Natural Evil and the Classical Christian School

One of the central arguments that materialistic atheism offers against the Christian faith is that the reality and universality of suffering is inconsistent with the doctrine that we were created by, and are loved by, a gracious heavenly Father. If we intend to do our job in training our students to be able to defend their faith as they go out into the world, it seems to me that we ought not to begin by granting the foundational premise of unbelief.

Believe me, the pressing reality of natural evil is a major argument that the atheists use, and the theistic evolutionists will have to do a lot better than they have done thus far in mounting a reply.

If evolution was God’s means of creating, then this means that pain, struggle, suffering, agony, and torment were His means of creation, and He pronounced all of it “good.”

There are two kinds of evil that we have to consider — natural evil and moral evil. While moral evil is more horrendous, it is a little easier to handle because we are doing so much of it to ourselves. We can handle that another time. But natural evil is a different thing altogether, and on the theistic evolutionary account natural evil cannot be considered evil at all.

Here we have to posit millions of years of death-dealing events — volcanoes, floods, tar pits, and so on — without anybody having done anything wrong such that it would bring this state of affairs about. This is just how God likes to do things.

This means that the pain and suffering of sentient animals has to be simply dismissed with a wave of the hand. It is no longer the problem of evil, but rather “evil? no problem!”

Persevere In What?

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #175

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1–2).

Paul now comes to his great summary of gospel truth. He declares to them as brothers the gospel that he had previously preached to them. Their response to this preaching was two-fold—they had received what he had declared, and they had taken their stand in what he had said. This gospel—preached and received—was a gospel that would save them, provided they kept what he had said in memory. If they had not kept this gospel in memory, then their belief would have been in vain.

I am not saved from drowning by having had a lifejacket on once. I am saved from drowning—if I am in the water—by putting on a lifejacket and by keeping it on. This is why we hold to the perseverance and preservation of the saints, which is not exactly the same thing as “once saved, always saved.” Of course, if someone is truly once saved, then they are truly always saved. That is true enough, as far as it goes. But there is a category that Paul knew about—believers who had believed “in vain”—who would fit very nicely in the modern category of someone who got saved at a revival once and who has been cavorting with the devil since then. We believe that the elect, once regenerate, will in fact persevere to the end. But they will, by God’s grace, persevere in holiness to the end.

True Separation

“When the Constitution actually mandates with regard to religion is two-fold: one, the non-establishment of a national church by an act of Congress, and two, non-interference with the free exercise of religion by Congress. Got that? No Church of the United States, comparable to the Church of Denmark, or the Church of England. When the Constitution was ratified, nine of the thirteen colonies had established state churches at the state level” (God Rest Ye Merry, p. 71).

BioLogos, Respectability, and Classical Christian Education

As classical Christian education has made it through our first round of trials, which threatened to make us fail through failure, we have now come to the much greater test, one that would make us fail through success. With hard work comes success, and with success comes respectability, and with respectability comes . . . spiritual heat death. As Cotton Mather once put it with regard to physical blessings, faithfulness begets prosperity, and the daughter devours the mother. Or as Moses put it, on the same topic, “Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein . . . thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:17). The same principle applies to the intellectual fruit of hard academic labor.

Graduates of classical Christian schools are much sought after. They have been taught well, and it shows, and those of us in the movement have heard story after story of how this graduate got a high flying scholarship, and how that one was recruited for the honors program, and so on. We are proud of our students, and rightfully so. But one of the central tests of how we are teaching our students is going to be seen in how they respond to this praise from the world. With the arrival of this praise comes the temptation to want it in the wrong way. The respectability that got there by not caring at all what they think becomes the kind of respectability that cares very much what they think.

And I am convinced that this is one of the reasons why evolutionary thinking is starting to make a play for our community of schools. We have shown that our graduates are smart and well-educated, and this is recognized by all. And nobody wants to see such a fine group of students wasting their intellectual talents on what the establishment considers the equivalent of geocentric flat-earthism.

So let’s move on to the issue of evolution and how it relates to our schools.

“We at BioLogos agree with the modern scientific consensus on the age of the earth and evolutionary development of all species, seeing these as descriptions of how God created.”

I first want to focus on the phrase “agree with the modern scientific consensus.”

The Light from Galilee of the Gentiles

Introduction:

Sometimes familiar words run down well-worn grooves. The words from our text have graced countless Christmas cards, but at the same time it is important for us to realize that this doesn’t make them any less true. But, as the truth of Scripture, it is given in such a way that whenever we come back to it in faith, regardless of how familiar it might be to us, we can always find fresh glory.

The Text:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: And the government shall be upon his shoulder: And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, To order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice From henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Is. 9:6–7).

Summary of the Text:

The condition of Israel is set out at the last part of chapter 8, and it is the same condition that the world was in—great darkness (Is. 8:22). Behold trouble and darkness, and dim anguish. But light is coming—this will not be like an earlier affliction (Is. 9:1). In Galilee of the nations, the people who were in that darkness have seen a great light (Is. 9:2). Galilee had two sections, upper and lower Galilee. Upper Galilee is called Galilee of the Gentiles because it was the borderland, and had many Gentiles living there. This was close to Tyre and Sidon, and was the area where Solomon had given 20 cities to the Phoenician king Hiram. Coming back to the text, God has given them great joy (Is. 9:3); He has broken the yoke of oppression that was on them (Is. 9:4). All military gear shall be rolled up and burned in a fire (Is. 9:5).

And so we come to our two verses. The child had been first promised two chapters earlier, when the prophet told us that Immanuel, God with us, would be born of a virgin (Is. 7:14). Now we learn more about Him. A child is born, a son is given. The first thing mentioned about Him is that the government will be on His shoulder. He will have a series of glorious names—Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). The increase of His government will have no end, and it will be the government of the throne of David. It will be established and well-ordered forever and ever. All of this will be done by the zeal of the Lord Himself (Is. 9:7).

Spiritual Darkness:

The darkness spoken of by the prophet is a spiritual darkness, a moral blindness. The darkness was so profound that men in the grip of it could not see this text.

When Nicodemus challenged their right to condemn Christ without a hearing, they called him a dummy. “They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (John 7:52). Nicodemus was being so stupid—no prophet comes from Galilee. Then how was it that the people walking there had seen a great light (Is. 9:1-2)?