Musings on Christianity
In this project, we seek to better understand Christianity. We also seek to apply Biblical principles to life issues. In this blog series, the goal is for this to be an online panel in which I pose questions and offer an introduction. These introductions will be my interpretation and application of scripture. As I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t even attended seminary. I’m not a pastor. I’m just a man studying the word of God and working to apply it to his life. My sincere hope is that the elders of my church, Hope Bible Church in Columbia, Maryland, will contribute to the discussion. I also hope that other pastors around the world will join in intelligent, loving discussion of these topics.
We seek to operate in truth and love, which is an essential combination. If any should feel compelled to comment, I humbly request that you support your opinion with scripturally based supporting comments. You are more than willing to add personal application, but we seek a historical, grammatical hermeneutics based discussion which will help Christians, or people who are curious about the faith, gain wisdom on how to approach topics of faith and life. For consistency, please use the ESV. I’m not claiming it to be better than other versions of the Bible. It’s just the version that I as moderator am currently using, and I believe strongly that consistency is essential in any academic discussion. You are more than welcome to then include other translations of the Bible to add further clarification, but I’d appreciate it if we begin with on version and then branch out.
Please be advised that your comments are subject to being included in this book. By placing a comment you consent and permit me to include your comment in the final version which will be sold.
I will be the editor and compiler of this book. As such, I retain the right to include or omit any comments. My hope is the elders of Hope Bible Church will review and edit the project for hermeneutical accuracy.
The inspiration for this blog series is a combination of the concept from the book Right Thinking In a World Gone Wrong by John MacAurthur and several thoughts, discussions, and questions I hope to understand better as I grow in the faith.
The end goal is to produce a published book which will provide readers with answers to questions and scripturally-grounded mindsets to apply to life’s issues and situations.
We sincerely hope this series of 52 weekly discussions (or at least I hope there will be discussions) will provide comfort and wisdom through the only source equipped to help man face the world in which we live.
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People
If we’re going to confront questions about faith or Christianity, let’s just start right off the bat with one of the biggest, if not the biggest, questions.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
This questions has a major fallacy that must be addressed:
There are no good people.
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, adultery coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23)
“The Lord looks down from haven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:2-3)
A point of pride for man is the desire to proclaim himself good, when that’s just not the truth of it. I’m not good, and neither are you. If we declare ourselves good, we do so only in comparison with man. We can certainly look upon man and pridefully declare ourselves better than one and less than another, but then we make man that standard by which we measure ourselves, and this is the improper standard. We can surely look to one another on our journey, but the foremost standard by which we should always evaluate ourselves is God himself, and compared to a perfect, holy God, we fall so very short. (The last part is paraphrased from Romans 3:23.)
Some read scripture like this and feel compelled to turn away. Who wants to be called a bad person? Who wants to be condemned? But this is less an accusation or inherent condemnation than it is a simple fact of our own, broken, human condition. I am not good, and neither are you. I’m not claiming to be the worst human, I’m just not pretending to be anywhere near the same level as God. Neither am I declaring you, reader, the worst human ever. However, if we are human, we are not good.
So what is this question really asking? It’s asking why bad things happen to people regardless of their level of evil. You may add to this question the sub topic of why do evil people thrive while the good suffer?
This isn’t always true. Personally, I’ve had some wonderful things happen in my life. I’ve also seen my share of tragedy. But isn’t it hard to see people we love suffer? Isn’t it infuriating to see someone who’s wronged you receive rewards you seek? I know it bothers me, but should it?
First, let’s not forget that humanity suffers. The richest man alive with the most children has suffered in some way. The most wretched person, homeless and starving, is still alive or was still given life. If we focus on our suffering, we forget or even cast aside any blessings we’ve received. We’re like children who are well-fed, housed, and genuinely loved by our Father who forget it all and declare our parents horrible because we didn’t receive our most recent desire, or we’ve just come upon some misfortune.
“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)
What do we do when someone who’s transgressed against us receives rewards and we don’t? Sure, it stinks to feel passed over, but this world isn’t the reward. The greatest reward is to be in the presence of God in His kingdom. Does this mean I don’t want a promotion or to sell more books? Of course not, but I hope to be very careful before I start looking to others who have worldly things.
“be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.” (Psalm 37:2)
A parable I seek when I need comfort as I suffer and others who I arrogantly declare are more evil than I am receive wealth and happiness, is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
People will receive on this earth, and people will lose things on this earth. However, I’m a bit wary of hoarding worldly things. This doesn’t mean I didn’t work to be debt free or I’m not working to ensure I have a three-month emergency fund. However, if God appeared to you and gave you a choice: All the money and joy you desire on Earth at the cost of eternity afterward, or all the pain and misery you fear at the reward of joy and glory for eternity afterward, which would you choose?
Then consider this: As bad as things have gotten, have you never had one moment of joy or pleasure? If not, then I offer my genuine prayer for comfort and peace to you. Yes, bad things happen, but they happen to all people. No person is good. If we focus on the rewards of eternity, we can find comfort.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
For our panel: Must people suffer? What about children? What does suffering do for us? How does suffering help us if it does? What scripture can we seek to find comfort or gain understanding?
Thank you for reading,
3 thoughts on “Musings on Christianity 1”
I’m too tired to try to do justice to this incredibly difficult/complex topic, but here are some basic threads that need to be considered in this and similar questions. These are not “the answer” but some base-level considerations (mostly from Romans 8 & 9).
1. Questions of the form “Why does/did God do [fill in the blank]? or “Why does/did God allow [fill in the blank]?” very seldom have definite biblical answers for at least two reasons:
a. God’s thoughts and ways are so high above ours that our little human brains are probably incapable of comprehending the answer to some of these “why” questions (Isaiah 55:8-9)
b. God is not answerable to us and to sit in judgment of him as if we (with our finite minds and tiny perspective) have a better sense of what is wise and fair than he does (with his infinite knowledge and perfect holiness & love) is utter presumption (Romans 9:19-21)
2. A partial answer to God creating a universe in which he allows evil/unbelief/suffering to exist is to allow those who belong to him to experience firsthand the glory of divine holiness and mercy (Romans 9:22-24)
3. God has promised us that he ultimately works all things for his glory and the good of those who belong to him (Romans 8:28-30)
a. When final glory is reached, the sufferings of this present life will pale in comparison (Romans 8:18-21)
b. He does not tell us we will understand everything, but we can trust that he knows what he is doing. We are motivated by hope/faith/trust, not by possessing all the answers & a carefree life right now (Romans 8:22-25)
c. When we are so overwhelmed that we don’t even know how to talk to God about it, the Holy Spirit makes our prayers what they need to be (Romans 8:26-27)
TL;DR version: Whatever attempts we make at answering the questions of suffering, we must trust that God is sovereign, wise, holy, good, and loving whether or not it looks like it from our perspective.
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Thanks for your input into this topic.