TiO 45 – {Un}Apologetic – Suffering & Evil

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The Main Idea

The question of evil and suffering in a world in which a good and powerful God has oversight is a critical question. This week Todd talked about 4 theodicies, answers to the question of God and suffering.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: What is the difference between causing something to happen and allowing it (assuming you have the power to stop it)?

Q2: Name some specific causes of suffering in the world today. Which are directly the result of human action or inaction?

Q3: Can you think of a time where suffering was good for you?

Dig a Little Deeper

The problem of evil and suffering in the world has plagued Christians since before the time of Jesus. Even in the Gospel of John this question arose in a theological debate:

Read John 9:1-3

Q1: What was the assumption by the disciples about why this man was suffering?

Q2: What did Jesus say was the reason for the man’s blindness?

We cannot deny that there is evil and suffering in the world. Some is the result of humans, some the result of contact between people and other living things (like predators and disease), some the result of natural processes (like earthquakes). The question of God’s part in suffering, either the cause or the relief (or lack of it), is called theodicy: the justification of evil and suffering in the presence of God.

One of the reasons that theodicy is required at all is because God seems to have all of the qualities necessary to prevent evil—at least our theology and understanding of the world would lead us to believe that. The qualities most frequently presented are as follows:

  • God is good
  • God hates evil and suffering
  • God is omniscient, that is, he knows everything
  • God is omnipotent, that is, he can do anything
  • God is omnipresent, that is, he is everywhere at once

So, if all of these things are true, then why does God allow suffering and evil to exist?

In his message, Todd talked about 4 theodicies, that is, 4 reasons for God to allow evil and suffering.

  • Free Will
  • In order to have a relationship between two people they must both have free will.
  • Taking away free will eliminates the ability for people to have a relationship
  • God created people to have a relationship with him
  • God gave people free will
  • Free will allows both obedience and disobedience, that is, people can do both good and evil
  • In order to maintain free will, God must allow for the possibility that people might cause suffering to themselves and other people.
  • Higher Good
  • not all suffering is evil
  • Not all that appears to be evil really is evil
  • God has a higher view of the world and a longer view of time than we do
  • So some things that we see as evil and some suffering is not God allowing evil but allowing or participating in a greater good that we cannot see or understand.
  • The Fall
  • According to scripture, the result of the fall was more than simply the breaking of relationship between people and God
  • According to the scripture, part of the fall (before humans were created) was the unleashing of Satan and demons on the world
  • According to the scripture, part of the fall (before humans were created) was the defilement of the creation that God had and would make.
  • So, not all the evil in the world is God’s fault nor God’s idea. Much comes as the direct result of the Fall of angels and of humans.
  • Eternity
  • Our lives are so very small in the span of eternity
  • While our sufferings are true and significant to us, they are not significant when placed against the whole span of time
  • So, like an infant who believes the world has come to and end because feeding time is not happening “RIGHT NOW”, our view of the significance of suffering on an eternal scale is limited.
Next Steps

Evil and suffering is real. We cannot deny it. And we ought not. It is the height of cruelty to pull out these theodicies when faced with someone dying of cancer or who just lost their child to illness or accident. But yet, we still look for answers to all of the questions that we have looked at in this series on apologetics. The reality is that you cannot come to belief in God or faith in Jesus through sheer force of will or of logic. What we believe is not devoid of logic nor of evidence, but in the end, we reach out for something and he is there.

Read Job 38:1-7, 40:1-9, and 42:1-6

Q3: What is God’s answer to Job when Job questions God’s plan and Job’s own suffering?

In the end, we will be challenged, challenged by those who would question us, or even ridicule us, for our faith, and challenged by our own doubts. When faced with these questions, two things remain:

Read Genesis 1:1-5

Q4: Before the beginning of time, before there was an earth or a universe, who was there?

Read 1 Corinthians 13:12

Q5: At what point will we get answers to all of our questions?

Q6: What was the most important or valuable thing you learned or experienced during this apologetics series?

Pray together for wisdom, knowledge, and compassion for those times when you speak to people who do not know Jesus.

The Depth (for optional study)

In this section we are providing an in-depth look into the scriptures that the message came out of. There are two critical steps in good interpretation of the Bible. First, we try to understand what the author meant when he wrote the words and how that would have been applied by the original audience. Second, we then take the principles that the original author was trying to get across to his audience and we apply those principles to our own lives. You may want to read some of these passages yourself and/or have people in your group read them together.

John 9:1-3 (NRSV)

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

Job 38:1-7 (NRSV)

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,

I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

            Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

or who laid its cornerstone

when the morning stars sang together

and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

Job 40:1-9 (NRSV)

And the Lord said to Job:

“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?

Anyone who argues with God must respond.”

Then Job answered the Lord:

“See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?

I lay my hand on my mouth.

I have spoken once, and I will not answer;

twice, but will proceed no further.”

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Gird up your loins like a man;

I will question you, and you declare to me.

Will you even put me in the wrong?

Will you condemn me that you may be justified?

Have you an arm like God,

and can you thunder with a voice like his?

Job 42:1-6 (NRSV)

Then Job answered the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things,

and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

‘Hear, and I will speak;

I will question you, and you declare to me.’

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,

but now my eye sees you;

therefore I despise myself,

and repent in dust and ashes.”

Genesis 1:1-5 (NRSV)

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (NRSV)

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Resources

Here are links to the videos from this weekend:

Bart Ehrman:

Fox News: Act of God?:

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