Marc Vandenbrouke set down the book he was reading on the café table. In one hand was the cigarette that beckoned to him with smoldering nicotine. That was his life disintegrating into acrid smoke. Marc had been reading about the revered Buddha, Siddhartha, but the monk had taught him nothing about the meaning of his own life. He had also turned to Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. These had all failed him. They told him he was a nothing, a parasite in an otherwise lovely ecosystem. Marc couldn’t even explain to himself why he, a human being, was significantly different from the chair or his cigarette. His thoughts were futile, his feelings were nonsense, and his choices, as his teachers had told him, were merely illusions based in chemical reactions taking place within the fat tissues of his skull. Was knowledge truly impossible? Did no one have a way to explain existence? Ah, well, here’s a phone call to relieve him from the brief sojourn into morbidity, despair and the meaninglessness of his life.
Despite the evil that exists in our world, the Bible says that God keeps it from unraveling. So, for now, God allows evil to be unleashed-- at least to a degree-- while keeping it in check so He can fulfill the plan He has for all ages— and until He establishes His eternal reign after the defeat of evil and all evildoers.
This past Wednesday night I participated in an outreach along with Talbot colleagues Gary Manning and Alan Hultberg at the Uptown Whittier YMCA. The outreach was in support of a new campus plant for Whittier Hills Baptist Church in one of many “downtowns” here in the Los Angeles basin (but referred to in Whittier as “uptown” rather than “downtown”). People from the uptown community received invitations either on the street—I went out twice along with two of my daughters and some others from the church—or by mail. We told people that the purpose of the forum was to respond to the recent upturn in the media of discussions about what happens after death. The turnout to the event was good and the responses were encouraging.
We’ve seen a lot of death, pain, suffering, and evil in our world during the last few years, so today I want to address a few questions having to do with evil, pain and suffering— questions that, I believe, all ‘thinking’ people ask.
Denis Diderot (1713-84), editor and primary author of the massive—18,000 pages!—and massively influential Encyclopédie, has been called “the pivotal figure of the entire 18th century.” One of the pivotal moments in Diderot’s own career came in his conversion from deism to atheism. And central to this conversion were the implications he drew from Newton’s formulation of the principle of inertia.
Over the weekend, I spoke at Antioch Church in Bend, Oregon where Talbot alumnus Ken Wytsma serves as pastor. In the “Redux” (Q&A) session that followed my message, someone asked me, “What is Spiritual Warfare?” Here is my response:
Consider the following observations from two Christian thinkers representing two different theological traditions (Anglican and Eastern Orthodox): Fleming Rutledge comments on the earthquake catastrophe in Haiti: A frequent response heard from Christians is, “God has some purpose in this.” “Something good will come out of this.” “Haiti will become stronger as a result of this.” In one sense, all these things are true; however, these are deeply wrong responses, both theologically and pastorally….Glib, monochromatic responses to catastrophe should have no place in our faith.
All faculty, students, and local alumni are encouraged to attend the lectures by James K. Hoffmeier who will be our guest for the annual Robert Saucy Lecture Series on March 1-3, 2011. His two chapel addresses (Tues./Thurs., 9:30 am; Calvary Chapel) will be respectively on "Yahweh Versus Pharaoh: God's Purposes in the Exodus" and "The Key to Finishing Strong: Lessons from the Life of Solomon." He will also offer an evening lecture that is open to the general public on "The Exodus From Egypt in Light of Recent Archaeological Evidence" (Wed., 7:30-9:00 PM in Mayers Auditorium [Marshburn Hall]).