Over the last three posts dealing with the problem of evil we have defined the problem (found here), explored many systems that fall short in answering the problem (found here), unpack the current free-will explanation (found here) which also falls short of the whole counsel of God’s Word.
So now we know what the problem is and we have seen some of the main ways the issue of evil in the world is addressed, it’s time to form our Theology of Suffering by seeing what the whole Bible has to say about the issue.
First off: before we go any further, we must acknowledge that the issue of evil, pain, and suffering is a serious issue and must be addressed biblically. This requires that we search the Scriptures which as a whole addresses the problem of evil through the four movements of redemptive history…
“we search the Scriptures which as a whole addresses the problem of evil through the four movements of redemptive history.”
1) Creation (it was good),
2) The fall (sin, death, disease entered the world),
3) Incarnation (God’s solution in Christ – God with us), and
4) Restoration (Christ’s return resulting in the new heaven’s and new earth).
With that said, we must also approach this subject in humility and confess that until we are in glory (see Jesus face to face), all of our questions will not be perfectly answered. Let’s keep in mind Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law”.
Let’s begin by framing our response with three points.
1. Evil is real: First off we must acknowledge that evil and suffering is real. This is not an area where we want to play games or be glib. We must acknowledge this right up front. And when you’re talking to a nonbeliever and they get upset or angry even, about the problem of evil; this should bring you joy. That’s right, be happy that the person is angry about this.
Evil is real. Sin is real. Death, disease, pain are all real. It is tragic. It is bad and it is ugly. So we should acknowledge that it’s real and explain our Christian worldview to them. There is a sense that people know evil is real because they live in God’s world. So now we show them that we have a solution that is based in reality. For the unbeliever, outrage over evil allows the Christian to speak to him about how the problem of evil is best handled from a Christian worldview.
“Outrage over evil allows the Christian to speak to him about how the problem of evil is best handled from a Christian worldview”
2. The seriousness of evil: Now that we have acknowledged the reality, now we can address the seriousness of evil. For the believer, being concerned about evil means there is a concern for righteousness. Being concerned about evil means that the Christian properly understands that things are not what they should be and he grieves over this fact. Once again, the nonbeliever must borrow from the Christian worldview in their concern.
3. God’s perspective: Now here is where things start to fall into place. While we can contemplate the problem of evil and ask difficult questions, we must remember that putting God on trial is not an option.
The Bible is clear that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-sovereign (He is in control), and good and perfect in all He is and does. This means that He has a good reason for allowing evil even if we don’t fully understand the reason. Never let something that you are unclear about cause you to doubt what you know to be true. God is good!
“Never let something that you are unclear about cause you to doubt what you know to be true. God is good!”
We see many things from a very limited and finite perspective. We don’t know God’s purposes exhaustively from beginning to end. To question God and His character is sin. To question God is to step out of the proper Creator-creature distinction. Now, I need to clarify one thing, I am not saying that in your grief you can’t cry out to God. It turns to sin when the crying out turns into a type of bitterness and resentment and anger toward God.
With those ground rules in place, tomorrow we will wrap up this short series on the problem of evil.