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The Problem of Evil

Greetings All,

     This week's 'thought' comes to you from Franklin Graham and is entitled, "The Problem of Evil."  It is found in "Decision" magazine, June 2013 issue.
     I found his thoughts interesting (though I doubt they will ever be popular) because he points out that so many today look for the cause of evil behaviors in a person's past experience.  They look at that person's upbringing, or for some type of abuse, or to some present situation of being bullied -- anything they can point to -- except the possibility that human nature is just plain flawed from the start. Unpopular as this thought is to the contemporary mind, Mr. Graham handles it well. Enjoy.

The Problem of Evil
     "After the tragedies of the Newtown school shooting and the Boston Marathon terrorist bombing, cultural observers and commentators were at a loss to explain what could have possibly caused such horrific violence.  Could these murderous and wanton acts spring from the misguided influence of friends or family? Was there any behavioral evidence or traits that might have predicted the kind of deeds that shocked a nation?
     Not surprisingly, in a society that increasingly rejects moral absolutes and personal accountability, the search turned to conjecture about genetics. Is it possible that "evil" genes are to blame? 
     After the rampage in Newtown, scientists at the University of Connecticut were asked to analyze the DNA of Adam Lanza to look for a genetic explanation for his coldblooded brutality.
     A May 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal speculated about the chromosomal connection with violent behavior: "It's presumably neither ethical nor practical, but supposing that somebody could sequence Osama bin Laden's genome, which genes would you want to examine to try to understand his violent desires?"
     Well, the Bible is clear on the cause of evil, and it doesn't have anything to do with gene sequencing. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."   When sin entered the world with Adam and Eve's rebellion against God, it brought death, destruction and evil.
     The Psalmist David, who himself was responsible for plotting the egregious murder of his loyal soldier Uriah, said "surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5).  David clearly understood that he was directly responsible for his heinous deed, and because of that he confessed his sin and sought God's forgiveness. "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me" (Psalm 51:5).
     Evil lurks and resides in the heart and soul of man, and its link to behavior is directly connected to rebellion and disobedience to the Lord and His commands. Jesus said: "What comes out of man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit … All these evils come from inside" (Mark 7:20-23).
     Gene therapy can't save anyone from sin. The only cure is to come to Christ and His cross, where God's wrath and punishment for sin was meted out by the Father on His Son, who bore our foul iniquities in our stead. It is only in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ that man can find forgiveness and deliverance from sin and its evil work in our hearts.
     When we come to Christ in repentance and faith, we are given new hearts that are no longer fully controlled by sin. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
     Yet even the believer, fully forgiven of his sin, still struggles with evil and its effects in the world. We have an evil adversary, the devil, who maliciously works his woe, but as we trust in the triumph of Christ, we can increasingly and daily experience ongoing victory.
     One day--soon I believe--evil will be eradicated once and for all when Christ returns for His own. Sin, death and Satan will be done away with, and God's justice will prevail for all eternity. Sinners will be judged and punished in an eternal hell, and the righteous-those who have trusted in Christ for forgiveness of sin-will live in eternal fellowship with the Savior.  How I look forward to that day."

     People today (and this unfortunately includes many Christians) want to believe (contrary to Scripture) that people are born innocent, with a totally clean slate and no innate stain of sin or inbred proclivity toward evil.  In this way any issues that a "deviant" person might struggle with can be attributed entirely to dysfunctional parenting, some type of abuse, getting in with the wrong people, etc., etc., etc.  Anything that can help behavioral scientists say that as opposed to the rest of humanity, this was why so-and-so did what he/she did.
     The Bible tells us otherwise. As Mr. Graham rightly points out quoting Psalm 51:5, the bent toward sin is in us from conception.  When two full-grown sinners come together sexually the product of their joint union is a new baby sinner!  The sin may not be as apparent in the little one, but it is there.
     As Jonathan Edwards once stated speaking of John the Baptist's rebuke of the Pharisees as a "brood of vipers" -- children are "little vipers." That is, the gland that will one day produce the venom which adult snakes use to injure or immobilize their victims is in the little snake (in a smaller quantity) from birth. The baby snake doesn't become a viper by some fluke of nature, or hurtful experience, it is born a viper and thus simply grows to be what it is.  "We are not sinners because we sin," as R. C. Sproul says, "we sin because we are sinners."
     In fact, in relation to any sin (even the ones I think myself incapable of) a friend once told me to say to myself: "There, but by the grace of God, go I."  I frequently do, lest I inadvertently succumb to the sin of self-righteousness more than I'm already inclined to do so!

In Christ my Savior, Pastor Jeff