Christianity Doesn't Have The Answer. It Has The Solution. (Reflections on the Boston Bombings)

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The best sermon I ever heard on the problem of pain and suffering was by Herb Montgomery. The sermon is titled Why Did God Allow This? Montgomery’s explanation is brilliant (although a Calvinist would find it horrendous). According to Montgomery there are many things God tries to prevent but in many instances it would require that he remove free will from the perpetrator in order to prevent the tragedy. If he does it once he will, in the spirit of fairness, have to do it again. Because of the butterfly effect (one action causes a chain reaction that leads to another action) God would have to intervene in every chain reaction that could possibly lead to suffering and pain. Hence, if a man is going to go shoot his wife God would have to override the man’s free will to prevent him from shooting his wife. But what about the kid who is about to try drugs for the first time which will lead him down the path of addiction and gang violence and finally he ends up in prison and is raped? Which evil action should God prevent then? Should he only prevent the rape by overriding the freewill of the rapist? Or should he prevent the kid from trying drugs to begin with by overriding his free will? In other words, once God overrides human freedom in order to prevent suffering the situation becomes more ethically complex than it has ever been. At what point does God return free will to his creatures? All evil results from rebellion against God, so if God were to remove pain and suffering from this world he would have to override all of our free wills and eliminate our rebellion against him which would in turn create a dictatorial God with a robotic universe that has no freedom of choice in whether to love him or not. But if we are not free to love God then we cannot truly love him because love by its very definition must be freely given and freely received. Do you see the problem all of this causes? The reality is that because of free will there are tragedies that God cannot (or if you prefer "will not") prevent without removing the free will of his creation.

As helpful as this may be to our understanding of suffering it still doesn’t answer every question. While it is, in my opinion, one of the most eye opening presentations on the issue the reality is that it still falls short of being entirely satisfactory. Questions without answer still haunt us. Couldn't God have prevented that baby from dying of SIDS? Couldn’t God have protected those towns from the tsunami? Couldn't God have done something to prevent etc.? Or, in the wake of recent events in Boston, Could God have led someone to spot the bombs before they went off? All of these questions haunt us and will continue to do so. Montgomery’s thesis is helpful in that it shows us that God is not the one responsible for suffering and that he does not allow suffering because of some mysterious divine plan that we would understand if only we could see things his way. But it still falls short of being fully satisfactory and of course, that is expected.

Now some people would argue and say, "God should just get rid of all of the evil people," so let’s go along with that. What if God decided today to destroy every wicked person on planet earth at 12:00 pm on the dot. 12:00 pm hits and fire starts reigning down from heaven and consuming all of the wicked-evil people in this planet - let me ask, Where does that leave you? You see, we as humans like to define evil on our own terms. "Rape is evil, murder is evil, theft is evil" and rightly so! But God's definition of evil is much deeper. Lust is evil, for it is the root of rape. Therefore if God destroys the rapist he must also destroy everyone who lusts because without lust there would never be rape. Thus it’s not only the rapist that gets destroyed but also the guy who likes pornography. Anger is the root of murder, thus it’s not only the murderer who gets destroyed but those who harbor anger and hate in their hearts. And so on and so forth. Now you may disagree and say, "Marcos you can’t equate a guy that likes to check women out with a rapist." I agree. You cannot. But if God only destroyed the "really bad people" and left the sort of bad people around, how long would it be before he would have to repeat his 12:00pm destruction again? So I ask once more, If God decided today to destroy every wicked person on planet earth at 12:00 pm on the dot where does that leave you? Better yet, where does that leave the human race?
You see, the moment you ask the question "How could a loving God allow evil in this world?" You are committing a serious logical fallacy. I call it the fallacy of displacement. The question assumes that the "evil" is "out there" but what those who ask this question fail to see is that the "evil" is not only out there but "in me" as well. Those who ask this question often act as though they are guiltless of any evil by placing all the blame on the world around them and assuming total innocence, but the truth is we are all guilty of evil in one form or another. Hence, asking "How could a loving God allow evil in this world?" is the same as asking, "How could a loving God allow me to go on living?" And the Bible is abundantly clear that God allows us to live because he is giving us mercy that we may have as many chances as possible to be forgiven and saved.
"...he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:9
"[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." - 1 Timothy 2:4
Now some of you are reading this and saying, "Dude, this still doesn’t answer why." And I agree with you. You see, the reality is that God has not told us exactly why bad things happen. We may gather clues from the Bible that help us to trust him despite the bad things, but the reality is we are not told why. Christianity simply doesn't have "the answer." But what Christianity does have is the solution. That solution is the promise that God will restore this world to the perfect, peaceful place he originally created it to be. The promise of the Bible is:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Did you catch it? God will ultimately destroy sin and sinners. Everyone who loves their sin (the root of all suffering and pain) and clings to it will be annihilated. But all those who have decided to be God's children and have put their trust in Jesus will be a part of that new earth with no more suffering, pain, or tears. Christianity may not have the answer, but it certainly has the solution. God is going to fix it. He is going to put an end to the suffering. He is going to put an end to terrorism and rape and child abuse. He will end it for he said, "I am making everything new!”

I don't know who is going to read this but I have to tell you - you have got to be a part of the new earth. Don't miss out on it. Don't miss out on finally siting down with Jesus and having all your hard questions answered (you know, the ones that make us Christians squirm). And don't miss out on spending eternity with your father. He will give back everything the devil stole and ten times more. There is nothing worth missing out on that.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16

2 comments:

  1. Hi Marcos;
    That sounds to much like God created for Himself a pair of handcuffs.
    I think that Mr. Montgomery doesn't understand the ways of the Lord.

    If God created everything, then He certainly is responsible for everything.

    You can not make a bomb and then deny responsibility and say, 'Ups'! I didn't meant that to happen.

    No brother! You are mistaken, definitely not understanding the Scriptures or the power of God.
    But I'm glad that it troubles you enough to search the Scriptures and try to find answers.
    Kind regards
    Paul

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  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your comment. Your perspective highlights the classic distinction between two different systematic theologies. Since yours is much more like Calvin's, then of course, you wont appreciate this view. This is why I mentioned earlier on in the post that while I find Montgomery's explanation to be very good a Calvinist would find it horrendous.

    I have read some Calvinists who feel that all of evil, including sin and all of its consequences, was planned by God. So it is God who is responsible for Satan and sin and he is also responsible for all of the rapes, murders, genocides, terrorist attacks and evil in the world. If a woman is raped she is raped because God willed it. If a child is abused he is abused because God willed it etc. This is the view of one who takes Calvinism to its logical conclusion.

    While I don't deny the logical consistency of this view and the sincerity and godliness of the men and women who espouse it, I do in fact disagree. I find its premise to be a misreading of the Bible and if your premise is faulty, your logical consistency, while impressively coherent, will still be built on sand instead of the rock. However, I am not suggesting that my view is absolutely correct. Not every Armenian-Wesleyan theologian takes my above mentioned view. I have found it to be the most satisfying but am always willing for the Holy Spirit to lead me in understanding.

    With that said, whether you are Calvinist or not I think we can both agree that Christianity does have the solution to the problem of evil. The last chapter of Revelation reveals a return to the perfect Eden of Genesis - a world without pain, suffering, or death - all thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can all look forward to that.

    Blessings,
    Marcos

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