Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 5

Does Jelbert have a refutation of why we suffer? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This chapter is a response to Bruce Little’s essay on why Christians suffer. At the start, Jelbert (Whose work can be found here.) says “You could say that this is evidence for the consistency of God, rather than evidence for God in the first place.” I agree. In this chapter, we are looking to see if Christianity can provide an adequate explanation for why we suffer.

Now Jelbert says this, but does he go there? I am not convinced he does. For one thing, one of the first things pointed out is that indeed, not all things happen the way we want to. Jelbert talks about prayer studies and other such things. I have never been convinced by prayer studies. You have to ask who is praying for who and assume that God is going to answer like a machine would. If any husband has a wife out there, they understand this. What will make your wife happy and please her one day will thoroughly annoy her the next. There are way too many variables with prayer studies.

Jelbert can also speak about the No True Scotsman fallacy for people who aren’t Christians. The thing is, I think this can be the case sometimes. If someone says it every time, it is indeed a cop-out, but there are many people who have a said faith rather than a lived faith. I think people can openly apostasize and such, but we should not use the claim too easily that they weren’t a real Christian. Real Christians can do evil. All I need to know that is to look in the mirror.

The problem with objections here is that the Christian position is that God does know data that we shouldn’t. Why on Earth should this be a surprise? If there is a God, I suspect He knows loads more about reality than I do. I suspect He knows more than all humans that have ever lived combined. What Jelbert needs to do is show that there is no good reason for what seems to be needless suffering. This is one reason in fact that the logical problem of evil is not really debated. The emotional and existential one is, but not the logical one. It is granted there is no logical inconsistency between the existence of God and evil.

Jelbert also says that the idea that evildoers will be punished seems to hopeful, but this seems odd grounds for rejecting an idea. You reject it because it seems too hopeful? Jelbert says this is common sense to want this and thus not evidence for God, but he said at the start this is not about evidence for God, but rather consistency for God. One of the great things about Christian theism is that it does explain that evil will be judged.

In fact, I consider this a major point. Evil is a problem for every worldview and not just Christianity. Atheism needs to explain the existence of real evil and based on Jelbert’s chapter on morality, I do not think Jelbert has an explanation. I say that with some hesitancy because in this chapter it looked to me like Jelbert was jumping all over the map. My point still is that we all have to explain it.

As I write this, it was just yesterday that we learned about a shooting in Las Vegas that killed and injured several. This was evil. In my worldview, I have no hesitancy saying that. Now I need to explain this evil. I think a lot of Christians who had no room to explain evil in their worldview due to not thinking about it were left reeling.

Atheism also has to explain it. One major difference is that Christianity I think can provide hope. It’s a wonder that evil should be seen as a problem for Christianity since evil is one of the things Christianity is meant to address. It’s why we have the cross.

Jelbert spends the rest of the chapter talking about abuse in the church as a result of the Scriptures. He goes to Romans 13 and says that people in the pew view what is said from the pulpit as the commandment from God. That is indeed part of the problem. People in the pew do not educate themselves enough to know how to assess what a pastor is saying.

Jelbert then says that because of this, we have a group of people who think they are ordained by God to dictate the behavior of their subordinates. Overall, I think Jelbert is being too harsh here. I have been to many bad churches, but I don’t think any of them really match what I see here. Still, there are cases, so let’s get to them.

Bill Gothard is one. I recommend that people go to Midwest Outreach like I did. There, you can do a site search like I did and find numerous critiques of Bill Gothard. Mark Driscoll is another one, but again, the church quickly did point out that we have numerous problems with this kind of behavior.

I just want to know that if Jelbert wants to do this, will he be consistent? Will he say that Stalin and Mao and Pol-Pot were being consistent with atheism? Sure, not all atheists are murderous dictators just like not all Christians are power-hungry leaders, but does Jelbert really think that the kind of leadership being done in some churches is really what Jesus had in mind? On the other hand, there is no one to have anything in mind for the murderous dictatorships of atheist rulers. All they have to say is that there is no God and then what tenet of atheism are they violating?

Jelbert goes on to say that if you take the theology seriously, then you believe that all is of God and God is good so that everything that happens must be good. You can then call evil good. Unfortunately (For Jelbert), the Bible doesn’t do this. It calls some things evil and wicked. All that God created is good, but not all that happens is good. Even Romans 8 pointed to at the start does not say all things are good. It says all things work together for good, and even then, only for good to them that love the Lord.

As someone who takes theology seriously, let me be clear.

Evil is real.

Jelbert also writes about situations where the church seems to forgive the abusers and abuse the victims. This does happen, but it’s not just in the church. How many women have been blamed for rape because what they were wearing was asking for it? To say we are all sinners doesn’t work. Even sinners have to accept consequences here. David was forgiven of his sin, but there were still consequences. I wholeheartedly condemn abuse and I am stalwart in my insistence that the church needs to get its act together.

I also agree with Jelbert that if all we do is pray, we have to wonder about what we’re really doing. Now in some cases, yes, prayer is all you can do, but if you can do more, then you’re in error to not do so. Interestingly, James would say the same. If you just go to your brother and say “Be of good cheer” and do nothing to meet his needs, you have not helped him.

Jelbert ends by saying that he is not trying to show that God does not exist here, but that the evidence is insufficient to accept it. Once again, it looks like he has forgotten that the chapter is not about the positive case but rather a consistent case. Jelbert has not shown an inconsistency in Christianity. He has shown an inconsistency in how it is lived out. That does not show it to be false at all. If he wants to say Little neglected to point out the suffering in the church caused by bad leadership, then I say Jelbert can be dismissed similarly because he failed to mention the suffering caused by wicked atheist leadership. If that does not work for Jelbert, then neither is it an argument against Little.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thanks To The Fallen

Are we taking the time to remember today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I could have done a book plunge today, but I will hold off for tomorrow. Today is Memorial Day after all, and I want to write something to honor those who are no longer here. It’s sad as I think about it that the people I want to honor the most with this post are the ones who cannot read it. Hopefully, those who can read it will live their lives in honor of the ones who can’t.

As I write this, I sit in my apartment without fear of death from opposing forces. I will drive to my in-laws with my wife today and I won’t be worried about driving through enemy territory and having to dodge bullets and such. I will have regular meals today and I will be able to get a hot shower this morning and sleep in a warm bed tonight. I will do all of this with my wife of nearly seven years by my side.

The fallen don’t have that.

They died in fact not sleeping in the beds that I do and woke up every day knowing they could be walking into enemy territory. They didn’t enjoy the meals that I am able to enjoy at home. Some of the men overseas might have had girlfriends that they were writing to back home. They will never get to marry those girlfriends. They will never be husbands or fathers or eventually grandfathers.

Those families will always have an empty chair at Thanksgiving. Christmas will always be a reminder of what was lost. Mother’s Day could be a day of sadness for some Moms as Father’s Day could be for some Dads. Children are supposed to weep at the graves of their parents. It’s not meant to be the other way around.

Why is this? Because there are some wicked people in this world. Because war sadly happens at times. No. I am not a pacifist. At the same time, war is not anything we should celebrate. It is a tragedy that it happens. It is a tragedy that the innocent die because of the sins of the wicked.

My wife has been working lately on being more thankful. On this day, should I not be thankful? Should I not realize that all that I have is a gift. Whenever I kiss my wife, I am doing something that some man will never get a chance to because of his early death. I get to enjoy a meal that they won’t and I get to sleep in a warm bed while they are in the sleep of death.

So if this is what is going on, then why are we celebrating? Why are we having barbecues today and not sitting around in mourning? Why? Because I think the fallen would want us to celebrate. They died so we could be free. They want us to celebrate and appreciate that freedom. Don’t think I say this for some benefit of my own. I don’t really care for food. I don’t eat burgers or hot dogs or any of that stuff. I’m just not a food person.

Still, the best way to honor a gift you have been given many times is to live enjoying it. Here we have been given the gift of freedom. That freedom has come at a price. Just visit a place like Arlington Cemetery and you can see the price of freedom. We should celebrate it, but not take it for granted. Every day we have is a gift. Every moment with our loved ones is a gift. Every blessing we have over here is a gift.

To the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and everyone else who has lost someone, my great sympathies for your loss, but also thank you. Thank you for helping produce someone of such a caliber in virtue that they were willing to die for people they would never even know. You have suffered a great loss. Nothing I say here could ever truly make up for your loss. Until eternity, there will always be a hole in your hearts missing that loved one, as it should be. They should never be forgotten.

And to those fighting right now and being in the service, today we honor the fallen, but let it never be that we forget your current sacrifice. I always try to thank a policeman or someone with military experience when I see them. I have the greatest respect for people who have lived their lives willing to take bullets, so the rest of us don’t have to live with that fear. When you in the military go out to fight our battles, remember the fallen and honor them with your service.

Happy Memorial Day everyone. God bless you and God bless our troops and may God honor the fallen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters