Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Problem of Evil (part 1)

A confession: I realize full well that many of my beliefs have gone past what most people consider being borderline heretical into full blow heresy. I am fine with that. I sleep well at night. Most people's view on orthodoxy are very limited in their understanding of Judeo-Christian thought and of historic Christian teachings. Most people's views tend to be shaped by the past two hundred years more so than the 2000 years before that. I seek to return to a better understanding of Christian orthodoxy than is taught among most of American Christendom. This isn't arrogant, this just is. (If my pursuit of orthodoxy makes you think of me as a heretic, I don't really care. Whatever gets you through the day, I suppose.) I am willing to listen to anyone's perspective and respect their opinion--regardless of whether or not I agree or disagree.

With that in mind...

Like I said in my last post, there can be no denying that evil exists and its impact is widespread. But such a fact is problematic for those of us who follow a God who is love. Why does evil exist? Or, to phrase it even clearer, why does unnecessary evil exist? (I rephrase it slightly only to deal away with those that will say that some things that are viewed as evil aren't ultimately evil. But, when phrased as "unnecessary evil," we narrow the field on that part of the debate.)

Long story short, I think you have to boil it down to one of two perspectives: 1, God won't do anything about evil; 2, God can't do anything about evil.

Addressing #1: God won't do anything about it.

I understand that God is a unique being--totally separate from humanity. She is other and not like us. So when discussing #1, most people will typically say that "God's ways are higher than ours." This is true. But this is also a theological cop-out. This does not answer the question at all. To say that "God's ways are higher than ours and that sums it up" is an intellectually invalid statement and a weak point to argue. Some people carry it even further and say that "God's ways are higher than ours and evil is necessary for the greater good." Really? Do people really think this is a legitimate perspective? I think this is also an incredibly trite argument. I daresay that one could point to major wars in history, or the Holocaust, or the Crusades, or the civil war in Sudan, or any number of horrors of humanity and say that they were certainly not necessary. If God is good, God is love, and God is all powerful, then she certainly doesn't need events like this to accomplish her ultimate purpose.

Or you could look at it another way (and this one involves questioning God's character): perhaps #1 is true because God is not entirely good. If God is who the Bible says he is, then we have a pretty good idea that he is love and he is good. Misunderstood at times, but loving and good nonetheless. I will admit that there is validity to the argument of those who say that the God of the Bible (the Old Testament in particular) is a malicious god. But why would we choose belief in this god? Why would this be the view point we settled on? I have a friend who says that atheism makes more sense than this perspective.

So for #1, I don't think a solid, logical, Biblical case can be made. On to...

#2-God can't do anything about it.

Get off of your "Jump to Conclusions Mat." Let me make my point before you go assuming you know what I'm saying here. The idea is complex, but when worked through, makes for an incredibly insightful look at God and his nature and the way the world works and why evil persists.

In effort to avoid a bunch of lengthy posts, I'm breaking this down into several parts. The Problem of Evil (part 2) is coming quickly.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My apologies...

Its been a week--which, by my standards, is far too long between blog posts. The thing is, the stuff I want to write about is really heavy. There's a lot to it. Its not some dumb video or simple story from my day. I've been thinking through the existence of God, the life of Jesus, the problem of evil, and just how powerful God is. Its been quite a journey and these aren't topics to be taken lightly. For the 75-100 people who read my blog on a weekly basis, I know that I don't regularly tell funny stories that keep you laughing through the day and when I talk of writing a blog on a difficult topic that it doesn't surprise you. But nonetheless, I wanted you to know why its been a week since my last post.

So here we go...

I've been reading a lot of articles and watching a lot of videos lately from people who follow the same school of thought: they all think Christianity is complete crap. There's this whole group of people who believe in the "Jesus Myth" (they believe Jesus never really existed). A lot of people think Jesus was a mythical character based on a real human (who lived about a 100 AD) and that he was just another Sun god. Then too, there's lots of people who think there was a real Jesus who lived and taught and did lots of interesting things, but was by no means any type of deity.

What's crazy is: a lot of their arguments are nearly bulletproof.

So I've taken the time to totally reexamine what I belief and why I belief it. But you can't answer any questions about the existence of the God-man Jesus Christ of Nazareth unless you answer some questions about the existence of God.

I believe in God. I believe there is a real being whose existence is much more profound than that of any human. I believe that this God created life on earth (whether literally or by evolution). I also believe that this God is totally unique and that there exists no other being in the universe like him/her/it. But why?

I boiled it down to one point: there are simply things that can be explained no other way. I don't think this universe, with this Milky Way galaxy, with this earth rotating around this sun, with this eco-system, with these humans could exist by accident. While I don't believe all events are meant to happen and that there are no accidents (I'm a big fan of luck and coincidence), I certainly don't think that everything can be explained by us humans. Miraculous events happen. I in no way agree with Jay Gould that we humans are "glorious accidents." All of this just doesn't happen by some fluke in nature. There is too much going on for this all to be a mistake. I believe in a Creator God.

So is there a God? For me, its a definite yes. But what about Jesus?

While I've read, watched and heard A LOT at this point about why there was no Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I have settled on the fact that he did exist. Here's why: someone would have noticed. The New Testament appeared fairly quickly after the life of Jesus. Lots of the letters were floating around with 50 years of Jesus' time on earth. If the New Testament was just a load of crap, someone would have noticed and said something.

{For those who disagree: I hear your argument and admit that there is some merit to it. Its really worth discussing why Paul's letters (some of which were probably written before the Gospels) spend so much time talking about the mythical aspects of Jesus' life (death, burial, and resurrection) and so little time talking about the actual day-to-day life and times of Jesus. Its also worth discussing why so few contemporary writers outside of the New Testament authorship spend any time at all discussing Jesus of Nazareth. (While I think there are reasonable solutions to both of these quandaries that are easily reachable, Christians should be willing to talk about issues like this.)}

So here I am again, believing in a Creator God and in the God-man Jesus Christ of Nazareth... and that only creates more issues.

Here's another fact: there is an overwhelming amount of pain, suffering and evil in this world--but why? I had to get through those first two questions to get to this one, and its much more problematic for me. If God exists and Jesus exists, then why does evil exist?

Working through this problem has totally changed my perspective on my faith. I'm certainly not settled on it, but I think I am looking at it from a better angle now. Its a lot more to write about, so I'm gonna give it another day or two. But I'll get to that last question as soon as I can...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Disc golf with a 7 year old...

I play disc golf often. Its a great sport. It takes very little monetary investment to get started--3 discs would run you about $25. Its free to play a round. Its nice to be outside with or without friends. Plus I can throw my bag on my scooter's basket and go wherever to play.

Sometimes I win. (Like the other day when I beat Nate Settle at Lovers Lane.) Sometimes I lose. (More often, than not.) But either way, its for the same reason.

You see, in disc golf you try to get the disc in the basket in the fewest shots. I've always played this way. I play regular golf this way as well. But when playing disc golf with the 7 year old boy I mentor, the rules are different. Apparently I've been playing the wrong way all this time. And for this reason, he beats me often. I only won one of the twelve holes of disc golf today.

While I may make most baskets in 3 or 4 strokes, I walk to each shot, setup, take my time, and throw. Hayden throws, runs to his disc, throws, runs to his disc, throws, runs... you get the point. But this new way of playing disc golf is hard for me, and so, I get beat a 7 year old. And he makes sure I know it. No matter how many times we go over "my version of the rules," I'm wrong and apparently am just a sore loser.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


We (meaning Brittany, Collin and I) went up to Pennsylvania to stay with their family and enjoy some time away from work and Bowling Green.

Twas great. We went hiking and climbing on the Appalachain Trail. Went to Baltimore for a day. Went to Philadelphia for a day. Ate Philly Cheesesteaks (twice). Played disc golf at one of the most fun courses I've seen. Then played disc golf at one of the hardest and most ridiculous courses I've seen. Spent a lot of time with family. Played some board games and a lot of Mario Kart Wii (which is amazing, by the way). And basically just tried to enjoy the week as much as possible.

Got to do a lot of thinking, reading and writing while away.

I am part of a collaboration of bloggers through Homebrewed Christianity--another blog. Through this, I recently was asked if I'd be interested in getting some books for free. They'd send them to me, I'd read them, then blog about them. Sounded like a nice deal to me. So I'll be posting my reviews sometime soon. They were all written by different authors that are part of a group of theologians who follow a line of thought called "process theology."

One of the books talked about the problem of God and evil. Its a conversation I've been having a lot lately. I've really been looking into open theism, its ideas and one of its most well known proponents: John Sanders. Both lines of thought (open theism and process theology) have great things to say about reconciling the concept of a loving, merciful God with the very real knowledge of evil, pain and suffering. That'll probably be the first book I talk about. The other two (one talking about process theology's founder Alfred Whitehead and the other talking about evolution vs creation/intelligent design) were kinda boring, but only because they aren't subjects I'm extremely interested in at the moment.

Anyway, post on the books coming ASAP.

Its good to be back.

Here's one last pic. Nothing unusual, right?

Then you look closer and...

That's right. I'm a man. I climb rocks. I drive a scooter. I work out occasionally. I planted flowers today. I love watching Desperate Housewives on Sunday night with my lovely wife. I build stuff. I'm a man.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Don't ask...

But this stuff helps.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Billy Mays needs to get a real job...

I have been watching some of Billy Mays' info-mercials on Youtube. They leave me speechless. Does he talk like that when he goes home at the end of the day? I can't imagine it being any other way. Someone, anyone, please: encourage him to get a real job. Him and the "Sham-WOW" dude. No more blue shirts and beards. No more headset microphones. Real jobs for them both. Or anything to get them off TV. It disturbs me. Perhaps I just think about it too much--but its their fault. They shouldn't be so eerie that they consume my thoughts for hours upon end.

Stupid Billy Mays.

On another note, vacation is near on the horizon. I'm looking forward to seeing Brittany's family and as many large cities on the northeast coast as we can. But we have already planned the big parts of vacation part 2 for later in the year. Last night we purchased airplane tickets to Spain. Yes, Spain--as in "that country in western Europe" Spain.

I'm super excited, to say the least.

I'm calling it a scouting vacation. We're gonna see what it's like. What the Spanish people are like. What's the cost of living? What's the food? How's the culture different? And finally: do we want to move there? Lots of questions to be sure.

But its prompted some interesting conversation lately about "God's will." Which has prompted lots of internal thinking on my part about God, his/her existence, his/her character, his/her state of being, his/her sovereignty, libertarian free will, grace, and open theism.

(Yes, my thoughts run away with themselves...)

So, just to forewarn you, a post is coming on all these recent theological thoughts. Another forewarning: if we goto Madrid, love it, come home, sell everything we have, move to Europe and don't want to come back, don't be surprised. Or mad. Just do the same. It sounds like fun.