Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why Do 'Bad' Things Happen to 'Good' People?

Why Do “Bad” Things Happen To “Good” People? – July 18, 2010 – Agape Chinese Baptist Church

NOTE: This is a message preached in Edmonton last Sunday. Please do not think that this is all that could be said (or that I would say) about the issue. However, there are, as always, time considerations when preaching.

Why do bad things happen to good people? This is one of the most haunting questions facing modern man. Why does such seemingly senseless tragedy strike such seemingly innocent victims? Why are many babies born with deformities or handicaps? Why are young women in southern Sudan raped and beaten by armed militia from the north? Why are girls in Thailand sold into sexual slavery to provide a few months income for their families and to satisfy the perversions of Western tourists? Why does a massive tsunami wipe out hundreds of villages and take the lives of hundreds of thousands of southeast Asians?

To put the question in another way, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, why is there such deep and senseless evil and suffering on earth? David Hume, the eighteenth century atheist philosopher, stated the logical problem of evil when he inquired about God, "Is He willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"

According to Hume, and many skeptics since, an all-powerful and loving God would not permit the existence of the evil that we perceive and experience. Indeed, since Hume’s day, the ‘problem of evil’, as it is known, has been the strongest challenge to Christian belief, and a key argument put forward in favor of atheism. The argument is basically thus: ‘if the Christian God exists, then evil would not be. Evil is, therefore God is not.’

We all struggle to understand why God allows horrible things to happen to people who do not deserve it. This afternoon, my desire is to ponder this issue together. I will argue that we can come to a better understanding of why bad things happen to good people by identifying the who, the why, the what, and the how of evil and suffering. Who causes evil? Why does Almighty God allow evil? What does God do about evil? And How are we to respond to evil? As we search out an understanding of the who, why, what, and how of evil, I pray that God will illuminate our hearts and minds.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Can We Trust the New Testament Texts?

The Textual Integrity of the New Testament
Sunday July 18, 2010 lesson – Tawa. J. Anderson
Agape Chinese Baptist Church

NOTE: This is a recap of the Sunday school lesson notes that I shared this past Sunday at Agape Chinese Baptist Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Enjoy! The posting is similar to an earlier one on textual integrity.

I. RECAP from last week: Six reasons to trust the Gospels’ historical reliability

II. The Importance of Textual Integrity

As an evangelical Christian, I acknowledge the New Testament (and the Old Testament, but that’s another story) as the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God – God’s revelation of His character, actions, purpose, and calling to His people. The text of the New Testament is central to our Christian faith. For example, we talked last week about the historical reliability of the New Testament Gospels. One of the reasons we can trust their accuracy is that they were written very soon after the death and resurrection of Christ. Eyewitnesses – both Christian and non-Christian – were present who could (and would) have contradicted any false historical claims contained in the Gospels. This is all fine and good – but what if the text, the words, of the Gospels were changed after their initial writing? That is, what if the words that we have in Matthew’s Gospel are not an accurate reflection of what Matthew actually wrote, but have been radically changed by later scribes and copyists? The words would no longer be a reflection of early eyewitness testimony.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

The Reliability of the New Testament Gospels
Sunday July 11, 2010 – Agape Chinese Baptist Church Sunday school lesson

I. Introduction

Matthew 6:19-23 is one of my favorite Gospel passages. In it, Jesus says:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

This passage is powerful on many levels. First, it is a reminder that the things of God are more valuable than the things of this earth. You can’t take your earthly treasure with you when you die. Material things – the stuff we all pursue to greater or lesser degrees – are transitory. That nice Toyota Camry in the parking lot could be stolen during church this morning, or vandalized at home tomorrow, or demolished in an accident on Tuesday. For all I know, my precious piano in our Louisville townhouse has already been stolen or wrecked in our absence. Stuff doesn’t last. Spiritual treasures do. Second, the passage conveys the power of our worldview. The lens through which we view the world – our proverbial eyes in verses 22 and 23 – determines a great deal of how things affect us. If one’s eyes, one’s worldview, entirely discounts the very possibility of God’s existence, then no amount of evidence and argumentation will be able to change their mind. If the light within, the worldview, is darkness, how great indeed is the darkness that ensues. And third, the passage warns that we cannot serve both God and Money. Materialism is not a new temptation and snare for Christians – it pervaded 1st century Judaism and Christianity as well. God’s people have always been tempted to chase after the fruits of materialism instead of the fruits of the Spirit. This is nothing new. Jesus simply warns us, starkly, that we must make our choice. Money will master us unless we allow God to be our Master. It cannot be both ways. Indeed, this little passage carries deep, rich teaching for followers of Jesus Christ.

But have you ever wondered – did Jesus really say that? That is, are those words, which appear in my Bible as red-letter words, truly words which were uttered by Jesus of Nazareth? In the 1980s, a group of scholars known as the Jesus Seminar began publishing their theory that the vast majority of words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels do not actually originate in Jesus. They argue that the Gospels are unreliable, theologically-colored texts. In their view, “the historical Jesus has been overlaid by Christian legend, myth, and metaphysics and thus scarcely resembled the Christ figure presented in the Gospels and worshiped by the church today.” In their professional democratic opinion, less than 20% of Jesus’ words recorded in the Gospels are understood to be actually his own words; the rest are legendary additions.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Redemption of Suffering Through Resurrection

The following is the text from a biblical meditation on suffering and the resurrection of Christ, a message preached through a translator (the multi-talented and always-wonderful Rosalyn Lo) in the Cantonese worship service at Edmonton Chinese Baptist Church.

NOTE: Particularly acute observers will note that this post bears a striking resemblance to an earlier blog entry ... I am indeed aware of that.

July 11, 2010 – Suffering in Light of the Resurrection of Christ

Suffering is a universal fact of human life. Everybody experiences pain, loneliness, grief, or sorrow - in one way or another, we all hurt. As a teenaged atheist, I despised suffering, particularly because it seemed pointless. There was no hope in the midst of grief, no redemption in the midst of pain; nothing to mitigate or offset the severity of suffering. However, coming to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord has changed the way that I perceive suffering. This morning, I want to suggest to you that the resurrection of Jesus Christ informs and transforms our experience of grief, sickness, pain, “senseless” tragedy, and persecution - suffering is redeemed and made comprehensible through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The empty tomb assures our own bodily resurrection and eternal life and gives us an eternal perspective that looks beyond our temporal situation.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Consumerism and the Gospel

Reader's Digest had an interesting article about Canadians and their spending habits during the current recession. The basic argument in the article (July 2010 edition, pages 58-62) is that the restraint shown during the recession (lower spending) was a temporary blip which will be reversed once people feel more secure in their jobs again. The thriftiness of our grandparents' generation, which survived through the Great Depression by reducing discretionary spending, value shopping, and do-it-yourself, appears to be dead and gone.

There are all kinds of significant spiritual and moral issues that arise from the article.