Welcome to the most depressing blog post ever....or is it the most hopeful? I'll let you decide. Could it possibly be a good thing to learn about and ponder the Nazi Holocaust, American slavery, the Nanking massacre, the Rwanda genocide, and the atrocities of ISIS? In his new book, Why Does God Allow Evil? Clay Jones argues that it is.
Jones begins by walking the reader through some of the most heinous atrocities committed in all of human history. I'll be honest—it's difficult to read. But reading about these disturbing events illuminates the fact that they are not few and far between, and for the most part, not committed by insane psychopaths. For example, he notes that genocide is mostly committed by those whom most of us would call otherwise normal and "good" people:
Good old regular folks—loving fathers, daughters, and sons—all of us.....are capable of genocide. (If you're thinking, "No way! Not me!" I encourage you to read the book.) Why do we need to think about the depth of human evil? Here are 12 reasons Jones gives in his book, and why thinking about them will make you a stronger Christian:
1. We've gotten the problem of evil upside-down.
We all have a tendency to see ourselves, and most people as inherently good. These messages are all over our culture....people are born good, and have to learn to do evil. However, a quick glance through human history will prove otherwise. When confronted with the unsettling reality of what humans have done throughout history, the question changes from "Why does God allow evil?" to "Why does God allow humans?" It's a powerful and game-changing question that puts the problem of evil right side up.
2. It honors the memory of those who have suffered.
"Never forget" is the popular phrase associated with the Nazi holocaust of WWII....and for good reason. Acknowledging the evil that humans have committed keeps us from forgetting the suffering of others, and repeating the same mistakes.
3. It puts our own problems into perspective.
In the West, we tend to think that extreme suffering is rare—that it only befalls an unlucky few. However, much of the world suffers disease, poverty, sickness, torture, and murder. A clear understanding of human evil puts our own brushes with suffering within the broader context of the human experience.
4. It helps us realize there is no such thing as "a little rebellion."
When we rebel against God on even the "smallest" point, we are essentially saying that we will only follow His commands when they coincide with our personal priorities. But history shows that people who disobey God on one point will inevitably find more points in which to disobey. When humans decide that they know better than their Creator, evil is born.
5. It impassions our witness.
Why would we have a passion to warn people of the consequences of eternal punishment if we basically think they are inherently good? "After all," as Jones put it, "Why would God send a good person to hell?"
6. It justifies God's judgment.
If we believe that people are basically good, God's judgment can seem capricious or even barbaric. However, if we understand how evil humans are by nature, we can see God's wrath as loving and merciful—that He will put an end to this evil once and for all.
7. It puts Christ's sacrifice in proper perspective.
If humans really are good, Christ's death is an awfully brutal cure for a problem that's just not really all that bad. But like drunks and cancer victims, the road to recovery begins with a recognition of the seriousness of the problem.
8. It causes us to be unimpressed with skeptical arguments against God's existence.
Grasping the depth of human evil brings the realization that we are emotionally and intellectually lost. It breeds humility and will pull the rug out from under atheistic arguments against God.
9. It keeps us from putting our trust in human government.
Humans shape and define government....and human hearts are malformed, broken, and fallen. Because of this, human governments will always need to be reformed and renewed. The government will always disappoint, but Christ will not.
10. It unsettles our worldliness.
Jones noted that one of the main reasons people don't want to think about human evil is because it makes the world seem horribly depressing and hopeless. "It unsettles worldly settlers," as he put it. He goes on to say that this is actually a huge benefit—because we can put our hope in something greater. Jones wrote, "The reason I don't get depressed? I know how it all ends!"
11. It increases our desire for the Lord's return.
Anyone who is satisfied and content with this world won't long for the next. But when we comprehend the magnitude of human depravity, we won't be able to be satisfied with this world... it's too broken.
12. It renews the wonder of our salvation.
It's important to remember who Jesus died for—the lost. He didn't come to give His life for people who were already good. God allowed sin to come into the world knowing full well that He would become its ultimate victim—in our place. This should cause us to stand in awe of the beauty of His plan, and the wonder of His sacrifice.
If we understand how deeply corrupt we are—how capable of evil and all sorts of wickedness....only then will we apprehend the beauty of the cross. Why do bad things happen to good people? The answer is simple—there are no good people. But there is a perfectly good God with a magnificent plan of salvation for all who would put their trust in Him.
The Bible says that "the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). Jones wrote:
Of course, this is just a very simple summary, and I highly recommend getting Why Does God Allow Evil? to learn more. Understanding the depth of human depravity will usher us into a deep understanding of God's love, and will help us appreciate the beauty of His plan to rescue us from the most nefarious of enemies—our own selves.
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