Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stewart has a problem...

Stuart was on Hour 1 of Wretched Radio with Todd Friel on Thursday, Feb. 26 2009. Stuart was a Buddhist monk that held to an atheistic worldview. If you remember, he had a few problems. Perhaps you might be able to help him out...

7 comments:

Jason and Vanessa said...

I'd like to address question 2, commonly knows as "The Problem of Evil" or in theological circles "theodicy".

This topic is of particular interest to me having lost 2 children of my own.

Out of all the answers given to this I believe the following is the most Biblical, it comes from John MacArthur (though it is brief it gives a good summary:


1. Evil exists and it is folly to claim that it doesn’t. There are several categories of evil:

a. Natural evil (such as natural disasters and disease)

b. Moral evil (the sinful actions of people)

c. Supernatural evil (the actions of Satan and demons)

d. Eternal evil (the eternal condition of those in hell)

2. God exists (and He is the God of the Bible)

God controls absolutely everything. There is no evil outside His plan. There is no evil outside His purpose. He knows everything that can be known, that is knowable. He has comprehensive power to do everything that can be done that is possible. That is what the Bible says about God. And in that perfect knowledge, and in that perfect power, and with perfect holiness, and expressing His perfect love, God ordains everything.

3. God wills evil to exist. He has allowed evil and sin within His sovereign purposes so that His holiness and grace might be put on display.

Without sin and evil, we wouldn’t know that He is as righteous as He is, as loving as He is, and as holy as He is. God allowed sin so that He could display His wrath. Without sin, there would be no display of righteousness, no display of love and no display of holiness. God endures sin. “He endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Rom. 9:22). He endures sin patiently so that in the end He might be glorified by displaying both His wrath (v. 22) and His grace (v. 23).

The whole reason God ordained evil to exist was for His own glory sake, so that forever and ever holy angels and redeemed saints would give Him glory in full comprehension of all His attributes. Prior to sin God was not worshiped fully for His righteousness against the background of unrighteousness. He was not worshiped nor could be fully for His love until He demonstrated the kind of love that loves rebellious sinners. He was not worshiped fully for His holiness until His wrath displayed how He hated sin. And He was not worshiped for His grace until He displayed forgiveness and mercy on the elect. In every case there is this great disclosure of the nature of God. Why? In order to fully display His glory.


The last point it what seems to shake people up, so here are some Scripture proofs to help you with further study:


God has a purpose for evil

1. The Westminster Confession states

a. God ordains whatsoever comes to pass

b. God is not the author of sin

c. Everything happens to the praise of His glory

2. Evil exists to reveal the glory of God

a. Rom 3:5 – God reveals his glory by demonstrating His righteousness in comparison to our unrighteousness.

b. Rom 5:8 – God demonstrates His love by loving the unlovable

c. Rom 9:22 – God demonstrates His wrath for Himself, His holiness in action against sin. Without sin, there is no demonstration of his wrath. God has just as much right to display His wrath and He does to display His grace.

d. Rom 9:23 – God demonstrates His mercy on those who are unworthy of it.

e. God willed evil to exist to demonstrate His glory. The greatest good is the glory of God. There would be an incomplete demonstration of his glory if there was no sin and evil.

3. What is our response to this (Rom 9:14)?

a. Rom 9:19 – we have no right to question God?

b. The greatest evil in the world was the murder of Jesus (Act 2:22) was predetermined by God (Acts 2:23).


"Does the existence of evil make God more glorious or less glorious?"

"God is more glorious because he allows evil."


Keep in mind, he will make all things right in the end, no one will get away with anything. Either you will spend a eternity in Hell for your rebellion and sins toward a holy God, or by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ your sins are taken care of and justly punished on the cross by Jesus Christ, and you will have His righteousness, giving you eternal life, were there will be no sin, no death, nothing but good and our glorious God!

Soli Deo Gloria!

jason d.

Scott Erwin said...

#1. He's God. If I believe that he forever was, is, and forever will be (which the Bible tells us), then how can I not believe that he always with me!

#2. God did not create evil. It's like the classic case of heat vs cold and light vs dark.

Heat is something that can be measured, but cold cannot. You can have lots of heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. You see, "cold" is a word we use to describe the absence of 'heat'.

It's the same with light and dark. There is no "dark", it's only the word we use to describe the absence of light.

Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God.

God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart.

And what man believes in his heart and mind has no bearing on the fact that God is still omnipotent, omniscient & especially LOVING. We know he loves us because of what he did to restore the relationship with us.

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

He paid the penalty on our behalf! He loved us that much!

Fish with Trish said...

One thing that I shared with Stuart that day, after he got off the air with Todd and Ray, was that "Christian's don't have a problem with evil. It's unbelievers that do." (Rom 8:28)

Stuart smiled.

:-)

emram said...

Nice Jason. Or should I say...Nice Johnny Mac. :-)

Roger Bennett said...

Stuart:
I believe you have five issues:
[1] Why do Christians quote the Bible when this practice is based on circular reasoning?
[2] How can God be omnipresent and omnipotent at the same time?
[3] How can God be transcendent and immanent at the same time?
[4] How can objective morality exist when some people in Africa believe it’s OK to murder and rape others?
[5] How can God be loving, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient—and allow evil to exist and cause such calamity in our world?

I’ve been a Christian for 35 years. I assure you that many reasonable and sound answers exist to these questions. However, the answers are usually found in the writings of Christian apologists (scholars like Norman Geisler or J.P. Moreland) and less frequently found in the average Christian book or sermon. I recommend the book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek in terms of covering many apologetic issues for the layman. I also recommend “Beyond the Cosmos” by Hugh Ross, which discusses how the extra space-time dimensions of modern physics account for God possessing some of the characteristics and abilities the Bible ascribes to Him.

Obviously, I don’t have the space to exhaustively treat these issues, but I can briefly mention some of the best answers I’ve found.

[1] Why do Christians quote the Bible when this practice is based on circular reasoning? It’s possible that some Christians may inadvertently base their faith on circular reasoning—they may think the Bible is true because “the Bible says it’s true.” I often hear Christians quote the Bible in a manner that could be construed to indicate this. (I used to be an atheist myself as a young man, so I have a definite impression of this.)

However, apologetically-informed Christians do not believe this! We know full well that the truth of the Bible is demonstrated inductively—the Bible is true because an overwhelming number of empirical evidences demonstrate its historicity and reliability. More specifically, scientific and philosophical evidences demonstrate that only theism fully corresponds to and adequate explains reality—and is coherent (logically consistent) within its own paradigm. The cosmological and teleological arguments are particularly cogent in this regard.

In addition, numerous archeological, extrabiblical-historical, bibliographical (manuscript), and prophetic evidences inductively demonstrate the existence of the Judeo-Christian God. This empirical approach harmonizes with many Scripture verses which teach that we should first believe on the basis of the evidence (Exodus 14:31; 1Kings 18:19-39; Luke 7:18-23; John 2:11; 3:2; 4:46-53; 10:37-38; 11:43-45; 12:9-11; 20:24-28 & 30-31; Acts 9:32-35; Romans 1:19-20; 1Peter 3:15).

And then (secondly) we believe in the Bible’s promises without needing evidence for each specific promise because the reliability of the promises has already been inductively established (from the evidence). This is walking “by faith, not by sight.” [2Cor 5:7] (2Chronicles 20:20; John 8:31-36; Acts 17:11-12; 26:27; Romans 4:20-21; 10:17; 2Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 6:12; 11:1 & 7 & 11; 1John 5:13)

[2] How can God be omnipresent and omnipotent at the same time? Omnipotence is defined as “an agency or force of unlimited power.” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition) This corresponds to the biblical teaching that “…all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27) Omnipresence is defined as “the quality or state of being omnipresent [present in all places at all times].” (Merriam-Webster) This is supported by verses such as Psalm 139:7-12, Proverbs 15:3, Jeremiah 23:23-24, Acts 17:27-28, and Ephesians 1:23.

I believe that the seeming inconsistency here is resolved by the distinction between God possessing unlimited power and God exercising that power. God is under no compulsion to exercise the power He possesses! In fact, biblically, it would appear that He restrains Himself for the specific purpose of allowing humans to have the free will to follow Him & His ways OR to reject Him. If He were constantly exercising His unlimited power or manifesting Himself in an overbearing way toward us, we’d be unable to resist doing His will—and there would be no significant meaning or purpose for our lives if we were effectively a bunch of robots!

God allows us to have free will—to make good or evil moral choices—in order for our existence to be infused with meaning and purpose. What meaning would our existence have if we were pre-programmed robots with no capacity to do anything but love God? God would press our buttons and we’d say “God, I love you; this is a pre-recorded message!” However, love only has meaning if it’s freely given.

[3] How can God be transcendent and immanent at the same time? This involves a bit of physics, but bear with me; this does relate to God’s transcendence and immanence!

Modern physicists believe that string theory and even M theory harmonizes with the presently-available data. This is significant because string theory postulates the existence of six space-time dimensions besides our own four, while M theory says that there are seven besides our own four (length, height, width, and time).

Since Scripture describes God as omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Acts 17:27-28; Ephesians 1:23), He is therefore present in these extra dimensions as well as in our own (He created them, so it’s easy to assume that He makes use of them). In fact, it’s conceivable that He is visibly manifested (e.g., Isaiah chapter 6; Revelation chapters 4 & 5) in these extra dimensions instead of in our physical universe.

In any case, since God is present in these other dimensions, He can easily be both transcendent (existing beyond the limits of the physical universe) and immanent (present right here with us) at the same time. His presence pervades all of creation, both that which is transcendent to us and that in which we live. For reasons described above (to permit us to have true free will and thus true meaning and purpose), He has apparently chosen to be invisible to us in our four space-time dimensions, but He may be visibly manifested in the others (e.g., Isaiah chapter 6; Revelation chapters 4 & 5).

We don’t know that He does it this way, but it’s a distinct possibility. In any case, this perfectly accounts for how God can be both transcendent and immanent at the same time (I recommend the book “Beyond the Cosmos” by Hugh Ross in this regard).

[4] How can objective morality exist when some people in Africa believe it’s right to murder and rape others? I believe a distinction needs to be made here. It’s not that some “people” in general believe it’s right to murder and rape others; in Africa, there are tribes of people who believe they should murder and rape those belonging to other tribes.

Two principles make this situation compatible with objective morality: first, these people rarely murder or rape people of their own tribe. This is unacceptable, and if it were, that tribe would soon go extinct because of continual retributions! Those who murder or rape do so with members of other tribes when people become isolated and vulnerable. The presence of an entire enemy tribe would be a strong deterrent (except, of course, when entire tribes go to war).

Secondly, when a group of individuals from one tribe sets out to murder or rape those of another tribe, they typically perform expiatory rites—rituals which seek to atone for the wrong they have committed or plan to commit. They still instinctively have the normal human sense of objective morality—even when it’s the tribal custom (and thus mandated by tradition) to violate it! In human history, there are many other instances of people pursuing seemingly-contradictory goals at the same time! Humanity is fallible!

And finally [5] How can God be loving, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient—and allow evil to exist and cause such calamity in our world?

I believe it’s the biblical teaching that moral evil exists (in part) because God has given us free will (Deuteronomy 5:28-29; Joshua 1:6-8; Psalm 81:13-14; Isaiah 48:17-18; Ezekiel 33:11; Matthew 6:10; 23:37; Luke 7:30; 13:34; John 3:16-17; 15:14; Romans 10:21; First Timothy 2:3-4; Second Peter 3:9; Revelation 2:4-5 & 14-16 & 20-22; 3:15-20). Again, God allows us to have free will—to make good or evil moral choices in order for our existence to have true meaning and purpose.

However, there’s an additional factor about moral evil: if we had no capacity to make morally-evil choices, we wouldn’t have the capacity to make morally-good choices either. We couldn’t love freely unless we could also withdraw that love, and in many situations like spouse-to-spouse and parent-to-child, withdrawing love and support would by its very nature be evil.

We all have responsibilities towards others. If we fulfill them, we act in love. But if we deliberately choose to ignore them, we inescapably do that which is evil. Clearly, if we are able to do that which is good, we are also able to refrain and thus do that which is (within specific situations) evil.

Thus, free will allows to commit either SUPERLATIVELY good acts or DESPICABLY evil acts. From this we deduce that one reason why God allows evil to exist is to allow for the possibility of our developing superlatively good qualities, like courage, bravery, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. These qualities would have no meaning; they couldn’t exist at all unless the possibility of moral or natural evil existed!

The existence of evil also heightens or increases the degree to which we can experience love, kindness, and faithfulness. In short, in order for people to have the potential to make this into a superlatively good world, the existence of evil must be allowed!

Mankind couldn’t reach the heights of kindness, compassion, faithfulness, courage, and bravery unless we had the potential to be extremely selfish, hateful, and evil. Allowing for both extremes maximizes the meaning and value of our existence! If we were restricted to do only that which is minimally good or minimally evil, we’d be like partial robots instead of true and full human beings made in God’s image, who have a great capacity for moral good, which necessitates our also having a great capacity for evil. Thus, humanity is able to produce both a Mother Theresa and an Adolph Hitler.

If all of our choices were neither very good nor very bad, if we couldn’t significantly bless or harm anyone, – then no one would be able to significantly value or appreciate anyone else!

This principle is very similar in the natural realm: if we were always physically safe and out of danger, no matter what situation we found ourselves in, if we were always protected from physical harm, then the degree to which we could experience bravery, courage, compassion, and kindness would be diminished.

We could even say that this paradigm reflects God’s character, in that it manifests the desire of God to maximize the value, meaning, and significance of those who are created in His image—something which the biblical God would do. In this sense, the existence of evil is very biblical.

Roger Bennett

Roger Bennett said...

For all atheists:
I can’t do better than recommend the book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. How do I know? I used to be an atheist myself, but decided that the evidence for God’s existence was far too compelling to ignore, and the evidence for Christ’s divinity was sound and realistically irrefutable!

In part, this book describes the empirical, scientific evidences that demonstrate that a theistic God exists, i.e., the personal God who created the universe and is transcendent to it, but (in the cases of Christianity and Judaism) is immanent in it (He pervades His creation).

Examples: the scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe in the finite past strongly argues for a transcendent causal Agent, since every effect must have a cause equal to or greater than itself. And the exquisite fine-tuning of our universe strongly implies an intelligent causal Agent, as does the exquisite biochemical design exhibited on a molecular level within every living cell. The uniformity in life’s biochemistry (including the same genetic code) among all living organisms strongly supports monotheism (one Creator) as opposed to polytheism (multiple creators).

Naturalists argue for the evolution of life apart from a Creator, but the specific, ordered, and meaningful information in the nuclear DNA of a single-celled amoeba would fill a 30-volume set of the Encyclopedia Britannica! Yet random-chance processes would not have assembled it because random chance disorders information much more than it orders it: the second law of thermodynamics would have broken down any significant amount of useful information in the DNA as it was “trying” to assembe. Similarly, the presidential faces on Mt. Rushmore could not have been created by natural processes because rain, wind, and erosion disorder a rock’s surface much more than they order it. If Mt. Rushmore had to be created by an intelligent agent (a sculptor), wouldn’t the ordered and meaningful information of a 30-volume encyclopedia (in the DNA of an amoeba) have to be created by an intelligent Agent (a Creator) as well?

The book also covers some of the evidences for Christ’s historicity, including logical reasons (based on evidence) as to precisely why He is the Son of God. For instance, the archeological, extrabiblical-historical, and manuscript evidences establish that Christ was a historical person, and historical testimonies inside and outside of the Bible establish that He performed miracles and was raised from the dead. Bible prophecies—written hundreds of years in advance—confirm this and confirm Christ’s identity as the Son of God.

Another example: non-Christian, historical documents attest to the fact that Christ’s disciples believed He rose from the dead, and that they were willing to die for their belief when they could have saved their lives by recanting. People are willing to die for what they believe to be true, but NO ONE will die for what they KNOW to be a lie! Christ’s disciples saw Him and touched Him after He rose from the dead—they knew firsthand whether He had risen or not. Yet they were willing to die rather than renounce Him, and many of them DID die! They would not have done this if the resurrection was a hoax, for they knew full well what had occurred.

This boils down to the fact that either Jesus Christ was the Son of God or He was a liar (when He said He was the Son of God) or He was a lunatic. His rational teachings that promoted an incredibly-high moral standard speak against the second and third possibilities, while the disciples’ testimonies speak strongly in favor of the first, which, in any case, is the only remaining possibility!

This book, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist,” also comes in audio CD and in audio mp3 CD, and no, I’m not getting a commission for recommending it! You can order these and many other materials at christianbook.com—no, they’re not giving me a commission either!

heath said...

"Jason and Vanessa":

I'm sorry God took your two children to prove how righteous, loving, and holy he is. That's sounds horrible.