Response to the problem of evil

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by jbh28, May 25, 2012.

  1. jbh28

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    I know a guy that used to go to my church a few year ago. He is a teenager and is mixed up with the wrong crowd. He currently does not go to any church. He is involved in homosexual sin. His friends are agnostic.

    This morning on Facebook he posted the following quote.

    What is the best response to this? I don't want to get into an argument with him nor his friends as it would serve no fruitful purpose.
     
  2. Iconoclast

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    I look here:
    http://www.sgbcsv.org/literature/ProblemOfEvil.pdf

    THE MYSTERY OF EVIL
    The existence of evil in the universe of a righteous and holy God is a great mystery, yet the Scriptures reveal that God has determined all things and this must include sin. To deny or seek to circumvent this would bring God down to the level of the finite and leave evil as an inexplicable mystery existing in opposition to God in a dualistic sense. This is certainly unsatisfactory. I. Howard Marshall, a New Testament scholar, seeks to do this because of his Arminian assumptions concerning God and the nature of evil:
    The Bible is clear that God is not the author of evil. Its origin is and perhaps must be a mystery. Its evilness lies in its lack of good purpose, and thus in its irrationality and opposition to the purpose of God. How it can have come to exist in a universe created by God is unknowable. We must be content to leave the question unresolved. The Calvinist falls into error when he ascribes the reason why some people are not saved to the decretive will of God; in effect, he is trying to explain evil. It is wiser to locate the reason why some people are not saved in the sheer mystery of evil.4
    DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY
    That God is absolutely sovereign over all things, even evil, and uses such for his purpose and glory, is a scriptural fact: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isa. 45:7).5 God sent an evil spirit between the men of Shechem and Abimelech (Judg. 9:23–24). He sent an evil spirit to obsess King Saul (1 Sam. 16:14; 18:10; 19:9). He brought evil upon Israel for her sins (1 Kgs. 9:9). A lying spirit was sent by God to lead Ahab to his defeat and death (1 Kgs. 22:20–23). The Lord appointed the defeat of Ahithophel’s counsel that he might bring evil upon Absolom (2 Sam. 17:14). God turned the hearts of the Egyptians to hate the Israelites (Ps. 105:25). The greatest crime in history—the illegality of the trial, the abuse, shame, suffering, and death of the Son of God with all its attendant sin on the part of men—was predetermined by God (Lk. 22:22; Acts 2:23; 4:27–28). How can God do these things and yet remain holy, righteous and free from sin? The issues are two: the origin of sin and the problem of evil.
    THE ORIGIN OF SIN
    How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of
    4 I. Howard Marshall, “Predestination in the New Testament,” Grace Unlimited, p. 138.
    5 Note the statement made by the Scofield Reference Bible: “Heb. ra, translated ‘sorrow,’ ‘wretchedness,’ ‘adversity,’ ‘afflictions,’ ‘calamities,’ but never translated sin. God created evil only in the sense that he made sorrow, wretchedness, etc., to be the sure fruits of sin.” p. 754.
    [r; (ra'), however, is the common word for moral evil and, although never translated “sin,” it is translated hundreds of times as “evil,” and eighty–one times as “wicked,” “wickedly” and “wickedness,” referring to all types of sins. In this context neither peace nor evil can be used in such a restricted sense as the Scofield Reference Bible has attempted to give these parallel terms, as the Scriptures in their use of these reveal.
    Dr. W. R. Downing • Pacific Institute for Religious Studies
    Sovereign Grace Baptist Church of Silicon Valley 3
    the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12–15)6
    And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. (Luke 10:18)
    Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)7
    And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (Jude 6)
    And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season....and the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:1–3, 10)
    Sin did not originate with the fall [apostasy] of man. Sin originated in the spirit [angelic] world. Lucifer [Satan, the devil] apostatized from God and took a number of angelic beings with him. He it was in the guise of the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve and through this brought about the fall of mankind. The entrance of sin into the human race came through Adam’s willful disobedience to the explicit commandment of God (Gen. 2:16–17; 3:1–7; Rom. 5:12; 3:23).8 The human race apostatized from God in Adam as their representative head.In dealing with the origin of sin, however, we must come to terms, not only with its history as revealed in Scripture, but also with its relation to an absolutely just or righteous and holy God. Holding the Scriptures to be the inspired, infallible Word of God inscripturated, we must accept their record as to the origin of sin.
     
  3. annsni

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    If He conquered evil, then we would all have to be destroyed. It is by His mercy that we are not destroyed so the fact that there is evil in this world shows God's mercy.
     
  4. freeatlast

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    I would not even bother trying to answer those questions as that is how satan draws you into things that are of no value. Those questions are like the question can God create a rock so big that He cannot move it. They are traps and a waste of time. Explain to him why he is lost, give the him the only cure, the Gospel, and invite him to come to repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
     
  5. JonC

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    It’s a classic argument, although a false premise.

    When we say that God is omnipotent, we are not saying that He is capable of doing anything imaginable. God cannot do anything that is apart from Him being a righteous God. God cannot eliminate evil without at the same time making it impossible to accomplish other goals. We are livening in the best possible world for the best possible good for those who love God.


    Another issue is the acknowledgement of evil itself. Atheistic evil can only mean evil to a victim (which is good to the offender). There is no absolute moral evil without God who is absolute moral good.


    If God, Why Evil? by Norman Geisler is an interesting apologetic to this question.


    But ultimately, all you can do is present the truth (without getting into a fruitless argument). Personally, I'd start by asking him to define the nature of God, and perhaps what he means by "evil."
     
    #5 JonC, May 25, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2012
  6. Steadfast Fred

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    Best answer so far!
     
  7. convicted1

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    :thumbs::thumbs::thumbs::thumbs:
     
  8. Scarlett O.

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    I have told people here before that the Bible is very clear that there is a time to speak to fools (the lost) and a time to ignore them. Prayfully consider the contrast of Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5.

    I think that because you know this young man and are burdened for him, this would definitely be a time to speak up - as you say NOT to argue with him, but to be witness. You said that he was young and involved with wicked people and obviously he is merely quoting someone and probably has no idea whom he is quoting. So he is listening to the world and the devil. He needs to here the truth from a Christian brother.

    Here's my response when non-Christians want to cry and bemoan that God allows evil and suffering and "won't stop it."

     
  9. HeirofSalvation

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    Can of Worms much? :laugh: 1 quick rejoinder first:

    Ask him if he realizes that this assumes something incredible....This quote assumes that
    1.)God does not have morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil
    2.)We posses adequate information or knowledge to know that there are no morally sufficient reasons for God permitting evil.

    Most people have never considered the arrogance of this particular quote.

    I agree essentially with Jon C....If one thinks about it...the existence of objective evil is only consistent with the idea that there is a transcedent or Omnipotent God who has given us a moral compass. In the absence of God, there is no objective standard by which to state that something is truly EVIL. One is only left, without God, with the idea that something is not preferred or something is disliked. Moreover, the only reason it is disliked is by sheer accident of evolution or "Natural" random process.

    It is usually preferrable to distinguish between "Natural" evil (basically anything which causes pain) such as hurricanes, tornadoes, disasters and:

    Moral Evil. If they are contending that there IS such a thing as objective moral evil, they will either have to accept a standard by which to judge....i.e. (God) or have to affirm that say: torturing babies merely for fun is something that we simply dislike....but is not truly objectively morally evil. There are, of course, a lot of directions we could take this but I will post a link to some podcasts you should be able to listen to/download they are only 20 mins each:
    http://reasonablefaith.org/problem-of-evil
     
  10. humblethinker

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    The best response... maybe one that would keep a relationship in tact. Also, other people are watching for sure. Maybe invite him to personally discuss such a subject with you off-line.

    Our technical responses to this would be different depending on our theology.
     
  11. quantumfaith

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    I agree and disagree. I do not think we as believers should abandon rational thought and apologetic discourse. We should encourage all to clear articulate well rounded education. We should in fact "contend for the faith". WTS, we must also realize that there are some (perhaps many) who simply want to argue, they are without any sense of desiring greater spiritual knowledge, wisdom or insight, they seek only to provoke. To those, I would agree to graciously remove yourself from the conversation. This is not a paradox, but rather a "craftily" crafted argument of logic. Those who are well educated in constructing and deconstructing logical arguments might find it beneficial to do so. Ultimately, yes one must be presented with the rather "illogical" facts of the Gospel message and then hope that one has planted a seed, that others might come into the persons life and be used by God to nurture that seed.
     
  12. quantumfaith

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    WLC, does an excellent job with the POE. I also find the ideas of William Dembski on the matter intriguing. (The End of Christianity)
     
  13. Van

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    This argument has been around in various forms from at least the time men believed in Greek gods. So it has been borrowed and applied to the God of the Bible, but the God of the Bible has attributes that do not fit the assumptions of the argument. So starting from false premises, it arrives at false conclusions.

    Does the God of the Bible cause harm to come to some people? Yes. Therefore to claim God is sometimes malevolent for His purpose does not mean we should not call Him Yahweh.

    Is God willing to prevent evil? Yes, sometimes. But then at other times, He both causes calamity, and allows men to think and do evil in His eyes. So, yet again the false premise is that if God does not prevent all evil, or all what we might call evil, then He is not God. But if God causes calamity for His purpose, and allows men to think and do evil for His purpose, then He is still the God of the Bible.

    We were created to glorify God, i.e. to bring glory to God. Now if we were puppets or robots, compelled by God in every way, we could not bring glory to God, because our choice to glorify God would be God glorifying Himself. So in order to fulfill His purpose of creation, He must allow us to make autonomous choices, some of which are evil in His eyes.

    So in summary, God is able to prevent evil, but is not willing to prevent all evil because His purpose of creation was for us to autonomously bring glory to Him. That is what the bible teaches.
     
  14. agedman

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    Unless he came to me personally seeking answers, I would have no "fellowship" with the person.

    I would definitely not shun him, but would not by my own volition engage conversation with him.

    I wouldn't spend time even attempting to respond to the questions. The person is looking to excuse behavior that they know are wrong and to shift the blame to God. It will not be long before one will hear from this person, "God made me this way."

    I would (if contacted) respond by giving the Scriptures and little other comment; for only the Scriptures have the power to bring the person to Christ.
     
  15. JonC

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    Is there biblical reference for not initiating conversation with unbelievers or for refraining from responding to such questions?

    It seems to me that the “problem of evil” is a legitimate question, and perhaps one of the larger ones for which apologetics must answer (at least in regards to atheism and secular humanism).
     
  16. preachinjesus

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    Wow, the number of folks who think we don't need to provide a reply for the hope within is pretty stunning. The Problem of Evil is one of the top five massive life questions which challenges the foundations of theism generally and Christianity specifically. The question isn't, like others, unanswerable but requires a deliberate and pointed method of engagement.

    A lot of young people (and old I suppose) have these questions and we must be ready, willing, and able to reply to them. To simply say they are "in sin" or "in rebellion" and cast them aside falters to provide a reasonable and sustainable answer. Only anti-intellectual or theological myopic Christians actually do that.

    As for the POE, Christianity is the only major world religion that (imho) offers a clear and grounded answer for resolving the question.

    As are so many millennials. We have within a generation of the death of theism and belief in Jesus Christ. We must produce carefully and gracefully.

    This is a pretty normal formalization of the underlying questions of the POE. One of the more potent developments of the POE comes from William Rowe. Basically his formulation is this:
    1. 1. There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
    2. 2. An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
    3. 3. (Therefore) There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.
    It's a pretty significant question about the nature of God and whether He exists. The modern problem of evil has best been answered, imho, by Alvin Plantinga's so-called Free Will Defense in his slender text: God, Freedom, and Evil

    Essentially you've got two possible points of approach. One is the evidential problem of evil the other is the logical problem of evil. For my work with people struggling with this issue I see two primary articulations: human caused (moral) evil and natural caused (natural) evil.

    Your posted questions aren't particular to these two categories. Yet they will have both parts discussed.

    In carefully and graciously replying I usually begin by pointing out that moral evil exists in the world because of mankind's free moral agency. As we are fallen creatures living in a fallen world we must recognize that living requires responsibility. God has chosen (for reasons we don't understand) to prohibit evil, supreme evil, from one person against another. Being a molinist here helps.

    Part of this goes to the greater problem (imho) which is concerns natural evil. Why do hurricane happen? earthquakes? volcanoes? etc etc One of the challenges is that we have this notion that for God to be God He is controlling and operating all non-sentient things at all points. While this isn't a notion we need to completely dismiss, we do need to understand it.

    My starting point in this is my overall thesis that God uses natural phenomenon to accomplish His plan and that God has set certain laws in place to regulate and control nature (or we can go down the rabbit trail that the way God encounters His creation is revealed/understood via natural phenomenon.) The natural disasters which occur are part of the world God created and had God created a different world wherein no natural disasters or natural harm existed we wouldn't be in that world. I think an important part of the curse in Genesis 3 concerns how creation is cursed as well.

    Of course these both can lead into a discussion about whether or not God has done something magnificent in creating a world/creation where we humans can know good and can know evil. By recognizing the good we begin to see and understand God's character. (NT Wright has a great discussion about this and how the Cross ultimately resolves, proleptically, the POE in Evil and the Justice of God.) I actually really like discussing this with rational people who are actually seeking answers and not just being contrarian. This gets into a best possible world argument which is fascinating and again I'd point to Plantinga and also Bill Alston here.

    Another point of discussion is the limited nature of human knowledge. We can ask lots of questions about the nature and operation of God in relation to His creation, but there are aspects of God's plan and motives which are inaccessible to us. And we have no right or way of knowing.

    I could probably carry on for a while on this issue. Suffice to say I also think there is wisdom in the Irenaean, or soul-making theodicy, John Hick offers. God puts things in our path and in our lives which seem difficult to us but are actually there to a) bring Him glory, b) craft our souls for the afterlife. Seems to be the case where Jesus heals people and recalls their affliction existed not because of their parents' or their sin but because God sought the glory.

    POE is a significant question and one which many wrestle with and never adequately answer. Bart Ehrman has noted that this is the philosophical straw that broke his intellectual back and sent him reeling into agnosticism. Of course in all these things we must offer grace. If anything I've found the greatest answer to the POE is my own giving and extending grace to those in pain. There is power in our personal interactions and love.
     
  17. Winman

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    Sorry to hear about your friend JBH. It will be difficult to change his views at this point. The scriptures show that those who practice homosexuality have been "given over" to a reprobate mind.

    Rom 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
    27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
    28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

    I believe the answer is that sin is NECESSARY. Jesus said this himself.

    Mat 7:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

    Jesus said that offences "must needs be'. They are necessary. Why? Because God has given men free will. This free will enables every man to choose good and Jesus Christ if he desires, it also enables that same man to choose evil if he so desires.

    Note that Jesus said "woe to that man by whom the offence cometh". Sin comes from man, not God. God did not determine sin as someone falsely posted here.

    Some believe God could have made the world without sin. I do not believe this. If God could make men robots or puppets that could not sin, neither could they love God. Love requires choice. It is absolutely impossible to FORCE a person to love another. It cannot be done. God being love cannot create such a robot or puppet. God does not force or impose himself on anyone.

    This free will that allows us to love God by necessity allows us to sin. Unfortunately, all men choose to sin, and many men choose to remain in sin. This is why there is so much sin and misery in the world.

    Ask your friend if he would rather have free will and choice so that he can willingly love God, which also NECESSARILY enables sin, or would he rather be a robot or puppet?

    I do not personally believe God can make robots, it is immoral to control another person by force.
     
  18. Herald

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    2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

    This is why God tolerates evil. The enemies of God will continue to commit evil acts until the end of the age. God does not take pleasure in evil. God allows evil as a form of self-judgment on those who do evil. God endures evil for the sake of His elect. God's endurance is rooted in grace and mercy to all who will come to Him in faith. Tell this young man that God's mercy has precluded Him from executing judgment on sin immediately.
     
  19. webdog

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    I think first you need to start with..is God a compatibilist (and is compatibilism true)? If so your friend already has the upper hand.
     
  20. Iconoclast

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    Everything that is here is allowed by God. God uses all things that bexist as he see's fit.

    Then he is not omnipotent.

    He is completely omnipotent.He does not have to answer to His creatures. That he has revealed all we need to know in scripture is a great blessing. All men are responsible for their sin,and how they view the word of God.

    God is willing to do what is the wisest thing to do in all circumstances as His word tells us. We are totally dependant on His word to come to truth.

    This idea is mis-guided because of a false premise.

    From fallen angels


    He has revealed Himself to us as creator ,sustainer, redeemer, and judge.
    All men will see Him ,face to face....and know this truth ....one way or another.. As saved sinners going into heaven, or as rebels being justly punished for their sinful rebellion.:thumbs:

    If this person has any chance of life.....he will have to come under the authority of the word of God. You need to establish this with him,or any like him,if he is going to be saved.
    47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

    48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
     
    #20 Iconoclast, May 25, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2012

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