Breaking the Hammer, part 2

Picking up from the previous post in our examination and response to Keith Giles’ post “The 6 Pillars of Religious Deconstruction,” we come to his fourth pillar, which focuses on the issue of suffering in the world, and I’m forced to admit that..well…I’m at a loss for words, because the problem of suffering or the problem of pain or the problem of evil is one that is often presented as the one that is the most difficult to respond to.

Keith provides a link to a clip of an interview with philosopher David Bentley Hart, who concedes that the matter is one of great difficulty to square. Keith inserts the question,

““If God is good,” we wonder, “why do children suffer and the innocent die?”

It is a question that we have to ask, but then it’s one that they writers of scripture are constantly posing, especially in the Psalms. Keith kicks the question to two authors who essentially deny—what I refer to as—God’s functional sovereignty over his creation. The end result is (and this comes on the heels of denying things like scriptural sufficiency and inerrancy, the reality and deservedness of eternal punishment, and a substitutionary atonement that actually pays the penalty for sin against a holy God) a God who’s just trying to hold everything together and not a God who actively and intentionally works in time to accomplish his purposes. What’s interesting is that I agree with Keith when he says,

“I would hasten to point out that most of the suffering in our world is man-made,…

What’s interesting is that I can point to Scripture and affirm that as a true statement because I accept Scripture as my starting point and authority, I can say that all of our problems are man-made because of man’s rebellion in the garden. Fortunately, God has not remained distant and has not absolved himself of his sovereignty over this world and its people and has, in Christ Jesus and by regeneration in the Spirit, given us the means to moderate much of the man-made evil. Keith poses a question,

“Maybe instead of asking why God allows these things to happen, we should ask ourselves why we allow suffering to continue?

The truth is that—by not rejecting the truth of Scripture—I can effectively answer both questions, while Keith has to leave it simply hanging without resolution.

Keith’s fifth pillar is end times hype and, strangely I find myself in agreement with the overall observation,

“If you live long enough, like me, you’ll start to notice an embarrassing yet consistent string of failed prophecies concerning the return of Jesus and the End of the World. After awhile, it gets hard to believe that anyone really knows what the Bible says about this topic at all and you begin to lost faith in your leaders, Bible teachers and pastors who just keep making these predictions, or falling for them.

Ah, yes, I have seen so many apocalyptic predictions over the years that it really gets embarrassing to see any Christian teacher still trying to forecast the coming of Christ to exert his claim over his kingdom. I mean what part of, “…no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only,” isn’t clear (Matthew 24:36, ESV)?

Simple fact of the matter: the world is going to end. The question that believers have to answer is, what are we going to do in the meantime? The only answer for that question is found in the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture, which Keith has previously denied, and yet is dependent upon in order to make his argument here work.

Pillar six pillar that has to be deconstructed is apparently, the church.

Conceding that this one is somewhat vague, he references the book Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna that looks at church traditions on a somewhat superficial level. The book, while informative, I think that the authors—as well intentioned as they may be (they admit that they have a sequel in the works to “fix” the problems they see in the book)—their message comes off as heavily biased as this review centers on, as Keith summarizes the book by writing,

“…that Church-As-We-Know-It was inspired by Pagan worship practices and modeled after a system of hierarchy and control; and looks nothing at all like what Jesus and the early Christians actually practiced for the first 300 years.

And I’m not going to argue that if we plucked Paul out of the first century and plopped him down on a pew at the local First Baptist Church that he would he would not have a clue about the structure and operation of a modern church. I would agree that there are many aspects of modern church life that one would struggle mightily to find any biblical support for. But Keith tips his hand,

“For some, the Church pillar falls because they just get tired of being abused by those in authority over them, or called “Heretic” for asking too many questions, or labelled degenerates for being LGBTQ, or turned off because of the political entanglements they see in their fellow Christians. (Links removed)

I get the feeling that Keith loves him some strawmen. This is not to deny that there are those who have abused their authority, or have brushed off people for asking questions, or have been heartless where compassion was needed, but we’ve got to be honest, Christians have been involved with politics since the beginning, namely because we recognize that any and all authority comes from God and is meant to serve his ends.

I’m not going to argue that Keith does raise some good questions, it’s just that his rejection of the answers that have been given throughout history doesn’t do the damage that he hopes that it would do. SO many of Keith’s arguments are undone by his willingness to contradict his first pillar. Keith’s denial of inerrancy and sufficiency, all the while appealing to it as foundational for so many of his arguments demonstrate, in my opinion the falsity of his arguments.

Keith ultimately plays on the ignorance of his audience, hoping that they won’t bother to question his position of be willing to think through his arguments. He doesn’t count on the thinking believer, or the historically knowledgeable believer to be willing to stand up and call him out for his errors in reasoning and facts.

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