C.S. Lewis became one of the greatest Christian Apologists of the 20th century because, as an atheist, he could not reconcile a loving God with the problem of evil until he realized that he could only distinguish evil if there was a standard of good to measure it by, so he searched for and discovered Who that standard was. Many of our top Christian Apologists today have come from similar journeys. Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel and J. Warner Wallace all began as Atheists but the key, they did not settle there.
The Question of Evil and Suffering: Why does it exist?
This seems to be the number one objection by many who question God’s existence, but after doing a lot of reading on the topic I found that the only worldview that can give concrete historical and spiritual reasons for the presence of evil and suffering is the Christian faith. All of the other worldviews fall short and can really only complain about evil, or pretend that it doesn’t exist.
Dr. Clay Jones, Professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, has spent a good portion of his career researching and writing on the problem of evil and suffering. In a recent article he said, “Consider a truth agreed upon by every agnostic, skeptic, atheist, and Christian: only one thing is going to prevent you from watching every person you know die from murder, accident, or disease and that will be your own death by murder, accident or disease.”
In our comfortable western culture we tend to live in denial of evil and suffering including the fact of our own mortality until it hits us personally. When we suffer a tragedy, the loss of a loved one, or a negative prognosis of a disease ourselves only then do we contemplate its significance, only then do we begin to think about eternity. I believe that if we live without a proper perspective of eternity then we will never have a proper understanding of evil and suffering and we may missed the greatest gift of this life that can be found in the promise of Jesus (read the Gospel of John chapter 14).
Watch the One Minute Apologist answer this question: Does The Reality of Suffering and Evil Disprove God?
Sources of evil and suffering:
We bring much of the hardship we experience on ourselves through bad choices
We often want to blame God or the circumstances He’s given us when things are not going well. However, if we understand that this life is our training ground for the eternal one, then that changes everything! If we are training to please ourselves and not God then we will surely find disappointment and heartache, we will never truly be satisfied and there will always be that longing for something better.
Sometimes our training will lead us into times of testing and it will do one of two things: Grow us closer to God, or it may lead us into temptation. Temptation is not from God but from the world, but testing is from God (see the book of Job) and our perseverance through the test is what will refine us. Part of Jesus’ prayer model includes this phrase: “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (see Matthew 6:9-13) because Jesus knew that His disciples would be tested.
Often we feel as though God is not answering us when we are going through a trial, yet I have heard it said that ‘the teacher is silent during the test.’ God has given us so much to train by (His Word and Jesus’ example) and He will never give us more than He knows we can handle. So He is there, we just have to reach out our hand so He can walk us through.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:13-15
Watch this excellent 42 minute video presentation by Sean McDowell on “If God, Why Evil:”
Satan and his forces cause significant evil, suffering and pain in the world.
To deny a spiritual world is the same as denying that we have souls with immaterial thoughts and intentions (but that is for another post). From the Christian worldview we learn that in the beginning God made everything perfect and “good” (Genesis 1-2) including the spiritual world. However, God chose to give freewill to His creation, freewill is the only way real love can be expressed. Satan, a created being, chose to go against God along with one-third of the created angels and he was thrown from Heaven to the earth (Job 1; Isaiah 14:12-13; Ezekiel 28; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12 and 20). He furthered his choice by deceiving humans (Genesis 3) and by bringing out in us the three greatest evil characteristics he possesses: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, pride of life.
We find him doing this in the Fall when he tempted Adam and Eve (Genesis 3):
- Lust of the flesh: The fruit was tempting to the appetite
- Lust of the eyes: The fruit looked good and was attractive
- Pride of life: Satan wanted God’s job and he presented the fruit of the tree as something God was holding back from them and as something they were owed, something they deserved
What is so awesome is that these are the same three things that Jesus overcame in the wilderness (See Luke 4:1-13):
- Lust of the flesh: Jesus was hungry after 40 days of fasting
- Lust of the eyes: Satan took him to the top of the pinnacle and showed him the world
- Pride of Life: Satan told Jesus he would give him the whole world if He would worship him
How did Jesus avoid these temptations and respond to Satan? HE USED THE SCRIPTURES (GOD’S WORD) and Satan fled.
The Apostle John warned the early Church of these same three things…
- Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17
How did Satan deceive Adam and Eve and how does he still deceive us?
The first attack of Satan is always on God’s Word.
Step 1: Satan twists God’s Word and causes doubt
“He said to the woman, Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
- Today Satan causes us to doubt God’s Word by getting us to think it is outdated, written by men and not interpreted correctly; and he causes us to doubt the Bible’s historicity, reliability and inspiration. (All of this is untrue upon careful investigation)
Step 2: Satan contradicts God and substitutes what He said with something else
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. (Gen. 3:4)
- We know that was a lie because Adam and Eve died both physically and spiritually (they were separated from God). Today we find Satan’s deception through changing cultural norms that contradict Biblical values and scientific theories that substitute evolution instead of God as Creator.
Step 3: Satan challenges God’s motives
“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5)
- In essence Satan was saying that God was holding something important back from them. In today’s culture we have this mind-set that things are owed to us and that God is not giving us what we deserve. I wonder what God thinks we really deserve?
or, because of what Jesus did for us can we have this again…
Join us next week as we continue our investigation in support of the Genesis account and explore Genesis chapters 6-9 to look at one of the question: Is the Genesis account of the flood true?
For a little more information on the what evil really is, watch this 18 minute presentation by Doug Powell:
You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in! Join us this year as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.
Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.
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