Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is it ever wrong to be right?

Have you ever wondered if you have made the right decision about something? You may have pondered and pondered over what to do or what to choose before finally making a decision only to second guess whether you made the right choice or not. This has happened to me many times during my life. Not only that, I've sometimes made a decision that everyone told me was the right one only to discover that they and I were wrong. It is true that just because you have the right to do something doesn't make what you do right! But how can we know what are the right things to do? This is especially important when it comes to doing what God has determined to be the right things.

In the Bible, the word "righteousness" in both the Greek and Hebrew means to do the right thing and to be in the right, and a righteous person is one who does what is right. It does not mean one who is perfect or without sin or who has never sinned. Biblically, it means one who is viewed by God as doing the right thing. In the Old Testament that usually meant one who served God and obeyed God's commandments and laws. Jesus refined its meaning to mean one who conforms to the will of God. The Apostle Paul clarified this meaning as being in the right relation to God through Christ and something that comes only through faith in Christ.

There is a direct connection between righteousness and living in accordance to God's will that can only come through belief in Christ and living in the light of His perfection. No one is righteous in themselves (Rom. 3:10&20) but all who are in Christ are made righteous (2 Cor. 5:21) and do not need to continually repent in order to be viewed by God as righteous - even if they still sin at times (Rom. 3:21-26, Rom. 4:6-8, Rom. 8:1). Our faith, not our perfection, yields righteousness (Gal. 3:11-14). That doesn't mean we who are Christ-followers shouldn't repent when we sin; it only means that our righteousness in the eyes of God isn't based upon it.

Nor does this mean that it is ok to sin. Sin is never ok! The Bible clearly teaches that Christ-followers should never intentionally sin even if, through Christ, they have already been forgiven for that sin (Ps. 119:133, Rom. 6:1-4 & 10-12). Sin has and will always separate us from fellowship with God. The Bible clearly reveals that God's anger burns over sin. Sin is always self-centered and will always be wrong even if it appears to produce "good" or "right" things in the eyes of man. The great pastor and Bible teacher Oswald Chambers said it best: "The disposition of sin is not immorality and wrong-doing, but the disposition of self-realization - I am my own god. This disposition may work out in decorous morality or in indecorous immorality, but it has the one basis, my claim to my right to myself."

God's desire is for us to be conformed to His will and to choose to do so because we love Him. The truth is that the righteousness received through faith in Christ should move us to an ever deepening relationship with God, conforming us to His will, and thus should move us farther away from sin. God intends for us to do His will and only His will which can only happen as we grow closer and closer to Him. We Christ-followers sometimes choose to do things contrary to God's will because of our sinful nature but God desires for us to choose to obey Him not simply because He commands it (and of course He does) but more importantly because we love Him. If we are Christ-followers , God views us as righteous because of our faith but He desires that we also choose because of our love for Him to live righteously by living in accordance to His will.

We may have the right to choose to sin but having the right to do so does not make that choice right. Sinning is clearly a time when it is wrong to be right!

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Bankrupcy of Relativism

One of the most perplexing dilemmas of the 21st century is the concept that truth as well as most everything, really is not absolute but rather relative – this is what we call relativism. It is the most widely held moral view in Western society today.

So what is relativism? Ultimately, it is the opposite of objectivism. According to relativism, there is no single, timeless truth existing independent of particular perspectives or methods. Societies and/or individuals decide what is right or wrong and values can and do vary for culture to culture and individual to individual. In other words, absolute (genuine) truth really does not exist because truth is only what you want to make it. What’s true for you may or may not be true for me.

So how did this kind of thinking become so prevalent? It’s been around for a long time – as long as there have been societies, there have been some sort of relativism. However, as a modern philosophy it grew out of post-modern deconstruction philosophy from the late 1800s gaining popularity through the entire 20th century, especially following the turbulent ‘60s. Relativism has permeated our thinking to the extent that it has become one of, if not the, principle drivers of cultural thinking.

However, relativism in all its forms has failed. It has failed humanity in three ways. It has failed because:
1. It provides no basis for genuine objective truth.
2. It leads to degradation of ethics and morality.
3. It produces a void in our hearts that leaves us with no purpose for life.

In short – it leaves us as individuals and as a society without hope. It is without a doubt a bankrupt ideology.

The foundational premise of relativism is that there is no absolute truth. But that alone is a self-defeating statement. It is a self-defeating statement to claim “reality can not be known” because in order to make such a statement requires us to know something about reality. To say that something can be true for one person but false for another fails to meet its own criteria for truth.

So then, what is truth? Here’s what truth is not:
- It is not what works for me.
- It is not what I want it to be or intended it to be.
- It is not what feels good.
- It is not what seems to make sense.

Simply, truth is what corresponds to reality.

Not only has relativism failed to provide a basis for truth, it has also failed to provide a basis for ethics and morality.

What if the majority of Americans decided to pass a law that said that blond hair is illegal and the penalty for having blond hair is death? What’s wrong with that? It can’t be immoral since that is what the majority believe and want? What if I decide that as an individual green eyes are bad and I’m going to punch everyone I see with green eyes in the nose? What’s wrong with that? It’s what I believe to be moral. Of course you can see the folly in such relativist logic (especially when it comes to little old me punching some big biker dude with green eyes in the nose).

Relativism produced the likes of Hitler, Mass Murderers such as Ted Bundy and other moral monsters. In the extreme it also produces people who see no need to care about others and people who are unchecked and unaccountable to anything but personal feelings/opinions.

Here’s the truth: Morals are not “descriptions” of the way things are or the way people may want them to be – morals are “prescriptions” of the way things truly ought to be. To determine those requires there be absolutes that must come from some source outside of humanity or else they will be only opinions and can not be argued as right or wrong outside of each individual’s feelings about them.

Relativism has and continues to produce a degradation of ethics and morals because it provides for no absolute basis for establishing them.

Lastly, relativism is bankrupt because it has failed to fill the void in our lives and leaves us with little purpose or hope. It robs us of a life based upon the foundation of truth and that keeps us from fully living the life that God intends for us to live. How – because it robs us of the truth of who God is and therefore a viable relationship with Him.

Truth comes from God, Morality comes from God, and Purpose for life comes from God. And all of these can only be found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Relativism can not provide these. In fact, it will only eventually lead us away from them. Unfortunately this is what is happening in America today. Relativism is bankrupt so don’t allow it to bankrupt your life and the lives of those around you.

It is God’s desire for each of us to have an eternal relationship with Him and to also show others the way to do the same. This requires us to have a faith that is not only based on emotions/experience but on reason as well. Ultimately, faith will always be an issue of the heart; but remember, the road to and from the heart passes through the head.

To learn more about relativism read the book by Doug Powell, Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006).

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Look Before You Leap!

Somewhere waaay back in the nineties, I watched a movie staring Steve Martin called Leap of Faith. The movie was about a con man who pretended to be a preacher who preyed on the fears and needs of people by tricking them into believing that he had some power from God to help them with what they needed so that he could get them to give him as much money as possible. Of course the movie was a farce but it did make me think about how easy it can be to get people to believe certain things if you can make them feel that you offer some truth or need for which they are searching. All you have to do is help them to place their faith in the answers you are offering. The truth is that everything involves and requires placing your faith into something or someone. You can’t live without having faith. We need faith!

Here’s the thing: In the end, everyone must make one or more faith decisions. Faith is a choice and it always requires a person to leap across a “faith chasm”. No amount of evidence can ever remove that “leap” it can only help shorten the gap. The final choice always requires faith. Everyone must choose to believe. In fact, everyone has already chosen to place faith in something. Even the atheist has chosen to place his or her faith in the fact that there is no God! In my view the atheist has made a poor choice of faith because it is not based on the best representation of the truth but it is a choice of faith none the less.

So what is the role of evidence and facts? We need to make every effort possible to ascertain the truth, as best we can, predicated upon as exhaustive an examination of the facts as possible. By doing so, we can make a faith decision based upon both the heart and the head.

It is for this reason that all Christians need to be able to know why they believe the way they believe. It simply is not enough to be able to say I believe this and that because genuine faith must be based on truth and it is being able to clearly articulate the why of our faith that points us and others back to its truth base. Ultimately our goal is to find the truth so that we can be set free and as we discovered last month, truth is found in Jesus Christ. So if we want to help people in their search for Him, then we must help people in their search for the truth.

You may ask: “Isn’t it better to believe through faith alone rather than believing because of evidence or proof?” Of course it is. This is the point Jesus was making to Thomas in John 20:29. However, the Christian faith has always been a verifiable faith. There is a vast amount of evidence that serves as proof of its truth. God has purposefully built this into creation, history, His Word, and His people and His intention has always been for us to use it for His purpose to redeem humanity. As apologist Frank Turek frequently proclaims, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” Why? It is because when all the evidence is examined and all the facts have been evaluated, belief in a Theistic God rather than no god is the faith system best supported by the preponderance of evidence. This process is not only valid for evaluating the claims of atheism but for every other belief system as well. Once the evidence is explored, people will find that it takes far more faith to believe in any other system than it does to believe Christianity. All the others require a much larger leap to cross that faith chasm. However, most people simply do not know or understand this fact.

It is the responsibility of the church and each individual Christian to be prepared to help others to see and understand this point. This is what Peter was commanding in 1 Peter 3:15. We must be prepared to not only tell people what we believe but why we believe it. We must be prepared to give the reason for our hope. It is this “reason” that leads us to the genuine truth and shortens that “leap of faith” that all must eventually take. Learning how to do this is the focus of the discipline known as “apologetics”. Now that doesn’t mean that there are not other very valid “proofs” of the Christian faith other than reason (such as miracles, healing, Christian living, etc.); however, it is my view that an examination of the evidence under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit is certainly one of the most effective tools for breaking down barriers to the message about Christ for the Western World today.

It is God’s desire for each of us to have an eternal relationship with Him and to also show others the way to do the same. This requires us to have a faith that is not only based on emotions/experience but on reason as well. Ultimately, faith will always be an issue of the heart; but remember, the road to and from the heart passes through the head. In the end, learning how to give the reason for our faith will not only prepare us to break down the barriers that block communication of the Gospel but will also give us more confidence, strengthen our faith, and enhance our personal relationship with the Lord. Christ’s Kingdom will be increased as a result.

If you want to learn more about how you can help others to "look before they leap" read the book by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004).

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Are you absolutely sure about that?

One of the most depressing times for me as a parent was when my children became teenagers. It seemed that I went from being the source of all knowledge to the dumbest person on earth overnight. Every thirteen year old in school was instantly smarter than I. During the ensuing years, it seemed that almost every bit of wisdom I espoused was questioned. I no longer could be considered as a source of truth. Truth became what all my children’s friends believed it to be.

Thankfully, this period in my children’s lives ran its course and in due time, my knowledge some how mysteriously returned (when they reached the age of 25 or so). Now, I never quite acquired the level of knowledge I had prior to their teen years, but at least I was once again viewed as a credible source of truth. Well this begs the question: What is truth? Did I ever have any ability to provide truth or for that matter, does anyone? Does truth even exist? This seems to be one of the most perplexing dilemmas of the 21st century. This is especially important in today’s relative thinking world where truth has been redefined to mean anything you want it to be. In other words, absolute (genuine) truth really does not exist because truth is only what you want to make it. What’s true for you may or may not be true for me.

Why is understanding what truth really represents so important? What difference does it make anyway? Here’s the thing: Unless we can establish the fact that a genuine, absolute truth exists, we can’t even establish the existence of God. For unless there is truth, there can be no God! Of course, this question about the existence of truth is not just a modern one. It is perhaps the most asked question of all human history. It was the question that Pilate asked Jesus before he sentenced Him to death (John 18:38).

So then, what is truth? Simply, truth is what corresponds to reality. If our understanding of truth is abstract, then it will correspond to an abstract reality. This is truth in the postmodern world. However, concrete truth is truth that corresponds to concrete reality. In fact, it is impossible to deny this definition of truth without using it. You see, we can not say that a concrete or absolute truth does not exist without making an absolute statement about truth (“Absolute truth does not exist.” – Are you absolutely sure about that?). Therefore, we can't deny the fact that we can know actual reality.

In fact, it is a self-defeating statement to claim “reality can not be known” because in order to make such a statement requires us to know something about reality. A self-defeating statement is one which fails to meet its own standards of acceptability or validity. The statement that we cannot know reality contains a statement about reality. Since it claims reality can’t be known, it fails to satisfy its own standard of acceptability or validity because you have to know something about reality in order to know if you don’t know it. Since it is self-defeating to say we can’t know reality, then we must be able to know reality. That makes truth concrete because it corresponds to concrete reality.

Here is a simple way to prove this is true. Examine it using one of the principle laws of logic – The Law of Non-Contradiction. This law states that opposites cannot both be true. A statement can’t be both true and false. It must be one or the other. The idea that there is no absolute truth violates this law because one must make an absolute true statement in order to say there is no absolute truth. Therefore the Law of Non-Contradiction is undeniable. Even those who deny it have use it to prove their claim.

Here’s the truth: There is such a thing as reality and it is possible to know the truth about it. Therefore, real truth is knowable, absolute, and represents the truth even if we don’t know it or refuse to recognize it as such. Truth is not what some organization or leader tells you it is, it is not what your friends say that it is, is not what culture proclaims it to be, nor is it what we may want it to be. Truth is what corresponds to reality. If absolute truth exists, and it does, then we can know it and we should make every effort to do so. Jesus said that if you know the truth, it will set you free (John 8:32). So seek the truth and live a life of freedom. But here is the really good stuff: Jesus also said that He is the truth (John 14:6) and consequently He is able to set us free (Galations 5:1). If you really want to know the truth and to live a life of truth, look to Jesus.

For more information about "truth" I suggest you read the book by Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976, 1988, 2007) or drop me a note at richard@exploretruthministries.com.

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Resurrection: Illusion or Reality?

A while back my wife and I rented the move The Prestige. I have always loved watching magicians and I was especially intrigued by this movie. I guess you could say the movie has a special “magic” to it. But we all know that the acts of magicians are really only illusions, they’re not real. The fun is trying to figure out how they do it. But, I never can.

As we approach Easter, I can’t help but think about how for some the resurrection of Jesus is like a magician’s trick. After all, can people really come back to life? Besides, what’s so important about the resurrection anyway that we should even care one way or the other? Here's the thing: What makes the resurrection so important is that it represents what’s really significant about Easter. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:17 that if the resurrection did not happen, then belief in Christ is in vain. In other words, without the resurrection nothing else about the Christian faith is valid. It was the resurrection of Christ that made everything He said the truth. If Jesus really did come back to life, then He must be exactly who He claimed to be – the eternal God in human flesh.

So how do we know that Jesus’ resurrection really happened? How can we be certain that this is not just some illusion? First, we know it happened because His tomb was empty. This was never denied by anyone at that time. If the tomb was occupied, the authorities would have produced a body to disprove the Apostle’s claims.

There is also a preponderance of other evidence that point to the validity of the resurrection. Here is just a sampling of that evidence:

* The guards would have been killed if the body had been stolen.
* The disciples would not have allowed themselves to be beaten, imprisoned, and killed for something they knew was a lie.
* Over 500 people claimed to have seen Jesus after the resurrection.
* There are several accounts of the claims for the resurrection from non-biblical sources.
* The first witnesses were women, who in the first century weren’t considered credible witnesses; therefore, the writers of the Bible would not have used them to perpetuate a lie.

The most important proof of the resurrection, however, was the radically changed lives of the disciples and others after their encounter with the risen Jesus. One of these people was James the half-brother of Jesus. He considered Jesus to be delusionary during His earthy ministry but after encountering the risen Jesus, James became a radical Christ-follower even to the point of death.

Another and for me the most important example of a life changing encounter with the risen Jesus was that experienced by a man named Saul who later became the Apostle Paul. You see, he had not been a disciple of Jesus. He had been a disciple of the respected Rabbi Gamaliel who was part of the group of Jewish leaders who orchestrated the death of Jesus. Yet, after his encounter with the risen Jesus, Paul, like James, became a radical Christ-follower even to the point of death. This is why Paul could make such a profound and definitive statement about the importance of the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15:17.

Here’s the truth: There is no magic or illusion involved with the resurrection of Jesus. It happened just as Jesus, Himself, said it would. He, therefore, is exactly who He claimed Himself to be – the eternal God in human flesh. This Easter set aside some time away from the bunnies, eggs, and baskets to reflect on this truth.

The risen Jesus still provides life changing encounters with people and He wants to do that with you. If you would like to know more about how you can have a life changing encounter with Jesus, drop me a note at richard@exploretruthministries.com. Have a blessed Resurrection Day!

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Whatever happened to ethics in America?

Ethics deals with what is morally right and wrong. In all societies, ethics form the “yardstick” for the application of human life. They determine what is right and wrong. In short, they determine the morals by which people live. Without them, people fail to do what they really should. We can see this today throughout our society, especially with the most recent financial crisis. It seems that many of our financial leaders have lost their sense of ethics and as a result care more about how to get the most for themselves than doing what is right for society as a whole. So how did we get into this mess?

One of the major reasons there is a dampening understanding of ethics and morality in America today is because we have placed far too great an emphasis on society and culture as the ethical source. In order for humanity to have morals it must have an unchanging reference point upon which to base them. Otherwise morality, like humanity, will change and be applied based upon the self interest of the person or persons in power. Morals would be based on opinions. Any measurement of what is right or wrong would be just someone’s opinion and may or may not be acceptable to anyone else. This is much of the problem we face today. We are living a moral code based upon opinions. As we can see, this simply doesn't work.

I would like to offer you another option, one which I believe is far better. You see, since we are created in God’s image, we have a built in moral compass if we would only use it. It's called the Moral Law and it should really be the absolute reference point for all of humanity. Every culture has a sense that certain things are just morally wrong. For example, every culture believes murder is wrong although its understanding of what constitutes murder may be entirely different. Basically, the signpost that directs us to the Moral Law is the simple question, “How would I like to be treated in this situation?” We know how we should treat others because we know how we want to be treated. Even those who engage in torture know that they don't want to be tortured.

Former atheist turned Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, said it best when he said: “As an atheist my argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 45)

So how do we know there is a Moral Law? Here are a few things that point us to that conclusion:

1. We react to wrongs done to us. How do we know what was done was really wrong?
2. We wouldn’t know there was injustice unless justice existed.
3. Real moral disagreements wouldn’t be possible without the Moral Law. We couldn’t determine whether it was Mother Teresa or Hitler who represented the better person.
4. We must have something to relate to in order to have something relative.
5. If there is no Moral Law, then we wouldn't make excuses for breaking it.
6. If there is no moral absolute, then how would we know if the world was getting worse or better.

The truth is there is a moral code/law programmed into each of us. It may be flawed because of sin, but it is there none the less. It couldn’t come from humanity or else we could not ever know that there is such a thing as right or wrong. You see, there must be an absolute right that transcends humanity, or we would not have any way of knowing that anything is ever wrong! Therefore, this moral law/sense of right and wrong must come from an absolute lawgiver – God. If our nation, its leaders, and its people want to regain an ethical perspective towards life and live out moral principles, then we must learn to listen and follow God and that moral compass God has programmed within us. And we must make decisions and take actions towards others based upon how we would want them to act towards us. I think this is what Jesus had in mind in Luke 6:31 when He said, "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why Does God Allow Evil?

One of the age old questions that Christians have had to face is why an all-good and all-powerful God allows evil to exist. On the surface, this seems to be a contradiction with God’s character. The Bible is clear, God is all-good (Ps. 100:5 & Ps. 145:8-9) and all-powerful (Ps. 147:5, Jer. 32:17 & Mk. 10:27). Therefore, why does He allow evil? Is it because He created it? If so, then why? If not, since He is all-powerful, then why doesn’t He eliminate it? These seem to be legitimate questions.

The argument unfolds in four stages. If God exists, and desires things to be all-good, and is all-powerful so He can get what he desires, then evil should not exist. If God exists and desires only good yet evil does exist, then God can’t be all-powerful because He doesn’t get what He desires. If God exists and is truly all-powerful yet evil exists too, then God must desire evil to exist and can’t be all-good. If we define “God” as all-powerful and all-good and yet evil exists, then the “God” we have defined does not exist. There may be a God but He can be neither all-powerful nor all-good. But the Bible teaches that God is all-powerful and all-good. So how can we successfully address this dilemma?

The answer is not nearly as difficult as you might expect. The starting point is to define what good and evil is. According to theologian Norman Geisler, evil does not really exist as a separate entity. There is only good and the absence of good. Evil is not an eternal principle that exists outside of God. It is also not a thing or substance. It is a lack of good and only God represents the fullness of “good”. Evil then represents a "deprivation" of the goodness of God. It is not a substance – it is a corruption of the goodness of God. It is not a thing; it is the lack of something – goodness. And that goodness is measured by God and only God. Just as darkness is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of good. This doesn’t mean that evil is not real. It is very real. It is not an actual thing but it is the corruption of an actual thing (goodness) therefore that corruption exists and is real as long as there is some goodness to be corrupted.

Keep in mind that it is impossible for total evil to exist. Since evil is the absence of good then if something was totally evil, it would be without any goodness and therefore, it would be nothing. A garment that is totally moth eaten is nonexistent. It can only be a moth eaten garment as long as the garment exists. The fact that evil is present points directly to the existence of God for without God and His goodness, we would not even know that there is such a concept as evil. There would be nothing with which to find a reference point. That fact that we can know evil points us to the existence of God.

So here’s the thing: God did not create evil but He does allow it to exist. How can this be so? It all comes down to how God’s goodness gets to be corrupted. In the final analysis, everything centers on free will. In His sovereignty, God has ordained that humanity be allowed to exercise free will. We can choose God’s goodness or reject God’s goodness. In doing so, we determine the degree of evil that is to exist. The only way that God can totally eliminate this corruption of His perfect goodness is to no longer permit free will.

So why does God permit free will? That is a matter of love. You see, there can be no love without free will. Love must be chosen not dictated. God is love and He desires for us to have a loving relationship with Him but that requires that He permit us to choose to love Him. We can not love without choice and if God was to force His love upon us it would be rape not love. Therefore, the existence of God’s perfect goodness in the lives of people and the world in which they live is contingent on man’s free will. God allowed for the chance that evil could exist because His desire is to have an eternal loving relationship with humanity. Evil does not have to exist but it does because we choose something other than God’s goodness. God is responsible for making evil possible but we are the ones guity for making it real.

But God has chosen love over everything. He has chosen to love us unconditionally and to trump our corruption of His goodness through the cross. God’s desire is for us to choose Him and His goodness through exercising love – to love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. The degree to which we choose to do so, will work against the corruption of God’s goodness that we know as evil.

So back to our four stage argument we outlined earlier. The premise was that an all-good and all-powerful God could not exist if evil was present. But the fallacy of that deduction is that it fails to consider the fact that God is also all-loving and His love overrides everything. Since evil is the corruption of God’s goodness, it can only exist if God is good and it is dependent on the exercising of our free will. But it is the ability to exercise our free will that provides for the possibility of aligning ourselves with God’s ultimate and overriding Will – to have a loving relationship with us based on our choice to love Him even if it is an imperfect love on our part. Therefore, God’s desire is not simply for everything to be good but for the obtainment of goodness through His perfect love and our choice to engage in a loving relationship with Him.

Ok, maybe at this point you are wondering about all the so called natural disasters like Katrina that create evil in this world? Yes, our free will may impact moral evil but come on; surely our free will doesn’t impact natural calamities. After all, these are “acts of God” so God must be the cause of physical evil. The answer to this question is the same as before. All evil, including natural disasters, result from free will. You see, Adam and Eve freely chose to sin and the result of that sin is a fallen and flawed world where hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. occur (Gen. 3, Rom.8). The difference is that this fallen world must continue until Christ returns (Rev. 21-22) but evil in the lives of people does not. Not only that, but free will also brought into the world the evil and even physical suffering that comes from demonic forces as well. Satan and His fallen angels chose to rebel and as a result, they were cast out of heaven. The suffering in, of, and from this world comes from the evil produced by freely choosing something other then the goodness of God. It never was God’s intent for His creation to experience evil. His desire is for His creation to experience the goodness of His love.

Ultimately, the only way to eliminate evil is to either eliminate free will or eliminate all of fallen humanity. If God does either, His ultimate will of love can not be achieved to the extend that God has planned. But here’s the good news, God will overcome evil and establish a perfect world where only love prevails. When will this happen? If you are a five point Calvinist that would be when all of those with whom God has chosen to establish His loving relationship with have chosen Him. If you’re not a diehard Calvinist, it may be when the entire world and every people group have had the chance to choose God. Maybe it is both. Either way, the fact remains that God has a plan to overcome evil and the fullness of the implementation of that plan is coming. In the meantime, we can minimize evil in this world by choosing and helping others to likewise choose a closer relationship with God. Evil will be defeated but it can also be overcome right now if the world would choose Christ.

For more information about God and evil read the books by Doug Powell, Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006) and Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Acedemic, 1999).

Dr. Richard Tompkins