Biblical scholar frames how Christians should view suffering and evil
Riverside, Calif. (Feb. 5, 2018) – Biblical truths needs to guide believers through difficult seasons in life, Dr. D.A. Carson told a California Baptist University audience on Feb. 1.
“Before the evil day comes, what biblical theological truths should you have firmly driven into the soil of your mind so that you’re stable?” asked Carson, who spoke as part of the School of Christian Ministries Lecture Series.
The lecture series provides an opportunity for students, faculty, pastors and guests to learn from leading evangelical scholars who combine their academic expertise with service to the church.
Carson is president of The Gospel Coalition, a network of churches focused on the theological application of the gospel to accomplish the Great Commission. He also is a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois and the author or editor of more than 50 books.
Carson spoke about theological pillars needed to support faithful Christian reflection on the issues of suffering and evil. He said the biblical storyline begins with the portrayal of God as the Creator who made everything good before evil entered the world.
“He made us, we owe him everything,” Carson said. “Sin is bound up in rebellion against the sovereign God.”
In Scripture, all evil tracks back to the fall, Carson said.
“With this background, we need to see that the Bible expresses surprise, not that we suffer, but that we are not wiped out,” Carson said. “In much of the Bible, what provokes wonder and reflection is not human suffering but God’s grace.”
Insights from the end of the biblical storyline show the coming of the new heaven and the new earth—to be cherished—and a hell that is to be feared.
"All of our sufferings in this life have to be measured against the blessings that will come for believers," Carson said.
He also cited the Book of Job as an example of innocent suffering in which Job loses everything because of an arrangement between God and Satan.
"Job teaches us that there are limits to our knowledge and sometimes God is more interested in our trust than in providing more explanations,” Carson said. “At some deep level we must recognize that omniscience is an incommunicable attribute of God, and we cannot understand everything."
Carson said additional insight comes from looking at the persecuted church. When the New Testament talks about suffering, it mostly focuses on persecution, Carson said. In persecution, believers need to “take up our cross,” that is why the apostles rejoiced when they are first beaten. They considered themselves worthy to suffer for Jesus (Acts 5:41), Carson added.
"If darker times come to North America in the months ahead, in years ahead, let not the church wallow in self-pity and talk about the good old days,” Carson said. “Rather, rejoice because you're counted worthy to suffer for His name. You'll start joining your brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world."
For more information on the Lecture Series and videos of past presentations, please visit https://calbaptist.edu/school-of-christian-ministries/lecture-series.