Tuesday
Jul032012

What does the problem of evil have to do with missions? Part II 

By Bruce Koch
Originally written in the U.S. Center for World Mission Prayer Log on Thursday, June 30, 2005

Editorial Note: Below is a note written by Bruce Koch to Dr. Winter in response to many of the general concepts and questions undergirding the Roberta Winter Institute. Bruce is a long time member of the U.S. Center for World Mission, serving as a Perspectives coordinator, speaker, and as the associate editor of the Perspectives Reader. He has traveled widely as a mission mobilizer. Currently he serves as the International Facilitator for the Perspectives Global Network helping launch Perspectives study programs in strategic settings and languages worldwide.

Dr. Winter,
I took some time during my prayer shift to respond to your entry from this past Sunday. I just thought I should email it to you rather than making you wait until your next [prayer] shift.

Some of the Perspectives students (and others in the frontier mission movement) have asked me questions trying to understand Dr. Winter’s current focus on fighting evil at the microbiological level. This is in part a synopsis of how I answer that question and in part a response to Dr. Winter’s appeal for feedback to his entry on June 26th.

Bruce KochHas the U.S. Center lost its focus on unreached peoples? Almost all questions basically boil down to this. The issue is also often couched in the discussion of what we are mandated by the Bible to do for God’s glory.

It is very helpful to distinguish between the finishable dimension of the mandate and the wider dimensions of the mandate that contribute to that finishing. Ever since its founding, the U.S. Center for World Mission has promoted a missiology of closure, that there would be a following for Christ within every distinct bounded segment of humanity. Co-laboring with Jesus to see the fulfillment of this purpose defines the basic framework of God’s agenda for history and should be our highest priority, personally and corporately.

Now the question is this, is Dr. Winter’s current emphasis helping to bring about “closure” of the every ethne strategic goal or detracting from it? This is the essence of the debate. To be honest there have been times when I have felt the new emphasis was a distraction and a loss of focus. But that response is more or less a reaction to a new unorthodox opportunity to grow in our understanding as a community right along with Dr. Winter and I appreciate his persistence because these are weighty questions that are getting at the root of our mission as the people of God.

If we are to see a movement of Christ followers within every people, we have to address the basic question of “what keeps them from accepting and following God?” The struggle for the revelation of the glory of God to the nations involves a lot of things. We want people to know his power, his creativity, his wisdom, his compassion, his mercy, his justice, etc. But for many, no matter how much we extol the excellences of our God, the question remains, “If God is sovereign and loving, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?” Bottom line – people will not give their allegiance to God unless they are convinced he is good. He is not evil, he is not the source of evil and suffering, he does not condone evil, he does not cause people to suffer unjustly. (Of course people suffer when being disciplined or judged by God, but that is his measured and just response to our choices, not a malicious choice to see us suffer because it somehow pleases him.)

My father-in-law was a biology professor his whole career. We had many discussions about the validity of evolution versus creation. Finally after many years he told me, “I don’t believe that science rules out the existence of God. The Bible and science are not incompatible. My problem is a problem with the prevalence of evil in the world.” In other words, if God is good how can there be so much evil in the world?

Malcolm HunterWhile most of the world is not as concerned with linear philosophical arguments as we are in the West, every worldview addresses the problem of good and evil. Malcolm Hunter spun story after story for the Perspectives students yesterday to convince them that the key to reaching nomads is teaching and demonstrating that God is able and willing to free them from the tyranny of fear and abuse that Satan has inflicted upon them in every dimension of their lives.

So my answer is simply this: If we are serious about closure (finishing is not finishing the task within every people, but getting something started within every people) then we have to tackle the fundamental question of evil. I am convinced that Dr. Winter’s musing are contributing a great deal more than any of us realize to the completion of the Great Commission discipling mandate and the wider mandate to engage in the battle against Satan and his minions in order to reveal God's glory to all peoples.

You may or may not be tired of hearing about this issue in our gatherings, but realize this, that unless a few people make a BIG fuss about these things, forcing others to wrestle with them, the rest of the body will go on operating in ignorance. Dr. Winter has always been a prophetic voice and I am convinced that the Lord wants the world (not just the Church) to hear what he has to say.

Monday
Jul022012

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?
Monday
Jun252012

The Worm Must Die, the Cobra Must Go

By Ralph D. Winter
From his Editorial Comment originally published in the January 1998 Issue of Mission Frontiers.

To ignore the alarming connection between human (and/or satanic) responsibility and the evil that permeates this world is to plunge headlong into a type of Hindu fatalism.
 
But not to be too hard on the Hindus. Take the case of a devout Christian woman in the Middle Ages who considered a worm growing in her forehead something God had “sent” to her to keep her humble. One day, leaning over, she noticed that the “God-sent” worm fell out on the floor. She hurriedly restored it to the open sore in her forehead—not wishing to frustrate the purposes of God.
 
CC BY-NA by INeedCoffee / CoffeeHero Is this not similar to a Hindu family grieving over the death of a child from the fangs of a cobra well-known to have made its abode in a clump of bamboo in the backyard? Even after the boy’s tragic and much mourned death the cobra continues on unassailed since the family earnestly seeks to “consent” to God’s will. God obviously placed that cobra in the clump of bamboo? Thus, the family feels it is not their place to eliminate that evil. Is this the best way to look at what is going on?
 
Or, finally, if you are ready for this, my wife and I hear from all kinds of wonderful loving people who are willing to pray for my wife whose cancer is steadily eating its way throughout all her bones. We deeply value and appreciate those prayers. We devoutly hope they help. But we think that there comes a time when the worm must die, and the cobra must go.
 
See, no one that I know of has suggested that we, the Evangelical world, have a responsibility to get up and “kill the worm” or “kill the cobra” when it comes to malaria or cancer. That is, no one has suggested that either I or Evangelicals in general set out resolutely with the millions of dollars at our disposal to combat the source of malaria or cancer.

 

Tuesday
Jun192012

Book Recommendation - Global Disease Eradication: The Race for the Last Child

Global Disease Eradication: The Race for the Last Child, by Cynthia A. Needham and Richard Canning (Washington, DC: ASM Press 2003) – For the novice and enthusiast alike, this book is the most readable history of disease eradication available. It chronicles three eradication campaigns (Malaria, Small Pox, Polio), the lessons we’ve learned from past failures, and sticky issues to consider. Highly recommended.

Do you have another book you’d recommend? Contact us.

Monday
Jun182012

Why do People Find it Hard to Believe in a Creator God?

By Ralph D. Winter
From his Editorial Comment originally published in the January 1998 Issue of Mission Frontiers

A major reason why some very honest and thinking people find it hard to believe a Creator God is in charge of things is precisely due to the unacknowledged factor of satanic, destructive opposition to God’s creative benevolent design. Only the presence of satanic efforts in the constant damaging of God’s creative intent can explain the pervasive, insidious, painful horror of the destructive parasites of our world.
 
Did God create these evil bugs? That is what some of the evolutionists are wondering about. (Are the grisly predations of life against life on this planet His ideal?) That is why some of them cannot believe in a divine creator—they are as unaware of Satan as we are. Have we gotten accustomed to rampaging evil within God’s creation?
 
Hugh Ross says in his newsletter, Reasons to Believe, “Belief in Satan is even more politically incorrect than belief in God.” (4th Q, 1997, page 8—better yet, write for this superb resource, Box 5978, Pasadena, CA 91117).
 
So we began to fight the microbes that were designed to destroy. Some specialists just a few years ago thought that all disease could be shortly eliminated from this planet. No one apparently realized that Satan’s evil, dark angels would continue to invent new ways to penetrate our body’s defenses. The wonder drugs of sulfa and penicillin and a myriad of antibiotics were for a time another optimistic marvel.
 
But the true scope of microbial evil was, and is, underestimated. Just as once we thought we could do nothing to fight the plagues at their source, we now continue to give up easily with the newest species of tuberculosis, malaria, and many other maladies that distress and destroy and hold the world captive to torturing pain.
 
Where is Missions in all this? Don’t we know now where we stand? Can’t we realize that merely sending out friendly missionaries is not enough…that God is expecting us to fight Satan back at every level? What does “Thy Kingdom come…deliver us from evil” mean? How can people around the world convert to a God who appears not to care and/or does not understand how to deal with malaria? Or who Himself tweaked the DNA to produce ingenious parasites? What sort of good news is that? If God’s missionaries don’t toss a penny into a fundamental assault on malaria, how can anyone believe that an omnipotent God cares?
 
Now we know—or we should know by now—that the mysteries of viral illnesses can be combated, and that God is expecting us to not just lie down and let the plagues roll over us.
 
Can we in good conscience go around the world with a gospel for everyone that tells people about a loving God but does not identify Him as being willing and able to fight the satanically inspired diseases that are killing people right and left? Can we tell people to “be warmed and filled and believe in Jesus as you die?”
 
I have a hunch that somewhere along the line we got off the track of glorifying God by fighting Satan and his perversions, and got more interested in bailing out of this world, getting ourselves and our friends to heaven.
 
Our task is to honor and glorify God and to lead all peoples to “declare His glory.” That is the overarching task of the believers. It is a lot more, not less, than winning people to Jesus Christ. It is called Missions. 
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