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Note: This is the fourth installment of a seven part series we will feature on Sunday on the important topic of a Christian Theology of Health by Dr. Joshua Trock.  His Twitter account can be found here.

Idolatry and Our Bodies 

“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Cor 6:19-20 

Gym rats. Cardio queens. Muscles Heads. CrossFit fanatics. In my previous articles I began each premise with the assumption that most of us are not eating healthy or exercising on a regular basis. I put focus on showing why there is a theological “ought” behind glorifying God with our health that included eating right and exercising. In this article I want to shift focus to the other extreme where a Christian may be taking healthy eating, sports and fitness to the point of idolatry. My hope is that we can use the same biblical grounding I put forth in my previous articles to create a robust guide to curb either extreme and to help align our thinking and planning to best glorify God with the freedom that we have regarding our health.  

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The Transforming Power of the Gospel Jerry Bridges

Jerry Bridges.  The Transforming Power of the Gospel.  Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, December 22nd 2011. 192 pp.

I finished this book four days before the death of the author, Jerry Bridges.   Upon finishing this book I thought to myself, “I’m glad that such a saint is alive and with us.”  Of course Jerry Bridges has been promoted to glory and in heaven.  I am glad that by God’s grace and providence He ordained Jerry Bridges to author this book.  This book has become one of my favorite book on how the Gospel fuel our sanctification and currently is my recommendations to those struggling with holiness.

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This is by the Lutheran Satire.  It’s a paraody of a recent BuzzFeed Video that’s titled “I’m a Christian but…”

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identity

Can genuine followers of Christ (those Born Again) retain their previous “socio-religious identity”?  What are we to make of those who argue that a Born Again follower of Christ can retain their “socio-religious identity”?

The following is an interaction with an essay that was printed in Perspective on the World Christian Movement by Rebecca Lewis titled “Insider Movements: Retaining Identity and Preserving Community:”

My Thoughts

I can appreciate Lewis’ spirit of trying not to set our own obstacles against people coming to a salvific knowledge of Jesus Christ.  One thing I think that we can learn from her article is the fact that our church plant effort should take advantage of natural relations and association that already exist before our Gospel effort, rather than ignore them or worst, unnecessarily undermine them.

But I do have more problems with Lewis’ article and the Insider movement that overshadow what is helpful.

First is with Lewis’ talks about the difference between planting churches and implanting churches; the former she describe as bringing strangers together to become a new family of God in the church while the latter instead incorporates believers within their pre-existing family or community network that provide the spiritual fellowship for each other (Lewis, 674).  I have a hard time seeing that strong of a distinction between the two and don’t find as strong of a distinction between planting and implanting a church: I think Lewis here would be naïve to think that church plants are not trying to utilize pre-existing relationship for building a community of faith with those that are already part of one’s network such as family members, co-workers, friends, etc.  Moreover I believe she fail to take into account Jesus’ own teaching that the reality is that sometime those within one’s own family would reject the Gospel for Jesus Himself said “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:53, NIV). It seems that when rubber meets the road even implanting a church would face the same difficulty as planting a church.

 

Secondly, she leaves the term “socio-religious identity” vague; and more importantly she does not define “religion.”  It is important for her to define her term especially when she says things such as the “insider movements affirm that people do not have to go through the religion of Christianity” while also saying “they only need to go through Jesus Christ to enter God’s family” (Lewis, 675).  Another example is her statement that “Paul warned that to add religious conversion to following Christ would nullify the Gospel” (Lewis, 675).  She believes “religion” is pit against the Gospel when she cited Ephesians 3:6 but the verse does not contrast Gospel with “religion.” (And remember since she didn’t define it, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint how exactly this verse is against “religion.”).

 

Thirdly, while she does try to give a theological argument to justify that we do not need to make people accept the “Christian religion,” I think her argument fail to account for unique instances of redemptive history.  Lewis raised the question “Does one have to go through Christianity to enter God’s family?  The New Testament addresses a nearly identifical question: ‘Do all believers in Jesus Christ have to go through Judaism in order to enter God’s family?’” (Lewis, 674).  But I think the parallel with whether one has to be a “Christian” and that of going through “Judaism” breaks down because biblically the Gospel message that we often describe with the term “Christianity” is God’s way of allowing people (specifically non-Jews, the Gentiles) to enter God’s family.  I also believe there is a leap in logic when she merely assumed that Christianity parallel Judaism as a religion that one can ignore as a passing relic of the pass because God is doing a new thing; I think it is question-begging.

 

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19 Gifts of the Spirit

 Available on Amazon

I am sure that I am not the first to notice the irony of how today’s discussion about spiritual gifts provoke much debate and division over the “sign gifts” when the Bible teaches that all spiritual gifts are for the edification and the unity of the Church as a whole.  Not that I’m against these discussions and debates—one must study the issue biblically and come away with some kind of conviction while intelligently disagreeing with the other side.  But for some, the only spiritual gifts they know (or think they know) are tongues, prophecy and healing.  If you want to understand spiritual gifts beyond the debate of whether or not sign gifts are for today, here is a practical book that you might find beneficial.

I don’t much about the author beforehand but he appears not to be a Charismatic/Pentecostal and is more of a Cessasionist.  Nevertheless Charismatics will benefit from this book also.  He covers nineteen spiritual gifts (the title of the book gives that away) in which he explains what the gifts are, examples of such gifts practiced in the Bible or in church history and also some word of what the practical application of the gifts looks like.  The book is geared towards Christians understanding and identifying their spiritual gifts (the author even devoted one whole chapter towards the end of the book of how to identify one’s spiritual gifts).  He breaks down these spiritual gifts into three main categories which the book addresses in the following order:  speaking, serving and sign.  I thought it was wise of the author to present them in that order, with the speaking being foundational for the rest since it involves communicating the Word of God.  Also, it puts the most controversial last, which avoid instantly turning off any hyper-sensitive continuationists.  I think for the most part, most continuationists would agree and find the bulk of the author’s exposition on the speaking and serving gifts non-controversial.

I enjoyed reading the book for my own edification.  Given past experience of hearing people teach on this subject (some can be so quick to jump to the application of spiritual gifts without understanding what it means first) I was pleasantly surprised at how the author handled Bible verses in an informed manner that gave justice to the text.  I also recommended this book to a brother in my church who was working on a lesson outline on spiritual gifts as part of a larger church membership class.  This book was just the right fit, being biblical, non-technical, and practical.

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Equilibrist businessman

Many of us would object to having a non-medical personnel perform surgery on us.  We would object because that person is not a doctor.  That person does not have a comprehensive knowledge or the expertise concerning the human body and how to operate on a human body.   We would cry “foul” if a non-medical personnel was to operate on our body.

If one would object or discriminate against a non-medical personnel performing surgery on someone, how much more should we object to a watered-down Gospel presentation?  As Christians, we are to be like spiritual surgeons who operate carefully upon the soul of a unbeliever.  The lost are made in the “image and likeness” of God (Gen. 1:26).  Hence, as human beings and subjects created in God’s image, we should be motivated to be benevolent.  To be benevolent in this context is to provide the biblical Gospel and to proclaim the Gospel presentation holistically.  We must stray away from the false Gospel messages that are preached (Gal. 1:6-9).  To do so would not be an act of benevolence, but an act of malevolence. We need to study to show ourselves approved (2 Tim. 2:15).

Beloved, as Christians, when it comes to the Gospel, we must also not bar the Gospel because there are many lost souls that are inches away from being abandoned by God in Hell for all eternity.  At this moment, they are walking in a rotten covering or on a thin rope that will one day collapse or rip.  They are in a state of stupor and we are to be their sirens that God will use to awaken them from their sin and sentence of condemnation.

Some of you may ask, “How do I share the Gospel biblically, holistically, and effectively to these spiritually dead people.  Before I do that, I would like to first belabor the point that there are many methods on how to share, but the content of the Gospel truths are inherently the same.  For example, the death, burial, and resurrection, must be included, but most importantly, the penal substitution which is the heart of the Gospel must be catapulted.

Penal substitution is a serious doctrine that must be exalted amongst all Christians.   Penal substitution can be defined in this manner,

That the Lord Jesus Christ died for us—a shameful death, bearing our curse, enduring our pain, suffering the wrath of his own Father in our place—has been the wellspring of the hope of countless Christians throughout the ages.”[1]

This statement is referred to as “penal substitution,” “substitutionary atonement,” or “vicarious atonement.”

To separate oneself from this doctrine of penal substitution is to sever oneself from orthodoxy.  To substitute rationalism for penal substitution is to make oneself hostile before a Holy God.  Since this doctrine is the heartbeat of the Gospel, which is linked to salvation, one must preach this truth with passion and integrity.  One must not substitute rationalism, lies, or inaccuracies for the sacred and biblical understanding of penal substitution.  The cross was bloody and costly.  We must not cheapen it in order to satisfy the masses.  Without penal substitution, repentance, faith, and the submission to Christ’s Lordship would bring no hope or joy for the unbeliever.  Without penal substitution,  man is utterly hopeless.

In order to have an effective  and non-esoteric Gospel message that people would appreciate, here is what a  good Gospel presentation implements.  Some of the concepts can also be used for counseling.  Let us also remember that only the Holy Spirit can change a dead person.  We could preach clearly and skillfully, but without the Holy Spirit, that person will not change (John 3:8; Titus 3:5).

  1. The Character of God
    • Holiness:
      • Hab. 1:13-16, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor On those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?”
      • Isa. 59:2, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
        • Ps. 11:7, “For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; The upright will behold His face.”
        • Is. 5:16, “But the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, And the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness.’
        • Ps. 7:11-12, “God is a righteous judge,/And a God who has indignation every day./If a man does not repent,/ He will sharpen His sword; /He has bent His bow and made it ready.
  2. The Depravity and Condemnation of Man
    • Falls short of God’s glory
      • Rom. 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
    • Man is unclean
      • Isa. 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
  3. The Perfect Logic of God
    • The wicked and righteous in God’s eyes.
      • Proverbs 17:15, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,/Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.”
      • Gen 18:25, “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”
  4. God’s Action:  Much has been said regarding man’s condition before God’s holiness and justice.  We will now transition to the hope for mankind: God’s love.
    • God’s love
      • 1 John 4:8-10, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
      • Rom. 3:23-26, “For allhave sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
    • The resurrection of Christ
      • Rom. 4:25, “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”
      • 1 Cor. 15:1-8, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
  5. Man Needs to Respond
    • Repentance
      • Man needs to recognize and confess his sins and submit to the Lordship of Christ
        • Psalm 51:3-4, “For I know my transgressions,/ And my sin is ever before me./Against You, You only, I have sinned/And done what is evil in Your sight,/So that You are justified when You speak/And blameless when You judge.”
      • Recognition of sin leads to a hatred of sin
        • 2 Cor. 7:10-11, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter.”
      • Recognition and confession of sin is not the primary evidence, but one must turn from sin
        • Matthew 3:10, “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
        • Gal. 5:24, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (cf. vv. 19-23).
    • Faith
      • Faith is to trust and rely upon the promises, works of Christ, and Lordship of Christ.
        • Rom. 4:21, “And being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”
        • John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
        • Rom. 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Now to make this evangelism discussion somewhat applicable, three days ago, on a Sunday morning, a stranger from Florida sat in the foyer of the church.  He was asking for resources that will help him get back home to Florida.  I also asked him a few questions about his background.  I learned that the young man appeared to have a difficult life.  Apparently, he was adopted and was in and out from incarceration, had a baby out of wedlock; and made some poor decisions in life.  As I was listening to him, I couldn’t help but to continue the discussion while service was still live.  He reminded me of some of the Christian rappers like Lecrae and others who had a similar life like he did.  By God’s grace, God transferred Lecrae and some of the other Christian rappers from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light (Col. 1:13-14).

To cut the story short, I swung the pendulum from the natural and into the spiritual.  I was now engaging spiritual warfare by discussion spiritual issues.  By God’s grace,  I was able to share the gospel message that exhibited candor.  I shared the law, the holiness of God, justice of God, and many of the other facets I mentioned earlier.

The young man was receptive the whole time.  And as the conversation continued, he told me that he is concerned about the direction of his life.  I asked him, “Will you please think about what I said today when you leave this church, and he responded by saying, “I am thinking about it right now.”  It appears that the Lord was convicting him.  He further noted that no one never shared the Gospel to him the way I did.  This is not to boast or to get glory for myself, but what I believe he was referring to was the biblical Gospel that was presented to him that Sunday morning in its fullness; and along with its sobering and solemn implications concerning man’s eternity.

At the end of the conversation, I handed the young man a Bible and invited him to our church’s Christmas services.  I am not sure if I will ever see him again or whether he plans to go back to Florida soon, but I am sure glad that God used me to share the Gospel to him that morning.  It was an evangelism encounter that I did not expect that day, but it is a reminder that I need to be ready in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2).  I definetey could sleep well tonight knowing that I did not preach a perverted Gospel message.  I know the Lord is faithful and His Word will not return back void (Is. 55:11).  Please keep him in prayer.  It is my prayer that the Lord will convert him from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light.  Soli deo gloria.

Appendix of Important Terms and Concepts for Evangelism and Counseling

  1. Repentance
    • In the OT, the verb repent (niham) occurs about thirty-five times; and is usually used to signify a contemplated change in God’s dealings with men for good or bad according to his judgment (1 Sam. 15:11, 35; Jonah 3:9-10).  It is also is used to signify that God will not swerve from his announced purpose (1 Sam. 15:15:29; Ps. 110:4; Jer. 4:28). In the NT, the word for repentance is metanoia which means “a change of mind.”  That word metanoia appears twenty-three times in the NT.  What is unique about the word metanoia is that it goes beyond the meaning of having an inner change, but it also involves a turn in direction in one’s life.  In other words, it involves a 360-turn in one’s life.  Grudem defines repentance as follows, “Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ” (Systematic Theology, 713). “Genuine repentance will result in a changed life” (Ibid.).
    • What also must consider what repentance is not.  Repentance is not just feeling bad or sorrowful for the sin one commits, but a sorrow that is according to the will of God that leads to repentance.  In other words, when one understands that his sin is against God, he will repent.  But one who has the sorrow of the world may feel bad for the mistakes he made in life, but he will not feel bad that he sinned against a holy God.  And a person who has the sorrow according to the will of God does not regret the sin he has left.  A person who has regret about leaving his sin shows the reigning idol in his heart still remains.  The idol to exalt one’s pleasure and to satisfy one’s pleasure has prevented many from repenting from his or her sins.  If a person sees God as his greatest joy, he will have godly sorrow and will truly repent.  Please see 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 for more details concerning sorrow of the world and the godly sorrow that is according to God’s will that leads to repentance.
  2. Faith
    • Faith is trusting and relying on God’s promises, the work of Christ; and believing in Christ as Savior and Lord.
    • In terms of the language of faith, there are two key terms that must be understood: pistis and pisteuo.  Let’s first deal with the verbal usage of pistis and pisteuo.  Pistis means “faith,” “trust,” and “belief.”  Pisteuo means to “believe in” and to “have faith in,” and “entrust.”  As for the noun pistis and the verb pisteuo – they are used around 240 times in the New Testament.  If we are to summarize faith, we could see it in three elements.  Just like repentance, faith as well, affects the intellect, emotion, and volition.  It must also be mentioned that faith is not a blind faith in Christianity, but involves the belief in something true; and also includes the idea of personal trust in Christ rather than our self-righteousness.
    • Going back to the three elements, I will just piggy-back off of that and also give you the reformer’s terminology of faith: notitia, assensus, and fiducia.  Nottia signifies an awareness of the facts of the Gospel; assensus signifies the belief that the facts were true; and fiducia signifies a personal confidence and trust.  The first two conveys the idea of facts being true and the last term emphasizes faith in God personally.  Also, just like repentance, faith is also a gift (Eph. 2:8; 1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Tim. 1:14; Heb. 12:2).
    • Scriptural references for faith:
      • Rom. 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
      • John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His [a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
  3. Repentance and Faith Affects the Mind
    • Intellect
      • The sinner should realize that he is sinning before a holy and just God.
    • Emotion
      • There needs to be a zealous hatred for sin and a zealous love for Christ (Jn 4:24).
    • Voliton
      • There needs to be willing desire to fight-off sin and a willing desire to cling to Christ and His Word.
  4. Tests of Assurance Concerning Salvation
    • Walking in the light (1 Jn 1:5-7)
    • Confession of sin (1 Jn 1:8-10)
    • Obedience (1 John 2:3-4)
    • Hatred for the sinful things of the world (1 Jn 2:15-17)
    • Perseverance in right doctrine (1 Jn 2:24-25)
    • Righteousness (1 Jn 3:10)
    • Spirit’s testimony (1 Jn 4:13)
    • Love for the brethren (1 Jn 2:9-11)
    • Discipline (Heb. 12:5-8)
  5. The Way of the Transgressor is Hard
    • Proverbs 13:15, “Good understanding produces favor,/But the way of the treacherous is hard.”
  6. You cannot be forgiven by God unless you are a child of God
    • Eph 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”
  7. Double-Minded Man is Unstable
    • James 1:8, “Being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
  8. There is Only One Way to Live
    • Psalm 1, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
      Nor stand in the path of sinners,
      Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
      But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
      And in His law he meditates day and night.
      He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
      Which yields its fruit in its season
      And its leaf does not wither;
      And in whatever he does, he prospers.

      The wicked are not so,
      But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
      Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
      Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
      For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
      But the way of the wicked will perish.

  9. True Discipleship Tested
    • Luke 14:25-27, “Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

[1] Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 21.

*All Scripture is quoted from New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995); unless otherwise noted.

*Some concepts were adapted from Michael A. Vlach, “Theology III” (Unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2012) and “The Gospel of Jesus Christ,” http://www.heartcrymissionary.com/resources/the-gospel-of-jesus-christ (accessed December 18, 2012).

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shooting

Picture above is taken at Newtown, CT

The Narrative for these past few years in the United States of America seems to be marked by mass murders at school, theaters, etc.  Here is a timeline I got from Los Angeles Times and can be found at Deadliest U.S. Mass Shootings.

  • 1991-2012: “A look back at some of the most not­able mass shoot­ings in re­cent U.S. his­tory: from Killeen, Texas, in 1991 to re­cent ram­pages at a movie theat­er in Au­rora, Colo. and Sikh temple in Wis­con­sin.”
  • Oct. 16, 1991 (Texas): “George Jo Hennard, 35, crashes his pickup truck in­to a Luby’s cafet­er­ia crowded with lunch­time pat­rons and be­gins fir­ing in­dis­crim­in­ately with a semi­auto­mat­ic pis­tol, killing 22 people. Hennard is later found dead of a gun­shot wound in a res­taur­ant re­stroom.”
  • Nov. 1, 1991 (Iowa City, Iowa): “Gang Lu, a gradu­ate stu­dent in phys­ics from China, shoots four people to death at the Uni­versity of Iowa. Lu, who took his own life in the in­cid­ent, was up­set about not get­ting an aca­dem­ic hon­or. The dead in­cluded fac­ulty mem­bers and the stu­dent who had won the hon­or. Two oth­ers were crit­ic­ally wounded.”
  • July 1, 1993 (San Francisco): “Gi­an Luigi Ferri, 55, kills eight people in an of­fice build­ing in San Fran­cisco’s fin­an­cial dis­trict. His ram­page be­gins in the 34th-floor of­fices of Pet­tit & Mar­tin, an in­ter­na­tion­al law firm, and ends in a stair­well between the 29th and 30th floors where he en­coun­ters po­lice and shoots him­self.”
  • Dec. 7, 1993 (Garden City, N.Y.): “Colin Fer­guson shoots and kills six pas­sen­gers and wounds 19 oth­ers on a Long Is­land Rail Road com­muter train be­fore be­ing stopped by oth­er riders. Fer­guson is later sen­tenced to life in pris­on.”
  • March 24, 1998 (Jonesboro, Ark.): “Middle school stu­dents Mitchell John­son and An­drew Golden pull a fire alarm at their school in a small rur­al Arkan­sas com­munity and then open fire on stu­dents and teach­ers us­ing an ar­sen­al they had stashed in the nearby woods. Four stu­dents and a teach­er who tried shield the chil­dren are killed and 10 oth­ers are in­jured. Be­cause of their ages, Mitchell. 13, and An­drew, 11, are sen­tenced to con­fine­ment in a ju­ven­ile fa­cil­ity un­til they turn 21.”
  • April 20, 1999 (Columbine, Colo.): “Eric Har­ris and Dylan Kle­bold, stu­dents at Columbine High, open fire at the school, killing a dozen stu­dents and a teach­er and caus­ing in­jury to two dozen oth­ers be­fore tak­ing their own lives.”
  • July 29, 1999 (Atlanta): “Mark Or­rin Bar­ton, a 44-year-old chem­ist-turned-day trader, strolls in­to two in­vest­ment of­fices and opens fire on fel­low in­vestors and of­fice work­ers. The shoot­ings at All-Tech In­vest­ment and Mo­mentum Se­cur­it­ies Inc., across the street from each oth­er, leave nine people dead and 12 wounded. Bar­ton eludes a man­hunt for six hours be­fore killing him­self.”
  • Sept. 15, 1999 (Fort Worth): “Larry Gene Ash­brook opens fire in­side the crowded chapel of the Wedg­wood Baptist Church. Wor­shipers, think­ing at first that it must be a prank, keep singing. But when they real­ize what is hap­pen­ing, they dive to the floor and scrunch un­der pews, ter­ri­fied and si­lent as the gun­fire con­tin­ues. Sev­en people are killed be­fore Ash­brook takes his own life.”
  • Dec. 26, 2000 (Wakefield, Mass.): “Mi­chael Mc­Der­mott, a 42-year-old soft­ware test­er shoots and kills sev­en co-work­ers at the In­ter­net con­sult­ing firm where he is em­ployed. Mc­Der­mott, who is ar­res­ted at the of­fices of Edge­wa­ter Tech­no­logy Inc., ap­par­ently was en­raged be­cause his salary was about to be gar­nished to sat­is­fy tax claims by the In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice. He uses three weapons in his at­tack.”
  • March 5, 2001 (Santee, Calif.): “Santana High stu­dent Charles An­drew Wil­li­ams, 15, fatally shoots two class­mates and wounds 13 oth­ers on the cam­pus. He is ap­pre­hen­ded by po­lice in the school bath­room, where his at­tack began. Wil­li­ams is later sen­tenced to 50 years to life.”
  • July 8, 2003 (Meridian, Miss.): “Doug Wil­li­ams, 48, a pro­duc­tion as­sembly­man for 19 years at Lock­heed Mar­tin Aero­naut­ics Co., goes on a ram­page at the de­fense plant, fatally shoot­ing five and wound­ing nine be­fore tak­ing his own life with a shot­gun.”
  • March 21, 2005 (Red Lake Indian Reservation, Minn.): “Jef­frey Weise, a 16-year-old stu­dent at Red Lake High School fatally shoots five stu­dents, a teach­er, and a se­cur­ity guard and wounds sev­en oth­ers be­fore tak­ing his own life. Be­fore his ram­page at Red Lake, Weise kills his grand­fath­er and his grand­fath­er’s com­pan­ion at their home on the Red Lake In­di­an Re­ser­va­tion.”
  • Oct. 2, 2006 (Nickel Mines, Pa.): “Charles Carl Roberts IV, a milk truck driver armed with a small ar­sen­al, bursts in­to a one-room school­house and kills five Amish girls. He kills him­self as po­lice storm the build­ing.”
  • Feb. 12, 2007 (Salt Lake City): “Sule­j­man Talovic, 18, wear­ing a trench­coat and car­ry­ing a shot­gun, sprays a pop­u­lar Salt Lake City shop­ping mall. Wit­nesses say he dis­plays no emo­tion while killing five people and wound­ing four oth­ers. An off-duty po­lice of­ficer eat­ing din­ner with his wife ex­changes gun­fire with the Bos­ni­an refugee be­fore oth­er of­ficers ar­rive and fatally wound Talovic.”
  • April 16, 2007 (Blacksburg, Va): “Seung-hui Cho, a 23-year-old Vir­gin­ia Tech seni­or, opens fire on cam­pus, killing 32 people in a dorm and an aca­dem­ic build­ing in at­tacks more than two hours apart. Cho takes his life after the second in­cid­ent.”
  • Dec. 5, 2007 (Omaha): “Robert Hawkins, 19, sprays an Omaha shop­ping mall with gun­fire as hol­i­day shop­pers scat­ter in ter­ror. He kills eight people and wounds four oth­ers be­fore tak­ing his own life. Au­thor­it­ies re­port he left sev­er­al sui­cide notes.”
  • Feb. 14, 2008 (Dekalb, Ill.): “Steven Kazmier­czak, dressed all in black, steps on stage in a lec­ture hall at North­ern Illinois Uni­versity and opens fire on a geo­logy class. Five stu­dents are killed and 16 wounded be­fore Kazmier­czak kills him­self on the lec­ture hall stage.”
  • April 3, 2009 (Binghamton, N.Y.): “Jiverly Voong, 41, shoots and kills 13 people and ser­i­ously wounds four oth­ers be­fore ap­par­ently com­mit­ting sui­cide at the Amer­ic­an Civic Assn., an im­mig­ra­tion ser­vices cen­ter, in Bing­hamton, N.Y.”
  • Nov. 5, 2009 (Ft. Hood, Texas): “Maj. Nid­al Ma­lik Has­an, an Army psy­chi­at­rist, al­legedly shoots and kills 13 people and in­jures 32 oth­ers in a ram­page at Ft. Hood, where he is based. Au­thor­it­ies al­lege that Has­an was ex­chan­ging emails with Muslim ex­trem­ists in­clud­ing Amer­ic­an-born rad­ic­al An­war Aw­laki.”
  • Aug. 3 2010 (Manchester, Conn.): “Omar S. Thornton, 34, a driver for Hart­ford Dis­trib­ut­ors, emerges from a dis­cip­lin­ary hear­ing and be­gins shoot­ing, killing eight people at the fam­ily-owned dis­trib­ut­or­ship and then him­self.”
  • Jan. 8, 2011 (Tucson, Ariz.): “Jared Lee Lough­ner, 22, al­legedly shoots Ari­zona Rep. Gab­ri­elle Gif­fords in the head dur­ing a meet-and-greet with con­stitu­ents at a Tuc­son su­per­mar­ket. Six people are killed and 11 oth­ers wounded. Lough­ner is iden­ti­fied by wit­nesses as the gun­man who fired at close range with semi­auto­mat­ic pis­tol be­fore be­ing tackled.”
  • Oct. 12, 2011 (Seal Beach, Calif.): “Scott Dekraai, 41, ap­par­ently en­raged over a cus­tody dis­pute, al­legedly walks in­to a crowded Seal Beach hair salon where his former wife works and opens fire. Eight people are killed, in­clud­ing a man sit­ting in a truck out­side the salon. An­oth­er per­son is crit­ic­ally wounded. Dekraai has pleaded not guilty in the case.”
  • April 2, 2012 (Oakland, Calif.): “One L. Goh, 43, a former stu­dent at a Oikos Uni­versity, a small Chris­ti­an col­lege, al­legedly opens fire in the middle of a classroom leav­ing sev­en people dead and three wounded.”
  • July 20, 2012 (Aurora, Colo.): “James Holmes, 24, is taken in­to cus­tody in the park­ing lot out­side the Cen­tury 16 movie theat­er after a post-mid­night at­tack in Au­rora, Colo. Holmes al­legedly entered the theat­er through an exit door about half an hour in­to the loc­al premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” He faces charges of of killing 12 people and in­jur­ing 58 oth­ers.”
  • Aug. 5, 2012 (Oak Creek, Wis.): “A gun­man fatally shoots six people at a Sikh temple be­fore he is shot and killed by a po­lice of­ficer. Au­thor­it­ies have iden­ti­fied Wade Mi­chael Page, an Army vet­er­an who was a “psy­cho­lo­gic­al op­er­a­tions spe­cial­ist,” as the gun­man.”
  • Sept. 28, 2012 (Minneapolis, Minn.): “An­drew En­geldinger, 36, breaks in­to a sign com­pany’s of­fices and opens fire, killing the own­er and three oth­ers be­fore turn­ing the gun on him­self. Four oth­ers are wounded.”
  • Oct. 21, 2012 (Brookfield, Wis.): “A shoot­er opens fire in­side the Azana Salon and Spa in Brook­field, Wis., killing three and in­jur­ing at least four oth­ers.”
  • Dec. 14, 2012 (Newtown, Conn.): “De­vel­op­ing story: By late in the day, au­thor­it­ies said that the num­ber of deaths over­all stood at 28, in­clud­ing the shoot­er who was iden­ti­fied as Adam Lanza, 20. One per­son was in­jured.  The vic­tims in­cluded 18 chil­dren and six adults pro­nounced dead at the school, and two pu­pils pro­nounced dead at hos­pit­als. An­oth­er per­son was found dead at a sec­ond­ary crime scene.In emo­tion­al re­marks from the White House, Pres­id­ent Obama wiped away tears. ‘Our hearts are broken today,’ the pres­id­ent said.”

Barack Obama

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Pastor Greg Bahnsen said it best when it comes to evil,

It is important for the Christian to recognize—indeed, to insist upon—the reality and serious nature of evil.  The subject of evil is not simply an intellectual parlor game, a cavalier matter, a whimsical or relativistic choice of looking at things a certain way.  Evil is real.  Evil is ugly.”[1]

On December 14, 2012, Governor Dan Malloy said,

Evil visited this community.”

Evil took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  The murderer goes by the name of Adam Lanza who shot his mother on the face and then went to her classroom to kill around 20 of her students and around 6 more adults.  What he did was evil and diabolical.  It is difficult to express the emotions of the family members who are affected by this evil.  My heart goes out to the families affected by it.

As a father of a young child, I am deeply saddened by what took place at Newtown.  It is tragic that many of the children murdered, will not be able to experience future birthday parties, graduate from school, make ends-meet in order to provide for their loved ones; and will not be able to walk down the aisle with their children.  And it’s because death snatched them away from this earth.  Yesterday, those victims, took their last breathe. In light of the immense carnage that occurred, we must remain resilient because the God that is in control of this world is wise and knows what is good; therefore, I will trust in Him.

At a tragic time like this, I would like to take the time to pray for the family members who have lost their loved ones.  The people who were afflicted by this suffering need our genuine love, prayer, and most importantly, they need our great God, great Savior, and great Lord, Christ Jesus.  He is their only hope at a time where they are experiencing severe anguish that I cannot even begin to comprehend.

It is must be taken into account that death is an enemy that has no remorse, no mercy, no love; and does not discriminate against anyone.  But the death that we can take comfort in, is Christ.  Christ Jesus, died on the cross for sin and resurrected from the dead.  He took our sin and hell; and bore our sin so that those who would run to Him in faith and repentance would have hope.  Although Christ’s death may seem like a paradox to many because an innocent person suffered and died, we should also have hope, because in His death, He brings forth love and reconciliation for the lost, depressed,  hopeless, and the contrite of heart.

The Big Question

As so many lives have been taken and with so many emotions running across the minds and hearts of people at Newtown, CT, I anticipate sooner or later—people will ask important questions that will open up a Pandora box.  Some of the questions will be phrased in this matter, “Why does God allow Evil”?  Some will ask in a malicious way in order to quiet down Christianity or some are simply asking because they are lost and are seeking truth (John 8:32).

That is a good question and I am glad people take evil seriously because it should be.  And it is my prayer that those who are seeking answers of why evil exist will turn to Christ for hope.   As Christians, this is an issue where we cannot avoid or pretend that it does not exist.  People have questions, people are confused, and people want truth so that their souls would be healed (1 Peter 3:15).

Three Major Premises to Consider

The “problem of evil” is a buzzword in today’s world.  Because evil exists, many believe it presents a real problem for the existence of God.  As Christians, we know that is preposterious.  To answer that question in detail, I would like to respond first by saying that there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  Until we are in glory, the answer for the problem of evil will be answered perfectly by God.  I will not be able to answer it perfectly.  Until then, let us be reminded by this verse in Deut. 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”

  1. There is no contradiction between the existence of God and the evil that exists in our world.  Just because evil exists, does not in any way mean that God does not exist.  Nor does it mean that the existence of evil pose a threat to God.  He reveals himself via general revelation and special revelation.
  2. Christianity is the only worldview that can explain the reality of evil.  Every other worldview is grounded in logical incoherence (biblical logic makes right sense); and is based on relativistic premises.
  3. Evil exists so that God may reveal the full glory of His attributes.  Man’s evil, reveals that evil is a result of his heart.  He keeps sinning while on the opposite spectrum, God, in totality, is perfect in all His attributes.  In the midst of even, the glory of God’s attributes is expressed clearly and powerfully affects those who are suffering.  For example, the love of God bandages their suffering wounds.
  4. The evil that exists today is the best world to bring God His fullest glory.  Evil prompts us to see our sin before a Holy God.  Evil is not limited to murderers only, but all who are outside of Christ are evil.  When paired up with the cross, one should respond in this manner, “I am guilty even if I commit the sins that society does not deem to be a sin.”  In other words, the evil that exists should bring us to the cross; and is a powerful reminder that we need to repent.

In light of the voluminous amount of evil, skeptics propose that there is a logical incoherence within the Christian worldview.[2]  As a result, the points mentioned above are important points to consider for the sake of this discussion.  I will also point out three major premises that also will be addressed.

We should not have the mentality that as Christians, we are unable to the explain: the existence of evil-doing.  To submit to their whimsical and evil notions would mean that the Christian faith is incoherent; and that Christians are unable to help those suffering from evil.

The 18th century Scottish philosopher by the name of David Hume, who many rationalists follow, expressed these statements regarding evil and God,

Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able?  then he is impotent.  Is he able, but not willing?  then he is malevolent.  Is he both able and willing?  whence then is evil?”[3]

In a nutshell, what Hume is saying is that these three premises are unacceptable and incoherent:

God is all-powerful, God is all-good, and nevertheless evil exists in the world.”[4]

To Hume, an all-powerful God should be able to remove evil; to Hume, an all-good God should be able to remove evil; and because evil exists, God does not exist.[5]  George Smith further elucidates on the three premises in his book called, Atheism: The Case Against God,

Briefly, the problem of evil is this: If God knows there is evil but cannot prevent it, he is not omnipotent.  If God knows there is evil and can prevent it but desires not to, he is not omnibenevolent.”[6]

As Christians, we need to share with the skeptics that the existence of evil does not pose a problem for God; and it is not incompatible with God’s goodness or God’s power.  There are no contradictions between the existence of God and evil in the world. God has a moral and glorious reason for the existence of evil.

God, in other words, has moral sufficient reason for the existence of evil.  As a good and powerful God, He can choose to do that.  God has no problem with evil because the Bible presents God as perfect.  Evil is not a threat to God, nor is it a puzzle to Him. He is perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful, and sovereign.  He is also perfect in character and perfect in everything He does.  Evil is only a problem because people see it outside the lens of Scripture.  When evil and suffering is understood properly, the problem of evil starts to fade away.

As a result, I believe that Christianity is the only worldview that explains best the reality of evil and suffering in this world because it can account for reality, knowledge, and ethics.  The non-Christian worldview has a philosophical problem that is not grounded in absolute truth, but grounded on relativistic premises and theories that is not universal for all.  God’s existence and Word has universal application to all.  For example, the unbelievers’ definition of good and evil is different from another person’s definition of good and evil.  But God’s definition of good and evil is the same for everyone.

The question remains concerning the unbeliever’s worldview, “What are the presuppositions concerning his moral judgments.[7]  The notion that a large number of people feel a certain way about something good or bad, does not in any way make them the entity that authenticate truth.[8]  Right ethics stems off from the Word of God. God’s Word is timeless and transcends the human mind.

If Scripture is not the authority then man’s ethics is reduced to subjectivism and it will prevent society from defining evil biblically and holistically.[9]  It will cause people to look less of their sins and more of other sins such as massacres.  Evil is not only limited to the massacre that took place at Newtown, but evil is also abortion (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 7:6; Ezekiel 16:20; etc.)  hatred/unholy anger (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:23-26), immorality (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9-10), personal autonomy, etc.  Ethics can never be defined by culture, but has to be defined by God.  To define evil our ways, will not do any justice; nor will it help society because another society may have a different system of ethics or definition of evil.  For example, in China or in other countries, prosecuting Christians and killing Christians is not evil, but good.

People have to be careful not to put God in trial because we are finite creatures and to question His character is to sin and to question Him is to step out from the Creator/creature distinction.  He is our Creator and we are His subjects.   It is my prayer that whenever people are affected by evil, they would turn to God and seek His truth (John 8:32).  In light of much that has been noted, people will further ask, “Is there morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists?”[10]

Is There a Morally Sufficient Reason for Evil?

We need to understand and trust God (see Job).  God works everything for His glory (see Ephesians 1). The Bible indicates that God will always do what is right (Gen. 18:25).  Humans, not God, brought evil and suffering into this world.  God created the world and it was good (Gen. 1:31), but man rebelled by eating the fruit, even when God warned them beforehand (Gen. 2:16-17).  We are the ones to be blamed for evil.  God gave man volition and a free-will before the Fall.  In his original state, he had the ability to choose between good and evil.  Instead,  man chose evil and he paid the price for it (Rom. 8:22).  I like what Dr. Bahnsen has to say about the morally sufficient reason for why evil exists,

Think of Abraham when God ordered him to sacrifice his only son.  Think of Job when he lost everything, which gave his life happiness and pleasure.  In each case God had a perfectly good reason for the human misery involved.  It was a mark or achievement of faith for them not to waver in their conviction of God’s goodness, despite not being able to see or understand why He was doing to them what He did.”[11]

And in terms of the greatest evil in history, read carefully what Pastor Piper has to say about it.  It is a very sobering and mysterious way of how God works through evil, but at the same time, it brings glory to God.

Form all these prophecies, we know that God foresaw and did not prevent and therefore included in his plan that his Son would be rejected, hated, abandoned, betrayed, denied, condemned, spit upon, flogged, mocked, pierced, and killed. All these were explicitly God’s mind before they actually happened as things that he planned would happen to Jesus.  These things did not just happen.  They were foretold in God’s word.  God knew they would happened and could have planned to stop them, but didn’t.  So they happened according to his sovereign will.  His plan.

And all of them were evil.  They were sin.  It is surpassingly sinful to reject, hate, abandoned, betray, deny, condemn, spit upon, flog, mock, pierce, and kill the morally perfect, infinitely worthy, divine Son of God.  And yet the Bible is explicit and clear that God himself planned these things.  This is explicit not only in all the prophetic texts we have seen, but also in the passages they say even more plainly that God ordained that these things come to pass.”[12]

What Pastor Piper said, reminds me of a particular solemn passage in Acts 2:22-24 that is very clear concerning the murder of Jesus Christ,

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”

It is apparent and clear that evil is ugly, but one should also be careful not to be too consumed in it.  We need to trust God and not worry about tomorrow (Matt. 6:34).  God will one day bring judgment and righteousness to this sin infected world and sin cursed world. He will make things right (Acts 17:30:31; 2 Peter 3:8-13; Rev. 21:1-6; 22:1-5).  Vengeance is the Lord’s and He will carry it out perfectly!  He will bring the murderer(s) who died without Christ in His courtroom.

Trust Christ

Often when people do not understand the problem of evil, they find it hard to have faith in God and trust Him when we are not given the reason of why bad things happen to others and ourselves in this world.[13]  Unbelievers cry for answers concerning evil, but the truth is that as Christians we could only reveal what is in Scripture; and we need to inform them lovingly that God does not always provide clear cut, methodical answers.[14]  The Bible says, “The secret things belong to God” (Deut. 29:29).  We may not even be able to understand God’s wise and mysterious ways, even when He told His people (cf. Isa. 55:9).[15]  As a result, we can safely say that God does not always tell why misery and suffering are part of His plans for mankind.[16]

War is in the Human Heart

Many times when tragedies like this occur, people often provide ineffective solutions.  The solution is not banning the second amendment right, but the solution is to cure the heart.  Jesus said it eloquently in Mark 7:21,

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries.”

The war is in the human heart.  Sin resides in the human heart.  The person who hates, lies and commits sexual immorality is just as guilty as the murderer according to God’s standards.  In a time like this, perhaps we can learn that out of this evil event that took place—instead of focusing on the murderer—man in his sinful condition,  needs to examine himself and herself before the Holy God of the Bible because no one is pure without the forgiveness that comes from Christ (Job 15:14; Job 25:4).  Pastor John Piper states it best in this manner,

And it is exactly what Jesus said again when people pressed him to talk about the time Pilate slaughtered worshippers in the temple. Instead of focusing on the slain or the slayer, he focused on all of us:

Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:2–3).”[17]

Please refer to some of these good links below concerning the tragedy at Newtown, CT.

This is a good post by Pastor Piper on how one can approach the situation in a Christ-centered manner when a tragedy like Newtown occurs: A Lesson for All from Newtown

This post by Pastor Piper is a powerful reminder of God’s love and compassion for those who suffer.  Jesus understands suffering and evil better than anyone in this world: How Does Jesus Come to Newtown?

In this post, Justin Taylor discusses the 10 Reasons Why God Allows Suffering.

Dr. Albert Mohler does a post concerning the massacre and urges Christians to be Christ-centered in their approach towards the situation.  He also briefly discusses the after-life of young children who are unable to discern good and evil (Deuteronomy 1:39): Rachel Weeping for Her Children — The Massacre in Connecticut

In light of all that has been stated, what do you all think about evil?


*Some concepts were adapted from, Michael Vlach, “Apologetics 701” (unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2011).

[1]Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith (Nacogdoches, TX, Covenant Media Press), 164.

[2]Ibid., 166.

[3]Ibid., 166.

[4]Ibid., 167.

[5]Ibid., 167.

[6]Ibid., 167.

[7]Ibid., 168.

[8]Ibid., 168.

[9]Ibid., 168.

[10]Ibid., 172.

[11]Ibid., 172.

[12]John Piper, Spectacular Sins (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, 2008), 102-103.

[13]Ibid., 173.

[14]Ibid., 173.

[15]Ibid., 173.

[16]Ibid., 173.

[17]John Piper, “A Lesson for All from Newtown,” Desiring God,  http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/a-lesson-for-all-from-newtown (accessed December 14, 2012).

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