Sermon for July 5, 2009

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* Sermon for July 5, 2009

* Text: 1 John 4:7-21

* Title: What Does It Mean for God To Love

* A few weeks ago I asked the congregation if there were any topics people wanted me to engage. I received one response. Tell me why God has such a sick sense of humor.

o I won’t deny I was taken aback by the question.

* On one side I really didn’t like how it was worded.

* But, I do understand because sometimes it does seem we are God little pawns.

* But the question troubled me more because I realized the idea behind it

* The idea behind is age old.

* The questions is really asking why do we suffer?

* Philosophers pose the question like this: "Why is there pain and suffering in the world?"

* Many people have had their faith shaken by suffering as they ask

* Does God care for me?

* Is this God’s will?

* How could God allow this to happen?

* Why does God allow good people to hurt?

* In looking at the suffering we all go through, sin, disease, physical pain, emotional pain, relational pain, starvation, war, bankruptcy, we must attempt to formulate some answer.

o The first part of that answer begins by differentiating between natural evil and moral evil

* Natural evil really is not evil

* Hurricane Katrina is a good example.

* Hurricane are a part of nature

* Some may say that they actually have positive aspects that nature cannot survive without

* They balance nature

* Problems arise when nature and humanity meet

* The devastation to humanity because of Katrina was unimaginable

* People are still trying to rebuild after years of sorrow

* Natural evil is a part of living this world

* There will be hurricanes

* Tornados

* Fires

* Volcanoes

* Avalanches

* Diseases

* Accidents

* We could say that this is partly because the way the world is designed to function and we simply pay no heed to that design

* We can also say we live in a fallen world and there are consequences to living in a fallen world

* An old adage helps here, “Sometimes things just happen”

* If natural evil was all we dealt with it would be a lot easier. Our real problem is moral evil

* How do we explain Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or 9/11

* Of course our first response is it is because of sin or the devil

* Such response while true don’t solve the problem

* The problem why does God allow it

* If God is all powerful, all good, all knowing, why doesn’t he put an end to moral evil?

* Why do so many people keep on suffering at the hands of other people.

* Roger Russell probably asked that question. The Grabouw Journal, a South African news journal, reports the story of Roger Russell, an activist crime-fighter. In August, Russell began a 2,800-mile walk around South Africa to focus attention on the nation's infamous crime rate; his second day out he was mugged. He wasn’t out to judge the guilty, just bring an end to crime.

* To answer this is I am going to give four arguments that try to answer this question.

o One of the oldest is also one the hardest to understand: Metaphysical Theodicies.

* The basic premise says that these point to a feature or features in creation or in man which make the existence of evil inevitable.

* The assumption is that the very act of creating results in evil.

* St. Augustine held a similar belief

* The problem with Augustine’s idea is that evil becomes illusionary

* My suffering sure seems real enough

o The one many people respond with is Free Will Theodicies

* These claim that God gave man free will. Man misused his free will to do evil. The evil in the present world is a result of his ongoing misuse of his freedom.

* The whole idea here is free will is of moral value. That is, a world with free will is better than one without it.

* It is a contradiction to say that God brings it about that humans freely will only the good { vs J.S. Findlay who claims that this is possilbe}

* God must bring about the best possible world in his capacity.

* Therefore, God must create a world with free will.[We believe the word "must" is objectionable here, but the point still stands. Instead read "God is correct to create..." ]

* But then God is not responsible for evil (choices), since it is not in his power to bring it about that men freely choose only the good. [note: this assumes that God cannot, and need not, do the logically contradictory. If logic does not apply to God, then there is nothing wrong with asserting the apparent contradiction that God is good and He permits evil to exist. Where there is no logic, there are not any contradictions . . . and anything could be the case!]

* One of the main problems with this is freedom to choose does not necessarily mean that we cannot always choose the same alternative.

* Not even God can ensure the result of a genuinely free act.

* Let me put this into an illustration

* Some jokesters tell about a group of theologians who were discussing predestination and free will. The longer they talked, the hotter it got. And, as you might expect, the dissidents split into two groups. One poor fella didn’t know which he believed, so he slipped into the ranks of the predestination crowd. They challenged him as to why he was there. “I came of my own free will,” he answered innocently. Frowning, they responded, “Free will? You can’t join us. You get over there!” He retreated to the opposite group and faced the same challenging spirit. “Listen, I was sent here,” he answered honestly. “Leave!” they demanded. “You can’t join us unless you come of your own free will!”

* Even worse, once we assume that free will means the autonomy of man from God, we are faced with the consequence that God cannot ensure the triumph of good over evil in the life to come without quashing man's free will.

o An interesting answer to our original questions comes from the Greater Good Theodicies:

* This says God has permitted evil to bring about a greater good which could not have come about without the existence of evil.

* The specific good in question varies from theodicy to theodicy. Often several "greater goods" are cited.

* A good illustration tells of s young man who filled out an application for admission to a university. In response to a request to “List your Personal Strengths,” he wrote, “Sometimes I am trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” Where the form said, “List Your Weaknesses,” he wrote: “Sometimes I am not trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” None of us is perfect. Greater good theodicy tells how evil is present to help the young man move toward perfection

* Love is another great response.

* It sums up his nature and his desire for humanity

* Look at the logic: How could God allow for Love without the potential for evil? God could have created robots that do nothing more than forever say, "I love you, I love you, I love you." But such creatures would be incapable of a real love relationship.

* Love is not real unless one has the ability to not love.

* God knew that in a world with choice, there would be much evil -- to choose not to love is evil by definition.

* Evil serves the limited purpose of establishing real love relationships between creation and the Creator, and evil will be done away with after that purpose is achieved.

* Romans 8:28

* There is one main criticism of all greater-good theodicies.

* Take any greater good, G, (e.g., a faith relationship, courage, or anything else).

* If G is of such great value as to outweigh the evil necessary to attain it, G should be of value in the life to come.

* For example, why go through such great evil to gain courage if we are not going to have a chance to exercise it in the New Creation?

* But if evil is necessary for G, we should expect to find evil in the New Creation so that we may exercise G there as well.

* If evil is not necessary, we are left to wonder why God permits evil in the first place.

o All attempts up to this point have been Armenian in design. Calvinists take a different approach.

* Calvinists say part of the problem is the Armenian’s solution state that God created the world specifically to bring about the best state possible for man.

* The idea from their stand point is that they are saying God created for the good pleasure of man.

* Calvinists says though that a better theodicy must rest on the presupposition that God's purpose in creating this world is to most fully manifest His glory and that the world He created accomplishes this purpose.

* One author stated it like so:

* God's glory is manifested through His various attributes.

* Scripture repeatedly speaks of four attributes which bear crucially on the problem of evil -- righteousness, justice, mercy, and grace.

* It is hard to see how these attributes could be fully displayed except in a world in which man willfully fell from primordial goodness into sin, brought evil on himself, and God redeemed him from sin by grace alone.

* So we see the problem of evil helps illuminate God

* Probing even deeper into the Calvinist idea we see a deep statement of God’s sovereignty

* The question raised here is of the supremacy of man versus God

* Too often we create an omnipotent God but not sovereign

* If I have a God who is Omnipotent but not sovereign I can wield His power

* But is God is both Omnipotent and sovereign I am at his mercy

* To some extent we all ask this when we say, “It's God's will”

* Job

* Even deeper in the Calvinist’s answer is the idea that we are asking the wrong question

* We are wrong to ask how can a good and loving God allow evil

* The right question is How can a good and loving God not kill us in our sleep knowing what we have done, said, and thought

* Let’s put this in perspective

* In 1975 at the old prison at Windsor, Vermont, a particular prisoner applied for parole. The mood of society at the time leaned toward prisoners and questioned — even challenged — authorities. To all who knew him the inmate in question seemed an intensely dangerous man. Most guards may not be formally educated in the psychology or pathology of violence, but it is their stock-in-trade to know about it. Here, they saw, was danger. One day in his cell in the oldest part of the prison, in the basement, the prisoner poured lighter fluid over himself and lit a match. A brave and determined guard rushed in and saved him. The matter came to the attention of a Windsor minister and his wife. It seemed to them that kindness might effect something here. They asked that the prisoner be paroled in their custody.

o Every employee at the prison was utterly against the idea. But while to the public the parole board and the prison authorities seem two arms of a single body, they are in fact totally independent of each other. The parole board voted affirmatively. Guard Mike Coxon called the area superior of the minister and begged him to tell his subordinate not to take in the prisoner. He told the bishop that the minister and his wife had neither the knowledge nor the experience to deal with such a person. The bishop would not be moved. Let the erring sinner be freed and helped. “We’ll hear about this sooner rather than later,” Coxon said when he saw it was no use going on.

o The prisoner went to live with the minister and his wife, and in a little while he entered the home of a Windsor family whose nine-year-old son was being baby-sat by his seventeen-year-old aunt. He raped the teenager. He stabbed the child to death. Coxon was home in bed when Windsor’s police chief called with the news.

* Do we believe that there are people who do not deserve the wrath of God

* Finally, none are righteous, and all are deserving of wrath

* Why does God wrath and judgment tarry

* Of course there are problems with the Calvinist response

* Are there absolute standards of righteousness and good

* If so then God abides by them as well or He becomes nothing more than a ruthless tyrant

* Of course the idea becomes humanity is subjective and doesn’t understand God or what is good

* We have to be careful not to judge God according to our agenda

* We recognize that God is measure of all things not man

* But that doesn’t mean we can’t understand something of God or of goodness

* God has revealed these things to us, God doesn’t contradict what He has revealed to us

* A second problem of the Calvinist answer is who created evil.

* Some but not all say God created evil

* This has been one of the hallmarks of the Armenian problem with the Calvinist answer

* While the Calvinist will say that God is not morally responsible for the evil their answer seems to avoid the issue

* Let me give a response from a Calvinist website:

* I think, though, that we have to admit that God created evil in some fashion. But we also need to insist that he did not do in a way that makes him culpable or that taints his character.

* This brings me to the point about God's character. If we define sin and evil as that which is contrary to God's character, then it is impossible for God to sin. By definition, whatever God does is not sinful or evil. Since God cannot sin, then if God created evil, it was not sinful or evil for God to create evil. Whatever he does is right, so there is no problem. If God created evil and/or made it certain that man would sin, and if we think these actions were evil, then we are simply wrong in our assessment of the evil of these actions. There is no contradiction because by assigning the action to God we forfeit the right to call it evil.

* Is it always just what God says or does He have an absolute standard - if so God is majorly arbitrary

* What becomes of his faithfulness and unchanging nature

* If by this point you are wondering is Mark going any place with this? Does He have an answer or not

o The answer is not quite

* The problem of evil is a very old one, and there is really no answer that satisfies everyone.

* I would lean toward a combination of answers

o How do we deal with pain then?

* Put pain in perspective

* It is temporary at best

* It doesn’t compare with what God has in store for us

o Change what you can about suffering

* Correct causes of suffering

* Become an agent of justice

* Change attitude

* Understanding that we don't understand God

* Understanding that we don't see the bog picture

o Hope

* Eschatological Formulation (focuses on how the future, or end state of the world will ultimately be the true standard by which the present will be judged.)

* If God is all powerful, He can defeat evil

* If God is all loving and good, He will defeat evil

* Therefore, evil will be defeated.

* We see the evidence of that hope here this morning.

o Jesus Christ has defeated evil when He died on a cross.

o He put death in a grave.

o We may have to deal with evil here on earth but make no bones about it is only the leftovers and they will soon be gone.

o Evil will be completely destroyed one day by God’s all powerful, all loving, all good, all knowing hand

o So let us join together this morning is celebrating that victory

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