Reading Voltaire’s satire Candide as an impressionable young man led me to think lowly of Gottfried Leibniz as a philosopher. In this satire, Voltaire mercilessly ridiculed Leibniz’s philosophy of optimism embodied by Pangloss, the mentor of the protagonist of the tale, Candide. Pangloss’ mindless muttering of the mantra, “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds,” is plainly absurd when against the backdrop of an unrelenting series of gross injustices, cataclysmic natural disasters like the Lisbon earthquake (1755) and overwhelming personal tragedies that befall the naïve Candide and his love interest Cunegonde.
In Candide, Voltaire was reiterating an objection to theism which was first formulated as a trilemma by the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus, which goes as follow:
1) “If God is willing to prevent evil but is unable to do so, then he is not omnipotent.”
2) “If God is able to prevent evil but unwilling to do so, then he is not perfectly good.”
3) “If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why is there evil in the world?” Continue reading “Leibniz On The Problem of Evil and the Best of all Possible Worlds”
[Life must be imbued with meaning if it is to be worth living. But how can meaning be sustained when the end of life seems pointless? Even if one diligently gathers wisdom for three score and ten years, life must still go the way of the grasshopper. It is hard to keep faith in a good God who orders providence when misfortune strikes and one loses everything that has been regarded as blessings of God. Faith clings precariously to a thread worn thin as one suffers unbearable pain caused by terminal illness…
The defiance of the hard core skeptic or Stoic in the face of pointless and overwhelming suffering seems heroic when he counsels that the best way to find peace is to renounce any hope of finding meaning in life and to submit to fate. But is not the resignation of oneself to everything without complaint nothing more than a capitulation to inscrutable fate? Is life not reduced to groping in the dark where all things are colorless and grey? Without beauty and meaning, one loses the desire to act and sinks into paralyzing resignation.
The Christian believer may seem to share the same kindred spirit with the Stoic when he prays through his suffering, the immortal words of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Thy will be done.” But his prayer is a reposeful confession of faith rather than an utterance of despair or resignation. For he knows something that a person without Christ cannot know. He knows that he is entrusting his life into the hands of the heavenly Father rather than capitulating to impersonal and capricious fate.]
Continue reading “God Stoops to Turn Our Resignation to Restfulness”
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another (Job 19:25-27).
We secretly relish in schadenfreude when misfortune strikes a wicked man, but we can only be bewildered by the disproportionate suffering that afflicts a righteous and blameless man, like Job. To be sure, we are given a glimpse of divine mystery when the prologue of the book of Job explains that Job’s sufferings are due to a wager between God and Satan. Satan sneers at God and insinuates that his kingdom is based on expediency since Job’s loyalty to God is gained through the blessings of God. God allows Satan to hurt Job, confident that the outcome will conclusively prove Satan wrong. Continue reading “The Suffering of Job: From Tragedy to Triumph”
It seems that my blog post, “God Has Answered our Coronavirus Lament. Contra. N.T. Wright” has caused offence among some ardent admirers of N.T. Wright. It has been suggested in the social media that I was small-minded and most uncharitable in trying to discredit someone just because of theological disagreement. It was alleged that my response betrayed vanity and presumptuousness as I tried in vain to discredit a world class scholar who is unquestionably way far more accomplished than I am. One critic concluded that I have been so caught up with abstract theologizing that I have lost the ability to empathize and offer pertinent pastoral counsel to people who are struggling with their faith in times of crisis.
I re-read my response to NTW to see if indeed I have been guilty of the charges levelled at me. To be honest, I am still puzzled in trying to identify the grounds on which these defenders of NTW drew these awful conclusions about me when other readers responded positively to the same post. Continue reading “Trusting God in Times of (Covid) Crisis”
In general, the tradition of Holy Saturday (the day between Good Friday and Easter) is not observed among the independent churches. Yes, Good Friday ends in tragedy. But thank God, there is great rejoicing on Easter Sunday. But how is Good Friday connected to Easter Sunday if we have no idea about what is happening on the day between them? The unexplained hiatus creates a sense of awkwardness.
I strongly recommend Alan Lewis’ profound book, Between the Cros and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday (Eerdmans, 2001) which I found stimulating and helpful when I preached on Holy Saturday in a series of Easter sermons in 2014. Continue reading “Holy Saturday and the Spirituality of Waiting”
The doctrine of the providence of God assures believers that the Lord is sovereign over the circumstances of their lives. Indeed, “The Church is His special care and charge. He rules the world for its good, as a head consulting the welfare of the body.” (John Flavel)
Meditation on God’s providence will foster both gratitude and fortitude in believers. Flavel in his classic book, The Mystery of Providence demonstrates how the Reformed doctrine of providence provides practical advice on how believers may grow in sanctification and enjoy the peace of God through times of affliction (excerpts given below).
APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF PROVIDENCE
How may a Christian discover the will of God and his own duty under dark and doubtful providences?
In order to answer this question we must consider what is meant by the will of God and what by those doubtful providences that make the discovery of His will difficult and what rules are to be observed for ascertaining God’s will for us under such difficult and puzzling providences.
How may a Christian be supported in waiting upon God, while Providence delays the performance of the mercies to him for which he has long prayed and waited?
It is supposed in this case that Providence may linger and delay the performance of those mercies to us that we have long waited and prayed for, and that during that delay and suspense our hearts and hopes may be very low and ready to fail. Continue reading “Finding God’s Peace in Times of Afflictive Providence (Covid-19 Crisis)”
[A summary of Paul Helm’s article, Coronavirus19 – What is it For? His words in italics]
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜 𝐂𝐚𝐬𝐞
When questioned about the incidents where (1) Pilate killed some Galileans and mingled their blood with their sacrifices and (2) eighteen Jews died in an accident when the Tower of Siloam fell on them, Jesus retorted, ‘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, unless you repent. You will all likewise perish’. (Luke 13: 1-3) These words are offensive to unbelievers.
The references to sin and guilt and repentance will put them off. But a contemporary Jesus – follower, who values Jesus’s words, should he not value these words? But no one, or scarcely one, of his followers today, quotes them, but shuns them. Jesus is silenced. When there are references, to sin, evil and judgment to come, there is a deafening silence. A person who respects Jesus’ words sees the purpose of the Coronavirus plague and other such evils as prompts to reflection and penitence, for Jesus calls all people are called to penitence for their evils even if, outwardly respectable, they convince themselves that they have no such need.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐈𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐮𝐚𝐥, 𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐂𝐚𝐬𝐞 Continue reading “Coronavirus19 – What is it For?”
The fact is that people who survive dire and desperate situations are not those just stay put while waiting for a rational answer. Neither do they just lament and wait for commiseration (romantic sigh of relief), whether from counsellors or from God. Well, unless they come the socially privileged class and therefore never have to fend for themselves all their lives. Not surprisingly, they are at a loss, not knowing what to do. Those who survive are those who refuse to give up. Instead, they overcome the temptation to resign to their fate and do what it takes to survive. Continue reading “From Lament, to Hope and Action”
The headline of N.T. Wright’s piece published in Time Magazine (29/03/2020) is both shocking and provocative: “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To.”
We may summarize NTW’s piece accordingly – There is no explanation, whether rationalist or romantic. We should not rationalize away or spiritualize our suffering especially in times when “the only advice is to wait without hope.” It is better just to grieve or lament. This is because lament reminds us that God himself is the one who grieved and lamented when his people betrayed him. NTW concludes, “It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead.”
Lament without an explanation for suffering without rhyme or reason? Doesn’t this sound like Greek catharsis in the face of cruel and capricious fate? Isn’t this a strange amalgamation of sentimentalism with Roman stoicism? In which case, why lament? Why not just accept our fate? In this regard, maybe the Muslims got it right – just throw up your hands and exclaim “takdir”, and get on with life. Continue reading “God Has Answered our Coronavirus Lament. Contra. N.T. Wright”
Why do atheistic evolutionists conclude that Christianity is false? Basically, there rely on the following argument. The Atheistic Evolutionist Argument 1) If evolution is true, there was no first, historical Adam. 2) If there was no first, historical Adam, there was no Fall. 3) If there was no Fall, the sinful condition of humanity is … Continue reading “If Evolution – No Adam, No Fall, No Salvation, No Savior”
Why do atheistic evolutionists conclude that Christianity is false? Basically, there rely on the following argument.
The Atheistic Evolutionist Argument
1) If evolution is true, there was no first, historical Adam.
2) If there was no first, historical Adam, there was no Fall.
3) If there was no Fall, the sinful condition of humanity is not an inescapable condition.
4) If the sinful condition is not an inescapable condition, moral and religious categories like ‘sin’ and ‘salvation’ are irrelevant or unnecessary, as evolution will take whatever course it takes by chance].
5) If salvation is irrelevant or unnecessary, there is no need for a Savior.
6) The heart or fundamental claim of Christianity is that it is necessary for Jesus to come as the Savior of the human race
Conclusion: If evolution is true [i.e. there was no historical Adam], then based on (5) and (6), Christianity is false.
Continue reading “If Evolution – No Adam, No Fall, No Salvation, No Savior”