We’ve All Got Questions
We all have questions we’d like answers to. But sometimes the questions we have of God can be the scariest to ask: we want to be reverential, not blasphemous. What if the question offends God?
More than that, deep-down we can be kind of afraid that there is no answer. What would that mean for our faith?
For some, the persistent presence of questions unasked has been a catalyst to their rejecting or abandoning of the Christian faith all together. That need not be so. In fact, the people in the Bible — those God uses to write his very word! — often asked the toughest questions of all.
Have you read them?
You don’t have to spend too much time with me before you’ll find out that one of my heroes in the faith is Aurelius Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo. He is a brilliant thinker, a captivating writer, and a theologian who stirs souls as well as minds.
A couple of weeks ago he would have celebrated his 1658th birthday (he lived 354-430AD). In other words, he lived a long time ago. A lot has changed in the world, but his writings continue to remain both relevant and helpful. Recently I’ve been reading his City of God.
Here are some of his thoughts on the good & evil that befalls both righteous and unrighteous people.
Our Sunday afternoon series over the past 8 weeks at Grace Fellowship Church has been focused on trying to help Christians learn how to interact in thoughtful, loving, and engaging ways with people of other worldviews. We began by thinking about our own worldview, and how it is grounded in the gospel. We also examined the nature of ‘worldview’ in general.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been dealing with common objections to the Christian faith and asking, ‘How do we understand this objection within its worldview? And where does the gospel-oriented worldview of a Christian intersect that worldview?’ This past week we were blessed to have Ian Clary come and speak to us about ‘The problem of evil’ and how to engage people who see this objection as a basis for rejecting Christianity. I highly recommend giving it a listen.
You can download Ian’s message here
Ian made many good points and gave us all a lot things to think about as we seek to speak truth in love to our neighbours for whom this problem poses a genuine difficulty in coming to faith. He taught us about syllogisms and even some Latin phrases — and we had some fun with it. But one thing stuck out to me.
RBY Scott, in his book The Way of Wisdom (New York: MacMillan, 1971, 144-147) offers eight solutions / perspectives to take on the problem of human suffering. These perspectives are based on his analysis of Old Testament wisdom literature in particular.
Here’s Scott’s list:
- Retributive — just punishment for sin (Job 4.7-9; 8.20)
- Disciplinary — corrective affliction (Deut 8.3; Prov 3.11-12)
- Probationary — God’s testing of the heart (Deut 8.2; Job 1.6-12; 2.10)
- Temporary or apparent, in comparison with the good (or bad) fortune of others (Job 5.18; 8.20-21; Ps 73)
- Inevitable, as a result of the Fall (Job 5.6-7; Ps 14.1-4)
- Necessarily mysterious, since God’s character and plan are inscrutable (Job 11.7; 42.3; Eccl 3.11)
- Haphazard and morally meaningless, in that time and chance happen to all (Job 21.23, 25-26; Eccl 9.11-12)
- Vicarious — one may suffer for another or for the many (Deut 4.21; Ps 106.23; Isa 53.3, 9, 12)
Anything you’d add? Any of them that don’t make sense? Isn’t it interesting how in some sense, we can see Christ taking on each one of these types of suffering during his life, ministry, and death? Even the suffering of the Old Testament anticipates the Messiah!