Friday, January 20, 2012

Notes on "Contending for the Truth" (Pt. 9)

[Series explanation and index here.]

The Problem of Evil
a talk by John MacArthur

"How can the God portrayed in the Bible as good and holy and loving allow evil? And not just evil, but massive evil in the world? And not just massive evil in the world, but dominant evil in the world?"

McArthur characterizes the problem of evil as the one dilemma that both theological liberals and skeptics believe "backs Christians into an impossible position." He says that Christians too often feel their only defense is to say that God's ways are mysterious, hoping to steer the discussion to a less threatening topic.

Instead of punting, however, MacArthur believes Christians can take what seems like a desperate situation and turn it into a full-on victory: a 90 yard touchdown that wins the game.

Short Sighted Answers

Before he reveals this game winning play, MacArthur argues that another kind of popular answer is inadequate:

"'God's not responsible for evil, Adam and Eve are.' That is is a very short sighted answer because it only poses the question as to why God allowed them to be able to make that choice. Knowing they would, why did he create them with the ability to do that?"


"'God's not responsible, and Adam and Eve aren't responsible; Lucifer is responsible.' Which only poses the question as to why God created the angels with the capacity to rebel and fall, and did so when he knew they would and that Lucifer would become Satan."

Eventually, he says, the problem of evil goes back to God.

No Problem

MacArthur's answer to the problem of evil is that evil is not a problem.
"God created everything that he created of his own free choice and he designed them the way he designed them because that's the way he wanted them, knowing full well that angels would rebel and so would men."
"This is the God of the Bible. This is the only God who exists: the God who is in control of absolutely everything, and evil is no disruption in his plan."
"God wills evil to exist."
According to Calvinists, this is precisely the world God wants precisely the way he wants it. To suggest otherwise would be a heretical denial of God's sovereignty.

Salvation and Damnation

You may be wondering how all this squares with the common Christian belief that the crucifixion was about defeating evil. Well, it doesn't. MacArthur compares such thinking to the dualistic Good God vs. Evil God thinking that goes back to Zoroastrianism. There is no struggle against evil or defeat of evil in the gospel according to MacArthur. Rather, the entire drama of God creating some to be damned and creating some to be saved is to show off "the riches of his glory." Yes, God created the bulk of humanity for the express purpose of sending them to Hell.

You may now be wondering how such a God could be just. MacArthur answers, "He defines justice by what he does."

This isn't winning with a 90 yard touchdown. This is forfeiting the game.

The Problem of [an] Evil [God]

As a Christian and then as a former Christian, I have never been too worked up about the usual form of the problem of evil. Sure, there are some very horrible things going on in this world. But on the scale of eternity, even an Auschwitz is a brief moment compared to everlasting paradise or everlasting torment.

The greater problem of evil for Christians has to do with a God who would keep anyone — let alone most of us — in fiery torment forever and ever. One of the first cracks in my Christian faith was the realization that I would prefer no afterlife over Heaven for myself and Hell for even one human being.

I will never understand how preachers like MacArthur can embrace damnation for others and say "glory!"

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