Thoughts of a Country Preacher

The Monday morning ruminations of a pastor.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Toward a Greater Good Theodicy - Part Three

For the past several weeks, we have been discussing the issue of theodicy, God’s relation to evil. First we looked at the different positions that people often take on this issue, then we settled on the "Greater Good Theodicy" as the favored model. But this fails to answer the question as to why – specifically, why do we suffer in our lives? To what greater good are we being drawn toward? To answer this we will look to John Piper’s book, Let the Nations be Glad, where he outlines six specific reasons why God allows suffering to enter into our lives.

Now that it has been established that God brings suffering into our lives to bring about a greater good, the question may be asked: specifically, to what greater good is God working toward? In his book Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper outlines six reasons why God appoints suffering for his servants. They are: for deeper faith and holiness, for the increase of our heavenly reward, awakening others to action, opening the lost to the gospel, to enforce the missionary command, and to magnify the supremacy of Christ.

Piper’s first reason, for deeper faith and holiness is drawn from Hebrews 12, which shows us that suffering tests our faith, and purifies all remnants of self reliance. In his book, God’s Greater Glory, Bruce A. Ware echos this assertion when he states that "God often designs affliction and pain and suffering to strengthen our faith, even when we are being faithful." To support his assertions, Ware looks to Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4, both of which argues that our perseverance through tribulations will produce in us spiritual maturity.

The second reason for suffering, for the increase of our heavenly reward, is supported by 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, which states that sufferings prepare us for our future, heavenly glory. From this, Piper argues that the degree of our glory in heaven rests upon our degree of suffering in life.

Piper’s third purpose for pain, to awaken others to evangelical action, is supported by the first chapter of Philippians, as previously discussed. Here, Piper notes that news of a missionary’s sufferings or martyrdom usually leads others to serve in the same area. To support this he specifically notes the case Chet Bitterman, who lost his life to Colombian guerrillas in 1981.

The fourth purpose for sufferings listed in Piper’s book is to open the lost to the gospel, and is supported by 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6. Here Piper argues that suffering for the gospel is often used by God to bring others to Christ. Piper further explains this principle in his book, Desiring God. In this work, Piper refers to Tertullian’s assertion that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Here, Piper argues that this statement is true based on the evidence that history affords us, that Christianity has indeed spread the fastest in the wake of a Christian martyr.

Piper’s fifth purpose for suffering, to enforce the missionary command, stems from his third purpose, to awaken others to evangelical action. Here, Piper argues that the suffering of the church is used by God to "reposition the missionary troops" in places that they might not have otherwise gone. As evidence of this, Piper looks to the example of the martyrdom of Stephen, which caused many in the church to relocate and begin ministries in their new hometowns. Piper argues that the lesson to learn here is that suffering is often used to shake Christians out of their "Apathy of Abundance", and move into areas of service.

Finally, Piper’s sixth purpose of suffering is to magnify the supremacy of Christ. Piper argues that we are only able to truly understand God’s glory when we compare it to our own condition. This sentiment is echoed by Dr. Ware when he states that affliction can reveal human weakness so that the surpassing strength and glory of God may be more evident. To support this Dr. Ware turns to 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 and 2 Corinthians 12:8-10.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter