Posts Tagged ‘evil’

Robertson’s Haiti comment is animistic, not Christian

January 16, 2010

Earthquakes and other natural disasters often invite theological explanations. I’m not at all confident that we can offer definitive explanations for why specific events happen – and Pat Robertson’s claim that Haiti is “cursed by the Devil” is not only overly specific as an explanation, but it also reflects a lack of faith in Jesus’ power over all creation and his defeat of evil spiritual powers.

This month’s Briefing contained a brief piece, called “Animism, alive and well” claiming that much Western Christianity was adopting the perspective of animism in its fascination with demonic spiritual powers affecting certain geographical locations or peoples. Sometimes you hear Christians speaking of “generational curses” that need to be lifted. It’s similar to Robertson’s claim that the nation of Haiti is cursed because of an alleged pact they made with the Devil. It’s not Christianity.

I now know that no place on earth is beyond God’s authority. If people who know and love Jesus live there, it becomes a place of blessing. God rules over every place (Ps 22:28, 103:19). Jesus won the victory over every power in his death and resurrection (Eph 3:15-23, Col 2:13-15, Rom 8:31-39). When God’s Spirit lives in you, no other spirit can muscle in (Matt 12:22-30). No special words or actions are necessary to overcome evil; all that is needed is the blood of Jesus and the word of the gospel (Rev 12:11).

Let’s pray that Christians in Haiti will be able to show the hope the gospel gives and the love of God to those around them, rather than worrying about curses, voodoo, demons or spirits which have already been defeated in Christ, and which can never triumph over his church.

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Lunchbar: Why is there evil in the world?

October 3, 2009

Lunchbar yesterday at Nottingham was on the question of “why is there evil in the world?”

To begin with, our speaker made the observation that this was not only a question which was frequently asked by people now, but also a question which is asked in the Bible itself:

“How long, LORD, must I call for help,
   but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’
   but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
   Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?”
(Habbakuk 1:2-3a)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me,
   so far from the words of my groaning?”

(Psalm 22:1)

It is not a question which is wrong to ask – but we must then be prepared to hear the answer God gives to us. Sometimes the question can be phrased or asked in such a way as to prejudge the answer; more as a means of asserting that God can’t possibly exist, given the existence of evil, than as a means of finding out why God does what He does.

The first point to be made to this kind of way of asking the question is that the existence of evil doesn’t disprove the existence of God. Rather than spending a lot of time on this point, our speaker asked us to look at things from the opposite perspective: if there is no God, then we must take a naturalistic view of the world, within which moral outrage doesn’t make sense. Without saying that atheists are incapable of morality, it is fair to say that in a God-less universe it is hard to find a firm basis for the kind of moral standards we implicitly believe exist when we express outrage at injustice or violence. We sense that there is something absolutely wrong with some of the things that happen that is more fundamental than the fact that we dislike or disapprove of them. “Murder is wrong” is a statement that cannot be reduced down to “I dislike murder”. While not watertight as an argument, perhaps this sense that morality is more than our preferences is a clue or a nudge in the direction of God existing. So the existence of evil is not necessarily an argument about whether God exists or not, but about whether he is just.

The next point to be made is that God will bring judgement upon evil. God hates evil. He will not let it remain forever. There will be justice. As Luke records Paul saying:

“[God] has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.”
(Acts 17:31a)

The Christian can know that God will be vindicated and seen to be just because all evil will be judged and dealt with. Everyone who does evil will have their day in the divine courtroom.

So why is justice not done now? Why does God appear to defer his judgement while evil appears to have free reign? A large part of the answer to that question is given by the New Testament’s claim that

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”
(2Peter 3:9)

The problem with evil for us is that none of us are perfect. We might say we want God to act to eradicate all evil in the world right now, but then who among us would survive? We might not all be as bad as we could be, but we are all radically evil and imperfect; we wrong ourselves, and others, and God. So part of the reason why God appears to defer his justice for some future day is to allow us time to repent and be saved. But God will not wait forever – as we have seen, the biblical writers’ answer to the charge that God is not just relies upon the fact that he will judge the world in righteousness at some point in the future. So the existence of evil in the world can and should be a stimulus to take the judgement of God seriously, and to recognise our need to repent. As Luke records:

“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’
(Luke 13:1-5)