The fact of evil and suffering is perhaps the most persistent and enduring challenge to the Christian faith. Many thoughtful people consider evil incongruous with the biblical affirmation that God is good and his reign powerful and sovereign. We speak of God as being both the creator and governor of the world. Orthodox Christian faith defines God as all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present and holy. God’s love and mercy are declared to be without equal.
Yet evil exists.
In his wonderful little book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis defined the problem this way:
"If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both." [C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.; Macmillan Paperbacks Edition, 1962), 26.]
Or as Professor D.A. Carson at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School put it:
"The truth of the matter is that all we have to do is live long enough, and we will suffer. Our loved ones will die; we ourselves will be afflicted with some disease or another." [D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 1990, 2006), 16.]
How does the Christian come to terms with the apparent paradox of a loving and all-powerful God and the reality of pain, suffering and evil in His creation?
Starting on Sunday, February 5th I will begin a ten-part sermon series at Rivermont Avenue Baptist Church on the problem of evil and suffering entitled Where is God When It Hurts? We will examine such issues as The Fall, death and grief, suffering in nature (animal pain, natural disasters, etc.), holy war and hell, when bad things happen to good people, persecution of believers and the suffering of God. We’ll consider the contrast of how Christianity addresses these issues compared to other world religions and philosophies. I’ll not be pulling any punches. If you are looking for cheap simplistic answers, don’t bother coming.