The Problem of Evil, God, and Larry King

For some reason, in the last couple of weeks, I have heard Larry King ask the same question about God. Here is how he phrased it on Twitter:

If God is omnipotent why do tragedies like earthquakes and hurricanes happen? No religious leader has ever been able to answer that for me.

I’m sure this statement is not actually true. He asks religious leaders this question all the time, I’ve yet to hear one who didn’t answer the question!

I think what Mr. King means is that he’s not been satisfied with any of the answers, which is completely different.

What Mr. King fails to realize is that faith leaves us with tension. It leaves us with unresolved issues. Faith is a fight. If everything made sense, if all questions were answered, then you wouldn’t need faith.

Most Evangelical Christian answers to the problem of evil and God are sorely lacking in depth. Most rely heavily on cliches: “God is still on the throne,” “God works in mysterious ways,” and “We don’t know how, but God gets glory out of all things.” They offer surface answers that don’t really cut it in the face of pain. They skip to the easy and happy way too quick.

None of the answers are satisfying to me either. I’ve rarely been impressed by any religious persons answer to this question.

Here are two giant things I know about the Problem of Evil and God:

A) The earliest written book of the Bible is the Book of Job. Job is all about the problem of Evil and God. And guess what? Even when God is directly asked the question, “Why am I suffering?” He refused to answer it. He’s not answering the question. That is, in fact, why we are still asking the question all these years later. God doesn’t answer it. If God didn’t answer it, all our answers are nothing more than human philosophy and speculation.

B) The central point of the Bible is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God was made flesh and dwelt among us. He came unto His own and they did not receive Him. Instead they beat, tortured, mocked, and then crucified Him. He bore in His own body our sin. He was wounded for our transgression. He was bruised for our iniquity. By His stripes we are healed. Evil, pain, and suffering are a major part of God’s plan of redemption. He entered into these things. He embraced the pain.

These two points, although not answering the question, give us a good indicator that whatever God’s attitude toward pain is, He’s not ignoring it. He’s not indifferent. If anything, He feels it more than we ever could.

That may not satisfy you. That may not “answer your question.” But then again, I don’t think God is trying to answer it. Perhaps God is wondering the same thing. “Why, since I’m good, do people go against me and ruin everything?”

Humans may not be the only ones baffled by this.

The Bible doesn’t specifically tell us why He allows evil and suffering to exist. But it does say that you should take care of the evil rampant in your own life. It does tell us to alleviate the sufferings of others. He promises His help and power for both.

Instead of pretending to have existential angst over the general problem of evil so you can deny God and faith for “rational” reasons, perhaps Larry King and we need to deal with our own evil and go from there.

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Owning Success Might Be Your Downfall

Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who got a bumper crop. He built bigger barns to store it so he could retire.

He felt good about his stuff, and good about his plans for the future with his stuff.

He took credit for his work. “I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all MY fruits and MY goods.

It was his! And he was going to use it on himself. He truly felt it was his because he earned it.

Interestingly, the parable earlier showed why the guy had a bumper crop: “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully.”

His success was not attributed to his hard work, his great farming skills, his diligent weeding, nor his genetically modified seeds.

It was attributed to something beyond his control. The ground got the credit.

He thought he made it all happen and it was rightfully his; God thought dirt did it.

How often we attribute our success to our awesomeness, when in reality things entirely out of our control get the credit?

Read biographies of successful people. There’s always a formula, a reason, a path to follow. We adore successful people and eat up their advice about how to follow in their greatness.

Rarely do they ever attribute their success to things they had no control of.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were in the right place at the right time. If they were born 10 years earlier they would not be as successful.

Yet we eat up their advice.

The most popular blogs are about how to have a popular blog. Think about that a second!

Once we take credit for all we do, we’re pretty much on the way to worshiping ourselves or our guru, and God gets left in the dark.

Next thing you know you are serving mammon and not God.

I imagine the same thing is true of many failures as well. What of your failures had little to do with you and much to do with things out of your control?

Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re not nearly as great as you think, but nor are you as pathetic as you think.

You’re just a person, making their way through life, hoping at some point dirt comes through for ya.

But all along the way, we do all things with thanksgiving knowing that all good gifts come from above.

God Has a Problem With Much of What We Don’t Have a Problem With

So much accepted behavior in our day is actually wrong. Not wrong because I or someone else has a problem with it, but because the Bible says it’s wrong.

I’m not talking about the latest efforts of the Liberal Church in making some deviant behavior more acceptable either.

I’m talking about stuff that everyone does. Stuff that no one has a problem with. Stuff that everyone around you is doing.

Saving for retirement, for instance.

Bet you didn’t think I was going there did ya? Who in their right mind would?

Well, Jesus Christ would.

There was a man who had a bumper crop and built bigger barns to store it all in. He said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

He had his money. He had his plan. He was going to enjoy life. He earned it after all. He deserves a break, a nice retirement.

Then he dies that night.

I’ve known many people who are now dead. Many of them had great plans and left behind great stores of goods they can’t use anymore. While saving it for their own consumption, they were not rich toward God.

Saving money for your future enjoyment is a problem with God.

I know, I know, everyone is doing it and only a moron wouldn’t plan ahead for the future.

I’m aware of that.

I’m just telling you what God thinks.

That’s all.

That’s what He thinks about saving for future enjoyment and ease.

That’s what God thinks. The very God you’ll stand in front of some day.

Carry on.

Fighting Over Inheritances and Being Like Christ

One time a guy came up to Jesus and asked Him to make his brother divide the inheritance with him.

Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” is what Jesus said.

I love that.

I love that when a guy wants help in getting money, God in the Flesh refuses to help.

Jesus had a reason for being on earth. Resolving fights over inheritances was not the reason. He would not be pulled into such things. He had focus.

After dismissing the guy’s request, Jesus then says to the crowd around Him, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

Not only does Jesus dismiss the guy, He immediately turns around and makes him a sermon illustration. “Hey people, don’t be covetous like this guy.” I love that.

Jesus then tells a parable about a guy who gets a bumper crop and decides to tear down old barns and build bigger ones. He was going to retire and enjoy life.

But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

So, not only did Jesus refuse the guy’s request and make him a sermon illustration, He then went on to call the guy’s dad, who died and left a bunch of money for his sons to fight over, a fool!

I love Jesus, probably not for the same reasons you do, but alas, I love Jesus. It’s passages like this that make me want to pursue Christ-likeness.

Amen.

The Tithingman

Church services are not always the most thrilling events. Everyone knows this, especially pastors who are in charge of such events. You can’t be on your A Game all the time.

You all have it pretty easy today. Most periods of church history had much longer church services. Marathon sermons and prayers that took up a large portion of your Sunday.

What’s a pastor to do if church services are boring and they last a long time?

Invent a new church office: The Tithingman.

The Tithingman’s job was two-fold.

First, he made sure people actually showed up to church. If he caught you somewhere other than church on a Sunday, or saw you walking through town, he’d jump out and drag you into church. How he did this while being in church himself is still beyond my mental capacities.

Secondly, he made sure people in church were behaving, or as was more likely the case, not sleeping. He was given a long stick. One end was sharp and the other had a softer thing on it, like a feather or rabbit’s foot.

A Tithingman and his stick of discipline. Amen.

The Tithingman would go ahead and whack a sleeping man or an unruly child. Women got the soft end and a little nudge. Either way, they woke up. If you persisted in your disrespect to the church, the Tithingman had the right to punish you, often with time in the public stocks.

Although we often look back at history as darker times and people who were backward, the Tithingman seems like a really good idea. I’m all for it.

Careful Outraged Christians; Your Lack of Faith is Showing

Some of the most freeing verses in the Bible speak of living for a better country, having our conversation/citizenship in heaven, setting affections on things above, and putting our treasure in heavenly places.

These ideas are all over the Bible. The Book of Ecclesiastes has no other theme.

These verses speak of true freedom and liberation from all that entangles people. You cannot break away from sin unless you reject conformity to the world. You cannot overcome by faith if you are walking by sight.

Although this concept is stated in so many ways on so many pages of Holy Writ, and even though so much freedom and peace is promised for those who obey, we sure seem to hate it.

At every opportunity we chuck this concept and go back to minding things of this earth and living for this country.

I’m amazed at how many Christians are upset over NFL anthem protests. Except I’m not, because this is what we always do.

We pay lip-service to Biblical Truth, but when the next earthly distraction comes along (elections, boycotts, protests, presidential tweets, etc.), we’re fighting for our things in this world.

The only way protests would upset you is if your treasure was on earth.

The only way elections would rile you up is if you were minding earthly things.

Boycotts are not only having a problem with an earthly institution, but also using an earthly means to make the point!

I would not kneel during the anthem, but I also wouldn’t get upset if someone did. The anthem is a song (and not a very good one either). It’s about a hunk of land organized by some people.

None of this is eternal.

Yet Christians are taking a stand (no pun intended) on one side or the other about an anthem in a football game.

We’re letting our particular point of contention (politics in football, trampling the flag, disrespecting veterans, etc) trump our concern for individual souls.

Why do we take stands on general issues that will put up hurdles to the Gospel? The Gospel is hard enough for people to like, why do we insist upon making it harder?

If you have to be upset, be upset in the quiet of your own home. Don’t go public with your tirades. It’s not coming across well.

If you’re concerned about the treatment of veterans, then go help them. If you’re concerned about the treatment of blacks, then go help them. Outrage is the lazy person’s uniform.

For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
–James 1:20

If seeing someone kneel during a song gets you upset, you may want to get some of that peace that passes understanding.

It’s peace because it guards your heart. It keeps you thinking on what is good and right and eternal. The more you think on what is good and right and eternal, the more your heart is guarded, and the more peace you have.

(A possible side bonus is that you will actually start caring about things that actually matter, like the spiritual condition of your own family and church.)

Want peace? Want release from the bondage to anger and worry?

Then let go of this world and lay hold on eternal life.

Always Doubt “Prominent” Theologians You’ve Never Heard Of

I’m reading a book written to show that Muslims, Jews, and Christians should all be able to get along since we all hold Abraham highly. We just need to agree on Jesus and everything will be fine.

The book is written by a Muslim, so the majority of the book is written to disprove the idea that Jesus Christ was actually God in the flesh.

If Christians would stop saying Jesus was God, then Jews and Muslims and Christians would be at peace.

One slight problem: if Christians did that there would be no Christianity. Christ being God is kind of our thing.

While attempting to disprove the deity of Christ, the author pulls up many texts and theological books to cast doubts on the person of Christ.

This is not my first theological book I’ve ever read. I’ve been around a while now. I’m adept at spotting signs that a guy is puffing up a weak point.

One tactic he uses frequently is in quoting a theologian (always one who is doubting the divinity of Christ) he says “noted theologian” or “prominent theologian.”

I’m a well-read Christian. I am familiar with all prominent and noted theologians. I’ve heard of just about everyone. If I haven’t heard of them, trust me, they aren’t noted or prominent.

In fact, those are superfluous words. If a theologian is prominent or noted, people would already know them. “Prominent” means “immediately noticeable, widely known.” If you have to inform us he’s prominent, then he isn’t prominent.

This is by no means unique to this particular author. I’m sure the reason he does this is because he’s writing primarily to a non-Christian audience who wouldn’t know a Christian theologian if he smacked them in the face (not that a Christian theologian would ever do that). But I’ve seen this many times, and never once have I read it about a theologian I’ve heard of.

There are a lot of bad theologians out there and a ton of false information. Be skeptical of quotes from “prominent” and “noted” people.

–Written by Jeff Weddle, prominent moron