“Sola Wednesday” is going to look a little different for the next two weeks.
As many of you know, I’ll be getting married this Saturday (WOO HOO). Then I’ll be on my honeymoon next week.
So this week I give you a list of the top 5 read posts of 2013 so far. I’ve been at this thing since April 2013, and there are already plenty of posts with quite a few hits!
Have you read them all? Please comment on and share your favorites!
“Being the complete nerd that I am, I couldn’t help but think about the relationship between bacon and my faith as a Christian. Which naturally led to me thinking about what it must’ve been like to be held in bondage under the law as the Jews once were (and many still are). From there I began to think about how many times in our current culture I’ve heard Christians being blasted as hypocrites for eating pork (and/or shellfish). After all, doesn’t the Bible say we can’t eat them? The common analogy I hear is that Christians treat the Bible as if it is trail-mix, picking and choosing the parts that we like or don’t like. We’ve all seen it right? The email-chains being forwarded around about all the commands in the Bible Christians don’t keep (especially those from Leviticus), the blasts on Facebook about how we’re hypocrites and Jesus just wants us to be nice to one another (is a half-truth still truth?).”
“Let me begin by simply stating the premise of this article: I am issuing a desperate plea for rationally-based, hope-filled, tolerance-understanding, people-loving discussion on the subject of marriage not only in the United States, but across the globe. I truly believe that we are currently in the middle of an issue that has our culture more polarized and divided than any other in history. I realize those who lived through the civil-rights movement may disagree with me, however with the spread of technology and social media we are now able to relay information and arguments faster than ever before causing the polarization of people to increase at never-before-seen rates. My fear is that, because of the rapid spread of information and growing trends in our society, we have officially lost the ability to have calm discussion and solve problems together.”
“I was recently talking to a friend (thanks, Tom) about the level of gospel-related imagery present in many Hollywood movies today. We specifically talked about the latest Batman trilogy – one of the reasons everyone loves Batman is that he’s the unlikely hero who is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of others. Isn’t that why we love the idea of heroes today? One of the subplots in last years Avengers was that Tony Stark wasn’t a true hero until he learned what it meant to sacrifice himself and put his own life on the line. Captain America is the selfless boyscout who, despite being mocked and humiliated by his peers, continually demonstrates that others lives are more valuable than his. Selflessness, humility, sacrifice – things we love to see in our ideal heroes – are all things that Christ demonstrated through his earthly ministry and ultimate death on the cross.”
“The truth is, everybody want’s Jesus on their side. We live in an age where the majority of the population is Biblically illiterate, and rather than investigate what they hear for themselves they trust the first thing they hear that already agrees with their beliefs. Those who hold to the belief that Jesus’ followers aren’t to judge anyone will often reference either John 8:7 (“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”), or Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not, that you be not judged.”). From a plain reading, one might conclude that Jesus did in fact teach that his followers are not to make any judgment whatsoever. The Bible has a lot to say about judging one another – but since even non-Christians like to quote Jesus to make their point, let us look specifically at these verses in their appropriate contexts to see what Jesus really had to say about judging people.”
“It has been requested of me for some time to address the song Same Love by Macklemore. I don’t really listen to Pop-radio, so I am both blissfully ignorant and culturally unaware of the music circulating today. At first I denied the request to write on this issue – after all I’d already waded in the boiling water with this post, so two posts on a similar subject seemed too close to beating on the aforementioned dead horse. However, after some brief discussion and further thought on this song, as well as the recent DOMA/SCOTUS decisions, I’ve decided to once again put my thoughts out there for the interwebs to read. It is my hope and prayer that this will contribute to the discussion on both sides, and that it will be edifying to anyone who reads it regardless of their position.”
The weight of this topic requires a lengthy blog post. I recognize that this is much longer than most people care to read on a blog site, so for convenience I have provided 5 break points in the article that you can click on and come back and read at any time:
It is likely that since the beginning of time, every civilization has dealt with the same issue. Certainly since the beginning of written history, each succeeding generation resurrects one big question: Why is there pain and evil in the world? The question can take many forms; these variations almost always add God into the mix, something to the effect of “If God is all-good, and God is all-powerful, why does evil exist?”
In a post-modern era of no absolutes, attempts to respond to the “big questions” are now nothing but over-clichéd attempts to make people feel better about themselves. The Church should be a beacon of truth and light that provides a unique and Christian answer to the question.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
We have lost our way. The Church has blended worldly desires for cheap and quick solutions with a slight spiritual blend to offer nothing more than a sugar-coated shell that is hollow on the inside. We have fallen so far that we now answer the “Problem of Pain” with answers such as:
- “God just needed another angel in heaven” (Christianity does not teach that we become angels after death, so I have no idea why we allow this idea to fester).
- “Evil is just the absence of God” (so God is no longer big enough to be all-present?)
- “This [insert natural disaster, economic collapse, war] is God’s punishment on [insert people group] for doing [insert sin]” (OK, but seriously, when did everyone become a prophet? And show me a Biblical precedent for natural disasters being a routine punishment from God).
- “You didn’t have enough faith for good things to happen” (Riiiiight).
- “It is only pain and suffering in our eyes. You just need to change your perspective” (So is there no such thing as absolute evil or absolute good?)
- “God isn’t really ‘sovereign’, that is why we have free will to do what we want” (If you don’t believe in a god who can usurp man’s free will, you don’t believe in a god at all).
These are trite answers and only serve to undermine the riches of Christian faith.
So What Is the Problem?
The real issue being discussed is the existence of pain, evil and suffering in the world. We like the idea of a good and loving god, but often it is hard to reconcile that idea with everything we see in the world around us. What about all of the wars, people dying of starvation and natural disasters, sex trafficking, cancer, murder, disease? Why do bad things happen to good people? What about death?
The philosopher first credited with ‘debunking’ God because of the existence of evil, pain and suffering was a man named Epicurus (341-270 BC). A Greek philosopher by trade, Epicurus narrowed down the problem of reconciling evil with God in a simple argument, called the Epicurean Paradox:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
The Epicurean Paradox could also be narrowed down into three easy steps, which I will refer to for the remainder of this article:
- God is all-powerful (omnipotent).
- God is all-good.
- Evil exists.
Because of point three, Epicurus would say, God is either not all-powerful or he is not all-good. This shouldn’t be an unfamiliar concept to anyone. Surely everyone has experienced some sort of pain, suffering, or evil that causes them to say “How could a good God exist?”
We Are Asking the Wrong Question
I am going to make the argument that the above questions are invalid, and here’s why:
There’s no such thing as a good person.
That’s right. None of us, no one, not one, is good. Jesus himself said, “…No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19b).
The Bible teaches that we are all inherently born with a sin nature. We all have a bend towards sin from the day we are come out of the womb. It is because of this sin nature that we are tainted and corrupt. The book of Romans has a lot to say about the existence of evil. Look at what its author Paul has to say:
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
You might be reading this while saying to yourself, “This guy is off his rocker! He’s assuming I’m going to believe what the Bible says.” I’m not, because you already know in your heart that what this passage says is true.
Still fighting it? Then ask yourself the following questions: Who taught you how to lie? Who taught you how to covet something that wasn’t yours? Who taught you how to get angry and throw temper tantrums as a child? No one did. Those desires and sinful bends were in you since you were born.
All of this is to say that when we ask the question “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” we are asking the wrong question. It is a man-centered question which doesn’t put God first. This question must be asked in a theocentric (God-centered) manner, not an anthropocentric (man-centered) manner. Author and philosopher CS Lewis said it best when he said:
The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word ‘love’, and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. “Thou hast created all things, and for they pleasure they are and were created.” We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’.
So why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? He doesn’t, because there are no good people. Let’s take a look at the second question to get a better understanding of why evil, pain and death exists in the first place.
Why is There Pain and Evil in the World?
As for the latter question, why does God allow evil to exist? Simply put, because we do not exist in a vacuum. Were God to simply eradicate evil, we would not exist. Evil cannot go unpunished, and as Scripture puts it, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This isn’t just a physical death. This is the death of all things that are good and right. The world is no longer the way it was supposed to be. Why does evil continue to exist? Because we have chosen it. As contributors in the human race we have all chosen to go our own way, to turn from God, and to give in to our own desires. Our anger, lust and pride mixes and stirs into one giant blue and green sphere of hostility, hatred and death floating in space.
Here’s the kicker: we’re all guilty. Every single one of us has contributed to the evil, pain and suffering that exists in the world. We have at one time wounded, ignored, and hurt others in ways they’ll never forget. We all lust after and covet things that we shouldn’t have, which causes us to chase after all of the wrong things. No one is exempt from the curse of sin and death – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All. Not some. All. Me, you, everyone.
So How Should Christians Respond?
With the above foundations fueling our understanding of the questions at hand, I further suggest that in reality there is no “Problem of Evil” at all. The Epicurean Paradox is a paradox itself, because there is no paradox. Properly understood, a good, loving and all-powerful God is perfectly reconcilable with the existence of pain and evil.
And this is why I have a problem, a bone to pick if you will. So many Church members today are completely misinformed, to the point that we don’t even understand that the answer is sitting right in front of us.
The Christian faith does not teach that you need to believe good things can happen in order for them to happen, that we become angels after death, or that God is unable to prevent evil. The Christian faith does not teach that God is malevolent, likes to watch us suffer, or is generally uninvolved with our lives.
On the contrary, the Christian faith teaches that God is SO good, SO loving, that he can bring the best good from the worst evil. As the early church thinker St. Augustine said,
Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.
There are examples of this all over the Bible. God is a redemptive God, and we consistently see him turning evil into good in the lives of people like Joseph, David and Paul. But what better place to see this take place than on the work of Christ on the cross! It is with the death and subsequent resurrection of Christ that we see the ultimate example of good coming out of evil. What the world intended to use to destroy God, God intended to use to purchase salvation for all of those who would believe in him for life. How can one conceive of a higher good than that!? As condemned sinners, who brought evil and death upon ourselves, God still looked upon us and said “This will not do!”
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:6-8
Properly understood, there is no “Problem of Evil.” The questions we often use to asses this so-called problem are the wrong questions because they focused on men rather than God. We presuppose that we deserve good things to happen to us, when really we all deserve death.
We began by looking at the Epicurean Paradox, which we summarized as follows:
- God is all-powerful (omnipotent).
- God is all-good.
- Evil exists.
When we stop at point 3, our first inclination is to think that point 3 would contradict point 1 or 2. However, point 3 is not the end of the story. As author and apologist Dr. Greg Bahnsen points out, we must continue on to a point 4:
4. God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.
Christianity teaches that God is so immensely good, so far beyond our comprehension, that He can produce good from even the worst and most tragic of evils. Now, let me be clear; this isn’t to say that we are always going to know the exact reason for individual circumstances of pain and evil. We can’t always know why someone has cancer, or why our friends would be killed, or why terrorists would kill hundreds of people. We can’t always know why we’d lose our job, or someone would choose to cause us immense pain and hurt.
But we can be sure of two things.
The first is that the consequence of our sin is death and suffering. All of us have sinned, and we have all contributed to the pain and hurt we see in the world. What is the meaning of all of this death and suffering in the world? The consequences of sin are outrageous.
Second, we have an amazing, sacrificial and loving Savior. We have a God who does not desire us to eternally face the consequence of our sin, but wants to reconcile us and redeem us, allowing us to experience the grace and mercy that only the perfect Creator can give. We can have confidence that even though we have trouble in this life, Jesus has overcome the world.
I know there will be plenty of non-Christians who read this. And I know every one of you have gone or are currently going through some kind of hurt and some kind of pain that causes you to be angry and bitter with the idea of a loving and all-powerful God. Come, taste and see. The Lord is good. I invite you to send me a message. Let’s talk about it. There is hope, there are answers, and they’re found in Jesus.
Christians, we have a better answer than what the world can provide. It just is. When you feel hurt or pain, when you see evil in the world, cling to the cross. Rejoice in our Savior. And then go help someone else who can’t reconcile pain and evil with the idea of a loving God. We have the answer for reconciling pain and evil, for bringing hope to a dark world, and for restoring hurting people with a loving God. Don’t give in to cheap, worldly answers.
The gospel changes everything.
“Second, understand that there are millions of Christians, many of whom are being persecuted, in other parts of the world who would gladly give much to be able to take these classes and sit under your professors. God in his great providence has allowed you to be here, so take advantage of this opportunity.”
“For months now the question has been in front of me. It has been there in the document I open every day, the document that contains a list of articles to write, and questions to explore. “What will be the cost to the church if young men continue to give themselves to pornography?” What do we, as Christians, stand to lose if so many of our young men continue to spend their teens and twenties in the pursuit of pornographic pleasure?”
“He does not criticize or downplay the presence of sexual desire and the longing to find sexual fulfillment. Rather, he admits it, celebrates it, and shows that to direct that energy toward adultery, fornication or pornography is to completely misuse it. His solution is simple: Put your sexual desire to the best use of all. “Rejoice in the wife of your youth…be intoxicated always in her love.” Donald Spence-Jones interprets this way: ‘The teacher, by a bold figure, describes the entire fascination which the husband is to allow the wife to exercise over him.'”
This is a great follow-up to article 2.
“The RTS Board of Trustees has elected Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, III, as chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. Duncan is currently the John E. Richards professor of systematic and historical theology at RTS in Jackson, Miss., and the senior minister of historic First Presbyterian Church (1837), where he has served for the past 17 years. He is the president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and served as President of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals from 2004-2012. Click here to visit the RTS chancellor Web page.”
As a current RTS student, this causes me to be super excited.
“It’s common to see the argument that the Scriptures we have today aren’t the same as what was written by the apostles in the first century. Such arguments attempt to portray the Bible as unreliable and therefore irrelevant. As we will see, however, these challenges do not stand up to scrutiny.”
This article might be better titled “Why You Can Trust Your New Testament”, but it is still a good article none the less.
“Surely it is time to become realistic. It is time to drop the cultural elitism that poses as significant Christian transformation of culture but only really panders to nothing more than middle class tastes and hobbies. It is time to look again at the New Testament’s teaching on the church as a sojourning people where here we have no lasting home. The psalms of lament teach us that it is only when we have realistic horizons of expectation will we be able to stand firm against what is coming. If we do not understand that now, we are going to be sorely disappointed in the near future.”
“One of the difficult things–among many difficult things–related to homosexuality is how to speak of the issue in a way that addresses all the nuances people need to hear. As I’ve written before, there are various groups that may be listening when we speak about homosexuality, and the group we think we are addressing usually dictates how we speak. There is time for toughness and a time for tears, a time for defense and a time for letting down our defenses, a time for rallying the troops and a time for putting up our hands to show that we come in peace.”
Good tips here.
“I began to feel like somebody was pulling back the curtain in Oz..”
As I’ve discussed before, this story has all the signs of a good cult.
Time reports that in the name of zero-tolerance, boys are struggling. I’d argue this has to do with the general feminization of our culture, as well.
Watch this video. Just…do it.
DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, SEPTEMBER 2, 1855, BY THE
REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
AT NEW PARK STREET CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK.
“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14.
IF there were no other text in the sacred word except this one, I think we should all be bound to receive and acknowledge the truthfulness of the great and glorious doctrine of God’s ancient choice of his family. But there seems to be an inveterate prejudice in the human mind against this doctrine; and although most other doctrines will be received by professing Christians, some with caution, others with pleasure, yet this one seems to be most frequently disregarded and discarded. In many of our pulpits it would be reckoned a high sin and treason to preach a sermon upon election, because they could not make it what they call a “practical” discourse. I believe they have erred from the truth therein. Whatever God has revealed, he has revealed for a purpose. There is nothing in Scripture which may not, under the influence of God’s Spirit, be turned into a practical discourse: for “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable” for some purpose of spiritual usefulness. It is true, it may not be turned into a free-will discourse—that we know right well—but it can be turned into a practical free-grace discourse: and free-grace practice is the best practice, when the true doctrines of God’s immutable love are brought to bear upon the hearts of saints and sinners. Now, I trust this morning some of you who are startled at the very sound of this word, will say, “I will give it a fair hearing; I will lay aside my prejudices; I will just hear what this man has to say.” Do not shut your ears and say at once, “It is high doctrine.” Who has authorized you to call it high or low? Why should you oppose yourself to God’s doctrine? Remember what became of the children who found fault with God’s prophet, and exclaimed, “Go up, thou bald-head; go up, thou bald-head.” Say nothing against God’s doctrines, lest haply some evil beast should come out of the forest and devour you also. There are other woes beside the open judgment of heaven—take heed that these fall not on your head. Lay aside your prejudices: listen calmly, listen dispassionately: hear what Scripture says; and when you receive the truth, if God should be pleased to reveal and manifest it to your souls, do not be ashamed to confess it. To confess you were wrong yesterday, is only to acknowledge that you are a little wiser to-day; and instead of being a reflection on yourself, it is an honour to your judgment, and shows that you are improving in the knowledge of the truth. Do not be ashamed to learn, and to cast aside your old doctrines and views, but to take up that which you may more plainly see to be in the Word of God. But if you do not see it to be here in the Bible, whatever I may say, or whatever authorities I may plead, I beseech you, as you love your souls, reject it; and if from this pulpit you ever hear things contrary to this Sacred Word, remember that the Bible must be the first, and God’s minister must lie underneath it. We must not stand on the Bible to preach, but we must preach with the Bible above our heads. After all we have preached, we are well aware that the mountain of truth is higher than our eyes can discern; clouds and darkness are round about its summit, and we cannot discern its topmost pinnacle; yet we will try to preach it as well as we can. But since we are mortal, and liable to err, exercise your judgment; “Try the spirits whether they are of God;” and if on mature reflection on your bended knees, you are led to disregard election—a thing which I consider to be utterly impossible—then forsake it; do not hear it preached, but believe and confess whatever you see to be God’s Word. I can say no more than that by way of exordium.
Open your Bibles and turn to John 15:16, and there you will see that Jesus Christ has chosen his people, for he says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” Then in the 19th verse, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Then in the 17th chapter and the 8th and 9th verses, “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” Turn to Acts 13:48: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” They may try to split that passage into hairs if they like; but it says, “ordained to eternal life” in the original as plainly as it possibly can; and we do not care about all the different commentaries thereupon. You scarcely need to be reminded of Romans 8, because I trust you are all well acquainted with that chapter and understand it by this time. In the 29th and following verses, it says, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” It would also be unnecessary to repeat the whole of the 9th chapter of Romans. As long as that remains in the Bible, no man shall be able to prove Arminianism; so long as that is written there, not the most violent contortions of the passage will ever be able to exterminate the doctrine of election from the Scriptures.
And now, lastly, to the ungodly. What says election to you? First ye ungodly ones, I will excuse you for a moment. There are many of you who do not like election, and I cannot blame you for it, for I have heard those preach election, who have sat down, and said, “I have not one word to say to the sinner.” Now, I say you ought to dislike such preaching as that, and I do not blame you for it. But, I say, take courage, take hope, O thou sinner, that there is election. So far from dispiriting and discouraging thee, it is a very hopeful and joyous thing that there is an election. What if I told thee perhaps none can be saved, none are ordained to eternal life; wouldst thou not tremble and fold thy hands in hopelessness, and say, “Then how can I be saved, since none are elect?” But, I say, there is a multitude elect, beyond all counting—a host that no mortal can number. Therefore, take heart, thou poor sinner! Cast away thy despondency—mayest thou not be elect as well as any other? for there is a host innumerable chosen. There is joy and comfort for thee! Then, not only take heart, but go and try the Master. Remember, if you were not elect, you would lose nothing by it. What did the four Syrians say? “Let us fall unto the host of the Syrians, for if we stay here we must die, and if we go to them we can but die.” O sinner! come to the throne of electing mercy, Thou mayest die where thou art. Go to God; and, even supposing he should spurn thee, suppose his uplifted hand should drive thee away—a thing impossible—yet thou wilt not lose anything; thou wilt not be more damned for that. Besides, supposing thou be damned, thou wouldst have the satisfaction at least of being able to lift up thine eyes in hell, and say, “God, I asked mercy of thee and thou wouldst not grant it; I sought it, but thou didst refuse it.” That thou never shalt say, O sinner! If thou goest to him, and askest him, thou shalt receive; for he ne’er has spurned one yet! Is not that hope for you? What though there is an allotted number, yet it is true that all who seek belong to that number. Go thou and seek; and if thou shouldst be the first one to go to hell, tell the devils that thou didst perish thus—tell the demons that thou art a castaway, after having come as a guilty sinner to Jesus. I tell thee it would disgrace the Eternal—with reverence to his name—and he would not allow such a thing. He is jealous of his honour, and be could not allow a sinner to say that.
But ah, poor soul! not only think thus, that thou canst not lose anything by coming; there is yet one more thought—dost thou love the thought of election this morning? Art thou willing to admit its justice? Dost thou say, “I feel that I am lost; I deserve it; and that if my brother is saved I cannot murmur. If God destroy me, I deserve it; but if he saves the person sitting beside me, he has a right to do what he will with his own, and I have lost nothing by it.” Can you say that honestly from your heart? If so, then the doctrine of election has had its right effect on your spirit, and you are not far from the kingdom of heaven. You are brought where you ought to be, where the Spirit wants you to be; and being so this morning, depart in peace; God has: forgiven your sins. You would not feel that if you were not pardoned; you would not feel that if the Spirit of God were not working in you. Rejoice, then, in this. Let your hope rest on the cross of Christ. Think not on election, but on Christ Jesus. Rest on Jesus—Jesus first, midst, and without end.