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If God does not exist, how do you know to call evil, “evil”?

I read a Facebook post yesterday that reflected on the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter, and the other seven on board that fatal helicopter flight near Calabasas, California. The post raised the inevitable question we all ask in light of such tragedies: Why? Why would God allow this helicopter to crash leaving no survivors? Why doesn’t God stop the horrors of the world? Why doesn’t He deliver us from pain, suffering, injustice and evil?

With questions so deep, perplexing and personal, I’m left feeling like the father portrayed in a movie cast during W.W. II. The father is Jewish, and in light of the holocaust, his son becomes an atheist, and his wife blames him. So, she says, “Tell our son.” “What’s the problem?” “Well, he wants to know why there’s evil.” “What do you mean `why is there evil’?” “Well, why are there Nazis? Tell him why there are Nazis.” “I should tell him why there are Nazis? I don’t even know how the can opener works.”

Yes, life bears many mysteries. The problem of evil is by far the strongest argument for atheism. It goes like this: “If one or two contraries is infinite, the other is completely destroyed, but God means infinite goodness. Therefore, if God existed, there would be no evil discoverable anywhere, but there is evil. Therefore, God does not exist” (Socrates in the City, 50).

I definitely don’t have all the answers, but the question I raise with that line of thinking is this: If God does not exist, how do you know to call evil, “evil”? To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, if you have no concept of a straight line, how do you know if a line is crooked? Where did your concept of goodness develop? How did you discover that hate opposes love, that violence counters peace, that helicopter crashes are the opposite of our definition of goodness?

Somewhere along the line, across all cultures and spans of time, humanity has been able to look at love and say, “It is good,” and look at violence and say, “It is evil.” From where did this come? I believe it came from our Creator who brought life into existence and said, “It is good.” He made it good. He declared it good. But in His creation, He made allowance for humanity to choose good over evil, and once we chose poorly, Eden was lost. The good news, however, is that God is making all things new (Revelation 21:5), and one day Eden will be restored.

Until then, we wrestle in a broken world where we only see through a glass dimmed darkly, although we keep our gaze toward heaven. Theologian Peter Kreeft wrote that 99% of what we do here is preparation for the next life, “which we can understand about as well as our cats and dogs can understand our life” (ibid., 53).

Saint Teresa of Avila, who suffered greatly and asked God for answers, put it this way, “The most horrible life on earth filled with the most atrocious sufferings will be seen from the viewpoint of heaven to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.” If that’s not true, then heaven is not heaven.

To the families of those killed on that Sikorsky S-76B helicopter, and to all who have experienced loss, pain, suffering, and the evils of this world, may the comfort of God’s Spirit, the strength of His grace, and the vision of a new Eden guide you through the valley of the shadow of death.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

In the Safety of the Christian Bubble

I read a story the other day about a young pastor who stopped at a gas station to fill up his car, and he had a meaningful conversation with the gas attendant about faith. When he got back in his car to drive away, he realized that had been the first conversation he had with a non-Christian since he started in pastoral ministry a short eighteen months earlier.

He resigned the next day.

I’ve been pastoring churches full-time for the past 28 years, and I get it. I know how easy it is to stay in the safety of the Christian bubble where we speak the same language, share the same values, and live the same lifestyle. But there’s only one problem with this.

That’s not what Jesus did.

Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). He ate with a disreputable tax collector named Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). He sat at a well with a woman of the world (John 4:1-30). He spoke the truth with love to a woman actually caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). And He didn’t care what people thought of Him when a prostitute wiped His feet with her hair and anointed them with oil (Luke 7:36-50).

Jesus lived no cloistered life, separated from the struggles of humanity. And, yet, I fear I have remained far too insulated from the very people with whom Jesus would sit and share a meal. I’ve done this not from a judgmental attitude or from fear of getting tarnished with the sins of the world. I’ve done it simply by default of church busyness, and in that, I have lost sight of my calling.

Os Guinness warns us, “When Christians concentrate their time and energy on their own separate spheres and their own institutions—whether all-absorbing megachurches, Christian businesses, or womb-to-tomb Christian cultural ghettoes—they lose the outward thrusting, transforming power that is at the heart of the gospel” (The Call, 219).

Well, 2020 is a new year filled with new opportunities. And if you’ve found yourself, like me, isolated from the very ones we need to be loving and reaching for Christ, then here’s some good news. We can make a change. We can choose to be salt and light, to be in the world but not of it.

I love the words of C. T. Studd: “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.”

I leave you with the same challenge given by Os Guinness, “Is your faith privately engaging but socially irrelevant? Is it as consistent in your place of work as in your home? Are you acting as `salt’ and `light,’ or do you need to be locked out of a Christian ghetto? Listen to the commanding invitation of Jesus that is both a call and a charge: `Follow Me’” (ibid., 220).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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