On July 9th, Indelible Grace Church hosted our first "Seminar for Skeptics." We rented a bar, bought everyone a drink, and held a discussion on the question – "How can a good God allow for evil and suffering?" Some might raise an eyebrow at the fact that a church event involves buying people alcoholic drinks. Our response is: first, the Bible actually has an incredibly positive view of alcohol (the heavenly banquet feast includes copious amounts of wine – see Isaiah 25:6), second, the Bible condemns the abuse of alcohol (drunkenness) not alcohol itself (this applies to all good things like sex, money, etc.), and third (and most important), we deliberately chose the venue because of its attractiveness for those who are otherwise allergic to church.
The talk began with the story of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, a 13-year-old Syrian boy who was brutally tortured and killed by security forces for tagging along with his parents on a democracy march. He sustained three gunshot wounds, multiple broken bones, including both his kneecaps, multiple burn marks, and his genitals were cut off. Where was God in all of this? The talk presented three answers:
(1) It is self-defeating to disbelieve in God because the world is full of evil, since it is only because of God that we can know there is evil.
(2) The fact that we don’t know of a reason why God would allow for evil and suffering does not mean there isn’t one.
(3) Evil and suffering is not something God hovers over and remains aloof from. But astonishingly, God enters into our suffering in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. We may not know the answer to problem of evil and suffering, but seeing Jesus dying on the cross shows us that the reason can’t be because God doesn’t love us. This is a unique resource Christianity gives us and what distinguishes Christianity from all religions – a portrait of a suffering God.
We also had a follow-up question and answer time. The questions ranged from the morality of homosexuality, the fairness of hell, the challenge of science, among other issues. These are all important questions for which Christianity has a response. However, it is important to remember that what you believe about homosexuality or evolution is not what makes you a Christian. What makes you a Christian is whether you believe and trust in Christ. That’s the core question – do you believe Jesus is who he says he is? Everything else is peripheral. We make the mistake of wanting to settle first these peripheral questions before we can believe in Jesus. But that is to go about it entirely in the wrong way. First, we ought to determine if Jesus is worthy of our adoration and worship, and only then ask what Jesus teaches us about sexuality and science and so forth.
The evening created some good discussions and we hope to host another event in the coming months, addressing the question – "How can Christianity claim to be the only true religion?"
You can listen to the audio of the evening here.