|Bangor University: Apparently beautiful location that I have not physically visited.|
A, B, C, D: Problem Of Evil Interviews
2003 The Problem of Evil: Anglican and Baptist Perspectives: MPhil thesis, Bangor University
Also presented here with the complete thesis:
My interviewees were:
Rvd. David Adams, Anglican Church of Canada
Rvd. Daniel Clark, Curate, Holy Trinity Anglican Church Manchester, England
Rvd. Stephen W. Felkner, All Saints Anglican Church, Fountain Valley, California
Dr. Wayne Mouritzen, Retired, Former Presbyterian Minister, now a Lay Anglican
Rvd. Tony Roache, Priest-in-charge, Parish of Ringley with Prestolee in the Diocese of Manchester, Church of England
Dr. Kenton C. Anderson, Dean, Northwest Baptist Seminary, Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches, British Columbia
William Badke, Associate Professor, Associate Librarian, Associated Canadian Theological Schools, Langley, British Columbia
Dr. Sydney Page, Professor of New Testament, Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Dr. Larry Perkins, Associated Canadian Theological Schools, Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia
Dr. Brian Rapske, Professor of New Testament. Associated Canadian Theological Schools, Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia
A person within your denomination comes to you with a serious problem, for example the death of his/her small child.
What would be one key Christian concept to mention that you would see as vital?
With this question, I was looking for a pragmatic use of the Christian faith in times of crisis, in other words, a Christian concept offered to effect real hope in a time of tragedy.
Rvd. David Adams mentioned: " The resurrection. Without it, we have no hope." Adams (2002).
Dr. Wayne Mouritzen stated: "I would refer to Paul’s teachings of the resurrection from 1st Corinthians 15. However, I believe sympathy is most needed." Mouritzen (2002).
I agree that the concept of resurrection is vital at a time of tragic death because this alone is God’s ultimate remedy and reversal of the tragedy. It is not immediate but promised in Scripture.
The Rvd. Daniel Clark stated: The Incarnation. Through that we understand that God himself has felt and experienced our human pain–he has known isolation, grief, betrayal, mocking, torture, false accusations and illegal trial, death. He has been a refugee and known taunting at his ‘dubious’ parentage, etc. It is because God knows our pain, knows what life is like, that we can draw comfort from him in times of distress. Clark (2002).
This would be another important concept at a time of tragedy. Through Christ’s resurrection, humanity will be resurrected, but through Christ’s Incarnation, Christ experienced the human experience, and thus is a suitable high priest to be sought by sufferers. He is relatable to human beings because he took suffering upon himself.
Dr. Kenton Anderson stressed that God was in control. He stated: "I would emphasize the sovereignty and the grace of God. While there is mystery in this, God can be trusted to act according to his character and his word, and in ways that are good for his people." Anderson (2002).
William Badke mentioned the sovereignty of God as well. He stated: I would work on the concept of the sovereignty of God, along these lines – If God is sovereign, we feel we can blame him for what has happened. That may be the case, but the alternative is that what happened came about by chance. While the alternative may be more comforting than believing that God actually allowed the problem and could have stopped it, in fact we are left with a universe in which there is no one to help us, no one in control. We thus abandon the only God who can give us the strength to carry on. The dark side (if you want to see it as such) of acknowledging that God is sovereign, is that you have to allow him to work in ways that seem disastrous to you, that seem cruel and unfair. It’s here that we have to balance God’s sovereignty with his love, his justice and his knowledge which is vastly superior to us. We may never know why certain things happen, but God calls on us to trust his working in our lives, regardless of how things look to us. The alternative is to have a universe in which there are no explanations and only chaos rules. Badke (2002).
Mr. Badke makes an interesting point. Because God is sovereign, Christians must take comfort in that, even in times of personal suffering and devastation because the alternative, a creation without God, is one without meaning. With a faith in a sovereign God who wills suffering, at least we know that tragedy has a purpose and it is not just part of a chaotic meaningless existence.
Dr. Sydney Page stated: "I would try to encourage them not to see this as God punishing them, but as a consequence of living in a fallen world (i.e., I would not play down the evil character of what had happened, but affirm the rightness of being angry that such things happen)." Page (2002).
He also notes the importance of showing God’s love and compassion, and that this type of discussion should not take place immediately in the wake of a tragedy. This is good advice, as people do need time to adjust to their new situation, and I think a healthy anger with suffering and tragedy can at times assist in healing. The suppression of hurt and anger is not healthy. It is better to be honest in anger with God and to seek his understanding in times of great turmoil.
Dr. Larry Perkins noted that: "I think that one concept to share would be our confidence in the goodness of God." Perkins (2002).
Dr. Brian Rapske stated that he "would gently and confidently assert the greatness of God based upon Scriptures, and resist the temptation to ‘redefine’ greatness to something less (which is idolatry)." Rapske (2002).
Both comments are valid. God is still good; he has demonstrated saving goodwill to humanity through Christ. Also, he is still great, and not unable or totally unwilling to prevent tragedy. Instead, at times, he uses human tragedy and suffering for his own good purposes.
Rvd. Stephen Felkner stated concerning this question and this type of suffering: "The context is eternity. The extreme pain of this world makes no sense outside of this context." Felkner (2002).
God’s plans indeed do not make sense unless everlasting life, and the healing that will take place within it are considered when dealing with pain and suffering.
Is it still valid to claim that Christ’s death, resurrection, and culminated Kingdom of God are the only ultimate practical remedies for human suffering?
Dr. Perkins stated: In my view, yes. Human suffering has a variety of ‘causes’, some of which are cosmic (i.e. the result of the Fall), and some of which are due to human ignorance or foolishness. When we enter into relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the cosmic causes of suffering hold promise of eternal reversal and the immediate issues of ignorance and foolishness have some remedy in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Suffering for the sake of our testimony for Jesus will continue in this world as part of the spiritual struggle between God and Satan. Perkins (2002).
This is very much in line with concepts in my thesis. Jesus Christ and his work, and the culminated Kingdom of God is the only hope of recapitulation for creation.
Rvd. Tony Roache stated concerning this question: The question begs another, has it ever been valid to claim that Christ’s death, resurrection and culminated kingdom of God are the only ultimate practical remedies for human suffering? If the answer is yes or no then it is still yes or no because nothing has changed in the last two thousand years to change that. The key word has got to be ultimate. Whatever human remedies we may devise will pass away and be made useless by the creativity of those wanting to perpetrate evil. The remedy once again has got to be our security in the knowledge of God’s justice. We must be able to trust God to do what is right and just with those who behave inhumanly. Yes, I think that it is still valid to claim that Christ’s death, resurrection and culminated kingdom of God are the only ultimate practical remedies for human suffering. Roache (2002).
This is good reasoning, since if Christ’s work was ever effective, this would not change over time. Christ was either God incarnate, and capable of completing the work required to save souls, or he was not. A Theology which tries to keep in touch with modern thinking by denying the exclusivity of Christ’s saving work for humanity will find that it cannot deal with "the creativity of those wanting to perpetrate evil". Christ is the ultimate remedy to the problem of evil and suffering because he is ultimate God.
Dr. Rapske states the salvation provided by Christ is holistic, designed to save the entire human being. Yes! Peter’s response to the Sanhedrin continues to be right: "Salvation is found in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12; cf. 3:11-16) Remember, however, that Peter said, "what I have I give you"—this is a compassionate Christian response to the whole man in all of his need. The "remedy" is both "practical" (the crippled man was healed) and "ultimate" (it had interest in his salvation)—the healing and the salvation are conjoined. Rapske (2002).
A problem for humanity is that the wait for this complete healing within a culminated Kingdom of God is very painful. Every person on this planet suffers and dies, and this can lead to bitterness against God as this temporal life can be full of disappointments. An everlasting perspective is thus vital.
Rvd. Felkner stated: " The ‘Rub’ is that eternal perspective. God’s way’s are not our ways. His timing is not our timing. And the more we recreate him in our own image, as this age loves to do, the less comfort we shall receive." Felkner (2002).
Is the Christian Church, in light of its many denominations and churches, significantly impacting western society with evil and suffering?
Rvd. Tony Roache stated: No, as a body corporate the Christian Church cannot have a significant impact on society in anything. Its role is to introduce individual people to God and nurture the growing relationship. This relationship will change lives and perspectives, thus changing that person as a member of society. The more changed persons there are in society the more society will be changed. Roache (2002).
Dr. Page stated: "Although it gives hope to countless individuals, I do not see a significant impact on the larger society." Page (2002).
Dr. Anderson stated: "Probably not. We have a bad reputation in the world at large around these kind of issues. People within and without the church have a hard time with theodicy." Anderson (2002).
Dr. Perkins stated: I think this is very difficult to estimate. As individuals are included within a church family some help, both conceptual and practical becomes available to help people understand evil and its relationship to suffering and thereby to confront it and cope with it. Further, as the Holy Spirit indwells a person and schools them in the ways of God, the individual becomes more able to recognize evil and resist its insidious ways. I believe this does happen by and large through the local church. Perkins (2002).
My thinking with this question is that there likely has been limited impact from the church on western society. The lack of unity with all the denominations in one purpose is perhaps a difficulty in reaching the world for Christ. A definite problem is that the Gospel message has been challenged in some denominations and churches by liberal theology. I do agree with Dr. Perkins though that the local church today is still used by the Holy Spirit to battle all kinds of evil. Perhaps we as Christian should not be too discouraged when society does not seem to be changing for the better. I think it must be remembered that the message of Christ is not popular to a world that loves darkness. The Christian Church is always going to be unpopular and this is because it offers the light of Christ for a world that loves darkness. The world can always use the sin and lack of unity within the Church for a reason not to become a disciple of Christ, but this is wrong reasoning. Christianity is a faith which claims that people need grace to know God. It is not a faith that claims to have representatives beyond a fault.
However, from a human perspective, if the claims of Christ are true then the sins of his followers are not valid reasons to keep nonbelievers from becoming interested in following Jesus. It must be added that love is crucial for the Christian Church to have impact by demonstrating understanding for suffering people in society.
Dr. Mouritzen stated that: "Many denominations have little meaning. Look for a common thread." Mouritzen (2002).
People within the Christian Church must show love and understanding to those outside in order to be given the opportunity to have an impact with the Gospel message.
What could be done to make Christian Churches more effective and relevant in regards to dealing with evil in society?
Rvd. David Adams stated that it was important for the church to reclaim its heritage. "Once we know our heritage that is in Christ we are children of God, we are winners. It is harder to participate in the losing strategies of the world around us." Adams (2002).
In other words, once we who are in Christ realize what we have, and who we are in Christ, following many of the ideas of the world seems useless. By claiming the great heritage believers have in Christ, they can become a more effective help for a world that has no real remedy to the problem of evil.
The Rvd. Daniel Clark stated: We should be unafraid to condemn evil when we see it. Often that will mean simply being committed to biblical truth, and proclaiming biblical truth boldly, without compromise. That can operate on a variety of levels. As we do that, the Spirit will convict us as individual Christians where we are guilty of evil actions and thoughts (let's not pretend we're not part of the problem!). We will also be emboldened to challenge evil where we see it - the parents who see their children acting wrongly; the employee who sees books being fiddled at work or false claims being put in; the board member or chief exec etc who sees some injustice in their workplace policy or practice; the voter who writes to their MP or PM or President about national policies which discriminate or act for injustice etc. We all have voices we can use to challenge - to be the 'prophetic word' in our society, calling it back to following God's laws. Those who are Christians whose voices can be heard at higher levels (eg people high up in large companies, in politics, high up in church hierarchies etc) especially need the support and encouragement to take a stand. Clark (2002).
This is a good point and connects to the previous one. Not only should Christians know who and what they are in Christ and live accordingly in their private lives, but they should take positive steps with this knowledge. This would include standing up for truth in the world, and standing up against evil. If the Christian Church would like to be more effective in dealing with evil and suffering in our society, then individual Christians and Christian groups must be willing to take positions which may at times be controversial, but are the right position to take based on Biblical standards and reason. As
Rvd. Tony Roache stated: What would help in bringing about a changed society is the developing of a mindset in our congregations that encouraged determination in speaking out against wrongdoing. Today we seem to be fairly apathetic in most areas of life that don’t threaten our own personal security. Our own personal call within the kingdom of God is a call to love each other. That must include looking out for the welfare of our neighbour whether local or global. Roache (2002).
As well, as the need for Christians to stand up against evil in society, the idea was also given that those in the Church must be willing to share their suffering with those in the world, for the sake of witness. Rvd. Stephen Felkner stated that: "We don’t want to suffer. We don’t want to offer up our suffering as ‘a sweet smelling savor’." Felkner (2002).
When the Christian Church, corporately and individually, can be seen as a participant in suffering, it will be a more effective witness to the world. Yes, the Church is to stand up for Biblical standards and denounce evil, and be separate from the world philosophically, but it can relate in that Christian individuals do suffer under evil. This sharing of suffering can provide a positive Christian witness.
ADAMS, D. Rvd. (2002) Anglican Church of Canada.
ANDERSON, K.C. Dr. (2002) Dean, Northwest Baptist Seminary, Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches, Langley, British Columbia.
BADKE, W. (2002) Associate Professor, Associate Librarian, Associated Canadian Theological Schools, Langley, British Columbia.
CLARK, D. Rvd. (2002) Curate, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Manchester England.
FELKNER, S.W. Rvd. (2002) All Saints Anglican Church, Fountain Valley, California.
MOURITZEN, W. Dr. (2002) Retired, Former Presbyterian Minister, now an Anglican presbyter.
PAGE, S. Dr. (2002) Professor of New Testament, Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta.
PERKINS, L. Dr. (2002) Associated Canadian Theological Schools, Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia.
RAPSKE, B. Dr. (2002) Professor of New Testament, Associated Canadian Theological Schools, Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia.
ROACHE, T. Rvd. (2002) Priest-in-charge, Parish of Ringley with Prestolee in the Diocese of Manchester, Church of England.