Why is there pain in the world if God is good? If God could part the Red Sea, raise the dead, and stop the lion’s mouths, why did He let this happen to me? Does God really care about me? Why should I serve, let alone love Someone who, by all appearances, stands by and watches and maybe even plans the death, suffering, abandonment, and abuses in my life and all around me in the world?
Every person has wrestled with these kinds of questions. For some, it is from very personal experiences and for others, it is what they see around them that eats at their faith or puts the damper on their enthusiasm for loving and serving God.
- In this Part 1, I addressed some truths about God and the world that radically alters the way the situation is often made to appear.
- In “The Problem of Pain – part 2” I addressed truths that have helped me cope with the pain in my life and open myself to God’s love when it hurts.
Bryant Martin begins with prayer:
Father, we come to you in Jesus’ name this evening. Father, the Healer of broken hearts, the one who is willing to come and be broken for us, so that we can be brought into a relationship with you, with our Father, and we can know that we’re sons, know we’re daughters of yours, Father, because of what your Son, Jesus has done for us.
So Father tonight, we just ask for anointing of your Holy Spirit on our brother as he shares, as he digs deep, lays a foundation for us to somehow know how to grapple with the problem of pain in the world. And Father, we know in our minds that you’re a God that doesn’t want to see this pain, but yet when we’re experiencing that pain, it drives us to our knees and we ask hard questions of “Why, why Lord has this happened to me? Why has this happened to my loved one?” And so, Father I pray that over these next two sessions that you could just speak through our brother, Lord, and just use him. Use his experiences, use his teaching ability, Father, just use him as a vessel for your work.
So guide and direct this time. Pray for good technology to work through, Father and may we just focus on you and what you want to speak to us. And we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bill Shiley begins:
So, I’d like to start out with a story because a picture is worth a thousand words.
So one time there was a meeting and this brother got asked to close, and so he led this beautiful flowery prayer. And he prayed – he just thought of everybody and everything, and prayed for all the needs, and just blessed everybody. And as he drew the end of his prayer, he said this, “And Lord as we slide down this great banister of life, I just ask that all the splinters will be pointed in the right direction. Amen.”
I love that metaphor there, because it’s such a good picture of life. You know, we start out, and it’s this adventure, this… Sliding down the banister is one of those thrilling entitlements of childhood that boring adults try to stop, right? Now, I’m not advocating that, but it’s an adventure everybody’s, you know, in all the stories children – it’s a big adventure to sneak in, but sliding down all of a sudden there’s a splinter. It’s just such a good picture of life.
The hope and expectancy we have of a thrilling ride, of how things are going to be when we grow up. And the way we have the innocence with which we look at the world. Then there’s the abrupt halt to him. Suddenly we’re plunged into this excruciating pain, and the thrill of the ride is forgotten and we’re impaled on these experiences that we have in life. These things we run into that should have been a smooth transition to something else, something to help us along and make our life adventuresome. And instead were impaled on it. And many times we lose our sight of everything else in life as we crawl up, and we try to nurse our wounds, and we try to grapple with the pain that we’re experiencing physically (if you’re on a banister) and metaphorically (if you’re in life).
Pain. It’s a noun, but it’s a lot more than a noun. It’s interesting to me to look at the dictionary, just see what it has to say about it:
Physical suffering or distress as due to injury, illness, etc.
One thing I find interesting is to listen to the kinds of things that we say about the pain, the suffering, the things that go on in our life. And there’s things in the things that we say, it tells a lot about what our expectations are in the framework where we’re made to live in and operate in the world.
So, physical suffering – right away we start seeing this thing that things are not the way they should be. And distress has the idea of: we’re calling out for help in this experience. That’s just the way we were meant to relate.
Physical: there’s the distressing sensation in a particular part of the body; that’s physical pain, as in, a back pain. And then there’s mental or emotional suffering or torment. “I’m sorry my news causes you such pain” – it’s not something physical. It’s something emotional. It’s something spiritual, you could say, that we experience.
This is the realm that probably most of my experience with pain has been, is in the emotional realm and relationships and just personally dealing with the emotional feelings that life and things that have happened have given me. I’ve been through some physical pain. I’ve nearly dismembered myself a few times and things like that. But my experience has not been things like cancer, or Lyme’s disease, or those kinds of chronic illnesses and such like that.
At this point is, one thing I want to say about these talks is. I’m not sharing these things as some sort of an intellectual hobby that I have, and I’m lobbing answers into the arena from my lawn chair outside where I sit with my lemonade. But I’m sharing these things because these are things I battled through myself. And I’m sharing things that have literally saved my life, and have saved my life spiritually, and brought me to a place of enthusiasm and hope for life, and helped me learn to open myself to God’s love, and reciprocate that love back. So I’m sharing answers that have helped me cope. I’m not intending to necessarily answer all the objections that could possibly come up. That would take weeks. But I’m here to share some answers that have helped me through life, some truths that have reshaped the way I think about the world and my own experience in it, and also some things I’ve learned in trying to help others on that journey.
Another thing I want to say at the onset here is: When I share about my personal experience. I have no desire to try to get pity from my audience. The compassion of godly people is a blessing – it’s the way we feel God’s compassion. But the point isn’t here to get you all to feel sorry for me. The reason I share what I do is, one, so that you all know that I’ve been here. I’m not saying this as from without, but I’m sharing it from within, and these are things personally that I’ve battled with and also have personally saved my life. And also to bring glory to God to point people to God and share a testimony of what God can do to hopefully inspire you and encourage you to press on in your journey of faith, because there is hope.
So the talk, as Bryant mentioned earlier, is going to have basically two parts. Tonight, we’re going to deal more with rhetoric, the facts, the things we think about God and the world, lay some foundational truths that changes the way we think about the world and God and suffering in our relationship with God in the world. And then tomorrow night, I plan to talk more about things to help us cope, because pain is not an intellectual problem. It’s an emotional problem.
And so facts, truth can lay a foundation. But ultimately we have to have more than just information in order to help us cope and to recover emotionally. So tomorrow night I’m gonna be sharing more things to help us cope emotionally, and I’ll be sharing all more of my own journey through this with God.
But pain is a problem, because it hurts. Whether it’s physically, whether it’s emotionally, it hurts. And so it is a problem.
So we have this term pain. That’s when it doesn’t feel good. And then we have some other words that go along with this that we’ll be using interchangeably as we talked about the subject. And we have this idea of suffering. That’s an experience of enduring things that don’t feel good.
And then we have this term evil, which is what we use to describe the situation of things not being the way they should be that causes the bad feeling. And again, I’d like to notice the sense that we have when we talk about these things that the starting platform that we have to be able to say, “This doesn’t feel good. Things are not the way they should be. That shouldn’t happen.” presumes that there’s something, there’s a way that things should be.
So basically two different kinds of categories of evil I want to think about here for a little bit, just to draw us into the subject and get us to think maybe outside of what’s on your mind and my mind tonight as we think about pain, suffering in our own lives to the rest of the big picture of suffering that goes on in the world. There’s circumstantial evil, unfortunate coincidences of impersonal forces of nature. So things just there’s no mind behind it. There’s no intelligence behind it on purpose. Things just don’t work out right.
And then there’s what I call moral evil, which is suffering that’s a result of the mistreatment of one human or a group of humans by another. So, there’s an intelligence of a purpose. There’s an intention behind this kind of evil, and it leaves a different message with us about the world that we live in.
So just listing off here a little bit some different types of circumstantial evil. So this would include things like disappointments; just where we have an expectation or hope, and as some people would say fate, it just doesn’t fall out that way. Accidents; there’s a similar similar type of thing, you know two people are going down the road and one person’s tire happens to blow out and throws their vehicle into the path of another. Birth defects; all of us struggled to a certain extent with the degeneration happens genetically, but some are bad enough that it obviously hampers somebody’s, what we would say?, their normal life function. Disease; again is where things are not operating the way they should be. Paralysis; would be similar physical debilitation because of an accident usually, or a disease. So these are all things that happened, or wreckage in our lives, you could say, because of mistakes, things that are not operating in an orderly fashion.
And then we have some more things here. Start moving into the environment that we live in. Carnivorous animals; we don’t have a lot of trouble with that now. Our world is civilized enough that we don’t hear many times people are mauled or devoured by animals, poisonous animals, snakes, we have bees; some of you at the thought of a bee sting have different feelings than I do because you have an allergic reaction. It is life threatening.
Thorns; so just things like that, the unfriendliness of our environment, of our home, the planet that in so many ways is made to fit us. And there’s things we say Mother Nature on the rampage, you know, I don’t believe in Mother Nature as a personal force. But earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, wildfires, are these natural disasters that happen, that our world that was made to be our home as we as Christians would believe, and that in so many ways is our home is made for us, turns around and aborts us, it turns against us, and we can’t survive here anymore.
And then ultimately there’s death. Where there’s the environment or our bodies, things don’t work in the way that we would say they should, to the point that life ceases to be.
Then there’s moral evil. There’s the sensational things like abortion and rape and murder and war. Genocide, the killing off of one whole people group by another. There’s slavery right now we’re in a time of political unrest and that’s an issue that’s being conjured back up, and where terrible things done, sadly, by people who profess to be Christians.
Slavery. And these have millions of people, whole civilizations have suffered and died or even perished from the face of the Earth under these kinds of things. And not to minimize them, these are the sensational things, you know, the things that hit the headlines and everybody thinks about; people go on protests and raise funds to try to solve these things.
But then there’s a whole other set of evil that in a much slower, less obvious way, is causing pain and suffering and death, physically and emotionally and spiritually in the world. There’s things like. There’s divorce, homes breaking apart, the relationships and the commitment, the love that was intended to create an environment of nurture and safety is torn apart and people are left to grapple with that in your lives.
There’s drug babies. This is one that – I can rationalize a lot of other things in the world, but this is one I cannot imagine why in the world this happens, that a newborn baby before it has one chance to make a decision of good or evil, begins to suffer the nightmares of withdrawal, especially from things like heroin.
There’s child molestation, children that are used and hurt in the deepest way.
There’s anger. Some of these start getting closer home. These are not so much out there, but they’re things that probably all of us have participated in to some extent, that makes – it’s devastating – it leaves scars on each other.
Abuse. Simply where my relationship with somebody is mainly for what I get out of it, and I use them as a doormat. They’re expendable to me for my pleasure and my purposes, to just be gotten out of the way when they are a pain to me, whether that’s an older person to a child, or an adult to another adult or an older person.
Broken relationships. Just where relationships are – trust is lost and things move apart. There’s a wound left.
Church splits. This is a huge one. There’s a lot of young people that struggle with enthusiasm for God and His way because of the things that happened in their churches that are not following the things that happen that are not Jesus way in the churches.
Ungodly leadership and manipulation where I punish other people. I emotionally put pressure on them to do what I want them to do rather than allowing them to be a free agent and choose their actions based on the goals that they have and the fruit that they want to reap from them. So this stuff goes on in the world.
All of us have been touched in some way by a few of these at least. Some of us maybe by many of them some of the wounds may be deeper some of them maybe not so much but we all have faced this stuff and we have to deal with how do I live through this and how do I explain this with what the Christian worldview says about God and His World. These two different categories of evil leave us with two distinct impressions about the world we live in.
One is the circumstantial evil. There’s no mind to it. It’s just chaos we could say. It leaves us with the impression that there’s no one in charge. It’s just we’re up for- we’re just at the mercy of fate- we’re just a victim of our environment. That’s the impression we get and the other one is that the wrong person is in charge. There is somebody in charge that is evil and it should be stopped. We have these in the discussions in our society however much people believe in or don’t believe in God these impressions about the world and about these things that happen comes across and it leaves us these questions about what is going on in the world. If no one is in charge or if the wrong person is in charge- how do we how do we deal with that? And while this is a hindrance to people believing in God and Christianity it’s not just a Christian problem to solve. This is something that every worldview has to answer somehow is- how do things end up not being the way they should be? And how do we cope with it? What do we do about it? I want to look just through a few of worldviews just superficially and just see what their philosophy about the world and about life. What the implication of it is when we look at what it says about suffering and evil and pain in the Human Experience.
So naturalism. Things like Darwinian Evolution things like Marxism that basically believes that natural forces is all that there is. So basically, the implication of that philosophy is that you and all that happens to you as an accident and therefore it’s meaningless whether you consider it good or bad. You can’t really say- it has no Foundation to say this is good or bad. It just is and your feelings about that are really rather irrelevant as well.
There’s no way things ought to be, therefore you cannot say there’s anything wrong you are simply less fit for survival and probably really the best thing you can do for yourself and others is get out of the way. That sounds awful, but really that’s the logical implication of naturalism.
Hinduism and Buddhism- religions that believe in reincarnation so that I have had a life before and I am in this life and I’m experiencing things because of my choices in the last life. Basically the implications of that philosophy is it’s your fault. You did something in your former life that created the bad karma that caused this. So if you’re a little child- you’re being abused and molested or you’re left derelict by your parents your parents both died and you’re starving on the street. Sorry, but you did something and you’re just it’s just the way it is and hopefully somehow you can at least not go backwards and turn into a frog or something.
Islam. Islam believes in a personal God but believes that He- everything is a result of His direct will. Islam does not really believe or does not have a philosophy anyways that really supports free will of humans. It’s all the divine will of the law he is he has made this and so therefore whatever happens to you is the will of Allah so suck it up. He has decided that you were the one to be a doormat so buck up, consider it an honor, and somehow you can figure out how to deal with it. But Allah has decided this is your lot in life, and there’s nothing to be done about it.
New Age philosophies, for example, into meditation and things like that in Scientology their philosophy basically says it’s an illusion. You’re just dreaming this up. And so by the way, your joy, your happiness is also an illusion. So life really has they have no they will they will try to borrow from a Christian worldview and try to give reasons for life to have meaning but their philosophy does not support that if you follow their philosophy to its logical end life has no purpose, no meaning. Good, what we call joy and sorrow really have no absolute reference point and they’re simply an illusion something we dreamed up and you need to escape the illusion.
On the other hand, Christianity does have a unique explanation to make because, one it believes in a personal God. There’s a person that is credited with the way things are, He created things, He set up this whole system, and also it has a unique responsibility to explain this because the claims Christianity makes- especially many traditional Christians today- and the reality that exists they seem contradictory.
So I want to look at that little bit- some clashing evidence.
Among some of the things Christians believe are these things. One God created all things. God is the embodiment of love and goodness. God is omnipotent- He has all power. God is omniscient. He has all science or all knowledge. God is omnipresent- He is in every place. And evil exists.
Now when we were in first grade, we did these worksheets where they would have a banana and a pair of socks and a pair of pants and clothesline and it would say which one doesn’t fit? And right away we know the banana doesn’t fit because the others all have something in common and the banana doesn’t.
And this doesn’t take much intelligence to look at this list and say if all the first five things are true than evil should not exist. If we have a guy who created all things and he is the embodiment of goodness. He has all power so he can do everything. He is omniscience so he knows everything. He didn’t go- oops didn’t think about that. And he is everywhere so he knows what’s going on. People should not exist. So that reality that’s presented implies that there should not be evil. It doesn’t make sense that there’s evil in the world. And so the people grapple with this reality. Why do we credit the beautiful rainbow to God but not hungry starving children?
This picture is the picture that put the nail in the coffin of Charles Templeton’s faith. He was actually Billy Graham’s partner in the beginning of Billy Graham’s Ministry and through some faith crises he became an- at least an agnostic if not an atheist. You can read a little bit about that- his story, his journey- in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel. Lee Strobel interviewed him. But this woman is holding her dead baby in her arm because there’s a drought and there’s not enough water and the baby has perished because of that. Very simple problem for God to fix right just send some rain.
There’s things like the Holocaust- massive unchecked brutality beyond our description. It’s worse than just a human gone bad. There’s a supernatural dimension of that kind of evil. And so there’s people who you can’t blame them for saying things like this Jew carved on the wall of a Nazi concentration camp, “If there is a God- He will have to beg my forgiveness.”
Then there’s the private things that go on behind closed doors in families, in churches, and relationships. There’s physical and sexual abuse, molestation. And God supposedly is in every place and He sees this kind of stuff go on. It doesn’t stop it. Probably all of us have been at Walmart or someplace like that and seen a parent just slaughtering their child verbally. And something in us wants to just go over there and grab that parents and say, “Listen! Do you want to know what you’re doing?” And God sees that going all the time and apparently doesn’t do anything about it. This doesn’t make sense with a good guy- that he lets that kind of stuff go on.
So people pray. So there’s this good God and so we pray to him and he supposed to be able to fix our problems. But so we pray for a loved one who’s sick or dying or for some other need in our life and heaven seems iron- barred shut and our prayers seem like they bounce off the ceiling and we are left in frustration and rage. and how? what? like Job, “God, why don’t you just answer me?” It doesn’t make sense with a God that is what the Bible seems to tell us that at first.
And so you have statements like this by Epicurus the philosopher, “Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to; or He cannot and does not want to. If he wants to but cannot, He is impotent. He’s limited. He’s a he’s a good-hearted guy, but he not strong enough. If He can, and does not want to, He is wicked. Well, if I stood there with a loaded shotgun on my arm from 10 feet away and watch the Doberman tear your five-year-old child, Nephew, brother, sister, grandchild, to pieces. Would you call me good? No, I have the power- easily the power to stop the whole thing. And then I sit there and watch.
But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how comes evil is in the world?
This doesn’t make sense and as a philosopher Epicurus wrestled with that and the Judea Christian worldview did not make sense to him and Epicureanism basically teaches, if I remember right that basically; live for the pleasure now because it’s going to be over and you might as well have a party now while you can.
Statements like this one; viewing evil in the world as an arm-wrestling match between God and Satan. God is all-powerful. Why can’t He just defeat the Devil? He- God can do anything, right? God has created everything, right? God is not bound by any rules, right? So why is it that God prefers, and this is where it starts getting twisted if we talk about the Bible story this way. That God prefers to punish to destroy evil not by stopping the devil. But punishing and torturing everyone influenced by the devil. That starts getting, not just a careless picture to God, but an evil picture, an indifferent picture, a picture of somebody definitely who’s not safe, or good, or trustworthy. He’s attacking us for something- for being under influence that supposedly-I’m presuming their viewpoint on it, we can’t help this?
So they say if they’re religious cannot give a logical answer this simple question we cannot take their mythical religion seriously. Just for the point I view this whole thing is a little more like this- for those you can’t see the PowerPoint, rather than an equal arm-wrestling match, it’s a bodybuilder wrestling with somebody who is well, just rather slender. It’s something that God is tolerating. He’s allowing Satan to try and Satan is in the end going to defeat himself because his way is not- it’s true it doesn’t work.
Then there’s things that Christians say, not just the Bible and God’s story, but then the people that are supposed to be following God, then we say things that don’t make sense. Like the Christian narrative, the traditional Christian narrative I’m now, please take me right now, I’m not saying this is the historic Christian narrative, but some of the things that have come out of the splits in the philosophies through the years. We have a narrative that doesn’t paint a very good picture of this whole situation either.
So this is what it sounds like; the traditional Christian narrative, sounds like to a lot of unbelievers. God made everything to bring him glory. He wants human or he gave human rules to follow. They didn’t follow his rules. He is offended and incensed at their affront to him. He cursed their world and we’ll burn them all in hell, in an eternal bonfire for it. He sent His son to earth so he could beat him up instead of us. And whoever applies this credit to their account and credit of Jesus being beat up instead of us and is good enough as some of us believe to humor him- God through the intervening misery will get the nod from him when we die, and we can escape this world to live in his nirvanic, la la land forever. Again, I’m viewing it through their eyes the way this whole thing sounds.
So some problems with that is for one it focuses on God’s wrath not human choice in and things happening as a consequence in honor of their choice. It doesn’t get depict God as the one pursuing and working to free them it actually pits Jesus and God against each other like bad cop, good cop. You know God’s saying, “I’m gonna punish these people!” And Jesus says no, “Please don’t, please don’t I like them!” And just really makes some nasty pictures of God. When we present the Bible’s narrative that way. And also it focuses on getting out of this world, this flopped project, rather than joining a revolution, the kingdom of God, a revolution to restore it. So when we depict the Bible’s narrative in that way it really doesn’t help this whole thing at all.
And then a lot of Christians would invite people to become followers of Jesus by saying things like ask Jesus into your heart and he’ll give you love, joy, peace, and lasting happiness. Well, then when people don’t experience that in this life and they turn their backs on God because they say God isn’t- He’s not following up with his promises.
That’s part of Dan Barker’s, he’s the president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation now, that was part of what turned him after being a pastor for 17 years and an evangelist and a musician. He’s still getting royalties from his Christian music he wrote. Turned his back on God because it just it wasn’t delivering what it was supposed to according to the narrative that he had heard. He had been taught about what God’s purpose was in what Jesus came for.
Then there’s things we say like this that just paint a bad picture of God in this whole thing. “God planned it that way.” We say that, “Well it was God’s will so and so died. That was God’s will.” I’m not criticizing anybody for saying these kind of things. I just think that maybe we could learn some better ways to say it that would help clarify the issues and we’ll talk some more about some of that later on in these talks.
And we say things like well God answered our prayers and you know, we were able to raise enough money or we had a safe trip or so-and-so healed or whatever. Well but why did- what happened to our prayers when the person didn’t heal? When we still don’t have any solution to our material need that we have. Or somebody doesn’t repent and surrender to Christ and goes off and lives a life of destruction. What about that?
We say God was good and gave us a safe trip. Similar type of thing that we say, well God was good and things turn out well and that really has a bad implication then when things don’t turn out good. So then what was God? So just some things that we say. And I think maybe times- maybe we say them because we do have a little bit of that perspective. We don’t think it through always. So again, I don’t mean any criticism towards anybody, but just some things that help us think about and maybe start changing- intentionally changing the way we think and the things that we say.
Implications of that basically is that God is predetermined everything, Which the Bible doesn’t teach. The early church did not believe that and it really has some really bad implications when we think about the people who are not saved and the events that happened in the world.
And also gives the idea that God wins sometimes in the rest of the time what? So if God didn’t answer our prayers didn’t give us a safe trip then how do we explain that? So those kind of things lends to the confusion in the world.
And then there’s the things that Christians do. There’s the strife and division among Christians. This is something that we’ve done very poorly over the years about. Now, there have been many Christians who have led a life of peace and of peacemaking and working through differences in a Godly way, but personally, I have not been a very good testimony at times of Jesus way by my interactions with people and dealing with differences. This is a really- the Christian record over the years is horrible. It splits and splinters and not just that we do something different but then we can’t get along we can’t respect the other person. We fight back and forth over, oh we will leave that. Jesus said that the ultimate apologetic, the way that people are going to know that he is real is by our love for each other and by our unity, by us being one together with God.
And so is it any wonder that people struggle with believing in God when the people here to represent him and show; be an evidence of His way, His character, are not passing the first test there.
And then idolatrous lifestyles. Many people call themselves Christians, but don’t obey Jesus teachings. Like he said if you love me obey me, keep my commandments, do what I said. So those things don’t lend a very good picture to a good God in the world, are not a very good representation of God it’s contradicting evidence.
This song is a song was by a rock group called XTC. I don’t listen to rock music. I found out about this from another talk and I felt like it is worth sharing because it depicts the struggle that’s there about God, about the evil in the world, and about the religious strife and contention over Him. So this is as if a letter is being written to God.
Dear God. Hope you get the letter and I pray you can make it better down here. I don’t mean a big reduction in the price of beer. But all the people that you made in your image see them starving on their feet ‘cause they don’t get enough to eat from God I can’t believe in you.
Dear God, sorry to disturb you but I feel I should be heard loud and clear. We all need a big reduction in amount of tears and all the people that you made in your image. See them fighting in the street (and notice what they are fighting about) ‘cause they can’t make opinions meet about God. I can’t believe in you. Did you make disease and the diamond blue? (something so horrible and something so good. How do these two dichotomies exist?) Did you make mankind after we made you? (So his thinking is starting to slide. This can’t be! God has to be a fabrication because of this clashing evidence. And did we make the devil to? We just made this whole thing up.)
Dear God don’t know if you noticed but your name is on a lot of quotes in this book and us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look at all the people that you made in your image still believing that junk is true. Well, I know it ain’t, and so do you.
And then he- notice the hardening process continues. He’s coming to some conclusions and he’s no longer struggling, but he’s beginning to harden, and his mind and his heart is being set against God.
I can’t believe in. I don’t believe in. I won’t believe. And then he basically goes to a reverse Apostles’ Creed. In heaven or hell. No saints, no sinners, no devil as well, no pearly gates, no thorny crown. Because you’re always letting us humans down. The wars you bring, the babes you drown, those lost at sea and never found.
This song depicts their- expresses the heart cry of a lot of people who have left the Christianity. Turn their back away from God because of the apparent contradiction in the world and who he’s presented as. And probably that struggle, in those feelings finds a resonation in probably many of our hearts however much we are. We don’t want to give in to that were tempted to begin to take that perspective on the world and on God at times.
I struggle with that deeply. My journey into apologetics was largely to find some ground work- some guardrails to keep me from going down that road. I’m thankful for my introduction of many of those things because it kept me, as I looked at the disaster in my life, from giving in to that belief that this is all just a hoax. He can’t- God can’t exist. If he does he doesn’t care about me at all.
Some songs that I’ve heard that express that idea one that is a song from back in the 70s or 80s called American Pie and has this line in there that says, “The three men I admired the most, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost they caught the last train for the coast.” And that’s been a battle I’ve struggled with in my life is just like God just somewhere God just left just didn’t care, just dumped me off, and just drove off, and I’m left alone, isolated, an orphan in the world.
Another song. This is a Christian song that says about my soul being in despair, that crossing that river would find no one there. So I die and I find out that all this has been a joke or that I wasn’t good enough for God in the first place. And now I have to be punished for it.
So I want to do is look at the look at the story. What does the Bible say? And how does that change the way this all appears in the world?
One thing I find interesting is that as we look at the Bible we find is- we look at the different styles of literature. We find that the Bible is over half story. I did a little study here recently put an Excel sheet together and assigned description to each one. And if you just go buy books and just generalize each book as history or poetry or prophecy or law or epistles. It comes out to about 57 percent of the Bible is story. So I think it’s important we should read the Bible that way and story is interesting kind of Revelation. It’s not saying here do this pick this up move your hand there do that with this but it’s inviting us into understanding what’s going on so that we can make choices and learn how to become part of it. I think that shows something about God’s character right there, that God has revealed himself to us in story that invites us to be aware of our surroundings and then make choices about how we’re going to relate to it.
I’m not gonna go into real depth, but I’m going to refer to a lot of passages here, but I just want to generally look at an overview of what the Bible does say as we put it together and we notice some details and then in the end here, I want to go back over those statements about God- that God created all things. He’s love. He’s all-powerful. He’s all-knowing. He’s omniscient. And look at some- may be some other ways to look at that, some truths that don’t appear at first about those statements that helps temper our way in and really begins to make this whole thing make a lot of sense.
So the story begins with the Creator of goodness and beauty in Genesis chapter 1. One thing I think is important to know about Eastern literature, which the Bible was written by the Hebrews, the middle easterners, is that chronology and always the stacking of events in exact order of happening is very unimportant to them. It’s more important to group things together in a way that shows connections. And so whether or not it was literal days and all I don’t believe in Darwinian evolution at all, but the picture we get as we look at that is there’s chaos and God steps in and he begins to sort things out and make order and then make beauty and just ideas- creativity and makes things work together well. And he keeps saying good, good, good as he creates over and over and over that’s repeated and twice when he creates humans.
Another thing I see as God creates as he is giving to his world. He’s not making things simply to be expendable for his use. All of creation is taking God’s energy and God’s creativity and it brings Him glory because it points to him as a giver- as a person who gives.
I think that that is an important thing to start with understanding as we look at the Bible story is God’s character and the way he made man to be a partner with him is to become important to reign, to have dominion by giving and blessing and enriching what’s around them. And contrast as fallen humans we become the center of things when we lift ourselves up. We bring glory we do it by taking.
So we start out with someone who his character is giving to everything around. He makes things he makes things a blessing. He makes paradise- everything works perfectly ideal and is just an amazing picture. We still use the term Eden to describe something that’s just absolutely as beautiful and pleasant and works together as ideally as possible.
So a Creator of goodness and beauty, a giver giving. A community creating community. So God makes statements like, “Let us make man in our image.” So in whatever context whether you want to talk about that as the Trinity, or as the Heavenly Council, the Spirit beings that are around the throne of God, God seeing it together. But God is somebody who does something with, at his core He is a partnership. And so then he creates a partnership. He creates humans to be two different kinds that work together in perfect oneness to create and to rule the world that he created.
Also His terminology as He relates to them where He starts out there and he says be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it and have dominion is obvious terminology to any Hebrew- Jewish person everyone I’ve heard that studied any of the Middle Eastern culture to say obviously right away somebody would recognize that Gods making a covenant right there when he starts into that. Just as much as today in the Evangelical world if a preacher is preaching in the evening and he gets to the end of his message and he says, “and now with every head bowed and every eye closed,” and then goes on. Everybody knows right away oh, he’s going to give an invitation. It’s just part of our culture and so God’s terminology is obviously covenant terminology. Creating a partnership where we bind ourselves unconditionally to participate in the outcome- the fate of the relationship. We bind together to make something happen and we both are unconditionally going to be partners in the outcome of that relationship by working together. So God is a community and he creates community working together and sharing in the outcome of labor.
This kind of takes that to another level. A lover who desires to be desired. Which must have free will in order for love to exist- love and relationships are based on Free Will that the person doesn’t have to.
For example, love- romance is a big theme in our world and there’s songs and poems and all kinds of stories written about our dreams about that. And this is how the dreams go, right? So a man goes up to the girl’s house, stomps up on the porch in his boots, kicks down the door, pulls his six-shooter out, and grabs her by the arm and says, I want you to come with me and live with me and share life with me, and whatever else is ideas are about what a wife is to be, so come along with me, and he slaps the cuffs on, throws her over his shoulder, and takes her to his cabin.
Is that the way the stories is go? Well, that’s absurd. That’s so horrible. It’s almost funny in a way to think that that would be the way the thing would be approached. Instead us as men we go and even though we would maybe physically have the ability to do that. We’ll go with shaking knees and a dry throat and with our hat in our hands and ask- plead for a girl to give us the opportunity to build a relationship. And then we will go away if she rejects it. We will go away in sorrow and deal with the hurt that that brings. I think it’s because we are little pictures of God’s nature. That’s how God is and God cannot- will not force a relationship with Him. And now some people will say, well so then God goes and says, well so if you don’t marry me I’m gonna burn you forever in hell. Well that’s really a bad conclusion there because the story doesn’t go that way. The story goes we are going to marry somebody. We’re going to serve one master or the other and God is pleading with us to marry him, because he wants to set us free and deliver us, protect us from the abusive husband. And our world bears testimony to what life is like when we marry the wrong lover.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, I think, is literally and figuratively a picture of that that God makes everything work together. He shows them what to do how to begin to do- invites them to go on and create and grow the garden to fill the rest of the earth. And but then he says here you don’t have to you can follow me or you can choose good and evil on your own.
I love this statement that God makes as I’ve begin to change my thinking about God I basically have begun to put on new glasses. And as I look at the Old Testament without this without viewing God as a mean nasty person. I begin to see a whole other side of him that I believe Satan didn’t want me to see before. That is throughout the prophets God is crying and saying look I wanted you, I’ve chased you down, I’ve done everything, I’ve given you chances, and I’ll still give you another chance. Please come back to me and stop choosing this way of destruction and my heart bleeds with God as he says there in Jeremiah 31. “I’m gonna make a New Covenant. It’s not going to be like the one before because they broke that one even though I was a husband to them. I stayed faithful to them. I was always there ready to bring them back and restore them to my goodness whenever they would repent” and that is just- that picture is all through the prophets in the Old Testament as He talks to Israel about their lifestyle and the destruction they are experiencing.
This one is that just a tremendously powerful scene to me. Jesus comes to Jerusalem as He’s approaching his death where they will ultimately reject him. And he says, “Oh Jerusalem!” He comes a city and he weeps over it and says, “Oh if you would have just known what was going to happen to you because you’ve rejected the One who’s come to deliver you from your rebellion. They’re going to completely decimate you- completely lay you level with the ground and your children with you, because you didn’t recognize the One who came to save you. You thought He was your enemy.
The scene there is so powerful when we think about free will! Either God created free will- absolute free will that we can indeed choose to follow Him, to serve Him, to allow Him to rein in our lives or else we can choose independence and sell ourself to Satan or else this scene is the most ridiculous scene that has ever happened in history. Because what we have here is we have the God who just thinks and creates galaxies and here He is crying because these creatures are resisting his efforts to protect and bless them. That is so powerful to me as I think about this issue of free will. The Bible doesn’t come out point-blank very many times and say that I created free will you can choose but it’s the picture all the way from beginning to end is that God is has given us the opportunity to choose and has pursued us and we are the ones who have run away with from him. We are the ones who have sold our world off to the destroyer.
Jesus says in Revelations another picture of this, “I’m standing at the door knocking,” I could kick it down, but that’s not what I want. I want you to invite me in so I can make your life good, I can redeem you, I can walk with you through your suffering towards redemption, but you have to be the one to open the door.
Evil is in the world because a product that is not the result of love- free given love, is worthless to God and so He won’t force us and He allows us to choose the opposite of goodness.
So we have a Creator creating goodness and beauty, a giver giving, a community creating community, a lover desiring to be loved, and then we have a villain inciting independence. Satan comes and he says, “Hey God really doesn’t have your best in mind. Actually, he’s got the blinders on you. He’s trying to keep you dumb down so that he’ll be the big guy on the block.” And encourage them to try his way of exalting himself and trying to become the center of all things himself, and as a result of that we’ve chosen to step away from God and do our own thing. And history- the Bible’s history, so much of the story of the Bible is not- people say well, what about Jepath’s daughter, you know, what about it? Well, they missed the point of the Book of Judges. The point of the Book of Judges is to show us the insanity that happens in the world when the classic phrase is ‘there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’
A villain inciting Independence and then a treasure sold to a tyrant. This is an incredibly important thing to understand as we look at the world. As we think about what Jesus came to do. Is that by choosing to listen to Satan’s advice we sold ourselves and our world- our dominion that God gave us to him. Romans 6:16 makes this very clear, “that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.”
And that whole passage in Romans 6 goes over this several different ways- forwards and backwards, how this works. That we have given ourselves- married a husband who is a tyrant. And in order to be free from that we have to marry another, and Christ has come to kill the old husband. He’s dead and we can choose now to marry Christ and to experience his transformation.
But we sold the world we live in to the tyrant Satan and it we came under his dominion.
Temporal evil, as well as, damnation is what we get paid working for him. Romans 3:23 says that, “the wages of sin is death.” So what we get paid for doing things Satan’s way. We’re working for him- we get paid death.
A treasure sold to a tyrant, and a lover who will stop at nothing to redeem. So the story’s not over yet when we have God as the one who is loving and but creating opportunity for us to keep coming back. He’s always calling and asking and doing everything possible to free us from our situation.
The Incarnation. This is such an important thing as I think about God in relating to the brokenness, and the devastation, the evil, the pain, the suffering that we experience in our world.
And does he care? In all those kind of things is the fact that God became flesh and lived among us. The book Bruchko is a story of a missionary who lived among some primitive Indians. I can’t remember what continent it was anymore and he was looking for a way to communicate that God expressed himself in human form and he lived among us.
And he ran into the story in their culture about this man who saw the ants and saw their play, and how hard they worked and sometimes they starved because things weren’t good. He wanted so bad to fix their problem that he became an ant and crawled down in their tunnels with them and walked their trails and helped- taught them a new way to be ants and helped to solve their problem. And he latched onto that and so in their Bible, it doesn’t say the word became flesh. It says God became an ant. Referring to that story. And I love that picture of what God did except it’s exponentially more of a contrast in that God left His deity- His omniscience I don’t know if I can say his omniscience, but his omnipotence- his ability to be in control and to be honored and glorified and to be in control of our circumstances and made himself subservient to everything. He came as a baby and had to wait for his mom to change his diaper and hung there naked on the cross in the most shameful human experience. It was intentional. The cross wasn’t just execute but this shame and humiliate in order to set us free from the choices that we’ve made.
So if God if there was another way to fix this thing. Don’t you think God would have done it. Rather than crawled in here and live in it with us? And so to me that’s a tremendous testimony to the importance God puts on human choice. It is so sacred to Him and He respects it so highly he will not override it. He will crawl in here and live with us in it in order to redeem it.
Another thing that’s precious to me about the Incarnation is we get to Christmas and there’s all the myths and all the stuff and I just sit alone and I think about it. I thank God that God knows my experience. Not just because he’s all-knowing, but he has been through it. To live in a sin cursed earth.
A lover who will stop at nothing to redeem.
And lastly, a restored relationship and realm. A lot of Christians- we talk about the restored relationship. You know that now we’re sons of God and all this, but we don’t talk much about the realm unless we are talking about this city on a cloud thing. We go to heaven when we die. That’s not really what Jesus said. Jesus came preaching and His summary of His mission was the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. He refers to His mission here as to set up a society- a revolution to rejoin Heaven and Earth.
Jesus describes his death as an exodus. That’s the term that is used there on the Mount of transfiguration where he’s talking with Moses and Elijah about his death. It’s the term there is decease is the word for an exodus- a deliverance from bondage and moving out to a new life.
And the term ransom has the idea of freeing us from slavery that we’ve sold ourselves into. And then He describes His purpose as leading a revolution to defeat the kingdom of hell and to restore the union of Heaven, which is God’s realm, with earth- man’s realm. We will again live together and we share the joy of what we are creating together. Man creating on earth and God creating knows what all.
But that’s the way the story ends, it’s not just in la-la land with God some place in eternity, but with a restoration now, a group of people now, that God is creating to show His goodness to the world and to begin living here the way God intended. To marry the new husband, to begin living under the direction of the new Master now that were set free from our slavery.
So as we look at the story from a deeper realm- from a historic perspective what the early Christians would have believed about Jesus coming and the purpose of God creating and why things are the way in the world. It gives us quite a different slant on those statements we spoke of back there. That God created everything, God is love, God is omnipotent, there’s some truths that need to be brought in there because the most powerful lies are the ones that are mostly truths, but there’s important parts left out.
When I was teaching school this last year. In literature class we studied Shakespeare’s play Macbeth and one of the things that really stood out to me. Is there- I didn’t quote it directly here, but it says that evil often to lead us to destruction tells us honest trifles that it may destroy us in deepest consequence. And that’s what that story is full of, it’s part truths that were given and that spurred Macbeth to think that he could get away with things and to make himself great through treachery and ended up destroying him in the end. And so many of these things. There’s a lot of truth there, but they’re missing some important parts it’s a picture and it’s being twisted to give God a very bad picture.
So I want to in this last part here go through a little bit of rhetoric and adjust some of our thoughts about those things and then we will conclude for the evening.
So thinking deeper. So let’s take the one. God is all-powerful. Well, yes, so God is not limited by anyone or anything. Nobody can check Him or nobody gave Him advice. Nobody can say hey, what are you doing? You can’t do that, but because of God’s character, there’s some things done will not do.
For example, I’m big enough to do a lot of things physically, but because of my character because of what God has done with my character. I would not do them.
The early church believed that God was not good because He had no other options, that the bad part of Him just couldn’t operate, but because He chose His character to use His power in a way that was a blessing to everything.
And so we see also that God delegated part of His power to humans. In the creation story God says over and over- but he gave the humans dominion over the world and over creation. So God gave a part of His power to humans and He respects human choice. It’s up to us what we want to do with that responsibility and He honors us, that when we sow, we reap, and if that can work in a positive way, it can also work in a negative way. If we choose to sow poorly- we choose to sell our world to the tyrant, we also are going to reap the effects of that.
So God delegated part of His power to humans. So while God is all-powerful doesn’t necessarily mean he is going to just override everything. God is not limited by anyone or anything. Because of his character there’s some things God will not do for example, override free will. God gave part of his power to humans. And so that part of His realm He will not mess with, will not override their choices. And God values free choice supremely and will not override it. We already talked about that. So those are some things that temper our picture here about God being all-powerful. He’s not this bully that rules the block with his fists.
God is all-knowing. So when we say that what do we mean? What does that mean as we think about how it applies to our world? Well, God knows all facts. So there’s no information that escapes Him. God also knows the past and the future. He inhabits eternity. So God knows about things that happened back then and he also knows what’s going to happen in the future. He knows what’s going to pan out here and God also knows things about all times and places so it’s kind of like this three-dimensional thing God knows everything like this, everything that’s happening right now, but he also knows everything that’s happening right now throughout all times and all places.
So therefore, God has all wisdom. He knows all that stuff. He knows how it’s all going to work out the best in He has plans and designs and purposes for how this is all going to work out in the long run. So that tempers are thinking as we look at this that God knows everything, but God knows a whole lot more than what we do, and he has information about what works and how things are going to turn out that we can’t begin to dream of. If we look at nature we see that rather obviously.
Also, we mentioned this earlier, but God knows by experience what it is to live as a human in a sin cursed earth. So while we may not be able to understand everything about why God let things go on that does temper our thinking about why God allows the things he does is that God is not just sitting back here, you know, pushing buttons or you know, pushing things around with a stick or something from remote control, but he has personally experienced this. He’s not making anything happen that He’s not willing to put himself through.
God is omnipresent. Well yes, God is in every place. God also inhabits eternity. We talked about that before. So He lives and is experiencing things that are outside of what we can get our hands on, our minds around, and God is simultaneously in all places and times. So, what he is allowing to happen right now, He is also, at the same time, experiencing and at least knowing what is going to happen in the future, in the past. And so His information, His perspective on things is just inexpressively greater than ours. Nothing escapes His observation or awareness.
And then we say God is good. God is the source of goodness. He’s the one by which we define good and evil, really. And He is not good because of what He does, but what He does is good because of who He is. We get our reference point from Him.
We talked about that at the beginning of this talk that when we talk about evil and we say about this shouldn’t be like this, that should not happen. We’re starting with a reference point that already is and we’re getting that from somewhere and the Christian worldview tells us we are getting it from a person who is good and because He is good everything He does is good. It may not look good at a certain time- may not feel good. But is all going to end with a product that is purely good.
Evil exists. There are beings who exist in opposition to God’s character of goodness. There’s a personal side to this. There are people in charge that shouldn’t be in charge so to speak.
Happenings occur that are contrary to the goodness of God created, but also evil is nothing of itself. It is the corruption of good. You can’t describe evil. You can’t list off an exhaustive list of evil, but you can say this is good. This is good. This is good. This is good. Evil is nothing in the same way that darkness is nothing. You can’t take a bucket of darkness and dump it into the room. You can’t have a device that that blows or somehow pumps darkness into a room. All you can do is shut out the light to create darkness. Same thing with cold, and so evil is nothing of itself. In order to talk about evil we have to have a foundation of good. And so we just to the kind of questions that well if there’s so much evil in the world how does God exist? but if God doesn’t exist, how is there so much good?
We also need to remember this that when we say this is evil. This is bad. We are determining- we’re deciding that based on our experience, from our perspective and our values. So what we are feeling right now and gauging by what we wish was going on. And that is so immature and such a minut perspective on things and we need to remember that, as we think about things, that God has purposes that are greater. We’ll talk about that tomorrow night.
If God exists, why is there so much evil? I talked about that just a moment ago. This is really a good question. But then the question is if God doesn’t exist, why is there so much good? And think that the Bible narrative, though I don’t understand everything about why God created, the Bible narrative understood historically is the only philosophy that gives us a decent reason about both the goodness in the world and the evil in the world and a solution- a real workable solution of overcoming- surviving it and experiencing redemption of evil.
The better something is the worst its opposite is. So a good dog is good. And a bad dog is bad. But a good man is good in a whole other realm and a bad man is bad in a whole other realm. I would rather meet a bad dog in a dark alley at night in the middle of downtown Philadelphia, then I would meet an evil man.
And then we step on up to angels. A good Angel is a tremendously wonderful thing. So the better something is the worse its opposite. And so the more we are able to choose something good- the more beautiful the good we can choose, the worse it’s opposite is.
Evil exists, but God says it will be defeated and redeemed. That’s an important perspective is as we follow the Bible’s narrative God says there’s more to it than what’s happening right now. It is existing now, but it will be redeemed and defeated in the end.
So, summing it up as we look at the story. We realize that God made a good world. That God created free will which is part of love God created love and therefore there must be free will in order for love to exist.
God delegated part of His power to humans and man’s choice to be other than God. I’m sorry. That should be other than good is created a world that’s other than good and we call that evil and that brings a lot of pain, a lot of suffering to us. And at the same time, we realize that God has entered our brokenness and that God has. through his sacrificial death to deliver us from the bondage of Satan and through his teaching and His spirits power to lead us into the revolutionary behavior of living his way- being part of His kingdom. God has and is redeeming evil now and ultimately will redeemed that and when He comes again to bring the complete union of His kingdom. Heaven and Earth, however you want to say that but we inherit the new Heaven and the new Earth wherein dwells righteousness.
Evil is temporary. It will be judged and ended.
I’m concluding here tonight with that. Hopefully that’s adjusted our perspective about what’s going on. Our picture of who God is in all of this and tomorrow night, Lord willing, we’ll apply some of these things. And I’ll share some of how these truths have helped me learn to begin to walk out. Living through this, accepting the pain that God’s allowed in my life. Finding freedom from it and enthusiasm and being able to open myself to this God and His love in my life and to be able to begin to love him back.
That journey is not over by any means, but I’m excited. I’m 38 years old. I’ll be 39 next Wednesday and after 39, you all know comes 40 and there was a time in my life were to be single and 40 would have I just if I would have known it was to happen. I probably would have an emotional breakdown and while my desires for life for not all aren’t all granted by any means. I’m looking forward to 40. I’m excited to just be okay with the life God has given me and there’s so much good that God has brought through my life as I’ve surrendered to Him.
Tomorrow night, Lord willing, we’ll talk about some answers that I found that have helped me learn to cope and to be able to love God and be part of His revolution.
Question and Answer session begins:
Bryant: So, Bill as you were sharing I thought about how- I was touched and moved by how you took us on a journey of the evil and the sadness and the brokenness of our world, and I was touched to as you took us on that journey of the story and I took a picture of that slide. It was very touching and I’m just going to read off his bullet points here again.
- A Creator of goodness and beauty
- A Giver giving
- A Community creating community
- A Lover desiring to be desired
- A villain inciting independence
- A treasure sold to a tyrant
- A lover who will stop at nothing to redeem
- A restored relationship and realm
And then you took us deeper yet, thinking more deeper and I won’t even go across those bullet points. But thank you Brother and something I thought about to is how you know as I look around me and my friends I know that I’ve been maybe protected, or I haven’t experienced some of these deep pains that some of my friends have. I you know, my body is healthy I haven’t had cancer. I don’t have birth infirmities like my one friend has. And so I know that tonight- I’m sure tears were shed on this call as I was touched as well. And also I think about the conversations that I have right here in our Cafe. People who are atheists and who deal with- grapple with these things. So thank you so much brother for laying this foundation, was really touched by that.
We also had questions come in as well. So thank you for submitting your questions. Brother Lynnwood, I see you’re up here. Thank you for joining us for this.
Lynnwood is another single brother from Virginia and he’s got the questions that have come in from you all. So thank you for submitting those! And Lynnwood, why don’t we just jump right into that. I see Bill sat down. That’s fine. You were standing a long time. So yeah Lynnwood fire away here. What’s the first question?
Lynnwood Hershberger: All right. Well, yes, thank you so much Bill. I was really blessed tonight. You did a great job in sharing the beauty of God’s story and His kingdom. Thank you! number of questions here. They’re still coming in, but one maybe place to start would be a question that came in early on- thinking about creation and how God created us.
So here’s a question:
How do you respond to the idea that God created everyone just as they are? How does this relate to people born with birth defects, disabilities, etc.?
Again, how do you respond to the idea that God created everyone just as they are?
Bill Shiley: Yeah. So one thing I tried to learn to do is to not try to say things that I can’t really prove. So I’m going to try to stay with what I do feel like I can say. So I don’t have, you know, obvious debilitating birth defects.
But for me, I guess I would say it’s a little same thing is why was I born in the family that I was born into that when God knew the all this stuff was going to go on. And I think that’s where understanding that the world- God gave the world to humans to have dominion and we sold it when we chose to obey Satan and Adam and each person. We’ve gone down that road. I don’t understand why all that’s the way it is, but as we understand that we realize that the world is broken because we have given our dominion to the evil one.
And so we see debilitation in the world around us. Paul says, “The whole creation is groaning and travailing together in pain until now.” So that’s one of those things I would say to God gave free will and things have come out of that. There’s brokenness that has come out of the dominion that we gave over to Satan and yet God and His love has joined and lived in that brokenness with us experienced it himself and is redeeming it, will bring good out. We’re going to talk about that tomorrow night was spent quite a bit of time actually talking about it. The idea of God as a redeemer and redeeming evil in the world, pain, suffering in the world. So yeah, I don’t have an easy answer that explains it all but there’s some things I do know that changes my perspective on it.
Lynnwood Hershberger: Yeah I appreciate that, it’s beautiful. You know, some of the things that you shared tonight about the character of God and how we know him would not be that way. From our understanding if some of these things wouldn’t have been, God wouldn’t have allowed the world to be the way it is- toward a new creation and redeemable.
Another question here:
How can we show deep compassion without promoting self-pity?
And this question came in early on and as you see God in his response the Old Testament relational God, maybe that triggers some clues how we can follow His example, how do we show deep compassion to others without promoting self-pity, bringing them into this story is beautiful.
Bill Shiley: So as I look at God, one thing I think about that subject there, God is the guy who takes a risk, you know, He puts himself out there and He knows that people are gonna take advantage of it. And so as we relate with people it’s important that we show love and compassion- I want to say it this way, that we allow Christ’s spirit to rule us in a way that we are able to love and to demonstrate God’s compassion to others. So that, I think, it’s not just my compassion or me deciding to show, but it’s going to make me wrestle with my concept of God and His compassion, but in doing that others may use that wrong they may cling to it and it may become a manipulative thing where they’re wanting to have something to just salve a wound that they keep open and things like that. I think in the journey- in my own journey, as I’ve journeyed with some other people, you’ve got to show love and compassion from the beginning. A person needs to talk about what’s happening. They need to feel free to come out and say this is what I’ve experienced at any degree. We’ll talk about that some more tomorrow night, but as you then begin to move towards the deep reality of God and reinform their minds, their understanding about who God is, and start taking steps- intentional steps of allowing God’s truth to help them to forgive and things like that. You’re going to start finding out pretty soon if they’re just into self-pity, or if they simply need love and companionship in walking through the journey of that. That’s just some of my perspective I don’t think there’s a lot of clear-cut answers. It’s going to be a risk people are going to take advantage of our compassion and understanding.
Lynnwood Hershberger: Yeah, well said. Another question:
Man’s choices explain what you call moral evil, but what explains circumstantial evil? Why are there earthquakes, floods, disease, etc?
You touched on that a little bit with man selling himself to another Master. If you have any further comments on this specifically circumstantial evil.
Bill Shiley: Yeah, I’m experiencing an earthquake here right now. No, the cameras moving. There we go. Yeah, so I don’t know. Again, I don’t want to pretend in any way to be able to explain everything or say why God’s doing- that would be so arrogant and just foolish, but understanding that fact; that we sold the world to a superpower that is intent on devouring everything to make himself great. He lives in opposition to God’s method of receiving glory. Understanding that opens a door for- it makes sense that there are things like that happening in the world. There are untold consequences that come out of allowing him to have dominion in our world. I don’t know- don’t understand all that, but I just know that it does make sense, that there should be chaos when we have somebody like that have dominion in the world.
Lynnwood Hershberger: Yes. There’s a question that came in about sin entering the world:
Did not sin- or we can say, for all intents and purposes, evil- entered the world through one man, or is it really the yang to good’s yin, like one not happening without the other?
I’ll read over that again quickly.
Did not sin, or we can say- for all intents and purposes, evil entered the world through one man, or is it really the yang to good’s yin like one not happening without the other?
Hopefully we can sense what someone’s grappling with- listening tonight there.
Bill Shiley: I got, I the part about it coming by one man, but I didn’t get the next part of the argument there. So if you could just give me that last part again. That sin entering by one man, or… what was the next part?
Lynnwood Hershberger: Yeah. Or is it really the yin and yang concept? Like one not happening without the other. I’m not sure if I quite understand the intent of the question either. The yin and yang, but the Eastern concept of Good and Evil.
Bill Shiley: Yeah, they have to mutually coexist. You have to have evil in order to balance out- just to bring a balance of the force sort of, the dark side and the light side together.
Lynnwood Hershberger: You have a positive world to live in as a comparison to the Christian worldview.
Bill Shiley: Yeah, so I have not studied deeply into the Eastern religions. You know, I’ve listened to some books. I’ve read a little bit about them. I’m slow to do that like so I know people say well, you know, so God’s glory shines brighter if there’s evil, but that really says something bad about God. It says something that God doesn’t say about himself. I know it pans out that- I shouldn’t say it pans out that way, but the result is that. The more evil reigns in the world the more that those who choose to follow Christ stand out, but God doesn’t really say that kind of thing about Him. So God says that He is good in Him is no darkness at all. And so the Bible points to that there is free choice and we have sold to somebody else. Did God create evil? and all that, I don’t know. I just know that God did create a world of cause and effect, of sowing and reaping. He gave us dominion and we have chosen what we do about it. That’s what I do know about it. I don’t understand why Adam’s sin has affected all of us. I don’t know all that and that’s where things like Christ entering- God living in it with us shows us there’s things going on that are so sacred. That God will go to great expense not to mess them up. There’s such good coming on that we’re going to experience and they just become as he shows us his kindness to us through Christ Jesus. So I don’t know all about that. That’s what the Bible does tell us about it. So I’m slow to make predictions about- to say that God had to make a dark side. Just that’s not the picture God paints of Himself.
Lynnwood Hershberger: Right. Right. Yes. Thank you. Amen. Yeah, there’s definitely some encouraging comments that came through as well. Someone said,
Very much agree with seeing God as a relational person, especially in the Old Testament. I’ve been discovering the same this year, too. Thanks for sharing! Blessings brother.
And other people definitely shared comments of appreciation blessing.
One question that I have is the way to understand the Bible as a story and I think that was one of the things that brought beauty and clarity to your presentation tonight. And could you give us some helpful ideas, or the lenses- glasses to put on as we read scripture in the coming days to see God’s story. The Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus as we read the Bible for ourselves.
Bill Shiley: Yeah, it’s a really good question.
So honestly, one of the sources that has really been a big help to me in that is the Bible Project. When I say that a source has helped me. I’m not saying that I would do everything they do but their approach to reading scripture- that’s one thing as I was looking, listening and they began to find out about some of their videos, their Bible outlines, their Bible reading helps- or I should say the reading through the whole Bible, some of the outlines and stuff that they give about that. I was looking for this. So do they believe in obedience to Jesus and the kingdom comes through there just a really powerfully and that’s one of the influences that has helped me begin to look at this differently. I read a book a couple summers ago called Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes, and that helped me a lot with learning to think about it differently, As westerners, we want information and we take things apart- we analyzed and often we forget to put the pieces back together. Whereas the more holistic approach of the Eastern mindset looks at the pictures and looks at things together and understanding the Bible is written in that kind of culture and trying to learn to reshape my mind and to zoom out and look at the picture instead of arguing over the technicalities of- especially in the story. I believe that there is places where it’s spelling out and saying do this, don’t do that kind of thing, but when you’re reading a story line, it’s really important to try to understand how to look at it as an Easterner and look at it as a story and see what the picture is.
There’s lots of things, but if you seek you find! That’s been my testimony- God has brought just lots of little influences here and there discussions with brothers, and messages I’ve listened to that have helped, you know, nudge me along and learning to understand the Bible that way. The big thing to me is that whatever interpretation brings the whole thing together is the true interpretation and as I head down this road, I’m just finding more and more of the Bible comes together and it’s packed with meaning and purpose and it’s pointing to Jesus and His kingdom, and the restoration of things. So thanks for listening to my spiel there.
Lynnwood Hershberger: Yeah, I certainly agree- that as you seek, you’ll find. Seeing the Bible as a story of something. That’s brought a lot of insight and yeah, beauty to looking at who God is and His purposes throughout history. It’s exciting.
Bill Shiley: Another thing I think is important and I haven’t done just a great lot of this but reading some church history. I mean learning what the original perspective was on the Bible and was it a story? What were they getting out of it? That’s a lot of help because there’s been a lot of just running the Bible through a shredder almost literally in the intervening years since the time of Constantine that really has produced a lot of bad theology and bad fruit.
Lynnwood Hershberger: I appreciate how you brought out the fact that God predetermining everything was not an original position of the church.
Just a follow-up question about yin and yang here. Someone said then:
I’m sorry, but I asked the yin-yang question because there’s a point made earlier that evil comes as a corruption of good and then you explained the darkness is not here in and of itself. You have to turn the lights off in order to have darkness. I don’t believe in any Eastern religion, but I was trying to follow that argument that was presented.
Just a follow-up explanation- clarification on that.
Bill Shiley: One person that I think would have some very good things to say on that is Ravi Zacharias because he’s dealt with- he grew up in that area of the world and would have some very good explanations on that.
Lynnwood Hershberger: Sure. And I probably didn’t present that question best the way it was intended there, but I did appreciate how you said that evil isn’t the corruption good. That evil has nothing to work with except there is good to corrupt.
Yes, well, I’m not sure if I have any more questions. I think that’s covered most of them.
Bryant, do you have something that you’d like to bring in here?
Bryant Martin: Ya, may be on the lighter side of things. Bill, you know, this is a fairly deep philosophical message and you did it really well. Thank you. And thanks for giving us some resources maybe there will be some others you can think about even tomorrow at the end. Books and places to go would it be Ravi Zacharias or whatever or you can go to one more.
But yeah, so in the lighter side. A question for you. The other evening I found myself telling my family, we have done a number of trips to Pittsburgh over the last year for our son and we did our last one- we got back and parked in the driveway. And I said this- Wow! God has given us many safe trips to Pittsburgh and back.
And I heard you kind of pushing on that earlier here in the talk. You know, sometimes we just say things that maybe are putting God in a good light like so if we didn’t have safe trips God’s not good. Is what we’re almost saying, but how do we talk about those things?
Bill Shiley: Yeah. That’s good. And I don’t want to split hairs here. But I think the reason the way we say things matters is because it’s reciprocal. It’s because of what we think often and then it also informs our thinking so it works both ways. It’s not that we can’t- God wants us to celebrate. He’s a dad. He gives good gifts to His children. He wants us to enjoy them. But there is good in the difficulties in the hardships. And I think that’s where we come short is, we need to make sure we express that same kind of faith, that same kind of trusting God’s goodness, that we lift him up. When we cry out against the lies that God is absent, and that God doesn’t care, or that God cold-heartedly plan this that we testify- we sign our name under God’s. That He is good whatever happens. So when we smash our finger, when the technology doesn’t work right, that we hold up God’s goodness- that God is good. And we express, and we live out faith in His goodness as we relate to those situations. That expectation that God is going to do good through this, not perfect in that but that it’s becoming a response pattern we cultivate. It’s exciting to me to be able to do that with my students to be able to speak that truth into their life as we face things and situations.
Bryant Martin: Yeah, Amen. It’s that we have, right? and knowing that God is our Father and that someday there will be a new heaven and a new earth and they wouldn’t be pain and suffering and so it gives us that hope. We can still have a heart of thanksgiving in those in these hard times. Even though we definitely have our valleys and our dips. That’s just human, but we pull through because of that hope. The threat right around us here- lots of students and it’s a known fact that there’s lots of loneliness and depression just as a result of brokenness and lack of hope, but we have the answer. We can come through and point them to a good God and a Jesus, as you pointed out, who wept over Jerusalem. And here’s this Creator of the universe weeping like most human- I mean the times that you feel the most human, broken is when you’re weeping- you’re at the end of yourself and that’s what Jesus did and it’s an amazing picture. And then the idea of standing at the door knocking and like you said, not knocking down the door but knocking. Wow what a Savior!
Anything else from you Lynnwood?
Lynnwood Hershberger: There was one question here that maybe wasn’t quite addressed yet and I’ll share it for your-
Bryant Martin: There are lots of people who aren’t leaving. So they’re staying on so that says we don’t want to farm this out but people are interested. So yeah, go ahead.
Lynnwood Hershberger: Okay, I’ll share this, if you have any further thoughts. I know you addressed this some in your talk Bill, but here’s the question:
Is it because God is bound by some “rules” that there was not another way? There must be something that keeps God from simply using force even when dealing with evil and Satan.
And it reminds me of that that little picture and the question you shared earlier in your talk. That God is all-powerful. Why doesn’t he just defeat Satan right now?
Bill Shiley: So I was a high school teacher and I have students that have a hard time getting things right or they just insist on writing sloppy on their papers, right? Why don’t I as a teacher just take their hands and make them write correctly? Why don’t I just do it for them or why don’t I make them do it? It’s because as a teacher, I have a higher value and I could do that. But if I did that I would ruin what I’m there for as a teacher because my goal as a teacher is to grow them to the point where they can do things on their own that I’m doing and the teacher’s job is to work himself out of a job. Grow his students to where they can do what he does on their own and they don’t need him as a teacher, for say, in their life. And I think that’s just a picture of what God is doing. Yes, He’s bound by rules, but they’re his own rules that God has created. God lives in relationship and partnership, and God is not interested in doing it all on his own, and God wants us to join freely ourselves. So therefore His goal in the whole wisdom that he has built the universe around.
If he would mess that up, everything would fall apart. The picture of that in The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe where the witch tells Aslan and you know that if you break this so Edmund has been a traitor and if I don’t get to have my right to a kill, all of Narnia is going to be destroyed in fire and water. Everything, the whole way everything is built is going to fall apart. So I think God is bound by rules, but they’re his own. It’s because of goodness that He has created that He will not override human free will.
Lynnwood Hershberger: Amazing. And it’s just been powerful to see God’s desire- relentless desire to include man in His good work. His work of creation- of new creation through the story. So thank you for sharing that.
I could certainly share more things I appreciated from the message this evening, but I very much appreciate God’s pursuit of us- His Relentless pursuit, of his purpose, of a lover who will not stop at anything to pursue His bride- a people to treasure for Himself and His glory.
I think I’ll turn it back to you Bryant.
Bryant Martin: Thank you, Lynnwood, thanks for being part of this. And yeah, thank you Bill. I was challenged and blessed to be here. For the ones who were listening in again. You can get a handout for this presentation on our website kingdomfellowshipweekend.org. And also we have the handouts for tomorrow on there as well. So, Lord willing, tomorrow evening at 10 o’clock we’re back on here. Hopefully all the electronics rolling in good time and we can jump into part two.
So Bill, why don’t we just have prayer here and to wrap this up.
Let’s pray. Father, we come to you again in the name of Jesus. We thank you Lord that we can come boldly to your throne. We know that we know that Jesus you’re there at your Father- our Father’s right-hand. Your interceding for us and you love us and you want to see us flourish and grow more into your image, to experience more of heaven on earth Lord. And Father so quickly as our brother has pointed out, we choose the other, and because you’ve allowed us to- we choose because our flesh and our brokenness and the world just pulls this in that direction. So, Father we ask that by your Holy Spirit by what you’ve given us- your Scripture, your holy Scriptures, the body of Christ to those things that come around us Father and give us the ability the hope the strength to press on and not to give up. So, Father I just pray Lord, that the assembly that’s gathered here this evening, Father, each one, you know, each one, you know the needs of each Father. And Father, I just pray a special blessing, a provision on them Father that you would give them an extra outpouring of your Holy Spirit that you would give them the desired to dig into Your scriptures and that You will bring brothers and sisters around them to nurture them to disciple them, to guide them.
And Father may our hearts just overflow with worship, of thinking of you as King, as Creator, and as a man who walked on this Earth and cried and experience what we experienced. And now today you’re a perfect High Priest. You’ve walked here before. You know what it’s like to be us and you’re seated there at God’s right hand we even see you standing, in Scripture standing intimately, intensely interested in Your body on earth. We thank you Lord for that. Father, thank you for this talk.
Bless brother Bill. Pray that You would protect him as well from the attacks of the evil one, I know that when you venture into things like this and you talk about, when you expose evil, and the brokenness in the world. We point people to God, to you Father, to your Son Jesus. There is spiritual warfare. Father, we pray that you would protect him from the tactics of the evil one, and bless our time again tomorrow evening. Give Bill wisdom to know what to share what not to share. You’re with us tonight, Father, and we love you. And we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Alright, God bless you Bill. And God bless everyone that’s on here and have a good night.