Archive | Problem of Evil

Why I Can’t Bear Your Burdens Anymore

I was talking to a good friend not too long ago as she shared the events of her life that were troubling and discouraging to her. I found myself disconnected from her stories, and unable to identify or sympathize with them. I could sense that she was depressed and needed help, being burdened by her problems. As I sat there listening, I thought to myself, “What is my problem? I don’t even act like I care. She can tell. Wait, I don’t really care. Why don’t I care? She is a good friend and I should be more concerned about this.” She left, and I could tell that she could sense the apathy. I was very saddened that I acted so unchristianlike. How is it that I could be so disconnected from someone close to me, while she shared her weighty troubles that were burdening their heart? I had felt that my plate of troubles was so full that I could not fit anything else on it. But, if this were the case, how did it get so full that I could not come to the aid, in any way, with a good friend with whom I have been so close for years?

All of us have been overwhelmed by the images on the news. I can’t believe what we have to endure. To sit and watch as someone’s head is cut off is beyond disturbing, but it produces emotional rage and spiritual confusion. Yet, these images are being shown over and over, and I am sure there will be more to come. We all had to sink emotionally when we heard about Robin Williams. The pain that it takes to take one’s own life is transferred to us, when we imagine what it must have been like in his final moments. Not only this, but the way news travels, all day long we are inundated with every bit of bad news that happens around the world within minutes of it happening. We see the images of those suffering around the world. We get prayer requests on Facebook for God to intervene in tragedies of “friends” that we never thought we could have. I can’t bear all this pain. I really can’t. I makes me fall apart in every way, cowering in a fetal position on the kitchen floor. But Paul tells me to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). The “law of Christ” in this context seems to be to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39). But I can’t. My allotted emotional energy is spent before the coffee is even served. News can be overwhelming. Bad news is discouraging, depressing, and disillusioning. The dictionary defines “disillusioning” as “to free from or deprive of illusion, belief, idealism, etc.; disenchant.” To be disillusioned can be a good thing so long as the “illusion” that you are under is misleading, representing a state of mind that is not in accordance with reality. We should desire to be disillusioned from worldviews that discourage us from the focus or balance that creates stability. However, when we have a correct worldview, to have circumstances that create imbalance and instability–disillusionment–within that worldview affecting us in a negative way. . . Continue Reading →

Will God Protect My Children?


Will God Protect My Children?

My friend was not a Christian, but he was seriously considering it. He was one of my wild friends from my younger, crazier days. We used to drive from bar-to-bar looking for nothing but trouble.

We often talked about Jesus. I was one of those dichotomous Christians who did what he could to evangelize while neck deep in the clutches of carnality (now I am just dichotomized in other ways!).

He was an atheist and pretty determined to stand his ground. Initially, our reconnect involved uncomfortable re-telling’s of our former days of sin along with some (compromising?) laughter about such.

But we spent the next year talking about Christ Here we were a decade later having the same types of conversations during a different stage of life. He’s married with kids. I’m married with kids. He’s thinking about bigger, more profound things. I’m teaching about bigger and more profound things.

Continue Reading →

That Age-Old Question: Why Do Good Things Happen?

Forget for a moment the question of why there is evil in the world. Ask: why is there good in the world? Bad things happen to people, but have you noticed that good things do too? We’re easily inclined to say that life should be better than it is. But why aren’t we inclined to think that life should be worse? If there is philosophical merit in the first question, there should be some merit in this reciprocal question, and in fact this question should be paramount for people who hold to certain philosophical worldviews (more on that in a minute).

Of course the age-old question, despite my sanguine title, is not about the existence of good but rather the opposite. The issue of evil and suffering remains the all-time league leader among vexing philosophical, theological, and – frankly- psychological problems. Why must all human beings endure so many hardships in this world? Life is so riddled with painful elements, from the minor discomforts and inconveniences facing us in day to day living all the way to the shocking and disturbing tragedies that scar our collective historical memory.

The problem of evil, pain, and suffering is as old as human beings. It is found in the most ancient texts. One of the oldest biblical writings is Job, maybe as gut-wrenching a book as can be found from antiquity. There was never an era or epoch when the question of suffering wasn’t foremost on people’s minds. And even though so much of life has become so much more comfortable for us in the contemporary world, this question still plagues people. It remains, as theologian Hans Kung once called it, “the rock of atheism.” Every popular and provocative atheist book of the last decade has basically been, at bottom, about this one topic.  Even when we think a famous person’s disbelief is owing to something else, it usually isn’t. The agnosticism of Darwin, for example, was based upon this issue rather than what people are likely to assume it was. The issue was philosophical, not scientific. He had far less of a problem imagining an intelligent designer working behind the scenes than he did imagining why the designer would let nature be so savage in so many ways – right up to and including the death of his own beloved daughter.

All of that being said, our present culture is not exactly known for deep contemplation of anything. So not surprisingly the problem of evil and suffering is frequently raised by people who think they may be onto something profound for the first time. I heard an interview not long ago in which a localized NPR radio show called “Radio West” spoke to theologian and commentator Al Mohler about recent tragedies in the news (marathon bombings, Oklahoma tornadoes, etc.). Upon hearing Mohler articulate a fairly classical Christian understanding of evil in the world, the host and a few callers reacted as though they had never heard this talked about with any depth prior to that conversation.

Still, the question of why so many bad things happen remains something we cannot get off of our minds. But I wonder why it does not occur to us to ask the inverse question of why people get to experience so many good things in life.  If God is watching, we instinctively perceive that he is to blame for all of the bad things that go on; but what about the good things? The 19th Century Victorian poet Christina Rossetti wrote, “Were there no God, we would be in this glorious world with grateful hearts and no one to thank.” Have you ever seriously contemplated the “Problem of Good”? People who do not believe in any sort of ultimate goodness should be particularly confounded by this question. Think of it: if no person like God exists, if from the start no purpose lay behind the origin and structure of this universe, and if the only game being played out is the strictly biological one, why should there be such varied experiences of joy in the lives of people? “Nature is a wicked old witch,” wrote the late evolutionary biologist George Williams.  She is “red in tooth and claw” as Tennyson famously put it.  Why, then, are there creatures like ourselves with so much capacity for so much rich enjoyment of life?

Philosopher Peter Kreeft offers an argument for God along these lines, focusing on the aesthetic qualities of our lives. We have a strange capacity to do far more than just eat, sleep, reproduce, survive and rear our young so as to make our genes successful in the brutally competitive struggle that characterizes survival of the fittest. We can enjoy all of these elements to a greater degree than you would think the blind processes of nature would allow. Kreeft considers the deep fulfillment we find in relationships, the way we enjoy fine food and great music, the power of profound stories and the way art can capture the imagination . At times these things can border on the sublime. The kind of love and longing that C. S. Lewis (one of Kreeft’s favorite people) talked about as a key to his spiritual awakening is part of the true and intense beauty of living, even in a place where disease, crime and ultimately death cause us so much grief and angst.  If we are going to ask why the latter, shouldn’t we also ask why the former?

And it’s not as if Lewis had too easy a life to comprehend tragedy and sorrow. The man who wrote a personal and probing book on the topic (The Problem of Pain) after the death of his wife had also seen the trenches of WWI, from which he was sent home wounded, and had years later lived through the Nazi bombing raids over London, during which his voice was heard weekly on BBC radio broadcasts reading words he had written to help bring calm and focus to the frazzled, frightened public. Those radio addresses, written and delivered during one of that city’s darkest periods, went on to become the chapters of one of the all-time best-selling books: Mere Christianity.

The good things in the world present as much a riddle to us as the bad things. Both beckon us to ultimate questions. The only reason we would obsess exclusively about the issue of pain and evil, while never pausing to consider the other side of the coin, is the near-sighted sense of entitlement to which we’re all naturally prone. We take the good things for granted, as if they are the norm or the default, and the bad things shock our senses as the inexplicable exceptions.

The late atheist pundit Christopher Hitchens was fond of likening the universe to a cosmic North Korea ruled over by a dictatorial deity. But as sure as Hitchens suffered his share of problems, right up to the problem of his own withering health, did he not also experience a life of many enjoyments? Did he not secure an outlet as a writer and a platform for fame? Did he not fill rooms with people who enjoyed his sardonic wit and lined up for his autograph? Did he not rub elbows with important cultural and political voices during a very long public career? Did he not spend many a fine meal regaling the table with his sharply sarcastic critiques of so many things in the news? Why would the all-powerful ‘Kim Jong Ill in the sky’ be so good to him as to allow all of that? Why would that cruel cosmic meanie give so many pleasures to a man who railed against him ceaselessly?

If the world is ruled over by a figure of omnipotent viciousness and cold cruelty, we should expect a thousand times more hardship in life than we experience. Likewise if the story of human history is nothing more than the story of a race of creatures on a distant galactic outpost where, by a crazy long-shot, a zillion factors lined up to make their existence possible, then all of our eloquent lyricizing and philosophizing about good and evil amount to nothing more than sounds going out into the atmosphere and never beyond it. As Doug Wilson put it, “the material universe doesn’t care about any of this foolishness, not even a little bit … it’s all just part of a gaudy and very temporary show. Sometimes the Northern lights put on a show in the sky. Sometimes people put on a show on the ground. Then the sun goes out and it turns out nobody cares” (Letter from a Christian Citizen).

Yes the problem of good and the problem of evil both force our attention and require us to consider more seriously the kind of reality in which we live.  No response is neat and tidy so as to satisfy us completely, but, like Wilson and unlike Hitchens (the two men, incidentally, are featured in a series called Collision that highlights their uniquely antagonistic friendship through several public debate appearances), I would maintain that the Christian understanding of things makes more sense of good and evil than the alternatives.

The Reason Darwin Left the Faith


A few years ago I was diagnosed with “severe degenerative disc disease.” This is a lower back issue. For the last six years, the pain has often been tremendous, keeping me from doing many things. Last year, I thought God had healed it, but if he did, he did not do so for long. Last week the pain was so bad I could not walk for days. I am back on my feet today, but residual pain has kept me from doing some things I really need to get done. I take care of my mother full-time, lifting her, changing her, and moving her from place to place. We have had to make some adjustments with her care for now. When the pain comes on, there is a constant pain that goes down into my left hip from a nerve that is being affected. “Severe degenerative disc disease” sounds much worse than it actually is, but it feels as bad as it sounds. The outlook is good. Essentially, it will end up taking care of itself as my spine fuses on its own in my fifties (just a little over ten years to go!).

I was thinking about the pain and its severity the other day. You see, I have been prevented from exercise to some degree, and I love to work out. I love the way it makes me feel. I can always assess how good my workout was by taking account of my pain level the next day. When I can hardly move my arms, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction that my workout was not in vain. We call this being “sore.” If you are not sore the next day (at least to some degree), the workout was a failure, as the lack of soreness is a sign that you did not challenge your muscles enough to tear them down. In this sense, working out intentionally injures our muscles. Sometimes, the soreness is so severe that I cannot straighten my arms. Other times, I walk funny because my legs hurt so badly from the “hip sled.”

But here is the issue: I can deal with the soreness from a good workout all day long. The more pain, the better. Often, when I think about it, the pain from a good workout can just as severe as that from my “degenerative disc decease.” But from one of them, I get a sense of victorious satisfaction. From the other, I feel debilitating defeat.

Why? Why does the same severity of pain bring about such contrasting attitudes?

Charles Darwin began his journey, according to his testimony, as a Christian. In fact, there was the possibility of him going into ministry before his ride on the Beagle. However, there were some things that changed his mind. No, it was not his “discovery” of evolution that changed him. In fact, it was something else that pushed him into this evolutionary paradigm: meaninglessness. More precisely, meaningless suffering. In his book Saving Darwin, Karl Giberson gives three primary observations in nature that contributed to Darwin’s eventual rejection of God. The first was a species of rhea. They were flightless birds. “Why would God create a bird with so much unused aerodynamic paraphernalia?” A bird with wings that could not fly, according to Darwin, made the wings meaningless and sad (p. 33). The second was a goose that, though it had webbed feet, never went into the water. “If this was the handiwork of God, it was a cruel joke” to make him try to walk on meaninglessly webbed feet (ibid). Finally, there was the Ichneumonidae wasp. The mother wasp introduces a paralyzing chemical into a caterpillar and then lays its eggs inside. The hatched wasps have instincts that cause them to eat the host caterpillar in such a way that keeps the caterpillar alive as long as possible. From Darwin’s perspective, God could not be responsible for such a horrific and painful process. Continue Reading →

How The Credo House Changed the Life of this OIF Veteran

Allow me to introduce myself…

My name is Kevin and I want to share with you the impact this ministry has had on my life.

Take four minutes to watch this video and let me share my testimony with you.

You know what is crazy?

I have received multiple emails from members and supporters with the same conclusion.

The Theology Program changes lives.

I am living proof and am amazed at the stories that I am hearing everyday.

Your feedback is what helps me to wake up every morning excited to come to work here.


If you have a story about how Credo House Ministries has impacted your life or someone you know, let me know!

I will be sure to pass it along to the rest of team (and trust me, this is just the encouragement some of them need).

Also if you have any theology questions or subjects or product ideas you would like us to cover let me know and I will be sure to relay it to Michael and Tim.

An Insufficient Answer to the Shooting in Connecticut

Today, we were shocked with the news that a troubled twenty-year-old boy shot his mom in the head at their home and then went to the elementary school where she used to teach and killed kindergarteners trapped in two classrooms. Twenty kids and eight adults lost their lives. The gunman is dead. Suicide.

Selah . . .

Like many of you, I don’t know how to process this. I don’t think it is possible to process this. While the parents and other school children need counseling to help them deal with this tragedy, I think just about everyone in the country (maybe the world) needs counseling. Many pastors right now are adjusting their Sunday sermons, knowing that their congregation is going to be looking for answers from God. They want to know why. They want to know how God could allow such a thing. As the pastor digs deep, his emotions betray him as he would rather be sitting in the congregation while another pastor explains to him the whys and the hows.

The explanations around the world are going to be plenty as emotions run high. Already, the President has made a statement implying that gun control will be placed back on the table. I had lunch with someone who said that the moral decay of our country is at fault. Another said it was the breakdown of the family.

What is the explanation? Is it guns? Do we need to disarm the country? Is it TV shows? Is it movies? Is it public education? Is it divorce? Is it lack of discipline? Is it homosexual families? Is it video games? Is it pornography? Is it the Internet? What is the explanation for all these shooting tragedies? The answer is both more simple and more terrifying than we think. The answer is this: evil. Evil is the reality about which we often forget. Evil. . . People are evil. We are all evil. We don’t need any external influence to explain these tragedies.  We need theological revelation. Listen to what Christ says:

Matt. 15:17-19
Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Continue Reading →