Run Away From God To Confront Problem of Evil,
Run instead to Christ because Christ is good,
says John Stackhouse
By Aaron Epp
When confronted with a problem, Christians usually turn to God. When
confronting the problem of evil, however, Christians should run away from God.
That was the advice John Stackhouse gave March 17 during a
lecture titled “Luther’s Strange Advice: How Running Away from God Solves the
Problem of Evil” at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg.
Stackhouse, a professor of theology and culture at Regent
College in Vancouver, B.C., was at CMU March 17-19 to speak at the university’s
annual Apologetics Lectures.
Stackhouse told the story of how Martin Luther, the
sixteenth-century reformer, felt unworthy of God’s love. Luther also believed in
predestination—that God planned to save some people, and not others—and agonized
over this belief. How could a loving God choose only some people to save?
Johann von Staupitz, Luther’s superior, saw how much this troubled Luther.
His advice? Run away from that seemingly unloving God, he said, adding that
staying near that God could cause him to lose his faith.
Run instead to Christ, he told Luther, because Christ is good.
Christians today should heed that old advice, Stackhouse stated, pointing to
numerous examples in the New Testament where Jesus cared for other people.
“We can believe that God doesn’t care, but not that Jesus doesn’t care,” he
said, adding that people should “run from the God you can’t know to the face of
God you can know, and remember they are one and the same.”
Picking up on that idea, Stackhouse then proposed a Trinitarian,
incarnational syllogism—a logical argument in which a conclusion is inferred
from two premises—as his response to the problem of evil: “Jesus is good. Jesus
is God. Then, God is good.”
For Stackhouse, this means that while we can’t actually figure out why God
runs things the way he does, and although God may not always seem good to us, we
can know that God is good because Jesus is good, and they are one and the same.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to remember my own syllogism when
faced with the problem of evil,” he admitted.
During the question period that followed his lecture, Stackhouse was asked if
Christians can still find the goodness of God in the Old Testament.
Yes, he replied, noting that while the God of the Old Testament is a God of
discipline and of wrath who lets people pay for their mistakes, “at the end of
the day, he is a God who redeems. No matter how bad we are, this is a God who
wants us back.”
Asked if evil is in fact a great gift, since it gives people occasions to do
good, Stackhouse shocked some by responding: “There is no such thing as evil.”
Stackhouse went on to explain that God didn’t create evil. Rather, he said,
God created beings capable of evil. And why would God do that?
“God must have seen it coming and allowed it to happen,” Stackhouse said.
“There must have been a greater good.”
There must also be a reason why, in an age when war and disease run rampant
and the environment is continually degraded, that Christ doesn’t just return to
the world now, he said.
“God must be accomplishing something good by letting things keep rolling” the
way they are, Stackhouse said. Maybe “millions more need to be saved, that he
can’t save in an instant.”
While some may accuse Christians of offering the world only eschatological
hope, Stackhouse said it’s up to every Christian to provide more than that.
“If you see something bad, try to make it good,” he said. “If you see
something mediocre, try to make it excellent. That will drive the devil nuts.”
Posted March 24, 2008.
For more information contact CMU Communications Director, 500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3P 2N2, telephone: 204-487-3300 ext. 630, fax: 204-889-1694, (www.cmu.ca)