Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Problem of Evil

There are five basic approaches taken by theologians to resolve the problem of evil. The first considers God as not powerful enough to conquer or eliminate evil. This approach is expressed as one of two manifestations. Arminians see God sovereignly limiting His own powers to allow for the existence of evil while dualists see evil as eternally co-existent with God and therefore equally as powerful. Either view sees God as finite and impotent concerning evil. Both see God as incapable of holding the thread which suspended the sinner over the pit in Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.

Instead of limiting God’s power, the second approach maligns God’s knowledge. They claim that if God had known man would have chosen evil, He would have acted to prevent it. As with all Arminian views, in the quest for the unfettered free will of man, man’s freedom is lost. Following the logic of the open theists posited in Greg Boyd’s God of the Possible, God would have destroyed or not even created man had He not been surprised by the fact man would rebel against Him. According to their line of thinking, there is no way He would have made the mistake of creating Lucifer had He known then what He knows now.

A third approach for resolving the problem of evil is to limit or redefine God’s goodness. As opposed to the Arminian views espoused above, this is the view of the Hyper-Calvinist. Ironically, Hyper-Calvinist views were not even held by the namesake of the system, John Calvin. As is the case with most extreme theologies, the original beliefs were distilled and distorted by the originator’s later disciples. This view credits God as not only allowing evil, but creating it. The system destroys God’s goodness by making Him the author of sin and evil.

Another basic approach is to deny the presence of evil altogether. Whereas earlier mentioned approaches had dualistic characteristics, this one is distinctly monistic. As with many eastern religions, evil is seen as an illusion that can be overcome by inward reflection. Like the cave dweller in Plato’s Republic, what we see in the world is merely shadows or forms of the transcendent ideal.

The final approach is consistent with reality, but more importantly, the Bible. The ultimate resolution of the sin problem is eschatological. Erickson sees evil as a necessary possibility for creatures to truly be responsible. Notice he avoids making God the author of sin by using the descriptor, “possibility.” To say that evil is necessary pits God as the positive pole of a dualistic universe and removes the hope of an eternity free from evil. Man without the responsibility to choose between obedience or rebellion is less than man – he is an automaton. Man as the sole arbitrator of good and evil is more than man – he is autonomous. Neither extreme is true. God, in His sovereignty, gives man the responsibility to choose between good and evil. God's sovereign plan includes and is over all human choices from before the foundation of the world. His plan encompassed the fact that man would rebel to the point of brutally killing His Son, yet He loved man enough to create him anyway. Man’s depraved choices have warranted God placing a curse upon the earth. Briars, thorns, disease, storms, and natural disasters are a result of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Each individual sin committed from that time forward has resulted in manifold pain and suffering. The cumulative weight of the sins of mankind coupled with the curse God placed upon the earth combine to explain all forms of sin and evil in the world today. When looked at in that light, it is miraculous that there is any good and beauty in the world at all. God’s grace is amazing!

Read more »

Monday, July 5, 2010


One of the many facts the testimony of Scripture attests to is the sovereignty of God. God’s sovereignty is manifest in His governing activity and His providential dealings with man. The fact that God providentially interacts with His creation results primarily in two things. First, history has purpose and meaning. In all other non-theistic world religions, history has no meaning. It is seen either as an endless cycle, or perfectionist vortex, or as a meaningless drone of nothingness with no beginning or ending. When God is seen as sovereign, time is part of His creation. As part of creation separate and distinct from God, it cannot be eternal as He is – it must have a beginning and ending. History can then be seen as having a purpose. It is “His story.” History teaches us who God is, who man is, the nature of sin, and the interaction between God and man. Second, God’s governing activity shows us that God is in control. As creator, God is acknowledged as the one who established things the way they originally were prior to the curse. As sustainer, God is the one who perpetually controls the actions of His creation. Solely based upon natural revelation, early philosophers termed this governing activity as the “unmoved mover.” Even our finite minds could grasp the concept of an ethereal gearbox in which an unmoved mover cranked on one end to elicit a robotic response on the other. What our minds cannot comprehend, however, is the role man’s free will and responsibility play. That is why God’s governing activity is seen as sovereignty rather than fatalism.

God accomplishes His sovereign governing activity either by performing supernatural acts or by using the laws and forces of nature. The Bible records many instances of God displaying His sovereignty supernaturally. At times, He has stepped out of the normal course of events to do an act that would otherwise be inexplicable. For example, when Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding feast, there could be no logical explanation other than the performance of a miracle. It is physically impossible for H2O to transform into fermented fruit juice. Likewise, it is physically impossible for life to return to a body that has lain dead, moldering in the grave for three days. Not only does God accomplish His sovereign governing activity using supernatural acts, He uses laws and forces of nature. Examples include the plagues of locusts, flies, and frogs brought upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians prior to the Israelite Exodus. Another example is God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is possible God used some type of volcanic eruption or other seismic activity as the means to accomplish His prescribed ends.

The extent of God’s sovereign governing activity is limitless. God is sovereign over all creation. As such, there is nothing beyond God’s control. Included in God’s span of control are the good and evil acts of individuals. It is within His prerogative to restrain man from committing sin if He so desires. He also permits sin to occur. Since God is not the author of sin, and sin is an existential verity, if God is omnipotent, He must allow His creatures the freedom to sin. Though He doesn’t cause sin, He uses its results to accomplish His foreordained will and determines the result of sinful actions. Finally, He determines boundaries and sets limits to sin and sinful behavior.

Understanding the fact that God is sovereignly governing His creation is the only true ground for hope. The only hope of the humanist is progressivism, but progressivism is irrational because it is contrary to the testimony of history. Conversely, the testimony of Scripture heralds the faithfulness of God and the obvious comfort provided by His sovereignty. True peace results in the divinely bequeathed comprehension that God is in control of everything and will work all things together for good to them that love Him and are the called according to His purpose.

Read more »

Friday, July 2, 2010

Things I learned at the 2010 SBC Annual Meeting

Who deserves to hear the Gospel?

A disturbing trend in some very influential circles in our convention is the attitude that no one deserves to hear the Gospel twice while there are those who have yet to hear it once. That might sound good. It is certainly emotionally moving and motivating. That mantra is being used to stir people’s hearts for the nations. But at what cost?

Jesus charged us with reaching the nations. Since our inception, Southern Baptists have always been passionate about joining together to reach the nations for Christ—it’s in our DNA. But we have also always been passionate about joining together to reach our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for Christ. I have never seen an area that we can afford to neglect with the Gospel. Have most of our resources as Southern Baptists been concentrated in the American Southeast? Yes. Is that area so evangelized that we can now pull out and martial our resources in another area? No.

During the period of time commonly referred to as the First Great Awakening, there was no place that was more evangelized than what is now the American Northeast. In the subsequent years, evangelism efforts focused almost exclusively outside of that area. The thought was, everybody has already heard and responded to the Gospel in that area—now it’s time to move on to those who have not been evangelized. Within a generation, the area which had been so fervently on-fire for Christ was now what historians call, “The Burned-over District”. The decline continued to the point that the American Northeast is now one of the most secular regions of the Western World.

I am not arguing against our emphasis on getting the Gospel to unreached people groups. I applaud this emphasis. But Jesus has not called us to an either/or mentality. He has called us to be witnesses everywhere at all times. That includes those who have never heard the Gospel as well as those who have heard and rejected it 1,000 times. Remember that God still sent Isaiah to preach to Israel—even though He told him that they would continually reject his message. The entire history of God’s relationship with Israel is one of them rejecting Him, but God continually sending His prophets to them. I thank God that He has never had the attitude that, “No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice as long as there are those who have never heard it once.” God has never had that attitude and neither should we.

Read more »

Thursday, July 1, 2010

God's Gift, Given this Day

On this day a few years ago (I won’t say how many), God blessed our world with one of His greatest masterpieces.

He made her beautiful
It goes beyond the physical beauty that all can see. She has a beautiful spirit that is evident in the way she cares for me, our family and our church.

He made her tender
She has the softness of skin and tenderness of heart that can only be forged in the fire of motherhood, then tempered with the trials of first being a military wife, then a pastor’s wife.

He made her wise
Her wisdom is not a worldly wisdom. It is not measured in books she has written or titles she has earned. Her wisdom is a godly wisdom. It shines in both the simplest and the most difficult circumstances. It keeps me grounded, guides our children and stabilizes our home and church.

He made her selfless
I have never seen a better example of the mind of Christ described in Philippians 2:1-11. Her wants, needs and desires always come behind the desires of others. She selflessly followed me all over the world during my 20-year Air Force career. She built and sustained our family during an 8-year period while I was gone from home 300 days per year. She eagerly serves me, her children and her church before she even thinks about herself.

He made her pure and lovely
Despite difficult circumstances in her life that have destroyed many people, she has always had a pure and lovely heart. She sees the best in people when I tend toward suspicion. When cynicism rears its ugly head in my life, her loveliness melts it away. One day, as my bride, I will confidently be able to present her to our Lord in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she is holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27).

He made her smart
She is an accountant—keeping the books at our home. She is a teacher—at one time homeschooling three children. She is a master chef—feeding our often unappreciative, ravenous crew. She is an executive assistant—flawlessly handling calls, correspondence and scheduling. She is a beautician, physician, psychologist, counselor, transportation director, efficiency engineer, quartermaster, motivational speaker, and manager. Most people only have the brains to handle one job. She is smart enough to handle all of those and more.

And what I thank God for most of all—He made her mine
I will never fully understand God’s goodness and grace toward me. All I know is that I have a living, breathing example of it waking up beside me every morning.

Happy birthday Miranda!

Read more »

Things I learned at the 2010 SBC Annual Meeting

Messengers must be allowed to vote online.

The only way for our convention to accurately reflect the will of the majority of our churches is to recognize the voice of every possible messenger. It is no secret that over 80% of our churches run less than 200 in average Sunday morning attendance. Because of the outstanding Cooperative Program giving of most small churches, we are allowed the same number of messengers as even the largest mega-churches. The problem is, most small churches and small church messengers cannot afford to send their full contingency of messengers. For example, due to our CP giving, Brushfork Baptist Church is allowed to send a full slate of messengers to the convention. Financial considerations only allowed us to send me and my wife. Even though we will only allow the church to pay for our hotel, it is a significant expense that causes a strain on our finances. Similarly, the gas, food and other expenses that my wife and I choose to pay put a tremendous strain on our personal finances. Many small churches and churches with bi-vocational pastors are simply not able to absorb that cost and send any messengers.

I believe that each messenger from each of our 40,000-plus churches needs to have every opportunity to participate in the business of our convention. Technology provides that opportunity.

Read more »

Search Deep Riches