Community Group Questions 4/14/13

Evidence Series Artwork

[vimeo 63999600 w=500 h=281]

Announcements:

  • Next Class - blue insert
    • If you have never really had anyone explain how to read the bible or pray or what the next step is to take since putting your faith in Jesus, or maybe you just recently put your faith in Jesus, I want to tell you about a new class we’ve developed just for you.
    • We want you to understand what to do with a Bible or how to pray or what the next step is.
    • So we’ve designed a new, 3-week class that will take place during the 2nd Service, starting next Sunday.
    • If you’re interested, write “NEXT” on your Connection Card. We’ll get you more information and make sure you know where to go and what to do.
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Sermon Title: Evidence, Part 2: The Case of God and Evil

Main Text: Genesis 1:31, Genesis 3:1-7, 14-19, Mark 7:21-23, Hebrews 2:14-15

Topics:

  • It has been said that the most difficult problems facing the Christian faith is the problem of evil. The problem of evil formally stated is this:
    • If God is all-good, then He would want to end evil.
    • If God is all-powerful, then He has the ability to end evil.
    • But evil exists.
    • So God must either not be all good, or all powerful.
  • But what we find is that the “Problem of Evil,” does not in fact crumble the reality of God. Once we examine the evidence we will find that there is no logical problem at all with the existence of God and evil.
  • To see this we must examine the story of good and evil. We must understand the story that God tells about how evil entered the world, and what is being done about it.
  • In Genesis 3 we come upon Adam and Eve, the first humans, in the Garden of Eden. Up until this episode the world is described like this:
    • “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” -Genesis 1:31
    • Everything that God made is good. There is nothing bad. There is no evil, no pain, no suffering, no death, nothing bad, only good things.
  • The characters in the episode in chapter 3 are: Adam and Eve, God, and the serpent who is the devil.
    • Some believe the devil literally indwelled an actual snake, and talked to Adam and Eve.
    • Some believe this is a more poetic telling of how the devil tempted Adam and Eve.
    • For the sake of this discussion, that detail is irrelevant.
  • In this story, Adam and Eve are tempted by the devil to disobey God. God put them in a perfect garden with everything they needed. There was one tree in the garden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He told them not to eat anything from that tree.
  • God gave them free will to choose. He could have made them robots incapable of choosing anything but what he wanted. But he gave humans the ability to think and act for themselves. That was a higher good. But humans take that gift and use it against God.
  • In the story Satan convinces them to eat it. We see that Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. God finds them and confronts them and there is a lot of blame shifting.
  • Then God tells them what the consequences are for disobeying. There are some literal consequences that represent broader consequences throughout the earth. Things like:
    • There will be pain in childbirth - we will experience physical pain, even our bodies will at times betray us.
    • There will be conflict between the man and the woman - our relationships are no longer perfect. We are now going to experience relational difficulty.
    • There will be great toil in cultivating the ground - we will have to fight against and work hard to make things happen in this world.
    • The ground is cursed - even the planet itself is now a dangerous place. It is a place with hurricanes, and floods, and earthquakes.
    • They will eventually die - all humans now face death one day.
  • Evil entered the world and all the painful consequences with it. It all started when the first humans, our parents chose to disobey God.
  • But even in chapter three we see another detail that has greater meaning. God says to the devil in verse 15:
    • “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
    • He is not just saying that humans will stomp on snakes. He is saying to the devil, one day, you will attempt to injure one of Eve’s descendants, but he will crush you.
    • If that is all we were left with we wouldn’t understand. What that means. But as the rest of the story in the Bible unfolds we learn what that means.
    • One day Jesus, the Son of God will come. Satan will try to destroy Him, but Jesus will defeat Satan.
  • Here is what it says in Hebrews 2:14-15:
    • “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
    • Jesus’ death and resurrection conquered the devil, evil, and even our sin.
  • And one day the Bible says everything will be made new (Rev. 21:1-5). All evil, pain, tears, sin, suffering will have passed away.
  • So look at the story. Evil entered into the world because of us. God is not standing by silently doing nothing. He is in the process of eradicating and defeating evil.
  • But why doesn’t he eradicate evil faster?
    • Look at what the Bible says about evil: “From within the heart of man come[s] evil... all these evil things come from within.” Mark 7:21-23
    • Where is evil? It is inside of us.
    • So for God to right now eradicate evil, He would have to wipe us out.
    • It is out of his love for us, that He has another plan. He is inviting us to be forgiven and purging the evil out of us. He is fighting against evil in this world and inviting us to be a part of the fight.
  • But even if he doesn’t eradicate all evil at once, why doesn’t God eradicate certain evils? Why doesn’t he stop more things? There are some things that He hasn’t stopped in this world that are just terrible.
    • First we don’t know all the things He HAS spared us from. Who knows how much worse it could be?
    • But secondly here is what Tim Keller said:
      • “If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know. Indeed you can’t have it both ways.”
      • In other words: If He is big enough to blame for not stopping evil, he’s big enough to have a plan that’s beyond our capability to understand.
    • Think of the Booster Shot Principle:
      • the first time a parent takes their little child to get a booster shot it is a traumatising experience. The child is riding along in the car, having no idea the pain that is coming to them. The parent doesn’t even have the ability to explain it to them. The child do not have the capacity to comprehend it, even if they wanted to. When the booster shot happens, the child cries, and even looks at the parent like he has been betrayed.
      • The parent hurts for the child, but know that they have allowed this evil to happen to them for a higher good, even if the child has no capacity to understand. In fact they are a good parent for not neglecting to do the right thing for the child no matter how painful.
    • We can understand that parent, who has a couple decades more experience than a child, can inflict suffering for a higher good. But why is it so hard to understand that a God who has infinitely more knowledge than a human may use a bad situation for good. And He may do it in a way that we cannot understand.
  • So God uses evil?
    • Christian thinker, Dinesh D’Souza says:
      • God is in no way responsible for evil; He is responsible only for using evil to bring forth good.”
  • So this is what we learn:
    • God is opposed to evil and is in the process of eradicating it.
    • He doesn’t do so immediately, because that would entail wiping us out.
    • If He is All-powerful, then by definition it is plausible that He could allow some evil, for purposes that are higher than we can understand.
  • So the Problem of Evil is not a logical problem. In fact, let’s take it another step further.
  • In the beginning we said that evil was in the world. Would anyone dispute that? It seems obvious and clear that evil is in the world. So then what are the logical conclusions of evil being in the world:
    • If it is definitive that there is evil in the world, then we can reasonably assume there is good in the world.
    • If there is good and evil in the world, then we can assume there is an ultimate standard of what is good and evil in the world.
      • Otherwise, good and evil is just a random construct of our imaginations. It is not really good or evil, it is just our preferences. That would mean we are not really saying that is evil, we are just saying I don’t like that.
    • If there is a transcendent standard of good and evil in the world, then there has to be a being that determined it and wired it into the universe.
    • So if there is such a thing as good and evil, there has to be a God.
  • There is a reason that people flock to churches after tragedy. Because the atheist response is completely empty. It simply says, “that tragedy is random and meaningless. There is no purpose behind it. It is not good or bad. A human dying is not any worse than a flower being plucked. We are just material things. So what is the big deal?”
  • But everything in us pushes against us, and says, “no, some things are wrong and evil.” Our instincts that there is evil in the world actually point us to an Ultimate Lawgiver.
  • But we may say:
    • Ok, I get it the presence of evil points us to a Transcendent Lawgiver.
    • I understand that God is in the process of eradicating evil from this world.
    • I concede that if He were to instantaneously wipe out evil, He would be wiping us out. So it is out of love that He is making it a process.
    • And it is even logical that He may have a great reason for good for certain evils, that we may never understand.
    • BUT...
  • But I just can’t trust Him until He explains Himself to me, about this certain evil.
    • Remember, He doesn’t owe us any explanation.
    • However, this much we do know: He is no stranger to suffering. He died on the cross to defeat pain, evil, suffering, and even our own sin. He suffered excruciatingly for us. That is the kind of God He is. He is no stranger to suffering.
  • Here is what theologian John Stott says,
    • I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross… In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us, Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering.

Key Questions:

  1. How would you put into your own words what is commonly known as “The Problem of Evil?"
  2. What evil occurrences in the world, have commonly led people to question God?
  3. Read Genesis 3:1-7
  4. According to Genesis 3 how did evil enter into our world?
  5. Read Genesis 3:14-19
  6. What were some of the worldwide consequences for disobedience?
  7. Read Hebrews 2:14-15 and Revelation 21:1-5
  8. What all was accomplished on the cross?
  9. What is the Booster Shot principle, and how does it help us understand the Problem of Evil?
  10. How does evil actually point to the existence of a God?
  11. How does the death of Christ help us to accept suffering and pain?
  12. When we are suffering, what are some practical things we can do to keep our faith in the goodness God?
  13. If someone posed the problem of evil to you, what would you say?

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