him his head.  What we often forget is that what he and the other apostles were preaching was considered even more absurd in the years following Jesus’ crucifixion than it is today.  The apostles and early Christians were persecuted and killed for there beliefs conflicting with the polytheistic Roman Empire.  Their lives where threatened because of their refusal to believe in the major religion of the day yet they still embraced Jesus and accepted His grace.  Through their undying faith, Christianity soon spread throughout the empire.  To Europe it was clear that because of the universality of the Christian doctrine it had to be true.  Meaning, how could what so many believe to be true be false. 

It wasn’t until the European Expansion that people came to doubt Christianity again.  For three hundred years the world was becoming much smaller through advances in knowledge and technology.  New continents, new civilizations, new races were discovered.  And with them came all new customs, new beliefs, and new religions!!!  News of these new cultures brought something else as well.  It was clear that the majority of the world was not Christian.  In fact most had never heard of Jesus Christ.  This realization had affected religious thinking in many ways. 

First, it made religious beliefs relative to one’s circumstances.  Contrary to what was previously believed, faith in Jesus Christ was not the religion of the whole world but in fact segregated to a very small part of it.  No religion could possibly claim to be universally true.  Each newly discovered land and people group believed and served a God the was best for them at that time.  Even more, it made the Christian view seem cruel, closed minded!!  The people of the time were asking how faith in Christ could be the only way in a world so large and Christianity so underrepresented and exclusive.  Enter the enlightenment rationalist!!  The thinkers of the enlightenment then brought questions regarding the fate of the thousands or millions of people who not only don’t believe in Jesus Christ but who haven’t ever heard of Him. 

All this happened between 1400 to the 1700.  Today we have the internet, cable, telecommunications.  We live in a far smaller world than the people of the enlightenment.  With the advances in technologies we have also become aware of the diversity of mankind and over time we have again subscribed to religious pluralism.  And many of the same issues have arisen.

Let’s now look at these issues most commonly brought by the religious pluralist and see if there are answers to them.  The most popular is that by believing Christianity as being true and the only way to God, that person is undermining or negating the importance of all the other world religions.  It’s also asserted that the Christian is immoral, arrogant and closed-minded because of the exclusivity of their claim and anyone who disagrees with that claim is mistaken.  As we will see, this objection is completely illogical.  Here the pluralist is trying to oppose a position by speaking to the character of the individual holding it.  This is an ad hominem argument.  You cannot declare something false wholly because of the character of the persons believing it to be true.  Even if all Christian’s were found to be immoral, bigoted and closed-minded it would do nothing to the claim that Christ is the only way to God.  The truth of a position is completely independent and separate from the individual who holds the belief.  In asserting this, the pluralist is also assuming that all believers are arrogant and immoral because of the claim.  What if the particularist has searched high and low for the answers, looked into every question that has arisen and come to the conclusion that Christianity is true.  I am a perfect example of this and during my search I have found that God has given us the most amazing gift of all through Jesus.  Am I arrogant and closed-minded for believing this in all honesty?  Lastly, this argument when applied inversely works against the pluralist!!  See, they believe their view to be correct and all the other views to be false, especially the particularist’s.  If holding to a belief, which many other people disagree with makes you arrogant and closed-minded then the pluralist would be just as arrogant and closed-minded as the particularist.

There is also another objection brought by the everyday pluralist, one of relativism.  Often times it is suggested that our religious beliefs are what they are because of where we are born, leading to the contention that Christian particularism cannot be true.  An example of this would be… Say I was born in China, more likely than not I would subscribe to an Eastern religion.   This for some makes Christian beliefs untrue.  This is known as the genetic fallacy.  Here the pluralist is trying to falsify the truth claim of the Christian by criticizing the way a person came to the claim.  In this instance, where he was born.  However, and I think we will all agree, where or when one is born does not make their beliefs necessarily true or false.  For example, if you were born in pre-1400 Europe you would probably believe the Earth to be flat.  Now, does this somehow make the fact of the Earth being round any less true?  I really don’t think so.  There is one more thing to mention in regards to the genetic fallacy.   The particularist can use the same logic and argue that the only reason the pluralist holds that view is because of the time and place they were born.  If they had been born in Turkey more than likely he/she would subscribe to the Muslim faith and they themselves would be a  religious particularist.  By using their own logic, it would be acceptable for me to assume that the only reason the pluralist holds that view is because they were born into twentieth century America.  Again by using their own standards their views become false.

These two issues, in my opinion, aren’t the “real” issues though.  Once discussed, I think we start to open up the door to the more sophisticated problems the pluralist has with the truth claim of Christianity.  I think that the main issue people have with Christianity is the condemnation of all people how do not subscribe to that particularistic view, in this case Christianity and the whole hell thing!

This is where we run into the issue of an all loving, all powerful God sentencing  His people to hell.  How could this be?  By God sending people to hell He couldn’t possibly be all loving.  If God was truly all loving He would save everyone and not send anyone to hell…  Wouldn’t He?  Let’s look what God says about this:

“The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)

“He desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). 

“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? “ (Ezekiel 18:23)

“For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32)

“Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11)

Three of the above passages of scripture are God speaking to Ezekiel.  It is clear that God is trying to get everyone to turn from there sinful nature and walk with Him.  From the text it seems to me that God is almost pleading with His people to live righteously.  You see, God gave us freewill.  If you use that gift from God to turn from him, it is of our own volition and the resulting consequences are our own.  God does not send anyone to hell.  In fact we end up sending ourselves by rejecting Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.  We have the option to freely choose where we are to spend eternity, heaven or hell.  Even more amazingly, God not only wants everyone to be saved but he actually grieves the lost!!

OK, so God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell.  And, because of our freewill, it’s impossible to “make” us all believe.  But isn’t a sentence of eternal hell a bit much?  This is the next question at hand.  Sure, no one commits an infinite number of worldly sins.  Even the murderer/rapist doesn’t deserve an eternal sentence.  So, shouldn’t hell be more like a jail instead of a prison.  You know, short term stay.  Or like a treatment facility?  Shouldn’t the punishment fit the crime?  Actually, if we look at the crime it does.  We also see that the pluralists focus has shifted from God’s love for us to His sense of justice.  To the pluralist hell is now longer incompatible with God’s love but His justice. 

Here are two possible answers to this objection to God.  First, it was stated that no one commits and infinite number of sins in their life and if no single crime constitutes an eternal sentence, then how can God justify sentencing people to eternal hell?  This has a simple explanation:  It is true that no single crime committed here on Earth deserves an eternal sentence.  It is also true that even if counted and summed all of one person’s sins still equal a number less than infinity but we are over looking something.  What if that person continues to sin while in hell?  What if once committed to hell the person continues to turn from God and reject Jesus as savior?!  This is an eternal cycle of sin and thus an eternal cycle of punishment is warranted.

A second solution, in case the first does nothing for you would be the following.  Does every sin only have a finite punishment?  I mean, worldly sins like adultery, theft, lying, even murder and rape should have a finite sentence.  But these aren’t the sins that keep us away from God.  Jesus Christ washed us of all those sins.  It is through Him we have been forgiven of these and given the chance of eternal life in the first place.  Those debts in the eyes of God are paid when you turn to Jesus.  But the refusal to accept that sacrifice and rejection of Christ is the rejection of God Himself for which has infinite repercussions.  All the crimes and sins in the world stacked end to end can’t compare to the rejection of God’s love and sacrifice.  Let’s look at Mathew 22:34-38 “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’  Jesus replied:  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’”  To reject God is a sin only measured by infinity!  So, the penalty of an infinite sin to be infinite is a just sentence.

Another objection to the Christian particularist is the issue of people who have never even heard of Jesus Christ and the Christian faith.  What happens to them?  It’s often taught that these people are automatically sentenced as sinners.  You have no idea how many times I have heard people, Christians at that, answer this question incorrectly and doing our faith a great disservice!!  When faced with tough questions such as this one, as Christians, we have to look to the Word of God for an answer.  In the Bible, God is clear that He does not judge people who haven’t ever heard of Christ using the same criteria as He does people who have.  It would be unfair to judge someone because they haven’t placed their faith and life in Christ’s hands if they haven’t ever heard of Him.  Instead God judges them by their adherents to His general revelation in nature and conscience that He placed in everyone’s soul.  In Romans 2:7 it says “To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life.”  This is very definitely an offer of salvation to people who have never heard of Jesus Christ.

One side note that has to be mentioned:  This does not mean that people are and can be saved apart from Christ!!!  And this is huge!!  What God is telling us is that people with no knowledge of Christ’s atoning death can benefit from it.  A great example of this would be the salvation of Job from the Old Testament.  He obviously had no knowledge of Jesus Christ since Jesus hadn’t come yet.  What saved him is he had a relationship with God.  In all reality there could be people just like Job, living in the corners of the globe where The Good News of Jesus hasn’t reached yet.  Job was exceptional and to be honest I very seriously doubt that there are many Jobs in the world today but that’s nether here nor there.  The point of this is that God has offered salvation universally to us all through His general revelation in nature and conscience.

Please understand that these are just possible answers to the main objections brought by the religious pluralist to the Christian particularist.  You may have answers of your own or maybe these ones may not do it for you.  You may also have some more questions and please ask them.  Maybe I can answer them!!  I don’t have all the answers and everyday I discover new and beautiful things about our loving God.  It’s in the questions where truth is found.  Sean Penn has said, “When everything gets answered, it’s fake.  The mystery is the truth”

So, with that I think we’re done!!  This has been a long one but I really think it’s so important to address the issue of religious plurality!!  And even more it’s important to show that the Christian belief is in fact logical and entirely possible.  Over the past few pages we have seen that the Christian Gospel is not disproved by the worlds diversity!!  For me it reaffirms the Great Commission and drives me to spread the Good News!!!  For me, for the first time in my life I see TRUTH!!!!

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”  Acts 17 24-27

 

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God and Evil

I am writing this in response to an article written by my mother on her blog site.  She expressed deep sorrow and fear.  Her heart being broken by the tragedies of a fallen world.  I’m writing this because I was touched by her writings and believe that I am obligated to try and answer what plagues so many of us in today’s society.  This may be the single most popular obstacle to the belief in God in today’s world and to be honest, right now, while I write these words I too have the same question.  How can God allow so much evil, pain and suffering in the world?

 

The fact of the matter is that when individuals in our postmodern and increasingly secular world, America in particular, are faced with tragedy whether by way of sickness, war, accidents, natural disasters, etc. the question of “WHY” enters our minds.  This is especially true if the event involves the death of people who we feel should, in one way or another, be “immune” to such suffering and/or loss of life.   It’s during times of loss and the lamenting over this question we see so many people turn from God.  They turn to themselves, they turn to other religions, they turn to their own interpretation of Christ and God, to a New Age faith.  There is little doubt that everyone reading this can relate to what I am saying.

 

However, turning from God or trying to find answers outside of God is not the solution to this “WHY” either.  Instead we should try and figure out the true existence of God and from there we can then search for the answers to the question so many of us share.  Maybe there is a purpose for God allowing evil to entire our lives!  Maybe pain and loss somehow have a place in the puzzle of life!

 

Me, my thoughts on the question of evil are as follows.  I believe that Christianity is the only solution to the problem.  As a Christian I believe that evil in the world doesn’t present evidence against the existence of God but actually speaks to the power of my faith.

 

Let’s go a little deeper.  Evil.  Evil effects our thoughts on God two ways.  The first is the intellectual problem of evil and deals with the co-existence of God and evil.  The second is the emotional problem which speaks to dealing with the emotional dislike of God in the presence and permission of suffering and pain and how to work past these feelings.

 

The intellectual problem of evil!!  Many will say that if there is evil then logically there can not be God.  Since just by turning on the evening news we plainly see that there is evil then there can not, in turn, be God.  Right?  Well, actually wrong and here’s why.

 

God and evil in no way contradict each other as some would assume or argue.  To argue against the existence of God on the premise of the existence of evil one must show that the two contradict each other.  No philosopher has ever argued this point of view with any success.  Take a look online, Google it!!

 

Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there.  There is a secondary response by nonbelievers basically saying that because there is so much evil and suffering in the world it is highly unlikely that a moral God would permit it.  This leads to the notion that there is no God at all.  Enter the probabilistic problem of evil.

 

I will briefly address this problem, though it deserves much more.  First and foremost we in no way could ever know what God is thinking and are in no position to understand if He has morally just reasons to allow suffering and evil.  God is not limited by space, time or intelligence.  He is all powerful and all knowing and as a result He has seen the history of the world and knows the outcomes to every event before they happen.  In other words, He has a plan!  Maybe in order to reach His ultimate goal He has to allow for pain and suffering.  You see, what may seem a pointless, pain-filled and tragic event to you and I may and probably does look much differant to God.  God looks at a much bigger picture!!  Example:  Let’s look at science!  I love science, especially theoretical science.  One of the most interesting theories I have ever read about is the Chaos Theory.  Have you heard of it?  Simply put it states that there are tiny macroscopic systems like insect populations or weather patterns that are super sensitive to the tiniest change.  So sensitive that the flutter of a butterfly can set in motion forces that result in a hurricane some 3000 miles away.  Also known as the Butterfly Effect.  Now apply this same thought to our problem at hand.  The terrible and brutal murder of a loved one could, in some way, set in motion a flutter in history that when the end result is seen might justify God’s allowance of that horrible event.  When looking at the whole of history and God’s providence it is impossible for us to speculate as to the probability that God has morally just reasons to allow pain, suffering and evil in the world.

 

If that does nothing for you try this one on.  Maybe God’s chief purpose isn’t to make us happy!  For some reason we all seem to think that if God exists then he must be there to make us happy.  Unfortunately from a Christian view this is false, we are not God’s little pet’s and he is not there to create the best possible environment for us to live in.  Our end in this world is not happiness but the knowledge of God.  It’s the knowledge of God that brings endless fulfillment.  God may allow horrible things to happen that have nothing to do with the happiness of His people but they may be justified in producing the knowledge of God.  I had the hardest time grasping this one but in the end it makes sense.  Through the event paired with our freewill responses God leads people to Him.  Our response to these events is the important part to God.

 

I also believe that it is the alienation of God that has resulted in much of the evils in the world.  It seems the further away from God our society moves the darker it gets.  For some reason we seem to be rebelling against God.  Instead we should be seeking Him.  The Bible clearly says that God has given mankind to the sin it has chosen.  He does not interfere with man’s freewill and sin, letting it run it’s course.  This is for two purposes.  It heightens our moral responsibility before God while at the same time heightening our wickedness and need of forgiveness!

 

There are a few other doctrines of the Christian faith that seem to explain why there is evil in the world.  Fully seeking Jesus Christ, staying faithful in times of pain and suffering promises me eternal life.  Through my trials and tribulations here on Earth I am coming closer to God and will be rewarded with endless eternal happiness I can’t even begin to describe!!  We can take a look at the apostle Paul, who lived and stayed faithful to God through more pain and suffering than most of us can imagine.  He wrote “That is why we never give up.  Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”  (2 Cor. 4: 16-18 NLT)

(For now I’m not going to delve into the subject of objective moral values and the existence of God, that is a whole new entry but very relevant to the existence of evil.  Stay tuned!)

 

Finally, to know God fills us with so much good, hope, pleasure, and joy that no amount of evil or wrong doing can touch it!  No matter how much pain or suffering someone goes through, if they know God they will say He is good, incomparably good!

 

We’re almost done so please hang in there.  Let’s now take a look at the emotional problem with evil.  Many people have a problem with God and evil in the world because they… well… they just don’t like the idea of a God that permits bad things therefore pushing God out of their lives.  This is an emotional problem, while not as debated as the intellectual problem it is still worth mentioning for sure.

 

The Bible and my Christian faith tell me that God is loving and burdens our suffering along with us.  Jesus Christ is proof of this.  Jesus endured more pain and suffering than any of us can imagine.  Keep in mind he was guilty of no crime, therefore innocent!  Because of His love for us He endured hours of torture, public humiliation and death on a Roman cross with hands and feet nailed.

 

I think of it this way.  We are here on this Earth for what amounts to a blink of a cosmic eye.  Our pain and times of trouble isn’t even permanent throughout our entire lives and even if it is once in heaven we are free.  God came to us here on Earth in the form of man, incarnate.  He was tortured and killed to forgive us our sins, not his.  God’s pain is eternal, he must burden that for ever.  That is love.  When I try and comprehend His sacrifice and love for you and I the problem of worldly evil seems to vanish.  The problem isn’t God allowing evil but of ourselves allowing evil.  The question that we are now faced with isn’t how can God justify Himself to us but how will we justify our immorality to Him!!!

 

It’s almost funny, evil is a huge objection to belief in God but God is the only solution to the evil in this world.  With out God, Jesus Christ, we are lost and hopeless.  Left to look forward to a death only after enduring years of unredeemed suffering.  God is the only answer, the only redeemer of sin, the only way to everlasting joy and happiness so great that not a pain in the world can compare!!

     

      “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  Becasue of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of underserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

      “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our heart with his love.”  (Romans 5: 1-5 NLT)

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