The Importance of Relationships in Apologetics and Evangelism

This past week, God has shown me through multiple avenues the importance of relationships. I listened to Garrett DeWeese’s lecture on “Solving the Problem of Evil” and in that lecture DeWeese addresses the importance of relationships. Also, I had a wonderful conversation with Chaplain Jason Kline as he discussed relational apologetics, that is involving relationships in one’s apologetic presentation.[1]

Often times, people think of apologetics as being a “heady, intellectual” pursuit, unconcerned about matters of the heart. While apologetics concerns itself with intellectual matters and the training of the mind, one must understand that apologetics is a branch of a larger spectrum of evangelism. A strong argument could be made that apologetics is part of one’s discipleship effort too as one must be “transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2).[2]

Seeing that apologetics is often intellectual, it is easy for one to lose sight of the greater challenge and the greater goal: not winning arguments, but winning souls for Christ. For this to take place, the apologist must understand the great value of relationships. These relationships should include three things.

  1. The presence of love must be included in one’s relational apologetic.

          Christian leaders should understand the great damage that has been done by the anti-intellectual movement that invaded the church beginning in the 19th century. Modern heresies that have entered the church are a direct result of the emphasis placed on the heart rather than the head. But on the other hand, the apologist, in one’s quest to emphasize the intellectual pursuits of the faith, must not neglect the heart entirely especially as it relates to love. A strong head and weak heart leads to a sterile, emotionless shell of what the Christian life should be. It is a firepit with the wood and coals properly placed, yet without a flame providing heat. What’s the point of a firepit with no fire?

Paul warns vehemently that “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). If I have a strong apologetic with no love, then I am just another “talking head.” Apologist, do you love the person you are conversing with? If not, you may want to step out of the conversation until you have the loving flames of the Holy Spirit burning within your heart.

  1. The presence of listening must be included in one’s relational apologetic.

           In my conversation with Kline as well as DeWeese’s lecture, I was reminded of the great value in listening. DeWeese noted that with Job, “Job’s friends were appalled at the conditions Job faced. They sat with Job silently for 7 days, but it all went downhill from there. Their silence, tears, and ministering to Job helped him more than their words.”[3] As apologists we must use our words to proclaim and defend the faith. But we cannot sacrifice a listening ear in order to do so.

I am from the Southeastern United States. While not as prevalent today, it used to be commonplace to find a group of men gathered around a popular restaurant and/or storefront talking about the issues of the day. My grandpa, Roy Chilton, was a child of the Depression Era and served in World War II. In his time, they had no Facebook, Instagram, or instant messenger. Rather, they had the local gathering place. In my younger years, he took me with him to visit some of his friends at one particular person’s welding shop. The thing to remember about these conversations is that many of the stories become “tall tales;” fun stories based on truth, but exaggerated to make the story sound more appealing. “Conversation” is a loose term to be used in this environment as most of the “conversations” turned into a competition for who could tell the greatest tale. I noticed that Grandpa would not so much listen to what was being said by another as much as he was preparing his next story. Others would do the same.

Apologists should use caution against the use of the same practice. If we are simply preparing our next argument without truly listening to the objections being made, then it is highly likely to miss the objection entirely and leave the seeker more antagonistic in the end. As my grandmother, Eva Chilton, used to say (and it may have been partly directed towards Grandpa), “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason; so that we’ll listen twice as much as we speak.”

  1. The presence of longing must be included in one’s relational apologetic.

What is the apologist’s goal? What is one in apologetics anyhow? Is it the goal of the person to appear smart and intelligent? Is it the person’s goal to show how many books he or she has read? Or is a person in apologetics simply to join a particular community? Intelligence and community are important matters. However, the goal of the apologist if based on relationships must be to clear the path for the Holy Spirit to operate. It is an evangelistic affair. The Westminster Confession of Faith proclaims that “the chief end of man is to glorify God.” To borrow Westminster’s verbiage, the chief end of apologetics is to win souls for Christ. Does the apologist long to see the person with whom they are conversing come to know Christ? Or is the person simply using the arguments as a means of intellectual chess? A strong argument is nothing without the wooing presence of the Holy Spirit. This means that the apologist, if effective, must be a person of prayer, consistently seeking after and desiring God.

Conclusion

Apologetics is a branch of evangelism. Evangelism seeks to persuade people to accept Christ as their Savior. Therefore, apologetics must seek to persuade people to accept Christ as their Savior. If Christ has truly died for the sins of humanity and has truly risen from the dead according to the Scriptures, then the apologist’s intention must be to see others come to know the reality that is Christ and the salvation that comes from a covenant relationship with Him. Let’s be brutally honest. Sometimes we as apologists can become so involved in apologetics that we come off as jerks to those in which we are trying to minister. For me, guilty as charged. The church needs apologetics. The church needs apologists!!! The church is never going to accept the apologist if he/she consistently berates the pastor or those who are not onboard. If this is true of the church, the lost person will certainly not desire to listen to any apologist (regardless of their credentials) if the apologist comes off as obstinate or emotionless. Remember, Jesus was the greatest apologist of all and He spent a great amount of time building relationships. Apologetics without meaningful relationships often becomes valueless.

© June 20, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] The conversation with Chaplain Jason Kline can be found at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton/2016/06/20/relational-apologetics-with-pastor-apologist-and-chaplain-jason-kline.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[3] Garrett DeWeese, “Solving the Problem of Evil,” Biola University, lecture notes, 10.

Responding to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Theodicy Inquisition and the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake

Recently, I watched a video which featured a recorded lecture by noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. A Catholic lady from the crowd asked Tyson if he believed in God. Tyson did not negate belief in God, but demonstrated a problem that he held with the Christian view of God’s goodness. Tyson told the story about the birth of the modern atheist movement. According to Tyson, the modern atheist movement stemmed from 1700’s philosopher Voltaire, who witnessed a massive earthquake on All Saints Day in 1755 in Lisbon, Portugal. The largest number of fatalities came from those worshiping in cathedrals which were, as Tyson noted, “the tallest, biggest buildings” (Tyson 2014, YouTube). Following the earthquake, a tsunami leveled the city, killing 80,000 people. Many theologians of the day purported that such an act was a display of God’s judgment. However, Voltaire and others noted that the sinful red light district of the city was largely untouched while the religious individuals of the town were killed. Responding to Christian philosopher Gottfried Leibniz–who postulated that we live in the best of all possible worlds–Voltaire proclaimed that this was not the best of all possible worlds indicating that either God was not all loving or God was not all good. In like manner, Tyson said that he “could not see the all goodness of God, seeing how everything in the universe wanted to wipe us out.” Tyson went on to say that he could not see how “God was all good…if we define good by being concerned with our health and longevity—which is how I would define good” (Tyson 2014, YouTube). So, how does a Christian respond to Tyson’s, as well as Voltaire’s, accusations? Note–by addressing Tyson, the article also responds to Voltaire’s claims.

1.     Creation is Fallen—it’s Good not Perfect.

First, Tyson assumes that for God to be good, the universe must be perfect. However, the Bible never states that the universe is perfect. The opening chapter of the Bible concludes with the words “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31a).[1] One must understand that the universe is not perfect. It has been tainted by rebellion. First, it was tainted by the rebellion of Satan. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). This fall is also accounted in Isaiah as the prophet proclaims, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low” (Isaiah 14:12)! This fall led to the fall of humanity as accounted in the 3rd chapter of Genesis. The Adversary (Satan) must have been already fallen as he led humanity away from the personal presence of God. The apostle Paul denotes that this fall has led to the “whole creation…groaning together the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22). The great news is that God is working to create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 22) which will not host the trouble, death, and uncertainty that the present day creation holds. The modern creation is good…it is the best of all possible worlds which allows for freedom of the will. But it is not the best creation, for the best is yet to come.

2.     Eternity trumps Earthly Longevity.

Tyson holds a problem in his definition of “goodness.” If goodness only denotes a person’s present well-being, God’s goodness is shallow at best. As James denotes, life is but a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). If the Bible is correct in that Christians have the promise of eternity, then even great tragedies such as the one in Lisbon is somewhat justified in that the people of God will never be separated from the presence of God. The eternity they enjoy now far outweighs the momentary pains suffered in the earthquake. Therefore, if eternity in heaven exists, then God’s goodness is ultimately justified even in the midst of such tragedies. Let’s face it—everyone will have to walk through the passages of death at some point. How good would it be of God to leave us in this fallen world for several millennia? This is not to say that life on earth is not important. It truly is a blessed thing to be alive and well. Nevertheless, one should not lose the focus on the blessed hope that is found in an eternal existence with God in heaven.

3.     Humans Cannot Know All Intricate Details—but God Does.

Third, as one discovers in the book of Job, an individual cannot understand and know all that God does. Could it have been that great sin was found in the Lisbon of 1755? Possibly. Could God have delivered judgment to the city? Potentially. In such cases, an individual does not know the hearts and minds of the people in that day. However, it could have been that the city was a blessed city, filled with good, godly people, as well. If the people did nothing wrong, then why did God allow such a tragedy to occur? Consider Job. Job asked the same questions. Job was a man who was a “blameless and upright man, who fear[ed] God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8). Job endured many hardships and wanted to take God to court in order to charge God with unfair dealing. However, God responded and asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding” (Job 38:4). In other words, God demonstrated that he knew all the intricate details and how ultimate good can come from what appears to be great tragedies in life.

 4.     Consider the Alternative.

Lastly, consider the alternative. What if a good God did not exist, what then? Such tragedies would be even worse. What would Tyson say to one who lost a loved one and had no hope of seeing that person again? “Too bad. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.” With the God of the Bible, tragedies have a light at the end of the tunnel; a light which is illuminated by the “Light of the world”—Jesus Christ. Even in the worst of circumstances, Christians have the hope found in the resurrection of Christ.

Therefore, I do not accept Tyson’s, nor Voltaire’s, claim that tragedies demerit the goodness of God. In fact, philosophers such as William Lane Craig have noted that the theodicy problem has been solved. Evil can exist in a world developed by a good and all powerful God if God holds good reasons for allowing the evil to take place, or has an ultimate good stemming from such an allowance.

Tyson, Neil deGrasse. “Neil deGrasse Tyson-‘Do You Believe in God?’ (Must Watch).” Atheist Digest Channel. YouTube (October 13, 2014). Accessed May 18, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocvIeycJrQ0.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Copyright May 2015. Brian Chilton.

The Correlation of God’s Response and the Theodicy Problem of Job

The book of Job is, for most, the quintessential source for dealing with the problem of righteous suffering.[1] Why do the righteous suffer? This is a question that countless individuals have posited throughout the ages. The psalmist asked God “Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression” (Psalm 44:24)?[2] The majority of Job’s text is an exchange between Job and four friends: “Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite…Zophar the Naamathite” (Job 2:11)[3] along with the later friend “Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram” (32:2). However, the climax of the book comes when God “answered Job out of the whirlwind” (38:1, NASB).[4] This paper will argue that God’s response provides distinctive theological aspects which in turn offer insights to the overall message of Job. To defend this thesis, the paper will evaluate two distinct theological perspectives stemming from God’s response to Job. Then, the paper will evaluate how two implicit aspects of God’s response relates to the overall message found in Job.

The Theological Aspects of God’s Response

 The best way to learn about God is through the direct revelation of God. Chapters 38 through 42 provide God’s direct revelation to Job. Up until this point, Job had been conversing with four so-called friends. These friends did not offer much support as it relates to Job’s suffering. Now, Job finds himself confronted with God in the midst of a whirlwind and begins to converse with God, although Job does more listening than speaking at this stage. James E. Smith denotes that “Instead of answering questions from Job, God fired the questions—over seventy—at him! God was not on the witness stand. Job was, and he was subjected to intensive cross examination.”[5] In God’s cross-examination of Job, God provides four distinct theological attributes. Robert Alden denotes that “of the attributes of God, the ones that stand out in the Book of Job are sovereignty, omnipotence, omniscience, and justice.”[6] God’s omniscience and omnipotence stand as two major theological themes, whereas divine sovereignty and divine justice are two more implicit attributes found within God’s response. Omniscience and omnipotence will be examined in this section, whereas God’s implicit attributes are tied with the overall themes of the book and, thus, will be evaluated in the forthcoming section.

The Aspect of God’s Omniscience

Concerning omniscience, Norman Geisler writes, “Historically, the omniscience of God was a straightforward doctrine: God knows everything—past, present, and future; He knows the actual and the possible; only the impossible (contradictory) is outside the knowledge of God.”[7] Yahweh provides two addresses to Job. Yahweh’s first address, found in 38:1-42:6, demonstrates the great omniscience that he possesses and, as Barker and Kohlenberger denote, that “neither the counselors nor Job possessed complete knowledge…[showing] how very limited human knowledge is.”[8] Yahweh begins his prosecution of Job with the words “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge” (38:2)? Yahweh did not provide a response to Job’s queries, but instead pointed Job back to the acknowledgement that he had been accusing the One who had limitless knowledge. Yahweh provides two limitations upon Job’s knowledge in demonstrating the omniscience of his own.

First, Yahweh acknowledges his omniscience as it relates to time. Yahweh directly asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation” (38:4)? Alden denotes that “Unlike personified Wisdom, who was present at the creation (Prov 8:22–31), Job was a creature of time. When God “laid the earth’s foundation,” Job simply was not yet born…Job could not answer because he was not there and could not know.”[9] One finds a connection between the Logos of John 1:1, the Wisdom denoted in Proverbs 8:22-31, and Yahweh’s message to Job in 38:4. While Job did not understand the circumstances, Yahweh reminded Job that he did. Yahweh also addresses not only the limitation of time pertaining to Job’s knowledge and the superiority of his own knowledge, but Yahweh also addresses another limitation of human knowledge.

In addition, Yahweh introduces Job’s limitation of knowledge as it relates to creation. Yahweh demonstrates Job’s finite understanding of the working of geology in 38:4-18, cosmology in 38:19-38, and biology in 38:39-39:30. While Yahweh distinguishes the nature of particular animals (e.g. the ostrich in 39:13-18) and the structure of particular constellations (e.g. Pleiades and Orion in 38:31-32); the core essential doctrine provided is discovered in Yahweh’s question to Job in saying “Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it” (38:5)? Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas indicate that verses 4-6 of chapter 38 view the cosmos in the “terms of a temple, and the temple was understood to represent a microcosmos. Here the most important elements in building the temple are referred to in God’s setting up the cosmos.”[10] Yahweh intended to demonstrate the limited knowledge of humanity compared to his limitless knowledge. While modern individuals have access to greater understandings as to the workings of nature around them, humans are still vastly limited in their knowledge. Scientific discoveries and theories are constructed only to be constantly uprooted. As Harry Hunt denotes, “The human mind cannot control all knowledge or understand all situations.”[11] God in his infinite knowledge poses no theories or hypotheses as it relates to creation; rather, God has limitless knowledge of how things exist and will exist. While Job did not understand the workings of the tragedies around him, God did. Yahweh demonstrates another personal attribute: that of power.

The Aspect of God’s Omnipotence

Norman Geisler defines omnipotence as meaning that “God has unlimited power (omni=all; potent=powerful)…Theologically, omnipotent means that God can do whatever is possible to do. Or, God can do what is not impossible to do.”[12] Millard Erickson adds that omnipotence means “that God is able to do all things that are proper objects of his power.”[13]In Yahweh’s[14] response to Job, one finds clear evidence of the divine attribute of omnipotence. This section of the paper will evaluate two examples of divine omnipotence through Yahweh’s address to Job.

First, the theophanic presentation through the whirlwind demonstrates the omnipotence of God. Job possesses multiple references to the whirlwind. The NIV translates 38:1 as “the storm.” However, the NASB more accurately translates the verse as “the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (38:1, NASB). The whirlwind, or storm, finds itself in several passages within the text of Job. Job’s children were killed when “a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house” (1:19). The term “wind” is used in 6:26; 8:2; 9:17; 15:2; 21:18; 27:21; 28:25; 30:15, 22; 37:9, 17, 21; and 38:24. The term “storm” is used in 9:17; 30:22; 36:33; 40:6; and with “whirlwind” (NASB) in 38:1. It is intriguing that Yahweh appeared to Job in a storm. Job’s family and wealth were destroyed by elements from a storm. Job even indicates that God would “crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason” (9:17). Alex Luc, describing Job’s use of the storm in describing his pain, notes that “The fearful and destructive power of the storm makes it the most powerful vehicle to describe Job’s pain.”[15] Yet, here Yahweh arrives shrouded in a storm. Through this imagery, one finds God’s great omnipotent strength. The storm motif will be noted again in the paper. Omnipotence is demonstrated in another means.

In the second discourse given to Job, Yahweh notes his great power over creation. Barker and Kohlenberger denote that the “purpose goes beyond showing Job that God is creator and sustainer of the natural world. It is to convince Job that God is Lord also of the moral order.”[16] Throughout the second discourse, Yahweh demonstrates his omnipotence through the examples of the Leviathan and the Behemoth. The identities of the Leviathan (41:1) and the Behemoth (40:15) have been the center of a great deal of speculation and debate. Considering the identity of the Behemoth, Alden postulates that the “hippopotamus has been the most popular identification for the ‘behemoth,’ with the elephant a distant second.”[17] Some interpreters have even posited a dinosaur of sorts. However, Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas denote that “Early intertestamental interpretation favors a mythical/supernatural identification.”[18] Comparably, the Leviathan is, according to Carson, “thought to be a dolphin, a tunny fish or a whale, but the general view is that it is a crocodile.”[19] If Barker and Kohlenberger present a tantalizing view that due to the placement of the beastly duo after the “assertions of the Lord’s justice and maintenance of moral order, lends weight to the contention that they are symbolic, though their features are drawn from animals.”[20] Barker and Kohlenberger are correct, then the Leviathan and Behemoth represent “evil political powers”[21]

Whether Yahweh indicates evil political forces, ferocious animals found in the here and now, dinosaurs that coexisted with humanity, or mythological beings known to Job and the people of his time with the Leviathan and Behemoth; the underlying belief is that God had the power to subdue Leviathan and Behemoth, whereas humanity remained incapable of doing the same. Therefore, Yahweh is merited trust due to his overwhelming power. Whereas the current section has evaluated the two underlying theological attributes presented in Yahweh’s address to Job, the forthcoming section will consider the two fundamental correlations as it pertains to the overall theme of Job.

 The Correlation of God’s Response, Attributes, and the Overall Message of Suffering

 What is the central message of Job? Many hold that the problem of theodicy is the primary theme. However, Andrew E. Steinmann argues that the central message is not about theodicy at all. Steinmann postulates that the following:

 We can only conclude that Job’s main message revolves around the subject of faith and integrity, not the theodicy of suffering. In the view of the author of Job, trust in God precludes questions of theodicy. Indeed, they are irrelevant. All that is relevant is trust that God can sustain a righteous person’s integrity and faith throughout the most severe crises.[22]

Whereas it is conceded that Steinmann is correct in assuming that the book of Job demonstrates the sustenance of one’s faith within periods of suffering and misery, one finds it difficult to bypass the countless scholars who have confirmed the presence of theodicy as a theme in the book of Job. Brooks and Neal denote,

 The book of Job deals directly with the subject of theodicy. The Israelites believed a doctrine known as retributional theology, in which sin resulted in punishment…The subsequent narrative of Job and his interactions with friends presents the classic problem of theodicy: How can a good, all-knowing God allow evil to happen to someone as upright as Job?[23]

By the response of Yahweh, one can rightly demonstrate two theses promoted throughout the entirety of Job. However, it could be argued that Yahweh provides a working answer to the problem of theodicy. The previous section noted two major theological points made in Yahweh’s discourse. While the attributes of omniscience and omnipotence are the general themes of the discourse, one will find moral and non-moral attributes of God illuminated in chapters 38 through 42. Through the moral and non-moral attributes of God, one will find an answer to the problem of theodicy in that God may allow suffering for particular purposes known to God. This section will evaluate how the moral and non-moral attributes of God tie into the aspect that suffering has purpose.

Purpose of Trials through God’s Moral Attributes

Throughout the conversations with Job’s so-called friends, Job had accused God of wrongdoing. After being insulted by his friends, Job accused God in saying “If indeed you vaunt yourselves against me and prove my disgrace to me, know then that God has wronged me and has closed his net around me” (19:5-6, NASB). Had Yahweh truly entrapped Job for no reason? Yahweh’s response demonstrates a major thesis postulated throughout the text in that a purpose exists to human suffering. While Steinmann holds that the major theme of Job is that of human faith, Steinmann concedes that the first of Job’s “two-pronged approach to theodicy…was a rationalist’s explanation of God’s actions.”[24] While Steinmann holds that explicit answers are not provided in Job, in which this writer would concede, it must be noted that Yahweh indirectly provides generalized responses to the theodicy problem. Yahweh demonstrates that a purpose tends to exist in trials. Yahweh inquires of Job, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me” (38:2-3, NASB)! Smith denotes that the “word ‘counsel’ suggests that the Lord has a plan or meaning in Job’s afflictions.”[25] How is this hypothesis developed? Whereby Yahweh does not demonstrate specifics behind Job’s suffering, Yahweh does demonstrate that trials may have a purpose due to two moral attributes that Yahweh possesses.[26]

First, trials may have purpose if Yahweh is a just God. In many ways, Job felt slighted by God. Job had lost everything. Job inquires “how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in his anger” (21:17). Luc denotes that Job’s “complaint implies that he is treated more oppressively than the wicked: that which rarely happens to the wicked is happening to him.”[27]Yahweh responds by noting that Job should “look on everyone who is proud, and humble him, and tread down the wicked where they stand” (40:12-13, NASB). Here, Yahweh implies his just nature in summoning, as Alden states, “Job to look for ‘every proud man’ and appropriately ‘humble him.’”[28] That is to say, Job did not have the capacity to see all the evil in the world nor did he have the capacity to judge accordingly. Therefore, Job’s trials were not for naught. Rather, Yahweh was not unjust for allowing such an event to transpire. But why? The text does not state the purpose for Job’s suffering, but that Job should trust Yahweh’s just nature. Yahweh could see all things whereas Job could not. Yahweh demonstrated that there are purposes for one’s trials and sufferings by another moral attribute of God, as well.

Along with God’s just nature, Yahweh demonstrates that suffering holds purpose due to God’s goodness. Yahweh’s response demonstrates the great concern and compassion that Yahweh has for all creatures. Yahweh inquires of Job, “Who prepares for the raven its nourishment when its young cry to God and wander about without food” (38:41, NASB)? One may note a parallel with Jesus’ teaching in that one should “look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they” (Matthew 6:26, NASB)? Yahweh demonstrates his concern for Job and all creatures. Therefore, suffering and trials must have a purpose if such are permitted by a good God.

Through the two moral attributes provided by Yahweh in the preceding section, one may note that suffering can hold a purpose if God is morally just and good. However, God may be good and just; but if God did not possess particular non-moral attributes, then God would become powerless to deliver a particular end.

Purpose of Trials through God’s Non-moral Attributes

Yahweh also demonstrated the purpose of trials through his non-moral attributes. Non-moral attributes describe the abilities of God. John S. Feinberg defines God’s non-moral attributes as “natural attributes belong to God’s very constitutional nature apart from his actions.”[29] God possesses many non-moral attributes. God’s omniscience and omnipotence, which were addressed primarily in God’s response, are considered to be two of God’s non-moral attributes. Nevertheless, Yahweh’s application of his non-moral attributes provides two features pertaining to the purpose of a person’s suffering.

The first non-moral attribute of God is exhibited in Yahweh’s response which demonstrates that suffering can have a purpose; that attribute is wisdom. Wisdom is slightly different than knowledge. Wisdom is defined as “practical skills associated with understanding and living a successful life.”[30] Termed another way: wisdom is knowing how to use information to bring about good ends, or applied knowledge. If God is wise, then God knows how to bring about good through even the worst of times. Alex Luc denotes that in Job 28 there exists “a wisdom poem at the end of the dialogs between Job and his three friends. While storm stands for Job’s unbearable experience, here God sees wisdom in it.”[31] In Yahweh’s response, the wisdom motif is revisited. Yahweh raises several inquiries to Job implying that Job has little to no knowledge pertaining to the workings of creation. Yahweh inquires “From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone…” (38:30)? Many other examples could be provided. Nevertheless, Yahweh demonstrates his wisdom, wisdom that would later be described in Proverbs 9 and personified in the Logos of John 1. Job could trust that his suffering held purpose because of the wisdom of God, but Job would have another reason to trust God in the midst of his suffering.

Throughout the message of Yahweh, particularly in the second discourse, Yahweh demonstrates his sovereignty, or complete control, over all creation. Herein is the crux in finding purpose in the sufferings of life: if God is morally good and just, as well as sovereign, then God can be trusted with the events of life. Through the descriptions of the Behemoth and Leviathan, Yahweh denotes his sovereign control. For with the Leviathan, while humanity could not “capture it by the eyes, or trap it and pierce its nose” (40:24), Yahweh could. Yahweh has power that humanity does not possess. Also with the Behemoth, while humanity could not “strip off its outer coat” (41:13), Yahweh could. In addition, one finds descriptions of God’s sovereignty in the whirlwind theophany.

Yahweh appeared to Job with a whirlwind (38:1). As noted earlier in the paper, the storm motif appears throughout the book of Job. Job’s family and livestock were destroyed by a storm in the earlier chapters of the text. Job states “are they as straw before the wind, and like chaff which the storm carries away” (21:18, NASB). Job offers a defense in noting about God that he had snatched “me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm” (30:22). Job had encountered the storm initially and compared his plight to a storm. Then Yahweh appears to Job in the midst of a storm (40:6). The storm motif denotes the sovereign power of God. Alex Luc offers a compelling and powerful lesson in that “The reader who cries, ‘Where is God while the storm lingers?’ may find an answer, ‘God is in the storm’. When the storms of life tarry and God seems to retreat into total silence, the book of Job will continue to bring hope.”[32] The suffering of Job had purpose because of the sovereign power of Yahweh.

Conclusion

 This paper has evaluated the response that Yahweh delivered to Job’s accusations pertaining to Job’s sufferings. The paper has defended the thesis in that the response of God demonstrates particular divine attributes which address the overall theme of Job. The paper reviewed the two major theological attributes of God’s omniscience and omnipotence given in Yahweh’s message. The paper also evaluated how the moral and non-moral attributes of God contribute to the general framework of the theodicy theme of Job. Perhaps the most pressing issue that the paper has revealed is that God is not separate from the storms of life. The storms of life are at the discretion of a good, wise, powerful, and sovereign God. Paul sums up Job’s theme well with his statement to the Romans in that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NASB).

The content of this article represents the academic work of the author. Be advised the paper represented in this article has been scanned through SafeAssign. Any efforts of plagiarism will be detected.

 Bibliography

Alden, Robert L. Job. Volume 11. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993.

Barker, Kenneth L., and John R. Kohlenberger, III. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament. Abridged Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Brooks, Page, and D. A. Neal. “Theodicy.” The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry, et al. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Carson, D. A., et al., eds. New Bible Commentary. 4th Edition. Leicester, UK; Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Hunt, Harry. “Job, Book Of.” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Edited by Chad Brand, et. al. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Luc, Alex. “Storm and the Message of Job.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 87 (March 1, 2000): 111-123. Accessed April 9, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Shields, Martin A. “Wisdom.” The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry et. al. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Smith, James E. The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996.

Steinmann, Andrew E. “The Structure and Message of the Book of Job.” Vetus Testamentum 46, 1 (January 1, 1996): 85-100. Accessed April 9, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

 Walton, John H., et. al. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Downers Grove: IVP, 2000.

———————————Footnotes——————————–

[1] Otherwise, this issue is termed the problem of theodicy.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).

[3] The remainder of the paper will only use chapter and verse addresses for texts found within the book of Job.

[4] All Scripture noted as NASB comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[5] James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996), Job 38–42, Logos Bible Software.

[6] Robert L. Alden, Job, vol. 11, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 1993), 38.

[7] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany, 2011), 496.

[8] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 783.

[9] Alden, Job, NAC, 370.

[10] John H. Walton, et. al. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2000), 509.

[11] Harry Hunt, “Job, Book Of,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Chad Brand, et. al., eds (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 927.

[12] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 487.

[13] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 302.

[14] YHWH, or Yahweh, (often translated LORD) is the personal covenant name for God used in the Old Testament. The paper will use either the generic term God when referring to divinity in a general sense and Yahweh when referring to divine communication with Job.

[15] Alex Luc, “Storm and the Message of Job,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 87 (March 1, 2000): 115, Retrieved April 9, 2015.

[16] Barker and Kohlenberger, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament, 783.

[17] Alden, Job, NAC, 395.

[18] Walton, et. al., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, 510.

[19] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove: IVP, 1994), 481.

[20] Barker and Kohlenberger, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament, 786.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Andrew E. Steinmann, “The Structure and Message of the Book of Job,” Vetus Testamentum 46, 1 (January 1, 1996): 100, retrieved April 9, 2015.

 [23] Page Brooks and D. A. Neal, “Theodicy,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary, John D. Barry et. al., eds (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), Logos Bible Software.

[24] Steinmann, “The Structure and the Message of the Book of Job,” Vetus Testamentum, 100.

[25] Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Logos Bible Software.

[26] By moral attributes, the paper indicates the traits of God’s personal character.

[27] Luc, “The Storm and the Message of Job,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 114.

[28] Alden, Job, NAC, 394.

[29] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 236.

[30] Martin A. Shields, “Wisdom,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary, John D. Barry et. al., eds (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), Logos Bible Software.

[31] Luc, “Storm and the Message of Job,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 116.

[32] Luc, Storm and the Message of Job,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 123.

Copyright May 2015. Brian Chilton.

Is God Near When God Feels Distant?

I regularly listen to Greg Koukl’s Stand to Reason broadcast aired Sunday afternoons on American Family Radio.  The live shows occur on Tuesday afternoons at 4pm Pacific time.  Normally, I listen to the podcasts which are available before the show airs.  This week, an individual that had suffered a great tragedy called the show.  He told the story of how he had lost a loved one during the past two weeks.  The great problem was that he felt that God was so distant during this process.  I must commend Koukl on the great advice given to the individual.

Koukl has stated that he has not felt a great emotional presence of God in his life.  While I can say that I have felt God’s Spirit in a very real way, I too can identify with Koukl and the individual calling in that at times God does seem distant especially during emotionally taxing situations.  There may be reasons why some feel God’s presence strongly and others do not.  Nonetheless, it does not mean that those who have a relationship with God but fail to experience a powerful experience with God are any less of a Christian than those who do.  Some reasons may exist why some have such powerful experiences with God and others do not.  My experiences with God came during a turmoil that resulted from a strong stand for Christ while praying and dwelling in the presence of the Holy Spirit for over an hour.  Some may be more in tune with the spiritual realm than others.  Howard Gardner has posed nine various forms of intelligence which are given in the picture below.  Danah Zohar has suggested that a spiritual form of intelligence be added to the equation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_intelligence).  If this is the case, this would mean that some have a greater spiritual awareness than others.  This could offer some explanations as to why some experience the presence of God deeper than others.  It must be warned that the lack of a “deep relationship” does not equate the lack of a relationship.  Regardless of the ability of spiritual depth that one could potentially possess and regardless of whether such depth is related to a spiritual intelligence, most of us will experience times in our lives when we feel that God is distant.  This article will seek to provide comfort to such individuals by showing great persons of faith that also experienced times when they felt that God seemed distant.  In the end, one will find that God is not as distant as one’s emotions would have one to think.  In fact, it is during those times that God is closer than one could ever imagine.

Theory-of-Multiple-Intelligences

Job Felt That God was Distant

job-rebuked-blake

The Bible tells the story of a man named Job.  Job was a good man.  The Bible tells us, “There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil” (Job 1:1, NLT).  Even though Job was a good man, he lost everything.  He lost his family.  He lost his financial security.  He even lost his health.  He had essentially become a beggar on the streets.  Job kept his faith even when his wife said, “His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9, NLT).  Even though Job kept his faith, Job seemed to feel that God had abandoned him.  Job even went so far to say, “God has handed me over to sinners.  He has tossed me into the hands of the wicked. I was living quietly until he shattered me” (Job 16:11-12a, NLT).  Job felt abandoned by God.  Yet, God was still with Job.  By the end of the story, God reminds Job of His ability to handle any situation.  God said, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell me, if you know so much” (Job 38:4, NLT).  Sometimes a person will seek to accuse God of this and that.  But, God is the One who created the universe from nothing.  God is the One who set the laws of nature in place.  The molecules were formed because of this great God.  Therefore, this God can still do a wonderful work even in the midst of the worst of circumstances.  God had not left Job.  God was about to bless Job for his faithfulness.  In the end, Job received much more than he had before.  The Bible records, “So the LORD blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys” (Job 42:2, NLT).  What can we learn from this?  Just because God seems distant doesn’t mean that God is distant.  Stay close to God and in due time, God will make His presence known to you.  Even when God seems distant, God will still bless His faithful children.

king david

David Felt That God was Distant

The Apostle Paul described David as, “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do’” (Acts 13:22, NLT).  Yet, there were times when David felt that God was distant.  This is especially seen in the songs that David wrote, called psalms.  David wrote, “O LORD, how long will you forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way?  How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?  How long will my enemy have the upper hand?  Turn and answer me, O LORD my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes or I will die” (Psalm 13:1-3, NLT).  If David was as Paul stated, “a man after God’s own heart” and felt that God was distant, why do people today feel as if they are less religious if they go through times of spiritual drought?  David fumbled and bumbled from time to time.  He made mistakes…some major…but God still loved him and used David to fulfill the tasks in which David was called to do.  Even when God seems distant, God still has a task for those whom He has called.

Jesus Window at Mtn View

Jesus Felt that God was Distant

The wild truth is: even Jesus felt distant from Father God while on the cross.  Classical Christians understand Jesus to have been the embodiment of God on earth.  Yet, Jesus Himself felt what it was like when a person experiences spiritual drought.  Jesus said from the cross, “‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?‘ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me'” (Matthew 27:46b, NLT)?  Granted there are great theological depths with Jesus being identified as God and experiencing the separation of the Father.  Those issues are for another article at another time.  But for the moment, the reader enduring a spiritual distance from God should recognize that God understands.  There were theological reasons for the momentary separation between the Father and Son at Golgotha.  However, one needs not think that when God seems distant that God is not associated with the person.  Even when God seems distant, God still loves you and still cares for you.

Conclusion

Some individuals use anything to make themselves appear to be superior to another.  Spirituality may be one of those areas.  Those who have experienced God in a real way may use those experiences to make those who have not feel less spiritual.  However, the experience originates with God.  If you are going through the storms of life and God feels distant in your life, do not fret.  God is still there if you have entered into a relationship with God.  You will one day feel God as near to you as God actually is.  I offer the following nine steps to help you get there quicker.

Tips to Stay Focused During Times of Divine Distance:

1.      Keep a Regular Prayer Routine.  Keep praying.  Don’t stop.  Just because God seems distant, God is there with you.  Communicate with God.  Don’t lose the line of communication through your spiritual drought.

2.      Keep a Regular Devotional Routine.  Keep reading the Word of God.  In my experience, even when God seems distant, God continues to communicate timeless truths through the regular study of God’s Word.  It may be that through the study of God’s Word that you regain that intimacy that you once felt.

3.      Focus on the Promises of God.  There is a story of an aged man who was facing death.  Blind and rigid, the man told his pastor, “I am troubled because I don’t remember the promises of God.”  The wise pastor said, “Sir, don’t worry.  You may have forgotten, but God hasn’t.”  God will keep the promises that God has made.  Stay focused on those promises.

4.      Keep in Mind What You Know about God.  Remember the truths that God has taught you about Himself.  Focus on the things you know about God instead of the things you don’t know.  You may not know what the future holds, but you will know that God is beyond the scope of space and time.  It may seem like everything is flying out of control, but you will be reminded of the God who holds everything together and gives things order.

5.      Remember the Times that God has Previously Delivered You.  This is where a journal may become handy.  When God does something great for you, record it.  Write it down.  When you go through times of spiritual drought, you might find great encouragement by scrolling back to rediscover the times where God has made a way for you.

6.      Keep Asking for God’s Presence.  Some Christians are under the impression that they can not ask or question God about anything.  This is not what is found in the pages of the Bible.  Many a person of faith has boldly asked God why things were happening as they were (ie. Job, Habakkuk, and David).  Be honest with God.  God already knows everything is going on anyhow.  Ask God for His presence to return as you have once experienced it.  If you have never had such an intimacy with God, ask for it…repeatedly.

7.      Dwell in the Shadow of Spiritual Giants.  Christianity has never been meant to be an individual affair.  Christianity is about relationships…a relationship with God and a relationship with others.  Befriend individuals who maintain a great spiritual disciplines.  Grow with them in the Lord.  Do not think that you must travel this Christian walk alone.

8.      Serve Others.  The reason you may be going through a spiritual drought may be due to the fact that you have suffered some form of loss.  The worst thing you can do is to lock yourself up in your home and never get out.  Join your local congregation.  Help out in some ministry.  Volunteer.  You may find that by helping others that you find the intimacy with God that you desire.

9.      Keep a Thankful Heart.  Finally, do not get caught up in a personal pity party.  Yes, allow yourself to grieve if you have lost a loved one.  But, instead of focusing on what you have lost, focus on what you have…or perhaps had.  If you did lose a loved one and this caused the spiritual drought with God, focus on the years that you had with the loved one.  I understand that this is easier said than done.  However, when one keeps a thankful heart, one might find that one not only finds intimacy with God, but also an optimistic spirit.

Seeking intimacy with God,

Pastor Brian

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.

Some Possible Reasons Why God Allows Disasters to Strike

It is a classic question.  “Why did God allow _______ to happen?”  You can fill-in-the-blank with a variety of terms.  Recently, this question has had to do with a rash of natural disasters that have struck Oklahoma and other areas.  Anytime a disaster strikes, one of the first questions asked is, “Why did a loving God allow this to happen”.  Even insurance companies describe disasters as “acts of God.”  Funny that we should attribute negative things to God.  Why not call the birth of a child an act of God or the miraculous healing of a person an act of God?  Some might, but many do not think about God unless something disastrous takes place.

Although it is impossible to accurately pinpoint God’s intentions in every event, God has given us some principles with which to work found in the Bible.  In the Bible, at least five possible reasons are given as to why God may allow disasters to strike.

God Allows Disasters to Occur Because of Judgment

Due to the rebellious nature of humanity, God has to keep things in check.  Although this is not popular to mention in modern times, one can easily find examples of God bringing disaster upon certain immoral societies by disasters.  The clearest example is found in the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Did God destroy the cities by volcanic eruptions or was it by an asteroid?  This writer thinks that it is the latter.  Nonetheless, God delivered due to the moral corruption of the area.  Prior to this time, God had allowed a massive flood to nearly wipe out humanity saving only a few faithful.  In Habakkuk, God shows that God allows disaster to strike because of judgment.  God says to Habakkuk, “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence!  Is it not indeed from the LORD of hosts that peoples toil for fire, and nations grow weary for nothing?  For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:12-14, NASB).  In Jonah, God allows a storm to take place due to Jonah’s rebellion.  In Jonah, it is written, “The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up…Then (the sailors) said to (Jonah), ‘Tell us now!  On what account has this calamity struck us?” (Jonah 1:4, 8a).  Clearly from these examples, it can be seen that God does allow disasters to strike due to an overflow of human rebellion.  One may ask, well why would God do this?  Why WOULDN’T God do this?  From the examples of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the days of Noah, the people were extremely wicked.  Depravity had grown to the level of becoming reprobates…a condition where the hard has grown hard and repentance is nearly impossible.  The people were not going to get better.  So God protected the innocent by giving them a way out for those who would listen.  Why would God bring judgment to Jonah?  Well, it was through Jonah that the land of Nineveh would repent and be spared.  Our rebellion may have effects on others.  God must correct our paths from time to time.  But this is not the only reason why God may allow disasters to occur.

God Allows Disasters to Occur to Build Our Faith

Humans have the innate desire to escape any and all pain and suffering.  This is a natural response because pleasure is much nicer than pain.  However, if we never went through painful experiences, would we be better or worse?  It would seem that we would be much worse.  Through difficult times, a person’s faith in God is built.  What is the biblical definition of faith; dependency on God.  Paul writes, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as it is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.  This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-5, NASB).

I love weightlifting.  The process is intriguing.  Before one can build muscle, one must first tear the muscle down by way of vigorous exercise.  It is during the recuperation time that the muscle is built stronger.  God does the same with us in our lives.  To make us stronger, God must put or allow us to go through difficult circumstances in order to trust in Him more and to develop character in ourselves.

Cindy Smith is an exceptional lady.  She is a member of our church.  Cindy was born with cerebral palsy.  The palsy makes it difficult for Cindy to accomplish things that would be taken for granted by most individuals.  However, Cindy told me once that she embraced her palsy.  According to her own testimony, she would not be the person she is today if it were not for having the palsy.  Dr. William Lane Craig, one of the premier apologists of our day, had said the same thing about his medical condition.  Craig has a medical condition which has kept him from playing sports to the level that he desired.  However, he has said that having the disease has made him the man he is today.  Instead of devoting his passion and competitive nature to sports, he did so with Christian apologetics.  This is why that he is to this day feared by many atheists (including Richard Dawkins who has refused to debate him numerous times) and revered by many Christians.  Another biblical explanation exists for why God may allow disasters to strike.

God Allows Disasters to Occur to Glorify Himself

It may sound arrogant to the skeptic.  But, God does seem to allow disasters to happen so that God may be glorified.  This glorification, however, is not to boast in Himself.  Rather, this glorification is to show others that God is a reality and that people can trust in God.  So the principle is, disasters do not always occur because someone did something wrong.  See the example in John’s gospel.  John writes, “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’  Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him'” (John 9:1-3, NASB).  The man did become an example of God’s glory.  Jesus healed the blind man and everyone witnessed the power of God firsthand.  Furthermore, the blind man became a witness of God’s power.

Think about the Oklahoma tornadoes.  Yes the disaster was awful.  But consider the power of God shown through the miracles that occurred in the aftermath.  Think of the protection of God over the teacher who prayed over her class.  Not a child was hurt in that classroom.  Think of the compassion and love that was seen by Christians in this time of need.  Someone even said, “Don’t count on the government to help out.  Count on the Baptist men.”   Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be anyhow?  Shouldn’t the church stand in the gaps?  There is another biblical reason why God may allow disasters to occur.

God Allows Disasters to Occur for Nature’s Benefit

Believe it or not, storms and disasters can hold benefit to nature.  Dr. Hugh Ross stated at a recent conference that tornadoes can have a benefit for the land.  It is being seen that tornadoes can plow up and distribute essential nutrients in the area.  Also, tornadoes can clear out bad vegetation.  For hurricanes, these massive cyclones can bring necessary rain and moisture to dry lands.  Some areas depend on the moisture brought by these storms.  Volcanoes are important for the earth as they create new land masses, provides healthy gases even by the poisonous gases, and even provide diamonds through the intense heat.  God has made an amazing earth.  Each person must take into an account for the possible disasters in the area in which they live.  If you live near a volcano, one risks the chance that a volcanic eruption may take place.  If one lives near an area that has hurricanes, one must be prepared for a hurricane to make landfall.  If one lives near an area prone to massive tornadoes, one needs to be prepared.  If one lives in a colder environment, one needs to be prepared for a massive snowfall each winter.  That does not mean that it is any less heartbreaking when disaster strikes.  But, this at least the person will not be as surprised when disasters strike.  Job 38:34-37 says, “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that an abundance of water will cover you?  “Can you send forth lightnings that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?  “Who has put wisdom in the innermost being or given understanding to the mind?  “Who can count the clouds by wisdom, or tip the water jars of the heavens, when the dust hardens into a mass and the clods stick together?” (Job 38:34–38, NASB).  Things may occur for reasons we never know…which brings us to our final point.

God Allows Disasters to Occur Sometimes for Reasons Known Only to God

God is infinite and we are finite.  Sometimes we will not understand the things of God because we cannot know all there is to know about God.  When Job had questioned God about the difficulties that he had endured, he demanded an answer while his “so-called” friends gave possible answers.  The friends gave accusatory answers blaming Job.  They were wrong in the assessment.  God stepped in the scene and gave a response to Job’s inquisition.  God said, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? “Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!  “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know.  Or who stretched the line on it?  “On what were its bases sunk?  Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:1–7, NASB).  The point of God’s answer was not arrogance but to remind Job that he would not have all the answers.  Neither will we.  God is the one who established everything in place.  God is the only one who has all the answers.  God knows how everything works together.  In the end, God works everything together and for a  purpose.  We may not know the the purpose until we get into eternity.  But, we can trust God in His love and infinite goodness that everything will work out in the end.

Conclusion

God has reasons behind things we cannot understand.  Even when things look bleak and do not make sense, God can bring out some great things despite the problems we endure.  Sometimes God may bring disasters for judgment against depraved societies.  Other times God may allow disasters to take place to test our faith.  At other times God may allow disasters to take place in order to glorify God and show God’s power to those who do not know God.  Other times God may allow disasters to occur for the benefit of the natural order.  Finally, disasters may occur for reasons known only to God.  In the end, every worldview must deal with the reality of disasters and suffering.  Some will choose not to believe in a loving God.  But then, what hope does that person have?  Does the person have hope in the midst of the storm?  Does the person have hope beyond this life?  What about justice?  Are wrongs just allowed to occur with no ultimate consequence?  When you understand the fact that God is a reality and that the gospel is true, then one can be filled with faith, hope, and ultimately love despite the storms of life that may come.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Brian Chilton