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Atlanta, 16 September 2015

From the heady to the heartsy, the academic to the profoundly personal -- today we leave Science and enter the seventh area of evidences in Answering Skeptics. It's the most personal area the apologist must address -- not with an arsenal of intellectual ammunition, but with a disclosure of weakness, pain, and faith in a good God. First, a brief review of the last lesson, for those who missed it or would appreciate a refresher.
Recap: Science answers
1. When a skeptic rejects Genesis as "unscientific," he's making the same mistake a Bible believer is making by appealing to scripture for a scientific account. That's simply not the nature of Genesis, or its primeval narrative.
2. In communicating his word to us, the Lord simplifies explanations and focuses only to remove ignorance when there is a spiritual or relational consequence. Instances of (say) sunrise in scripture are not erroneous, or unscientific; they're simply incidental to the message.
3. Since the Lord normally operates through processes, we shouldn't be surprised that the universe is as old as it is -- even if humans only make their entry on the stage at 11:58 pm! Time with Him is not the same as time with us.
4. Science is not at odds with scripture. Most scientists don't know scripture, and haven't studied theology, just as most preachers aren't professional scientists. The two groups therefore easily talk past one another.
5. Science can only measure the natural world, not the supernatural one. In the words of Schrodinger, "[Science] puts all our experience in magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart... it knows nothing of beautiful or ugly, good or bad, God and eternity." For the really good stuff, we need more than the Book of Works; we need God's Book of Words.

The Answering Skeptics series:
Hypocrisy, Scripture, Morality, Nonsense questions, God, Science, Suffering, Miracles, Christ, and Religion

The Problem of Suffering

In all my travels -- whether it's Europe or Africa, Asia or Latin America -- the most common and perhaps most important question I am asked is, "If there's a God, how come ...[terrible thing that happened] ...?" It's the classic question about good and evil, called theodicy (from the Greek words for god + justice). Our world is full of pain: grief (emotional pain) – loneliness (social pain), poverty (financial pain), angst, apprehension, and guilt (mental and spiritual pain). These typify the human condition. When someone asks, "Where was God when x happened?", "Why do bad things happen to good people?", or "If God is good, how come...?" he or she is speaking from the heart. We want someone to be responsible. We want somebody to care. All of us -- theists, atheists, agnostics -- experience evil and suffering. Is it true that evil and undeserved suffering disprove God?

(1) To begin with, unless there's a God, there's no morality to begin with, since he is the standard of goodness. No God, no morality. In the face of evil, no one can claim, "Hey -- oppression is wrong!" All he can say is "I don't like it," or "I wish it were otherwise." Morality and God are intimately connected, as we discussed during the Morality segment of this series. In studying the tree, we need to take care we don't saw off the branch that is supporting us. This may be too academic a response for most people -- though if you are in a university, the point needs to be made frequently! Christians are able to make at least six further points about suffering.

(2) "If there's a God, he would have made my life pain-free." How should we respond? No one can know that God's agenda (if he exists) is to eliminate the pain and suffering in our lives. Isn't it rather suspicious that we think we can discern God's agenda -- one that corresponds neatly with our own?

(3) Suffering often serves useful functions, after all. What sort of character would we have if life was a nonstop Disneyworld of pleasure (with free food, and without the lines)? Perseverance through suffering build character (Rom 5:3-4). Both suffering and the sufferer are transformed. As holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl put it, “Suffering ceases to be suffering in some way at the moment it finds meaning.” It is the believer who has suffered who has greatest credibility. As someone else said, "Never trust a Christian who doesn't walk with a limp." (I wish I'd said that.)

(4) ... (5) ... (6) ... (7) ...  [Log in for rest of article.]

The discussion continues next week. We'll consider whether God created evil (no!). We'll also examine several extremely popular passages, which, misinterpreted, blunt the call to bear our cross. And, most importantly, we'll identify God's master plan, and learn why suffering is his way for all who would know him and have an abundant life. In the meantime, if you want more to chew on, let me invite you to watch a video on The Problem of Human Suffering.

Some spaces still left

The ongoing discussion about evangelism -- and particularly about how much a person needs to change before he / she becomes a Christian -- is giving rise to a wide range of reactions. Thanks for your interest. Just a clarifying note: Paradigm Shift isn't a rethinking of conversion, but a rethinking of expectations at the beginning of a believer's life. The Bible is quite clear about the new birth (Acts 2:38, 22:16; etc). This series is more of a call to rethink some of our denominational traditions. Anyway, if you'd like to join our free webinar -- 5 days from now -- click to register.

Yours in Him,
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