Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Problem of Evil

My article from this week's Algona Upper Des Moines about the Problem of Evil:

(This article is an excerpt from my sermon for the funeral of Vicky Bowman-Hall.)

Q: If God is good and God has power over all things, then why are tragedies allowed to happen? How could God allow evil things to happen to people who seem good?

This is a question that has been asked by people in our area repeatedly in light of recent events. As we look for answers, we must first realize that we cannot fully comprehend spiritual things during out life in this world, because our understanding is obscured by sin. We cannot find answers by looking within ourselves or continually rehashing our own thoughts. Events like those two weeks ago force us to admit that speculation and philosophizing are completely inadequate to answer the spiritual questions of this world. Instead of relying on our own thoughts about the hidden things of God, we rely on what He has revealed to us as certain in Scripture, and submit our thoughts to it.

First among these is that death by any means was not God’s desire for humanity. When God created the world, death was not part of the design. All things worked as they were intended. None of the suffering, sorrow, and tragedy we experience had come upon the world, but when our first ancestors disobeyed God’s command, they brought disaster both upon the world and upon all of those who would be their offspring. Because of their actions, the world is broken, and as all people follow in their ways, we contribute to its brokenness.

We ordinarily see evidence of this brokenness in natural disasters, illness, accidents, and other seemingly unavoidable tragedies that result in death. We commonly witness its existence through our broken relationships and personal conflicts, and on rare occasions, we see evil tangibly demonstrated through the deliberate and senseless actions of a human agent as we have had the misfortune to experience in our community in recent days. In spite of our best efforts to do what is right, things still come apart and our efforts fail.

The second thing we can know with certainty is that God has acted on our behalf to correct the situation so that death and evil are not the final word. God intervened by becoming human as Jesus of Nazareth. Even though we repeatedly disobey His commands, He fulfilled each of them completely as our substitute. He suffered every hardship and sorrow that we suffer in this life—the early death of his step-father and earthly guardian, and even that of being murdered Himself. Even though He had neither sinned against God nor broken any earthly law, he was put to death by crucifixion. In the midst of that death, He experienced a punishment in our place, which no other person has experienced during their earthly life as He was abandoned by God while He died. He suffered all of these things willingly for the purpose of enduring punishment as our substitute so that He could give to us every good thing which He had earned by His perfect life, among which are the forgiveness of our sins, and eternal life in a new creation which does not know the trials we experience in this world. Since God has gone to these lengths to save and provide for our deepest need, then we trust him to bring us also through all other earthly trials, even when we do not fully understand how or why they occur.

The third thing to which we can turn when facing the tragedies of this life is that on the third day after He was crucified, Jesus rose from death, giving evidence that He had, in fact, defeated death by His death. And, just as He is risen from the dead, all who trust in Him to forgive their sins and save them from death also will rise on the last day when He returns to judge the living and the dead. Even in the face of earthly tragedy, we have the hope that He will restore all things when He comes again and give those who trust in Him eternal life in a world without the sorrow and tragedy we know in this life.

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