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Why God? Week 3

Why God? Week 3

The facts are the facts—concerning science and historical study.

  •   People can look at the same facts and see them differently.
  •   This creates the problem of bias and presuppositions.
  •   Many Atheists, or even theists who do not believe in the biblical God, state that evil has had an effect on their thinking.
  •   The death of his favorite daughter has been claimed to be the “moment of truth” that motivated Charles Darwin to set aside his training as an Anglican theologian and obliged promoter Biblical creation, then turn and hasten towards the final development of his naturalistic theory of evolution.
    •  In Annie’s Box, a book about Darwin’s family life, Randall Keynes (a descendent of Darwin) wrote: “After Annie’s death, Charles set the Christian faith firmly behind him.” A review of the book in Science (vol 296, p1974, 14 Jun 2002) commented: “Freed from the last vestige of belief that the world was perfect because God created it that way, Darwin continued without spiritual restraint to work out his theory on the origin of species.”

Robert Nash, professor, apologist, and author, wrote in Faith and Reason, p. 177, “Every philosopher believes that the most serious challenge to theism was, and is, and will continue to be the problem of evil.”

The philosophers Epicurus, and later David Hume, both considered:

  1. If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful.
  2. If God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good.
  3. If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?

 

According to Author Mark Clark in The Problem of God, the most asked question is…

Why is there pain and suffering in the world?

 

Observations and concerns:

  •   Before I dive into this subject, I want to recognize that this is not just a theological question—it’s personal.
  •   God allows sin but does not sin. He is righteous and holy. He does not tempt people to sin.

James 1:13–14 (NIV) 13When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.

  •  Let’s define evil or “bad things.”
    •   Natural evil: natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, doubts.
    •   Moral evil: choices people make that causes suffering.
    •   Pain and suffering: different kinds of sickness and disease.
  •  Everyone, no matter what they believe about God, or gods, or no gods, has to deal with this situation.
    •   Buddhism and Hinduism would say that if evil happens you did something wrong (Karma).
    •   New Age believers say suffering isn’t a reality. It’s not real. The universe is just responding to your negative thoughts. (The Secret)
    •   Atheists say bad things happen because there is no God to stop it. They are happening because we live in a natural, material, survival of the fittest, world. There’s no deeper explanation, no overall meaning—just accidents and being unlucky.
    •   Many would say there is a world that is dangerous. There is sickness, but there is no such thing as objective moral truth. There is no evil, then—just what is accepted.
    •   Everyone has to do something with the evil they see.
    •   If there is no God, and we are the accidental, random, undirected culmination of chemicals, then there is no such thing as evil.

Mark Clark wrote in The Problem of God:
The fact that a skeptic acknowledges categories of “evil” and “suffering” presents a problem for them. Where do these categories originate? Where do we get the idea that human beings are important, that human life has value, and that human beings should be protected and loved instead of tortured and disposed of? We sense in our-selves, and in our larger culture, that there is an inherent moral order to the universe. There is a way its supposed to be. And the existence of these convictions points toward God not away from him.

When people ask the question “Why?”, be careful how you answer. You don’t know specifically—unless God told you.

 

1st Question: So what does the Bible tell us about the beginning? It was perfect.

  • In the beginning God created… it was good (perfect/complete)…
    •   Even the tree of knowledge was beautiful and good—but not for eating.
    •   But God reveals… the explanatory power of Genesis.
    •   God formed man as most important creation—to oversee the rest of creation, and He made us in His image.

Genesis 1:1 (NIV) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:31 (NIV) God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

 

2nd Question: So where did evil come from?

  •  Answer: God created humans in His image.
    •   God created a world where God and man (His special creation) could be in relationship.
    •   He created us with consciousness, awareness, and the freedom to choose.
    •   Not just humans have this ability—the angels do, too.

Genesis 1:26–27 (NIV) 26Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:16–17 (NIV) 16And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

  •  Genesis reveals an enemy. How did Lucifer become God’s enemy, and as a result, ours?
    •   The devil became proud.
    •   He chose to rebel against God and against moral truth (remember he has consciousness and freewill).

Genesis 3:1 (NIV) Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Further scripture: Ezekiel 28:11–18 Isaiah 14:12–15 1 Timothy 3:6 Revelation 12:7–9

 

3rd Question: What is the result of rebellion?

  •  God honors our decision, leading to…
    •   A broken world, creating natural evil
    •   A relational separation from God and others; people are now unsafe, creating moral evil.
    •   A spiritual evil working against a relationship with God
    •   Suffering and pain and death
    •   A downward spiral, morally

Genesis 6:5–6 (NIV) 5The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

 

4th Question: If God is all knowing, why did He create us knowing we would sin?

  •  When God created us with the ability to choose, He knew what He would have to do.

2 Timothy 1:9–11 (NIV) 9He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

 

5th Question: Why does God allow evil to continue?

  •  He knows that only by allowing us to live in a broken world, and experience the effects of sin, is there a chance we will return to Him. (See the prodigal son story in Luke 15:11)

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

  •   God knows pain and suffering can inspire us to greatness. We all know people who now make a difference in the world because of their pain.
  •   God knows that pain and suffering can bring us to Himself. God would rather see us broken and saved than separated for eternity.

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

                                                                               -CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain

  •  God knows that He can use pain and suffering to build character in the life of a person.

Romans 5:3–4 (NIV) 3Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.

  •  God knows that He can use suffering and pain for an overall greater good.
    •  See the story of Joseph (son of Jacob):

Genesis 50:19–20 (NIV) 19But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Romans 8:28–30 (NIV) 28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

  •   God knows our willingness to suffer and still have faith serves as a witness to the lost of something better (like the martyrs of the early church, and martyrs today).
    •   When people see a power in us in spite of what we are dealing with, it’s attractive.
    •   When people see God work through answered prayer, they are drawn to our God.
    •   When people see how Christians meet the needs of those who are among us who are suffering, they see a changed life.
  •   God allows the suffering of believers so that we can relate to those around us.
    •  Jesus became like us so that He could understand us:

Hebrews 4:14–15 (NIV) 14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

  •   God allows evil because He sees from an eternal perspective.
    •   Manassah was the most wicked of all kings in Israel’s history, and yet he eventually came back to God. God allows evil to exist because He knows the future of the person.
    •   Even if Manassah had died separated, his son Josiah, one of the most godly kings in history would not have been born. By the way—Jesus came from that family line.
  •   God allows evil for a time but has eternity (heaven) in mind.

John 14:1–4 (NIV) 1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”

  •  God knows that if He destroyed all evil there would be no one left, and He loves us.

Romans 3:10–12 (NIV) 10As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

So the truth is God has done something about evil, and He is still doing something about evil, and what looks like something terrible can actually be great.

  •   Jesus came to reveal He will judge. (Note where the cross comes in…)
  •   Jesus came to reveal He will save us if we will let Him.
  •   Jesus came to reveal that what looks like the worst possible thing can be the best possible thing; we need faith.

So back to our statement at the beginning:

  •  If God is all powerful, He can stop evil, pain, and suffering.
    •  He has chosen to eventually stop it.
  •  But because He is relational, and created us to have relationship with Himself, and because He is loving, He has chosen to allow evil for a time. I am glad He did.

So what is God doing now while you are struggling?

Romans 8:26–30 (NIV) 26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but

the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

So what do we do now?

1 Peter 4:12–16 (NIV) 12Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

1 Peter 3:13–17 (NIV) 13Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

 

Discussion questions for home, or Life Group:

Passages: Romans 5:8; Hebrews 12:2-3; Romans 8:15-18, 28; Genesis 50:20

  1. Questions about pain and evil contain both elements of personal experience and seeking truth or explanation. Where have you experienced the tension between the goodness of God and the evil of this world?
  2. Think about the statement “If a good God exists then there can’t be evil.” What did you hear that helps you respond to this idea?
  3. Talk about how free will/choice impacts the possibility of evil. A) What would it be like if free will and choice were not a part of the world?
  4. How has pain or suffering played a part in you developing as a person? A) Where have you seen good come from hardship?
  5. Can you share a time when the experience of suffering drew you to God? A) Has suffering ever caused you to withdraw from God?
  6. How can a view of eternity help when dealing with evil?
  7. What misconceptions about God has the sermon or discussion revealed to you?

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