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What does the Problem of Evil have to do with Missions? Part I

By Ralph D. Winter
Originally written in the U.S. Center for World Mission Prayer Log on Sunday, June 26, 2005
Editorial Note: One question that seems to come up again and again to us in the Roberta Winter Institute is, “What does the problem of evil have to do with missions?”  I understand why this question comes up so frequently. It is most likely because our founder’s most notable contribution was in renewing and strengthening evangelical interest in missions. It also may be because our main audience up to this point has been people in mission circles. Below are some thoughts related to this question. Tomorrow's post (What does the Problem of Evil have to do with Missions? Part II) will be a response to these thoughts.

Help me, anyone, please, to sort out my mixed reaction to the events of the morning today at Lake Avenue Church. Here I came into the service from a week in which I hear Elsie Purnell is failing fast. Chris, a Wycliffe father of four in England, finally dies of a sudden cancer flare up. The morning service is given over to the interview of three different people who have contributed to the beauty in the world through their artistic giftings.

I have often discussed with Barbara the thought that during a calendar year Lake Avenue ought in their services at least once speak specifically about the intricate marvels of God’s creation not merely the marvels of human artistry. Concerts after concerts but no science!

Now, however, I am thinking one notch further. It is not just God’s creation we need to keep an eye on. We need to note, more specifically, the rampant ongoing “damage” to His creation (Elsie, Chris, etc.) and what would seem clearly to be a biblical mandate to fight against those destructive forces which tear down His glory.

Julian RevieWhat most startled me about this morning’s service was the interview of Julian Revie, the Caltech student who plays the organ. The pastor said there were three of his contributions that deserved mentioning. First, he has been invited to create some music and go and play at an AD 1366 chapel at Cambridge University. Second he has been invited to do something similar in Australia. Third, at the very moment I am writing this he will be in Ventura finishing up a marathon 22-hour presentation of all of Bach by something like 30 participating organists.

What is my problem? Julian is a microbiologist [who holds degrees in biochemistry and molecular biophysics]. That is a crucial area of research in which are secreted away the answers to Elsie’s suffering and Chris’s death. How is it that Sunday after Sunday all these good people at Lake Avenue Church hear all about God’s love and forgiveness, the blood of Christ that has paid for our sins, the abundant Christian life, etc. and do not face up to the will of God that we should fight against the things which mar and scar both the people of God, the saints of God, and the creation of God. Why are we saved? Just to get to heaven when we die, just to make sure others get there?

In our Sunday School class this morning (an older group) we were urged to face the fact that we “are all wasting away,” all of us, but that we need to “rejoice in the Lord” nevertheless. I don’t mind “wasting away” except that we older people, almost every person in that room, are being assailed by pathogens that are artificially and often very painfully speeding that process up. Meanwhile, are we simply to rejoice in the Lord and not fight back against those forces that are tearing down His Creation?

Isn’t that strange? What is this, a diabolical delusion? Any suggestions from anyone will be very welcome.
I forgot one thing. The reason I am so concerned to identify evil and become known as a believer in Jesus Christ who is fighting it, is because a great deal of evil in this world is blamed on God. How attractive is our invitation to people to return to and yield to their Father in Heaven if they continue to believe he is the one who contrives for most everyone to die in suffering? Unless Satan is in the picture and we are known to be fighting his deadly works we are allowing God’s glory to be marred and torn down. Doesn’t that make sense?

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