A History of the Problem of Evil - Overview, part 2

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Read the series so far.

Within the various religious traditions there is broad agreement that evil exists and that it is a central theme in the comparative doctrines, yet justification for the existence of evil and magnitude of the paradox differs significantly from belief system to belief system. While each system gives at least some attention to the problem, it seems readily apparent that within the Christian tradition one will find the greatest consideration of and more numerous propositions for resolution of the problem. Perhaps the problem of evil is a central issue for the biblical system, since it is more precisely definitive of the character of God than it is in any other system.

Plato (428-348)

In Plato’s dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro, Socrates asks “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” The question reflects a dilemma related to the problem of evil. If the former is affirmed then the gods are governed by an absolute standard which would necessarily be superior to them by virtue of its governance. If the latter is affirmed then any absolute standard of piety (or goodness) must be dismissed. If the latter is affirmed then the gods (or God) could not accurately be described as absolutely good since there would be no absolute standard of good, but again if the former is affirmed then the gods (or God) could not be described as all powerful, since they (or He) would be governed by piety (or goodness). Read more about A History of the Problem of Evil - Overview, part 2

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A History of the Problem of Evil - Overview

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The seemingly unavoidable contradiction between the existence of a personal God and the reality of evil provides a crucial point of entry not only for (1) argument for and against the existence of God and (2) discussion of the nature and character of such a God; but also, as Neiman suggests, the problem of evil is itself an organizing principle for history of philosophy.1 Thus the theologian will not be the only interlocutor on the subject, but rather in fact the philosopher must also dedicate significant energies to understanding and ultimately dealing with the problem. Perhaps if Neiman is correct, the problem has even less to do with philosophy of religion than with philosophy itself, or then again, as I would suggest the problem of evil affords an example of the unbreakable bond between religion and philosophy and the resultant necessity of interdisciplinarity between the two.

Noting the significance, then, of the issue, this present discussion will (1) identify major theorists and their statements of the problem within context, and (2) give attention to various attempts at resolution also within a chronological context. I will neither offer critiques of these various attempts nor propose a theodicy (explanation or defense of why God permits evil), nor will I attempt to offer a comprehensive discussion of pertinent thinkers and their views. The focus here will be an introductory survey intended to provide a working and historically informed definition of the problem of evil from theological and philosophical vantage points. Read more about A History of the Problem of Evil - Overview

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Book Review - Baptist Ways: A History

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Image of Baptist Ways: A History
by Bill J. Leonard
Judson Pr 2003
Paperback 480

Conceived as a replacement for Robert Torbet’s well-known text, A History of the Baptists, this book attempts to survey the worldwide history of Baptists from their origins in seventeeth-century England. Leonard states his thesis clearly in the opening paragraph of his preface:

“The thesis of this book is relatively simple. It suggests that amid certain distinctives, Baptist identity is configured in a variety of ways by groups, subgroups, and individuals who claim the Baptist name. This identity extends across a theological spectrum from Arminian to Calvinist, from conservative to liberal, from open to closed communionist, and from denominationalist to independent.” (p. xi)

This thesis allows Leonard to include a broad survey of individuals and groups, including giving significant attention to the role of women and minorities in the history of the Baptists. One interesting feature is regular description of Baptist hymnody and worship. Throughout the work, Leonard draws primarily from secondary sources, although the notes (which are placed as endnotes after each chapter) indicate a measured use of primary sources.

The book alternates between chronological and geographical perspectives. Read more about Book Review - Baptist Ways: A History

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Lessons of a Young Pastor

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From Voice, Nov/Dec 2013. Used by permission.

I have the humbling opportunity to serve our Lord as a local church pastor in York, Pennsylvania. The church the Lord has brought into my life is currently a growing, family-friendly country church, positioned between historic towns and thriving farmland. But God’s work in my life to bring me where I am today started many years ago. I was raised in a pastor’s home, and was able to watch and observe my father as God used him to lead a local church. I saw him have good days and bad days, and learned from him many things which I incorporate into my own ministry.

However, when I realized the call of God in my life to become a local church pastor as well, I thought I knew it all. After all what else is there to learn that I have not already observed growing up in a pastor’s house? Naively I thought to myself, “this is going to be easy…it’s all I’ve ever known.” I was wrong, and the Lord taught me early, and often, lessons to mature me in my ministry.

As I grew in the real world of ministry I have learned life lessons along the way. I have encountered happy surprises and blessings, and have persevered through the challenges that “come with the job.” I would like to share some of those with you. Read more about Lessons of a Young Pastor

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Folk Religion and Gracious Lost People

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I have known many folks who embrace what I call “folk religion.” It runs something like this: “I want my family (and myself) to be nice, good, and decent. Christianity is what makes people nice, so I will choose to be a Christian and rear my children as Christians. The theology doesn’t matter, what matters is how we live and treat others.”

This belief system boils down to using the Kingdom of God. Using this reasoning, our faith exists to help us and our children become kind and honest people—a civilizing, positive influence. Hopefully our faith will keep us off of drugs, keep us from being promiscuous, help us avoid excessive alcohol, and help us avoid dishonest gain. We will see our kids grow up to become responsible, family-oriented, and self-supporting.

We all desire our children to turn out well, and to live decent lives ourselves. This is not a bad secondary goal. We should aim for that. But if this is why we call ourselves Christians, we are in trouble. Faith in Jesus becomes a means to an end, not an end in itself. Our primary goal should be to be in right relationship with God.

When folks use Christianity in this manner, they will eventually be confronted with the rude awakening that some who profess faith in Jesus are not all that wonderful. On the other hand, at times, those who profess other faiths or no religion at all are sometimes quite kind and generous. Read more about Folk Religion and Gracious Lost People

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The Certainty and Importance of the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead

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(About this series)

CHAPTER III THE CERTAINTY AND IMPORTANCE OF THE BODILY RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST FROM THE DEAD

BY REV. R. A. TORREY, D. D.
(Copyrighted by R. A. Torrey in Great Britain and America and published herewith by permission. {sic}

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the corner-stone of Christian doctrine. It is mentioned directly one hundred and four or more times in the New Testament. It was the most prominent and cardinal point in the apostolic testimony. When the apostolic company, after the apostasy of Judas Iscariot, felt it necessary to complete their number again by the addition of one to take the place of Judas Iscariot, it was in order that he might “be a witness with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1:21, 22). The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the one point that Peter emphasized in his great sermon on the Day of Pentecost. His whole sermon centered in that fact. Its key-note was, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32, cf. vs. 24-31). When the Apostles were filled again with the Holy Spirit some days later, the one central result was that “with great power gave the Apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” The central doctrine that the Apostle Paul preached to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers on Mars Hill was Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 17:18, cf. Acts 23:6; 1 Cor. 15:15.) The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the two fundamental truths of the Gospel, the other being His atoning death. Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:1. 3, 4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; For I Read more about The Certainty and Importance of the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead

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Books of Note - Preaching? and Theology of the Reformers

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Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching by Alec Motyer

Image of Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching
by Alec Motyer
Christian Focus 2013
Paperback 192

“The Word of God is the constitutive reality at the heart of the Church” (p. 18).

There are as many ideas about how to grow a church as there are books on the subject. There are books that focus on meeting felt needs, worship strategies, small groups and a myriad of other ministries that can be maximized to grow your church. However, what many of these books fail to recognize or address is that the bedrock of growing a church is the ministry of the Word through preaching.

With a biblical focus on the Word of God at the heart of a church Alec Motyer has written Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching. As the Old Testament editor for The Bible Speaks Today series, Motyer has turned his pen to writing on preaching and has written a book that addresses both the biblical-theological aspects as well as some practical issues.

The first five chapters address the nature of preaching. These chapters are exegetically grounded in various passages of Scripture. Motyer defines good preaching as that which has a “sense of being plain and unmistakable” (p. 11). Preaching that is good is to be expositional, that is, “the restatement of a Scripture” (p. 30). Motyer wants to impress upon his readers that preaching is the ground upon which the whole church grows and functions. All ministry grows out of the Word and the preaching of the Word. His exegetical work deals with many NT passages that provide us with the nature and task of faithful biblical preachers. His observation, especially of the book of Acts, is that it is the ministry of the preaching of the Word that drove the growth of the early church. Surely there were other attending contributions, like the work of the Spirit through the Word, but it was always the Word that led the way and was responded to. Read more about Books of Note - Preaching? and Theology of the Reformers

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Separation: Can We Have a Better Debate?

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The biblical doctrine of separation is difficult to discuss. I’ve read, listened to, and participated in quite a few exchanges over the years. More often than not, no movement toward consensus, or even increase in clarity, seemed to result. It’s not unusual for a discussion on the topic to end with—apparently—less mutual understanding than existed at the start, despite the fact that everybody involved seems to genuinely desire to know, live, and teach what the Scriptures require of us. (By the way, long before Internet, this sort of back and forth was going on in magazines, newsletters and pamphlets. It just moved slower in those days.)

So why is the topic so messy?

I don’t fully understand why clarity about separation is so elusive. I do continue to believe, though, that there is ultimately no reason why the various perspectives on the subject can’t be clearly distinguished from one another in accurate and mutually-accepted terms. In other words, though we’re unlikely to ever see complete agreement between conservative evangelicals, 20th century-style movement-fundamentalists, and all the miscellaneous-other among us, it really is possible to reach a point where the differences among us are clear, well understood, and debated mostly on-point—to the benefit of all who seek to know and obey the truth. Read more about Separation: Can We Have a Better Debate?

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