Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Problem of Evil

I am reading Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, a compilation of essays edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. The second chapter is by Dr. Mark Talbot, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College. It is titled "All the Good that is Ours in Christ: Seeing God's Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others Do to Us."

This chapter is the clearest, best articulated argument that I have ever read for God's sovereign role in ordaining evil without being the author of it. Using multiple examples from Scripture, Dr. Talbot explains how God's sovereignty extends over everything in creation, including the evil which takes place. From the smallest, most insignificant events such as the sparrow's fall to the execution of Jesus Christ at the hands of evil men, God determines, purposes, and controls everything that exists and everything that occurs. Nothing--no evil person, thing, event, or deed--falls outside God's ordaining will. To say otherwise is to say that God isn't really in control, but rather He is a weak demigod who is incapable of preventing certain events.

I once gave a message on God's sovereignty to a group of Arminians shortly after the Virginia Tech massacre. One man looked at me with pain in his eyes and said, "I have to tell you that I'm struggling with this. What am I supposed to say to 32 sets of parents whose hearts are breaking right now? That God ordained that evil to take place?" My response was that I understood that it was a difficult concept, but to say that the circumstances of Virginia Tech were out of God's control is to diminish the glory of God to a level that renders Him unworthy of our worship. Because He then becomes nothing more than a "Superman" type of character; very powerful, but obviously incapable of preventing certain disasters. That is not the God presented in Scripture who knows all and can do all, including preventing evil if He so chooses. And since He is sovereign and could prevent all evil, but often does not choose to do so, the conclusion must be that He has ordained it and that it somehow fits into His ultimate and infinite purposes, which are incomprehensible to man's finite mind.

My answer wasn't well received that day, but I know I could have given a more complete and well-articulated answer if I had had Dr. Talbot's article as a resource to use in preparing my message. I highly recommend it to you.

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