finding truth matters

Is The World Really Getting Darker?

by | Jul 10, 2007 | articles | 0 comments

IF GOD IS SO LOVING AND POWERFUL, THEN HOW COME THE WORLD IS SO EVIL? AND GETTING EVEN WORSE? 

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This is the question I was recently asked to address to a gathering of year 9 school students. Before I could address this question though, I needed to share some insights into how we generally answer such objections to Christianity. Before we answer a question like this we have to identify the propositions within the question. This particular question has two propositions- since it assumes something about God, and something about the world in which we live. 

For a question to be reasonable its propositions must be true. For example, a question like, “Why do all criminals chew gum?” assumes that all criminals chew gum. Another example might be “If God created everything, who created God?” This question assumes that everything (including God) has been created- when logic demands that something must be eternal (it has always existed) since it is illogical that something could spring from nothing. 

IS GOD LOVING AND POWERFUL?

Is God loving and powerful? The Scriptures clearly assert this. “God is love!” goes way beyond this modest understatement that God is loving. He is note merely loving: He is love. “Nothing is impossible with God” the Scriptures proclaim. He is indeed powerful as His exclusive right to the title “Almighty” suggests. It’s worth noting however that the Biblical statement “Nothing is impossible with God” is not the same as saying “Anything is possible with God” since there is at least five things the Scriptures state God cannot do (lie, sin, be unfaithful, change, cease to be). This proposition in the question is reasonable with one qualification though…

It is wrong to think of God’s love and power as the same as “Santa Claus”. Just as many people have deified the modern myth of Santa Claus, the traffic seems to flow in both directions in a Christianised Western Culture when it comes to society’s understanding of “God”. That is, our culture has Santa-Claus-ied God – making him a jolly old grandfather figure who likes to do nothing more than to give give give to nice people. Santa Claus doesn’t judge anyone. Santa Claus isn’t near (apologies to those in Alaska and Greenland). Santa Claus isn’t relevant to daily activities. Thus, Western Culture has a theology of God akin to their theology of Santa Claus- God won’t judge anyone. God is transcendent (not near). God is not relevant.This faulty theology then encounters tragedy, suffering, and death and concludes that either “God” doesn’t exist (because a Santa-Claus-God wouldn’t allow such evil) or He isn’t what He claims to be (He’s not really loving and powerful). But a Biblical theology of a loving and powerful God sees His plan, His purpose achieved for our good through whatever circumstances He deems necessary. Let me illustrate…

It is wrong to assume that God exists for our comfort. This theology regards the meaning of life as the pursuit of ease and comfort. But the Scriptures state that it is God’s purpose for us to “grow up”. At what times in your life have you grown the most? For most people it is never during times of ease and comfort. This was powerfully presented to me recently when I heard a man share his story from ease to evil. He was a healthy easy-going church attender when he was struck down with a disease in his legs. His condition deteriorated so rapidly that he had to have both his legs amputated above his knees. He became despondent about life and thoroughly disappointed with the God he had worshiped who had now let him down so desperately. But his disappointment soon became anger and abandonment. This corresponded to his deepest days of depression when in despair he attempted suicide. Spared from this undignified end, he cried out to God. Over time he re-acquainted himself with the God of the Bible and found that the God he thought was like Santa Claus was actually not the God revealed in Scripture. He continued to cry out to God and became thoroughly dependent upon Him. The sweetness of His relationship with God became more valuable to him than legs. He said, “It took the loss of my legs for me to realise just how much I lived without God. If God now offered me a new pair of legs I don’t think I could accept them! I actually now thank God for bringing me closer to Him.” We must think of God’s love as the ultimate desire for our best. Nothing God does is contrary to this divine trait. 

But if God is so loving and only wants our best, how could there possibly be evil in the world? But not only evil, growing evil! There is no doubt that there is evil in this world. There is a lot of evidence to support this proposition that there is evil in the world. Indeed, the Bible’s opening chapters describe evil entering the world through the temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan and their subsequent rebellion. 

The evidence for evil in the world is not hard to see. Crime, environmental vandalism, terrorism, wars, ethnic dispersement and persecution, poverty, disease, and disasters. Some recent crimes, such as the well publicised High School and College massacres, can only be described as “evil”. In fact, publicising evil seems to be what media outlets love to either report or sensationalise. It’s therefore not surprising that this has led to the impression among some that our world is becoming more evil. But is it?

Are there more wars today than ever before? Are there more people committing crimes today than ever before? Is Third-World (or “The Two Thirds of the World”) poverty getting worse? It seems though that some Christians have a vested interest in highlight how evil the world is. Many Christians have been taught that the Bible teaches that the world is going to get more evil. Most of this understanding is based on the Biblical statements referring to “the last days”. 

In the last days perilous times will comeBut know this, that in the last days perilous times will come
Second Timothy 3:1

The assumption is made that the Biblical expression “the last days” refers to the last days of the world. Curiously though, the expression “end of the world” no where appears in Scripture! (You will find the geographical expression: the ends of the world/earth though.) Millions of books have been sold which promote this doomsday/Armageddon teaching.

Last days fictional books

But, the Biblical expression “the last days” refers to the last days of the Old Covenant which was made obsolete at the Cross but finally done away with in 70AD with the destruction of the Temple.

In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 8:13

Hebrews 9,26 the end of the ageThe period from the Cross to the destruction of the Old Covenant Temple is referred to in the New Testament as “the end of the age” or the “the end of the ages” (1Cor. 10:11). That was period of time in which the Anti-Christ, the Tribulation, and judgment on Jerusalem was to take place (note Matthew 24:34). The idea that these prophecies will be fulfilled again is without Biblical merit. Therefore the idea that the Bible teaches or predicts that the world will become increasingly evil towards the end of time is not necessarily supportable from Scripture. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be evil in the world since the heart of natural man is in rebellion against God (Jer. 17:9). But, the work of Christ and His Spirit in the earth today is being spread through the preaching of the Good News so that individuals and even entire communities are being transformed. It is the leaven of the Kingdom of God on earth-

Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
Matthew 13:33

We need to question the second proposition within our question. Is the world really getting more evil? Part of the problem in answering this question is how we understand what we mean by the word: world. We all live in two worlds. We live in our world (our friends, our family, our work, our home, our neighborhood, our problems) and the world in which we are all citizens. We find it difficult to think beyond our own worlds. When we are doing well it is almost inconceivable that most people in the world may not be doing as well as us. Similarly, when we are not doing well because of some evil inflicted upon us, it is very hard for us not to think of the world getting more evil. It may come as a complete surprise to people to learn that global crime statistics are not rising relative to populations, or that there really aren’t more wars, or victims of at the moment relative to global population. This is despite what constantly appears in the media where the viewer would be left wondering if wars, acts of terrorism, and environmental vandalism were all teaming up to destroy the world within our lifetime!

The Middle East Conflict, Increasing Wars, Environmental Disasters

But these things, while bad and potentially evil, are not the only things happening in the world today. In fact, for the Christian who regards Jesus Christ as Lord of the Earth and His Mission unstoppable, there should be evidence to support this Biblical position which is founded on the words of Christ where He said that He had been given ‘complete authority in heaven and on earth‘ (Matthew 28:18). 

IS THERE EVIDENCE THAT THE LIGHT OF CHRIST’S LORDSHIP IS OVERCOMING THE DARKNESS OF GLOBAL EVIL?

Consider the impact of Christ by the end of the First Century. Christianity is highlighted as the yellow area around the Mediterranean Sea- 

Consider the growth of the influence of Christ and His teachings on the globe by its growth up to the twentieth century-

Is the world getting more evil? It might seem like it according to tonight’s TV News, but this is not necessarily supported by the evidence. While there will always be evil in the hearts of natural man until Christ’s Spirit removes that evil heart and creates within them a new heart, there is good reason based on Scripture and history that the leaven of Christ’s teaching will continue to make this world a better place. History tells us that many, if not most, of the major humanitarian efforts that have advanced human welfare (Schools, Hospitals, Hospices, Relief Agencies, Medical Missions, Poverty Relief) have resulted from people seeking to apply the teachings of Christ. This has been most effective where it has been accompanied with the preaching of the Good News about the Kingdom of God- calling people to new life in Christ. 

When I asked the gathering of Year 9 students who believed that the world was getting more evil, they all raised their hands. When I asked who would rather be alive at a different time in history, none (except for one young lady who longed to live in the courts of Queen Elizabeth the First!) said that they would rather have lived at a different time. This is very telling. The world is a better place today because of Christ coming into it. Despite claims by opponents of Christianity that religion has been the root of “all wars” the facts say otherwise. Wars, the Bible says, are the result of human selfishness (evil). All wars have been for this reason- not the teachings of Christ! The reality is that world has been made a better place because of those who follow the commands of Christ. And as we advance into the future we have the very real possibility of furthering the cause of Christ on earth through bringing Good News to poor, healing to the sick, education to the underprivileged, justice to the oppressed, peace on earth and goodwill toward all men.

Of all people, Christians should be the most confident about the future getting brighter. 

Dr. Andrew Corbett, July 10th 2007 

 

Impossible Faith

Some people find faith in God to be impossible. These people have reasons for their impossible faith. Their objections may be intellectual, moral, or emotional. There are three well-known figures who each exemplify each of these objections to faith in God. Charles Darwin, Thomas Hardy and Bob Hawke each respectively held these particular objections to Christianity.

The Reliability of The Bible and How Best To Interpret It

The Bible is the most influential book of all time. It’s contents have changed the course of history. It’s story has formed the pattern for all the great literary classics. It also makes the astounding claim that it is the uniquely authoritative revelation from God and therefore has the authority to command our moral behaviour. But if the Bible is not reliable, then its claims are indefensible and Christianity is without foundation! Yet despite this glaring vulnerability, the Bible has withstood rigorous scrutiny and repeated attempts to refute it. Here’s why it is indeed reliable.

What Is Heaven Like?

I honestly used to think that Christianity was all about having the assurance of going to Heaven. But as I learned more about the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth I became curious about the relative scarcity of references to Heaven in the Bible. Yet, while my understanding of the place of Heaven in my Gospel proclamation has been refined, some God-Channel evangelists have headed in the other direction and made Heaven central to their Gospel. Some of these evangelists now even claim to have the spiritual power to make repeated visits there!

Presumably God, the Supreme Being, has a supremely beautiful home, in a supremely magnificent neighbourhood. Amazingly, God invites mankind to move into His neighbourhood- for eternity! But what is Heaven like? Is it possible, as some are now claiming, that we can visit Heaven? While I am going to lead readers to conclude that Heaven is not the Gospel’s focus, if it is the only reason someone is motivated to convert to Christ, then we should rejoice!

The Tragedy of Suicide – And How We Can Help

Suicide hurts. It is motivated by pain, but causes much greater pain. For those affected by suicide the guilt and anguish it produces is almost unbearable. But since suicide is in the Bible, how can we know that it is wrong? How should we regard the sinfulness of suicide? Is it unforgiveable? How can we help avoid suicide? What should those affected by it know after its happened?

The funeral celebrant rang me to warn me. He was used to dealing with sensitive situations but this one had a few extra layers of complexity. He decided to get me involved. He outlined the story to me and then told me the purpose of his call. When a loved one dies there is often a measure of guilt for those left behind. But when the death is caused by suicide that guilt is compounded. Suicide hurts. The funeral celebrant told me that a young man with a diagnosed mental illness, who had professed Christianity, had taken his own life and his devout mother (who we will call “Betty”) was devastated. The celebrant told me that Betty would ring because her guilt was beyond his expertise due to her Biblical understanding of suicide.

True For You But Not True For Me

Have you ever heard someone say, “That may be true for you but it’s not true for me!” It’s the kind of sentiment which might be appropriately limited to our experiences and our emotional responses to them, but it can not be true about those issues which effect us all, known as universals. These include what we consider to be morally right or wrong, whether a fact is true or false,  or whether we should regard something as either good or bad. For example, one of the universal laws that is not subject to personal opinion is gravity. Someone may disagree with it, but their disagreement doesn’t change its reality.

The kind of judgment needed to distinguish right from wrong, true from false, or good from bad, must allow for those things which are universal and thus common to all. This kind of truth, what Francis Schaeffer called ‘true truth’ is also not subject to context, circumstances, popularity, or fashion (Beckworth & Koukl 1998, 20). Neither is it restricted to a time or place. Thus, what can be known as true has generally been acknowledged as such down through the ages by various peoples located in different parts of the world. Philosophers refer to this kind of truth as…

How To Handle A Crisis

The definition of a crisis is a calamity or event which disrupts a person’s sense of well- being and lifestyle. It is generally short term and requires immediate action in order to restore balance and control in the person’s life.  The results of crisis are: anxiety, bewilderment, confusion, desperation, anger, helplessness and even apathy. There is an increased sense of dependency upon others, a sense of urgency, and decreased efficiency in decision making and performance. The account of Judah being sieged by the Assyrians in Second Chronicles 32, involves all the aspects of a crisis. The major distinctive is that it involves a nation of people rather than just one person. The “helper” in this instance was their leader – King Hezekiah.

Roman Catholicism Compared With Christianity

Any discussion about religious wars, clergy violations, or child abuse, and it won’t be long before the The Roman Catholic Church unfortunately features. But I want to have a different discussion. And unlike most of the ‘discussions’ of this nature, I’m not on a mission to attack, ridicule, or mock anyone. Rather, I want to look at what the Roman Catholic Church officially teaches and asserts and compare it with the Bible’s teaching.

I’ve been a denominational minister for over two decades, so I know that it is possible to be a part of an organisation with which you disagree on some points.  I understand that this is certainly the case with the Roman Catholic Church as there are many priests who do agree with all that their Church asserts. For the purposes of this discussion, I have chosen to take the official Catholic positions on the matters I am comparing with the Biblical data. It is my hope that my Roman Catholic audience will acknowledge that I have represented their views fairly – but it is also my hope that I can appropriately demonstrate how these core views compare with the Biblical prescriptions.

Soli Deo Gloria

The final statement in The Five Pillars of Biblical Christianity is Soli Deo Gloria – for the glory of God alone! The reason we are saved is so that we can glorify God. In one sense it is true that reason Christ died for us was to save us from our sins and the just wrath of God for our sin. But the main reason Christ died to redeem us was for the glory of God.

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
John 5:44

The glory that comes from God is when we give God glory. One of Christ’s last prayers was that His disciples would see His glory (John 17:24). Therefore God’s glory, His radiant magnificence, is visible and apprehendable. God’s glory is described several times in Scripture. In this sense, God’s glory is a visible reality (a noun). God’s glory is variously described as being like a cloud (Exodus 16:10), a devouring and consuming fire (Exodus 24:17), fire and smoke-like cloud (2Chronicles 7:1), and a brightly glowing cloud (Ezekiel 10:4).

Where Are The Dead?

Sitting across from me in my office was an older middle-aged man who had just read my draft commentary on the Book of Revelation. He had come from Queensland to visit friends in Tasmania and while in the neighbourhood, dropped in to see me to have chat and get a later edition of my book. He asked a lot of theoretical questions and we discussed the implications of what we discussed. Not until he returned to Queensland did I get an email regarding the chapter on the Resurrection. It was at this point that he confided in me that he was in the advanced stages of cancer and that his query was far more than theoretical.
The ancients believed that death was merely a change of location for the soul of a person. The place of the dead was called “Sheol”. When Jacob thought his son Joseph was dead: “All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.” (Gen. 37:35 ). When the judgment of God came upon Korah and his rebellion.

TULIP, The Essence of The Reformation

Jesus Christ taught that following Him was only possible through the miracle of conversion. He taught that for someone to authentically claim to be a Christian they needed a spiritual encounter that changed their heart and mind. Without such a miracle, known Biblically as ‘regeneration’, no one could merely decide to be a Christian.
It’s important to appreciate the geo-socio-politico conditions at the time of the Reformation. This was the time when John Calvin, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and others dared to defend the Biblical revelation against a militant Papal Church which had previously executed similar voices (Wyclif, Tyndale, Savonarola, to name a few) for daring to defy the teaching of the Papacy. One of the central claims of the Papacy was “Universalism”, the doctrine which taught that Christ’s sacrificial death was repeated over and over through the celebration of the Mass and was effective in saving all those in communion with the Roman Catholic Church (thus, universal salvation was activated by works). Since Salvation was universal (everyone is automatically saved), the Papal Church was more concerned about administering this salvation through having people in communion with it, or alternatively, disfellowshipping (or, ex-communicating) those who it disliked. Calvin on the other hand saw that Scripture did not teach universalism, but conversely- that not everyone would be saved.

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- April 19, 2018, 7:15 pm

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Dr. Andrew Corbett

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