The Great Assumption

If you’re looking to write a book on one of the toughest possible topics, you can’t find one much tougher than the often discussed and debated question: How can God be good, loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing since evil and suffering exist?

In a book that’s remarkable for its readability and clarity but also its scholarship and depth, Randy Alcorn tackles this whammy in If God Is Good.

In a work that constantly weaves in pertinent Scriptures, Alcorn addresses the question in a way that covers apologetics, philosophy, theology, and evangelism.  Loaded with interesting stories and packed with fantastic one-liners, Alcorn’s effort at addressing this huge question is surprisingly satisfying.

For me, the most important section comes on page 41 (where Alcorn is really just getting warmed up in this 500-page volume!).  Here, Alcorn points out that this whole question rests on the premise that God cannot have good reasons for allowing evil and suffering.  Alcorn challenges this assumption: “We may not understand why a good God would allow terrible suffering.  But this merely establishes that if there is a God, we do not know everything he knows.  Why should this surprise us?  Suppose we add only one premise to the argument that God is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving, and yet evil exists: God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting evil.”  In a book that is very well-organized and extremely thorough, this one point stood out above everything else.  If God has a reason for allowing evil and suffering, a reason that makes sense from an eternal perspective, then it’s perfectly consistent with His being good, all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving!

Even for its size, If God Is Good is highly readable from beginning to end.  It’s also so well organized that I’ll keep it on the shelf as a reference tool.

If you’re going to buy one book to help you wrestle with this big question, this is definitely the one I would recommend.

Note: I received a free copy of this book for review from Waterbrook Multnomah.  But they didn’t tell me what to say.  That would’ve been a lot easier, though, since this book was almost as long as the Old Testament.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

March for Life 2011

Yesterday I went to my first March for Life in D.C.  It was a pretty awesome experience which really deepened my appreciation for three groups of people:

(1) Catholics.  A local Catholic Church, Saint John Neumann’s in Ocean Pines, invited me to go to the march with them.  They chartered a bus and let everyone ride free.  I was impressed with that.  I was even more impressed with how warm and welcoming they were.  Usually my experiences with Catholics are with ex-Catholics who have fled from Catholicism, so I didn’t know what to expect.  What I encountered was a group of friendly people who bent over backwards to make me feel at home among them.  Sure, we’ve got some irreconcilable theological differences, but they also showed a genuine interest in Mennonite theology, doctrine, and practice, which I thought was pretty cool.  (Plus it was their bus, so it’s not like I was going to stand up and shout, “Well, actually….”)  It was kind of weird waking up this morning with Hail Marys running through my head like a power ballad leftover from the ’80s, but at least it was educational.

One of the things that really stood out to me was the community on the bus.  People were constantly passing around goodies and sharing everything with one another.  Pretzels, water, Gatorade, homemade cookies, wristbands, fliers, rings, M&Ms (plain and peanut)… it just went on and on.  I’m convinced that if we’d gotten stuck on the side of the road, someone would have opened their bag and pulled out a pot roast.

As much as I enjoyed spending time with the Catholics on the bus, I was absolutely floored when I got to the actually rally and saw an endless sea of Catholics filling the mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument.  (I don’t know how many people were there; last year’s tally was estimated between 250,000 – 400,000.)  I really didn’t know what to expect, but I guess I thought I’d see a lot more Christian groups other than Catholics.  I’m sure there were Protestants there (like the handful from our bus), but the thousands of signs with church names on them all appeared to be Catholic.  It gave me a deeply disturbing thought: What if the Catholics were not so passionate about this critical issue?  WHERE IS THE REST OF THE CHURCH?????

(2) Old people.  Usually this term is thrown around derisively and dismissively in our society.  I can no longer see it that way.  When I refer to old people, I mean it as a term of respect.  I don’t know how many people were on our bus–I’d estimate maybe 40 or 50.  Three of them were younger than me.  Nearly everyone else was in their 60s or 70s, and there were even several in their 80s.  And these were people who met at 7:00 a.m. to go on a three-hour bus ride, stand outside in 20-degree weather for three hours or so, walk around D.C. in a massive crowd, and then ride another three hours back.  What I’m saying, folks, is these guys are troopers.  Most of them are too old to even have had a legal abortion since Roe v. Wade.  But they’re putting their beliefs into action.  That’s what I respect so much: They’re actually DOING something!  It’s like when I go to our recycling center each week.  I’ve seen someone my age or younger just a couple times.  Usually it’s the older folks.  Why are younger people talking about the environment but not showing up to do something as simple as recycle?  Whenever I think of old people, I’ll no longer picture retired folks sitting around drinking tea and reading the newspaper and grumbling about “young people these days.”  Instead, what will come to mind are a sturdy group of dedicated people with such deep conviction that they’re doing what “young people these days” should be doing.  What was my generation doing?  I have no idea.  Probably stuff that seems urgent but is possibly quite meaningless once we look at it from beyond the end of our own noses.  Older people have a perspective that helps them see what truly matters.  And when they do something about it, especially something very inconvenient and uncomfortable, I have a profound respect for them.

(3) Politicians.  Well, some of them.  Don’t worry, I haven’t gone over the deep end.  I have to admit I’m still just as jaded and cynical as ever.  Well, almost.  Three dozen politicians stepped to the microphone yesterday in front of a countless multitude and publicly identified themselves with the pro-life movement, an association which is surprisingly controversial (it’s mind-blowing to think that opposing the killing of children is controversial, yet that’s how perverse our society is).  These were not spinsters visiting a midweek women’s Bible study at the height of election season to try to garner votes with a charming smile.  This is a group of largely freshmen representatives who are riding into the Beltway with a resounding victory at the polls just two months ago.  They were quoting Scripture and speaking bluntly.  Of course that doesn’t mean I bought into all their promises and friended them all on Facebook, but it was pretty cool to see that hey, maybe there are a few people with conviction sitting in that dome of corruption that looms over the capital city.

Next year I look forward to going on my second Catholic field trip!

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 10:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Spiritual Olympics

Today in the mail I received an invitation for our “choir” to enter a competition.  That was funny enough, but what really got me laughing was the line where it says this event is held “in a spiritually-competitive format.”


I had no idea what this could possibly mean, so I went online and did a Bible search for the phrase.  Zero results.

“Spiritually-competitive….”  I still can’t imagine what that could mean, but it sounds so antithetical to everything Jesus ever said, I couldn’t help but find it hilarious.

Guess we won’t be claiming any of those cash prizes.

It did give me an idea, though–maybe we could boost our budget by hosting a spiritually-competitive tithing competition.  Hmm….

Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 10:00 am  Comments (1)  

Jesus Loves Her, This She Knows

Usually when I ask Laura Marie who loves her, she says, “Da-da!”  Tonight the conversation went a little bit differently:

Me: Laura Marie, who loves you?
LM: Mama!
Me: Who else loves you?
LM: Jesus!

Published in: on January 3, 2011 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Worst Deal Ever

Someone please help me understand this.  I looked at gift cards on ebay, and a lot of them are selling for more than the value of the gift cards.

There was one gift card for Amazon that was worth $100, but 9 people had pushed the bidding on it up to $191.50 with three and a half hours still to go.  I’ve tried to come up with some explanation, but with no success.

Are sellers just taking advantage of people who are really bad at math, or what?

Published in: on January 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment