Evil And Entitlement

Is the problem of evil a more Western problem? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, my wife and I were with our church small group discussing the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. The thesis is that it’s often simple to know to obey God and even to do it, but to trust Him is something else. Of course, if we don’t trust Him, we’re not really obeying Him.

Something that keeps us from trusting often is the problem of evil. I did recently interview Clay Jones on this and he did back something that I have heard, that evil is often more of a problem being talked about in the West than it is in the places where the real evil is going on. I can think of the fundamentalist atheist teenager talking in a chat room years ago who would go on and on about how much evil there was in the world and then say he’d brb, someone was calling his cell phone.

I suspect that part of the reason is because we often have an entitlement mindset over here. I have heard some people saying, and I understand it, that they don’t like the concept of us having rights. Perhaps we should think of them as more responsibilities we have toward our fellow man. We often think that we are owed something.

When it comes to evil in our lives then, we look at it and think that God is not doing His job. After all, He’s supposed to be making sure we’re happy, and normally we have in mind a very American view of happiness. Even with our therapy today, we often focus on dealing with our emotions instead of dealing with our behavior. We do need to deal with our emotions to be sure, but our behavior is by far more important.

If we look biblically, this idea of God holding out on us and not doing His part is what led to the fall in the Garden. Why take the fruit? Because God is holding out on you. God is not looking out entirely for you. He’s looking out more for Himself. The strange thing is we keep acting the same way.

In our society, we think more about what God is to do for us than on what we are to do for Him. Many of us will rightfully condemn the word of faith people who treat God like a servant and say if you have enough faith, then you will get all the miracles and wealth you want, but we act the same way on a lower scale. If we are doing everything right in our lives, everything should work out for us. If we do the right thing, we should have good happen in our lives.

It’s interesting that this is the very thinking in the book of Job. Job is thought to be the oldest book in the Bible by many scholars. In this book, God Himself challenges this way of thinking and says it is wrong. What do we do? We still hold to this exact way of thinking. (Also, it’s worth pointing out the book of Job is not about the problem of evil. It’s asking the question of if you will still serve God even if things don’t work out for you. If you gained nothing, would you still serve?)

I suspect a large part of this is that we are not thankful enough. Consider Romans 1. This passage is all about how God is judging the world and the wrath of God. What does verse 1 say about it?

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Imagine giving a presentation somewhere and you get reviews back from the audience. There are twenty of them. Nineteen of them are positive. One is negative. It is our tendency to focus on that one negative. The same thing is what we do here.

God has given us all so much and we don’t appreciate it. In other countries where good things are not taken for granted, they are seen as gifts. We sleep in warm beds, have refrigerators with food, drive where we want to go, watch what we want on TV, access what we want on the internet, can worship in freedom, and yet we still say that there isn’t enough good in this life to be thankful for.

Years ago, someone gave me a tip that I try to do at times. If you have one night where it’s hard to get to sleep, go through the alphabet. Think of things that you’re thankful for that start with each letter. If you can’t think of something, then you do indeed have a problem. You are not thankful enough.

Keep in mind, this is no light matter. This is something that is included in the wrath of God. If you are not thanking God, you are likely taking Him for granted. Sure, God gives you food to eat and a place to sleep, but He’s supposed to do that isn’t He?

No. He has no obligation to you beyond what He promised you. You were never promised a pain-free life. You were never promised a rose garden this side of eternity. That means then that everything that you have is a gift. If you have something good come into your life, rejoice. If you lose something, God never owed it to you and you have to trust Him.

My wife and I have been reading James 1 at night the past couple of days and James really has a lot to say about this. Just look at the first chapter.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faithproduces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The early church was facing trials of many kinds. Sometimes it was physical persecution. Sometimes it was ostracism from society. They would be outcasts and suffer economic hardship as well. Never mind that they didn’t have all the blessings that we have today.

Despite this, they were to have joy. They had far less than we have and quite likely far more suffering, and they were told to have joy. Not only this, this joy came with a promise. We will then be mature and complete and not lacking anything. Does that sound like a good deal to you?

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

So James is telling us that persevering under trial is a sign of your love for God. It demonstrates to the world you love God and God promises a crown of life to you. Earlier, I said God owes nothing to you beyond what He promises you. If you treat Scripture as His promises, then this is His promise. If you persevere, He will give you a crown of life.

My wife is part of Celebrate Recovery. Tonight, she’s excited because she gets a chip to show that she’s gone two months without cutting. If she is excited to get a little chip, how much more excited should I be that I will get a crown of life? Unless, of course, I don’t think it’s that big a deal or I don’t think God will keep His word.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

And James tells us that God does give us good gifts. God does not change. His gifts are because of His gracious nature. Often, we have a deserving mentality. If we do good, we deserve to get good things and if we do bad, we deserve to get evil things. If we get a gift, we need to deserve it. Not at all. Paul even said this to the pagans in Lystra in Acts 14.

17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Plenty of food? These people had to work for their food much more than we do. I can just drive down to a supermarket and find plenty of food that I can get. Water would also be a valuable commodity for them, and yet I can go to a water fountain and get all that I want for free. God gave these gifts to people that Romans says did not honor Him or give thanks to Him.

When we treat God in a way that He doesn’t give us good things in our minds and isn’t looking out for us, what kind of Father are we saying that He is? Could we not be like the prodigal son and saying that we wish He was dead and we could go on with our lives? The elder son didn’t fare much better. He saw his dad as someone stingy he was slaving for and he never got a thing for it.

By the way, I’m saying all of this to myself. I also have a problem with a lack of thankfulness. Many times when you do a blog like this, you write not only for your audience but for yourself. Lately, I have been having to learn about this a great deal.

So what are we going to do? Be more thankful. Realize you are not owed anything. Everything that you have is a gift. If God takes something away, He’s not being cruel to you. He’s looking out for you in a way you don’t understand. Trust Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/14/2017: Clay Jones

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVVVVVIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!

It’s something we often think about. It seems simple on the screen when we see the hero defeating the villains. We don’t worry so much about the problem. We know that our favorite superhero is going to deal with it. Even when we’re on the edge of our seats, we know that the hero will pull this off somehow.

When we look at the real world though, we wonder. Is there really a hero here? Why is all this evil being allowed in the world? It’s something we can accept in the media, but then it hits us. We have someone get abused. Someone gets raped. Murder takes place. Cancer strikes a family. A child dies in a natural disaster. Why?

If we were able to and being good people, we would stop this or do our best to stop it. God is supposed to be all-good and all-powerful. Right? If so, then it doesn’t make any sense does it? Why does God allow evil?

That’s a good question.

To discuss this question, I have decided to have on someone who has spent decades dealing with this. He has looked at evil regularly, including reading about some of the greatest evils that mankind has done in history just to understand the situation. His book is titled Why Does God Allow Evil? and his name is Clay Jones. He’ll be joining me this Saturday.

So who is he?

Clay Jones holds a doctor of ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is an associate professor in the Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics Program at Biola University. Formerly, Clay hosted Contend for Truth, a nationally syndicated call-in, talk-radio program where he debated professors, radio talk show hosts, cultists, religious leaders, and representatives from animal rights, abortion rights, gay rights, and atheist organizations. Clay was the CEO of Simon Greenleaf University (now Trinity Law and Graduate Schools) and was on the pastoral staff of two large churches. Clay is the Chairman of the Board of the university apologetics ministry Ratio Christi, is a contributing writer for the Christian Research Journal and specializes in issues related to why God allows evil. You can read his blog at clayjones.net, find him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter at ClayBJones. Clay’s has authored Why Does God Allow Evil?: Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions.

Dr. Jones has a great work on this as he writes with the head of an academic and the heart of a pastor. I also owe him greatly for his own helping me when I had some struggles in this area. Not only that, but his book will help you take a look at yourself and realize the problem of evil is not just something out there, but it is something within.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the show. Be ready next time when we talk about evil!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Problem of Boredom

Is it a problem that we live in a bored society? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, I wrote a blog post about finishing Clay Jones’s book on the problem of evil. One topic he talked about in that book was Heaven and how many people, not just skeptics, have a fear that they will be bored in Heaven. To be fair, if Heaven was like the way it is depicted in popular media, it would be boring. Sadly, if it was also the way it is often described in many churches, it would be boring.

As I thought about this, I considered that what if boredom isn’t just a problem with Heaven, but also with this life? Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the purpose of our life is to be entertained, but isn’t joy listed as a fruit of the Spirit? Are Christians supposed to be bored?

When I was single and living in an apartment in Knoxville, I had two friends I hung out with regularly. One wasn’t a Christian at the time. One was. The three of us would regularly go out together and stop at bookstores. I would buy one or two apologetics books. My non-Christian friend would buy several fun things from there, sometimes books, and I don’t really remember what the other would get.

Inevitably, I’d be sitting alone in my apartment on the internet with either a book or watching TV or playing a video game and I’d get a call from my non-Christian friend saying he was bored. This would be just after going to the store a few days ago. It always amazed me that I got far fewer things and things that weren’t designed for fun, but the problem of boredom never struck me.

Today, we live in a society where one can pick up the remote and go through all the channels, normally over 200 of them, and say “There’s nothing on.” We can then go through Netflix and just say “Nah. I don’t want to watch that.” We look at our library of video games and think “No. I don’t want to do that one now.” No matter what it is, it’s like we don’t really find interest in anything.

Even more, we don’t find interest in God. Sadly, I can understand it. When we start to think about God, it’s hard to know what to think about. One of the reasons I think God gets boring to us is because unlike Aslan, we have made God a tame lion. We have these neatly defined ideas of what God is, and yet we don’t expect God to rock the boat. We don’t expect God to do much. He kind of just sits on His throne being God. We can think about all of His attributes and such, but it doesn’t seem to move us.

This is also a problem because boredom is really showing a lack of appreciation. Romans 1 says that part of the problem of the rebellion of mankind was that man was not thankful. When we are too easily bored and not interested in the things that have been made, we are insulting them and in turn, insulting their maker. We are saying there is not enough good in them to captivate us.

One exception to this that a skeptic in Jones’s book mentioned was the subject of sex. I think this person is on to something. Sexuality is something that does not lead to a law of diminishing returns but rather a law of increasing returns. I want to stress that this is in the case of marriage.

Outside of marriage, sex becomes more about just fun instead of really bonding. No doubt, there is fun involved, but for people who are married, the joy is getting to be bonded to that person. If you make it just about fun, you will wind up viewing the other person as an object to be used for pleasure and wondering if a different body can bring you more pleasure.

Sex doesn’t seem to lose its interest because that’s about a person, and persons are interesting. Couples who have been married for 50+ years wind up still learning new things about one another. The more one is intimate with the same person, the more one comes to enjoy and appreciate that person as even your own bodies learn how to work better together.

The more we get interested in the person of God, the more we will delight in Him. If we think of God in too abstract a way, it could be that He ceases to be a person of wonder to us. This is something that I will freely admit I still struggle with. The same has happened with the Bible. We’ve heard the stories so much that they no longer have a shock value to us. We read “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” and think nothing about it. Any reader in the ancient world would have dropped the scroll in absolute shock. If we pictured John writing the words, he must have had an exceedingly difficult time writing that sentence as it seemed to be too unbelievable.

We really need to return wonder. Our society being so bored is a problem in that we don’t see the good and we don’t see what living is all about. In fact, I think this has something to do with our culture of suicide. It’s all too easy to decide that there’s nothing in the world worth living for.

There is indeed. Every day of your life is filled with wonder if you will look. Everything in your life that is good might not have been. Every good thing is a gift. You are owed nothing. That means all that is yours is a gift so accept it with joy. This includes the reality of God.

Go out and enjoy your life. Christians need not be bored. We have a wonderful world God gave us to enjoy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: Why Does God Allow Evil?

What do I think of Clay Jones’s book published by Harvest House Publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Harvest House for sending me a copy of Clay Jones’s book. I consider him a friend and he has helped me through some personal issues of mine that I have struggled with before. I was thrilled to hear about this book and after reading it, I have to say I love it and I hate it.

This is a great book because it is a thorough look at the problem of evil. Many questions will be answered and questions one didn’t know were out there will be addressed. It is a challenge for anyone who wants to use the problem of evil as an argument against theism.

With that being said, why would I hate this book at the same time?

I hate it because this is more than a detached look at the problem of evil. This is an in-your-face look. It’s so much easier to talk about evil when it’s the people out there who are the problem. It’s easy to condemn genocide when you realize you’re not one of those people doing it. You’re a “good person” after all. It’s not so easy when you realize that many of these people we today call “good people” are people who are just as much capable of genocide. In fact, if we think we’re better than those who do commit genocide, we’ve taken the first step to being a person who will commit genocide.

Jones’s book shows that evil is not just a problem out there. Evil is a problem within. Regularly throughout the book, I would experience knowing that I contribute to the problem of evil and if I don’t in a major way, there’s not much that’s stopping me from doing so. It’s much better to talk about evil when it’s something out there, but Jones won’t leave it at that.

Jones also includes much about Heaven in this book, which is quite good. He also got me right here as I realized I don’t have the great desire for Heaven that I should. Part of this could be we just don’t know what Heaven is like. Jones says that the most common comparison between the eternal state and our world today is marriage.

This also I concur with. For a young man especially growing up, he finds that he knows two things normally about sex. First, he has never really had it before. Second, he knows that he wants it and that it’s very good. This is the same with heaven. In fact, the desire for both is enjoyable itself. Ask any husband who knows that tonight is the night. He has something to look forward to all day.

Fortunately, Jones does help someone change their outlook. He does say that if Heaven was the way the popular media depicts it, it would be understandable to not look forward to it. Heaven will not be an eternal church service nor will it be just sitting on a cloud playing a harp forever. Heaven is a place where we will be doing the work of God and some will be leading others and ruling cities. Yeah. Think about what it would be like if all of a sudden Seattle was placed under your control.

If there was something I would have liked explained more in the book, it’s natural evil. I really don’t think the fall is sufficient to explain it all. After all, if our scientific history is correct, there were earthquakes and such before the fall. There also is the case of animal predation. Why does a porcupine have quills except to defend it from predators? Dembski argues that God made the world knowing about the fall in advance, which is true, but also raises the question of what did happen there. I would have liked to have seen more from Jones on this front as natural evil is usually one of the biggest hurdles that is raised.

Jones’s book is not just good apologetics. It’s also good for Christian practice. Jones doesn’t just equip you with answers and understanding, but he also shows you where you need to develop and how the problem of evil really begins with you. He also reminds you to put your hope in the future promise of God.

I recommend Jones’s book, but be prepared when you read it. Be ready to take look at yourself. You might not like what you see. Again, evil seems easy to complain about when it comes to people outside of you. It’s not as pleasant when you realize you are part of the problem.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Are People Inherently Good?

Are we inherently good? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to say at the outset that much of my thinking on this is influenced by Clay Jones’s book Why Does God Allow Evil? I would like to say the thinking was all mine, but it was not. I am near the end of Jones’s book and I do hope to review it when the time comes.

Saturday while I was out driving I heard the end of a radio talk show asking if people are good or evil inherently. I tried to call in and answer, but they never got around to me. Since I didn’t get to say what I think on the air, why not say it here?

After the flood, we are told that humans have their every inclination to evil. We all know that a child has to be trained to be good. Being evil is something that seems to come naturally to us. Why do we not often notice this? It is because we live in a culture that has been so Christianized that we no longer consider how radical the Christian ethic was at its time. Today, we look at slavery as something that is just obviously wrong. Go back to the first century Roman Empire and try to convince your average citizen of that. Good luck.

One point Jones brings out is about genocide. Who are the people who do genocide? We would normally think of these people, probably from watching movies and TV shows, as the classical villains who do nothing but think about evil all day long and delight in death and destruction. Not really. Many of the people who ran the concentration camps of the holocaust would be people who would go home and be excellent parents and spouses and be really kind to their neighbors. So what kind of people were they ultimately?

People like you and me.

Really. There is not a great gap separating people capable of genocide. This was found out even further by the Milgram experiment. At the instruction of an authority figure, ordinary people would do actions that could have in other circumstances led to the killing of an innocent human being. You can read about that here.

If you at this point in fact start to think that you are better than the person committing genocide or the person who gives the lethal voltage in the Milgram experiment, congratulations. You have already taken the first step in becoming that person who is committing genocide and capable of giving lethal voltage. You have already assumed that you are incapable of falling like that.

Consider the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. We look at it and see the problem of the Pharisee saying that he is not like the tax collector. What’s the problem then? We go and say “God. I thank you that I am not like that Pharisee.” Oh, we might not explicitly say that, but that is a thought that can come into our minds. Most of us, as much as we don’t want to admit it, are more like the Pharisee than the tax collector.

In the video game Earthbound, at one point the party of heroes goes through a cave and the main character realizes his thoughts are being broadcast on a wall in written form for all to see. Most of us would want to flee out of such a cave as quickly as possible. Most of us I suspect know about the evil inside of us and the thoughts that come through our heads where we wonder “Where did that come from?”

In fact, our society seems to have lost the idea of virtue. I have been considering lately how so many books and such deal with feelings people have, and in a sense, that needs to be dealt with, but very rarely do we deal with the character of a person that can lead to those feelings. The problem we often have is not fixing ourselves, as in our character flaws and such, but fixing how we feel about ourselves.

So where do I come down? People can do good, but the example given on the show was would you pick up a $20 bill for someone if you saw them drop it and they didn’t notice? The sad reality is someone like Hitler might just do that and then go back and gas thousands of Jews and see no wrong in it.

When you see someone doing evil, realize that if it weren’t for the grace of God, you could be that person. This is what makes forgiveness such a key issue. We forgive because God has forgiven us and that could just as easily be us. We need to show mercy because were it not for grace, we could be that person. We need to be desiring that that person grow in character and virtue instead of being where they are.

This should result in humility in all of us. We are all capable of great evil and we must all watch ourselves and be building ourselves up to be the persons that we need to be so we don’t become those people who do evil. Never once do we need to say that we are above a certain sin. If we think that, we are far more prone to fall into it.

And of course then, we must all rely on Christ more and more. The cross is the demonstration of His love for us and to that we must return. At the foot of the cross, we all realize we’re fallen and evil.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 8/2/2014: Clay Jones

What’s coming up on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLLL! Evil is a favorite playing card of many an atheist on the internet as well as prominent atheists in public debate. If there is a God, why is there so much evil in the world? In fact, many times, isn’t God the cause of all this evil in the world?

Of course, this is a serious objection for many to theism and in order to help address it, why not talk to a serious authority on the issue? That’s why I’m having Dr. Clay Jones of BIOLA come on my show this Saturday to talk about the problem of evil.

So who is Clay Jones?

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According to his bio:

Clay Jones holds a doctor of ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is an associate professor in the Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics Program at Biola University. Formerly, Clay hosted Contend for Truth, a nationally syndicated call-in, talk-radio program where he debated professors, radio talk show hosts, cultists, religious leaders, and representatives from animal rights, abortion rights, gay rights, and atheist organizations. Clay was the CEO of Simon Greenleaf University (now Trinity Law and Graduate Schools) and was on the pastoral staff of two large churches. Clay is a contributing writer to the Christian Research Journal and specializes in issues related to why God allows evil. You can read his blog at clayjones.net and find him on Facebook.

So what are we going to be talking about when it comes to the problem of evil?

There will be four parts to this. The first one is why is it that we suffer for the sin of Adam. Why is it that because one man and woman ate a piece of fruit so long long ago that the rest of us have to suffer for it today? How can it be that a good God would allow this? Why put us in a situation where already we’re in a deficit?

Second, what about the nature of humankind. What does it mean to be a human and what difference does this make to the problem of evil? Why is it that we see human beings as moral agents but we don’t tend to view animals in the same light?

Third, free-will. This often comes up in these debates but what about the nature of free-will. Does it make a difference? Why should God even allow free-will if it will lead to all this evil? Could God not have created a world where we would be free but there will not be all this evil?

Finally, what about the after-death? Does Heaven play any role whatsoever in what we are experiencing in this life? What about the fact that some people will not make it to Heaven in fact?

All of these are important aspects of dealing with the problem of evil so if this is a question that interests you, be listening to the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday, and please leave a positive review of the show on ITunes! I would greatly appreciate it!

In Christ,
Nick Peters