A Good, Bad and Ugly God

A God in control is comforting, but inauthentic. We are happy with this God until “you know what” hits the fan and our world falls like the Tower of Babel. A God in control would have to guide everything—the good, the bad and the ugly. But a God who created a good human race that went bad and ugly is a completely different story. This God isn’t responsible for our mistakes, our suffering or our pain.

Theological Control—Nice, but Absurd

I define theological control as God predetermining the path of the world. This God acts from a distance, deciding the fate of each person and consequently the fate of the world. I oppose this view of God and propose another.

continue reading

Jesus Uncensored

Was Jesus a white, Dutch pacifist with blond, curly hair and a flowing robe, like he is portrayed in many movies? Or was he a bearded, Middle-Eastern rabbi who made nearly every religious and political figure of his day infuriated? Why did Jesus die? Could it be that he was perceived as a zealous, sacrilegious leader of a revolt? Who is the uncensored Jesus?

This is a message that I delivered at a mission in my hometown. There is a lot of coughing during the audio since most of the audience is ill from spending most of their time in the cold on the street. Jesus came to these people -- that is the topic of the message. Please pray for my friends without a home. And enjoy the message!

I Have a Problem with God

I am troubled because I feel blessed and cursed, simultaneously. Does God bring the good and the bad? If he does, I have a problem with God.

I hear at church, “God is in control. Do not fear.” Really, is he in control? Because what I see is a world out of control. John Calvin is going to roll over in his grave when I say this, but God is not in control. Because that God would have to be fine with evil to be in control of this mess.

Paul says that the creation and our very selves are subject to the corrupt world:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom 8:18–25 ESV)
continue reading

The Problem of Evil Solved: Thank You Alvin Plantinga

As I mentioned before, the logical or deductive form of the argument from evil attempts to demonstrate a contradiction in the theist's beliefs that an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God and evil exist at the same time.  The logical challenge can and has been answered decisively, starting with Alvin Plantinga in his famous book, God, Freedom, and Evil

Keep in mind atheist J.L. Mackie's argument from my earlier post, which can be outlined this way: 

  1. God exists and is omnipotent and perfectly good.
  2. A perfectly good being always eliminates evil as far as it can.
  3. There are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do.
  4. Evil exists.
  5. Therefore, God does not exist. 
continue reading

The Problem of Evil: Presupposing Good?

In an earlier post, I mentioned the importance of making distinctions when approaching the problem of evil, one being the distinction between the logical problem and the evidential problem.  This distinction informs our response to each, helping us to see what's "in play" and what's not.  And when it comes to the logical argument we discover that the theist cannot respond by accusing the atheist of presupposing some objective standard of goodness by which to measure evil

Let me explain.

When making the logical argument the atheist is trying to point out a logical contradiction within the theist's worldview.  If he succeeds in demonstrating the contradiction then one or more or the propositions in question, again within the theist's worldview, is false.  But notice, this does not commit the atheist to the actual existence of the things in question (e.g. evil, an omnibenevolent God).  The atheist is standing outside of our worldview so to speak, looking in on it, and examining it.  He sees two or more contradictory propositions and so he points them out:  "Hey, you theists believe an all-good, all-powerful God exists but you also believe that evil exists--that's a contradiction.  It's like saying 2 + 2 = 4 and 2 + 2 = 5 at the same time."

continue reading

Buddhism and God's Grace

Earlier this week, I watched a podcast of a recent Larry King Live interview with Sharon Stone, and I have not been able to stop thinking about two things she said.

Responding to King's question about how she is handling the fact that she does not have custody of her older son, Stone responded by saying, "Well, I’m a Buddhist. I think that helps. I think that in my way of understanding life, that I understand that everybody has their own destiny, even Roan. And so I recognize that Roan has his path in life. When he’s with us, we try to love him up as much as we possibly can."

Interestingly, later in the interview, King asked her about a medical scare she had a few years ago, when her vertebral artery tore and she hemorrhaged into her brain. "At first, they missed it. So I ended up bleeding into my brain for a very long time, nine days, in fact, before they understood what was happening to me. And it was just really very much by the grace of God that I survived."

I was still contemplating her earlier comment about how her Buddhist beliefs helped her accept her son's destiny when I heard her refer to the fact that "it was just really very much by the grace of God" that she survived.

continue reading

The Logical Problem of Evil

As I mentioned before, the logical problem of evil purports to show a logical inconsistency between the existence of God and the existence of evil.  Prominent atheist J.L. Mackie formulated the argument like this:

"In its simplest form the problem is this:  God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; yet evil exists.  There seems to be some contradiction between these three propositions, so that if any two of them were true the third would be false.  But at the same time all three are essential parts of most theological positions; the theologian, it seems, at once must adhere and cannot consistently adhere to all three."

Given the three propositions here the contradiction is not quite explicit, so Mackie continues: 

continue reading

Thinking Carefully About the Problem of Evil: Important Distinctions

When approaching the problem of evil it is important to begin by making some key distinctions.  Distinctions help us to define the issues more precisely, which leads to greater clarity of the problem as well as the solution.  This is just one reason philosophy is an indisensable tool for believers.  Here are some of the key distinctions:

First, it is important to distinguish between the intellectual problem and the existential problem.  The intellectual problem requires a tough-minded philosophical response while the existential problem requires a tender-hearted pastoral response.  If you attempt to answer the existential problem merely with philosophical abstractions or Christian cliches, you may as well keep your mouth shut.

This distinction needs to be considered on a personal level as well.  You may have answered the intellectual problem with careful philosophical analysis but another question remains:  Is your soul prepared for suffering?  This question haunts me a bit, particularly since my wife and I have had children.  Sometimes I ponder how I would respond to God if something tragic were to befall one of my kids and I must confess, I am a little pessimistic about my own response.  I think it reveals my ever-present need to cultivate greater virtue and not just philosophical acumen.

continue reading

C.S. Lewis on the Problem of Evil

In 1940, C.S. Lewis penned The Problem of Pain, addressing the intellectual issues surrounding evil.  A little more than 20 years later, Lewis wrote A Grief Observed, journaling his experience of pain and suffering after the death of his wife, Joy.  In the first half of the latter book, Lewis seems to indicate that his intellectual reasons offered no help with his existential struggles:

"Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God.  The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him.  The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like...it's easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absent--non-existent...she was in God's hands all the time, and I have seen what they did to her here.  Do they suddenly become gentler to us the moment we are out of the body?  And if so, why?  If God's goodness is inconsistent with his hurting us, then either God is not good or there is no God: for in the only life we know He hurts us beyond our worst fears and beyond all we can imagine.  If it is consistent with hurting us, then He may hurt us after death as unendurably as before it."

Some have cited Lewis' experience as evidence that our intellectual reasons are unhelpful and therefore, not needed in the existential struggle of pain, suffering, and evil.  I have three responses. 

continue reading

Goliath's Head in My Hand

I've just started reading "Grace Abounding" by John Bunyan.* The edition I am reading was published London in 1905. I bought it for £9.99 at a little used book shop next to the Eagle and Child pub when I was in Oxford over a year ago, but I'm just now getting around to reading it...

I'm not even through the preface yet, and already I'm copying favorite sections into my journal. For example, he writes:

"In this discourse of mine, you may see much; much I say, of the grace of God toward me: I thank God, I can count it much; for it was above my sins and Satan's temptations too. I can remember my fears and doubts, and sad months, with comfort; they are as the head of Goliath in my hand. There was nothing to David like Goliath's sword, even that sword that should have been sheathed in his bowels. For the very sight and remembrance of that did preach forth God's deliverance to him. Oh! the remembrance of my great sins, of my great temptations, and of my great fear of perishing forever! They bring afresh into my mind, the remembrance of my great help, my great supporters from heaven, and the great grace that God extended to such a wretch as I."

continue reading
Syndicate content

Bloggers in Belief

Sign-up for the Newsletter
Sign-up for the Newsletter
Get the latest updates on relevant news topics, engaging blogs and new site features. We're not annoying about it, so don't worry.