Friday, March 11, 2011

The Epicurean Paradox

[note: I pre-set this blog over a week ago, to post this today.  The headlines today are full of coverage of a tsunami in Japan.  Coincidental?]

The “Epicurean Paradox” makes the following propositions:

  • If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to, then He is not omnipotent.
  • If He is able, but not willing, then He is malevolent.
  • If He is both able and willing, then whence cometh evil?
  • If He is neither able nor willing, then why call Him God?
The Bible read like today’s headlines: people being burned alive, children being torn from the womb, mass killings, cannibalism, heads being cut off, hangings, stonings, rape, incest, adultery, lust, prostitution, bodies being eaten by worms, “men of God” running around drunk and naked, and so many other horrible things.  Has God lost control, or is He impotent?

Let’s be very clear: the Bible shows who and what man really is as it exposes all our sins, our lusts, our hatred, our love for violence. God is not the one doing the evil, it is man. Nobody wants evil things to happen to them, so should God kill evil-doers before they have a chance to do evil? If so, then God must kill anyone who has hated because in His eyes, hatred is murder. Have you ever been so mad at someone you wished they were dead?

What is God able to do? “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)

Think of what this means in light of natural disaster. On April 14, 2010 a volcano in Iceland erupted grounding passenger flights across Europe. It triggered flooding from the sudden melting of glaciers and 800 people had to evacuate the area. Chris Jansing, a television correspondent for NBC News, was sent on assignment to cover the volcano. She reported: “For almost 24 hours after the cloud cover had lifted, I’d been watching with awe as the volcanic plume over Eyjafjallajokull grew. t was especially dramatic at night with bright white lightning strikes and bursts of energy glowing orange and red against the backdrop of that now enormous gray-black plume. But nothing prepared me for what it would be like to fly over the open mouth of the crater and watch a non-stop display of massive, heart-stopping eruptions.” She went on to further describe the overwhelming power of the volcano. She concluded her report by saying: “I’ve been awed and alarmed by Mother Nature before – covering fires, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes - but never, ever, quite like this.” As powerful as a volcano can be, our God is far more powerful.

“The greatest single distinguishing feature of the omnipotence of God is that our imagination gets lost thinking about it.” – Blaise Pascal

It is not God who is not willing, but man. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Man is not willing to turn from his sin, acting like the devil himself, who is willing that all should perish and none come to repentance. Here’s what that means: sin brings the punishment of death and hell. God stepped into time and space in the person of Jesus Christ, dying on the cross and rising again paying the penalty we deserve for our sin. God wants man to understand how much our sin offends Him and with a broken heart, desire to be free from the penalty and power of sin by putting our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no need to lie to one another because “you laid aside your old self with its evil practices and have put on a new self who is being renewed . . .” (Colossians 3:9-10)

If you “put on” the new self by turning from your sin with faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no need to steal any longer, but work with your hands “in order to share with him who has need.” (Ephesians 4:28).

The evils of immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputers, dissention, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, etc. are evidence that man is living well within his means. People who will turn from their sin are free to do everything they should according to God’s willing ability, to show: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, etc. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:19-24)

The Bible does not hide humanity and all our lusts, our hatred, our love for violence. Instead, it shows who we really are, exposing our sins and warns that God will bring every work into judgment.

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