William Lane Craig explains how Christianity explains evil and suffering

A long journey through the night
A long journey through the night

A lot of people in the West complain too much about any little suffering they have to experience. But sometimes, when a very harsh suffering is felt by someone who has tried to follow Jesus, an explanation is necessary. I found something very good on the Reasonable Faith web site, written by Dr. William Lane Craig.

He makes the following points:

  1. We are not in a good position to assess the probability of whether God has morally sufficient reasons for the evils that occur.
  2. The Christian faith entails doctrines that increase the probability of the co-existence of God and evil.
  3. Relative to the full scope of the evidence, God’s existence is probable.

I’ve written before about point #1, in which Dr. Craig’s describes the limitations of human knowledge that make it hard for us to know for certain that a specific evil or suffering does not have a good reason for God to allow it. And I’ve written about #3, in which Dr. Craig makes some arguments for God’s existence. But #2 might be new to some of you, so let’s look at that.

He makes four sub points in section 2 about Christian doctrines that make the existence of evil and suffering more reasonable.

  • 2. a)The chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God.
  • 2. b) Mankind is in a state of rebellion against God and His purpose.
  • 2. c) The knowledge of God spills over into eternal life. 
  • 2. d) The knowledge of God is an incommensurable good.

My favorite one is 2. a), so let’s look at that one. He says:

2. a. The chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God. One reason that the problem of evil seems so puzzling is that we tend to think that if God exists, then His goal for human life is happiness in this world. God’s role is to provide comfortable environment for His human pets. But on the Christian view this is false. We are not God’s pets, and man’s end is not happiness in this world, but the knowledge of God, which will ultimately bring true and everlasting human fulfillment. Many evils occur in life which maybe utterly pointless with respect to the goal of producing human happiness in this world, but they may not be unjustified with respect to producing the knowledge of God. Innocent human suffering provides an occasion for deeper dependency and trust in God, either on the part of the sufferer or those around him. Of course, whether God’s purpose is achieved through our suffering will depend on our response. Do we respond with anger and bitterness toward God, or do we turn to Him in faith for strength to endure?

You know, I always get confused when I see Christians trying to follow the script of the world and trying to make themselves feel good with consumer purchases, travel, fun experiences, showing off to others, etc. When I read the story of Jesus, it’s pretty clear that the normal Christian life, if the person is following Jesus at all, is about suffering the disapproval and opposition of non-Christians while you remain faithful and obedient to God. Today, there’s probably no better example of this than defending unborn children from adult selfishness. Although, defending born children from selfish adults who seek to deprive children of their biological mother and father is pretty bad, too. Nobody is going to like you for restricting their fun (i.e. – abortion, divorce, adultery, homosexuality, etc.), but being willing to take the heat from non-Christians for the sake of promoting what God thinks is right is true Christianity. It’s what Jesus would do.

Anyway, the one I’ve been thinking about more lately is 2. d), where Dr. Craig writes this:

2. d) The knowledge of God is an incommensurable good. To know God, the source of infinite goodness and love, is an incomparable good, the fulfillment of human existence. The sufferings of this life cannot even be compared to it. Thus, the person who knows God, no matter what he suffers, no matter how awful his pain, can still say, “God is good to me,” simply by virtue of the fact that he knows God, an incomparable good.

I sometimes feel pretty stressed out about Americans who were born in conservative states, raised by two married Christian parents, attended Christian schools and youth groups, and then abandoned their faith for atheism as soon as they hit college. It really bothers me how people who had all these advantages turned their backs on God, and they’re ungrateful for all their blessings. They show no curiosity about God – they don’t want to know him. But when you read the gospels to see what Jesus has to say about these sorts of people, it’s very comforting. He really sees the problem, and he is on the side of the little guy who has to struggle to be faithful and obedient to God. The Bible has nothing to say to people who are able to feel happy and successful apart from God. It speaks to people who are struggling to follow God. Even when things are difficult, Jesus speaks to the problem of being an alien and a stranger in a world that turns its back on him.

An actual hate crime just happened, but the national news media is silent about it

Here's a bunch of violent fascist thugs
Fascist socialist Democrat thugs prefer violence to civil debate

An actual hate crime just occurred, but you won’t have heard about it. The victim of this hate crime is a straight white male Republican. The gunman is an angry hate-filled Democrat. This crime won’t be reported as national news, because the people on the secular left – journalists, celebrities, socialists – agree with the gunman. So it’s like the crime never happened.

Here’s the story from ABC local news in Kentucky:

 A Tennessee man is in jail after being accused of pulling a gun on a Sam’s Club customer Saturday.

According to the police report, officers were called to Sam’s Club due to a person with a gun.

According to the alleged victim Terry Pierce, a man pulled a gun on him because he was wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat.

“I have as much right to wear that hat and support my country and my president as he has not to,” said Pierce.

The police report confirms that the suspect, identified as James Phillips, admitted to flipping off Pierce and Pierce’s wife because of their hats.

Pierce tells 13 News that he was shopping with his wife when Phillips “Pulled a .40 caliber out and stuck it in my face, backed up and said, ‘It’s a good day for you to die.'”

Pierce went on to tell 13 News, “I said, ‘Then pull the trigger. Put the gun down and fight me or pull the trigger. Whichever one you want.’ And he backed up and he said it again, he said, ‘It’s a good day for you to die.'”

Pierce said the Phillips then took off. That’s when Pierce followed him out into the parking lot.

“I went out the front of the store to confront him again and that’s when I got him in his car. He couldn’t leave because his mother was still in the store. And we were having a verbal altercation outside,” said Pierce.

Pierce added, “He tried telling me I assaulted him and I said, ‘I never touched you.'”

According to the police report, surveillance video confirms Pierce’s story that he did not put his hands on Phillips.

Now, I know what journalists on the secular left will say to this story. It’s the same thing they said about the Covington kids. It’s hate speech to smile at someone while wearing a Trump-supporter hat, so of course a violent response is justified. This is how journalists on the secular left think.

In a recent post, Newsbusters contrasted the coverage of fake hate crimes that fit their narrative with coverage of real hate crimes that don’t.

As NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck documented early Sunday morning, between January 29 and February 14, the networks spent 101 minutes and 22 seconds helping to push Smollett’s claims of being assaulted by racist and homophobic Trump supporters.

[…]In sharp contrast, when a young white man was kidnapped for two days in the run-up to then President-elect Trump’s inauguration and tortured live on Facebook by black teens, the story was there and gone in just four days. As Houck also exposed on January 4, 2017, both ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News skipped the story while CBS Evening News allocated a mere 27 seconds.

I’m troubled by this story of a Democrat pulling a gun on people who are just out shopping. We have elections so that the majority can decide who will be in charge. If you lose the election, then wait for the next one, and persuade people with reason and evidence to vote for your candidate. Now you can’t even go shopping without some Democrat fascist thug pointing a gun at you and threatening to shoot you.

Will the mainstream media correct their #FakeNews stories after they’re caught?

Why do people think that CNN are biased leftist clowns?
Why do people think that the mainstream media is biased?

So, we’ve had three stories that reported over and over in the mainstream media. The Trump-Russia collusion story, the Jussie Smollett hate crime, and the Covington kids hate crime. All three stories had doubts cast on them.  So how did the media respond to the new information?

Well, everyone knows about the Trump-Russia collusion story, but that came to an end last week with this Senate Intelligence Committee report.

NBC News reported:

After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.

Now the mainstream media made much of the Trump-Russia collusion charges. But did they admit their mistake after the truth came out? Not at all.

Newsbusters explains:

It’s been two days since NBC’s exclusive reporting that the Senate Intelligence Committee has found no material evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and as of yet none of the three major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) have given it even a single second of coverage in their evening newscasts. Considering these networks have given the Russia probe a massive 2,202 minutes of airtime, their silence on this major development is deafening.

The mainstream media isn’t going to spend nearly as much time reporting the facts that challenge their narrative, because that would make their Democrat allies look bad.

Well, fine, but what about the Covington kids? The mainstream media believed every story about that event that made the Trump supporting kids look bad. But then video emerged that countered their narrative. Did the mainstream media correct themselves?

Life News reports:

The liberal media took another massive blow on Wednesday after an independent investigation found that the high school students of Covington Catholic didn’t harass anyone last month at the Lincoln Memorial. Effectively proving that the liberal media reports about them were smears and lies, all three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) and principal Spanish-language networks (Telemundo and Univision) omitted the findings from their evening reports.

One of the mainstream media sources moved to the next scandal, instead:

Instead of reporting on the Covington Kids being vindicated, ABC’s World News Tonight gave more airtime to Empire star Jussie Smollett despite the continued absence of evidence he was assaulted.

So what about that alleged hate crime against Jussie Smollett? Well, Democrat politicians, Hollywood celebrities and the mainstream media spent a great deal of time blaming Trump supporters for the attack. Even though evidence was a problem from the very beginning.

And then CBS News reported this:

A source close to the investigation confirms to CBS News the brothers told detectives Smollett paid them to participate in the alleged attack on January 29 and that they purchased the rope — which was found around Smollett’s neck — at a nearby hardware store. The source said detectives have evidence to corroborate the sale, something the men’s attorney alluded to Friday night.

[…]Police said the two men — identified as Ola and Abel Osundairo — were captured on surveillance video at the time that Smollett said he was attacked.

Ola Osundairo is connected to Smollett through the hit show “Empire” where he played a prisoner in season two.

Both brothers apparently left Chicago on the day of the alleged attack and were detained when they returned Wednesday. Chicago detectives tore through their apartment looking for clues, and an evidence log shows they found ropes, masks and bleach. They were released Friday night without charges.

And how did the mainstream media respond? Most of them responded with silence. Because this isn’t want they wanted to believe, so they didn’t report it. Tweets were being deleted by people who backed Smollett’s account (check my Twitter feed for some examples of famous Democrats deleting their tweets, without apology).

So, if you’re relying on mainstream media to tell you the truth about what’s going on in the world, then I have to ask you: why do you trust the mainstream media to report the facts?

Bible study: why would a loving God make a terrible place like Hell?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

It’s time for us to take a look in the Bible and make some sense of it, again. Today’s question is really “what does God expect us to be doing with our lives?” but I wanted the title of this post to be more eye-catching for non-Christians.

Why do people go to Hell?

Let’s start with finding out what we are supposed to be doing, and then we’ll know why there is a place like Hell for people who don’t do that to be separated from God.

Everyone has a moral obligation to choose how to use their time wisely during their life time. People everywhere, in all times and places, have had the choice of whether to spend more time thinking about the “big questions” or more time having fun and being selfish. Thinking about the big questions logically leads a person to making discoveries about God’s existence and character. Once the people who think about the “big questions” discover the answers to those big questions, they are morally obligated to use their free will to love God using all their capabilities.

Bible verse break:

Deuteronomy 4:27-30:

27 The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you.

28 There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell.

29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him.

At a bare minimum, loving God also means obeying the moral law. But I think there is a lot more to loving God than just obeying rules. Each person is also obligated to engage in and support enterprises that help others to know God as he really is. If a person fails to use their free will to love God, then that person is sinning. Notice that on my view, being nice to your neighbor is relatively unimportant compared to being nice to God. Jesus’ first commandment is to love God, and that vertical dimension is much more important than horizontal dimension of loving your neighbor.

Bible verse break, again – this time Paul is explaining what he does to love God:

Philippians 1:3-19:

3 I thank my God every time I remember you.

4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy

5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,

6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.

8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,

10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.

13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.

16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.

17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition,not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.

18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,

19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

So we are supposed to be telling people the gospel, which is the good news about who God is, and what he has done for us to bring us into a right relationship with him, despite our lack of curiosity about him, and our focus on ourselves instead of him. The pre-condition to loving God and sharing the gospel is knowing what his character is really like. Most people are born into a certain religion or learn it from their parents or their culture and they either adopt it without thinking or they reject it without thinking. They are not interested in investigating who God is using reason and evidence, including scientific and historical evidence.

On the Christian view, the best thing you can possibly do with your time is to investigate whether God is real, and what he is like. It’s wrong to say that investigating doesn’t matter or that all religions are the same. In fact, when you actually look into these things like you do any other area of knowledge, with logic and evidence, you do arrive at knowledge of who God is. And that’s because God has left clues of who he is in the natural world and in history – he expects us to be looking for him. He is as real as any other person you know, and his character is as defined as any other person you know.

Bible verse break:

Acts 17:26-27:

26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

I think that the result of any honest investigation is going to be that the Christian religion is going to be found to be more true in its major claims than any other religion. I.e. – people who conduct an honest investigation are going to find that the Christian claims about the universe coming into being out of nothing, and of Jesus rising from the dead, etc. will be validated by the progress of science and historical inquiry.

But since people have a natural tendency to focus on making themselves happy, not many investigations occur. They know that if Christianity is true, they would have to engage in radical self-denial and self-sacrificial love. They know they would have to sober, be chaste, be different, and not be liked because of their exclusive view. And people don’t want to do that, so an honest investigation never even gets started.

Instead, what you find non-Christians doing is hoping in speculations to justify their flight from the demands of the God who is there. We want to be free to make ourselves happy, and that means that we have to keep the real God who is there and who is not silent at arms length. That’s what non-Christians do – they use their time on Earth to push God away so they can focus on themselves and their own happiness. In fact, even Christians do it, which is why we rely on Jesus as a sacrifice for our sin. We could come near to God and work on the things that he would like us to work on without some way to get past our own rebellion. For those who grasp the sacrifice of Jesus as an atonement for our rebellion, cooperation with God becomes possible.

One of the problems that Christians have today is that we do not really understand what sin is. We think that sin is about hurting other people or making other people feel bad. But actually, the sinfulness of a person has little to do with that, and much more to do with how we respond to God. We have a moral obligation to know God and to include God in all of our decision making. Hell is the place that God has made for people who turn away from him. A person chooses Hell when she refuses to investigate whether God is there and who God is, so that she does not have to adjust her choices to respect God.

Is the gospel of Mark early? Is it based on eyewitness testimony?

Investigation in progress
Investigation in progress

Sean McDowell tweeted this interesting article from BeThinking.org, written by New Testament historian Peter J. Williams. It contains reasons why Mark is early, eyewitness testimony. I want to focus on the criterion of embarrassment, which says that if a passage contains embarrassing information about the author or the author’s cause, then it’s likely to be historical.

Excerpt:

If it were not for Mark’s Gospel, Mark would be a very minor figure indeed in the beginnings of Christianity. He is certainly not someone you would ascribe Mark’s Gospel to in order to give it more authority, because according to the book of Acts (Acts 13:13 and 15:37) he abandoned Paul, one of the early Christian leaders, during a mission. We can take it therefore that the Gospel is ascribed to him because it genuinely is by him. If it is by him then it has to be written within the lifespan of someone who was an active adult in the 50s and 60s of the first century AD.

Yeah, if you’re going to make up a gospel, and you want people to believe it, then you pick an author who is more famous, like Peter.

More:

Though the Gospel makes extraordinary claims about Jesus’ miraculous activities, it seems to make no attempt to cover up the failures of the early Christian leaders. The disciples are said to misunderstand (8:14–217), argue about who is the greatest (9:34), get angry with two of the leading disciples (10:41), and ultimately abandon Jesus (14:50). The leading disciple, Peter, denied Jesus three times (14:66–72). The most unusual claim that it makes is that someone who underwent a shameful execution designed by the Romans to show that he was a loser, was in fact the Son of God.

It is not just the narrative which tells embarrassing stories, the things said by Jesus could also be profoundly embarrassing. According to 15:34 Jesus died asking why God had forsaken him. It is not likely that people would make up such a saying if it hadn’t really occurred. According to 7:27, Jesus told a non-Jewish woman (a Gentile) that it was not right to take that which belonged to the Jews and throw it to ‘dogs’, meaning Gentiles. This is not something you would make up if you were writing a Gospel and wanted gentiles to become Christians.

Although Williams is right to say that Mark is typically dated to the early 60s, the atheist historian James Crossley dates it 37-43 in his book about the gospel of Mark.

There is a podcast by J. Warner Wallace that has some more interesting information about the gospel of Mark.

The M4A file is here.

Details:

In this blast from the past, J. Warner examines the Gospel of Mark for signs of Peter’s influence. Papias, the early church bishop, claimed Mark’s Gospel was written as he sat at the feet of Peter in Rome. According to Papias, Mark scribed Peter’s sermons and created the narrative we now have in our Bible. In this audio podcast, J. Warner applies Forensic Statement Analysis to Mark’s text to see if Peter’s fingerprints are present.

You can also read a post on some of what is in the podcast, if you don’t want to listen to the podcast.

Here is the part I thought was most interesting:

The Omissions of the Gospel Are Consistent With Peter’s Influence

There are many details in the Gospel of Mark consistent with Peter’s special input and influence, including omissions related to events involving Peter. How can Mark be a memoir of Peter if, in fact, the book contains so many omissions of events involving Peter specifically? It’s important to evaluate the entire catalogue of omissions pertaining to Peter to understand the answer here. The vast majority of these omissions involve incidents in which Peter did or said something rash or embarrassing. It’s not surprising these details were omitted by the author who wanted to protect Peter’s standing in the Christian community. Mark was quite discreet in his retelling of the narrative (other Gospel writers who were present at the time do, however, provide details of Peters ‘indiscretions’ in their own accounts). Here are some examples of Petrine Omissions grounded in an effort to minimize embarrassment to Peter (see Cold-Case Christianity for a more detailed explanation of the events summarized here):

Peter’s shame at the “Miraculous Catch”
(Mark 1:16-120 compared to Luke 5:1-11)

Peter’s foolish statement at the crowded healing
(Mark 5:21-34 compared to Luke 8:42-48)

Peter’s lack of understanding related to the parable
(Mark 7:14-19 compared to Matthew 15:10-18 and Acts 10:9-16)

Peter’s lack of faith on the lake
(Mark 6:45 compared to Matthew 14:22-33)

Peter’s rash statement to Jesus
(Mark 8:31-33 compared to Matthew 16:21-23)

Peter’s statement related to money
(Mark 10:23-31 compared to Matthew 19:23-30)

Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial
(Mark 14:27-31 compared to Luke 22:31-34 and John 13:34-38)

Peter’s behavior at the foot-washing
(Mark 14:22-26 compared to John 13:2-9)

Peter’s denial and Jesus’ direct stare
(Mark 14:66-72 compared to Luke 22:54-62)

There are a number of places in the Gospel of Mark where details related specifically to the words and actions of Peter have been omitted in what appears to be an effort to protect Peter from embarrassment. This doesn’t mean Peter failed to talk about these things. He may very well have included them in his sermons and teachings. But Mark, his scribe and close friend, simply chose to omit these details related to Peter, either at Peter’s request or on his own initiative.

Mark doesn’t want to annoy his source, Peter, by calling him out for making mistakes. He has to include the embarrassing stories, but it’s less harsh than in other gospels.

Here’s another blog post from Cold Case Christianity on the same topic.

By the way, when you read the Bible, you should definitely try to put the character of Jesus into practice. My pastor has just been doing sermons on John 21 and he made a big deal out of the way that Jesus reconciles with Peter. What does Jesus do? Well, there is a charcoal fire nearby at the triple denial of Jesus scene. And when Jesus makes Peter and the others breakfast, there is a charcoal fire and a triple affirmation of Jesus. My pastor says that there are no other charcoal fires anywhere in the gospel. Jesus decided to make the restoration of Peter memorable for Peter.

So, when you have a chance to get someone back on board with a worthy mission, you should be thoughtful about how they gave it up, and take them back in a way that makes them feel that the past mistakes were canceled out.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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