Deism. Pantheism. Panentheism. Finite godism. Atheism. Agnosticism. Are these tenable worldviews? Examining the thoughts and writings of over a dozen philosophers from Descartes to Einstein to Dawkins and their attempts to resolve the problem of evil, Todd Wagner takes each worldview to its logical conclusion, and answers the question, 'How do they compare with the faith we profess?'
To view the video 'Chaos' by Igniter Media, click here.
What in the World Was He Thinking?
A Biblical Look at Life, Letting Go and Leading Out: Why We Have to Run with the Herd
Family: The Need to Define it Rightly and Lead it Righteously
Worldviews Matter. Just Ask the Congo.
Success: The Right Ladder Against the Right Wall
Believers and Their Government: What Governs Our Usefulness in It
The Remedy for Redemption: The Final Framework of Truth
Explaining Evil: The Second Framework of Truth
The Creation Foundation: The First Framework of Truth
The Importance of the Foundations of the Heart
The very first time I used that video was at the funeral of triplets we were burying, three precious little kids in the presence of a family that had lost all they held dear and had hoped they could pour their lives into.
We showed that video because starting out that entire funeral, we wanted to acknowledge, "How can we get in here and talk about a God who is good? How can we get in here and talk about hope? How can we get in here and sing when all is chaos, when we lose three precious little kids like that? What hope is there to say we have a God who has the whole world in his hands if he lets abduction, if he lets abuse, if he lets death come in like we have experienced in that moment?"
We're obviously not the first people to have felt that way and won't be the last. In fact, one as great as C.S. Lewis, who is maybe the greatest theistic thinker of the last 100 years, said, "Meanwhile, where is God?" He's talking about the pain you experience, and you're reaching out for him. You're trying to find some sense and semblance of order and hope. In his book A Grief Observed, which is his journal he went through as he lost his wife, he said, "Meanwhile [in all this agony], where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms.
When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing him, so happy that you are tempted to feel his claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to him…when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.
After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is he so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in our time of trouble?"
That is what I call an honest wrestling with the problem of pain, the problem of grief, the problem of chaos. What is your solution to evil? We are looking at evil, because we have talked about this idea of a worldview these last weeks. The first week, we framed why ideas matter. Ideas lead to consequences. Thoughts lead to things. Stuff you believe matters.
We talked about how there are three fundamental borders to the picture that frames your reality. Last week, we focused on the idea of creation, which, in other words, answers the questions of origin. How you answer the question, "Where am I from? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is my purpose?" That comes from your basic fundamental understanding of creation.
We spent some time last week looking at the issue of origins and showed very specifically why the prevailing story of the day in the West, which is that we are the product of nothing plus time plus chance equaling everything… I think I used the phrase lucky mud, that we are just the next step in the evolution of the animal kingdom, naked apes who have now formed reason. That is a fundamental frame toward a major part of your worldview. It's foundational, in fact.
This week, we're going to talk about the next thing. How do you explain this world we're in? Whatever your worldview is, you have to be able to explain chaos, pain, death, disease, and suffering. How you answer the question of evil says a lot about how you will respond to life and the choices you make. Then there's a third that we'll look at next week, and that is the issue of how you redeem chaos. What is your solution to who you are in a broken and imperfect place? How do you make sense out of it?
How you answer those three primary, fundamental, border-framing issues defines how then you should live. Now, I just want to tell you, a lot of folks aren't consistent with their definition of creation, certainly aren't consistent with their definition of how we got where we are in the midst of the chaos that is around us, and they aren't consistent always in discussing the solution to the chaos that is around us, but even their inconsistency is a result of their worldview.
The most tenable of all worldviews is a worldview that is consistent. It must be at some base level. If it is true, it shouldn't need to change. So, if the way you look at life is going to be consistent and true, you won't need to reframe your answer to the question of origins. You won't need to reframe your discussion of evil. You won't need to repackage your solution to chaos. So we're looking at each of these three.
Last week, we saw that the creation account in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 is as tenable, as viable, as intellectual as any other creation worldview and theory out there. In fact, science continues to move and swing itself toward us and says, "You know what? The obvious state of order that is all around us seems to suggest there is an intelligent designer." The Scripture raises its hand and says, "I can tell you who that intelligent designer is, this unknown God you're looking for. I know him."
Genesis 3 answers the question of evil, and I'm going to try to answer that specific question this week and look at different worldviews, explanations for evil. Next week is Genesis 4 through Revelation 22, which turns out to be the solution. If I had a hard time squeezing my thoughts from Genesis 1 and 2 into an hour, I'm down to one chapter this week, but I'm back up to a whole bunch next week, so brace yourself. But it's a very simple, clear idea, and we'll talk about it next week.
But let's this week look at the question of evil. Why is our world broken, especially if we claim we have a God who brought about this world? Now, we mentioned last week a couple of times Albert Einstein. Einstein was an individual who thought that where we came from was an intelligent designer. In fact, I want to read you some quotes, but then I want to be fair, and I want to show you where Einstein, in all of his intellect, in all of his learning, was inconsistent with what he did with his worldview.
He almost argued from a position of hopefulness, that we have to believe this thing that is inconsistent with maybe what some are going to do with my worldview in order to survive. Let me show you what I mean. Einstein says, "I do not believe in the immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it."
What he's going to say in this is that though he believes there is intelligence in design, that designer and his character, specifically, is in question. He has done a great job in producing the world we're in. I'm going to show you quotes that he goes even further. He says it ought to humble us when we look at the genius of design, but then he says, "I don't know what to do with chaos, but in order that chaos may not continue to increase, we've got to argue for what is the best way to live."
I'm going to tell you that if that designer isn't a designer of character and moral authority, then all we're going to get into is a competition of ideas that will eventually lead, when there is no resolution to how we should reconcile our competing ideas, to war and survival of the fittest. But what Einstein is saying right here is that ethics are only a human concern. They were not something our Creator was concerned about. This is how he reconciles intelligent design with chaos. I'll explain that further in a moment.
Listen to this. Einstein also said, "Science can only determine what is, but not what shall be, and beyond its realm, value judgments remain indispensable." In other words, science shows us what is, not where we should get to. It just tells us what is there, but value judgments are still very necessary. This is, again, the beginning of the fact/value split. He says, "Religion, on the other hand, is concerned only with evaluating human thought and actions; it is not qualified to speak of real facts and the relationships between them."
That is why many people would say, because there is no authoritative, moral, intelligent designer behind values (because, obviously, if he had values he would not have a world like this), we cannot really argue from an authoritative position. That's kind of where Einstein drifted a little bit. I want to quote to you now from a collection of quotes that come in the first chapter of a book called The God Delusion by a guy named Richard Dawkins, who's one of the prevailing philosophical atheists of the day.
Dawkins writes, "One of Einstein's most eagerly quoted remarks is 'Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.'" What he's trying to get at right here is that a number of theists have used Einstein's reference to religion as a way to suggest that he somehow embraced religion as we define it.
What Dawkins rightly points out is that is not so, and it's not fair to try to cram Einstein into a theistic worldview. What I want to show you is he believed in an intelligent designer, but he believed that intelligent designer did not have an intelligent design on values, and I'll tell you why he said that and why your worldview matters.
Listen. This is Dawkins quoting Einstein: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
He went on to say, "I am a deeply religious nonbeliever. This is a somewhat new kind of religion." That's honest. He's saying, "I'm creating a new framework through which I can see reality. I'm going to argue for an intelligent designer. I'm going to say there is, in fact, one out there who has designed us, but I cannot get my arms around his character."
In other words, what Einstein is saying is, "I reject the designer of the Old Testament. I reject the designer of the Old Testament because I cannot reconcile a loving, sovereign, just God with the world I live in. So I don't know who this intelligent designer is, but he is not the God of my fathers." Einstein, obviously, being a Jew, rejected the God of Judaism.
Now Richard Dawkins writes his entire book and says, "You're deluded if you don't reject that same God; in fact, even the concept of God who has any inkling of your importance in the world that you live in." In fact, if you think C.S. Lewis went after God, listen to what Richard Dawkins in the book The God Delusion said about him.
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably…" I do this because a few weeks ago, I eulogized Rousseau. I talked about how at the end of his life work others made some observations about him and it was not very flattering. Well, listen. If you think that wasn't flattering, look at what Dawkins says about God because of his understanding of this world.
He said, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction…" Which I think is a funny statement. "…jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic [basically, a woman-hater], homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential…" I mean, good night! "…megalomaniacal…capriciously malevolent bully." Then he gets ugly after that.
When he does this and goes off on God like that, you go, "Why?" Someone once said, "If there is a God and he is sovereign over this world, then he is my devil." That is what Dawkins is saying to those of us who somehow make a case that there is an intelligent designer who is loving and good and just and sovereign, and yet this world is full of chaos. They cannot reconcile it.
What Einstein did is he argued still that we must have some discussion about values, because if all we do is leave ourselves to science, we're going to be in very, very much trouble. He said, "I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic." In other words, it doesn't have any characteristics of man, of rhyme or reason. It just is. He was very what is called deterministic, that everything was kind of locked into DNA.
"What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve."
Einstein has a syncretistic worldview of an intelligent designer who is, in the sense of his genius in creation, evident. He's not completely comfortable being a deist, which is somebody who believes God created the world and then just kind of left it to be, but he kind of brings in some theistic, some deistic, some atheistic ideas and ties them all together, yet still argues that there must be concrete value and morality, and he says religion is useful as we debate about what that morality should be.
I'm going to show you where Dawkins and Russell and Nielsen and others who are atheistic say, "No. No. We cannot go there. That's nonsense." All right. What are some of the different worldviews out there, and what is their position on evil? Let me just walk you through a few and tell you that, again, how you handle the question of evil will tell you a lot about how you're going to live.
If you are pantheistic, from the Eastern way of thought… Pantheists are individuals who largely believe we have gotten where we are because we have focused too much on matter. A pantheist would say evil is really an illusion. They would tell you that God is all and all is God, so all is really good. All that seems not good is not God, and since God is all, your problem is you're focusing on what you see.
You need to be transcendent over what you see and, if you will, meditate and move yourself through devotion to a higher plane of reality where you focus on God and where the illusion of the world will not matter to you. It will no longer have its grip on you because you've moved into this nirvanic state. In fact, they would tell you that what is mind, no matter, so what is matter, never mind. They would tell you that evil is an illusion.
That's a wonderful philosophical idea and one that many people can maybe talk about in a philosophy class, but nobody lives that way. If you can sit there in your little yoga position or in your little room of bliss and move yourself to a higher plane where there is peace and you are becoming one with God and God yourself and know no evil and somebody comes up to you and begins to pour hot boiling water over your head, I don't care how much you're meditating. You're going to go, "Hey, stop that!" "Why stop that?"
"Because that is matter that is affecting me and making me experience suffering and pain, and that is very real." There is no way to escape the death and pain that is all around me. I can't meditate my way out of that fix. In fact, Christian scientist Mary Baker Eddy adopted much of this idea and tried to pour it in and combine it with Scriptures, and Mark Twain, in having a discussion one day, said, "This is craziness."
In fact, he went on to say, essentially, "I went to a Christian scientist, and she said I owed her money, so I told her that since she didn't believe debt was chaos and evil and me owing her money and not paying it back was evil I would write her an imaginary check, since she loved to live in that realm." He said, "She is now, though, for some reason, suing me for many, many very real dollars." In other words, at the end of the day, she wanted to deal in reality and not just somehow rise above it. She wanted something to redeem the evil that was real to her.
Wonderful idea, maybe. In fact, this is kind of that circular reasoning. This is what they would say. They go, "This nature, which is man's true spiritual nature (and because all is God, man's true nature is godlike), is the mind, and the mind is Buddha, and the Buddha is the way, and the way is zen. Think about that and move yourself toward peace over evil and deal with evil that way." I'm like, "Wow! I don't even know what that means." I can't really cope with life simply by meditation, because when I come down off that meditation, there is a very real chaotic world with death, disease, betrayal, and boiling water all around me.
The deist's solution to evil… Again, I mentioned to you the best way to describe deism is that the Creator is, in fact, intelligent. He made this world. He's kind of a divine watchmaker, and he made this watch, and it keeps on ticking, but he has nothing to do with you, so you're going to take a licking. It's just going to be the way it is. God is only transcendent. He is far from you. You see a little bit of Einstein's pulling from this idea in his worldview.
Basically, Thomas Jefferson was a deist. Many other founding fathers were deists. Not all of them were theists. They did have this idea that it was supremely evident, clearly seen, that all men were created, and they did say all men have certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson believed that. His Bible is famous. Jefferson went through with a little razor and cut out all supernatural events, because he believed God really had nothing to do with man.
The deist would say the reason evil exists is because man is not enlightened enough. Man does not think clearly, so what we need to do is educate man. We need to rise above the broken practices of man. Deists say evil is here because man does not live correctly in an enlightened way and evil is here because man is foolish, but he's left to himself, so let's get it right. Let's form a better government. Let's find a better way, make better law.
There are folks who are what's called panentheists, which is commonly also called process theology,that would say that God in his ultimate state, his polemic state, is perfect and pure, but God is evolving. He is part of creation, and he's becoming more and more God, so the reason this world is not exactly all right is because God is moving toward his perfection and we are growing and moving that way with him. The world will become perfect when God is perfect, and God is getting perfect by watching the imperfection of the world and the way evil fights against him, so he learns how to respond to evil, so that eventually evil will ultimately be eradicated.
Polytheists. Their solution to evil is that there is a war of gods. Some are good; some are bad. Even the good ones are not perfect. Zeus is a good god, but he's not completely altogether right and moral. This is the Greek mythological view, the Roman mythological view. Their solution to evil is that we are basically like pawns on a chessboard, that sometimes good gods are moving us; other times bad gods are sacrificing us willingly. Our hope is that good gods move us all the way across the way and we become queens and we're not slaughtered in the process of this war between the gods. That's a polytheistic worldview.
Now I want to spend my time focusing on a couple more. One that is very prevalent that is out there today is, if you will, what is called finite godism. It is the idea that Harold Kushner has largely embraced. Kushner wrote the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. What Kushner would say is that God is, in fact, good. Unlike Einstein, who was also a Jew like Kushner… Einstein said, "I cannot see God as creator and sovereign over a world like this, so I reject the God of the Scriptures." What Kushner did is said, "No, I embrace the God of the Scriptures, and he is very good; he's just not God."
What Kushner would say is, "It's good you have a relationship with God, because he's the best God who's out there; he's just not sovereign. He's not all-powerful. So, Richie, find your best Fonzie, and I think God is it, but know this: sometimes big packs of hell's angels show up, and your God is going to get jumped in certain dark alleys, and you just have to deal with it. But don't abandon God, because he's still the best friend you can have. Just sometimes God can't quite get the job done." He keeps the God of the Scriptures, yet he neuters him.
What Kushner really says, what finite godists say… Kushner has this as a little analogy. He says, "Expecting the world to treat you well because you are a good person is like expecting a bull to not charge you because you're a vegetarian," which is kind of a funny statement. There may be a connection, he says, but the bull misses it. In other words, if you're a friend of God and you believe he designed the world, that's good, but the world in its chaos has spun out of control and outside the realm of your God's ability to control it, so even though you're on God's team, the world doesn't care. It misses your connection with the Creator. Kind of despairing.
Now, let me give you two more, and then one that I think is the most consistent and tenable, the most livable. One of them is atheism. It's the idea, basically, that there is no creator that is out there. Maybe they would even say if there is some creator, he is not moral. That's kind of Einstein. Einstein believes there's a creator; he doesn't believe it's necessarily a god. He doesn't go quite that far. There is something out there intelligent that has designed us, but he's not moral.
He hasn't designed morality, because if he did and he's sovereign and he's good, he wouldn't let this world be as it is. In fact, where Dawkins and some of these other guys go is they come at Einstein pretty strongly, and they say it is nonsensical to try to argue for right in this world that does not have a moral designer. Some would say there is no designer. Others would say that designer is clearly not moral. He has order in science, but he does not have order in conduct.
Alan Dershowitz… You guys know Dershowitz because he was OJ's main man, along with Shapiro and others, who got him off in the late 90s. I think OJ might should have gone back to that legal team, but that's another message for another day. Dershowitz is a pluralist. He is a rationalist. He is a relativist. Dershowitz very strongly comes out and would basically tell you you're crazy for putting your hope in the fact that you can come up with right and wrong.
He says, "I don't know what is right, and neither do you." He implies that not only does he not know what is right but it's impossible for you to know it. What's interesting about Dershowitz is that he would come right back and tell you that "Even though there's no right and wrong, I can tell evil when I see it." Now why does he do that? Because Dershowitz is not a loon, and when he's confronted with stuff like happened on 9/11 and go, "Hey, if you can't tell us there's a right or wrong, you can't tell us what just happened is wrong…"
See, here's where this gets to be a problem for the atheist. By the way, on September 11, 2001, you didn't see a lot of relativists or postmodernists on TV speaking to the American people; people who got on and just argued, "Look, folks. Settle down. Right now, what's going on out there… We think it's bad, but that's just because people we love got hurt. There is no right and wrong. I know we think they're innocents who went down and we think that's wrong, but they're just our innocents. That's why it matters to us.
In fact, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. There are other people who are celebrating what's out there. Don't you know that what we think was this satanic event that's wrong that crashed into our towers others think was the right thing to do because we're the great Satan? Come on, folks. Who are we to say there's a right and there's a wrong? It's wrong to us because it was our people, but it's not really wrong."
What's interesting is you go to the other side, and you'll find similar inconsistencies. When America responded to what happened on 9/11, you will find that they came back and said, "Hey! No matter that you're using precision bombing and that you're being gracious in your systematic search for us who perpetrated this great horror on you; you are killing some innocent people in your effort to get us. You shouldn't do that." Which, if you'll just reckon back a few months, seems to be what they apparently had no problem doing in their effort to take our legs out.
There is this inconsistency, and people who are atheists would go, "Well, of course there's inconsistency, because we came out of chaos, so there is no order in the intellect, in ethic, in morality." In fact, the atheist would tell you you're a fool if you look for it. Einstein said we have to or we're going to destroy ourselves. Darwin would say, "We're not going to destroy ourselves. Just the strongest will survive."
So if the strongest is Al-Qaeda, America will fall, and that is good, because the species will somehow be purified in that in their power, in their will to live and take us out, we've progressed. Or we are going to be stronger and take them out, and that is what the species does. It evolves, and when they can't get along, when they can't agree on what is right… You might say, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If I disagree with that, then we have to fight, and the strongest survive. Of course.
In fact, here's what Dawkins says in his book River Out of Eden: "In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but a blind, pitiless indifference." DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music. Merry Christmas.
In other words, is there chaos? Yes! Because it just is what is. There is a tame gene and an un-tame gene, and when the un-tame gene has more dominance and more people, there is chaos. So they kind of deify with really no supporting data the fact that what is God inside of us is our destiny. Einstein would say that we are, in effect, just mechanistic people. He would argue that people cannot refuse to do what they're doing. We are wind-up toys.
He said, "They [meaning, people] are no more responsible for what they do than a stone is responsible for where it lies." Dawkins just takes us to its natural end. In fact, one of the great atheists of our day, if you can say such a thing, or over the last couple of hundred years, is Bertrand Russell. When asked how ethical values could be judged, he goes, "I have no idea."
Kai Nielsen says in his book Why Be Moral? "We have been unable to show that reason requires the moral point of view or that really rational persons need not be egoists or classical immoralists. Reason doesn't decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me. Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality."
What I'm trying to show you is they're going to say, "There is no reason to be good." Their solution to evil is "Who knows what is evil? We can't say it's evil. I know it's evil because it hurts me, but it may not hurt someone else." That's their worldview, but no one really lives like that. People want order. They want law. They want justice. They want prosecution against what innately we go, "That is wrong."
Dershowitz says, "I can't know right, you can't know right, but I know evil when I see it." That is inconsistent, and who wants to live like that? Atheists must. They must, even though some of them argue against it. Now, there's another option, and that is what is called agnosticism. Agnosticism was really born out of the idea that we don't have enough information. A guy named William Clifford, who was a philosopher mathematician, wrote a book called The Ethics of Belief in the 1800s, and what he did… Again, think about this.
When you put an A in front of a word, it means it's not that. So, atheism is not believing in theism, the presence of one God. There are now a lot of folks arguing with… They're a‑intelligent design, and that's why they say Darwin is a better solution. Agnosticism is simply those who say, "You can't really know. Knowing is nonsensical." Gnosticism is the love of knowledge, so agnostics say there is no way to really understand.
William Clifford in the 1800s argues that we should not believe anything on the grounds that there is insufficient evidence to truly know. A guy named Thomas Huxley invented the word agnosticism in the nineteenth century, which is the 1800s. He said, "I'm going to totally refuse to commit to defining my reality, because I don't have enough information." He really stood on Descartes' worldview and understanding, which is commonly called existentialism, which comes from the idea that your reality is rooted in, basically, your forming your own reality.
Descartes' most famous statement, cogito ergo sum, which is "I think; therefore I am," came out of Descartes saying, "Here's the way I'm going to get to knowledge. I'm going to doubt everything, and I'm going to bring doubt down to the basest level and say I don't believe anything, but the only thing I know when I get down to doubting everything is that I'm thinking. So the fact that I am here, I can know this, because I think. I think; therefore I am."
I read in a book this week a great line. A guy said his favorite Cartesian joke… What's Cartesian? Cartesian is the Latin word for "Descartesian." His favorite Cartesian joke is that Descartes walks into a bar, and the barkeep says, "Would you like a beer?" Descartes says, "I think not," and he disappears. A joke for the intellectuals tonight. I'm not sure I'd recommend that one tomorrow at the water cooler, but it's pretty funny when you think about it.
Gang, here's why all this stuff matters. It really does matter, because you're going to move toward a life you can live in with strength and passion and hope or you're going to just break down and die and be overwhelmed if you are logically consistent. I love what Woody Allen did. Woody Allen, in the midst of all this, as he was wrestling with the world we're in…
Woody Allen essentially said, "Before us, more than any other time in human history, we are at a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness; the other leads to total extinction. I hope and let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly." You can see that in his movies. You can see that, "Hey, I don't care which way I go. It's going to be hopeless and despairing, so whether I date my daughter or not, who knows? If it feels good today, I'll do it."
His whole worldview is tied up in the fact that "I don't know where I came from, why I'm here, what to do with evil, or if I can even say something is evil. I'll just do what feels right to me. I want; therefore I do." Again, gang, the craziness of this is that while atheism is a worldview people can debate about, there are very few intellectually honest atheists.
I think Ernest Hemingway was one. Ernest Hemingway said, "I'm just going to live for wine, women, and song as long as I can, as much as I can, and enjoy my life, but when life doesn't become enjoyable any longer, why put up with any pain? I'm just kind of here as a result of nothing plus time plus chance. So I'll move from this irrational, 'unfounded in meaning' state to another state of nothingness and unimportance."
So when wine, women, and song and despair brought into his life was no longer filling him up and electric shock therapy no longer brought sense back to him, he bought a favorite gun, he put the butt of it on the floor, put the barrel on his forehead, and he pulled the trigger, because he's like, "Look. If we're not here for any real reason, why stay around if there's any pain that I can't really move beyond that would bring enough benefit to suggest the pain is worth enduring?"
That is a logical… I don't endorse that idea, because it's not only nonsensical; it is destructive and unnecessary, but it is logical if you embrace that. "Why put up with this?" I'm going to tell you why put up with this: because all of those worldviews and bases for forming a reality, a framework for how you should live or not care if you live are rooted in error, and there is truth, a truth that when you embrace it will move you toward life indeed.
I'll tell you a very quick story. It's a story I used a long time ago. I was reading a book this week and it came back in, so it's worth inserting right here. The story goes basically like this. The story is that there's a plane. There are four people on it: the pilot, the smartest man in the world, a distinguished old gentleman, and a young Boy Scout.
They're flying along, and all of a sudden, the plane sputters. The pilot goes back and goes, "Guys, bad news. This plane is going down. Worse news: there are only three parachutes. Worse news: one of them is on my back. I knew about this before you. I am gone." And out the airplane he goes. So now there are three men there with two parachutes.
The smartest man in the world speaks up and says, "Hey, guys, let me tell you something. I owe it to society to get out of here. I mean, I am on the brink of curing cancer. I can handle this current economic crisis. I think I can take care of that Arab/Israel debate that has been going on for a long time. I have a lot to offer this world. It would be irresponsible of me to not get out of here and save myself so I can save the world." And out of the plane he goes.
The older distinguished guy looks at the young Boy Scout and says, "Hey, look, man. I've lived a long and full life. I am at peace with my Creator. I love him. I see his love for me. I have reconciled with him based on his perfect provision, and I want to tell you that you're a young man. You go live your life, and as you live your life, remember me, but not just me…the love I have for you, which I will tell you I found rooted in my relationship with God. So take this last parachute and jump to safety."
The Boy Scout the whole time he's talking is kind of doing this. He says, "Look. That's very nice of you, but it won't be necessary. The smartest man in the world just jumped out of this airplane with my backpack." Now that's a funny story, but there's a point to it. Let me just tell you something. The plane is going down. It's going down, and people are grabbing on to ideas to find life, to find something that would give them a sense of meaning and hope.
I really believe there's a reason Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has such an enduring resonance with so many generations of people. In the future, I'm going to go back and explain to you Mary Shelley's story, but I want to basically share with you right now, her story was that she was a victim of a worldview that brought great horror into her life. This is the basic story of Frankenstein.
I think she was trying to get this word out there. I think she was trying to say to you, "Look. When you depart from God…" This is Romans 1. Frankenstein is Romans 1. When you leave God, you're not just going to leave God; you're going to try to find some other justification for life. If you don't believe life came from God and can be found in God, you're going to try to create some other idea that will give you life and joy.
But what you'll find is when you don't take life from God, this monster you create always comes back to haunt you and to bring chaos and fear, not peace. That was Mary Shelley's experience, as somebody tried to create for her a reality that was not founded in life being found in God. What she was trying to say was, "This monster we created, this place that we have gone when we denied God and his shepherding and leadership in our lives…"
I want to tell you again: God is not mad at us because of how we live. How we live is what has happened because of God releasing us in judgment to our abandoning him. The Frankenstein of our worldviews haunts us and brings chaos to us…this monster of life that we have, in our own ideas and thinking, professing to be wise, created. We have become fools, and there is this haunting.
So, what's the solution? The solution is truth. The most tenable way to understand evil is to look at what God says is the source of evil. Now, evil is real. We are not as the pantheists who say that evil is an illusion. I'm going to walk you through some syllogisms, some basic, if you will, statements of logic. You have to always go back and be careful with premises and be careful with deductions and where they go, but follow me.
We believe God is the author of everything. That's what the Scripture says. I want to make sure you understand this. We cannot escape evil by saying that somehow this is all happening in a way that perplexes God. God is perplexed by nothing. Much displeases him; nothing surprises him or perplexes him. He is the author of everything, even, at least, the one who permits that which we say is wrong.
Now, if God is sovereign… And he is. He is sovereign over kings. He's sovereign over accidents, the Scripture says. He's sovereign over history. He's sovereign over Satan and demonic forces. He is sovereign over nature. He is the author of everything. Evil is something. You kind of go, "I came here for that?" Well, here's what I want to share with you. This is very important. Evil is real, and it's not nothing.
Let me show you why it is important that you define evil properly, because I don't think evil is something in a classic sense, because what somebody will do is say, "God is the author of everything. Evil is something. Therefore, God is the author of evil, and because you are judged by your work, if you create that which is evil, you are evil in and of yourself." What I will tell you is that the Scriptures would claim that evil is real, but it's not something God created.
"Wait a minute, Todd. Didn't God create everything?" Yes. Augustine, a man who lived in the third century, said "Evil is an ontological parasite." Uh-oh. What does that word mean? It means a parasite which necessarily existed with the presence of an eternally divine being. Meaning, if God is good, loving, just, righteous, and holy altogether, there necessarily had to exist the possibility of something that was not holy, loving, righteous, and just altogether.
Otherwise, if everything was holy, just, and righteous altogether, there would be no holy, just, and righteous altogether; there would just be is. Now, since God has always been and always will be, evil has not always existed. God has in his perfection, but the possibility of non-God existing has eternally existed. What moved evil from what is called a philosophical possibility to a practical reality is the rebellion of the angelic realm, which we have then echoed.
Now follow me. Evil is not nothing. That is the pantheistic worldview. Evil is not something, because, therefore, if God created everything, evil would be what God created. Evil is the no-thing. It is the absence of what should be. I'm going to give you a couple of things here. This whole series I'm trying to do… Gang, let me tell you why I'm teaching you the way I am.
I am trying to overwhelm you with truth so that when you get out into the public square you can know that truth is there. This is not a talk I would want to take notes on or would feel like you could. We are putting together, though, a resource table for you that in the coming weeks, if you want to dive deeper into this (and I'm begging you to dive in), we'll have books, we'll have websites. Go to probe.org. One of our members, Ray Bohlin, is there.
We're going to put Equipping classes together that will break this down in useful measures for you to be able to get in the public square. We'll have different DVDs and tapes you can use. We'll have books you can read, and we're going to get you equipped. I'm trying to convince you tonight if you spent some time with this that you could be equipped in the public square. You wouldn't be afraid of Bill Maher.
Now, you may not get to have an intelligent conversation with him, because he'll always go to cutting humor and loud speaking in order to silence you, but if he would ever sit and listen, there are answers to his questions. God is truth. No amount of scrutiny can affect truth. My good buddy Randy Sims founded a little ministry called Worldview Academy. I highly recommend it if you have junior high through high school folks. He travels all around the country on college campuses taking junior high and high school kids and equipping them and training them.
We'll have a "worldview academy" for you, if you will. It will be at Baylor in June for high school and junior high kids. Send your kid there. I sent my kid there. She had a great time. My kid is not a student of any measure, but she went and sat in classes for seven hours a day for a week, and she said, "Dad, this is one of the greatest weeks of my life." That is from a non-academic child, because truth will set you free. She was with friends and learning how to get in the public square and respond.
Why do you need to do this? I'll tell you why. Randy's team put together an ad that was in magazines to get people to send their kids to Worldview Academy. This was the ad. It had a picture of a guy like this. It wasn't the exact one. I recreated this. But it said, "Meet your son's first college professor. He is a Marxist, atheist English prof who eats Christian freshmen for lunch. So if you don't want your kids to be eaten up, get them equipped."
Folks, let me just tell you something. This is not just about our junior high and high school folks. This is about you. God wants you to get into the public square and to love people and to reason with them. That's what Jesus said: "Come." Isaiah said, "Come and let us reason together." Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Evil, gang, is a no-thing. Watch this.
One of these atheistic, Marxist professors who loves to eat Christians for lunch, the story is told, was before his class and said, "Did God create everything?" Some brave student said, in this very Darwinistic environment, "Yeah." "Perfect," the prof said. "Let me ask you a question. Is there evil?" "Yeah, there's evil." The prof said, "Okay. If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil."
There was silence in the room. The professor was quite pleased with himself that he had silenced this young naïve freshman, but then another freshman raised their hand, one who had thought through this, and said, "Prof, let me ask you a question. Do you believe in cold?" The prof said, "What kind of question is that? Of course I believe in cold. Who thinks cold doesn't exist? What kind of a question is this?"
The young man replied, "In fact, sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is, in reality, the absence of heat. Everybody and every object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460°F), is a total absence of heat.
All matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created the word cold to describe how we feel if we have too little heat. Prof, let me ask you another question. Does darkness exist?" "Of course it does," the prof said. The student replied, "No, you're wrong, sir. Darkness does not exist either. Darkness is, in reality, simply the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness.
In fact, we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wave lengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness, sir. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You know how dark it is by measuring the amount of light present. Isn't that correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light. So, sir, let me ask you a question. Does evil exist?"
The professor said, "Look. I already said that evil exists. Of course it exists. We see it all the time, all throughout humanity. It's in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing but evil." To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist, sir. Or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word man has created to describe the absence of God.
God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith or love that existed long ago. Just as faith and love existed and light and heat existed, evil is a result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It is like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light. So, prof, you sit down."
That story has been around as a teaching tool for a long time. Some well-meaning believers have said, "That was Einstein; he was the student," and they forwarded it to all of their friends in some impressive way. It was not Einstein, and you won't look like an Einstein, and you'll lose your authority if you just forward stuff mindlessly. But the truth in that story stands. What I want to say to you is evil is the absence of what should be.
Now let's go back and look at this again. We don't want to say that evil is something. What we'll say is evil is the absence of good. Evil is what happens when man leaves God. Evil is where we go without God. Guess what it says in Colossians 1:12-13. "He has brought us out of darkness into light." He has brought us out of where we went without God, the absence of light. God said, "I am light. The absence of me is darkness. You want back into light? Come back to me. You live in chaos and evil. Why? Because you have left me. Come back to me."
So, here's another little syllogism: every creature God made is perfect. Then you will go on to say, "Perfect creatures cannot do what is imperfect; therefore, every creature must only act perfectly." By the way, James 1:17 says every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above. So we would say every creature God made is perfect. But if every creature he made is perfect, perfect creatures can't do what's imperfect, they say. Therefore, every creature must only act perfectly.
The problem with this is in the second premise. In order to be perfect, you have to love. In order to be able to love, you can't be, as Einstein said, a wind-up toy. If part of perfection is the ability to love, to give yourself to somebody else, you can't be a robot. In order to love, you must be able to choose. One guy said it this way, rather philosophically: "Money can buy you a real good dog, but it cannot buy you the wag of its tail." Or, absolute power can make you obey, but it cannot make you love.
God is not a rapist; he is a lover, and he created us to love him, so he gave us the ability to choose. He revealed himself in all his perfection and glory, and we chose not to love him. Perfect creatures have the ability to love; therefore, they have the ability to choose, and when we chose not to love light, guess what we bought into: darkness. When we chose not to embrace good, guess what we became: evil.
So, let's look at this one more time. God made everything perfect. One perfect thing God made is free creatures. Freedom allows for the choice of evil. Therefore, imperfection can arise out of perfection. See Genesis 3. Now watch this. If God is all good, someone would say, he would destroy evil. If God is all good and all powerful, he could destroy evil. Evil is not destroyed (this is where finite godism comes in); therefore, God is not all good or he's not all powerful.
What Kushner said, as he watched his little 3-year-old son die from a very awful disease where his body accelerated in the aging process and deteriorated right before his eyes… He cried out to his God and said, "God, how could you let this be? You must be good. I don't know where else to turn, but you're obviously not God or you would stop this." So Kushner redefined God. He neutered him and said he's good; he's just not all powerful.
What's the problem in this? It assumes that just because he could he would already. Here's what I would tell you. If God is all good, he will defeat evil. If God is all good, he can defeat evil. Evil is not yet defeated; therefore, God one day will completely defeat evil. Evil has been judged. There is a historical event called the cross and a resurrection that goes with it.
God has said, "There is something which I detest and hate, yet there is something I love. So in order to bring that which I hate back to me in love, I must judge evil," and he did it perfectly with an eternal sacrifice to appease his eternally perfect nature. What I want to say to you here tonight is that the thing I marvel at with God is why he hasn't already closed the canon of history and moved rapidly to make sure evil is extinguished.
There is only one verse in the Scripture which gives me a solution to why God has not already completely eradicated evil. It might be you tonight. The Scripture says, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."
Listen to what God says. "I am letting even my beloved ones live in chaos and sin and suffering and death and disease, promising them that I will one day remove these momentary, light afflictions." In light of eternity, that's what he calls them. I'm going to tell you what. Some of these momentary, light afflictions are not so light. Read this week's Watermark News.
How God can allow a young girl to be sexually abused by an atheistic father, how God can allow terror and war and hunger and despair to reign the way it does on this earth and not come crashing in to rescue those he loves from evil, I marvel at, but he tells me, "Here's why, Todd: because there are still some who are out there who will have to deal with their evil eternally if I close the canon of redemption right now. And I love them, even as I have loved you.
You, by my grace, dealt with your evil by trusting in my provision for evil, that you might be brought out of darkness into light, and I love them. So I am going to ask you, in the midst of chaos, live with hope. I'm going to ask you, in the midst of evil, overcome it with good, to walk as I have walked, to speak of the hope I have spoken of. I don't begrudge you that it's difficult.
When I was there, I cried out to my Father, 'Have you lost your mind? What are you doing? Why are you forsaking me?' I know you'll feel that way, but know this: I have never forsaken you. I will never leave you, and a day is coming when I will deal with evil ultimately. Evil is here because men have left me. Come to me and live triumphantly, righteously, and with hope in the midst of this chaos until such a day as I will come."
If you are here today, do you think God would take it lightly that you continue to spurn his kindness while he allows folks he loves to suffer so that you might respond to his grace? I think not. So I would encourage you to not take lightly the kindness of God and to come to him. If you are here this evening and you have never dealt with your evil in the one perfect way that God says evil can be dealt with, I invite you to come and let us share with you the hope that can be found in Jesus Christ in his offering himself up for you.
If you are here tonight and you have trusted in Christ and your world is filled with pain and chaos, I invite you to come and let us pray for you, and let us comfort you with the comfort with which we have been comforted, and let us bear your burdens and cry with you and sustain you and tell you to press on until that day. If you at this moment are living on this earth filled with pain and death with some sense of hope, go into that world. Overcome evil with good, comfort others in the way you have been comforted, and brace yourself, because we ain't home yet, but he's coming. Let me pray for you.
Father, I thank you that you are good and that you are sovereign. I thank you that you don't do things on my timetable, that you do things according to the timetable of perfection, yet, Lord, I am overwhelmed at times with how you, with the ability to stop evil, allow it to happen; you with the ability to close the canon of man's rebellion continue to allow it to reign just so that the word of truth would go out again so that one more might come on the ark of rest that can be found in Jesus Christ and escape the coming flood of judgment that will swallow up all that is wrong with this rebellious, dark, cold earth.
So I pray that, tonight, some sense would be made out of pain that people in this room who love you have endured because someone else will be irresistibly drawn to you to come and find that rest. I pray, Lord, that we would continue to love and encourage each other and care for one another as you have told us to while we endure and while we suffer, while we wait for you to make all well with our souls.
Father, I thank you for your grace which really is a gift to us, that when we continue to have sorrows like sea billows roll over the decks of our lives, we can still sing because we know there's going to be a day when you roll back the clouds like a scroll and you come and set all in order as it should be and take us to a new Eden, even better than the first, and allow us, Father, to forever be freed from the very presence of evil because we'll be in the very presence of good. It is with that great hope that those of us who know you say, in the midst of a world of chaos, "It is well with my soul."
How do you look at the world? What influences your perspective on the challenges and people you interact with every day? In this 10-part series, Todd Wagner explains why your worldview ? the lens you look at the world through ? matters. You?ll discover what it means to have a biblical worldview, and how our failure to look at the world through God?s "lens" impacts our lives, culture and our world.