Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Existence of Evil- War & Peace

About a year ago, I wrote an article entitled “The Existence of Evil” wherein I confronted the atheist’s intent to deny the existence of God, or at a least an actively “good” God, for the cause of evil’s enduring existence. I essentially picked up on the tack of Job 40:7 & 8, whereupon God recriminates the self-purportedly good & wise would-be indictors of God (Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, & Zophar) by appearing in a whirlwind & questioning their knowledge & abilities relative to His; God proceeded to denigrate their arrogance for supposing to understand the cause for which this suffering has happened upon His servant. None of these earthbound creatures held the awesome spatial spectrality of the transcendent Creator; they were anchored by both space & time, but as both the Beginning & the End, He transcends space & time. Their relatively greater (in relation to other men) cognitional capabilities only drove them to madly think themselves to be on plane with God Almighty, with their pretentious claims to understand things for which they have no evidence (Job 38:2). Like so many gifted, but pompous academics, their blessing of intellect became for them a curse of contemptuous pride. As Paul speaks of their sort: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:21,22) They claimed to know so much, yet their wisdom was shown as poor & pitiful by the Lord’s questioning statements of chapters 38-41.

All four sinned- Eliphaz, Bildad, & Zophar in purporting to “know” that Job’s suffering was due to some unascertained evil he must have committed- & Job for his pretentiousness to “justify himself rather than God” in the face of his friends’ probing accusations (Job 32:2). Essentially, Job claimed innocence & therein accused God of wrongly causing him to suffer. He declared himself righteous & questioned God’s ultimate goodness for allowing such evil to happen upon him. He laid the onus for origin of evil upon God’s doorstep. His faithful integrity stood fast at first (Job 1:21-22 & 2:9-10) but faded down the stretch as he speculated his life would be better apart from God (Job 10:20). Just as Satan was allowed into the Garden to reveal, to draw out the sin deep within Adam & Eve’s hearts, Satan was allowed to put Job’s heart through a trial by fire to find the wicked way that dwelled deep within. The sin in the Garden came not at first bite, but at the initial craving for more than God had given.

Jeremiah also suffered without evident righteous cause, but he accepted this as God’s trial of his character. Despite his pain, he never accused God of unrighteousness:

Jeremiah 12:1-3 Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? (2) You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart. (3) But you, O LORD, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter.

In Job’s suffering, as in Jeremiah’s, the evil was clearly evident in the nature of the persecutors (Satan & King Jehoiakim, respectively), but not so explicit in the persecuted. Sometimes suffering comes not for the cause of extroverted, apparent sin, but for the introverted, unrealized, & unrecognized sin nature. As with Job (Job 1:8 & 2:3), we may appear outwardly blameless, but inwardly “full of dead men’s bones” (Matt. 23:23ff). It is the “inside of the cup” that is most in need of cleansing, & sometimes no people better exemplify this than the zealously religious. Few have better demonstrated the irony of the whitewashed tomb better than the Pharisees; but we all have the potential to present a perfect persona while obfuscating the ugly reality within.

In the trial, God “pulls out” the wickedness within so that it may be dealt with & “slaughtered” in the throes of Christ’s cross. In that sole act of justification, Christ, through His cross, saved us; but it is in the manner of our cross of suffering that God provides sanctification (Luke 9:23, Rom 5:3,4).

This is where His suffering, after it provides for our justification, continues to cross paths with our daily suffering to continually give birth to sanctification (or, "newness of life"- Rom 6:4). Jesus speaks of our “cross” at many times through the Gospels, but Luke 9:23 hints how our cross differs from His. His perfection necessitated that He should take up His cross only once for all time for the task of our justification (Rom. 6:10), but our imperfection in sanctification demands we must take up ours “daily”.

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Simply put, His cross justifies us in the presence of an angry God, while our cross sanctifies us for “his good pleasure”. The conflagration that ensues as the holy & righteous One abides within our unholy & unrighteous soul is a cause of great tension. We fear & tremble in the very midst of, more so- because of- our salvation, for His will & work is not at peace with the natural man’s will & work. The Spirit of God does bring peace to our soul, but it only comes through the terrible costs of war. This is the tension that Paul lucidly expounds upon in Romans 7. Our emotional, & sometimes physical suffering works out towards peace with a perfectly holy, therefore angry God.

In our walk, we will suffer, but then cathartically rejoice, as God purges the evil from within us:

Romans 6:4-7 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (6) We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (7) For one who has died has been set free from sin (8) Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (9) We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. (10) For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. (11) So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

In suffering, we are called not so much to wonder why,
More so- to suffer & die.
What must suffer most is the evil, fleshly way,
Else there we truly suffer to stay.

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