Intro: In the book, Hero’s and Monsters, a little boy named Josh finds himself shaken, cold and afraid in a dark night corn field where his drunken father , who is also his hero, has just crashed the family car. All is still. He wonders if he will live the night, when a nearby scarecrow hops off his stake, steps onto the hood of the car, and begins to talk to him.
“I tell him it feels like the whole world has gone horribly wrong. He says that in a way, it has. He says something is horribly wrong with the world, with life, and with people too. But then he says the world and life and people aren’t total horror. He says there is good in the world, and good in people. He reminds me of laughter, of love, and of fishing. He reminds me of the way the sky looks at sunset, sort of watercolored, round scoops of cherry iece cream clouds floating above, the air so sugary you want to roll your tongue over it. He reminds me of times when everything feels perfect, and then he promises that I’ll get more moments like that, moments that he says will feel bigger and higher, moments that will carry me through. …[he says] that all thieves can be generous, and that even the kindest person hates. Every human, he says, is both an arsonist and an architect, marked with the thumbprint of good and the claws of evil, breathing both death and life into the world. Human’s, he says, are both the stench and the aroma.”
1. The Problem is Evil.
It’s no secret that as good as our world is, the messed up parts really hurt us and we long for a solution. In fact, the hurt goes so deep that we can all see that the messed up nature of the world is more than happenstance. We call it evil
A) Read the papers and you see evil in the world. Political payoffs, terrorist bombings, raps, abuse, illegal drug use, people cheating on each other.
Maybe you’ve witnessed the bitter pain of a child watchings his parents divorce, blaming himself, promising frantically to behave better. (Adults call themselves incompatible, but incompatible is a synonym for immaturity.)
That’s one obvious level of mess: Human’s choose to do bad things.
B) There’s another level of mess to, that feels just as evil: tragedy.
Some of us in this church family have lived through discovering friends who ended their lives with a gun to the head, or in some deep desperation took their life in some other way.
We’ve know people, newly married, a child on the way, who have a young spouse die, and the same thing at later stages of life, but always too early.
Some of us have lost children in infancy, or in car accidents.
Something inside tells us this is not the way life should be. Something tells us tragedies are also just plain evil.
C) There’s another level of mess. We call them acts of God because they are surely beyond our control.
Forest fires wipe out whole towns. I heard the other day that the famous Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs is no more due to wild fires. Hurricanes change a city like New Orleans for years to come. Tsunamis sweep villages full of people out to sea as in Japan most recently.
Sometimes we call these natural disasters, but nothing about them feels natural. They feel evil.
D) There’s also physical decay. More than a few of us have body parts that have been replaced. Pace makers because our hearts don’t tick at the right rate anymore. New knee joints because we damaged ours in football, or they just wore out faster than our friends.
Some people call it a furniture problem: you know, our chest drops into our drawers.
Scientists call this entropy.
Either way, physical decay just doesn’t seem right. Why is the world so messed up. It hurts!
2. The Problem is Us!
Why is the world so messed up? Ask the man with the Eastern Immaterialist worldview and he will have to tell you that according to his philosophy, the world is not messed up. It is all illusion. Just accept the balance of things.
Ask the woman with the Western Materialist worldview and she will have to tell you that according to her philosophy, evil is OK, it’s just part of the evolution of material, going nowhere. Crime is OK too as long as it works. (She should tell you that, but she won’t. Atheistic materialism can not be actually lived out.)
Non-christian worldviews, if they acknowledge evil at all, say that it impinges on man through the world.
(He had a dysfunctional childhood, so his slaughter of 15 girls isn’t really his fault.)
Ask the Christian and she will say
A. Evil came and comes into the world through man. The problem is us.
Sin is any attitude or action that goes against the design of God. It all started when the first moral beings decided to go against God.
Read the Heidelberg catechism Q6-7 here…
This is what Jesus is saying in Mark 7
v15, 18-21 In the context here, the Pharisees are complaining about Jesus not following their church traditions, not washing hands, or eating the right foods. According to thier system, that made you spiritually unclean as well, just like stealing, or murder.
Jesus explains the spiritual dirt doesn’t get on you from your environment. It’s already in you. It’s in everyone. Evil is a condition of humanity.
This raises another difficulty for the non-christian to explain. Evolutionary atheists claim that humans are basically good. Not evil. But they can’t account for the good anymore than they can complain about the bad.
Where does sharing and giving come from in the “survival of the fittest” worldview of evolution? How do you account for people who hold Special Olympics and praise the unfit who would never survive on their own? How do you account for love, for someone dying for someone else?
I know a man in Iowa who as a child was beaten so severely in the head with a rolling pin that today he lacks a complete ear on one side. and his skull is misshapen. But instead of becoming a criminal, this boy became a pastor. Good and evil are within the human being.
B. Death is the consequence of every sin. Romans 6:23
The Bible is abundantly clear on this.
This means of course, that everytime you or I sin, it damages something –either me, another person, my relationship to God, the world, or something else.
Think of it like this. We all sense that life is what should be. Death is the definition of “messed up”. Death is the way it shouldn’t be. All death is the direct or indirect result of sin. Could be ours, could be our neighbors, could be our parents, could be the evil that permeates all the world on account of all the people since time began.
C. All forms of death are a result of this human sin.
You mean the fact that an earthquake levels a whole village is as much a result of human evil as the 911 destruction of the World Trade Center? Yes I do. It’s a part of death in a fallen world, isn’t it?
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, Rom.8:19-20
That’s talking about Genesis 3 when God declared that because of Adam’s sin, the ground itself, the creation would also shoulder the curse that comes with sin.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23* Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Rom.8:22-23
Did you notice? The land, the stars, the rivers, our bodies –their all suffering, waiting for redemption from the effects of sin.
When humans sin, it affects the universe.
There would be no tidal waves if humans didn’t sin. There would be no droughts if there wasn’t human sin. The planet is broken, its fallen. There would be no deformed babies, or tumors if the world wasn’t a fallen, sin-stained place.
If men and women did not cross the lines God layed out, we would never need prozac or lexipro, and we would not need fire-engines or coastguard cutters.
Why is the world messed up? The Christian answer is “because I am.”
3. The Problem is solved!
All this however is not terribly helpful to know, if that was the end of the story. The humanist has a very short story in his world view:
We just are and we don’t know why.
It’s not all good and there’s no solution.
But for the Christian it isn’t that way.
How do you be happy in a world full of brokenness and pain? How do you find joy on a fallen planet? How do we find peace in a world so absent of shalom?
A. Live by the rest of God’s story: The Christian worldview is a four part history of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.
The materialist philosophy has Creation and Fall with a bit of a twist; we’re here some how, and it’s bad. That’s all. Then we just “are not here” or “pass into the void” of oblivion.
The Eastern mystic has a system not much different; we’re here but it’s not really so, lets pass into the void and stop being.
The Christ-follower’s worldview has Redemption and Restoration. And it’s all coherent. Augustine put it like this:
Creation: able to sin
Fall: unable to not sin
Redemption: able to not sin
Restoration: unable to sin
B. The Christian Faith is the only world view that proclaims a satisfying solution the the Problem of Evil!
You may deny evil like the Western humanist, or disbelieve is like the Eastern pantheist -but will all live with it anyway. Consider the Christian alternative which accounts for the reality of evil and good while the others cannot.
Best of all, the Christian world view is good news. Evil can be undone, ended, halted, and reversed.
Lets pause a moment on Redemption. That simple world captures the life of Christ in his Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. All true Christians hold to a literally reality of all four. You’ll look at them in more detail in the participant guides. Suffice it to say at this point, that Christianity proclaims a coherent reality of man’s evil, requiring the punishment of man, but hope for life beyond that punishment. All of this is accomplished in the person of Jesus, full God, full man, killed for sin, powerful enough to rise, live and rule anyway.
Some folks call themselves Christian but don’t think God actually became a man. They do assert there was a Jesus who got murdered but not that he came back to life, or that there is a heaven he returned to. This is not orthodox christianity but merely a religion that uses part of the story.
C. Here’s what sets Christianity apart in understanding life; human life is a subplot of a greater story, namely the reality of God, his creation, and his love for his created. It is God’s story that makes your story hopeful.
”[be] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Php 1:6
Flip in your Bible to Romans 8:28: You see, when you do receive God’s grace, when you are “in Christ” everything about you destiny changes. Even the evils are now working for you!
Someone you know gets leukemia, but God is not finished.
You’re overwhelmed with depression, but in the end, even that is your servant. God is not finished.
Now I’m not saying that everything IS good. Someone you love gets addicted. You destroy your marriage and your children in the process. These aren’t good things. But as a Christian you have the right to expect that God will use even these for something good in you. He isn’t finished with his good story.
D. Rest in God’s love.
Don’t tell yourself God is mad at you and getting you back in the messes of the world. A lot of things are merely side-effects of sin. God’s lets fallen people make choices. He lets your parents make choices. And your kids.
Make choices that cooperate with his healing. But always remember his love is never absent for a moment.
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? (Even the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39, NLT.
Why is the world so messed up? Back to Josh, in the silent cornfield crashed car. He’s having a visit from God, though he doesn’t know it then. The gentle scarecrow goes on explaining to the little boy:
He (Jack) tells me that this world is actually two worlds combined, one world of everthing that I hope for and the other world of nothing that I want. This world, he says, is the merging of wonder and horror, of twisted and beautiful, comedy and tragedy, a place where both exist and mingle every day. He says that this world is part heaven, and part hell, and that every second inside of me and out, I’m standing at the convergence of the two, at the corner of damned and divine.”
We will face all kinds of hardships, you and I. It is the world we’re in and the world we made. It’s a fallen planet. But God wants to be on your side, and he has the power to insure that even the worst of things will be conformed to his good plan for you.