Conversatio Divina

Part 4 of 4

History and Personality: Why a Good God Permits Sin and Suffering [Fragment]

Originally given as part of the 1982 Staley Lecture Series for Bethel College, Kansas

Dallas Willard

In this rare recording, Dallas speaks on the third building block for modern apologetics: the relationship between God and human misery

Dallas: Thank you very much. It really has been a privilege to be here and I enjoy—I think I am singularly blessed in being able to travel around and get involved in different communities of the faith and get to know about the history and the manner in which people live out their faith in Christ in different parts of the country and different parts of the world. It has been a real pleasure to be here. North Newton, Kansas is a peaceful, beautiful place to be and I certainly wish and pray for the very best on you as you continue your work and your life here. [00:48]

This evening, I am going to take up a problem, which is unlike the things we’ve been discussing—not a relatively new problem at all. Science has created a problem for religion only very recently but the things we are going to discuss this evening have created problems for religious faith from the very beginning of human history so far as we know it. They continue to create today and the things we will be talking about—suffering, evil—these are very personal problems. They touch all of us.

Sometimes they touch us because of comparisons with others and I thought I might start this evening by reading a few words from the 73rd Psalm where we have a man who is troubled about the prosperity of the wicked. “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.” (Psalm 73:1)  Now, that’s the starting faith. God is good to Israel—good to people who are of a clean heart. [2:03]

“But as for me,” the Psalmist says, “my feet almost were gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envy at the arrogant (envious at the foolish), when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pains (bands) in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.” (They are not stricken like other men.) “Therefore pride compasseth them about as a piece of jewelry (chain); violence covereth them as a garment.  Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than their heart could wish. They scoff (are corrupt) and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily (and threateningly). They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore the (his) people turn (return) hither (and yon); and waters of a full cup can be wrung out of them (because of their tears.) And they say, how doth God know? (And) is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” Then the Psalmist says, “Well, I’ll tell you folks, ‘I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.  For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.’ “ (Psalm 73:2-14) [3:46]

Sometimes the problem comes to us personally in that way. Why am I not so successful? Why am I not promoted? Why did I lose my business? Why can’t we have a baby? Why is our child sick? Why did he die? So, it comes in a very personal form. It comes also when we step aside and look at the world about us.

My Sunday paper brought an account of what is happening to the Baha’is in Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran. The stories are so horrible, one can hardly stand to repeat them. When the high temple was destroyed, a man and his son were taken and dragged through the streets and finally hacked into tiny pieces and then thrown upon a fire and burned. You say, how could this be? Where is God when that is going on? Why doesn’t He just simply part the Heavens and come down and stop it? [5:05]

Sometime ago, there was a great deal in the papers, I suspect back here as well as out there about some young people who had a disease which made them age rapidly so that at the age of 8 or 10 or 12, they had the physiology of a 70, or 80, or 90 year old man and one of them was the son of a Jewish Rabbi by the name of Kushner and he wrote a book called Why Bad Things Happen To Good People. [The book is actually called When Bad Things Happen To Good People by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner.] He told the story of how they were taken by this and how they had been raised in a typical outlook of God taking care in a certain obvious and straightforward way of those who look to Him and tried to live as they saw best and then this happened. And the question is “Why?” Why did it happen? And we tend to ask that question, don’t we? We say, “Why?” Or “Why me?” And there are ways in which we try to explain these things that are very destructive. [6:15]

One of the most common tendencies of human beings when something bad happens is to say, “What did I do wrong? What did I do wrong?”

Little children, when a parent dies or when a divorce happens, we now know they often think they did something to cause it. They automatically assume that and they begin to look for it. Sometimes we say, “people get what they deserve,” and that’s the explanation. Sometimes we say, “God is cruel,” and allows people to get what they don’t deserve. Sometimes we say, “Well, God just can’t help it.” Sometimes we say, “God doesn’t exist. There is no God.”

The problem of evil—now, this is an argument, which has been around from—in literature from classical antiquity and you can formulate it very clearly in the following way. It has been done over and over and over. People formulate it who never heard of what arguments are, who’ve never read a page of theology or even gone to church and they say either, “there is no God” or “if there is a God, then either He is not all powerful or He is not all good because if there were a God and He would, if He could stop these things, then He would stop them.” If He could and He’s good, He would. And if He’s good and He could, He would. So if He doesn’t, you choose—either He is not good or He is not able or He just simply doesn’t exist. It’s a very simple argument. [8:33]

It’s the kind of thing that just presents itself so strikingly. I can put it to you this way that when you back up to examine the philosophy of religion, generally you find that this really is the only serious argument which has persisted throughout the centuries against the existence of a good and loving God and it is today in classrooms and all of the universities discussed as a serious argument to prove that God does not exist and many people believe that God does not exist, at least on this basis ostensibly.  [9:19]

Well now, the great temptation for the Christian on the other hand really is the temptation to believe that God is not good. If you go back to the old story in Genesis and you play that story through, you will see that what Satan was saying through the serpent to Eve was, “You cannot trust God.”

You may want to re-read that and think it out and that was the essence of the temptation. “Eve, you’d better do something quick because if you don’t, God is going to slip one over on you. You are going to miss out on something good that God does not want you to have.” And from the Christian point of view, the fundamental and pervasive temptation no matter what form it may take is simply to believe that God is not good.

So, when these things happen to us, or we see them happening to other people, it is very easy then to say, “How could there be a God who is good?” In the words of the Psalm which I read this morning—Psalm 46—how could God be “an ever present help in time of trouble” if this is what happens? [10:46]

We want to say to the contrary when our faith is high that God has done all things well and there of course lies the test of our faith. How are we to understand the claim that God does all things well in the realm of human affairs? How are we to understand this especially if He doesn’t in those matters do everything Himself? Does He do everything in human affairs? Or do human beings also do things in human affairs? Does He do everything in human affairs or are there some things, which just come in the course of nature?

I think that we have to ask that question and think it through very carefully and perhaps we can make it clear by following up some other questions—did He butter your toast this morning? Did He drive you here to this place? Will He take your tests? Write your checks to pay your bills? And so forth. Well, the answer of course is “No.” God does not do those things. If you write a bad check, you can’t blame it on God—He didn’t write it. [12:14]

We have to understand and this is why I begin by working on these particular questions that the world in which we in fact live is one where God does not do everything. It is a world in which there is a space for people to act. Our question must be, not does God do everything well, but rather, “Did He do well to create a world in which there was free personality and natural law and therewith the possibility of a Kingdom of God as well as the possibility of evil?

Because you see, it is a part of the Christian faith that God did create the world in general. He did not butter your toast this morning but He created a world in which there would be toast and there would be butter and there you would be, sitting, buttering your toast and He created a world in which there would be a toaster to toast it and the general frame of things dressed solidly in the responsibility of God according to our faith. [13:30]

Now, we can then agree that many things ought not to be, are bad, are evil, are wrong without therefore holding the general framework, which permits them to be wrong without therefore saying, “The world ought not to exist.” It is possible to say that a world in which many things are wrong is far and gloriously better than any alternative to such a world.

When we think about this, we must think about God, not abstractly but as a total system. If we think about Him abstractly, we are apt to think, for example simply in terms of His power and say, “Well, God can do anything, can’t He?” God could come down and turn you into a helicopter and fly you out of here. If we think about God abstractly, we get into all of those interesting puzzles, which we study in philosophy classes. If God is all-powerful, then He can make a puzzle, which He can’t solve.  If you say, “No, He can’t do that,” well then you’ve got something He can’t do and you victoriously say, “Well, I’ve proven to you that God is not all powerful because here is something he can’t do.”  Or a more fashionable one, if He’s all-powerful, He can make a rock so big He can’t lift it. [15:05]

And in that vain, in approaching the question of the evil things, which happen in our world we could say in the abstract that God is powerful enough to make a universe in which no one would ever do anything that is wrong. He is powerful enough to make a universe of robots which simply ran as they were programed and never had anything wrong with them—never blew a fuse or a tube—just did exactly what they were supposed to do.

But now suppose instead of just looking at God’s power, we try to unite the conception of His power with the conception of His moral purposes. That is to say, “What is it God intends with human history?” Just to show off how powerful He is? Is that the supreme test that God has in mind with human history? Many people still believe that. I think in a community such as this, it is possible that you will understand better some things that in many segments of the Christian church are still left quite dim. [16:23]

There are many people who still think that at the end of history, God is going to come back with a huge stick and beat everyone into submission. There are people who think that and they will give you a whole story even about—they may even tell you who the stick is that’s going to be used in this way.

That marvelous passage in Philippians 2, I believe it is; yes, Philippians 2, where it speaks of all of history culminating in a time when every person will praise God that Jesus Christ is Lord. Many people see that as God standing with His foot on the neck of humanity and squeezing out of them the unwilling recognition that Jesus Christ was Lord. [17:22]

The issue is not how big God is. The universe is full of power but power is not the only consideration and for the Christian faith as we find it expressed in the New Testament and in the writings of the church, the aim of human history in God’s purposes is to bring out of it a living abode, a community of free conscious loving beings who live in eternal appreciation and love and understanding of one another. [18:06]

Let me give you one passage from the Apostle Paul on that and that would be Ephesians, the 2nd chapter and here Paul says, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all of the building . . .” (Ephesians 2:19-21)—and this community which God intends to create is frequently pictured as a building—“ . . . fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom also ye are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:21-22) [18:57]

So, what we want to look at is the question of the nature of the world which we in fact live in, in the face of this declared moral intent of God as well as with a view to His power and when we put the question in that way, then we have to back up a moment and lay a foundation in some reflections about human personality and history.

Character develops through action. That’s the only way it develops. It can’t be poured into anyone’s head and it can’t be poured through even a community to the individual. It has to come from the actions of that individual. This is one of the sources of our disappointment often in a community where we have young people who are not able to somehow pick up the spirit of things and this is normally because the attempt has been made to give it to them in an external way; not to leave them free: not to leave them in a position where they can learn, where they can make their mistakes and learn from them.  [20:16]

Character develops through action as action is modified and repeated and reflected upon in its consequences and by that, I mean also repeated over a long period of time. A person learns to drive an automobile to get along with people, to handle their money; if they learn it at all just by the process of acting and seeing the consequences and learning what happens if you do it one way and not the other and modifying the action of trying it again and that’s the way we learn. That’s the way a little child learns to walk and in so far as we learn the things that constitute our character, it’s always that way. [21:03]

But, human beings are not just individualistic. They also live in a community and it is one of the facts about human character that the context of action for the novice who comes on the scene is indeed already one, which has a character in itself. A person who is born into this community has a starting place which itself evolved through a long history and I know from talking with many of you that deeply embedded in your character is a past which goes back to Switzerland or to Holland and to Russia and you didn’t live that past but it’s in you, you see? And it’s the nature of human personality that it grows in that way. We are never just a product of our own experience. We are a product of the experience of our forbearers. That’s why not just action but history is essential to the formation of human character.

Now, of course that goes on for centuries and you can almost correlate the strength of character in any community by the extent to which, and the breadth and depth in which it appropriates its history. To take an outstanding case—the Jewish community—for all of these centuries, millennia now, has continued to exist and continues to have a specific character that is enriched and in some cases because our past is never all blessing, is it? It always has a few of those other things in it and that’s true for the Jews. I’ll bet you that’s even true for the Mennonites. There are some things in there that—they are real, they are substantial, but perhaps they might be different with some improvement.  [23:16]

Then there are a lot of things that are just real and they are there and you wouldn’t be you without them and they are not necessarily bad and they not necessarily good; they are just Mennonite. Hmmm? And it’s true with all communities.

This is a part of what Paul, in that marvelous, marvelous figure of his calls “the earthen vessel.” He says, “We have the treasure of our faith in an earthen vessel that the glory would be of God and not of the vessel. “ (2 Corinthians 4:7) We’ve all got to have a vessel. That’s what gives us character; what gives us substance. [23:58]

Now, also the nature of action requires a reign of law, of orderliness, only so is it possible for us to set goals, plan their realization, learn from our mistakes and above all, interact with other persons to form a community, even a family and perhaps, especially a family must be formed around a rule of law.  The free conscious engagement of personality with its surroundings is required in order that there should be human beings. You can’t get them any other way. [24:40]

If when you press on your accelerator on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the car came to a screeching halt; and on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, it took off, you would still have enough regularity to know what to do if you could remember if it was Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday or Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, but it would be a harrowing experience, you know. You’d have to check your calendar every time you got in the car.

If when you threw water on fire, it flamed up like gasoline, well, you would wonder why and you would try to find what the regularities are that control it. You see all of our development of a life depends upon regularities. We have to have regularities and God made the universe so that it has natural laws, which are general regularities. If you have followed what I have said in the last couple of lectures, you will know I don’t think that those are necessarily completely invariant but by in large, they are invariant and God is not always going to be stepping down to pick you up so you won’t fall on the sidewalk if you stub your toe. If you stub your toe sufficiently, you generally will fall and the regularities are there. [26:06]

E. Stanley Jones has a marvelous passage in which he discusses miracle and he says, “Well, in God’s universe there is miracle but not too much.” Not too much! Because you see, if you could always count on miracle to bail you out, you wouldn’t have to balance your checkbook. When you started to get in trouble, you could just have a little miracle there and be all fixed up.

So, we need a universe in which there is regularity, in which there is law; and that’s the kind of universe we have. And since human personality also rests of past generations for its initial character, it’s genetic as well as it’s cultural starting point, it’s development—human character’s development—is also historical in the larger sense and involves historical laws of development in which we speak of a world and of a human history—all of these things are essential. [27:04]

So if you are going to have moral agents in community, you have got to have something very like our world. If you want robots, you don’t need it. If you just want a world where no one ever does anything wrong, you don’t need it but if you want a world where you get people, and you have a chance that these people would develop into the kind of community which would constitute the culmination of God’s purposes with the earth and His inhabiting them in a way which is probably too glorious and difficult for us to do much in the way of describing but we come close to it sometimes I think when our own human fellowship is extremely good and we have a sense of His presence in it. If you want that, you’ve got to have a world very much like the one we have. [27:52]

May I just step aside here a moment and say that the purpose and the role of history is also seen very clearly in the timing of the coming of Christ. You will be familiar, I think with the phrase, “the fullness of time” as Paul uses it in his letter to the Galatians and he speaks about how, in chapter 4, verse 4, he speaks about how in “the fullness of time Christ came forth and was born of woman and dwelt among men and carried on his ministry.”

The idea was that Christ could not have come just at any time. He had to come at a time when the world was prepared for Him through it’s history and the world was kept under the schoolmaster of the law and it came to pass that in the course of time, Jesus Christ could come forth in the humble, simple manner in which He did, among humble, simple people and there would be a core of people who would be able, with a little divine nudging here and there, to say “Yes, He is the one.”

It was with great difficulty and you will remember that when Peter confessed that He really was the Messiah, Jesus said to him, “Flesh and blood didn’t reveal this to you; you’ve had a little miracle there, Peter—a little divine hint or something that made you see this,” because it would have been hard. You probably, if you were trying to pick out the one who was to save the world, would not think of looking in the carpenter’s shop either. You might look for those great and shining glittering people who obsess our view constantly but who often do little more than make bad matters worse. [29:43]

So now, with all of this before me and I hope that you have been able to follow the essential point that we are—we are not just talking here in general about what God could or could not have done but how and in what way could God have made it possible that the Kingdom of God should have come forth among men and developed in the way which is envisioned in the Scriptures into a world in which there would be no thought of war, no thought of need, plenty, well shared, where there was love and understanding between all people. See, that is still a dream that is almost too big for the human mind to grasp. And especially to suppose that it might be brought about by non-violent means. There are various attempts to do this violently—again, the message of the big stick. You threaten people. You are going to knock their heads off if they don’t obey or you are going to re-wire them somehow or put drugs in their water or genetically purify them all these many ways that people have talked about. [30:56]

So, how then with this before us do we reply to the objection that the creator and sustainer of a world in which there is war, deformity, suicide, depression, earthquakes, famine, pestilence, and cancer cannot be a good God? How do we reply to the charge that there cannot be a God who is both good and able to assist those who trust Him and those who must depend upon His care? This is our question.

So, now partially, in summarizing some of the things I’ve said, I want to go back and just list four (4) parts of the answer.  First of all, we agree that many things, which happen when considered by themselves, are not good. They are indeed tragic. They are horrible. One of the worst things we can do to people who are engaged in some situation where they are being really crushed is to say to them, “Now this is a good thing. You will see.” An alcoholic runs over a child in the street and some well-intentioned person comes and says, “Well, God did this and it is good.” Well, I hope that you will not say that. I hope that you will be enabled to see that many things that are bad happen and there is in them taken by themselves nothing good.  There are many tragic things. [32:38]

Indeed, I would even go so far as to say when you find a person really in the throws of suffering, you don’t even try to reason with them about the goodness of God generally.  You stay with them. You sit with them and you try to share their agony but when the elephant is standing on your foot, you don’t deliver lectures about what a magnificent beast it is. You will at least commiserate with the person and you will do whatever you can to get him off but you will not start praising him.

On the other hand, one hopes that one has enough insight that when the elephant stands on their foot, they will understand that all is not lost. So the first thing is we agree that many things happen, which when considered by themselves are not good. They may be tragic indeed. [33:38]

Secondly, we insist that God is not the agent back of these things. In many cases, and arguably is not in any cases. This is where the old punishment mentality comes in, you see? Rabbi Kushner, in his book that I mentioned a moment ago tells about a young couple that he went—well, not a young couple but a middle age couple and they had a teenager daughter who suffered a stroke that was fatal and so he went to see them and the first thing they said to him was, “Well, Rabbi, we didn’t fast during Yom Kippur.” You see they had that all worked out that God was striking their daughter to punish them.

Let’s require a very clear light before we say that God is making something bad happen. Let’s believe that it may not be so. And if you have a revelation on the matter, well then that’s another thing. But generally we often find that we say these sorts of things, that that sort of thing when we are just groping in the dark, and don’t know what to say and it’s usually best in those circumstances for us just to be silent and just be with people.   God is not the agent of many of these things that happen and that’s the second thing we must say in reply to the charge. [35:11]

The third thing we say is that the creator of a general order in which such things are possible has made on the other hand something that on the whole is good and good beyond any comparison that is possible to us—the greatest conceivable human good. Now, that’s quite a thing to say. We are saying that the world order in general in which the bad things happen is the greatest conceivable good for human beings, as well as for God and it’s easy to question that because it is hard to hold it all before us and you are apt to hear a person, especially a person who is suffering who will say, “Well, it would be better if the world just didn’t exist or if God had never created the world or perhaps a modified form of that of “it would be better if I had never been born.”  Better just no existence at all than an existence in which such things happen. [36:24]

Well, there are a number of things I want to say to that because that’s a very difficult point to deal with. I would like to start by just saying, “If you are going to say that, then to be honest, you must try to keep the entire frame of God’s creation before you.” There is a very fine statement by a philosopher and Christian by the name of A. M. Fairbane, which I would like to read to you from his Philosophy of the Christian Religion. It’s an old book but you have it in your library here in case you want to look at it. Its on page 130. It’s The Philosophy of the Christian Religion by A. M. Fairbane. He’s speaking to this issue and what he says is so well said that I don’t think I could possibly improve upon it so I’ll just read it to you.

He says, “To speak of non-existence as better than existence is to speak of the world as so bad that it had better had never have been. This is to say what no man of a healthy mind can get into his heart or his head in his higher and better moments to believe. Let us try to give the notion concrete form and in contrast with our sun-lipped, star-filled space to imagine an infinite void though the very attempt to imagine it will prove it’s impossibility. Still, let us think of it as best we can—an attempt to make the bold attempt to represent in our imagination nothing but vacant space where now circles the worlds that shine to each other as stars; nothing but darkness—no sunlight to make the day, no starlight to break in or beautify the night. Nothing but death where there is now life, no glad swift darting fish in the waters or the river or sea; no river or sea for them to be glad in. No green earth for flocks to feed on or flocks for the green earth. No fragrant and lovely flowers, no laden bees to hum, no lark to sing and soar, no man to think great thoughts, to do battle for the true and the right. No woman to love, to grow strong and happy by loving, no race to weave the wreath that crowns it with beauty out of the pale lilies of death and the warm red roses of life. Nothing but utter absolute vacancy, a dismal, dark, dumb infinite where now lives and moves and abides a vivid and vocal and reasonable universe peopled by minds that look before and after and read in things visible the mysteries and presence of an eternal God.” [39:06]

You see, you have to have some beautiful language like that to really get it before you and then when you get it before you, the challenge is to say it would be better that that had not existed. And then when you add on to that moral beauty. The beauty of the personality that has “gone through the mill,” as it were, and has developed into the kind of admirable and lovely character which may be in very difficult circumstances and when you add into that the Kingdom of God, which is the object of our faith as Christians, then to say, “It would be better that it did not exist.”

I think that that is what we must do because if we are going to say one thing is better than another, we have to look very carefully at both of them. We are apt to look very carefully at suffering because it is pressed upon us. I certainly do not want to belittle the evil that there is in the world and sometimes it’s so violent and so difficult and terrible that we can hardly think of it. But if we are going to say it would be better that the world should never have existed, that God should not have created and made the world that He made, then we must make the comparison and to make the comparison, we must look at both as fully as possible. [40:34]

This, by the way, I need here to just parenthetically inject is where we have to understand the relationship between worship and the problem of evil because it is only in worship that we come to the right appreciation of the world which God has made and all of its possibilities and there is a kind of bind here because if a person does not believe in the goodness of God, it is hard to worship. [41:04]

I can’t go into the details of how that might be solved. It is a practical, pastoral, a counseling problem which is important to work on and I think can be solved but it quickly hits you when you start thinking about it, “Well, if you don’t believe in God in the first place, how can you worship Him?
And, if you can’t worship Him how can you come to appreciate the beauty and goodness of the world that He’s made and therefore it might seem very reasonable that it should have been better that He didn’t make it. [41:32]

You perhaps know—I assume that everyone here knows what the word “Beth-el” means and that it means “the house of God.” You may know the story in the book of Genesis where it comes from.  You will remember that Jacob was running before his brother, Esau and he wound up at night in a ravine with salamanders and snakes sliding about him in the night. And he laid down with a stone for his pillow and as he slept, he had a dream. And it was a beautiful dream in which he saw the angels’ God coming up and down in a ladder from Heaven right down into that old snake-filled ravine and you recall that when he arose, he said, “What an awesome place this is. This is the very household of God and the doorway to Heaven.” And he says an interesting thing, “God was in this place and I knew it not.” [42:47]

You see, that’s a part of what it means to let personality develop is not be all with such an overwhelming presence that you’ve got to admit that you are there. God does not run over us. He gives us space and sometimes He’s there and we don’t know it and it’s still “Beth-el,” the house of God. In the moment of worship, life takes a different color all together and we begin to understand the worth or God’s creation differently and then that helps us understand what evil means as well as what it does not mean.

Now, if we don’t want to talk in those terms, there is a line of approach to this difficulty which Bishop Butler, many years ago, Bishop Joseph Butler took in his book called The Analogy of Religion. And it’s a rather hard-nosed logical line, which just simply says that no human being is in a position to be able to say with confidence or evidence that there could be a better scheme of things than the one, which in fact exists. This way of approaching it throws the weight of the argument back on the objector and says, “All right, you think it could be better done, tell me how.” [44:21]

I once asked a man that and he gave me an answer, which I still remember. He was in alienation from his upbringing and all of that and he said, “Well, a better world would be one in which people didn’t go to church and think that those who didn’t go to church were better—that did go to church were better than those who didn’t.” I thought that was a very superficial answer and I am afraid that very often the answers are like that. What we do is we take something that’s sticking in our craw and we focus on that and we say, “Well the world would be better if that wasn’t there” but that is hardly an answer at all.

Now then, fourthly, in response to this general objection—could God have made a better world? We have to keep in mind what has been so well put in the words of an old hymn. The words “earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal” and this is an absolutely indispensable part of the response to the problem of evil because I will tell you for a fact I do not think that I could continue to have any confidence at all in the goodness and power and existence of God if I could not believe that at some point, in time or beyond, the child who starves to death in Somalia-land with flies eating it’s eyes out would be met by God and taken care of. I would never be able to maintain my faith unless I believed that and I think that anyone who does not face that question has not faced the problem of evil. [46:20]

Sometimes the solution of Heaven comes in this life. There is a marvelous chemistry that follows the believer in his faith and it’s unaccountable but sometimes the greatest of tragedies turn out to be things which one can later look at and say, “They were good.” Not always, sometimes. There is a verse in the prophecy of Joel, which speaks about the restoration of the years and the prophet speaking on God’s behalf says, “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.” How can you go back in time and recover the past and change it? [47:15]

Well, it’s just simply in the nature of human life that it happens. You can illustrate this very simply from grammar and music by pointing out that what word it is that occurs in the first part of a sentence is determined by what comes later.

[Tape Stops Abruptly]