Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Another Example of the Problem with Liberalism
An article in the Christian Science Monitor, www.csmonitor.com/2007/0725/p01s02-ussc.html, today tells of a gathering of pastors of various denominations who are asking the question, ""In the midst of a world of violence and suffering, how can we believe in an almighty and all-loving God?"
The problem of pain and violence is certainly hard to bear. This question reminds me of the trilemna, If God is almighty and good is good, evil does not exist. Wrong. If God is almighty and evil exists, God is not good. Wrong. If God is Good and evil exist, God is not almighty. Wrong. Scripture does give us answers in the face of suffering, but it's sometimes the answer we don't want to hear.
First of all, evil exists. There can be no doubt about that. Parents lose their children. Hurricanes displace hundreds of thousands and kill many. Wars bring out our brutal and greedy natures. Evil is alive and well. Perhaps the place they should have started is, why does evil exist. Scripture is clear on this point. Evil exists because man succumbed to temptation, in paradise, and sin, death, and destruction was introduced into the perfect world God created. It is God's judgment on sin, a judgment which He carries out with all righteousness. God is not to blame for the evil in this world. The problem is sin.
Second, God is almighty. Since evil does exist in this world, God is in control of it. He limits it and lets it advance according to His own purposes. He is not the author of evil, but since evil exists He uses it to carry out His will. Ephesians tells us that God causes all things to work after the purpose of His own will. In His mercy, however, God uses that evil to work the ultimate good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)
Third, God is good. He proves His goodness by giving us His Son who has bore the sins of the world that He might save us eternally and restore us to paradise. Through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord we have hope that evil has been defeated and we await the restoration of God's good creation at the parousia of Christ. Of course, if you ignore these facts, especially the cross, evil can be a confusing problem. Even knowing these things Christians struggle with the reality of evil every day. But we have hope.
There were two things that annoyed me about this article. One is the feeling among the theologians that they have to come up answers, "that satisfy." They see Churches shrinking and their motivation seems to be getting butts back in the pews rather than proclaiming the truth.
Another thing that bothered me is the faithlessness of liberalism in the face of unpleasant facts. The organizer of the event, Pastor Liz Magill, said in response to the question, "I give up the 'almighty' part... God is as powerful as those who believe in Him or Her and who let God guide them.... But we don't always do that, so God becomes less powerful." This is, of course, the problem with liberalism. Who would anyone want to believe in the God that Ms. Magill worships? And they wonder why people are leaving those churches.
Finally it annoyed me that these so called "pastors" do not see what it is that pastors actually do. Another participant, a United Methodist female pastor, Barbara Herber, said, ""We don't have easy answers...Our primary job is to sit with people in their suffering because it's really lousy to sit alone." It may be the job of a pastor to sit with the bereaved in the midst of suffering, to hold their hand and comfort them by being a companion in their suffering, but ultimately it is to bring the Word of God to bear. That Word is the most comforting thing you can give.
That is not to say that pastors rush in with quick answers and rush back out. Sometimes people are not ready to hear the answer that Scripture gives about the problem of evil until they have had time to grieve, but to say that Scripture does not provide the answer to evil is a faithless position.