The Problem of Evil: Part 2

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The Problem of Evil: Part 2

Any time the atheist objector states the problem of evil, they generally do so in a format that is both logically coherent and emotionally engaging. It is interesting that atheism is purported to be a position that is logical and consistent with reality. Given the materialist worldview of atheism, its use of and insistence upon logic is highly problematic. In an attempt to circumvent the problems surrounding their use of logic, atheists have presented a few options for explaining the origin and authority of logic.

Option #1 – Nature

One manner in which atheists attempt to explain logic is by claiming that logic comes from nature. That is to say that logic merely describes that which we observe in nature. The problem with this approach in explaining logic is that it assumes logic. The way in which occurrences in nature are classified is through the use of the scientific method. However, this is circular reasoning. The scientific method is a viable method by which to asses occurrences in nature chiefly because it assumes that logic exists. Classification of what is observed in nature occurs through the use of logic. Scientists do not derive logic from nature and then define what they observe in nature by what they have derived. No, they assume that which occurs does so in a manner that is logical.

Option #2 – Survival of the Fittest

Another popular proposal for the existence of logic is its development as a means for survival. This proposal fails on a few accounts. First, this assumes that an impersonal process can produce that which is personal. Second, this assumes that adherence to logic assures survival. Experience proves that this is simply not true. It would seem as if species which do not possess capabilities for recognizing logic appear to have a greater ability for survival than beings that recognize logic.[1] Fourth, proposing that evolution explains the origin of logic is also circular because it would demand that evolutionary processes would exhibit the use of the laws of logic. It would seem as if evolutionary processes logically recognize that logic is necessary for survival. Thus, this option for explaining logic raises more questions than it answers.

Option #3 – Consensus

Some atheists explain that the laws of logic are little more than generally agreed-upon principles. Yet, logic transcends the groups for which they are normatively considered as conventions (i.e. Western civilization). If logic is formed by an informal vote or consensus, then the pervasive nature of these laws in human experience is unexplainable.

[1] John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God, 104.

 

The Problem of Evil: Part 1

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Over the past few years, I have taught classes and delivered papers that deal with the problem of evil. I am going to attempt to summarize much of this material in a series of blog posts that I hope will be helpful. Check back for updates.

The Problem of Evil: Part 1

The purpose of this series is to familiarize the reader with fundamental points of entry by which the irrationality of claiming the non-existence of the Christian God, based upon the existence of evil, may be demonstrated.

In responding to the various objections levied against Christian theism by popular promoters of atheism, the problem of evil is one of the more difficult objections to overcome. The difficulty in responding to this objection is not due to its strength as an argument against Christianity. Instead, its strength lies in the emotional response it conjures. Sadly, the emotion-evoking rhetoric of the New Atheists (i.e. Dawkins, Harris…etc) tends to blur the lines between that which makes sense logically and what speaks to the heart emotionally.

Perhaps the most basic of all of the classic statements regarding the problem of evil is as follows:

1.  If God were all-powerful, He would be able to prevent or to destroy all evil.

2.  If God were all-good, He would desire to prevent or to destroy all evil.

3.  Evil exists.

4.  Therefore, an all-powerful, all-good God does not exist.[1]

William Rowe formulates the problem this way:

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

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 great good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

Given the conditions he observes in the world, Rowe concludes,

3.  There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.[2]

The traditional formulation of the problem assumes a few critical facts: First, that which can be objectively identified as evil actually exists. Certainly, the use of the term objectively could be debated. Still, this concept is being assumed in order to furnish a viable premise upon which to deny the existence of God. Second, if God existed, He would want to and actually would destroy all evil. Third, the reality which we experience is therefore logically incoherent with Christian theism. The first and third assumptions directly demonstrate worldview inconsistency. (See Part 2)

[1] Adapted from John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1994), 150.
[2] Louis P. Pojman, ed. Philosophy of Religion. William Rowe,  The Inductive Argument from Evil Against the Existence of God (Albany, NY: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1998), 212.

 

 

religion versus the gospel

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I am continually amazed by the never-ending tug of religiosity on my heart. I have been saved by grace, I live in grace, I thank God for grace, but I often fall back into religion. This, I believe, is the default wiring of the human (because of sin). We are born with a relentless desire to self-justify and promote ourselves because of our self-righteousness.

So, what are some distinctions between religion and the gospel? None of these are all that clever and neither are they ingenuous sparks of originality. Others have said the same things in a much more articulate fashion. Nevertheless, here are a few observations regarding the gospel versus religion as seen in Luke’s narrative.

1. Religion despises wicked people, but Jesus calls wicked people to Himself: Within religious thinking, some people are far worse than others. We see this exemplified by the words and actions of the Pharisees. They were horrified by the kinds of people Jesus spent time with and professed love for in his day-to-day ministry. The very people the religious elite rejected because of their self-righteous religiosity were the people Jesus pursued and called to follow Him. The gospel tells us we are all wicked people and we need Jesus to call us to Himself.

2. Religion demands payment, but Jesus cancels debts: Religious people rightly recognize that we owe God a great debt for our sin. However, they wrongly assume that we can work hard enough and do enough good to pay our sin debt. Jesus is clear in that we cannot pay our debt, He must cancel our debt (from our perspective) by paying our debt (God’s perspective) with His obedience, death, burial, and resurrection. We are bankrupt. We have nothing to offer God. So, Jesus pays the debt we cannot pay. Religion says pay your own debt, the gospel says the debt is paid for all who repent and believe.

3. Religion is cruel, but Jesus is compassionate: Religion is all about self. On the surface religion appears to be about God, but when we get to the heart of the issue we see that the object of our worship is the god of self. This is a cruel thing on two levels. 1) Religion is cruel because it promises salvation, but it never delivers. 2) Religion causes us to be cruel to those we see as less “holy” than ourselves. Religion says we are “clean” and others are dirty. Whereas the gospel tells us that we are all sinful and defiled people. None are clean. So, Jesus comes to us and for us. Jesus becomes unclean for us and with us. He takes our sin on Himself and gives us His righteousness. Just as the Good Samaritan has compassion on the unclean man in the ditch, Jesus has compassion on sinners and comes for us.

4. Religion demands endless work, but Jesus gives rest: Religion is a system with “daddy issues.” Think about it. If you had a cruel and unloving father, you probably spent much of your life trying to gain his attention, to make him proud, to gain his affection. Religion is a system that puts our “daddy issues” on a cosmic scale. Religion says God is a cruel Father that you must work endlessly to gain His attention, His approval, and His affection. False. The gospel says that God loves you because of God. Your performance doesn’t earn His attention, approval, or affection. The gospel says that in Christ we have God’s undivided attention. In Christ, because of His performance for us in our place, we have God’s approval. The gospel says that God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were sinning against Him, Christ came and died for sinners (Rom. 5:8). In Jesus, we find rest. We don’t have to earn or prove anything. We rest in Christ.

5. Religion says we determine our worth by our effort, but Jesus says you are valuable (as you are): Religion sees some people as worthless. According to religion, some people have gone too far and sinned to much to be found and loved by God. Religion says that if we even want a chance at earning God’s love we must search hard and diligently to find God. The gospel says the opposite. The gospel says you cannot find your way back to God. So, God comes searching for us. The gospel says God comes for us because even when we are lost we have value to Him. The value of something is determined by the price paid for it. Jesus purchased His people by shedding His priceless blood. So, we  are valuable. We are not valued because of our efforts, but based upon the price paid for us.

 

being a faithful pastor

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I am genuinely concerned by a phenomenon taking place in evangelical Christianity. No, its not some kind of insidious plot to overthrow orthodoxy. Nor is it a conspiracy to undermine missional efforts. Instead, it is the attitude that serving a local church is a means to an end. Far too many men who are “called” to ministry view the local church as the place to build their brand and establish a platform. It seems that many seminary students have dreams of becoming the next Matt Chandler, John Piper, or David Platt. Few desire to be Steve Lewis.

Who is Steve Lewis, you ask? Exactly! I didn’t know him either. However, the city in which I pastor is littered with people whom “Pastor Steve” impacted. Evidently he was a man who really believed the gospel, faithfully served his church, and then died. What’s my point? Well, “Pastor Steve” never wrote a book (to my knowledge), never spoke at a major conference, and he didn’t have a blog or his own personal logo. He was simply a faithful pastor whose gospel legacy has lived on well beyond his life.

My fear is that we have so many guys aiming to be the next David Platt (and sorry guys…99.9% of you will miss this target), that they will never become Steve Lewis. Genuine pastoral ministry isn’t flashy, it is faithful service. It isn’t about building a brand, it is about making much of Jesus. It isn’t about building a platform, it is about advancing the kingdom. 

If you serve Christ as a faithful pastor like Matt Chandler, John Piper, and David Platt have and in the midst of this service God gives you a platform, then use it well. However, Chandler, Piper, and Platt were not aiming to be the next Adrian Rodgers or Charles Spurgeon. They were aiming to be guys like Steve Lewis. Don’t aim for fame. Purpose to be faithful. Wait, don’t just purpose to be faithful. Instead, pray that God would keep you faithful.