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« If You’ve Done It Unto the Least of These… | Main | The Point Radio: Church-Going Atheists »

February 25, 2008

Daily roundup

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Jason Taylor

Actually throwing babies into dumpsters is not barbaric. Most barbarians only do that to their enemies.

Rolley Haggard

"Can suffering ever be a good thing?"

Yes, but only because of sin. Pretty much everyone agrees there was no suffering in Eden before the Fall, and that there will be no suffering in heaven where every tear will be wiped away. But here in this fallen world, suffering is indispensable to the curbing of evil and the inculcation of virtue. The child who “suffers” a spanking because he misbehaved endures a good thing that is calculated to turn him from the path of harmful foolishness to the path of wholesome wisdom. The guilty inmate on death row who suffers the fear of imminent execution endures a good thing that is calculated to force him to consider his Creator before it is too late. And for all the rest of us there is that unpleasantry which the author of Hebrews calls “the chastening of the Lord” (12:5) where God, as a faithful and loving father “disciplines us for our good” (v. 10) in order to produce in us “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (v. 11).

But it should be added that suffering, in and of itself, is not good, but bad. In fact, nothing bad is ever good in and of itself. Thanks to God, good can come out of bad, but bad is always bad and never good. Thus, the death of a friend is always bad, never good, though God may bring good out of it (i.e., resurrection from the dead). Similarly, Luther’s or Spurgeon’s afflictions, though God brought good out of them, were not good in and of themselves. For it would have been far better – indeed, it would have been absolutely good, had these men been able to bear the same fruit without suffering. Even the death of Christ, which procured our infinite good was not good in and of itself. For “obedience is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22) – that is, it would have been better that man had never sinned than that our sin would necessitate a sacrificial Lamb. Indeed, had there “been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” (Galatians 3:21) But again, because of our sin, suffering and death have been necessitated, not for punishment alone, but also for correction and healing and salvation - good things. Yet it is not the suffering that is good, but the results that, in God’s hands, are good.

I think this distinction is important to make because some talk as if they believe that if good comes from something, then that “something” must be good in and of itself. (See, for example, the link to Christianity, Evil, and Moral Lethargy here on this blog (Feb 22) - http://www.boundlessline.org/2008/02/christianity-ev.html.)

Worse still, some apparently conclude that since God is sovereign, virtually all things are good. Consider the following that was excerpted from a missions prayer letter:

“Today was the day that the church had set to hold their annual planning meeting. Instead they are joining together for the funeral of Samuel, the one year old son of our pastor and his wife. Samuel was sick for about one week. This is their first and only child. Please pray that they will embrace this heartbreaking situation as GOOD FROM THE LORD(emphasis mine), though difficult it is to accept, and that their commitment to the Lord and His work will not falter.”

Are we indeed constrained by our faith to confess that because God is sovereign, all things are either willed or permitted by Him, and that therefore, we are to receive all as “good from the Lord”? Pity them that think so. The scripture does not say “FOR everything give thanks”; it says “IN everything give thanks“. It does not say “all things are good”; it says, “God CAUSES all things to WORK TOGETHER FOR good”. He brings good out of evil, but things are evil nonetheless. What a huge difference a preposition or two can make.

I thank God that He can and does use something bad – suffering - for our good. But I thank Him even more that the day is coming when there will be no more necessity for such things.

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