Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Eternal Weight of Glory

On May 20, 2007, my husband's brother died of cancer, leaving a wife and a two-year-old daughter. He was thirty-eight.

His pain became excruciating toward the end of his life, and one day, after getting off the phone with my mother-in-law, I remember praying, How can anything be worth this? How can You let a good man with a young family die in ever-growing pain?

Two weeks before he died, with very little remaining strength, he spent several hours at his computer, writing. He had degrees from Brown, Princeton, and the University of Chicago Law School. He had worked for a large, prestigious law firm and had left it to follow his dream to do environmental protection for a non-profit organization. He had lived in France and Kenya and had climbed mountains around the world. But his "Final Jottings"—right before the cancer attacked his brain—were : "Do not fail to seize the love of God, which is available to you in the all-embracing sacrifice of Christ."

I have for a while talked about writing a post on the problem of evil, but theodicy is a daunting subject because the Bible is never philosophical about suffering and evil. The shortest, and, in my opinion, the most powerful verse in the Bible is John 11:35, which follows the death of Lazarus: "Jesus wept." Jesus knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead and increase the faith of those present, but He was "deeply moved in spirit and was troubled" when He saw their grief (John 11:33).

The Book of Job is all about the problem of evil, and yet Job, with his raw and authentic complaint to God, is applauded by God, while his friends, with their judgmental platitudes, are sharply rebuked (Job 42:7). God rejects their simplistic theodicy and answers Job by asking if he really is in a position to judge God. Does he have the wisdom of God?

The problem of evil is complex because, on the one hand, God has permitted evil and suffering, but on the other hand, we are called to overcome evil and alleviate suffering wherever we see it. Acts 10:38 says that Jesus "went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." So the devil is responsible for oppression and suffering, and God's will is healing and well-being. But God created Satan and all the fallen angels, and He could put an end to all suffering and evil right now.

Why doesn't He?

In order to do justice to the problem of evil, we have to put it in its proper context. Although it is a practical problem for anyone, philosophically it is a Christian problem, since Christianity, more than any religion, speaks of a God of love. But the Apostle Paul, who was called to his ministry with the words, "I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts 9:16), says in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18: "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Paul says that suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory. And since God is preparing us for the eternal Paradise that will someday replace this temporary order, it is no wonder that if we belong to Christ we will become familiar with the dizzying spin on the potter's wheel.

Only a particular kind of universe can produce certain moral qualities in us. If we never encountered danger, how could we practice courage? If we never experienced opposition, how could we learn fortitude? If nobody ever wronged us, we would not learn forgiveness. If poverty did not exist, we would have no opportunity to practice charity or learn contentment. Failure and suffering can teach us humility and empathy. If we were self-sufficient and never wanted for anything, we would not seek God.

The new Paradise will, unlike the innocent Eden, consist of redeemed sinners who will have known the deepest lows of human existence and its greatest heights, like a symphony of high and low notes, dramatic fortissimos and tender pianissimos. That is how God uses evil for His own good purposes, and Romans 8:18 says: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." This life, for better or for worse, is like a mist that appears for a short while and then disappears (James 4:14). But our share in the kingdom of God will last forever.

To be sure, hardship can bring bitterness and hopelessness, but that is a choice we make. We can also choose to overcome evil with good and let the fire of affliction purify us. As Augustine says:
For, in the same fire, gold gleams and straw smokes; under the same flail the stalk is crushed and the grain threshed; the lees are not mistaken for oil because they have issued from the same press. So, too, the tide of trouble will test, purify, and improve the good, but beat, crush, and wash away the wicked. So it is that, under the weight of the same affliction, the wicked deny and blaspheme God, and the good pray to Him and praise Him. The difference is not in what people suffer but in the way they suffer. The same shaking that makes fetid water stink makes perfume issue a more pleasant odor.
It is to the one who overcomes that God will "grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7). And in order to overcome, there has to be something to overcome. Romans 12:21 says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." We are not to take what life throws at us sitting down. We are called to fight! And we overcome the world by our faith (1 John 5:4), which is the power of God within us.

My brother-in-law passed into eternity on a high note. He overcame the ravages of cancer that threaten to dehumanize and became increasingly conscious of the love of God through it all. His Final Jottings may, from an eternal vantage point, have been his greatest accomplishment of all.

But in no way am I downplaying his tragic and untimely death. Death is an enemy that will someday be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26), because evil and suffering are not God's will.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away (Revelation 21:2-4).

27 comments:

Raoul said...

Hi Anette, sorry to hear of your brother. I'm glad you find peace in your faith.

Let me get this right: In other words, God made it that humans have to suffer/overcome in order to gain relief from suffering?

And they have to believe in God in order not to suffer eternally?

Doesn't that sound kind of messed up? Especially for cultures who do not recognize Jesus as a Messiah. Observant Jews in the holocaust, for an obvious example...?

Pastor Jack said...

As always, I find your posts well done. Thanks for sharing the "tough" things of life. We live in an age where so many look at Christianity as either the genie in the bottle or something they "take with them" through life. Jesus IS our lives.

Pastor Jack said...

And Raoul, I am not a theologian, but simply a man who loves his God and spends hours a day seeking Him. However, in your opening question, you begin by stating, "Let me get this right" and present your case which is scripturally not "right" and not at all what I read in this post. If you want to have the Apostle Paul's view of suffering, 2 Cor. the first chapter states it beautifully. I also might add that Job never found the "answer" to his suffering. He found his God!

As far as it sounding "kind of messed up"? especially to other "cultures", the Lord never seemed too concerned with what others thought of His plan. The Jewish nation most of all understands suffering regardless of or in spite of their recognition of Jesus as their Messiah. Most all belief systems that have at their core an "all powerful" God have to reach a conclusion about why our God allows suffering. The conclusions are never truly reached except in Christianity where we recognize this was Job's dilemma. Again, the "answer" is Christ.

Anette Acker said...

Hi Raoul. It's great to hear from you again! You are the same Raoul who used to comment on Atheist Central, right?

Pastor Jack is correct that you are reading more into my post than what I have said. I did not say that people have to believe in God in order not to suffer eternally. After carefully studying what the Bible says about eternal judgment, I have concluded that it clearly states that God will judge the world, and that salvation comes only from a life-changing faith in Christ, but it is less clear about exactly will happen to the unsaved, like the Holocaust Jews.

For example, Genesis 3:22 indicates that the unredeemed will not live forever. After the fall, God expels the man from the Garden of Eden lest he "take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever." Clearly, the passage indicates that God does not want humanity to live forever in its fallen state, which would be the very essence of hell. However, after the redemption of Christ, Revelation 2:7 says: "To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God." In other words, God offers us eternal life, but only if we are willing to let Him qualify us for it, so that it does not prove to be a curse.

If you are interested in the Scriptural basis for the annihilation view and the traditional view of hell, Ben Witherington does a good job spelling them out on his blog.

He says the following: "It is also worth stressing that both cases rely on highly metaphorical language to make their case, which is why I would suggest that we back off from being overly dogmatic about our conclusions on this matter."

The Bible states that God will judge fairly, taking everything into consideration, and there is no injustice with God. However, many will be turned away on Judgment Day (Matthew 7:21-23, Matthew 25:31-46) for failing to put the teachings of Jesus into practice.

Anette Acker said...

Thank you, Pastor Jack! Hopefully the post was not too gloomy. I plan to do another one on the power of prayer and laying hold of the promises of God.

Raoul Rheits said...

Thanks for the links Anette.

I'm sorry for reading differently into your post than was intended.

Your post coincides with Ray's most recent effort, I trust he is not visiting here for inspiration (!) - one could hope...

I was encouraged to check if you were still around as your name regularly resurfaces in discussion (sic)over at the swamp when referencing Christians who are willing to debate honestly and respectfully.

Glad to see you are still up and running. You seem to have the best views on what it means to be a Christian, I personally suspect that it is more a consequence of (shall we say) Anette-ism, and I hope you can hear that with good humor. Onwards...

All the best,

Raoul.

Raoul Rheits said...

Pastor Jack: "the Lord never seemed too concerned with what others thought of His plan."

Indeed. Obviously, from my point of view that would be an impossibility. From yours I am guessing that it is favorable?

Anette Acker said...

Thanks, Raoul!

I did notice that Ray's current post has a vaguely similar theme, but I do not think he reads my blog. :)

AFollowerOfJesus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darkknight56 said...

I realize that when someone dies from something as cruel as cancer we try to find some hope or meaning in the person's death but I don't think your explanation works for several reasons.

Each year hundreds of thousands of children go blind due to a lack of vitamins, millions starve to death and millions of others die from cruel and horrible diseases such as cancer. Your argument, in part, is that these experiences for those either going through it or for those left behind is to somehow improve their character or purify them spiritually. Somehow this tragedy makes us better human beings and Christians.

However, when your son became ill what did you do? You almost immediately took him to the hospital to be cured. You were not concerned with character improvement or spiritual purification for either him or for you and your husband. You were eager to forgo all that and cure him of what was wrong with him.

This is the problem people have with God, He sees all of this pain and suffering but He does nothing about it. You took your son to the hospital for care but had it been left up to God alone, well, you know better than me. People are cured daily of various illnesses not because of God's intervention but because humans, using the scientific method, have come up with numerous cures and remedies for things like cancer. I can't remember if it is smallpox or polio (or both) but it was wiped out not because of prayer to God by millions of people over the centuries but because of scientific research and a number of hard-working scientists, researchers, etc.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

However, when your son became ill what did you do? You almost immediately took him to the hospital to be cured. You were not concerned with character improvement or spiritual purification for either him or for you and your husband. You were eager to forgo all that and cure him of what was wrong with him.

I don't see how this statement contradicts anything I said in my post. Doctors and hospitals are good gifts from God--we have a couple at our church who are both doctors, and their ministry is to go to Africa regularly and provide medical care. I never said, or implied, that we should forgo medical attention for character improvement.

However, affliction sometimes does have the effect of refining our character, sort of like an oyster creates a pearl when an irritant slips into it. The oyster does it to alleviate the discomfort. Likewise, if we seek God in our suffering, He will help us and we will gain the "pearl of great price"--the kingdom of God.

Your example of my son's hospitalization doesn't quite help your case because he suffered a reaction to a medicine. All they did to treat him, after taking him on a several-thousand-dollar ride in an ambulance from the regional emergency room to the children's hospital, was put him on Benadryl. I'm glad they did all the tests and concluded that it was a not a serious medical condition, but this was not exactly an example of him being "cured" at the hospital.

It was in fact a time when we have seen the power of God through power. My son has a very scientific mind, and he saw the cause and effect of how prayer helped him get through this. It strengthened his faith.

This is the problem people have with God, He sees all of this pain and suffering but He does nothing about it. You took your son to the hospital for care but had it been left up to God alone, well, you know better than me.

I strongly disagree with this, but I will elaborate when I write the post about prayer, which is how we lay hold of the power of God on earth.

Anette Acker said...

Correction: "the power of God through power" should read, "the power of God through prayer."

Darkknight56 said...

Anette - God gave us science.

Exactly when did this happen? What support do you have to support this claim? In the old testament He tells Jacob that if they want speckled sheep to have them eat near a speckled branch, I believe. (the point here being that science was not used to breed speckled sheep. I am recalling this from memory so forgive me if some of the detail is not correct.) And let's not forget all of the wonderful medical advise He gives women regarding their periods and how unclean they are. Leviticus 13 talks about various skin diseases and God talks about how unclean the person can be. There doesn't seem to be any indication that God is concerned about curing the illness, just how unclean they may be. The bible in general does not seem to concern itself with the curing of any disease. Correct me if I'm wrong but there doesn't seem to be any verse that discusses the actual curing of any disease. Where in the bible does God state the scientific method and how to use it regarding the exploration of any aspect of nature.

Another problem with this statement is that numerous surveys have been taken regarding the religious preference of scientists and the vast majority, over 90% are atheists. Of the remaining 10% they may believe in the existence of God but not all of those have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I'm not aware of any scientific studies that were done where even the bible believing scientist credited either a supernatural cause for a disease or God for providing him with the cure for the disease. It seems that your major complaint regarding scientists is that they do not take into account the supernatural as the cause of anything; rather they are always looking for naturalistic causes. You mentioned that God did not get the credit for starting off the Big Bang; instead scientists (using the scientific method) think that there are other causes for the creation of the universe such as a multi-verse or m-theory or string theory.

This would also indicate that your God is a very ungrateful God. If a majority of discoveries and cures come from the 90% then He still condemns them to Hell once their life's work is done.

If you want to credit God with creating science then why wasn't it created earlier when additional lives could have been saved as well as aleviating such things as hunger and disease.

If God created science then why does the bible say that the earth is flat?

Darkknight56 said...

If God really did give us science then why do so many Christians reject evolution and cosmology? Wouldn't they be rejecting fruits of His gift, at least?

Darkknight56 said...

Christians are people who are filled with the Holy Spirit, who "know" God, who have a relationship with Him so why would they reject His gift of science?

Science has not proven that any illness (physical or mental) was caused by demons as described in the new testament. Instead, science has blamed natural causes, like germs, viruses and bacteria, for these illnesses. Science has never shown or proved that anything has a supernatural cause - not one. Instead, most everything that was thought to have a supernatural cause has instead been shown to have a natural cause.

A brief glance at history will show that spirit-filled Christians have fought the idea that the Earth was round and that it revolved around the Sun.

Since most scientists, not all, are agnostic or atheistic one would have to conclude that science has converted many people to atheism mainly because scientists have not found God to be a cause of or for anything. Archeology has shown that the Exodus into or out of Egypt has never happened. Why would God give us a gift that fails to show Him as the cause of anything? Why would God give us a gift that shows parts of His Holy Book to be false - a contradiction of what He said happened?

No! No! No! God is definitely not the giver or cause of science, scientific discoveries and scientific thinking.

Darkknight56 said...

Nothing to do with my recent previous posts but I do remember discussing whether atheists are willing to die for their beliefs or lack of belief in any god. I remembered this discussion when I came across this article. Yes Virginia, there are atheists who are willing to die rather than renounce.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

From now on, I will probably just reply to the comments that pertain to the main post; otherwise, it takes too much time and the discussions go on too long. Instead, I may write separate blogposts on some of the subjects raised. But I will briefly touch on the points you made while I'm waiting for trick-or-treaters.

Leviticus 13 talks about various skin diseases and God talks about how unclean the person can be. There doesn't seem to be any indication that God is concerned about curing the illness, just how unclean they may be. The bible in general does not seem to concern itself with the curing of any disease.

The Bible concerns itself quite a bit with prevention of disease. Although the primary purpose of the cleanliness laws was to signify that Israel was set apart from the nations and were to be spiritually pure, they contain remarkable insights about disease prevention that were not known at the time. R. H. Major says in A History of Medicine: "Moses has been characterised as the greatest sanitary engineer that the world has ever seen. His doctrines laid down in that fine treatise on hygiene, the book of Leviticus, could be summed up by the objects of sanitation today -- pure food, pure water, pure air, pure bodies, and pure dwellings."

For example, long before germ theory, the Israelites were commanded to wash their hands before eating, they were told that they were unclean if they touched a dead body and they were forbidden from eating anything that had already died. They were told to keep human waste outside of the camps.

They were commanded not to eat animal fat, which today we know is harmful to our health, and warned against the dangers of blood--again, something we know about today, hence the biohazard boxes at the doctor's offices.

Harry Wain says in History of Preventative Medicine, "As one closes the book he must realise that these biblical rules on health and hygiene were far in advance of, and superior to, any which then existed in the world. Many of these hygienic precepts have been little improved upon to this day, and are as worth following now as when they were first promulgated."

Anette Acker said...

You mentioned that God did not get the credit for starting off the Big Bang; instead scientists (using the scientific method) think that there are other causes for the creation of the universe such as a multi-verse or m-theory or string theory.

Scientists know that the multiverse is mere speculation and is not backed by evidence. Some also argue that multiverse theories are unfalsifiable and therefore inherently unscientific.

This would also indicate that your God is a very ungrateful God. If a majority of discoveries and cures come from the 90% then He still condemns them to Hell once their life's work is done.

Just like God told the Israelites what to do to stay healthy, and they had the choice to obey or disobey, He tells us how to inherit eternal life, and we can choose to obey or disobey. Deuteronomy 30:19 still holds true today: "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life."

Do you think these scientists you're talking about would feel wronged if they chose to eat a decomposing carcass and then caught a disease?

If you want to credit God with creating science then why wasn't it created earlier when additional lives could have been saved as well as aleviating such things as hunger and disease.

People made scientific discoveries, but God has made that possible. As Einstein said, "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible." The fact that the universe is as rational and orderly as it is should not be taken for granted, because it is not something that one would expect from a universe that came into existence by sheer chance.

If God created science then why does the bible say that the earth is flat?

Where does the Bible tell us, "The earth is flat"?

The purpose of the Bible is not to instruct on science--it is to instruct on salvation--but it does make one explicit scientific statement in Hebrews 11:3: "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." And this is scientifically correct. According to the Big Bang theory, the universe came into existence out of nothing visible.

A brief glance at history will show that spirit-filled Christians have fought the idea that the Earth was round and that it revolved around the Sun.

Yes, Christians have done this. How do you know that they were Spirit-filled Christians?

Science has not proven that any illness (physical or mental) was caused by demons as described in the new testament.

Science cannot study the supernatural. This is an inherent limitation on science, and it tells us nothing about whether the supernatural exists.

Instead, science has blamed natural causes, like germs, viruses and bacteria, for these illnesses. Science has never shown or proved that anything has a supernatural cause - not one. Instead, most everything that was thought to have a supernatural cause has instead been shown to have a natural cause.

The Bible does not portray the natural and the supernatural as mutually exclusive. For example, Jesus was fully divine and fully human.

Archeology has shown that the Exodus into or out of Egypt has never happened.

The mere fact that they have not discovered evidence doesn't mean that they have shown that it never happened. Archeological discoveries are made over time.

Again, I want to point out that all these issues you raised would take considerable time to do justice to, and since they do not pertain to the main post, I cannot explore them in greater detail right now.

Darkknight56 said...

To keep on the main topic then...There is no reason to assume that a God has to be involved in why we suffer. Evolution has a much simpler explanation and description. It tells us, among other things, that death and disease (including cancer) have been around for millions of years prior to man coming on the scene. Death, disease and suffering were a part of life since the beginning. So if man (Adam) didn't cause all of this by his fall then it would have to have been part of God's original plan.

The fact is that wolves eat deer, lions eat antelopes and bacteria kill, well, almost anything alive because there is a huge diversity of life and all of those life forms want to live, breed and pass on their genes to future generations. Thus we get the flu, small pox or thousands of other diseases. We also get things like cancer from the environment or from genetic mutations and other defects.

Millions of people each year in all cultures and religions face death with courage.

I have lost some family and friends to disease, cancer or accidents. I don't like it, I'd rather have them all back but death has been around since the first life forms started. we can learn to live courageously in this life by how they face death. Many in the atheist community admire the courage that is being shown by Christopher Hitchens as he faces his imminent death. We can take events such as death and suffering and show not only ourselves but those that look up to us like our children, that we can face them with courage.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

I don't expect you to respond to the comments below per your statement but I felt your remarks deserved a response.

Scientists know that the multiverse is mere speculation and is not backed by evidence. Some also argue that multiverse theories are unfalsifiable and therefore inherently unscientific.

The multiverse theory is based on mathematical modelling and neatly unifies many mathematical equations used by physicists.

Your unfalsifiable statement makes no sense. Scientists don't put out theories like the multiverse and then demand that others prove them wrong. Instead, they have to prove that the theory is correct. While there may be reasons to think it is possible (the multiverse) no one has proven it to be true.

(As an aside, many feel that Christianity is unfalsifiable. Based on what you said about the multiverse being unfalsifiable should we also toss it out or is it only unfalsifiable scientific thought that should be thrown out?)

Do you think these scientists you're talking about would feel wronged if they chose to eat a decomposing carcass and then caught a disease?

It has been shown that man has been cooking food for at least 2 million years and all over the world.

Where does the Bible tell us, "The earth is flat"?

Isaiah 40:22

The mere fact that they have not discovered evidence doesn't mean that they have shown that it never happened. Archeological discoveries are made over time.

Wait...What?? Should we keep an idea that had no evidence to support it? Not if it is the multiverse theory stated above. You said it should be tossed for a lack of evidence. This shows both bias and a double-standard.

For example, long before germ theory, the Israelites were commanded to wash their hands before eating, they were told that they were unclean if they touched a dead body and they were forbidden from eating anything that had already died. They were told to keep human waste outside of the camps.

Many cultures like the Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Japanese have similar sanitation methods and they were given to those people by a deity. I wouldn't be surprised to find the cultures around Israel to have similar standards. What I would expect, if a deity were to give them such advise, would be ideas that no other cultures had or would have been reasonably expected to come up with. Otters wash their hands and food and cats don't relieve themselves near their food.

Keep in mind the God that supposedly told them to wash their hands also told them that women were unclean for several weeks and the length depended on whether she had a boy or a girl. (Hmm...what if she had one of each - how long then?) They were also told not to eat shell fish as well as cloven hoofed animals. What was the medical benefit of that instruction?

Darkknight56 said...

I'm not expecting a response to this also, since it doesn't directly deal with the main topic but...

Anette Acker said...

Science cannot study the supernatural. This is an inherent limitation on science, and it tells us nothing about whether the supernatural exists.

Oh, okay. You're probably right. However, since mathematics is a branch of science then it stands to reason that mathematic cannot help with or prove the supernatural, too. So, would I be correct in assuming that you'll be dropping your Bayes Theorum proof of God then?

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. I hope you had a great weekend!

Before I get to your comment on the problem of evil, I want to elaborate on what I said about trying to stick to the subject. What has happened is exactly the kind of thing I'm trying to prevent.

You raised about a handful of unrelated issues and I replied to them briefly. Now you have replies to my replies. There may be lurkers reading this who are unfamiliar with those subjects and curious about how I would answer. But these are issues I've discussed many times before with different non-theists where I've actually had the time and opportunity to fully explore them because we stuck to one subject. I don't have the time or inclination now.

I understand that you have a lot of things on your mind and additional thoughts relating to prior discussions, but in the future I reserve the right to delete comments that raise so many unrelated issues that they confuse readers. My goal is clear and honest debate during which I either reply to objections or concede. Although I can't continue with all these subjects, I concede none of your points. In fact, some of what you say is patently incorrect, like this one:

Your unfalsifiable statement makes no sense. Scientists don't put out theories like the multiverse and then demand that others prove them wrong. Instead, they have to prove that the theory is correct.

Scientific theories cannot be proven and they have to be falsifiable. If you question that, either do a Google search or ask one of the scientifically-minded atheists on AC.

Christianity, on the other hand, is a religion, not a scientific theory, and therefore does not have to be falsifiable. But as I've discussed before, 1 Cor. 15:14 does render Christianity in a sense falsifiable because it says that our faith would be in vain if Christ had not been raised.

What I said about the multiverse being speculation not backed by evidence is also undisputed among scientists. However, some believe it will never be falsifiable and others disagree.

Just a couple of more things . . . I addressed a variant of your Bayes' Theorem comment to Vinny in the "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" post. And Isaiah 40:22 does not say, "The earth is flat." The literary style of Isaiah is poetical and "the circle of the earth" is not intended to give a science lesson any more than Isaiah 55:1 is talking about literal water, money, wine, and milk. On the other hand, Hebrews 11:3 is not poetry and it states clearly that the universe was created ex nihilo.

Anette Acker said...

Now, moving on to the problem of evil.

There is no reason to assume that a God has to be involved in why we suffer. Evolution has a much simpler explanation and description.

True. But the problem of evil is not an argument for God's existence, it's an argument against God's existence. And I was responding to it.

You're probably familiar with the Epicurean Paradox, a syllogism that attempts to disprove God's existence:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

My post is a response to that type of an atheological argument.

Many in the atheist community admire the courage that is being shown by Christopher Hitchens as he faces his imminent death. We can take events such as death and suffering and show not only ourselves but those that look up to us like our children, that we can face them with courage.

So you agree with me then that good can come out of evil and it's not a serious argument against the existence of a good God? In fact, your example of Hitchens is taking my argument and making it stronger because you're saying that even if we take the Bible's promise of eternal life out of the equation, suffering, death, and illness can make us, and those who look up to us, more courageous. Therefore, good can come out of evil. Epicurus was wrong.

Well, I'm glad we finally agree on something! :)

Darkknight56 said...

I recently had a discussion with the pastor of a church I used to attend in Tempe, AZ. In catching up we exchanged photos of how we look now. He sent me a picture of him along with his wife and lovely family, mostly daughters. Unfortunately, the only recent picture I had of me was from last Christmas. It was of me wearing a new scalp massager that I just received as a Christmas gift on top of my head. I sent it anyway.

When I told him I went over to the dark side he mentioned that God was the perfect father. I brought up the Jaycee Dugard story and asked him if, God forbid, one of his daughters was kidnapped would he try to rescue her, assuming it was in his power to do so, or would he act like God did in her case and do nothing thus allowing the kidnapper to rape her starting at the age of 11 and continuing unabated for the next 18 years or so? Would he bring to the pulpit a member of the congregation, a father, who knew where his kidnapped daughter was but yet refused to tell even his wife, much less the police, of her whereabouts and praise him as a worthy and loving father to the rest of the congregation?

Yet, that is what you all do with God. Between 10 - 15 million children under the age of 5 (depending on the source of your data) die each year from starvation and in an agonizing, pain-filled and tortuous way. What is the lesson the parents are to learn regarding God's love and care?

He, of course, could not respond. The standard of goodness and love is different, and opposite, whether we are talking about a human or God. A human father would rescue his daughter, die trying, or at the very least tell the authorities so they can get her. A human father would be thought, there is no good word, contemptible at least if he knew where his daughter was but did and said nothing to save her. A human would try to feed the starving and would be thought morally bankrupt if he didn't and just ignored it.

In both cases God does nothing, as shown by the statistics. The end result shows that either God doesn't care or He doesn't exist. Both would explain why His lack of compassion or concern is much lower than those of a human father.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

When I told him I went over to the dark side he mentioned that God was the perfect father.

Well, there are two ways in which the Bible talks about the Fatherhood of God. First, He is our Father because we were created in His image. Paul uses the word in this sense in Acts 17:29, when he talks to the men of Athens: "Being then the children of God, we ought not think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man."

However, most of the time the Fatherhood of God pertains to His relationship to those who belong to Him and are sealed by His Spirit. In Romans 8:14, Paul says: "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."

1 John 5:19 explains what this means: "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one."

If God has not adopted us and imparted to us His Spirit (Romans 8:15-16), we are under the control of the evil one. God is still sovereign, but what happens in this world is according to His permissive will because He created it, but it is not always according to His perfect will.

Now that certainly doesn't mean that He only cares about His own adopted children and not the lost and suffering people of this world. He loves the whole world enough to send His Son to die for us, so that we would be saved (John 3:16). He very much cares about those suffering children.

And because He has imparted to His children His Spirit, He works through us to accomplish His ends.

Speaking of adoption, when I first started blogging I did not write about apologetics. Many of my posts pertained to faith and living the Spirit-led life. And one blogger named Amy started reading my blog and commenting regularly at a time when God was teaching her to live by faith. She and her husband both started to independently feel that God was calling them to trust Him to finance an international adoption. So they started fundraising, and now they have a son from Ethiopia.

But God had much greater plans than just their adoption. Amy now has a ministry where she has inspired many other Christian families to adopt internationally and to trust God with their fundraising efforts. And she continues to be driven by this passion.

It has always been very clear to Amy that her ministry was initiated by God's love for those orphaned children, and that He's expressing His love through her. So God is, through Amy and others, acting on behalf of those children.

He is not silent.

Darkknight56 said...

It has always been very clear to Amy that her ministry was initiated by God's love for those orphaned children, and that He's expressing His love through her. So God is, through Amy and others, acting on behalf of those children.

Basically, if you want to offer personal, subjective, anecdotal stories as true and as evidence for your position then you need to apply the same standard of acceptance to similar personal, subjective, anecdotal stories of other religions. I can find many stories in Mormonism, Hinduism and Islam where followers felt that they were moved by their god(s) to do good deeds.

But why would God all of a sudden need to work through others? In the good ol' days He used to drown others or bring pestilence upon people by himself so why can't He do good deeds by Himself? For instance, I'm sure Amy is a good and caring person. Is there any reason to believe that even without God in the picture she wouldn't have adopted a son from Ethiopia? After all, even atheists who are not moved by God to do good deeds adopt children from foreign countries - Angelina Jolie, for example.

If God was really working through others then I would expect them to do deeds and acts of kindness far beyond what atheists and people of other religions would do.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Before I get to your comment on the problem of evil, I want to elaborate on what I said about trying to stick to the subject. What has happened is exactly the kind of thing I'm trying to prevent.

You are the one who, as part of your argument regarding evil, made the unsubstantiated and unprovable claim that God supports science or makes it possible or in some way should be credited for it. You made the statement that we should thank God for science when the bible clearly shows that no one in it has a good understanding of the nature of the world around them. In Genesis the God-inspired author has daylight being created on one day (verse 3) and the sun being created on a later day(verse 16). Even in the new testament, Jesus calls the mustard seed the smallest of all the seeds when that is clearly not true.

I didn't want to get on the side tangent of talking about multiverses or bayes theorem, etc, but I did want to point to several examples of non-scientific thinking in the bible and ones that are held by otherwise Spirit-filled Christians today.

When it was just God from the time man was created until the start of the 20th century the average life span of a person was about 45 years and millions died in various epidemics. Since science took off in the 20th century the average lifespan is now about 74 years and millions are saved each year from epidemics due to vaccinations. Man, via science, has saved more lives from epidemics alone that God did in the entire previous centuries that He was the lone health care provider.

Besides, I've not read of any scientist who thinks that the multiverse theory is not falsifiable. Could I have your source for that information?

According to John Loftus, in his book Why I am not a Christian his former teacher William Lane Craig is purported to have said that if he (Craig) were taken back in time to that Easter Sunday morning and could see for himself that Christ did not rise from the dead he would still believe it anyway. You were willing to claim omnicience when you said that you knew for certain what Joseph of Aramathea (a character many Christian scholars think may not have actualy existed) would do in a specific instance rather than admit you might be wrong. Talk about an event being unfalsifiable!!!