Friday, February 7, 2014

The Significance of the Resurrection of Christ

The resurrection is a demonstration of Christ's power that also confirms His deity. He was not simply some good teacher who was blessed by God. He was God Himself who came in human form to save mankind. Peter's sermon in Acts 2 uses the resurrection to point to Jesus as being “both Lord and Christ” (v. 36).

Since Christ has risen and is alive, “His divine mission is alive,” 1 and indeed He is an active agent in that mission. An argument can be made that “without Jesus and His work, one cannot make sense of the church's existence and activity.” 2 While addressing Paul's discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians, one commentary puts it this way, “Faith in a dead savior is both preposterous and pathetic.” 3 The spread of the early church was not a political movement or power play. There was no benefit from a self-involved motivation among the persecution at the time, and yet the church grew and people's lives were changed. An act not attainable by a dead savior.

Best of all, while justice was met on the cross, and His death paid for our sins, that is only one half of the equation. By sharing in Christ's death we have cleared our debt, but by also sharing in His resurrection we attain renewed life. Paul points out that “if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:5-6). 

  1. Darrell L. Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Acts, ed. Robert W. Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007) 51.
  2. Darrell L. Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Acts, ed. Robert W. Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007) 53.
  3. Jerry Falwell, Edward Hindson, and Woodrow Michael Kroll eds., Liberty Bible Commentary (Lynchburg, VA: The Old-Time Gospel Hour, 1982) 461.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Problem of Evil

A quandary faced by theists and used as criticism by atheists is the "problem of evil." While the details vary depending on a particular theology, the general idea is this: God is all powerful and morally good. However, the existence of evil implies that God is either unable to stop evil (not all powerful) or chooses to not stop evil (not morally good). This would point to a logical inconsistency and supposedly disprove God.
Things certainly do not go as they should, resulting in pain and suffering. This is generally called "evil". Whether betrayal, deceit, murder, or other harm caused by people (moral evil) or events like floods and earthquakes (natural evil), there is a difficulty in calling an all powerful God "good" in face of the evil people experience.
            A solution to this problem is called a theodicy. Since the problem of evil exposes an internal inconsistency, any theodicy must be internally consistent not only to the problem but within a given theology. Otherwise, the problem still exists.
            Ultimately, there is a limit to how our finite minds can understand an infinite God. Sometimes our own experiences with evil can affect how we view God. Some people see evil and turn their backs on a God who claims to be good while allowing such things. Others deny certain aspects about God or His activity while ultimately holding on to the belief that He is good. A good theodicy can only take us so far. It is faith that takes the final steps to trusting that God is good despite the evil around us, however, various theodicies have emerged over time.      
Extreme Rationalism claims whatever is the most rational is the most good and that God, as a perfectly rational being, had to create the most rational world. Since this is the world He made, it must be the best possible world, even with evil. Having created the best, most rational possible world God is therefore off the hook for evil. While internally consistent, the view that God’s rationality is His greatest attribute seems an arguable one.
            Soul Building claims that God's purpose is to make us the greatest possible moral beings, and since hard circumstances can cause moral growth, then evil is merely a tool to be used towards that goal. Since the ultimate good of our development outweighs the consequences of the evil we may experience, God is not morally wrong for allowing (or even causing) such evil. Again, while consistent, this view makes soul building God’s main purpose, and I am not sure that is consistent with scripture.
            Free Will says that the best possible world would be one where we are free to love or reject Him. The evil originates with our own choices in opposition of God and not because of Him, thus laying the blame for evil at the feet of mankind and not God.
            All three of the above views have something to contribute. God is certainly rational. He is interested in our spiritual development, and mankind is free. It is simplistic to say that one is correct to the dismissal of the others outright.
            Out of the internal joy, love, and fellowship of the Trinity, God creates mankind for the purpose of joining in that joy, love, and fellowship. However, love requires free will, so man was allowed to choose or reject God. Mankind's rejection of God (and His moral design) is the cause of the moral evil in the world. Additionally, man's positional relationship of "dominion" over the earth (Genesis 1:26) causes the effects of The Fall to affect the rest of creation as well, resulting in natural evil (Romans 8:20-22). Since God's goal is to invite mankind into fellowship (ultimately in heaven), mankind must first be made holy again. While Christ's crucifixion and resurrection justifies, our sanctification is an ongoing process as we walk through this evil-laden world. Soul building is not the primary purpose of evil, and God does not cause evil to happen. He does, however, use it for the building of our souls as we encounter it.
            Since evil arises out of man's disobedience, God is free of the blame for evil. Also, since the fulfillment of His purpose is not in this life, what we experience here can not only be used for our own betterment but is also of little significance compared to the ultimate joy and fellowship we will experience in heaven (Romans 8:18). This shows that God is not cruel or capricious in allowing evil to happen. Also, when someone poses this problem as a criticism, they are assuming the existence of evil. Evil is a violation of what is good. Good is defined by the nature and character of God. By acknowledging evil, the critic has conceded the existence of God.