Theology And Suffering

Where do we live? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have said a lot this week about atheology and the idea that we have God in a specific niche for how He is supposed to work in the world. Atheists think that God is not filling this niche and then abandon theism. We need to realize that we can be just as prone to that kind of thinking where we see God on a functional basis. God is not the ground of being, but rather a being who fills in the gaps for us and is supposed to comfort us. This has been known as moral therapeutic deism.

Final Fantasy IX has as its intro a song called “A Place To Call Home.” That’s really what we are to think as theists. This world is supposed to be our home. Yes. I am going to dispute the song that says “This world is not my home. I’m just passing through.” This world was created for God to dwell with man forever in, and if we read the end of Revelation, He has not abandoned that plan.

When we have suffering in our lives, we can dwell on it and get stuck in and let it consume us. Note I am not saying to never be depressed. When something tragic happens, by all means mourn. I am not telling you to be a stoic and to suppress all emotion and never feel sad.

That being said, there comes a time when you have to move on with your life. My divorce hurt immensely when it happened, but I couldn’t stay there. Did I have to spend some time mourning? Yes. Some times will take longer than others and to some extent I still mourn everyday, but when it comes to fighting evil in my own life, I couldn’t stay there.

If we focus on ourselves in the evil, we will likely have an entitlement mindset and think that we are even owed by God the solution that we want to our problem. It’s easy to go from “God didn’t do what He was supposed to” to “God doesn’t care about me” to “God doesn’t exist.”

However, we can also go another route and say that we are aware of the evil and we are going to do something to fight against the evil. I make it a point to try to help men who are going through divorce now whenever I can. I have been pleased to hear that my forthrightness has been a blessing to some men. I don’t want any man to walk this road alone.

That sense of injustice that we can have can drive us to do something about evil. If you think sex trafficking is an evil, you’re more prone to do something about it. The same with abortion or cults or anything else out there. Rather than give up on what you see as a problem, you go out there and do your part to help deal with the problem.

Yet I need to say one more thing about suffering. Some people can get so caught up in themselves and their suffering that they can think that they don’t belong at all in the world. We can claim the internet has led us to have global connections, but we have also missed local connections. How well do you know your next-door neighbors? Do you even know them at all? I notice living in an apartment complex on a seminary that most of us when we go home at the end of the day, we stay there.

It’s easy to feel alone in the world and feeling alone can easily lead to an idea that you don’t belong, especially when suffering hits. This can then lead to suicide. In order to think that is the best response, in some level, you must have built in an idea of God that He is supposed to do XYZ or else He doesn’t love you.

To a degree, it makes sense to us, but it is also very much focused on ourselves. One of the greatest helps we could have to dealing with suffering is to have good doctrine about God and our relationship to Him. That has made a tremendous difference in the suffering that I have experienced. If you are thinking this way, please go somewhere like here. Reach out to someone. You are not an accident and you do belong here.

Please.

Possibly tomorrow we will return to reviewing the atheist book I have been reviewing.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth.)

Atheology and the Problem of Evil

What kind of God should deal with evil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about a certain idea of God that many evangelistic atheists have. We could describe this as a functional god. This god is meant to explain the universe. This god is meant to be a presence to me in suffering.

When it looks like the universe works scientifically on its own and that there is no emotional presence, then atheism seems rational to these people. Let’s consider another aspect of this. What about evil?

Too often, we theists have been on the defensive end in this area. It is up to us to explain why a good God allows evil. What never seems to go answered is “Why should God be obligated to deal with evil at all, let alone in XYZ manner?” To say that God has to deal with evil is to assume that God has an obligation to us.

Note I am not saying that God will not deal with evil. I am questioning the why He will and the how and when of His doing so. If an atheist says that God needs to deal with evil, they have in mind a certain theology of the God that they think should defeat it, but what is this God like? We need to know.

For instance, why should God have to deal with what we deem to be a problem on our terms? Why should He have to deal with it as a being with unlimited resources in a way that we think is amenable to our limited resources? You need more of an answer than “I want Him to” or “If He really loved us, He would do it this way.” Why?

Could it be that evil really became a problem when we thought the universe was meant to be a place that was just to make us happy and that it was all about us? I get that people have talked about suffering and wondered about it for awhile, but at the same time, they didn’t jump to atheism. Job and his friends never doubted the reality of the deity, but just debated what He was like.

The problem of evil is in many ways asking a question about justice. Will there be any justice in the universe? We often have the saying of justice delayed is not justice denied, and it is true. Just because justice isn’t happening immediately doesn’t mean it’s not happening at all.

A Christian specifically views this world as intentional and while this world is not all about our happiness, it is meant for us to live in. We were made for this place. In a sense, this is our home. Someone else like Richard Dawkins will instead look at the world and say in River Out of Eden.

“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

Yet if this is the way the universe is, then why do we have this longing for justice? Why do we cling to ideas of good and evil? Does Dawkins? Not at all. Look at any moral crusade Dawkins goes on, whether he’s right or wrong in it, he certainly thinks he’s going out for something good. He certainly thinks science is a good worth pursuing. He certainly thinks Christianity is damaging to young people.

And this is what we really need to be asking atheists. What is this idea of good that you hold to? What is this idea of evil? We use these terms and speak about them as if we all know what they mean when they really don’t. I, as a classical theist, ask atheists to tell me what they mean by good. If good boils down to what you want and evil to what you don’t want, then you are saying that the universe should bow to your desires and that if God were real, He would do the same. Not much of a god then.

Then, we need to go beyond that and ask what their idea of God is like. Yes. Atheists have an idea of what God would be like if He existed. One such seems to be He would deal with evil in such and such a way in such and such a time. They also think that this is an obligation on His part.

There is another point I would like to make on this and this is in the question of suffering, but that is for another day.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: Improbable Issues With The God Hypothesis Conclusion

Any final comments? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It is always something good to finish off another poorly argued book. So how does this chapter end?

As I embarked on this endeavor, I aimed to prove to myself that such unbelief was warranted; that such doctrine held so dear by many was nothing more than wishful thinking. I once wanted to believe in a higher power and that an unseen force perhaps carried my being along as I moved along this life that I am currently living – that the pain that I’ve experienced as a child wasn’t all in vain. I was ignorant of the beauty and mystery that existed, without the need to believe that God was the one responsible. I found that I had the ability to learn and see for myself that such a view was obtainable, and that a belief system built on nothing but fanciful tales offered nothing that could answer the questions I had. I know such a way of thinking is possible, and as such I know this is possible for anyone. We are all humans, and with that, we all have the chance to look at the evidence, admit when we have been wrong and work towards a better understanding of this world. My final realization was a simple one.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 136). Kindle Edition.

It’s always amazing how these people still cling to a personal testimony years later. Amazing. As for answering the questions Brucker had, I found it to be pretty simple for the most part. The ones I can say I don’t know to, such as the scientific ones, don’t matter to the ultimate claims of theism and Christianity anyway.

One obvious problem is that Brucker was answering questions, which is fine, but his questions were being ignored. He recounts some stories of this happening in Sunday School and other such events. Pastors and youth leaders. Hear this. If you have a student who is asking questions, never silence or ignore them. If that means you have to do extra work to answer their questions, then do it. Avoid it and you are on the fast track to creating an atheist.

What got my curiosity going was perhaps spurred by my grandfather – an avid fan of Real Time with Bill Maher. While watching the HBO program with my grandfather one night, Maher advertised his then-upcoming documentary Religulous. It sounded like an interesting piece at that time, so once it was released, I purchased a copy and watched it with grandfather. We had a few laughs, but most of all it sparked something inside of me, constructing a question that I still struggle to answer today – Is this popular belief as warranted as was once portrayed to me?

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (pp. 137-138). Kindle Edition.

I went to see Religulous shortly after it came out. It sparked a lot of questions in me. Namely, how ignorant does someone have to be to think that this is a powerful critique of religion? You can find my review here.

Brucker goes on to describe struggling in AA because people would attribute so much of their success to God. I find it more concerning that Brucker sees people succeeding all around him and is complaining because of God. Perhaps he could have said “Maybe there is something to this if it leads to so many people leading better lives?” That doesn’t make it true, but it is still evidence to consider.

From my memory, I recall a particular quote which effectively ended the notion that God – as he’s been described – may exist; and if he does in fact exist, almost every monotheist religion that’s supported him has failed remarkably. The particular quote was one of Epicurus – a Greek philosopher – and as do most atheists, I regard this as one of my most favorite. It goes as such: “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?”

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (pp. 139-140). Kindle Edition.

The problem is this kind of statement is not even really used by atheistic philosophers anymore. It’s the logical problem of evil and it doesn’t work. That’s not to say all forms of the argument from evil fail, but this one does, and had Brucker just done basic reading on the topic, he would have known that.

Religious faith requires its adherents to relinquish their ability to freely question – perhaps the most beautiful aspect of who we are as human beings.

Brucker, J. D.. Improbable: Issues with the God Hypothesis (p. 140). Kindle Edition.

No. That’s fundamentalism. I freely question and I celebrate anyone who asks questions. Questions are incredible and wonderful and worth exploring.

At any rate, this book is not worth your time and money. I read this stuff so you don’t have to.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 12

Is there such a thing as necessary evil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Once again, David Johnson is back, unfortunately. Let’s see how this one goes.

You can suffer without any evil being done. It can simply be the consequence of living in this world. Before sin, suffering was possible. Presumably, falling down a hill would have still left a mark. On the other hand, evil can be done without anyone suffering. One only needs to displease god by acting against his desire. It might make you happy, and benefit people around you. But to god, it is still evil, and must be punished.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

The problem I see here is there is no clear explanation of what is suffering and what is evil. What is the difference? If all suffering is not an evil, then how can you tell which is which? As I often say when it comes to good and evil, atheists never seem to define their terms.

Johnson says we can have ethics without God. No explanation is given for this. Could we have systems we agree to live by? Sure. (Granted though I don’t think anything could be without God so this is a huge hypothetical) Would they be true systems? On what grounds?

Since evil is both cause and result of sin, it also can’t exist without god. This bears repeating: By Christian formulation, there can be no sin and evil without god.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Well since there couldn’t be anything in existence without God, then yes. The difference is God did not actualize evil. He did not create the reality. He left it a possibility for us and for the angels, but He didn’t make it real.

I wonder if the Kalam Cosmological Argument applies here. Did evil have a beginning? Or was it always in existence? It is a problem for the Christian either way. If evil had a beginning, then it must have the same beginner as all things with a beginning: god. It does not work to say that one of god’s creatures created evil. One wonders how such a thing would even be possible. A creation might choose evil. But evil would already have to exist for it to be a choice. The other option is to say that evil is as old as god. It is as eternal as good. Can there be good without evil? Can morality be represented by a one-sided coin? If good is the only option, then in what way is it good. Evil is a necessary opposite. Some Christians argue that we can’t know a straight line unless we know what a crooked line is to which we can compare it. If that were the case, then god could not have been always good unless there was always evil for comparison.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Johnson has really mastered the art of muddled thinking. On the first, what does it mean something has to exist to be chosen exactly? Does the future exist to Johnson such that I am choosing it? Johnson is treating evil as if it has a real substance on its own, when Christian thinking has always argued against this and said evil is the absence of good or choosing a lesser good over a greater good.

As for the line about a crooked and straight line, you would think Johnson would go back and look at the most likely source of this quote, C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, to see what he said.

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such a violent reaction against it?… Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if i did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus, in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

Lewis argues the exact opposite way Johnson says Christians argue. I only know that something is wrong, because I know there is some idea of what is right.

As we go on, Johnson does get predictable with one Scriptural citation:

That is because god is not only the personification of good, but of perfection. Yet in Isaiah 45:7, god takes responsibility for evil by saying that it is he who creates darkness and disaster.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I have answered that here.

But Christians tell us that god is perfectly good without the option of evil. He does not avoid doing evil. He cannot do evil. That is very different. Evil is not even an option for the one who is the personification of perfect good. So why would evil be an option for his offsprings? The Christian would say that it is so we could freely choose to love him. But that also makes no sense. God is in some kind of love relationship within the triune godhead: the father, son, and spirit. They all choose to love one another without the possibility of evil hanging over them. So we shouldn’t need it to choose love either.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

hmmmm. Let me think about this for half a second.

How about we’re not God? Could that be it? We are not perfect beings who lack nothing. We are limited creatures. God is not limited. God is not in time and does not make choices like we do.

This theodicy of choice is also utterly defeated by the doctrine of heaven. There, we will be like god, perfectly good without the possibility of evil. Yet we will still have our free will intact. Choice offers us no excuse for god allowing the possibility of evil.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Except Heaven is the result of choices. Those who are there are there by choice and are now in a place where they will eternally freely choose the good based on seeing the blessed presence of God. That is not forced. It is chosen.

Not too much later in this chapter, Johnson says:

We have thoroughly explored all the Christian claims that exonerate god for the presence of evil.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Imagine if I wrote about 30 page in a book, and I doubt that this chapter is that long, and I was arguing against position X, be it evolution, Arianism, dispensationalism, old-Earth creationism, anything, and saying “We have thoroughly explored all the claims used to defend this position.”

Yet Johnson thinks he has done this, and without citing ANY scholars that disagree! Amazing!

It is only a rhetorical device to say that god is all good with no possibility of evil.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Again, there is no interaction with church history at this point. Aquinas wrote on this issue, for example You can read that here. Too many atheists seem to raise what they think is an objection, and just stop right there.

In speaking about Eden, Johnson says:

God gave them an order that they couldn’t have possibly understood, or fathomed the consequences. The forbidden fruit imparted the knowledge of good and evil. That means they went out into the world with no real ability to sort right and wrong. They didn’t have the knowledge of good and evil.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Good and evil is a merism. It refers to wisdom in this case. What Adam and Eve were being tempted with was making themselves the center of wisdom.

Everything after here I have already addressed multiple times, but for now, let’s see what’s coming up next. Ah. A chapter on faith and what it is. This should be a train wreck. Who is behind this?

Chapter Eleven Faith: All the Way Down David Johnson Andrew Knight Michael Brady

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Well, after this chapter, I guess we can say that some suffering is self-inflicted.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 9

Is there a case from suffering? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When we go through this chapter, as per the last chapter from Skydive Phil, I will not be responding to scientific matters seeing as I am not a scientist. There are others who are who can handle that. It is the philosophical and theological matters that interest me. Let’s look at this first point Phil has:

Justin’s first point is the theist has many arguments, the cosmological, the fine tuning, the moral etc. and he suggests the atheist has just this one argument (i.e. the problem of suffering) on their side. So weighing the two sides, the theist comes out on top. Of course this is only true if the theists’ arguments are valid. If they are not, then this is irrelevant. You can have as many bad arguments as you like, they don’t add up to one good argument.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

This is true, but I have found that the authors of this book do not understand a lot of the arguments and do not touch the Thomistic arguments. Thus, I contend I still have several excellent arguments. Phil is also not denying the claim that atheists have one big argument, that of evil.

From here, Phil goes on to talk about morality:

Suppose that morality is subjective and not objective. That would still not stop someone from making statements about moral right or wrong. We can still say a painting is beautiful, even if beauty is subjective. We don’t need objectivity to make reasonable statements, especially if people share our aesthetic instincts. Similarly if people share the same moral instincts (and they do), we can find common ground. Justin writes in very black and white terms as if moral questions are binary, either purely subjective and anything goes, or purely objective. “Anything less than an objective standard makes our moral beliefs a matter of opinion and feelings”. But why should we think this?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

So morality is subjective and we can still make statements? If morality is subjective, we are not saying anything about objective reality. We are saying something about our personal preferences and just saying “Other people agree with my personal preferences” doesn’t mean those preferences are right. For instance, if we went back to the Roman Empire, everyone had the “personal preference” that slavery was just fine. Would Phil like to say that back then, slavery was moral?

It’s interesting that right after this he says he found Robert Nozick’s case for vegetarianism convincing. If there is no objective morality, then upon what can such a case be made? Nozick is just stating his personal feelings. In what way could anyone deny that? “I feel like eating mean is wrong.” “No you don’t! You feel like it’s just fine!” The atheist can deny that God exists, but he cannot deny that I think that God exists.

Another confusing statement from Phil is the following:

Literature can also have truthful statements, so the claim that science is the only way to truth is false. ‘The Emperor is the villain in Star Wars’ is a true statement, but not in the same way as ‘The Earth is smaller than the Sun’.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press.

Kindle Edition.

I am glad he doesn’t hold to scientism, but what does he mean he mean these statements aren’t true in the same way? He doesn’t explain. Both of them are true. It’s not that the Earth is smaller than the sun is more true than the emperor is the villain in Star Wars. They are different fields of truth and we could say one is more important than the other, but they are both true.

Being objective usually refers to depending on something outside of mind, and since God has a mind, it just pushes the problem out further: if morality comes from God, then it is not necessarily objective. To counter this, theists claim that God simply is good. But this is pure assertion. When I think of something that is purely objective, I think of something a machine could measure.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Again, people like Aquinas and others for centuries made a case apart from Scripture that God is good that they got straight from Aristotelian thinking. Phil doesn’t touch these cases at all. He doesn’t bother to define goodness.

Also, none of this can be measured by a machine, so per Phil’s standard, how can it be objective? How would you measure goodness using a machine? How would you measure beauty? How would you measure the idea that all objectivity can be measured by a machine?

My moral instincts told me this was wrong. And here comes the problem for Justin’s argument: If my moral instincts come from God, why do they tell me God is immoral? Justin claims we know objectively that rape is wrong. OK, so why shouldn’t we also say objectively that killing every first-born Egyptian is also wrong?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Because moral instincts are not infallible. This was also something taught for thousands of years. There are some beliefs that Christian thinkers said you can’t not know, in the language of Budziszewski. However, there are some beliefs that you can be mistaken about that are moral.

Also, saying the killing of the firstborn is wrong assumes that God is again, Superman. He’s a big man who is on the same moral plane as we are and has to obey a moral law. He’s not. God does not owe anyone life and can take it whenever He wants to.

Have you noticed that when theists try to convince us of the existence of moral facts, they always use cases such as torture or rape, but never genocide? Surely if there is such a thing as moral facts, genocide is chief among them. And this leads to a contradiction: God commands genocide in the bible, so he must not be the source of our morality. When God asks Abraham to kill his own son as a sacrifice, is this not torture? Ask how you might view a person who forced someone to go through a mock execution of their own child (keep in mind they don’t know it’s not going to happen). Would they be guilty of psychological torture? I certainly think so and the International Red Cross rule #90, forbidding torture and degrading treatment, seems to agree.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

There is no interaction with Copan and Flannagan obviously. As for Abraham and Isaac, Isaac was at least a strong teenager by then. Does anyone think he could be taken down by a 100 year-old man? Isaac is shown as a willing sacrifice. Life in the ancient world was a lot tougher than it was for us today. Everyday was about survival.

But God is supposed to be able to predict the future with 100% certainty, so it’s hard to see how free will is consistent with God’s foreknowledge.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Okay. Let’s try a simple idea. God knowing what I would freely choose does not mean that God causes me to choose that. For instance, I did not watch the Super Bowl. Suppose you did and you watched it multiple times because you loved it so much for some reason and you ask me to watch it with you. You know everything that will happen, but it doesn’t mean that you caused it.

In the New Testament we learn that all sins are forgivable except one: Matthew 3 28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 30 Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit. So we have a God that can forgive murder, torture, rape or even genocide but not blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Does this really look like a God that favors free will so much that he reluctantly accepts terrible human and animal suffering? I think it’s clear this argument is extremely implausible.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

The reason blasphemy against the Spirit is not forgiven is because it is a lifelong sin in that someone refuses to believe the Spirit. If you do not believe, you cannot be forgiven. It is not a one-time deal. It is something done forever.

1 Samuel 15 is cited as an example of genocide but added with “Why did the animals suffer?” What is assumed is that this is wrong, but he doesn’t tell us why. I am not supporting going out and wanton killing animals, but not all of it is wrong. If hunters didn’t kill the deer population to some extent, for instance, there would be more deaths from traffic accidents involving deer. In this case, the people were not to profit from a holy war at all.

If Jesus is God, does it really make sense for him to ask why he himself has abandoned himself? If Jesus doesn’t know the future how is he able to make predictions and do miracles? It seems he has God’s properties when it’s convenient for the Christian.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Hint. If you are going to argue against the Trinity, try to learn about it first. This is like the anti-evolutionist asking “If people came from apes, why are there still apes?” It has been a traditional Christian position that Jesus gave up access to a lot of His divine attributes except for when they were necessary to His mission.

Next time, we will deal again with David Johnson talking about miracles.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 8

Is suffering worse than you think? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So we have another chapter by David Johnson….

Sometimes I wonder why I went into this field….

This time, he’s going to try to convince us that the problem of evil is worse than we think.

One of the best tactics of the Christian is to so confuse the issue with philosophical high-speak that no one can be certain of anything. Making a thing philosophically possible is like saying in the vast world of quantum physics, anything is possible. You don’t have to be a physicist to know that in the part of the world we inhabit, anything is not possible. No matter how confused someone attempts to make you with talk of physics, you know that when you step out of bed, you are not going to fall through a swirling vortex of time-traveling tachyons, and find yourself whisked into another world.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Unfortunately, no example is given of this. Also, I find it marvelous how incredulous and gullible Christians are on the one hand, and then on the other they’re capable of philosophical high-speak. If Johnson is interested, I will back anything I say philosophically. Second, with this example, why do we think that? If the universe is a brute fact and just an accident, why not? Why should I expect the laws of physics to be constant? However, if they are, doesn’t that need an explanation?

This is one of those times when the Christian does not carry the emotional argument. The emotional argument is against them. But it is not just emotional. It is intuitive. god is supposed to be a loving father. If you are a loving father, or have had a loving father, you know that loving fathers do everything in their power to limit the amount of suffering experienced by their children.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Kudos at least on this. Johnson admits this is an emotional argument. That doesn’t make it false, but it should be considered. We also know that the analogy isn’t always true. Sometimes, loving fathers let their children suffer for their betterment or any number of reasons.

A couple of years ago after my divorce I worked at a Wal-Mart and I worked the money center where at times I had to send money orders. One day, a man comes in wanting a money order and as I’m placing it I hear him say “I don’t want to do this.” This is where I go into my ministerial mode and ask about it.

He tells me about a son that he has in Florida (I think it was. The exact state doesn’t really matter.) This son is wasting his life away and needs money constantly to pay for things. The man said he and his wife were spending their savings as a result.

“Then don’t send him the money.”

“Then he’ll go to jail!”

“And it could be the best thing that ever happened to him. Right now, you are rescuing him from the consequences of his actions every time. He’s not going to learn that way and you’re running yourself ragged.” I heard the man on the phone then talking to his son and saying that this was going to be the last time.

Not too long after, the man came running back in on the phone and talking to who I found was his son saying “I’m talking to Nick,” indicating this guy now knew who I was. The man told me he had rushed red lights to get back before the money center closed because his son had told him he had sent the money wrong. I looked at his receipt and told him everything was correct and then told him he had just now worn himself out again over his son and made his son’s problem his own instead.

This loving father needed to let his son fail. He needed to let him suffer.

Also, God is not a “Father” in the same sense to everyone. We all come from Him, but not all are children of Him in the covenant sense. God is also not Superman in that He is not just a big man. He can do things no one else can do, like know the future and right any wrong out there, bring about a resurrected cosmos, and raise the dead.

Next we have a set of questions about the Garden of Eden. Why was anything forbidden? Quite likely because people needed to have the freedom to fail. “Quite likely?! So you don’t know for sure?” Don’t need to. All I need is a possible explanation. The burden is on Johnson to prove his case.

Why was the serpent allowed in? Same reason. Why do we pay for Adam’s sin? I contend you don’t. You will answer for your sin only. You have a sin nature, but you repeat Adam’s sin everyday in your own way.

In talking about the free-will defense, Johnson says:

We have something that functions a lot like free will.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I puzzle over what this means. Okay. What do we have? Semi free-will? And if we don’t have it, what do we know that does have it so we can know what it is like? Johnson doesn’t explain any of this at all.

Far from a paradise, this earth is a death trap. And it is really good at killing its occupants. But the earth doesn’t just kill us. It makes us suffer. Most of it is water in which we cannot breathe. Large portions of it are too hot and sandy, or too cold and icy. The parts of the surface where we can live are full of sharp edges that are hard and unyielding. Have you seen a human body? It does not hold up well when thrown against sharp, hard, unyielding surfaces. Many of the animals want to kill us. The foliage wants to prick us or poison us. The sky wants to burn us or give us cancer. At higher climates, the thin air wants to suffocate us. In many populated parts of the world, the land wants to starve us. It is a wonder any of us survive. No matter how the Christian argues it, from the fall, to free will, to disease, to nature, God is the sole author of our suffering. And though he could lift it, he is content to watch it unfold before him. The only question that remains is why. Again, Christian answers undersell the problem:

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I strongly suspect Mr. Johnson lives in a building with heating and air conditioning, a refrigerator, a locked door, indoor plumbing, a warm bed, and many fine comforts of life. Not every inch of this planet is a death trap or else we wouldn’t have some nigh 8 billion people on the planet. Somehow, we have survived for several thousand years if not longer.

Some people say that we build up the character of who we will be in eternity:

But why do we need character building for the next life? Is heaven also going to require honesty, hard work, and social responsibility? If it is, what makes anyone think that suffering in this life will prepare us for it?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I contend that the reason is the degree that we have developed good character is parallel to the degree that we can enjoy God in the next life. We are letting ourselves be made more and more into beings that can enjoy the presence of God. People like Johnson are doing the opposite making themselves into beings that will detest the presence of God.

Paul tells us that god is strong in our weakness. Why would we praise that? Why can’t god be strong when we are strong? The god of the Bible would rather us be timid stutterers so that we can’t take any credit for a powerful speech.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

I shared that quote on my Facebook along with this response:

As someone on the spectrum, I do praise in my weakness. Someone who can easily communicate gets up and speaks to 1,000 people. That’s good. Someone who used to be unable to be understood by those outside his family and had speech therapy does the same? That’s different.
My parents were told growing up that I would never graduate from high school (First on the spectrum in my county to graduate from the public school system), never drive, (I do and have my own car), never go to college (working on a Master’s now), never have a job (I have had several), never get married (divorced now, but pray for remarriage every night), and never live on my own. (I live in my own apartment over 600 miles away from my parents.)
I love advantages I have on the spectrum, such as my memory, math skills, less fazed by emotional arguments, and ability to multi-task.
Are there difficulties? Yes. I have to have someone go with me when I have to do evangelism offline since one-on-one communication is hard. I struggle in relationships with women many times making dating hard. I can’t recognize many social cues. I don’t know what to do in a crowd and groups involving meals fill me with anxiety.
Yet everyday I see myself defying what was said about me and autism and I attribute that to the grace of God in my life. I have my own website, a Patreon for those who want to support my work, and hope to soon have the podcast and YouTube channel up again.
So yes Mr. Johnson. I celebrate how God made me and His grace. If I had been made neurotypical, my life might have been easier in many ways, but it wouldn’t be the example that it is now.
Let’s go with one final quote from the chapter:

From the moment you were born, god knew the kind of filthy, no-good subhuman you would turn out to be. And you deserved every second of suffering you received. You probably deserved even more.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes. If God is holy and just and perfect, then I do. It is grace indeed that we get forgiveness. We did nothing to deserve that. The gospel is not that God loves us because we deserve it. He loves us despite that we don’t deserve it. That is what makes it incredible. If we were all really excellent people, it wouldn’t be a shock that He does. We are all instead traitors to the king and yet He gives it all for us.

Maybe step away from the emotion a bit, Mr. Johnson, and you might start to realize the rational arguments.

Next time, Skydive Phil returns to talk about evil as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

 

 

Book Plunge: Still Unbelievable Part 7

What’s it like for someone falling away? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, we return to Sophie and her testimony. I really don’t want to speak ill of her at all. If anything, I have sympathy for her, especially since I think she was sold a false bill of goods on what the Christian experience was to be like. A lot of that will be in the conclusion. For now, let’s see what all she has to say. This one is about the dealbreakers.

With regards human suffering, Lane Craig and other theists on the Unbelievable? show, ultimately concede at some point, that we don’t know why there is so much horrendous suffering in the world but that it must be justified to some extent, as in God must have his reasons, or at the very least, things will be made right in the future. This, of course is conjecture, rather than any type of evidence.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Yet how is this conjecture? If you accept that for the sake of argument there is a God who has the omni traits, then yes, there has to be a good reason why He allows this evil. It is up to the skeptic to show that there is no good reason, and that’s a hard sell to do. Not only this, but what do you gain in the problem of evil if you remove God? The evil is still there. You’ve just removed the solution. How is this a help?

Epicurus puts it best with his idea rejecting the notion of evil with an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. It can of course apply to suffering too. If God willing to prevent suffering, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
If he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
If he both able and willing? Then why is there suffering?
If he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? No amount of books, explanation, sermons and teaching will ever make theodicy go away for Christianity, nor can it, or the issue would be put to bed by now. It’s a continual stumbling block to belief, which is never truly answered, much less an explanation given as to why it has arisen in the first place. And this brings me to my next deal breaker.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

Except it has as even atheists will admit. This is the logical problem of evil and it hasn’t really been used since Plantinga wrote his work on the topic. There are still other versions of the argument from evil, but this one is not really used anymore except on the internet.

With no Satan, hell or human fall, there is no real explanation as to why evil and suffering exist. Even, the free will argument which somewhat relies on these constructs, and states, that if there is no possibility to sin, you cannot have free creatures who liberally come to love you, doesn’t work. This argument, often brought up on the show, completely misses the fact that God can in fact arrange paradise, with free will and exempt from suffering, pain and the devil. It’s called heaven.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

But everyone who is in the blessed presence of God is there by choice. That is a huge distinction and it is one atheists meet regularly. The first time I ever encountered this question was in a systematic theology class when a student asked it and that was over 20 years ago. I thought of the solution then and have spent more time refining it and I still haven’t seen a response to it.

Besides, like human parents, let’s be honest, God could just choose to forgive us. There is no need to murder anyone. It was making less and less sense.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

And again, questions like this have already been answered.

The gospels were oral traditions written decades after the death of Jesus with the earliest being Mark dated at around 70CE and ending with the discovery of the empty tomb, and the latest gospel being John, possibly as early as 90CE. They are all of anonymous authorship and certainly the earliest manuscripts didn’t include the title by which we know them today. They do not claim to be authored by eyewitnesses to any of the events they describe. They are not written by people who knew Jesus. We do not have the originals, only copies of copies of copies of copies of copies. They are written in Greek by educated people living in a different country to Palestine. Jesus’ disciples would have spoken Aramaic, were quite possibly illiterate and were living in Palestine. Jesus himself, other than some writing in the sand, leaves no written record (which would have been very helpful), nor did He ask anyone to make notes as they went along. In addition, major events are undocumented by other sources, such as when the graves spill out their dead onto the streets after the resurrection mentioned only in Matthew. If these are in fact gross error or made up, how are we to distinguish what else is or isn’t invented or erroneous in the text?

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

There’s a lot here and I have written plenty on it elsewhere. Does Sophie know the dates of when other books in the ancient world were written and when the earliest manuscripts are and how far apart the events are from the writing? The Gospels are a goldmine by comparison to most ancient literature.

The books were supposedly anonymous. Are we to think that no one knew who the books came from? Someone delivering the scrolls would say who they were from. We only know who wrote Plutarch because one of his descendants tells us. Other sources are also silent on major events, such as the eruption of Vesuvius and that TWO towns were destroyed in the blast. I plan on doing a series on the Gospels eventually so I will save this for then.

There is a lot of stuff I am going to skip over as I have addressed it elsewhere, but I want to say something about this:

And, it doesn’t even begin to explain why God would prefer to continue hiding when He is apparently desperate to have a relationship with us.

Johnson, David; Knight, Andrew; Atkinson, Ed; Skydivephil; Taylor, Matthew; Brady, Michael; Dumas, Sophie. Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we are still skeptics . Reason Press. Kindle Edition.

This is a great reason why I oppose the personal relationship model in that Christianity is about Jesus wanting to have a personal relationship with you. Christianity is about Jesus being king. There is not a lonely God out there who is desperately seeking to find someone to love.

I hope Sophie finds out sometime soon more information than the atheists have sold her. It’s a shame there weren’t better-informed Christians in her life.

Brace yourselves because next time it’s David Johnson again. *Groan*

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 5

Is there design in the universe? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Mills in this chapter is going to take on intelligent design. Since I’m not an advocate of the movement, it really doesn’t matter to me, but I do want to point out bad arguments he makes along the way. Let’s get started.

The most charitable comment available is that the “First Cause” argument begs the question (i.e., If God created the universe, then who created God? If God always existed, then why couldn’t the mass-energy of the universe have always existed?). A less charitable comment might be that the “First Cause” argument reflects ignorance of the scientific method, in that theological philosophizing is offered as a substitute for independent, empirical verification of one’s scientific conclusions.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 83). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Yes. It has already been dealt with. I just wanted to point out he says it again.

Unaware of biological evolution, medieval man considered the complexity of his own anatomy to be evidence of Divine Creation. The wider the gaps in scientific understanding, the greater the historical need for a miracle-working “God of the Gaps.” Why does it rain? God makes it rain. Why does the wind blow? God makes the wind blow. Why is the sky blue? God made the sky blue. Why does the sun shine? God makes the sun shine.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 85). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

I challenge Mills to show me where these medieval men said this. On the contrary, they were constantly trying to find explanations for why the universe worked how it did. They knew ultimately, God was behind it, but they wanted to discover His methodologies as a way to bring glory to Him. This wasn’t God of the Gaps! They were trying to fill in the gaps!

Naturally, Mills will point to the way that nature is destructive as well as beautiful, but medieval men knew this. Modern Christians also know this. Constant theodicies have been written. Even if hypothetically, they all failed, thus far in my reading, Mills has not bothered to interact with a single one of them.

The reality is Mills and the Christian both have something to explain. The problem is Mills puts the onus on the Christian when the Christian has a ready reason available. Either the world fell when Adam and Eve fell, or God created it not perfect knowing that Adam and Eve would fall anyway.

What Mills has to explain is what Chesterton called the problem of pleasure. if the universe is at its root just random chaos, then why do we find such beauty and order in so many places? Wouldn’t we expect to find more chaos instead? Christianity has to explain how evil entered the world, which is part and parcel of the Christian story. Atheism has to explain how beauty, goodness, and order came from the exact opposite via pure accident. (Even assuming those things being objectively real can somehow be explained on atheism.)

Mercifully, this is a short chapter. We won’t be as lucky with the others.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Perfect World Does Not Exist

What is the perfect? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“We believe God created this world to be perfect for us to live in.”

My evangelism partner said something similar to this as we went door-to-door. I told him I wouldn’t say that. I gave a brief answer why, but why not spell things out more in detail here?

What I am going to say also has really nothing to do with the age of the Earth. I think someone who holds to a young-Earth if they so choose could hold this. I am not interested in a deep debate about the science behind the matters. I am going by simple observational clues. Those who want to debate deeper science can do that, but I realize I am definitely not knowledgable enough in the area to do that.

I was asked after saying that that if this world wasn’t perfect, what was it? That was a simple question to answer. I said what the Bible says. Good. This world was made good.

Could this world even be perfect? What would that entail? After all, the world is going to be changing constantly. Will it be moving from perfect to imperfect? Certainly not. Imperfect to perfect? Then it wasn’t made perfect. Degrees of perfection? In a certain sense, that is understandable, but that still means we don’t have perfect as most of us understand it.

So let’s move on to other points. For one thing, many animals were created with attributes that make no sense in a perfect world. For instance, the digestive system of creatures that eat meat and their teeth are very different from those that eat grass products.

Also, consider other creatures. My favorite example is the porcupine. Did it ever not have quills? Could the chameleon always change its color to hide? Did poisonous creatures suddenly get the ability to pass on poison to targets? What about mayflies? They live an extremely short time. What would happen if they never died?

But what about Romans 5:12? Through sin, death came into the world!

I don’t see any reason to think that this means all physical death. I take it to mean spiritual death, the death due to sin. Consider two points in addition.

First off, why is there a tree of life in the garden if there is no need for man to sustain life? My theory is that man is created potentially immortal, but that would have been by continuing sustenance from the tree of life. God alone is said to be inherently immortal.

Second, God tells Adam and Eve that if they eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they will die. Imagine if He said, “You will florble if you eat the fruit.” My writing here has the word florble underlined red. It doesn’t recognize it. There’s a reason for that. I made it up.

For the threat to have any meaning, the word would have to be understood by Adam and Eve. They had to know what awaited them if they disobeyed. Somehow, they did.

Also, if you do believe God knows the future, then you would have to have it be that this world went from perfect to imperfect, and if it could do that, well, it wasn’t perfect to begin with. However, you also have to know when God made the world, He knew mankind would fall. He knew this world would have evil throughout it soon.

Okay. Well what about Heaven? Will that be perfect? No. It will not.

It will be good and it will have no evil, but imagine this. Could we not add one more person and it would be a better experience? One more angel? Anything like that?

In Heaven, there will be no suffering and no evil, but there will always be ways things could be better because we are all less than perfect by nature. God alone is perfect. Everything else is good and lacking nothing that is fitting for them, but they are not perfect.

The perfect world doesn’t exist.

The perfect God does.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Why Does God Allow Abuse?

If someone has been abused, what do you say about why God allowed it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I wrote about abuse, but I didn’t say much about why it is allowed. This is always the kind of question you don’t really want to get because in many ways, the person is searching for answers perhaps to try to make sense of their lives. Many of us have gone through a trial of suffering and wondered what was going on.

When my divorce was becoming a reality, I prayed hard every night. I wanted a healing for my marriage. I wanted this nightmare to go away and things to be the way they should. I wanted God to show up in a remarkable way, or really just any way, so that the day could be saved and I would have a happy marriage. Surely God would want to do this! Right?

All I can say is God allowed me to get divorced and well, I don’t like it, but I have also learned He didn’t owe me a marriage and I just need to keep serving regardless and hope that door opens again someday. That being said, I know that’s not the same as abuse still. After all, in abuse, you are actively being hurt and seeking an end to pain. I say it though because I want those of us dealing with this to think about what is the greatest pain in our lives we went through that God DIDN’T answer the way we wanted.

The thing is, an abuser in many ways becomes a controller. One lives constantly with the pain that has come about because of the abuse. This is something that occurred to me as I had to move in to my parents’ house again after my divorce, feeling like a failure in many ways as a 40+ year-old man having to do this again. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to them for taking their son in again, but it wasn’t where I wanted to be as much as I love my parents.

Yet I told myself that I have been playing games all my life. Will I not try to approach this the same way? I can either keel over and be a victim, or I can get up and be a victor. The motto “Play to Win” became an anthem in my life.

Ultimately, I also encourage people to do this. Choose to be a victor. I know some people going through divorce can seek revenge. I earnestly battle not to within myself. The only exception is this other saying I try to live by. “The best revenge is a life well-lived.” Holding hostility does no good.

For abuse victims, I wonder if it could be the same. Can you learn to be a victor? Can you be able eventually to forgive internally at least your abuser? Could you want their well-being to take place? I think about someone I have met who has made a ministry from overcoming her abuse to helping others overcome abuse. You can find her here.

Yet the question is still unanswered. Why does God allow it?

Why?

Folks. Unless you are 100% absolutely sure that you have a divine message, which I seriously doubt you do, the best answer is really, “We don’t know.” Does that mean atheism is true? Not even close. If anything, atheism just makes the problem worse. As I have argued elsewhere, you gain nothing removing God from the equation. After all, you still have the evil. You have just removed the source of goodness and justice.

We can say generally the reasons God allows evil, but why a particular evil is allowed? That cannot be said without divine revelation. Too often we in an effort I suspect to appear spiritual try to act like we know the will of God. We do more harm than good. Scripture instead tells us to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep.

There are good works out there on the problem of evil, but the best answer to one in the pain is not an argument. It is a friendship with them. It is showing them love and being willing to bear their suffering with them. Will there come a time later to discuss the problem of evil? Of course, and it should be done when the person is ready.

Some of you might be disappointed by that answer and were hoping for some major insight you could use in this situation. There isn’t one. Evil ruins so much and we need to realize that. We know Jesus is the answer ultimately, but we don’t have all the answers on an individual level. We shouldn’t claim to.

We do know we should love on an individual level.

Let’s do what we know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)