The Problem Of Evil: A Pastoral Approach Part Two: The Good News -- By: W. Gary Phillips

Journal: Michigan Theological Journal
Volume: MTJ 02:2 (Fall 1991)
Article: The Problem Of Evil: A Pastoral Approach Part Two: The Good News
Author: W. Gary Phillips


The Problem Of Evil: A Pastoral Approach
Part Two: The Good News

W. Gary Phillips

How should the believer deal with suffering and tragedy that occurs in life? This article evaluates the theories, issues, and problems concerning this perplexing, volatile subject from a practical, scriptural viewpoint. Although the believer will not always know why he suffers, this article will show that there is sufficient truth to deal with the pain.

In the last issue we dealt with several inadequate solutions to the problem of evil. Their inadequacies arise because they are internally unbiblical, inconsistent and/or emotionally unsatisfactory. Answers to tough problems are very rarely simple. Not all of the evidence is yet in. Further, we are interpreting our world (which is affected by sin) with our minds (also affected by sin). Consequently we may expect to wrestle deeply with questions for which we do not, at present, have all the information. Still, a biblical world view contributes scriptural perspectives which not only explain the presence of evil but offer realistic hope for the future.

Manageable Suffering

Suffering is easiest to understand when it comes as the direct result of a moral choice to sin. This is in contrast to Eastern religions which define manageable suffering as a result of bad karma — of sins committed in a past life. Under this view, a small child who dies horribly is simply receiving justice. Eastern apologists point out that when a small child who has not committed sins in this life dies, the child’s karmic debt (from past lives) is paid and the child is automatically reborn into a higher state.

When David sinned by committing both adultery and

murder, the judgment that befell him did not cause him theological anguish. He knew that God is both just and loving. However, not all suffering can be described as having an immediate cause/effect relationship with sin. Jesus’ disciples were wide of the mark when they made this assumption, as were Job’s friends centuries earlier (Job 42:7; John 9:1–2).

Suffering is also understandable when it can be seen to promote greater good. James 1 offers encouragement to believers who endure trials because of the spiritual fruit which results from suffering. Paul’s chronic suffering from his “thorn” was for a similar purpose (2 Cor 12:7–9). When Joseph was enslaved, he certainly did not view what happened as a good, yet later in his life comforted his brothers, “You meant evil...

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