Comfort and Triumph in the Gospel of Jesus Christ
If the Christian theist acting as apologist simply gives a defense for the Christian faith, the bulwark of Christianity is effectively pushed aside. Breaking down barriers of belief for Gospel proclamation is a true and holistic Christian apology. If we only give the skeptic reasons for the Christian faith, we have ultimately given them a car with no fuel. What sort of response does a simple argument beckon other than the conceding of points by the antagonist? The Gospel of Jesus Christ, therefore, fills the gaps of a deficient apology of arguments and calls the skeptic to a transformed life in light of the theistic evidences. Keeping this supreme goal in mind also helps the Christian see the skeptic as a soul in need of living water rather than just a simple antagonist.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a difficult story to link to the popular skeptic’s argument concerning the problem of evil, “For the problem (suffering) is about someone (God—why does He…why doesn’t He…?) rather than just something” (Peter Kreeft). Philosopher William Rowe concludes that there cannot exist an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good being with such strong evidence of evil and suffering present in the world. The best way to conclude an answer to Rowe’s claim that there are no goods to come about from intense human suffering is with the Gospel; with Jesus Christ. In accord with this line of thought, Marilyn McCord Adams remarks that in response to “horrendous suffering, it is not necessary to find logically possible reasons why God might permit them. It is enough to show how God can be good enough to created persons despite their participation in horrors—by defeating them within the context of the individual’s life and by giving that individual a life that is a great good to him/her on the whole.”
The “how” of God is through His presenting opportunity for individuals to defeat evil with hope and faith in Jesus Christ.
In the infinite wisdom of God almighty, to answer the Old Testament saint Job’s questions of God’s good purpose amidst his own intense suffering, the Lord does not provide a reason in the form of, “Job, this is why you suffered…” Rather, God points to himself, His might, sovereignty, etcetera to console the dejected Job. This seems a good enough answer for Job, for he “[took] back [his] words and [repented] in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). In a similar way, God poignantly points to himself through sending His Son, Christ, to provide the ultimate consolation and triumph for suffering. Christ, as God, came into this broken and evil world and suffered alongside of us by dying for our sins on the cross so that people may attain reconciliation to God by grace and through faith in the person and work of this Savior (Romans 5:10; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Ephesians 2:8; Acts 3:18). This makes plain a personal God committed to redemption, One who does not stand back from His creation to leave it to its own devices while it wallows in evil.
Did Christ simply die, however? No! He also rose from the grave and defeated suffering, sin, and death, which shows that we can do the same through His power (2 Timothy 1:10). By this display of grace, we find purpose in our suffering, no matter what kind or how horrendous, for by it we are refined and brought closer to God (1 Peter 1:6,7) as Peter Kreeft once again points out. Through God securing this grace in our lives, He also secures for us future glory with Christ in heaven, a supreme good unmatched by all others which makes present sufferings pale in comparison (Romans 8:18). Furthermore, it is not simply the person who will experience this glory in redemption, but the whole of creation (Romans 8:19–21). Christ’s Gospel, therefore, supplies comfort not only for the person, but for all natural creation as well because of the assured redemption from God contained in it: the ultimate good.
Wesley Nottingham served as one of Grace’s summer pastoral interns in 2016 and has been part of the Grace family his entire life. He is in his fourth and final year at Liberty University studying Theology and Apologetics, hoping to go to seminary at some point after graduation as he pursues God’s calling on his life to become a pastor. A few of Wesley’s pastimes include golfing, basketball, and snowboarding.
This guest post is written by Wesley Nottingham.