The Problem of Evil (part 3)

December 17, 2007     Time: 00:46:45

Today we want to wrap up our study of the problem of evil.

[Opening prayer]

We have been looking at the intellectual problem of evil, most recently at the probabilistic version of the problem which says that given all the evil and suffering in the world it is improbable that God exists. I’ve suggested so far two responses to this version of the problem.

1. First I pointed out that probabilities are relative to background information. So even if God’s existence is improbable relative to the evil in the world alone taken in isolation, nevertheless when you look at the full scope of the evidence God’s existence may be quite probable. In fact, when I think you do look at all of the good reasons to believe that there is a God that that simply outbalances any improbability that evil might be thought to throw upon God’s existence.

2. The second point that we looked at last week was that it is not at all easy to show that God’s existence is improbable relative to the evil in the world even taken in isolation. Why? Simply because we are not in a position to make with any kind of confidence judgments about the probability that God has a morally adequate reason for permitting this or that incident of evil or suffering that enters our lives. Given our cognitive limitations, we simply are not in a position to say with respect to any incident of evil in our lives that it is improbable that God has a morally adequate reason for permitting that.

Today I want to go to the third point that I would like to make in response to the probabilistic version..

3. Given Christian theism (that is to say, given that the God of the Bible exists) this increases the probability that there ought to be evil in the world. So far from detracting from God’s existence, the presence of evil in the world is what one ought to expect if the God of the Bible exists.

Why do I say that? Let me just mention four Christian doctrines that increase the probability of the existence of evil given the existence of God.

1. The chief purpose of life is not happiness but rather the knowledge of God. The reason that so many of us find the problem of evil so difficult and so intractable is that we just naturally assume that if God exists then his purpose in life for us is happiness in this life. God’s role is to make a comfortable environment for his human pets. Therefore, when things go wrong we think God isn’t doing his job. But you see on the Christian view that is false. We are not God’s pets. God’s role is not to achieve human happiness in this life but rather the knowledge of God himself which in the end will produce everlasting and true human fulfillment and happiness. But many, many evils occur in this life which are utterly pointless with respect to producing human happiness in this life, but they may not be pointless with respect to producing a deeper knowledge of God. Innocent human suffering represent an occasion for deeper dependency and trust in God either on the part of the person undergoing the suffering himself or, as in the case of infants, on the part of people around the person.[1]

Of course, whether or not God’s purposes are actually achieved through what you suffer all depends on how you respond to them. Do you respond with anger and bitterness and hatred toward God? Or do you respond with faith and courage and deeper trust in God to take you through those deep waters? Whether God’s purpose is achieved through what you suffered all depends on your free response. In one sense God is less interested in what we go through than in our attitude while going through it. How do you respond to the suffering that he calls upon you to endure?

Because God’s ultimate purposes in life is not human happiness but rather a deeper knowledge of God, we cannot understand human history or even our own lives apart from the Kingdom of God. We cannot see life in its proper perspective apart from understanding how it fits in with the advance of God’s Kingdom.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a very famous British preacher, has said the following (I am going to quote from him at this point):

The key to the history of the world is the kingdom of God. . . . From the very beginning, . . . God has been at work establishing a new kingdom in the world. It is His own kingdom, and He is calling people out of the world into that kingdom: and everything that happens in the world has relevance to it. . . . Other events are of importance as they have a bearing upon that event. The problems of today are to be understood only in its light. . . .

Let us not therefore be stumbled when we see surprising things happening in the world. Rather let us ask, ‘What is the relevance of this event to the kingdom of God?’ Or, if strange things are happening to you personally, don’t complain but say, ‘What is God teaching me through this?’. . .We need not become bewildered and doubt the love or the justice of God. . . . We should . . . judge every event in the light of God’s great, eternal and glorious purpose (From Fear to Faith, pp.23-24).

I think that it is not at all improbable that part of the means that God uses to draw men and women into his eternal Kingdom and the knowledge of himself is suffering. It is the moral and natural evil that fills this world that God uses to bring people into his Kingdom.

[Dr. Craig hands out a handout to the class]

If you pick up a book on modern missions like Patrick Johnstone’s book Operation World – By the way, if I might make an advertisement, if this is not part of your daily devotional life yet, I really encourage you to get a copy of this. It is available through the bookmark. It is a book that has for every calendar day of the year a different country. It will describe the demographics of that country, the political system, and then especially the state of Christianity in that country – the percentage of the country that is Christian, the percentage that is evangelical Christian, the growth rates of Christianity in that country. Then it will include points for prayer as well as significant challenges that the church faces in that country. I believe that through doing this kind of a project as part of your devotional life it will help to instill in you a world-consciousness that I think is absolutely vital to us as Christians in reaching the world for Christ today. We need to be world Christians in our mentality. This kind of book will free you from the parochialism to which we in North American are often prone. The point that I wanted to make is that as I work through Johnstone’s book, I was struck again and again with how the places in the world where the Gospel is growing at its most rapid rates are precisely those countries of the world that are afflicted with the most severe suffering. There is a correlation between the suffering in the world and the growth of the Gospel in those areas. Let me read to you some of the reports from Johnstone’s book.[2] For example:

China: It is estimated that 20 million Chinese lost their lives in Mao’s Cultural Revolution. [Think of that. We talk about the Holocaust in the Second World War when six million people perished. In the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 20 million people were sacrificed.] Christians stood firm in what was probably the most widespread and harsh persecution the Church has ever experienced.[3] The persecution purified and indigenized the Church. Since 1977, the growth of the Church in China has no parallels in history. Researchers estimate that there were 30 to 75 million Christians by 1990. Today, it is estimated to be somewhere between 90 million and 100 million. Mao Zedong unwittingly became the greatest evangelist in history.

El Salvador: The 12-year civil war, earthquakes, and the collapse of the price of coffee, the nation’s main export, impoverished the nation. Over 80% live in dire poverty. An astonishing spiritual harvest has been gathered from all strata of society in the midst of the hate and bitterness of war. In 1960 evangelicals were 2.3% of the population, but today, they are around 20%.

Ethiopia: Ethiopia is in a state of shock. Her population struggles with the trauma of millions of deaths through repression, famine and war. Two great waves of violent persecution refined and purified the Church, but there were many martyrs. There have been millions coming to Christ. Protestants were fewer than 0.8% of the population in 1960, but by 1990 this may have become 13% of the population.

You can multiply examples like this over and over again throughout the world. When you study the history of the world, the history of mankind has been a history of suffering and war one after another. Yet, it is also been a history of the advance of the Kingdom of God. Here I want you to look at the chart that has just been distributed to you. This documents the growth in evangelical Christianity over the last 2,000 years. It was released in 1990 by the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena. It charts the ratio between Bible-believing evangelical Christians in the world and non-Christians. It doesn’t include nominal Christians anywhere in this categorization. It is a ratio of evangelical, Bible-believing Christians to non-Christians in the world. In the year AD 100, there were about 360 non-Christians for every evangelical believer in the world. By the year AD 1000, that had gone down to about 220 non-Christians for every evangelical Christian in the world. By the year 1900, that ratio had shrunk down to 27 non-believers for every evangelical believer in the world. And by 1989, there were only 7 non-Christians for every evangelical believer in the world.[4] If you throw in all the nominal Christians as well with the non-Christians – just assume they are all non-Christians – that would still mean that there are about 9 people to be reached for every evangelical Christian in the world for the entire Great Commission to be fulfilled in our lifetime. Only 9 people.

So the fact of the matter is that the Kingdom of God has been growing down through world history unlike any other movement in the history of mankind. There is simply nothing comparable to it. Johnstone says in his book, “We are living in the time of the largest gathering of people into the Kingdom of God that the world has ever seen.” I think that it is not at all improbable that this remarkable growth in the Kingdom of God is intimately tied to the suffering, both natural and moral evil, that takes place in the world.

So the atheist has an enormous burden of proof indeed. He would have to show that this much knowledge of God would be achievable in a world of free creatures which had less suffering and evil in it. That is pure speculation on the part of the atheist.

That is the first point – that God’s purpose in life is not happiness but the knowledge of God which will, of course, issue in true and everlasting human happiness.

2. The second point I want to make is that mankind is in a state of rebellion against God and his purpose. The Bible teaches that rather than submit to and worship God, people freely rebel against God. They go their own way. So they find themselves morally guilty before God, groping in spiritual darkness, pursuing gods of their own making, alienated from the life of God.[5] The terrible human evils – the horrible atrocities – that we hear about in the news are simply testimony to man’s depravity in this state of moral and spiritual alienation from God.

Moreover, according to the Bible there is a realm of higher spiritual beings than human beings, incredibly evil, in whose power the entire creation lies and who are bent on destroying God’s work and thwarting the purposes of his Kingdom that he is seeking to establish. Therefore the Christian isn’t at all surprised at the terrible evils in the world. On the contrary, the Christian expects to see such things. The Bible says that God has given mankind over to the evil that it has chosen. Three times in Romans 1 Paul says God gave them up to the evil and the moral depravity that mankind has chosen. He doesn’t intervene to stop it. He lets human depravity run its course. This only serves to heighten our moral culpability before God and to heighten our awareness of our need for his forgiveness and for his moral cleansing in our lives.

3. God’s purpose is not restricted to this life alone but rather it spills over into eternal life beyond the grave. On the biblical view of God, this life is not all there is. Rather, this life is just a cramped and narrow foyer which opens up into the great hall of God’s eternity. God promises eternal life to everyone who will place his faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. When God asks his children to bear horrible suffering in this life, it is only with the prospect of a heavenly recompense and joy that is simply beyond all comprehension. The apostle Paul, when you think about it, underwent a life of incredible suffering. In his life he was beaten, for example, on multiple times by Roman authorities receiving 39 lashes by the Roman whip to both the chest and to the back. On three other occasions he says he was switched with rods for preaching the Gospel. His body must have been just a mass of scar tissue for the kind of whippings and scourgings that he endured. Moreover, Paul was incarcerated in prisons for long periods of times under what, by modern standards, would be unthinkable conditions – unheated, unsanitary, chained by his wrists and by his ankles to the prison walls. He also suffered from natural evils. He endured shipwreck on the Mediterranean Sea three different times. Imagine what it would be like being shipwrecked even one time, but three times! And one of these he was adrift for a day and a night at sea. Imagine what it would be like being adrift at night on the open sea desperately clinging to some piece of wreckage trying to fight off exhaustion and sleep in order to stay alive. This man suffered incredibly. He also had some sort of a natural disease or perhaps a physical deformity that he called his thorn in his flesh that was a burden to him and to those to whom he ministered. He lived a life that, as an apostle, he said was punctuated by afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, and hunger (2 Corinthians 6:4-5). And yet, Paul endured all of this patiently, without bitterness, with a victorious attitude. How did he do it? He tells us the secret in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. He says this:

So we do not lose heart. . . . For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Paul’s secret was that he lived this life in the perspective of eternity.[6] He understood that the duration of this life in comparison with the time that we spend in heaven is just a slight momentarily blink of the eye. Think of it – the longer you spend in heaven the more the sufferings of this life shrink by comparison to literally an infinitesimal moment. That is why Paul could refer to the sufferings of this life as a slight momentary affliction. They were simply overwhelmed by the ocean of eternal life and joy that God will bestow upon his children in heaven.

So I think it may be the case that there are evils that you suffer in this life that may actually have no earthly purpose at all. They may have no redemptive value in this life at all. Yet, they may be justified in light of God’s eternal purposes because he may simply want to overwhelmingly reward you for having patiently endured in trust and dependency on him the suffering that you had to go through in this life.

4. The knowledge of God is an incommensurable good. That is to say, it is incomparable. It cannot be measured by comparison to anything else. Paul makes this point in that same passage I just quoted from 2 Corinthians 4 where he says that the sufferings of this life are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Paul imagines, as it were, a scale or balance on which the sufferings and misery of this life is placed on one side of the scale and on the other side of the scale is placed the glory that God will bestow upon his children in heaven. Paul says the weight of glory is so heavy that the sufferings of this life are not even comparable to it. They cannot even be compared to it. To know God, the source of infinite goodness and love, is an incomparable good. Anything else is incommensurable with it. It is the fulfillment of human existence. It is what we were made for – the knowledge of God. Therefore the sufferings of this life are inconsequential in comparison with the knowledge of the infinite, all-loving, all-good God. Thus, for the person who knows God, no matter what he suffers and no matter how awful his pain, can still say truly, “God is good to me.” Simply in virtue of the fact that he knows God. Because the knowledge of God is an incommensurable good.

I think these four Christian doctrines greatly increase the probability that if God exists we should see a world that would be filled with the kind of natural and moral evils that we see. If the God of the Bible exists, he purpose is not human happiness but the knowledge of God. If the God of the Bible exists, mankind is in a state of rebellion against God and his purpose which God allows to run its course. If the God of the Bible exists, this life is not the end, this is not all there is. God’s purpose spills over to eternal life with a heavenly recompense for anything that we’ve suffered so that those in heaven would look back on this life and say, “I would go through it a million million million times over in order to know this joy and this happiness.” If the God of the Bible exists then the knowledge of God is an incommensurable good to which nothing else could be compared

So I think given these Christian doctrines that greatly reduces any improbability that evil might be thought to throw upon the existence of God. Thus, paradoxically, evil is less of a problem for the Christian theist than for someone who is just a simple theist – say, just a deist. For the Christian theist, I don’t think it is at all improbable that we should see this kind of suffering and evil in the world.

To wrap up, I don’t think that the probabilistic version of the problem of evil is unanswerable. On the contrary, we’ve seen that even if God’s existence were improbable relative to the evil in the world alone, that might be over balanced by all of the positive arguments and evidences for God’s existence. We also saw that it is extremely difficult to establish that God’s existence is improbable relative to the evil in the world because we are simply not in a position to make with any kind of confidence judgments that it is improbable that God has a morally adequate reason for allowing you to suffer this or that particular incidence of evil.[7] Finally, we’ve seen that we can make the co-existence of God and evil more probable by adopting biblical theism – Christian theism – with its various Christian doctrines that increase the probability of the co-existence of God and evil.

Therefore, I think taken together all these considerations make it not at all improbable that an all-powerful and all-loving God exists even despite the horrible evil and suffering that we see in the world.

START DISCUSSION

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Good question. You are saying, Isn’t what is sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander? If the atheist cannot say, “Given some incident of evil it is improbable that God has a good reason for permitting that,” then the Christian cannot say, “It is probable that God has a good reason for permitting it.” I agree with you. It is exactly parallel. In other words, the reason the Christian believes that God has a good reason for permitting the evil in the world is not based upon looking at these evils and then seeing that good often comes out of them and then making an inductive judgment that, yes, God probably has a good reason for that. Rather, he makes that based upon other arguments for the existence of God and for the providence of God and God’s sovereignty and so forth. The argument is that you can’t make an inductive argument to a probability judgment that God has or has not good reasons for permitting the evil in the world.

With respect to this inductive argument, that is to say where you gather the sort of evidence about the evils and how they often turn out, I think we are left with agnosticism. In other words, I am not saying that as Christians we believe that God has good reasons for permitting evils in the world because we look at the evils of the world and we see that they very often turn out to have good ends and that God does use them and that therefore good things come out of these and therefore we make this inductive judgment, Yeah, I think God probably has a good reason for permitting the evil in the world. That is not the way we reason. I think if you try to reason that way you will go to agnosticism. Not about the existence of God but about these probability judgments that it is probable or improbable that God has a good reason for permitting this or that because we are just not in a position to make those kind of probability judgments. Rather, the Christian belief that he does have good reasons for permitting it is based on quite independent reasons for believing that there is a God who is all-good and who is sovereign, who has omniscience, and therefore can order the world according to his providence. That gives him confidence to believe what cannot be proven inductively by kind of looking at the stuff on the ground and then figuring out whether there is a good reason for it.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I don’t see why we would want to say that because the appeal here to the limits of inductive reasoning is not based upon some evil demon hypothesis or anything extreme as that. It is just saying that our data set is so limited. We live for four-score years maybe and we don’t see what God’s ends might be for human history, why he might permit this or that evil to enter our lives. So it is not based on some kind of skepticism like Descartes, that he could be deceived. It is just saying we have very significant cognitive limits on us that make it impossible for us to make these kind of sweeping judgments that it is improbable that God has a good reason for permitting this to be in your life.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Right. We very often will not see God’s reasons for permitting this horrible suffering in our lives. So we are called upon to have faith and to trust him in the midst of these dark valleys, just as Job was called upon to trust God.[8] But the point I was emphasizing earlier in this class is that this is not a blind faith. It is not a leap in the dark. It is a faith that is based upon very good evidence for the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe, a source of absolute moral value, who has raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, and revealed himself in Christ. Given all of that evidence, we can have faith when my child dies of leukemia that this isn’t just a random purposeless, meaningless event, but that God has a purpose in mind.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Granted. Right. Sure. That is right. But the point that you are making, and that I want to affirm, is that it is a life lived by faith. Of course it is by faith. The person who tries to discern “Why did God allow this to happen to me?” is a person who is bent on, I think, self-torture with agonizing and unanswerable questions that we are not in a position to deal with for the reasons we just discussed with respect to the earlier question.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Do all acts or events have good or evil? I am not sure how I would answer that. In one sense, certain events are just morally neutral in themselves. But the point that you are making is the consequences of these events will either redound to the advance of the Kingdom of God or detract from it. Those that redound to the advance of the Kingdom of God and serve God’s purpose we would say it is good that that happened. So if this chair falling over when the janitor cleans this room somehow contributes to the advance of the Kingdom of God, it is good that chair fell over. But if my lesson today doesn’t redound to the advance of the Kingdom of God for some reason or another then it was bad that that occurred. So in that sense I am inclined to think that there is this great divide within the sovereignty of God in terms of assessing the consequences of events and actions. Yeah, they would be either good or bad in that sense. Though in themselves the chair falling over is neither good nor bad. That is morally neutral.

END DISCUSSION

Let me go on because I want to say something more about this. I think, therefore, that the intellectual problem of evil has been solved. But that doesn’t mean you are out of the woods because we are still left with the emotional problem of evil. I think that for most people the problem of evil is really not an intellectual problem at all; it is an emotional problem. All of these mental and philosophical machinations will be of little comfort to someone who is intensely suffering some undeserved evil in his life.

What can be said in response to the emotional problem of evil? Does Christianity have anything at all to say? In one sense the most important thing might be not to say anything at all. The most important thing might be to simply be there in the life of someone who is suffering as a trusted friend and confident who can simply be a good listener and sympathize and have compassion with the person as they go through this suffering. It may be less what you say than what you are and the compassion you show that will be important in helping the sufferer to deal with the emotional problem of evil.

On the other hand, sometimes people will want counsel. Sometimes we will go through suffering and we will ask questions about it. We may want to have some answer. So is there something we can say with respect to this emotional problem? I think the Bible has a lot to say about this. The Bible tells us that God is not some sort of an impersonal Creator or ground of being who has no care or concern for us. Rather the Bible says that God is a loving heavenly Father who experiences our hurts and shares them with us. Alvin Plantinga, who is perhaps the greatest living Christian philosopher, has written the following with respect to this.[9] Plantinga says,

As the Christian sees things, God does not stand idly by, coolly observing the suffering of His creatures. He enters into and shares our suffering. He endures the anguish of seeing his son, the second person of the Trinity, consigned to the bitterly cruel and shameful death of the cross. Some theologians claim that God cannot suffer. I believe they are wrong. God's capacity for suffering, I believe, is proportional to his greatness; it exceeds our capacity for suffering in the same measure as his capacity for knowledge exceeds ours. Christ was prepared to endure the agonies of hell itself; and God, the Lord of the universe, was prepared to endure the suffering consequent upon his son's humiliation and death. He was prepared to accept this suffering in order to overcome sin, and death, and the evils that afflict our world, and to confer on us a life more glorious than we can imagine. So we don't know why God permits evil; we do know, however, that He was prepared to suffer on our behalf, to accept suffering of which we can form no conception.[10]

What Plantinga realizes is that Christ endured a suffering on the cross that is beyond human comprehension. Not only did he endure the brutality inflicted upon him physically which was portrayed so graphically in The Passion of the Christ, but he also bore the punishment for the sins of the whole world. None of us can understand that suffering. Even though he was innocent – if there was anyone who could complain of innocent suffering it was Jesus of Nazareth because he was sinless – and blameless, he took upon himself the punishment for sin that we endured. He who had never known separation from his heavenly Father went through, in essence, hell – separation from God – for us in order to bring us into fellowship and the knowledge of God. Why did he do this? He did it because he loves you so much. How can we reject him who was prepared to endure such suffering for us?

I had a colleague a few years ago, Tom Schmidt, who had a habit of visiting nursing homes in an attempt to bring some cheer and light into the lives of those who were in those homes. He wrote an account of one remarkable woman that he met that I would like to share with you this morning. Tom writes:

As I neared the end of this hallway, I saw an old woman strapped in a wheelchair. Her face was an absolute horror. The empty stare and white pupils of her eyes told me that she was blind. The large hearing aid over one ear told me that she was almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. There was a discolored and running sore covering part of one cheek, and it had pushed her nose to the side, dropped one eye and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth. As a consequence, she drooled constantly. I also learned later that this woman was 89 years old and that she had been bedridden, blind, nearly deaf, and alone for 25 years. This was Mabel.

I don't know why I spoke to her. She looked less likely to respond than most of the people I saw in that hallway. But I put a flower in her hand and said, “Here is a flower for you, Happy Mother's Day!” She held the flower up to her face and tried to smell it, and then she spoke, and much to my surprise her words, though somewhat garbled because of her deformity, were obviously produced by a clear mind. She said, “Thank you, it's lovely, but can I give it to someone else? I can't see it you know, I'm blind.”

I said, “Of course,” and I pushed her in her chair back down the hallway to a place where I thought I could find some alert patients. I found one and stopped the chair. Mabel held out the flower and said, “Here, this is from Jesus.”

It was then that it began to dawn on me that this was not an ordinary human being. . . . Mabel and I became friends over the next few weeks, and I went to see her once or twice a week for the next three years. . . . It was not many weeks before I turned from a sense that I was being helpful to a sense of wonder. And I would go to her with a pen and paper to write down the things she would say. . . .

During one hectic week of final exams, I was frustrated because my mind seemed to be pulled in ten directions at once with all of the things that I had to think about. The question occurred to me, what does Mabel have to think about? Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it is day or night.[11] So I went to her and asked, “Mabel, what do you think about when you lie here?”

And she said, “I think about my Jesus.”

I sat there and thought for a moment . . . And I asked, “What do you think about Jesus?” She replied slowly and deliberately as I wrote, and this is what she said,

I think how good he has been to me. He has been awfully good to me in my life, you know. . . . I’m one of those kind who’s mostly satisfied. . . . Lots of folks would think I’m kind of old-fashioned. But I don't care. I'd rather have Jesus, he is all the world to me.

And then Mabel began to sing an old hymn:

Jesus is all the world to me,
My life, my joy, my all.
He is my strength from day to day,
Without him, I would fall.
When I am sad, to him I go.
No other one can cheer me so.
When I am sad, he makes me glad.
He’s my friend.

This is not fiction. Incredible as it may seem, a human being really lived like this. I know, I knew her. How could she do it? Seconds ticked and minutes crawled, and so did days and weeks and months and years of pain without human company and without an explanation of why it was all happening – and she laid there and sang hymns. How could she do it?

The answer, I think, is that Mabel had something that you and I don't have much of. She had power. Lying there, in that bed, unable to move, unable to see, unable to hear, unable to talk. . . , she had incredible power.[12]

I think that when we look at the problem of evil in the light of the cross, it puts the problem in an entirely different perspective because in the light of the cross what we see is that the true problem of evil is the problem of our evil. Filled with sin and morally guilty before God the question is not how God can justify himself to us; the question is how we can be justified before him. The answer to that question is found in the cross. If a person like Mabel can bear the suffering that she was called upon to endure in her life, surely we can endure the suffering that God calls upon you and me to endure in confidence and trust and dependency in him.

I think that at the end of the day, God is actually the final answer to the problem of evil. Though on a superficial level evil poses the greatest obstacle to belief in God, at the end of the day God is really the ultimate solution to the problem of evil. If God does not exist then we are locked in a world filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering. But if God exists then he redeems us from evil through the cross and takes us into the incommensurable good of an eternal fellowship with himself – the fulfillment of human existence.

That is what I wanted to share about the emotional problem of evil and why I think Christianity has the resources for its resolution as well. I think it would only be appropriate to close with a word of prayer. Let me invite us all to bow our heads. If there is anyone here today who has been struggling with this problem, asking why and perhaps you have been resisting God because of it, I want to give you an opportunity to say yes to God this morning.

[Delivers a prayer and provides some class scheduling information.]

What we will turn to next will be the doctrine of the Trinity. We’ve talked about the doctrine of God for all of these many months. We’ve talked about the attributes of God. We looked at arguments for the existence of God. We’ve dealt with arguments against the existence of God. Now we want to look at God’s nature as a Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a vital issue not only because every cult from Jehovah’s Witnesses to Mormonism to Scientology denies the Trinity, but also the Trinity is denied by the greatest competitor to Christianity in the world today, Islam, which is a unitarian view of God rather than trinitarian. So it is vital as Christians that we both be able to understand and to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. That will be the subject to which we will turn to next.[13]



[1] 4:57

[2] Patrick Johnstone, Operation World, 5th ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1993), pp. 164, 207-8, 214.

[3] 10:00

[4] As per William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter Varsity, 2003) p. 546. These numbers were arrived at by the various contributors to the Lausanne Statistic Task Force, headed by David Barrett, Ph.D., who is the author of the World Christian Encyclopedia.

[5] 15:10

[6] 20:02

[7] 25:12

[8] 30:07

[9] 34:31

[10] Alvin Plantinga, “Self-Profile,” Alvin Plantinga, ed. Jas. Tomberlin (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1985), p. 36.

[11] 40:06

[12] Thomas E. Schmidt, Trying to Be Good: A Book of Doing for Thinking People (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1990), pp. 180-183.

[13] Total Running Time: 47:41 (Copyright © 2007 William Lane Craig)