Tag Archives: Suffering

Logical Gal’s 37 billion dollar debt and the If…then argument

29 Jul

Debt - $37 billion

Romans 8:32  He that did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also give us all things with him?

I was trying to put a number on an impossible debt I might owe – one in which I had absolutely NO hope of coming close to paying off.  I arbitrarily picked 37 billion dollars because it sounded….unreal!

Now what if I added to that monetary obligation the imminent threat of execution should I NOT come up with the money by a certain deadline?

With that sentence hanging over me every waking moment, how could I ever take pleasure in the sound of birds, or a breathtaking sunset or the smell of newly mown grass?  Who could enjoy ANYthing, knowing that sure and certain death was drawing closer?

Rain cloud

The apostle Paul argues from the greater to the lesser when he places ‘front and center’ God’s gift to us of Jesus’ death in lieu of ours to pay our un-payable debt. For each breath we draw and live in rebellion to our holy creator God increases our guilt.

So imagine WITH ME the freedom we should feel knowing for a fact that THIS sentence has been carried out already and we are literally OFF the hook and on good terms with our Creator God.

What could hang over us more serious than that already settled debt? Why in light of that load having been lifted, wouldn’t we have a different perspective about all other problems?  Wouldn’t all other setbacks, frustrations and disappointments fall into an entirely DIFFERENT category?  Wouldn’t we find it natural to remember, to relax and then to rejoice at all times when encountering trials?   No longer having to fear the worst, wouldn’t we be able to bear up under the lesser pains of life?  What would we recall when:

  • we run short on money for this month’s bills?  That the God who has already done the ‘impossible’ promises to provide.
  • we face a relationship gone sour? That God will either heal it, change US or comfort us.
  • ‘the right job’ never materializes? That there is likely SOME work to be had that will cover the bills and benefit others.
  • that chronic sin pattern or health problem or, or, or? That we are to turn our thoughts back to Him and quiet our minds in God. That our worst imaginable nightmare has been taken care of.  That He alone has the omniscient knowledge, kind wisdom and infinite power to do what is best for us.

I’m finding as I face disappointments that range from minor to more painful that when I remind myself of the logic of God having taken care of my BIGGEST need, (which by the way cost Him the MOST), I relax in the logic of the holy and faithful nature of the One of whom Paul argues ‘How can He not also take care of……?’

If God takes care of my most serious problem, then He will take care of my lesser problems

God has removed my unpayable debt against Him that meant a one-way ticket to Hell

Therefore, God will give me what I need for this lesser problem

Logical gal – new insight into Bible verse via French translation and a hypothetical syllogisme

1 Jul

Grace was given to you, regarding Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him. Phil 1:29

Caught off guard, I reread this morning’s devotional in the French (from a French Bible meditation-a-day calendar by La Bonne Semence – Website is here).  Why had I never seen that before?

Paul was explaining that faith to believe Jesus is a gift just like the power to endure suffering is a gift.

Two gifts; same grace; 2 different purposes:

  1. Power to believe Jesus is God
  2. Power to go through suffering

Grace

Doing a little digging, I discovered why I had never before ‘seen’ the connection to grace, to a gift from God.  Many of the English translations say something like the ESV – For to you it has been granted…...

My mind had just skipped over those words and lingered on my discomfort with the linkage between believing and suffering. I confess an unhealthy FEAR of future suffering.  So I have both pondered and shuddered at the latter portion of that statement.

Applying some clear thinking it was fairly easy to draw out some principles from this now illumined verse:

  • Both true belief and the power to endure suffering are possible only with God
  • By definition grace is a gift
  • God grants grace as a gift to Christians
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot see or rely on the Biblical Jesus
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot make it through suffering the way God has intended it

These inferences immediately eased my unholy fears.  Here’s how I applied them to all the ‘what-ifs’ that swirl around in my head more times than I’d like to admit.

When I imagine a scenario, like a fatal car accident affecting a family member, I realize my lack of control. And there is nowhere to go with the fear. So it hovers. Blocks sleep at night and robs me of peace during the day.

Fear - stories

What I now see, thanks to God using this French translation (and the Greek supports it!), is that the imagined fears all take place outside of any grace that God provides.  The suffering I’m picturing is set against the backdrop of ME and my capabilities.  Of course, when I look at me, I am discouraged.   But Christians aren’t meant to live relying on their puny resources. Christians, once God re-births them, get a spiritual DNA.  (think: new supernatural power)

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.        2 Cor 5:17

As my cousin Terry counsels, ‘Don’t step out of your circle of Grace.’  She’s talking about ‘daily bread’.  God gives us what we need AS we need it. That’s what He promises.  He doesn’t provide the ‘feeling’ of grace in the present for a potential future situation.

Bottom line, logically-speaking?   It’s STUPID to meditate on possible suffering.

So what will I do when another IRRATIONAL fear pops unbidden into my mind?  Remind myself of truth, that God has promised future grace when I need it.  For now, I will live in the present moment, relying on these facts that:

  • just as it takes a gift or grace to receive faith and believe
  • so, too, it takes a gift or grace to receive power and suffer in the manner He has planned

Here’s the if-then version of that truth:

  • Premise 1 – If God has given me faith to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, then God will give me power and grace for suffering as it comes.
  • Premise 2 – God HAS given me faith, right now, to believe and rely on Him
  • Conclusion – Therefore, He will most assuredly give me grace and power for suffering when it occurs.

Question: Where have clear thinking and logic helped you mine truth from the Bible?

Logical Gal and an argument against God

13 Jun

Problem of Evil

The most oft-cited reason for why God cannot exist is the fact of evil in the world.  At least since the Enlightenment.

It goes like this:

Premise 1:  If God exists, then he would not allow suffering and evil in the world

Premise 2: Suffering and evil DO exist

Conclusion:  Therefore, God must not exist

When we run into a hypothetical argument like this, it can be valid without being true.

The above form of this particular conditional syllogism is ‘MODUS TOLLENS’ and it is valid.

The way we can see that this argument is valid, is to focus on the 2nd premise and see whether it does one of two things:

  • it can either affirm the antecedent (the clause preceding the comma in the 1st or major premise , i.e. – “God exists“)
  • or it can deny the consequent (what follows the comma in the 1st or major premise, i.e. – he would not allow suffering and evil in the world)

If the 2nd premise (the minor premise) affirms the antecedent, we call its form of hypothetical syllogism ‘Modus Ponens’.  If instead it denies the consequent, then we call this form of the valid argument ‘Modus Tollens’.

*

If you are a biblical Christian and not an adherent to Enlightenment thinking, then you can quickly spot the false premise.

Bingo!  The first premise IS false.  Only when humans started to look to their reason and perceptions as arbiter of what was TRUTH, did philosophers begin to craft God in their own image.  As Tim Keller suggests in his latest book on suffering,

Tim Keller's book on suffering

Link to book here on Amazon

 

…God might actually have a reason for allowing suffering.  But post-enlightenment man reasons this way: If I can’t see a good reason for evil and suffering, then there must not be one!   And that in itself is ANOTHER hypothetical major premise to examine.

If we are truthful, this line of thinking sure makes us seem pretty self-centered and self-referential.  Did it not occur to modern man that he might not actually know ALL the details regarding our universe?  Where is the humility???

So back to Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens, what was the point of that little Latin-flavored Logic exercise?  Just to reenforce that there are several steps to examining an argument.  We look at clarity of terms, the form of the syllogism and then the truthfulness of the premises.  Before you jump in to either congratulate someone who shares your wisdom OR to beat them over the head verbally for espousing nonsense, do your homework!  You’re less likely to come across as a fool!

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.   Proverbs 17:28 –

monkey with mouth shut

 

Logical Gal and parsing God’s role in evil

23 Apr

A sign of maturity is the ability to live with tension between several messy concepts.

I was listening to Justin Brierly interview Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC.  Keller has just written a book on suffering.  You can buy the book here

Tim Keller's book on suffering

When asked how he pastorally responds to the question of evil and suffering, he described how his seminary professor led his class to consider this theodicy (problem of defending God). All the students read a chapter about the doctrine of God in a textbook, authored by Herman Bavink. Two of the views distinguishing God’s role in evil and election are big words:

supra-lapsarianism” and “infra-lapsariansim

According to Keller, the ‘supra’ version is the argument that God DID choose to create a world in which there is evil …….because THOSE circumstances will best glorify Him.

The ‘infra’ variation maintains that God did NOT decide to create a world with evil and suffering in it. But because of the Fall, He did purposefully elect some people out of it, yet did not ordain to save everyone….because THOSE conditions would best glorify him

So there is this argument back and forth.

Keller’s seminary professor then made the case that the Bible doesn’t actually let us choose either one of these.  The Bible says that you mustn’t come down too hard in one direction or the other.   Because if on the one hand you say, “God didn’t ordain evil.  He couldn’t help it, ” you’re left with a bigger problem.  For if evil wasn’t His design, then you really don’t have a god.  You have something else in charge of the universe and we really don’t know what that is. If on the other hand you say, “Yes, God DID create a plan to include evil so that it would glorify Him,”  then that view of God does not fit in with a lot of what the Bible says about His purposes and design as well as His heart and love for the world.

So what does one do with this dilemma, this either-or?

Dilemma

Keller continues with how his seminary professor and Bavink suggested they think. God’s ordaining of evil and good are not identical. They are rather ‘asymmetrical’. That is, His permissiveness in allowing some evil and His purposes in ordaining good are different.

In other words, these two Calvinistic views, the supra and the infralapsarian explanations,  are both right and wrong. (or another conclusion is that we cannot know one way or the other!)  So stick with what the Bible affirms.  Grow to be able to accept that in this life, there WILL BE loose ends.

We are, after all, finite creatures attempting to comprehend an infinite super-natural power.  Yes, God has communicated with us through the written word.  We can’t know everything, but we can know SOME things.  We can have certainty about His character, but His purposes are another matter.

God says in Deuteronomy 29:29 –The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but what has been revealed belongs to us and to our children forever, so that we might observe the words of this Law.

Question:  How comfortable are you at accepting uncertainty about some of these important issues in life?

Logical Gal – presuppositions about trials

7 Feb

We all face suffering through trials.

Our pre-existing beliefs or ‘pre-suppositions’ going INTO difficulties determine our conclusions.  And our ‘bottom-line’ reasoning impacts our feelings and how we will react.

My circumstances in my new school setting have been painful this first year.  And they seem to be getting worse.  So I have had occasion to rethink how I view suffering.

Because I have a Biblical worldview, my foundational beliefs are influenced by God’s Word.  But, let me assure you, no matter which worldview you hold, your presuppositions will influence you.  It doesn’t matter that your ‘going into the trial’ beliefs might be different from mine.  I just want you to SEE how our pre-existing beliefs make a difference.  It’s a corollary then that you should EXAMINE your presuppositions to see if they are ones you want influencing your life!!

Here is how my logical mind is working today.  The following are some ‘givens’ or axioms that I have gathered over the years as a Christian:

  1. I am made in the image of God
  2. He is a God of infinite joy, so authentic pleasure and contentment are important to Him.
  3. He has wired me to enjoy what He enjoys
  4. The highest joy/pleasure in the universe is being in His presence when He is glorified. (the Bible affirms this throughout the Old and New Testaments.  **The one sample passage at the end of this post is part of Jesus’ prayer before He was crucified.)
  5. The best seat in which I can see God glorified and thereby maximize my true pleasure, is UP CLOSE, in my life.
  6. The more desperate and dire the situations in my life, the more occasion for God to show Himself strong and amazing.
  7. I am UNABLE to do anything to help myself in this current struggle.  God is my only recourse.  Each additional turn of events that makes things worse is only serving to make the resolution all the more amazing when He does act.
  8. God is infinitely creative and acts in ways that are often unique and beyond my imagination.
  9. In the end, I am REALLY going to be satisfied in God and grateful that He allowed THIS to happen.

Reviewing in my mind my core suppositional beliefs does help.  It takes the anxiety out of the waiting.  I can live without seeing HOW He is going to act.  Since I KNOW His character and how He has acted in the past and what He promises, I am more likely to practice patience.

Question:  What are YOUR presuppositions about suffering?  Do they help you?

**Father, I want those you gave me
To be with me, right where I am,
So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me,
Having loved me
Long before there ever was a world.
Righteous Father, the world has never known you,
But I have known you, and these disciples know
That you sent me on this mission.
I have made your very being known to them—
Who you are and what you do—
And continue to make it known,
So that your love for me
Might be in them
Exactly as I am in them.  John 17: 24-26