Last night I got the chance to listen to John Stackhouse speak on the Problem of Evil. I told you this was coming up and told you I would let you know some of my thoughts and throw the audio online when we got it. So, the audio is above and my thoughts are below.
First, I really enjoyed Stackhouse. He was clever, he was witty, he was borderline inappropriate but mostly just hilarious. It was very refreshing from someone from the academy.
Second, I found his argument to be compelling intellectually. His logical progression seemed to hold and made sense. I wandered if this was because I’m already a Christian during the lecture but there really weren’t any questions that attacked his logic in the Q&A session. I also conferred with the interns on Tuesday morning to make sure it was an intellectual argument (I’m not afraid to admit they’re smarter than me) and they confirmed that it was.
Third, I loved that he ended with the answer being Jesus. It was refreshing. It was honest. And it was helpful. I so appreciate a scholar who doesn’t come in and tell us how smart he is and how awesome he is and how we all need to understand the Ancient Near East and read 15 languages to get it. Nope, the answer is Jesus. And if you don’t know that, he encouraged us to read for ourselves. I found this to be very helpful for me.
Now, some of my takeaways or big points throughout the lecture.
1. There is no such thing as evil. Evil is not a thing. It was not created. Things are evil. Things can be bad. People can be evil. People can be bad. But there is no such thing or force or black mass that is evil. I enjoyed this thought. I’ve been struck by this idea since a retreat on Revelation the other year. The last battle won’t be an epic battle. Jesus will say it’s over and it will be over. There are no competing forces, God is God and the devil is not. It’s not a cosmic battle between good and evil the way that we sometimes think it is.
2. Faith depends on knowledge. Fascinating thought. I often think I have to just accept things on faith, sola fide. Just faith. Don’t think, just faith. But faith depends on knowledge. We must know God to have faith in Him. We need to know that He is good, he is benevolent, He is just, He is righteous. It is appropriate for us to ask why is there a problem of evil.
3. The goal is shalom, the goal is not happiness. We have to understand this. The goal is order, peace, reign of God, fullness. The goal was never just happiness.
4. It’s a complex process. Can you imagine the flow chart God would have to show us to explain all of it. We couldn’t handle it. We are going to have to trust.
which leads us to the final point, the best point of the night.
5. We need to take Luther’s advice and flee the hidden God and run to Christ. When we see disaster, when we see death, when we see evil. We need to flee the God that is hidden, the one that is unseen, the one that we can’t quite figure out and run to the God we have seen, the image of the invisible God, Jesus Christ. Since we know they are the same. They are part of the triune God. We can focus on what, or who, we know. We can run to Jesus. Trust Him. Love Him. Know Him.
I would take it a step further than Stackhouse did, and he may have done with more time, and say that we can trust Him because our God has wounds. The problem of evil is solved on the cross. There we get the God whom we can trust. The God that suffered for us. The God that entered our suffering. The God that knows our pain. The God that sees and feels and lives and suffered.
And the God that won the victory over sin, hell, and the grave. That gives us hope and promise and freedom!
Let me know your thoughts on the lecture or on my takeaways below.