Archive | The Discipleship Book

The Five Responses to the Problem of Evil

This is an unedited excerpt from my upcoming book with Crossway: The Discipleship Book: Now That I Am a Christian. Chapter title: “Pain and Suffering” (book name and title tentative).

The overwhelming majority of Christians who suffer with significant doubts in their faith do so due to the pain and suffering they experience in their lives. The late Christian philosopher Ronald Nash once said that it is completely irrational to reject the Christian faith for any other reason than the problem of evil. This expresses the respect he gives to this issue. The “problem of evil” is the problem of pain and suffering. This is, indeed, a tremendous problem. C. S. Lewis, the great Christian writer, wrote a very academic book on pain, suffering, and evil called The Problem of Pain. It was a wonderful, monumental work and I recommend it without hesitation. But after he wrote this work, he experienced pain and suffering at a different level. It is one thing to evaluate something from the outside; it is quite another to personally experience it. C. S. Lewis lost his wife after a battle with cancer filled with ups and downs. It broke him and brought him to his knees, and he rested for a bit in front of God, asking painful questions which stemmed from his disillusionment. Thankfully, his whole experience is recorded in another book about pain. This one was a very personal book called A Grief Observed. In it he laid himself bare before God, expressing his confusion. I highly recommend this book as well. These are two very different works, one intellectual and one emotional, by the same person about the same subject.

I don’t want you to be surprised by suffering. I want you to be able to handle evil and pain both in an academic way and an emotional way. I am going to talk first about the academic side of evil, pain, and suffering. It is often called the “intellectual problem of evil.” Hang with me, as things might get a bit technical.

The Intellectual Problem of Evil

The intellectual problem of evil attempts to address a logical problem in a world that has pain, suffering, and evil, yet has a good and all-powerful God who rules it. Let me define this problem using a syllogism:

  • Premise 1: God is all-good (omnibenevolent)
  • Premise 2: God is all-powerful (omnipotent)
  • Premise 3: Suffering and evil exist

Conclusion: An all-good, all-powerful God could not exist since there is so much suffering and evil in the world. If he did, he would eradicate this evil.

The debate over this problem has only intensified in a world where technology allows us to share in the sufferings of millions of people all over the earth. The internet brings us one click away from faces of those who have had their children kidnapped, are starving to death, are diseased and deformed in unimaginable ways, and whose unloving parents leave them locked in a closet as they go out to dinner. We can’t go a day without hearing about evils that, while not all are part of our immediate community, are a common experience for the human race.

Therefore we begin to question God’s role in all of this. And we are brought to this dilemma. If God exists, if God is good and does not like evil, and if God is powerful enough to change things, why does evil still exist? Let me give you some of the wrong ways people handle this issue.

1. The Sadotheistic response:

  • Premise 1: God is all-good (omnibenevolent)
  • Premise 2: God is all-powerful (omnipotent)
  • Premise 3: Suffering and Evil Exist

Conclusion: God enjoys to bring about suffering and pain for no reason at all.

God is on an opposing team.

The Sadotheist believes that God is an evil sadist who enjoys bringing about suffering with no good intentions whatsoever. This could be true. It could be the case that God is a sadist. What I mean is that there is no logical difficulty here that cannot be overcome. The problem with the Sadotheist position is that this is not how God has revealed himself in history or in the Bible. The cross of Christ is the greatest illustration of God’s love that we have. God himself got his feet dirty and his hands bloody in order to save mankind. On top of this, the Sadotheist has to borrow from God’s morality in order to judge God! In other words, how does the Sadotheist know what good and evil are outside of God’s love and existence? This view, while logically possible, is biblically wrong.

2. Open Theistic Response:

  • Premise 1: God is all-good (omnibenevolent)
  • Premise 2: God is all-powerful (omnipotent)
  • Premise 3: Suffering and evil exist

Conclusion: God has self-limited his abilities so that he can truly relate to mankind. Therefore God cannot stop all suffering and evil.

God is on our team, but he is only a cheerleader on the sidelines who is rooting for us as he watches things unfold.

In this response, the open theist handles the problem of pain and suffering by saying that God, due to his commitment to man’s freedom, can’t do anything about it. This is a self-limiting of both God’s power and his knowledge. Evil may happen, but it is only because God is committed to the freedom of man’s will. This view is logically possible as well. In other words, God could have this more or less hands-off approach to the happenings of the world. But this militates against much of Scripture, which says that God is in control and he does know the future. For example, look at what the book of Daniel says about this: Continue Reading →

The Discipleship Book – An Introduction

This book will be written chapter-by-chapter through the Parchment & Pen blog. The printed form of the book will be released in connection with the DVD/Workbook study entitled: The Discipleship Program. A projected release date is May 2011.

Can a book, workbook or DVD Study make you a mature disciple of Jesus? It would be naive to believe such a foolish thought. Discipleship cannot be carried to completion through a book. Is it a waste of time, therefore, for us to write a book for you to read if you won’t be a mature disciple afterward? No, it is not a waste of time, you should read this book. Why?

Aim of Book

The aim of this book is to help point you in the right direction for a lifetime of fruitful discipleship. Our prayer is for you to spend the rest of your life passionately following Jesus. On your own, however, you can easily get sidetracked in your following of Christ. God did not set things up in a way where upon trusting in Jesus as your Savior you are now a fully devoted follower of Him.

A new believer has just started a process which Jesus refers to as discipleship. The term disciple is derived from the New Testament Greek word “μαθητής” (mathetes). The word comes to English by way of the Latin discipulus meaning “a learner”. A disciple, quite simply, just refers to someone who is a learner.

Jesus gave a discipleship, or “learning,” command to all people who would follow Him. This command has become so famous it is better known today as “The Great Commission”. You can find it in the Bible. It’s recorded at the end of the 28th chapter of the book of Matthew. Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus specifically wants those who would follow Him to become life-long learners of Him.

Need for Discipleship

It’s popular today to think our learning about God will stifle our passion for God. I’ve even heard people say, “I’d rather be led instead of read.” This is simply not true from human experience. Anyone passionate in any subject will eventually seek to learn more and more about the subject. The person passionate about wine becomes a student of wine. They learn about the art of wine making, differing varieties in differing climates, soil nutrients, fermentation, barreling, pairing, and proper tasting techniques. They love the taste, but the taste is now greatly enhanced by their knowledge.

The person passionate about NASCAR becomes a student of NASCAR. They can tell you about the history of certain race tracks, they will tell you about some of the great drivers from the past, they’ll educate you about fuel conservation during a race, driver and fan safety, getting the most out of the tires, and driver G-forces.
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