The Absence of God

The following fictitious classroom dialog is sometimes circulated on the web as a historical interchange between Albert Einstein and one of his teachers on the question of the existence of evil. Even though it is fictitious, I found it to be an interesting dialog and wanted to share it.

The university professor challenged his students with this question. Did God create everything that exists? A student bravely replied, "Yes, he did!"

"God created everything? The professor asked.

"Yes sir", the student replied.

The professor answered, "If God created everything, then God created evil since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works define who we are then God is evil". The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor was quite pleased with himself and boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, "Can I ask you a question professor?"

"Of course", replied the professor.

The student stood up and asked, "Professor, does cold exist?"

"What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?" The students snickered at the young man's question.

The young man replied, "In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat."

The student continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?"

The professor responded, "Of course it does."

The student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present."

Finally the young man asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?"

Now uncertain, the professor responded, "Of course as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil."

To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light."

The professor sat down.

I liked this one because it is a straightforward and simple explanation of a phenomena that is neither straightforward nor simple.

The Inmost Strength of the Heart

Barbara has a great post listing some quotes from Vincent Van Gogh. I particularly like this one:
"As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed."
Isn't is encouraging to know that we are developing an inner strength when we are fighting our way through the difficult things in life. It reminds me of what Paul wrote:
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
So often life events like sickness, rejection, job loss and pain seem to make us so weak. It is in times like these that we can courageously lean into the Lord and find a strength that makes our hearts a bit stronger.

Wolf Bait

This cartoon from AgnusDay reminds me of two things:
  • Satan was defeated at the cross!
  • Sometimes we need to be reminded that Satan was defeated at the cross!
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11)

Facing Down Nebuchadnezzar

There is a story in the book of Daniel that I have been thinking about lately. It is the story of Daniel's commrades, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. The story unfolds as Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, confronts them because they would not bow down to the king's towering (ninety feet high and nine feet thick) statue. Catch the dialog:
Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? "Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?" Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. "But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Daniel 3:13-18 NAS)
This story is one of the most inspirational ones in all of scripture - not only because God did deliver them from the fire (in the furnace) but because of their stand in the face of intense intimidation.

Life has its way of intimidating us doesn't it. Nebuchadnezzar can show up in all sorts of ways. Sometimes he shows up overtly demanding that we bow to the things that we know we should not bow to, but sometimes he shows up so subtly intimidating us to bow in thoughts and attitudes. This is where I am challenged today as I watch my wife back in a wheelchair and struggling physically from MS. I find Nebuchadnezzar standing over me today intimidating me ... telling me to bow to a subtle worship of fear, self-pity, hopelessness and despair. I find something rising within me saying, like the guys in Babylon:
O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of Multiple Sclerosis; and He will eventually deliver us. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not bow to feelings of fear, self-pity, hopelessness and despair. This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Isn't it interesting that God let them be thrown into the furnace but He did not allow the fire to consume them. It is written that a man who looked like 'a son of the gods' was in the furnace with them. Isn't that just like God to send help in the form of one who looked like His son? The story is still true today. God shows up in ways that we can't imagine when we face down Nebuchadnezzar.