Great thoughts on the problem of evil.
Dr. K. Scott Oliphint is the professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary.
The Christian publisher Zondervan has loaded up a 23 minute clip featuring Dr. Oliphint speaking on the topic of the topic of evil titled, “Know Why You Believe: Why Believe in God Despite Evil in the World?”
Here’s the video:
A several weeks back a friend asked an insightful question at a study group, “Does Jesus have a soul?” Several blank stares ensued, myself included, around the table as the matter was processed and pondered. I have never heard the question phrased like that. A simple, direct and straightforward inquiry. I remember we all glanced around looking at each other. “Well, does he?”
Several days later I was driving through the Seattle downtown traffic. I was in the middle of a long day when the answer to the question hit me. I wasn’t particularly thinking about the question. The drive was backed up with traffic, I was hungry, and I was bored with my remaining work. In a very abrupt way the answer pressed on me hard. I’ve felt this pressure before. Maybe you have experienced it. It’s when the Holy Spirit wants me to know something, and know it well. Many years ago, this urging scared me. I didn’t understand it and many times I never heard it. Now I embrace it, relishing in the love and grace God has for his children.
Here is the reasoning that almost knocked me off the road.
• We are created by God in the likeness of God. “So God created mankind in his own image…” (Genesis 1:27)
• We know we have a body and soul. A ‘substance dualism’, if you will, of a “physical body and immaterial, invisible thing that makes (us) a conscious living human being”1
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
• If Jesus does not have a soul, he is not fully human.
• If Jesus is not fully human, he cannot act has the propitiation for our sins.
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)
• Therefore, yes. Jesus must have a soul, just like ours because Jesus is Fully God and Fully Man. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
What we basically could not articulate quickly as a group was the incarnation of Christ, outlined in verses; John 1:14, 1:1, 20:28, Luke 2:11, and John 8:58.
I drove to my destination very quietly after this. I repented of not remembering all the Lord completed for me. How could I have not put two and two together? That is the big ticket. Without the incarnation, why do we gather, why do we serve, why do we give? The guys in our study group are cool and all but we could go hang in a bar, skip the books and not worry about the heavy stuff.
So, I dug into my wonderful books to study on the topic of the “hypostatic union”. What are these two natures?
“Early church figures such as Athanasius used the term “hypostatic union” to describe the teaching that these two distinct natures (divine and human) co-existed substantively and in reality in the single person of Jesus Christ…” The full humanity of Christ is displayed in that he experienced all human weakness and limitations of having a human body, mind and soul, and yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15-16). “Jesus’ full humanity enables him to accomplish our obedience (Romans 5:18-19) and be a substitute sacrifice for us (1 Tim 2:5).” The deity of Christ was necessary because only someone who is infinite can bear the penalty for sins (Luke 2:11).
So, why do I write this now? A few reasons.
1. I love Christ and I don’t want to miss any critical parts of his revealed revelation to us. Especially when it comes to my right standing with the Father.
2. I love my Brothers and this simple question provided the groundwork for a deeper understanding of Christ. We can’t afford to roll around in the heresy of Apollinarianism. That was refuted 451 AD, but that is a writing for another time. And finally, we can’t afford to miss any opportunity to know Christ better and rejoice in what he has done for us, but we will. We are imperfect, but we strive to know our Lord better.
3. I’m partial crazy and where I have been studying graduate level finance all day, with a brief break for purchasing fireworks, placing my mind on our Lord eases me. It rests my soul and I thank Him for that.
#Merica! Brexit 2017
- Moreland, James Porter, and Dallas Willard. Love Your God with All Your Mind. 1st ed. Colorado Springs, Colo: NavPress, 1997. Print.
- Grudem, W. (1994). ‘Systematic Theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine’ (6th ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530: Zondervan.
- Two natures of Jesus | Theopedia. (2017). Theopedia.com. Retrieved 3 July 2017, from https://www.theopedia.com/hypostatic-union
- Picture Credit- Cat, P., Cat, P., & profile, V. (2006). Hypostatic Union of Christ: The Black and Tan. Aliveandyoung.net. Retrieved 4 July 2017, from http://www.aliveandyoung.net/2006/10/hypostatic-union-of-christ-black-and.html
Tell me why that person had to die? I prayed… Why do you permit the wiping out of individuals in tragedy after tragedy without seemingly a thought or concern? Why don’t you intervene, to remove evil, to stop the hurt, to save us from… ourselves?
If God is all-powerful, then removing all evil would certainly be within his power.
God created this world in which the problem of evil is possible. (Gen 1:1) Although, it was not his intention that we participate in it. Man, created the problem of sin and wickedness at the fall. Humanity choose to separate itself from God’s design. Adam exercised his free will by choosing to deny our creator’s direct command and consumed the forbidden fruit. (Genesis 3:6-7) Free will is a gift. It allows us to freely choose between good and evil, right and wrong. It enables us to desire grace to work in our lives or to deny the allowance of his mercy. To unreservedly love someone is to give them the ability to choose. The choice to leave, to stay, and this opens the possibility them not returning the love you have extended to them. A suitable reason to allow evil to persist could possibility be the allowance of the liberty to choose God, but at that point the entrance is left open for wickedness and strife to enter. Thus, if God used his power to remove all evil, then the freedom of choice is removed likewise.
If God is all-loving and completely good, God must desire to protect his children from harm that may come to them.
Consider the possibility that the choice to permit suffering and distress provides growth and strength in God. (Romans 5:3) Written in his book, ‘Intellectuals don’t need God & other modern myths’, Alister McGrath maintained, “How do we know that there cannot be morally sufficient reasons for God permitting suffering?” (McGrath, A. 1993) One known character attribute of God is that he is all-loving. With that assurance, we can assume that God is restraining and deterring evil in this world. (John 17:15) God is inhibiting wickedness until his overall redemptive strategy is achieved. This permits all who will come to know Jesus Christ time to place their faith in him. (Gal 3:22) To have an all-know and all-loving God intervene during times of great evil would diminish the reason for sending his son to bear the suffering of this life for us. There is no pain, death, murder, evil, or hate in heaven. (Matthew 16:19) Absolutely, God could make it trouble-free to gain the assurance of heaven, but at what cost? The cost was his Son, and at his suffering on the cross, the admission was paid. To maroon his children in the precarious position of a spoiled child, waiting for the great protection of a parent would render us incapable to freely choose God’s forgiveness and grace he provided in Christ. (Romans 8:18)
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)
If God is all-knowing, he knows the wicked plans Satan will initiate.
Humanity is broken, narcissistic, self-seeking and cannot justly determine the level of pain or evil at which point God should intercede. (Romans 2:6) Would murder be the precipitating evil? How many murders must occur prior to intervention? If not murder, what about natural misfortunes that are not initiated by man? If we maintain earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters that appear to our finite minds to unnecessarily take human life as sufficiently wrong, humanity cannot rightly conclude as to what level of disaster should or should not be restrained. We have no visibility to the destination of the intended purposes. (Psalms 121:7) The human intellect is limited. It is not in the position to make decisions as all life is considered sacred. (John 1:4) The wisdom of an omniscience God is required to make these judgements. (Proverbs 1:7)
An all-knowing God will stop evil, but to do so would require the end of this creation as we comprehend the world now. No one knows “the day or hour” of the end, we are told twice in the gospel of Matthew and once in the gospel of Mark. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32) God does intervene against all forms and methods of evil and when doing so carries out his intentions, for his creation. To predict when God should or should not intervene places us in the untenable position of God’s equivalent. Equal positioning between God and humanity does not increase the status of humankind, but serves to decrease the status of a perfect, all loving, all knowing God. By doing this, he then ceases to be God. We need God to remain fully displaying his knowledge and wisdom; and man, ought to desire God to continue in this unspoiled glory.
What does this mean for me? It means there is hope…
The pain and anguish of this world hurts, but there is hope. This optimism comes in Christ, sent by God to intervene into our pain, trials and suffering. Answers as to why someone had commit suicide, a marriage failed, or an ailing loved one was gone too soon are genuine questions with very real pain attached to them. Nevertheless, I urge you to plead with the Lord to intervene, for all wickedness and sufferings to end, and your grief to subside. (Romans 12:15) God is magnificent enough to shoulder the burden. Place your reliance for security in this life that there is hope. Hope in the one who was sent to bear the evil and sin of this world, Christ Jesus.
55 “Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55)
It is God’s desire to end all death and wickedness for the last time. For that reason, Jesus died on the cross for this very purpose; to put an end to all iniquity. Directing your attention to the cross is to precisely position your faith and expectant optimism exactly where it should be.
“4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelations 21:4)
1. McGrath, A. (1993). Intellectual Barriers to Faith. In Intellectuals don’t need God & other modern myths: Building bridges to faith through apologetics. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House.
2. Inserted Image- Credit: Unknown
Schaffer states, “Truth carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong”
“Do not miss this: modern relativism is politicized absolutism. It has no check. It has no authoritative source or text to guide it. It has no ethical code to restrain it.”
Gallup asked fifteen hundred Americans why they attend religious services. The responses might surprise you.
“When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.” (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis)
Drive-by parenting can be a remarkable tactic. Life is busy and families move fast. At what seems as the most inconvenient time, we see an opening to ask our child a question, whether sitting at the breakfast table or digging through the laundry. If you have their attention, if just for a moment, you have an opening. If the opportunity is not seized, it could be lost forever. This happened to me several months ago with my 13 year old son. What follows is a true story…
Me: “Hey, have any of your classes discussed evolution yet?
Son: “Huh? Uh, no, I don’t think so?’
Me: “Really, Nothing? Maybe they’re calling it something else like, Darwinism?
Son: “Yea, I guess. I think my science teacher spoke about that awhile back”
Me: (Internal thought) Bingo!
Me: “So, you’re in youth at the church, what did you think when the Teacher was instructing something different than what the Bible teaches?”
Son: (Slowing opening up) “Well, I’m not sure. I don’t know what to think. I want to believe the Bible, but the evolution stuff sounds like it works”
Me: “So, what is your take on which one sounds right?”
Son: “Well, I think God did create man, animals and stuff, and then He let evolution do the rest.”
Me: “Interesting. It’s great that you’re thinking about it and trying to make sense of it. You know, scientists have debated these theories for years. Let me provide you with this idea, if God left his creation alone and used evolution to make what we see in the world today, then that would mean God doesn’t interact with us and is impersonal. You think that is true?”
Son: “No. That doesn’t make any sense”
Me: “I don’t think so either. If God were not personal, whom would we be praying to then? Since God is personal and holy, He sent Jesus on our behalf as the perfect atonement for our sin. This justifies us into right standing before God and reconciles us to Him. That doesn’t seem like God wants to let the world operate without Him involved. It sounds like God wants to be engaged in our lives and have a relationship with us.”
Son: “Yea, I guess so. Cool.”
Our foremost responsibility as parents is to teach, guide and nurture our children. Therefore, at Easter, assisting them with the incredible events of Jesus crucifixion, resurrection and saving redemption for humankind is a responsibility we cannot take lightly. In the situation described above, culture was providing the framework that would have guided my child’s faith for possibly the rest of his life! I am thankful for that morning. I took the time to find out if my child needed assistance in reconciling conflicting information about Jesus, the Bible and the world we live in. The Acts 19 Apologetics Ministry encourages you do the same.
As we enter the Easter season, family, friends and especially our children will have questions about Jesus, the Christian faith, and how this relates to our traditions of celebration. The apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 4:6; “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Answering the questions of why we believe what we believe demonstrates to others there are solid foundations to the Christian faith.
In as little as 30 minutes, this outline will assist you in framing this essential conversation talking about Jesus, the love He has for us and providing parental leadership to your family as a reflection of that love.
The Acts 19 Apologetics Ministry provides this guide as a means to encourage you to seize this chance to speak truth and love into your children.
Will you join us in completing this worthwhile task?
“3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
Talking to your family about Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Step 1: Set the Theme:
• The celebration of Easter is a season to celebrate the resurrection three days after our Saviors death on the cross at Calvary.
Step 2: Read Bible scriptures aloud:
*Consider having others in your family read the passages.*
• Crucifixion prophecies fulfilled from Old Testament in Isaiah 53:3-12 and New Testament Mark 15:21-32, John 19:17-27.
• Burial of Jesus- Mark 15:42-47 and John 19:38-42
• Empty tomb- Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-9
• Jesus’ resurrection- 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and 15:14
• Appearances of Jesus- John 20:10-30
• Faith in Jesus- Romans 4:25 and 10:9 and Acts 4:10.
Step 3: Address the points of discussion.
1. First main point– Easter is a celebration of Jesus Christ! Our Savior’s death accomplished; atonement of humanity’s sinful actions, conquered death, defeated evil and provided the absolute example of sacrificial love with His resurrection!
• Jesus’ crucifixion was predicted in Isaiah 53.3, “5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
• Jesus Christ was crucified, was buried in a known tomb sealed by the Roman government, and protected by Roman guards. The tomb in which Jesus body was placed, was found empty three days later. Jesus sat with, spoke too, and ate with his disciples and appeared to hundreds of people after his resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:3)
• Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, overcoming our separation from God. Jesus’ crucifixion had to occur for us to be justified, or declared righteous before God. (Galatians 2:16) The crucifixion is God’s gift to His creation, which He loves. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)
• It was necessary for Jesus to be crucified on the cross, as an outpouring of God’s love for his children. God wants to be with His children who believe and trust in Him! Jesus loves you! (1 Peter 2:24)
• Jesus Christ’s victory over death and evil is God’s way of providing us the ultimate indication that He alone is in control of the world! With the exception of God, no one in the past, present or future will accomplish the incredible feat of denying mortality! (Romans 6:6-8, 4:25, 5:19)
2. Second main point– Easter is not about hiding eggs; it is about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
• Some people believe that Easter is only a celebration of the spring season. When considered this way, it empties the resurrection of its real meaning.
• We affirm that Easter is not all about chocolate bunnies or even family gatherings, but remembering Jesus, His death and resurrection and the love our Lord has for us. (John 3:16-17)
• It is OK for our family to celebrate modern Easter traditions of Easter egg hunting, the Easter bunny, and family gatherings. We should do these things! They are fun, and spending time together as a brothers and sisters in Christ worships the Lord!
3. Third main point– The life of Jesus and the reality of His resurrection changes everything:
• When you have bad days, when something terrible happens to you, a friend or your family, we may not always know why, but we do know that God has a reason, and He alone is in control. No matter how messed up life can be, Jesus loves you! We should take comfort in placing our trust in the Creator of the universe. (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)
• Jesus teachings, death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven and to the sit on the throne with God are the ultimate realizations of forgiveness. (Acts 1:9-11, Matthew 19:28) As followers of Christ Jesus, we are to have the same compassion, grace, humility, and love towards people who may or may not treat us nicely. By doing this, we strive to continue the mission of Jesus until His return to correct all the evils in this world and make them right forever! (Matthew 28:19-20)
• The Resurrection is the reconciliation of humanity’s wickedness, the defeat of evil, the conquering of death, and the ultimate example of love. All occurred with the resurrection of Jesus Christ’s on the cross! (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
• Easter is a time of year for celebrating new beginnings, spending time with family, and remembering the ultimate sacrificial gift Jesus provided for us. (1 John 2:2, 4:10 and Romans 3:25)
• We can take comfort in placing our trust in the Creator of the universe. (Genesis 1:1-31)
• Our God, in His infinite being, is in control of the world! (Ephesians 6:12)
• Jesus will return to correct all evils, wrongdoings, insults and injustices in this world and make them right forever! (Revelations 19:16)
For those of you who have Amazon Prime Francis Schaeffer’s famous Christian worldview series “How Should We Then Live?” is available on Amazon Prime! It is a series of 10 videos surveying th…