Another Look at God In Light of the Evil in the World (Part 2)

The issue at stake in the problem of evil isn’t God’s power, but His goodness, His character.


I have taken a prompt from the explore God discussion series going on simultaneously in over 800 churches in the Chicago area to write up a summary of the problem of evil. More specifically, I was spurred on by the discussion of The Problem of Evil and Suffering on Veracity Hill between Kurt Jaros, the host, and John Peckham from Andrews University.

I think this is the most difficult problem to deal with in the modern western world for the theist, and specifically the Christian who maintains, as Scripture reveals, that God is both all-powerful and all-good.

  • If God is all-powerful, why did He create a world in which evil, pain and suffering exist?
  • Does that mean He really isn’t all-powerful?
  • Or maybe God isn’t good?
  • Or maybe the God of the Bible doesn’t really exist?

Many people who can’t resolve this problem in their minds (or maybe their hearts) end up rejecting the idea of God altogether.

I began the discussion in an introductory blog, and I laid some groundwork to address the problem in Another Look at God in Light of the Evil in the World (Part 1). I can’t rehash it all here, other than to emphasize that we should not be lazy in our approach to the challenge. As with science, we need to work through, if indeed there is a resolution to be had.

If there is a resolution the problem, we can’t do it justice by abandoning the premises we are given. We need to work through it.

For the Christian, those premises don’t just include the omnipotence and omni-benevolence of God. We need to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. I have come to believe that, if we hold on to and expand the premises we are given, and fill out the picture, some clarity begins to emerge.

One of the additional puzzle pieces is that God isn’t just good; God is love. In fact, God is love in His very nature.

Some people have trouble with the idea of the Trinity, three in one. We can understand God’s triunal (communal) nature in the context of love. As three in Person and one in Being, God’s very character is love from before time even began. (See The Plurality of God) God has community and relationship (love) within Himself.

And, Scripture says that He made us in His image. If we are made in His image, we are made to reflect His love. This is another of the puzzle pieces.

Love requires freedom. Coercion has no place in a loving relationship. Thus, for us to know love and to love God, we need to be free, and that includes freedom to reject God and what is good.

The Christian, who accepts the premise that God is good, rejects the idea that God is evil or caused evil to exist. Evil is not in the nature of God because God is who He is. Evil, then, must be a byproduct of the freedom God gave His creation. Evil is the rejection of God and what is good.

Pain and suffering aren’t, per se, evil, though evil produces pain and suffering. God created a world in which pain and suffering exist from the beginning. (see Part 1).

Finally, we find that God’s grand plan and purpose is that His creation would enter into a loving relationship with Him, not because it must, but because His created beings want to.

These are the basic puzzle pieces. (If you want to examine these premises more closely, you will have to read the previous posts and do some research of your own.) From here, we will go back to the premise of God’s power (sovereignty) and examine more fully how it can be that an all-powerful God (who is also good) can allow evil to exist.

Continue reading “Another Look at God In Light of the Evil in the World (Part 2)”

Another Look at God in Light of the Evil in the World (Part 1)

Love is a key component to understanding the problem of evil.


I introduced the problem of evil in a previous blog post, looking at God in light of the evil in the world. My writing is prompted by the discussion series being conducted by over 800 churches in the Chicago, explore God, taking on some of the big questions about faith.

I have tackled various aspects of the problem of pain before, but understanding is an ongoing process. I write as a way of working through things. My understanding continues to grow and sometimes to change.

In the previous post, I suggested that we should approach the problem of evil in a similar fashion to the way we approach science,. Not that faith questions are susceptible of scientific inquiry, per se, but the answers aren’t always obvious. Sometimes they take considerable work on our part. We shouldn’t be lazy and give up simply because the work is hard.

As with science, we need to start with a premise. For the theist, the premise is that God exists. For the Christian, the God who exists is revealed in the Scripture. He is a maximal being – maximally great, maximally good and maximally powerful. Of course, this is where the problem of evil arises. (The problem of evil takes on different form, depending on the way each religion describes God. Not all religions describe God as a maximal, personal and volitional Being.)

How can a good and all-powerful God allow evil, pain and suffering to exist in the world? This is the question posed by the problem of evil. Either God isn’t all powerful, the counterargument goes, or He isn’t good.

If we are going to work through the problem, we need to hold to the premises we are given. Is there a way to do that? Can we harmonize these things? I think we can.

Continue reading “Another Look at God in Light of the Evil in the World (Part 1)”

The Plurality of One God


I have undertaken to explore the question, Is Jesus God?, by looking first at the claims Jesus made about himself. After all, if Jesus didn’t really claim he was God, we would have to wonder about others making that claim. It’s kind of hard to take the position that Jesus was God if Jesus, himself, didn’t make that claim.

I also explored what people in the time Jesus said about him. Some people claim that the early followers of Jesus didn’t really think he was God, that the God-claim arose generations later in the way of a legend. Unless the Gospels and letters collected in the New Testament were written generations later, clearly, his early followers, and even people opposed to him, believed that he was God or, at least, that he claimed to be God.

One puzzle that remains, though, is how the claims made by Jesus and his Jewish followers fit into an ancient Judaic theology built on the foundation of one true God. Jesus, himself, quoted the sacred text handed down from Moses: “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” (Luke 4:8, quoting Moses Deut. 6:13) So how do we square that statement with his evident claims that put him on a par with God?

There is no dearth of resources addressing the idea of the Trinity, but I turn to a former Muslim for help. Muslims have a robust view of God, Allah, as one. Allah is not a father and does not beget sons. He is single, undivided, and purely one God.

Nabeel Qureshi is my source for an explanation of the Trinity. Nabeel was a devout Muslim turned Christian after his college years, and he became a Christian apologist. He recalls that one of the most recited passages of the Qur’an is Surat-al-Ikhlaas, 112:2 – “God is not a Father, and He is not a Son.” This “doctrine above all doctrines” in Islam is known as Tawhid – God is absolutely one and cannot be father or son.

The question that troubled Nabeel when he was comparing the two religions was this: How is it that the Trinity could be a monotheistic doctrine?

Continue reading “The Plurality of One God”

Is Jesus God? Part 1

Is Jesus God? What did he actually say about himself? And what did the people closest to him say?


Over 800 churches in the Chicago area are working through a series of big questions together all at the same time. (See exploreGod) The big question two weeks ago, for instance, was: Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering? I have addressed the problem of pain before. Not that I have addressed the issue once and for all. I certainly haven’t. Gaining knowledge and understanding is an ongoing process. In that vein, I tackle the question for this week: Is Jesus God?

Not that I (nor anyone) can prove Jesus is God. I don’t suggest that I can, and it isn’t my goal to offer that proof here. Rather, I intend to go through the exercise of following the claims that Jesus and others made about who Jesus was. After all, why would it even be a question whether Jesus is God if neither Jesus nor any of his close associates made that claim?

Before launching into a review of what Jesus and others said about his deity, we should note what he didn’t say. To be perfectly frank, Jesus didn’t not say, “I am God in the flesh” in those exact words or other words directly and expressly making such a claim.

At the same time, Jesus never said, “I am not God”. He never says, “Don’t worship me.”

Jesus is known for the questions he asked. Perhaps, the most significant question he asked is this: “Who do you say that I am?” This series of blog posts is an introduction to that question by looking, first, at the claims Jesus made about himself and then looking at what others said about him.

Continue reading “Is Jesus God? Part 1”

Is Jesus God? Part 3

What did the people closest to Jesus and those who were opposed to him think that Jesus was saying about himself?


Jesus said to his followers, in no uncertain terms, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” (Luke 4:8, quoting Moses Deut. 6:13) Why, then, do Christians have this notion that Jesus was God?

That is the question being addressed in this blog series. The question was introduced in the first piece: Is Jesus God? Part 1. The question is being posed as part of a series of questions, that is being discussed among over 800 churches presently in the Chicago area. (See exploreGod) In the second blog post, Is Jesus God? Part 2, I covered the things Jesus said about himself.

In this third installment on that question, I will review what others said about Jesus in his time, both those who followed him and those who opposed him. The statement Jesus made about worshiping and serving only God is important to consider in light of the claims Jesus made about himself as well as the way other people reacted to Jesus.

Surely Jesus would not deign to suggest that he was God after making such a statement, right? How could his followers be confused about his deity? (If, indeed, there was any confusion.) What did others say about him? And how did they relate to him?

Continue reading “Is Jesus God? Part 3”

The Ebla Tablets Revisited

Ruins of the outer wall of Ebla and the “Damascus Gate”

One of the most popular articles on this blog is The Ebla Tablets Confirm Biblical Accounts. Though it was posted in 2015, it was still the most read article on the blog in 2016 and 2017 and was still third on the list in 2018.  Perhaps, that is why I feel prompted to revisit the subject today.

Digging a little bit deeper into the subject (pun intended), I found a 1979 Washington Post article that boasts no biblical claims. (Literally, it’s in the title.) The article asserts that, after initial enthusiasm that the tablets would reveal biblical treasures, “three years of intense study” disclosed no biblical claims. Dr. Robert Biggs, professor of Assyriology at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, announced the verdict, “People who are looking to the Ebla tablets for proof of the authenticity of the Bible are going to be sorely disappointed.”

At the time of the article in 1979, 11,000 tablets had been discovered dating from 23 centuries before Christ in the ancient Sumerian city of Ebla in what is now northern Syria that was destroyed by fire around 2300 BC. Of course, only 48 tablets had been translated and published at the time of the article. While Professor Biggs was quick to render a verdict against the Bible, other scholars were not as quick to jump to judgment as noted by a Smithsonian expert who speculated at the same time that Ebla tablets may support the historicity of the Patriarchal narratives, “but we won’t know for decades.”

Fast forward to 2015, the number of tablets recovered from the ancient library in the ruins of Ebla had increased to 15,000, and the early verdict that they contain no “biblical claims” is much in doubt. (See Controversial Discovery: 15,000 Ancient Ebla Tablets Prove Old Testament To Be Accurate) (The current number of tablets and portions of tablets may be closer to 17,000.)

Continue reading “The Ebla Tablets Revisited”

Where in the World is God?

Our western view of God, heaven and the earth may get in the way of understanding where in the world is God.


I have been listening with some relish to the new podcast, Ask NT Wright Anything, with Justin Brierley the host of Unbelievable! podcast fame. NT Wright is currently the Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary’s College in the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. (Wikipedia) He is a renowned scholar and prolific writer and speaker.

In listening to the first few episodes of the new podcast, I have become interested in NT Wright’s view the kingdom of God, the ascension and what it means that someday Jesus will “come again on the clouds”.  calls westerners “innate Epicureans” who believe that “heaven is a long way away”. Thus, when we think of something like the ascension of Jesus, we imagine him rising up to heaven far away where He “sits at the right hand of the Father”.

This image of Jesus in heaven far away seems to be suggested in the passages from which we have coined the term ascension. The Gospel of Luke describes it this way: “While [Jesus] was blessing them, He parted from them [left them] and was carried up [taken up] into heaven”. (Luke 24:51 (NASB/ESV)) In Acts, the description is that “He was lifted up while they were looking on [taken up before their very eyes], and a cloud hid him [received Him] from their sight [out of their sight].” (Acts 1:9 NASB/ESV)

In Luke, the phrase, “parted and was carried” is a translation of the one Greek word, diístēmi, meaning literally “to set apart, to intervene, make interval” and translated as carried, parted and/or passed.[i] In the Greek, it appears (to me) that some interpretation is apparent in the English verb tenses used: “He parted and was carried [taken]”. The first phrase conveys action on the part of Jesus, and the second phrase conveys some action asserted upon Jesus, presumably from the Father.

The phrase is inserted as the interpretation of a single word so who undertook the action is really not implicitly expressed. It’s an interpretation (it seems to me). Further, the descriptor, “up” is added. That descriptor is not inherent in the Greek word, diístēmi. Rather, it seems to be a common sense addition to connect with the word translated “heaven”, which is ouranós. But is that an accurate translation?

After hearing NT Wright, I think not. Our western worldview filter may be to blame, and removing this worldview filter opens up a more accurate view, perhaps, of what the kingdom of God is, the ascension, and the second coming of Jesus.

Continue reading “Where in the World is God?”