Jesus On The Problem of Evil – Stand To Reason

This morning, I read a very hard-hitting essay over at Truth 2 Freedom’s blog regarding the problem of evil in this world.

[Note: Scroll down past the long introduction to read the post]

This problem can often be used by those who don’t believe in Jesus as an excuse, or even the ultimate reason to be an atheist or agnostic in their individual personal beliefs regarding Jesus and God the Father.

Several months ago, a young man (who is not a Christian) attended church with our family.  The pastor had pointed out this portion of Scripture during the sermon:

Unchecked Copy BoxJer 17:9“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?*

After the service, our guest complained that such a thing can’t be true of everyone, and he objected to the pastor using that Scripture to make his point.

Well, I sympathized with our guest over the harshness of that verse. No one wants to think of their own “heart as deceitful” or “desperately wicked.” To cool the fire of his objection, I shared the next verse with him:

Jer 17:10
I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.**

The LORD searches our hearts!  So, it DOES MATTER what we hold in our hearts, what we think in our minds, and what we do during our lifetime on this earth!

From Truth 2 Freedom’s blog:

In Luke 13:1–5, we have Jesus’ clearest teaching on the problem of evil:[1]

Jesus’ answer to the problem of evil is that all fallen, unregenerate sinners born in Adam are worthy of death. Whether we die by murder, accident, or disease isn’t anything more than we deserve. It is only by God’s grace that anyone is saved, and it is only by God’s mercy that anyone is kept alive.

What implications does this have for Christian apologetics? At least three:

First, it means that Christian apologists need to take the consequences of sin and the reality of human depravity seriously when addressing the problem of evil.

Second, when addressing the problem of evil, Christian apologists need to present a theodicy that minimally includes the biblical teaching of original sin and human depravity. Why God allows evil won’t make sense unless we have the problem of sin clearly before us.

The subject of sin is vital knowledge…. If you have not learned about sin, you cannot understand yourself, or your fellow-men, or the world you live in, or the Christian faith. And you will not be able to make head or tail of the Bible. For the Bible is an exposition of God’s answer to the problem of human sin and unless you have that problem clearly before you, you will keep missing the point of what it says.

The same is true for the problem of evil. The subject of sin is essential because in raising the problem of evil, the skeptic must put forth an anthropodicy (justification of man) by arguing that man is “basically good” and God is unjust for allowing the suffering and evil He does. In response, the theist must show these assumptions to be false and, in their place, put forth a theodicy (justification of God) that includes evidencing the depths of human depravity and arguing that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing the evil that He does. Until we clearly articulate and defend the gravity of sin as well as the universal corruption and guilt of humankind, many of our answers to the problem of evil will largely remain unpersuasive.[4]

Third, the present moral and natural evils we see are appropriate segues into our need to practice and preach repentance in light of the final eschatological judgment. Those who experience such evils are not any more deserving. Rather, these disasters serve as warnings to all of us that final disaster awaits everyone who remains hardhearted and unrepentant. Clay Jones concludes,

So when disaster strikes, let us not wring our hands over the mysterious ways of God but encourage everyone to reflect on their sinful and doomed state in hopes that some will escape the Final Disaster that awaits the ultimately unrepentant.

Hat tips to all links.

*******

* Portion of a Commentary by David Guzik

3. (Jer 17:9-10) The folly of trusting one’s own heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.

a. The heart is deceitful above all things: To this point the Prophet Jeremiah has given some reason to be cautious about the inclinations and direction of the heart. He noted how the evil heart of the people of Judah had led them astray.
· Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart (Jeremiah 11:8) · They prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart (Jeremiah 14:14) · Each one follows the dictates of his own evil heart, so that no one listens to Me (Jeremiah 16:12)
b. The heart is deceitful above all things: Our hearts often deceive us, presenting heart-fulfillment as the key to happiness. What we desire is often not what we need. The advice “be true to your heart” fails when the heart is deceitful above all things.

i. “In the OT usage the heart signifies the total inner being and includes reason. From the heart come action and will.” (Feinberg)

ii. “The pravity and perversity of the man’s heart, full of harlotry and creature confidence, deceiving and being deceived, is here plainly and plentifully described; and oh that it were duly and deeply considered.” (Trapp)

c. And desperately wicked: The heart is not only deceitful, but also wicked – and desperately so. Many have been led to rebellion, disobedience, and great sorrow by following their heart, without challenging their heart and judging it by the measure of God’s truth. “Follow your heart” is poor advice when the heart is desperately wicked.

i. The sense of the Hebrew for desperately wicked seems to have sickness more than depravity in mind. “Unregenerate human nature is in a desperate condition without divine grace, described by the term gravely ill in verse 9 (RSV desperately corrupt, NEB desperately sick).” (Harrison)

d. Who can know it? The heart’s deceit and wickedness are advanced enough that even the individual may not know or understand their own heart, and outsiders have even more difficulty in discerning the heart of others.

** Portion of a Commentary by David Guzik:

e. I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind: Though knowing the heart of one’s self or others is difficult and sometimes impossible, God searches, tests, and knows the heart and mind. It is wise to trust what God says about us more than what we think or feel about ourselves.

i. I test the mind: “A second word is here set in parallel to heart, literally, ‘kidneys’, hidden depths. These, Yahweh assays or ‘tests’…the two terms ‘heart’ and ‘kidneys’ cover the range of hidden elements in man’s character and personality. Nothing is hidden from Yahweh.” (Thomspon)

ii. “The Lord is called by his apostles, Acts 1:24, kardiognwsthv, the Knower of the heart. To him alone can this epithet be applied; and it is from him alone that we can derive that instruction by which we can in any measure know ourselves.” (Clarke)

f. Even to give to every man according to his ways: Because God perfectly knows the heart and mind of man His judgment is true. God knows to what extent the heart either justifies or condemns the doings of a man or woman.

In his commentary, Mr. Guzik includes:

1. 4. (Jer 17:11) The folly of trusting in riches.

2. 5. (Jer 17:12-13) The folly of failing to trust in the God of all glory.

3. 1. (Jer 17:14-17) A prayer for deliverance and defense.

Ultimately, we all need to pray a prayer for deliverance and defense!

David Guzik writes:

a. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: In contrast to the foolish people of Judah who trusted in man, in their own heart, or in riches, Jeremiah looked to Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. Jeremiah was confident that healing or salvation from the Lord would be true healing, true rescue.

i. It’s hard to say if the healing Jeremiah cried out for was literal or spiritual in nature, and in the bigger picture it doesn’t really matter. Either need is real, and God’s ability to heal both our physical and spiritual need is true and proven.

b. You are my praise: Even in his need of healing and salvation, Jeremiah could praise God, even making God Himself his praise. Though in pride others demanded an immediate revelation of God and His power, Jeremiah was willing to wait and trust in the Lord.

c. As for me: In a series of brief statements, Jeremiah defended and justified his ministry before God. He did this to contrast himself with those who demanded God bring immediate revelation and resolution.

· I have not hurried away from being a shepherd that follows You: Jeremiah was confident in his pursuit of God’s call on his life.

· Nor have I desired the woeful day: Jeremiah spoke much of the judgment to come, but he did not desire it. It was a painful message for him to deliver.

· You know what came out of my lips: Jeremiah could appeal to God as the One who heard and judged his message, seeing that it really was faithful to the voice and the heart of God.

· You are my hope in the day of doom: Jeremiah proclaimed his trust and hope in God alone, not in the folly of most of the people of Judah.

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4 Responses to “Jesus On The Problem of Evil – Stand To Reason”

  1. christinewjc Says:

    While I was composing this blog post, Truth 2 Freedom’s author also posted the following:

    JUNE 1 GOD WOULD PRODUCE CHRIST’S BEAUTY IN OUR LIVES

    3h ago

    And be renewed in the spirit of your mind:…put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

    EPHESIANS 4:23, 24

    God is faithful—He is never going to be done with us in shaping us and fashioning us as dear children of God until the day that we will see Him face-to-face!

    Truly, in that gracious day, our rejoicing will not be in the personal knowledge that He saved us from hell, but in the joyful knowledge that He was able to renew us, bringing the old self to an end, and creating within us the new man and the new self in which can be reproduced the beauty of the Son of God!

    In the light of that provision, I think it is true that no Christian is where he ought to be spiritually until that beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ is being reproduced in daily Christian life.

    I admit that there is necessarily a question of degree in this kind of transformation of life and character.

    Certainly there has never been a time in our human existence when we could look into our own being, and say: “Well, thank God, I see it is finished now. The Lord has signed the portrait. I see Jesus in myself!”

    Nobody will say that—nobody!

    Even though a person has become like Christ, he will not know it, because humility and meekness are also a part of the transformation of true godliness![1]

    [1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

    There is a huge difference in knowing and trusting that Jesus indwells our hearts as a result of confession and repentance of our sins at the foot of the cross at Calvary, as well as at the time of asking for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit into our hearts vs. thinking that “we have arrived completely” through the transformation of our lives and character.

    As Christians, we know that sanctification is an ongoing process within our lives here on this earth, and it is never complete on this side of heaven! We are being renewed, day by day and knowing that this is a continual process within our lives helps us to NOT think more highly of our individual selves. Why? Because it’s ONLY the grace of God through Jesus Christ that saves us, continually works towards sanctifying us, and renews us via restoration and reconciliation.

    Link: Truth 2 Freedom Blog: JUNE 1 GOD WOULD PRODUCE CHRIST’S BEAUTY IN OUR LIVES

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  2. GMpilot Says:

    CJW, quoting Truth2Freedom:

    Jesus’ answer to the problem of evil is that all fallen, unregenerate sinners born in Adam are worthy of death. Whether we die by murder, accident, or disease isn’t anything more than we deserve. It is only by God’s grace that anyone is saved, and it is only by God’s mercy that anyone is kept alive.
    What implications does this have for Christian apologetics? At least three:
    First, it means that Christian apologists need to take the consequences of sin and the reality of human depravity seriously when addressing the problem of evil.

    How can the world be so full of suffering and evil if it’s run by a God that’s full of grace?

    Second, when addressing the problem of evil, Christian apologists need to present a theodicy that minimally includes the biblical teaching of original sin and human depravity. Why God allows evil won’t make sense unless we have the problem of sin clearly before us.

    Don’t tell me: tell Job, who is never mentioned in the same breath with sin, yet got pounded on anyway—with God’s sanction and acquiescence, please note.

    The subject of sin is vital knowledge…. If you have not learned about sin, you cannot understand yourself, or your fellow-men, or the world you live in, or the Christian faith. And you will not be able to make head or tail of the Bible.

    Even in places that have never heard of your God, the concept of sin exists. That appears to be enough to help them understand the world, but not necessarily the Christian faith, as it is as complex as other faiths.

    The same is true for the problem of evil. The subject of sin is essential because in raising the problem of evil, the skeptic must put forth an anthropodicy (justification of man) by arguing that man is “basically good” and God is unjust for allowing the suffering and evil He does.

    I do not argue that man is ‘basically good’; we all know that men do evil things, too. But God, we’re told, is supposed to be above all that. Instead, in his book we see him as loving, angry, jealous, vengeful…exactly like the people he deals with. He doesn’t want worship of any gods but himself, any more than a boy doesn’t want his girlfriend kissing anyone other than himself.
    The problem of evil is its source. Christians often wince when that verse in Isaiah is brought up, but they can not deny that it’s there. There have been attempts to soften it in recent times, with little success. If God created everything, then he created evil too. But we humans, with our self-deceiving hearts, will never admit that.

    Third, the present moral and natural evils we see are appropriate segues into our need to practice and preach repentance in light of the final eschatological judgment. Those who experience such evils are not any more deserving. Rather, these disasters serve as warnings to all of us that final disaster awaits everyone who remains hardhearted and unrepentant.

    So the idea is for God to intimidate us into compliance, through fear? And to kill those who object? If that’s how he works, that can be considered a moral evil.
    As for natural evils: we comfort themselves with the thought that nothing ever happens unless God wills it…until something really bad happens. When it does, we don’t want to blame God, so…it must be our fault! So we pray longer, or build a shiny new church, or burn some more heretics. But the floods and earthquakes and epidemics continue—to someone else if God wills it, and to us if he doesn’t.

    So when disaster strikes, let us not wring our hands over the mysterious ways of God but encourage everyone to reflect on their sinful and doomed state in hopes that some will escape the Final Disaster that awaits the ultimately unrepentant.

    As I understand it, God already knows who will escape and who won’t. The future holds no surprises for him. Moreover, this is the way he wants it, because if he wanted it otherwise, he’d have made it that way.
    His ways are not our ways, I am told.

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  3. christinewjc Says:

    GM,

    We have been through such a discussion before. There is no need to rehash it here.

    You wrote, “God already knows who will escape and who won’t.” My answer? You don’t know for sure. I don’t know for sure. No one knows for sure. Except for one thing: Faith in Christ and in His promises as they are written in the Bible.

    Heb 11:6
    But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

    Even if one’s confession, repentance and faith is alive and well for decades, or, for just minutes or seconds before death; we then have what is necessary for life eternal with God.

    The choice of every man and woman to do evil or good goes back to the Garden of Eden. Without that choice, we would be robots.

    I believe wholeheartedly that our God is a good God. You, apparently, do not.

    “You are good, LORD. The LORD is good and right.” (Psalm 25:7-8)

    “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Psalm 34:8 NIV)

    Though we may not understand His actions, we can trust His heart.

    God does only what is good. But how can death be good?

    Part of the answer may be found in Isaiah 57:1-2: “Good people are taken away, but no one understands. Those who do right are being taken away from evil and are given peace. Those who live as God wants find rest in death.”

    Death is God’s way of taking people away from evil. What evil? Every kind. Disease? Addictions? Rebellion? We don’t know.

    “All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old” (Psalm 139:16).

    We can (and do) complain, “she was so young,” or “his life was brief.” It seems that way, but compared to eternity, who has a long life?

    As believers, we who mourn at a grave also know that our loved ones are celebrating and marveling at heaven. We question God, but they are praising Him.

    But, what of those who die with no faith? A husband who never prayed, a grandpa who never worshipped, a mom who never opened a Bible, no less her heart. What about one who never believed?

    How do we know he (or she) didn’t?

    Max Lucado quote:

    “Who among us is privy to a person’s final thoughts? Who among us knows what transpires in those final moments? Are you sure no prayer was offered? Eternity can bend the proudest of knees. Could a person stare into the canyon of death without whispering a plea for mercy? And could our God, who is partial to the humble, resist it?”

    He couldn’t on Calvary. The confession of the thief on the cross was both a first and final one. But Christ heard it. Christ received it. Maybe you never heard your loved on confess Christ, but who’s to say Christ didn’t?

    We don’t know the final thoughts of a dying soul but we know this. We know our God is a good God. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance ” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV). He wants your loved one in heaven more than you do. And he usually gets what he wants.

    In my own life, I have witnessed people who have “appeared” to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, those who refused to do so, as well as those who genuinely did so because of the evidence shown in their lives after conversion. I won’t know, this side of heaven, for sure who will be there. But I do know that because “the truck of death ran over the Lord Jesus on our behalf…it was because only the shadow might run over us.”

    We all face death (and many may attach all kinds of additional adjectives to that fact according to their belief system), but as faith-filled Christians, thanks to Jesus, we only face its shadow.

    [Note: Quotes and paraphrases and my words in above paragraphs adapted from the book “Traveling LIght” by Max Lucado.]

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  4. GMpilot Says:

    We have been through such a discussion before. There is no need to rehash it here.

    As long as you issue your arguments, I will issue mine. When you come up with something new, I’ll deal with it.

    You wrote, “God already knows who will escape and who won’t.” My answer? You don’t know for sure. I don’t know for sure. No one knows for sure.

    It was you who once boasted to me that ‘God knows the end before the beginning’. If that is true, then of course he knows who will escape and who won’t! The future holds no surprises for him; he wrote the script!

    Even if one’s confession, repentance and faith is alive and well for decades, or, for just minutes or seconds before death; we then have what is necessary for life eternal with God.

    But you just got through telling me ”You don’t know for sure. I don’t know for sure. No one knows for sure.” So, tell me how you know that.

    The choice of every man and woman to do evil or good goes back to the Garden of Eden. Without that choice, we would be robots.

    But if God is “in control” (of what, exactly?), then we are robots; we cannot do other than what he wants us to do. Yeah, we’ve been over this before, all right.

    I believe wholeheartedly that our God is a good God. You, apparently, do not.
    “You are good, LORD. The LORD is good and right.” (Psalm 25:7-8)

    So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:7, NIV)

    “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Psalm 34:8 NIV)

    “You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.” (Jeremiah 20:7, NIV)
    Next question?

    Death is God’s way of taking people away from evil. What evil? Every kind. Disease? Addictions? Rebellion? We don’t know.

    We don’t know if death is God’s way of taking people away from evil, either (unless he personally told you that). That apologetic won’t work.

    “All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old” (Psalm 139:16).

    That “book” sounds remarkably similar to a technical manual for robots. What was that you said about ‘choice’?

    Max Lucado claims:

    We know our God is a good God. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance ” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV). He wants your loved one in heaven more than you do. And he usually gets what he wants.

    I’ll say it again: if God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, then no one shall perish, and all shall come to repentance. The all-powerful Master of the Universe “usually” gets what he wants. But clergymen make clear that this is not the case. “Straight is the gate, and few there be that find it” is the passage I often hear connected with this. I don’t know what Mr. Lucado would reply to that.

    In my own life, I have witnessed people who have “appeared” to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, those who refused to do so, as well as those who genuinely did so because of the evidence shown in their lives after conversion.

    Some of those who refused to do so probably had different Gods of their own who suited them just fine. I don’t, and I won’t pretend that I do. If there is a God, he deserves at least that much respect.

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