4/27/14

From Gary... Bible Reading April 27


Bible Reading  

April 27

The World English Bible


Apr. 27
Deuteronomy 9, 10
Deu 9:1 Hear, Israel: you are to pass over the Jordan this day, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to the sky,
Deu 9:2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard say, Who can stand before the sons of Anak?
Deu 9:3 Know therefore this day, that Yahweh your God is he who goes over before you as a devouring fire; he will destroy them, and he will bring them down before you: so you shall drive them out, and make them to perish quickly, as Yahweh has spoken to you.
Deu 9:4 Don't say in your heart, after Yahweh your God has thrust them out from before you, saying, For my righteousness Yahweh has brought me in to possess this land; whereas for the wickedness of these nations Yahweh does drive them out from before you.
Deu 9:5 Not for your righteousness, or for the uprightness of your heart, do you go in to possess their land; but for the wickedness of these nations Yahweh your God does drive them out from before you, and that he may establish the word which Yahweh swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Deu 9:6 Know therefore, that Yahweh your God doesn't give you this good land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiff-necked people.
Deu 9:7 Remember, don't forget, how you provoked Yahweh your God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that you went forth out of the land of Egypt, until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against Yahweh.
Deu 9:8 Also in Horeb you provoked Yahweh to wrath, and Yahweh was angry with you to destroy you.
Deu 9:9 When I was gone up onto the mountain to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which Yahweh made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I did neither eat bread nor drink water.
Deu 9:10 Yahweh delivered to me the two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which Yahweh spoke with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.
Deu 9:11 It came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that Yahweh gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant.
Deu 9:12 Yahweh said to me, Arise, get down quickly from hence; for your people whom you have brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they have quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.
Deu 9:13 Furthermore Yahweh spoke to me, saying, I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people:
Deu 9:14 let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under the sky; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.
Deu 9:15 So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands.
Deu 9:16 I looked, and behold, you had sinned against Yahweh your God; you had made yourselves a molten calf: you had turned aside quickly out of the way which Yahweh had commanded you.
Deu 9:17 I took hold of the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and broke them before your eyes.
Deu 9:18 I fell down before Yahweh, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I did neither eat bread nor drink water; because of all your sin which you sinned, in doing that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, to provoke him to anger.
Deu 9:19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, with which Yahweh was angry against you to destroy you. But Yahweh listened to me that time also.
Deu 9:20 Yahweh was very angry with Aaron to destroy him: and I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.
Deu 9:21 I took your sin, the calf which you had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust: and I cast its dust into the brook that descended out of the mountain.
Deu 9:22 At Taberah, and at Massah, and at Kibroth Hattaavah, you provoked Yahweh to wrath.
Deu 9:23 When Yahweh sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then you rebelled against the commandment of Yahweh your God, and you didn't believe him, nor listen to his voice.
Deu 9:24 You have been rebellious against Yahweh from the day that I knew you.
Deu 9:25 So I fell down before Yahweh the forty days and forty nights that I fell down, because Yahweh had said he would destroy you.
Deu 9:26 I prayed to Yahweh, and said, Lord Yahweh, don't destroy your people and your inheritance, that you have redeemed through your greatness, that you have brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
Deu 9:27 Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; don't look to the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin,
Deu 9:28 lest the land whence you brought us out say, Because Yahweh was not able to bring them into the land which he promised to them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to kill them in the wilderness.
Deu 9:29 Yet they are your people and your inheritance, which you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.
Deu 10:1 At that time Yahweh said to me, Cut two tables of stone like the first, and come up to me onto the mountain, and make an ark of wood.
Deu 10:2 I will write on the tables the words that were on the first tables which you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.
Deu 10:3 So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tables of stone like the first, and went up onto the mountain, having the two tables in my hand.
Deu 10:4 He wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which Yahweh spoke to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and Yahweh gave them to me.
Deu 10:5 I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they are as Yahweh commanded me.
Deu 10:6 (The children of Israel traveled from Beeroth Bene Jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest's office in his place.
Deu 10:7 From there they traveled to Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water.
Deu 10:8 At that time Yahweh set apart the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, to stand before Yahweh to minister to him, and to bless in his name, to this day.
Deu 10:9 Therefore Levi has no portion nor inheritance with his brothers; Yahweh is his inheritance, according as Yahweh your God spoke to him.)
Deu 10:10 I stayed on the mountain, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights: and Yahweh listened to me that time also; Yahweh would not destroy you.
Deu 10:11 Yahweh said to me, Arise, take your journey before the people; and they shall go in and possess the land, which I swore to their fathers to give to them.
Deu 10:12 Now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Deu 10:13 to keep the commandments of Yahweh, and his statutes, which I command you this day for your good?
Deu 10:14 Behold, to Yahweh your God belongs heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that is therein.
Deu 10:15 Only Yahweh had a delight in your fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all peoples, as at this day.
Deu 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.
Deu 10:17 For Yahweh your God, he is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the awesome, who doesn't regard persons, nor takes reward.
Deu 10:18 He does execute justice for the fatherless and widow, and loves the foreigner, in giving him food and clothing.
Deu 10:19 Therefore love the foreigner; for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.
Deu 10:20 You shall fear Yahweh your God; you shall serve him; and you shall cling to him, and you shall swear by his name.
Deu 10:21 He is your praise, and he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things, which your eyes have seen.
Deu 10:22 Your fathers went down into Egypt with seventy persons; and now Yahweh your God has made you as the stars of the sky for multitude.

From Mark Copeland... The Return Of Christ (Acts 1:10-11)

                          "THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                    The Return Of Christ (1:10-11)

INTRODUCTION

1. As the disciples watched Jesus ascend to heaven...
   a. Two men stood by in white apparel - Ac 1:10
   b. With a promise that Jesus would one day return - Ac 1:11

2. Those who look for the Lord's return often differ greatly over the
   details...
   a. The premillenialist looks for Christ to come in order to
      establish a literal kingdom on the earth, over which He will reign
      for a 1000 years
   b. The postmillenialist believes that Christ will at some point
      begin a thousand year reign from heaven, at the end of which He 
      will come to judge the world
   c. The amillenialist believes that Christ has been reigning as King
      of kings, and Lord of lords ever since His ascension to heaven, and
      that His coming will be to raise the dead, judge the world, and 
      usher in the new heavens and new earth

[In this lesson, the amillenial view will be presented, which I believe
most accurately teaches what the Bible reveals about the Second Coming of
our Lord.  Beginning with...]

I. THE CERTAINTY OF HIS COMING

   A. PROCLAIMED BY ANGELS...
      1. The "two men...in white apparel" - Ac 1:9-11
      2. Who said that "This same Jesus, who was taken up from into
         heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into 
         heaven." - ibid.

   B. PROCLAIMED BY APOSTLES...
      1. Peter - Ac 3:19-21; 2Pe 3:1-13
      2. Paul - 1Co 11:26; 15:22-23; 1Th 1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 2Ti 4:1
      3. John - 1Jn 2:28
      4. The writer to the Hebrews - He 9:27-28

[In the OT one finds the recurring theme "The Messiah is coming!"  In the
NT we learn not only "He has come!", but that "He is coming again!"  To
the certainty of His coming, we can add..]

II. THE MANNER OF HIS COMING

   A. HE WILL COME IN PERSON...
      1. "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will
         so come..." - Ac 1:11
      2. "the Lord himself will descend from heaven..." - 1Th 4:15-17

   B. HE WILL COME WITH THE CLOUDS...
      1. "This same Jesus...will so come in like manner as you saw Him
         go into heaven" - Ac 1:11 (referring to verse 9: "He was taken 
         up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight")
      2. "...in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." - 1Th 4:17
      3. "Behold, He is coming with clouds..." - Re 1:7

   C. HE WILL COME WITHOUT WARNING...
      1. "...the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night." 
         - 1Th 5:2
      2. "For when they say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden
         destruction comes..." - 1Th 5:3
      3. "...the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night..."
         - 2Pe 3:10

[Of course, this unexpected coming of the Lord will not surprise the
faithful, who seriously watch for the Lord's coming (cf. 1Th 5:4-11). 
With joyful anticipation, they await the personal return of their Savior.
What will happen when the Lord returns?  To answer this question we now
consider...]

III. THE PURPOSE OF HIS COMING

   A. TO RAISE THE DEAD...
      1. "...for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves
         will hear His voice and come forth..." - Jn 5:28-29
         a. Note that there is but one resurrection, including both the
            good and evil, that will occur at one time ("the hour")
         b. As Paul said, "...there will be a resurrection of the dead,
            both of the just and the unjust." - Ac 24:15
      2. Those who are alive at the Lord's coming...
         a. Will be "changed" in "the twinkling of an eye", being
            clothed with immortality and incorruption - 1Co 15:50-54
         b. Then "caught up...to meet the Lord in the air." - 1Th 4:16-18  

   B. TO DELIVER UP THE KINGDOM TO GOD...
      1. Contrary to the view that Jesus has yet to establish His
         kingdom on earth, He has been ruling over His kingdom since He
         first ascended to heaven!
         a. In fulfillment of the prophecy that God would raise up the
            Christ to sit on the "throne of David", Jesus was raised from
            the dead and made "Lord" - Ac 2:30-36
         b. All authority in heaven and earth has been given unto Him 
            - Mt 28:18
            1) He is far above all principality, power, might, and
               dominion, with all things placed under His feet - Ep 1:20-22
            2) At the right hand of God, angels and authorities and
               powers are made subject to Him - 1Pe 3:22
         c. Christians are said to be "in" His kingdom
            1) Having been "delivered...from the power of darkness and
               translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love" - Col 1:13
            2) They are "in the kingdom...of Jesus Christ" - Re 1:9
         d. Christ will continue to reign "till He has put all enemies
            under His feet" - 1Co 15:25
            1) Note that His reign will be concurrent with the fact
               enemies are still present
            2) As prophesied by the Psalmist:  "Rule in the midst of
               Your enemies!" - Ps 110:1-2 
         e. Thus Christ is NOW "the blessed and only Potentate, the
            King of kings and Lord of Lords" - 1Ti 6:15; cf. Re 19:16
         f. And He will reign "till He has put all enemies under His
            feet" - 1Co 15:25
            1) The last enemy that will be destroyed is death itself 
               - cf. 1Co 15:26
            2) Which we have seen will be destroyed at the coming of
               the Lord when He will raise the dead - 1Co 15:51-54
      2. So when Jesus comes, it will not be to set up His kingdom, but
         to deliver up His kingdom!
         a. As Paul clearly told the Corinthians - 1Co 15:23-26
         b. As taught by Jesus in His Parable of the Tares - Mt 13:36-43
            1) His kingdom will last until "the end of this age"
            2) After which "the righteous will shine forth as the sun
               in the kingdom of their Father" (i.e., the heavenly 
               kingdom)

   C. TO JUDGE THE WORLD AND PUNISH EVIL...
      1. God has appointed a "day" in which He will judge the world 
         - 2Pe 3:7
         a. The one appointed to be the Judge is Jesus Christ - Ac 17:31; 2Co 5:10
         b. The standard by which He will judge will be the words He
            has spoken - Jn 12:48
      2. It will be a day of perdition (utter destruction) of ungodly
         men - 2Pe 3:7
         a. Those who know not God and have not obeyed the gospel will
            be punished with everlasting destruction - 2Th 1:7-10
         b. Those not in the "Book of Life" will be cast into the "lake
            of fire" - Re 20:11-15

   D. TO USHER IN THE NEW HEAVENS AND NEW EARTH...
      1. As taught by Peter - 2Pe 3:10-14
         a. This will follow the "passing away" of the present heavens
            and earth
         b. It is in fulfillment of God's promise - cf. Isa 65:17-19;
            66:22-23
         c. It is something we are to "look for" (13-14)
         d. It will be a realm where righteousness dwells, therefore
            the need for us to be found "in peace, without spot and 
            blameless" when Christ returns (13-14)
      2. As taught by John - Re 21:1-22:5
         a. It will follow after the first heaven and first earth have
            "passed away" - Re 21:1; 20:11
         b. It will be the place where the New Jerusalem will abide
            when it "comes down out of heaven" - Re 21:2; 3:10; 21:10
         c. God will dwell with us in this "New Jerusalem" that has
            "come down out of heaven" - Re 21:3-27; 22:1-5

CONCLUSION

1. The purpose of Jesus' second coming can be summed up by His
   statement in Re 22:12...
   
   "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, 
   to give to every one according to his work."

2. That Jesus has not yet come is only an indication of God's
   long-suffering, but rest assured "that day" will one day come! - 2Pe 3:8-9

3. In the meantime, what should be our attitude be toward the coming of
   our Lord?  One of...
   a. Prayerful preparation - Lk 21:34-36; 2Pe 3:14
   b. Joyful expectation - Php 3:20-21
   c. Patient endurance - He 10:35-39

xecutable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2012

From Dave Miller, Ph.D. Kyle Butt, M.A. ... The Problem of Evil




http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=890

The Problem of Evil

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.
Kyle Butt, M.A.

On February 12, 2009, in a debate with Kyle Butt, Dan Barker affirmed the proposition that the God of the Bible does not exist. Three minutes and 15 seconds into his opening speech, he stated that one reason he believes God does not exist is because “there are no good replies to the arguments against the existence of God, such as the problem of evil. All you have to do is walk into any children’s hospital and you know there is no God. Prayer doesn’t make any difference. Those people pray for their beloved children to live, and they die” (Butt and Barker, 2009). Barker suggested that “the problem of evil” is one of the strongest positive arguments against the existence of God.
What, precisely, is the so-called “problem of evil”? Atheists like Barker note that the Bible depicts God as all-loving as well as all-powerful. This observation is certainly correct (e.g., 1 John 4:8; Genesis 17:1; Job 42:2; Matthew 19:26). Yet everyone admits that evil exists in the world. For God to allow evil and suffering either implies that He is not all-loving, or if He is all-loving, He lacks the power to eliminate them. In either case, the God of the Bible would not exist. To phrase the “problem of evil” more precisely, the atheist contends that the biblical theist cannot consistently affirm all three of the following propositions:
  • God is omnipotent.
  • God is perfect in goodness.
  • Evil exists.
Again, the atheist insists that if God is omnipotent (as the Bible affirms), He is not perfect in goodness since He permits evil and suffering to run rampant in the world. If, on the other hand, He is perfect in goodness, He lacks omnipotence since His goodness would move Him to exercise His power to eliminate evil on the Earth. Since the Christian affirms all three of the propositions, the atheist claims that Christians are guilty of affirming a logical contradiction, making their position false. Supposedly, the “problem of evil” presents an insurmountable problem for the Christian theist.
In truth, however, the “problem of evil” is a problem for the atheist—not the Christian theist. First, atheistic philosophy cannot provide a definition of “evil.” There is no rational way that atheism can accurately label anything as “evil” or “good.” On February 12, 1998, William Provine, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the distinguished Cornell University, delivered the keynote address at the second annual Darwin Day. In an abstract of that speech on the Darwin Day Web site, Dr. Provine asserted: “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent” (Provine, 1998, emp. added). Provine’s ensuing message centered on his fifth statement regarding human free will. Prior to delving into the “meat” of his message, however, he noted: “The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them” (1998, emp. added). If there is no foundation upon which to base any ethical conclusions, then how could an atheist label any action or occurrence as “evil,” “bad,” or “wrong”?
Frederick Nietzsche understood atheistic philosophy so well that he suggested that the bulk of humanity has misunderstood concepts such as “evil” and “good.” In his work Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche wrote: “We believe that severity, violence, slavery, danger in the street and in the heart, secrecy, stoicism, tempter’s art and devilry of every kind—that everything wicked, terrible, tyrannical, predatory, and serpentine in man, serves as well for the elevation of the human species as its opposite” (2007, p. 35, emp. added). Nietzsche’s point simply was that what we might call morally “evil,” actually helps humans evolve higher thinking capacities, quicker reflexes, or greater problem-solving skills. Thus, if an “evil” occurrence helps humanity “evolve,” then there can be no legitimate grounds for labeling that occurrence as “evil.” In fact, according to atheistic evolution, anything that furthers the human species should be deemed as “good.”
As C.S. Lewis made his journey from atheism to theism, he realized that the “problem of evil” presented more of a problem for atheism than it did for theism. He stated:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust...? Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple (Lewis, 1952, p. 45-46, italics in orig.).
Theistic apologist, William Lane Craig, has summarized the issue quite well:
I think that evil, paradoxically, actually proves the existence of God. My argument would go like this: If God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist. (2) Evil exists, (3) therefore objective moral values exist, that is to say, some things are really evil. Therefore, God exists. Thus, although evil and suffering at one level seem to call into question God’s existence, on a deeper more fundamental level, they actually prove God’s existence (n.d.).
Craig and Lewis are correct. If evil actually exists in the world, and some things are not the way they “should” be, then there must be a standard outside of the natural world that would give meaning to the terms “evil” and “good”—and the atheistic assumption proves false.

AN EMOTIONAL APPEAL

In addition to the fact that “evil” cannot even be discussed without reference to God, Barker rested the force of his statement on an emotional appeal. He said: “All you have to do is walk into any children’s hospital and you know there is no God.” Is it really the case that anyone who walks into a children’s hospital is immediately struck by the overwhelming force of atheism? No, it is not true. In fact, it is the farthest thing from the truth. Anticipating Barker’s tactics, one of us [KB] visited the children’s hospital in Columbia, South Carolina and met a lady who volunteered there. When asked why she volunteered, she pointed to a bullet hole in her skull. She said that it was a blessing she was still alive and she wanted to give something back since God had allowed her to live. When asked if many of the volunteers in the hospital were religious, she responded that many of them were from churches in the area, i.e., churches that believe in the God of the Bible.
According to Barker’s “line of reasoning,” the lady with whom we talked should not believe in a loving God, the volunteers that gave their time to the hospital should not believe in a loving God, we should no longer believe in a loving God (since we walked through the hospital), nor should any other person who has visited that facility. The falsity of such reasoning is apparent. Seeing the suffering in a children’s hospital does not necessarily drive a person to atheism. Truth be told, most people who visit a children’s hospital, and even have children who are patients there, believe in the God of the Bible. Barker’s assertion does not stand up to rational criticism.
Furthermore, Barker’s emotional appeal can easily be turned on its head: Walk through any children’s hospital and observe the love, care, and concern that the parents, doctors, and volunteers show the children, and you know atheistic evolution cannot be true. After all, evolution is about the survival of the fittest, in which the strong struggle against the weak to survive in a never-ending contest to pass on their genes. If evolution were true, parents and doctors would not waste their valuable resources on children who will not pass on their genes. Only theism can account for the selfless devotion and care that you see in children’s hospitals.

SOME SUFFERING IS ACCEPTABLE

When the “problem of evil” is presented, it quickly becomes apparent that the term “evil” cannot be used in any meaningful way by an atheist. The tactic, therefore, is to swap the terms “suffering,” “pain,” or “harm” for the word “evil,” and contend that the world is filled with too much pain, harm, and suffering. Since it is evident that countless people suffer physical, emotional, and psychological harm, the atheist contends that, even though there is no real “evil,” a loving God would not allow such suffering. [NOTE: The atheist’s argument has not really changed. He is still contending that suffering is “bad” or “evil” and would not be present in a “good” world. In truth, he remains in the same dilemma of proving that evil exists and that suffering is objectively evil.]
At first glance, it seems that the atheist is claiming that a loving, moral God would not allow His creatures, the objects of His love, to suffer at all. Again, the atheist reasons that humans are supposed to be the objects of God’s love, yet they suffer. Thus, God does not love or does not have the power to stop the suffering—and therefore does not exist.
The thoughtful observer soon sees the problem with this line of reasoning, which even the skeptic is forced to admit: it is morally right to allow some suffering in order to bring about greater good. On numerous occasions, Dan Barker and his fellow atheists have admitted the validity of this truth. During the cross-examination period of the Butt/Barker Debate, Barker stated:
You can’t get through life without some harm.... I think we all agree that it is wrong to stick a needle into a baby. That’s horrible. But, if that baby needs a life-saving injection, we will cause that harm, we will do that. The baby won’t understand it, but we will do that because there is a greater good. So, humanistic morality understands that within certain situations, there is harm, and there’s a trade off of values (Butt and Barker, 2009, emp. added).
In his debate with Peter Payne, Barker stated: “Often ethics involves creating harm. Sometimes harm is good” (Barker and Payne, 2005, emp. added). In his book, Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong: A Guide for Young Thinkers, Barker wrote: “When possible, you should try to stop the pain of others. If you have to hurt someone, then hurt them as little as possible.... If you do have to hurt someone, then try to stop as soon as possible. A good person does not enjoy causing pain” (1992, p. 33, emp. added).
It becomes evident that the atheist cannot argue against the concept of God based on the mere existence of suffering, because atheists are forced to admit that there can be morally justifiable reasons for suffering. Once again, the argument has been altered. No longer are we dealing with the “problem of evil,” since without the concept of God, the term “evil” means nothing. Furthermore, no longer are we dealing with a “problem of suffering,” since the atheist must admit that some suffering could be morally justifiable in order to produce a greater good. The atheist must add an additional term to qualify suffering: “pointless.”

POINTLESS OR UNNECESSARY SUFFERING

Since the skeptic knows that some suffering could be morally justified, he is forced to argue against the biblical concept of God by claiming that at least some of the suffering in this world is pointless or unnecessary. The skeptic then maintains that any being that allows pointless suffering cannot be loving or moral. In his book The Miracle of Theism, J.L. Mackie noted that if the theist could legitimately show that the suffering in the world is in some way useful, then the concept of the God of the Bible “is formally possible, and its principle involves no real abandonment of our ordinary view of the opposition between good and evil” (1982, p. 154). In light of this fact, Mackie admitted: “[W]e can concede that the problem of evil does not, after all, show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another” (p. 154). Did Mackie throw in the proverbial towel and admit that the “problem” of evil and suffering does not militate against God? On the contrary, he contended that even though some suffering or evil might be necessary or useful, there is far too much pointless evil (he terms it “unabsorbed evil”) in the world for the traditional God of the Bible to exist. He then concluded: “The problem, therefore, now recurs as the problem of unabsorbed evils, and we have as yet no way of reconciling their existence with that of a god of the traditional sort” (p. 155, emp. added). Notice how Mackie was forced to change the “problem of evil” to the “problem of unabsorbed evil.”
Dan Barker understands this alteration in the “problem of evil” and has used it himself. In a debate with Rubel Shelly, Dan used his standard argument that the suffering in a children’s hospital is enough to show God does not exist. Shelly responded with a lengthy rebuttal, bringing to light the idea that suffering in this world can be consistently reconciled with God’s purposes for mankind. In concluding his comments, Shelly stated: “The kind of world, apparently, that unbelief wants is a world where no wrong action could have bad effects or where we just couldn’t make wrong actions” (Barker and Shelly, 1999). Barker responded to Shelly’s comments, saying:
I’m not asking for a world that’s free of pain.... No atheist is asking that the world be changed or requiring that if there is a God, He be able to change it. I’m not asking for a world that’s free of consequences. I think pain and consequences are important to a rational education.... What I am asking for is for human beings to strive as much as possible for a world that is free of unnecessary harm (1999, emp. added).
Barker went on to describe a scenario in which a forest fire forces a baby fawn to flee its home. In the process, the fawn catches its leg in a snare and is consumed by the flames. Barker then stated that he believed no one’s soul or character was edified by the fawn’s suffering, thus it would be an example of unnecessary or useless suffering. Barker further admitted that even though some suffering is acceptable, there simply is far too much to be reconciled with a loving God. Here again, it is important to notice that Barker’s entire argument has been altered. It is no longer a “problem of evil (harm)” but now he has amended it to the “problem of unnecessary evil (harm).”
The next question that must be asked is: What would classify as “pointless,” “unnecessary,” or “unabsorbed” suffering? The simple answer that the atheistic position must suggest is that any suffering that the atheist does not deem necessary is pointless. As Timothy Keller points out, the fact is that Mackie and others use the term “pointless” to mean that they, themselves cannot see the point of it. Keller stated: “Tucked away within the assertion that the world is filled with pointless evil is a hidden premise, namely that if evil appears pointless to me, then it must be pointless” (2008, p. 23, italics in orig.). Keller further noted:
This reasoning is, of course, fallacious. Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one. Again we see lurking within supposedly hard-nosed skepticism an enormous faith in one’s own cognitive faculties. If our minds can’t plumb the depths of the universe for good answers to suffering, well, then, there can’t be any! This is blind faith of a high order (p. 23).
Indeed, it is the atheist who lives by the blind faith that he mistakenly attributes to the theist.

THE PURPOSE OF HUMAN EXISTENCE

In his monumental volume, Have Atheists Proved There Is No God?, philosopher Thomas B. Warren undercut completely the atheist’s use of the problem of evil. He insightfully demonstrated that the Bible teaches that “God has a morally justifiable reason for having created the world...in which evil can (and does) occur” (1972, p. 16). What is that reason? God created the planet to be “the ideal environment for soul-making” (p. 16). God specifically created humans to be immortal, free moral agents, responsible for their own actions, with this earthly life being their one and only probationary period in which their eternal fate is determined by their response to God’s will during earthly life (p. 19). Hence, the world “is as good (for the purpose God had in creating it) as any possible world” since it was designed to function as man’s “vale of soul-making” (p. 19). The physical environment in which humans were to reside was specifically created with the necessary characteristics for achieving that central purpose. This environment would have to be so arranged that it would allow humans to be free moral agents, provide them with their basic physical needs, allow them to be challenged, and enable them to learn those things they most need to learn (p. 47).
Whereas the atheist typically defines “evil” as physical pain and suffering, the Bible, quite logically, defines evil as violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Observe, therefore, that the only intrinsic evil is sin, i.e., disobeying or transgressing the laws of God. Hence, pain and suffering are not intrinsically evil. (“[I]ntrinsic evil on the purely physical level does not exist” [p. 93]). In fact, animal pain, natural calamities, and human suffering are all necessary constituent variables in the overall environment designed for spiritual development. Such variables, for example, impress upon humans the very critical realizations that life on Earth is uncertain, precarious, and temporary. They also demonstrate that life on Earth is brief—that it will soon end (p. 58). Such realizations not only propel people to consider their spiritual condition, and the necessity of using this life to prepare for the afterlife, they prod people to contemplate God! Suffering, pain, and hardship encourage people to cultivate their spirits and to grow in moral character—acquiring virtuous attributes such as courage, patience, humility, and fortitude. Suffering can serve as discipline and motivation to spur spiritual growth and strength. It literally stimulates people to develop compassion, sympathy, love, and empathy for their fellowman (p. 81).

WHO IS IN THE BEST POSITION TO KNOW?

Since atheists cannot say that real, moral evil exists, they must adjust their objection and say that a loving God would not allow suffering. This position quickly becomes indefensible, so again the position is altered to posit that some suffering is morally permissible, but not pointless or unnecessary suffering. Who, then, is to determine if there truly exists unnecessary suffering that would negate the concept of God? Some atheists, such as Barker, are quick to set themselves up as the final judges who alone can set the proper limits of suffering. Yet, when those limits are analyzed, it again becomes apparent that the “problem of evil” is a legitimate problem only for the atheist.
In his book godless, Dan Barker stated: “There is no big mystery to morality. Morality is simply acting with the intention to minimize harm” (2008, p. 214). In his explanation about how to minimize harm, Barker wrote: “And the way to avoid making a mistake is to try to be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (p. 214). Reasoning from Barker’s comments about morality, if there truly is an omniscient God Who knows every consequence of every action that ever has been or ever will be taken, then that Being, and only that Being, would be in a position to speak with absolute authority about the amount and kind of suffering that is “necessary.” Barker and his fellow atheists may object to God’s tolerance for suffering, but were God to condescend to speak directly to them, He could simply respond by saying: “What you do not know is...,” and He could fill in the blank with a thousand reasons about future consequences that would legitimize the suffering He allows.
Indeed, this is precisely the tact God employed with Job, when He challenged Job’s knowledge and comprehension of the mysteries of the Universe:
Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. Do you know it, because you were born then, or because the number of your days is great? Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it. Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? (Job 38:2-4,18,21; 40:2,8).
God’s interrogation of Job elucidated the fact of humanity’s limited knowledge, especially as it relates to suffering. In contrast to this, Barker wrote:
Why should the mind of a deity—an outsider—be better able to judge human actions than the minds of humans themselves? Which mind is in a better position to make judgments about human actions and feelings? Which mind has more credibility? Which has more experience in the real world? Which mind has more of a right? (2008, p. 211).
Of course, Barker’s rhetorical questions were supposed to force the reader to respond that humans are in a better position to understand what actions are moral, or how much suffering is permissable. In light of his comments about knowing the consequences of actions, however, Barker’s position falls flat. Whose mind knows more about the consequences of all actions? Whose mind is in a better position to know what will happen if this action is permitted? Whose mind has the ability to see the bigger picture? And Who alone is in the position to know how much suffering is permissible to bring about the ultimate good for humankind? That would be the infinite, eternal, omniscient Creator—the God of the Bible.

REFERENCES

Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Barker, Dan (1992), Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong: A Guide for Young Thinkers (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Barker, Dan and Rubel Shelly (1999), Barker/Shelly Debate: Does God Exist? (Brentwood, TN: Faith Matters).
Barker, Dan and Peter Payne (2005), Barker/Payne Debate: Does Ethics Require God?, [On-line], URL: http://www.ffrf.org/about/bybarker/ethics_debate.php.
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Craig, William Lane (no date), Pain and Suffering Debate, Part 1, [On-line], URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZTG5xyefEo.
Keller, Timothy (2008), The Reason for God (New York: Dutton).
Lewis, C.S. (1952), Mere Christianity (New York: Simon and Schuster).
Mackie, J.L. (1982), The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
Nietzsche, Friedrich (2007 reprint), Beyond Good and Evil (Raleigh, NC: Hayes Barton Press), [On-line], URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=C7sRYOPWke0C&pg=PA1&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=0_1#PPP1,M1.
Provine, William (1998), “Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life,” [On-line], URL: http://eeb.bio.utk.edu/darwin/DarwinDayProvineAddress.htm.
Warren, Thomas B. (1972), Have Atheists Proved There Is No God? (Ramer, TN: National Christian Press).

From Jim McGuiggan... The bar burned down


The bar burned down

I've just recently been told (though I'm not sure it's to be taken as historical fact) that in a small mid-western conservative town in the USA, a newcomer decided to build a bar/tavern. A local church started a campaign to block the opening with petitions and prayers. The petitions failed, however, and so did the prayers and the work progressed right up to the week before opening; that's when lightning struck the bar and burned it to the ground.

The church folks were all smiles ("Prayer works!" they told each other, "even if it takes a bit longer than expected!"). They congratulated one another until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that it was ultimately responsible for the destruction of his property.

The church hired a lawyer and denied they had anything to do with the destruction of the building.

The judge looked over the paperwork at the hearing and commented, "I don't know how I'm going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner that believes in the power of prayer and an entire church congregation that doesn't!"

Now there's something about that little story that leaves me uneasy but I can't quite put my finger on it.

From Gary... Mine, Mine!!!

First, let me say that I AM NOT MAKING FUN OF REALLY OVERWEIGHT PEOPLE!!!  My focus on that little "weight watchers" pill. Now, there isn't a diet pill put out by Weight Watchers, so this post is all about how we look at the things we see and how we understand what we KNOW. And speaking of understanding...

Matthew, Chapter 13
Mat 13:1  That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea.
Mat 13:2  And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.
Mat 13:3  And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow;
Mat 13:4  and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.
Mat 13:5  "Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil.
Mat 13:6  "But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
Mat 13:7  "Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.
Mat 13:8  "And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.
Mat 13:9  "He who has ears, let him hear."
AND

Mat 13:10  And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"
Mat 13:11  Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.
Mat 13:12  "For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
Mat 13:13  "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
Mat 13:14  "In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;
Mat 13:15  FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.'
Mat 13:16  "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.
Mat 13:17  "For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
AND

Mat 13:18  "Hear then the parable of the sower.
Mat 13:19  "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.
Mat 13:20  "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
Mat 13:21  yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.
Mat 13:22  "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Mat 13:23  "And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty."

An "M & M" really does look like W & W or "WW" if you turn it upside-down.  Common sense would tell you, though, that the sweetness comes from CANDY and not medicine.  How could someone make this mistake? Well, because that lady would really rather have an "M & M" than a diet pill, that's why!!!  Unfortunately, this sort of thinking applies to us all. We see what we want to see and that, exactly as we want to see it!!!  Even the twelve apostles had this problem, or else why would Jesus have to explain the parable to them (vss. 18-23).  Remember this the next time you read your Bible and don't understand what you are reading.  Ask God for help, pray about it and keep on praying; you will be given the answer IN GOD'S TIME-FRAME, NOT YOURS!!!  And in the meantime, please, DO NOT GO RIGHT OUT AND BUY A BAG OF "MM'S" TO CONFIRM WHAT THE DOCTOR SAID- YOU WILL ONLY GAIN WEIGHT!!!

ps.  Now that I think about it, the mm stands for ...  mine, mine!!!!