I shall address three objections to all that I have written to this point.  They are the following:
1.       Some people cannot “buy” the world view that I have presented.  They cannot accept the “fall” of humanity as being consistent with their scientific understanding of the nature of humanity.
2.       Some people cannot accept the negative and pessimistic understanding of humanity that I have presented.
3.       Some people cannot accept that I have really answered the question.  They believe that some instances of suffering are so terrible that they render invalid the idea that God has adequately answered human suffering through the plan of salvation.

A.  Objections from a Scientific Standpoint
 A brief statement of this objection would be something like the following:
It is understood that human beings arose from previously existing ape-like animals.  These organisms gradually reached sufficient intelligence and social structure to be called human.  They progressed through human pre-history and finally developed writing and entered the era of recorded history.  Human culture has since then advanced from the barbaric into more advanced societies that are learning to control and modify human behavior.  Modern sociological and psychological developments hold promise eventually to lead people into socially beneficial paths of behavior.  Talk of sin and the fall of humanity and of judgment are crudities from primitive times that have no place in the twenty-first century.  Therefore, the idea that suffering is a consequence of sin has no validity.
                Descriptions from anthropologists and archeologists of the origins and development of humanity, such as I have briefly outlined above, are widely accepted.  I shall refer to this understanding as the evolutionary model.
                A secondary conclusion that has been drawn from the evolutionary model is that humanity has progressed and continues to progress toward perfection.  Most people understand this in a very broad sense.  That is, if one takes a very long view, over hundreds or thousands of years, then progress has been made, in this view.  Most of these same people are realistic enough to admit that we should not be too optimistic about the short term. 
                It is far beyond the scope of this work to attempt to engage in discussion of the mass of human learning that stands behind these ideas.  I shall make only a few comments.
·         The ancients were primitive in the sense that they did not have access to our technology, but they were not ignorant.  They, in fact, were quite wise, and their writings still speak to us today.  One cannot read the first five books of the Bible, the books of Moses, and not be struck with the profound insight into the human condition that is contained there.
·         The Biblical record, from Genesis to Revelation, bears the marks of inspiration, not just for its insight into humanity and its amazing historical accuracy and detail, but for what it tells us about God.  Thus, when we deal with the Bible, we are dealing with revealed truth.
·         The Biblical insight is that there is a profound spiritual problem in the human condition.  That spiritual problem can only be solved by a reconciliation with God.  That insight is not provable scientifically, but it has the ring of truth.  It has been verified experientially by countless persons who have found the joy of life in Christ Jesus. 
·         If one grants the validity of the Biblical revelation about the human condition, then one must take seriously the Biblical revelation about human origins.  I do not say that one must immediately convert to the “creation science” point of view.  I simply say that one must take seriously what the early chapters in Genesis say.
When I say take these things seriously, I mean that one must ask, “What do these chapters say to me about God, people, and origins?”  There are two approaches to such a question.  The “minimalist” approach asks, “What is the bare minimum that I must believe in these texts and still take them seriously?”  The “rich” approach asks, “What marvelous insights into God and humanity and origins can I learn from these texts?”  The minimalist feels the Enlightenment breathing down his neck.  The rich approach embraces the Bible with joy, hoping to learn all he can from its pages.  Such a person is not worried whether she will appear uneducated.  She has a good notion of the scope of modern developments in biology, anthropology, archeology, and history.  But such a person is not intimidated by the intellectual establishment and is willing to look at what Biblical revelation has to say.
Is there a contradiction between the Bible and science?  I think there is.  My biggest argument with “creation science” is its unwillingness to admit the size of its project.  I am sympathetic with the project, but I am not sympathetic with foolish boasting and silly  pronouncements.  When folks say something like,  “The Bible and true science do not contradict each other,” real, professional scientists want to laugh them out of existence.  In the minds of professional scientists who are convinced of evolution, they are doing valid science, period.  So, to expand my statement about the contradiction between the Bible and science, I would say:  there is a contradiction between the Bible’s understanding of creation and the origins of humanity and the widely accepted understandings of the scientific establishment.  That does not mean that those widely accepted understandings are not subject to review and questioning.  It does not mean that “creation science” and similar projects will not eventually reverse those understandings.  But in the present-day intellectual environment, to accept the Biblical views of the origins of humanity is to go against widely accepted understandings.
Consequently, it would also be against those widely accepted understandings to accept the Biblical understanding of the sinfulness of humanity.  I cannot reverse those widely accepted understandings with a few well-phrased sentences or with some sort of ranting against evolution.  I shall limit myself to say that the revealed truth of the Bible is that the human condition is best described by the Law of Sin and Death as I have described it previously in this work.  
B.  Objections to the Pessimistic View of Life
                The most popular notion that has come from psychology in recent years is the idea of “self-esteem.”  The response of those who are convinced of the ideas about self-esteem might react to my ideas in the following way:
What people really need is greater self-esteem.  When they think highly of themselves and act in ways that demonstrate that they value themselves, then their behavior is positive and not self-destructive.  Your ideas about sinfulness and the inability of people to bring themselves to righteousness are very destructive to people.  They would drive them into patterns of self-hate and misery and greater unrighteousness.  The last thing we should ever tell people is that they are sinners.  They need to know that God loves them and accepts them unconditionally.  Then they can accept themselves and begin to live positive productive lives.
                Though the gospel of self-esteem has run out of steam in terms of breeding more books and talk-show appearances, it has not lost its wide appeal with the public.  This idea has permeated all areas of thought, including Christian theology.  Again, I cannot devote sufficient space to this subject and can only make a few comments.
                I shall begin with the idea of the unconditional love of God.  “Unconditional” refers to the idea that God loves us no matter what we do or have done.  His love is not conditioned on our behavior, but is an expression of His own nature.  I believe that that is true and an accurate expression of the Bible.  However, it is a very limited understanding of the Biblical revelation. 
The Bible definitely speaks of God’s love, including God’s love of sinners.  John 3:16 is most obvious Scripture to quote:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”  But the Bible speaks in no uncertain terms about the wrath and judgment of God.  These are not Old Testament topics.  The New Testament has the most specific and graphic pictures of eternal judgment.  Nor are these topics that come out of the Epistles.  Jesus speaks directly about eternal punishment in hell.
How can we reconcile these two ideas about God—that He is a God of love that loves everyone no matter their sinfulness and that He is a God of judgment who hates sin and punishes sinners with the fires of hell?  Traditional Christianity has always reconciled these in the following way:
              God loves sinners, and He proved that by sending Christ to save them.
              His love extends to all in the sense that He sent Christ for the salvation of all.
              His favor or blessing, however, is found in Christ, that is, as we have faith in Christ, we enter into the favor of God.
              Those who do not believe in Christ receive God’s punishment for sin.  He is just in doing this because He has a provided a way of escape through Christ.
                Thus, the love of God is centered in His saving act in Jesus Christ.  Those who seek it elsewhere are rebelling against the provision of God in Christ. 
                Therefore, God’s love is not very accurately described as unconditional.  It is unconditional in the sense that God will receive anyone who accepts His Son’s redemptive work.  The worst offender—child abuser, slave trader, vile pervert, murderer—may call out to God for salvation in Christ.  God will not turn any away.  But, outside of Christ, that person must receive the full punishment for his or her sins. 
                So, if God accepts us, should not we accept ourselves?  Should we not convince ourselves that we are OK and love ourselves?  If we do not, shall we not fall into the horrible condition of lack of self-esteem?  After all, did not Jesus teach us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  This has been the theme hammered home by many a preacher-turned-psychologist. 
                When Jesus said we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves, His point was that we love ourselves and that gives us guidance into how to love our neighbor.  We love ourselves enough to feed and clothe ourselves, to avoid cold and to come in out of the rain.  We love ourselves enough to seek the most attractive of mates, to pursue the most rewarding of careers, and to do all sorts of things that call attention to ourselves.  Even when we do self-destructive things, it is often not because we do not love ourselves.  We may do them because we have some really distorted notions about how to assuage negative feelings or how to grab the attention of certain people whose attentions we value. 
                I grant you that many people do some pretty self-destructive things, but generally they do so more out of short-sightedness than out of low self-esteem.  The kid who gets drunk with some buddies may be yielding to peer pressure.  But the pressure of the peers is on the desire of that young person to be liked (a reaction of a person who likes himself).  I am not convinced that a person with extremely high self-esteem will not want people to like him or her.  Yes, I agree that a mature person will pursue friendship in wiser ways than by chug-a-lugging beer.  But stupid, self-destructive behavior is not necessarily evidence of low self-esteem.
                The self-esteem movement began with psychologists who had studied severely disturbed people.  It may have been that some of those people genuinely hated themselves.  But that understanding should not be projected onto the whole human race.  Most people probably think too highly of themselves and need a healthy dose of humility.  Most people act out of selfishness that needs to be curbed, not encouraged.
                Does simply preaching to people that God loves them cure their low self-esteem and thus “save” them from self-destructive behavior?  I cannot be convinced of that because I do not believe that it is the whole revealed truth of the gospel.  It seems to me to withhold the truth is a very cruel thing to do to people. 
                I believe that people who receive Christ as Savior have the potential to have healthier understandings about themselves.  I recognize that we all have past histories that color our thinking and can haunt us.  In some cases, we may need to be counseled by a person who can recognize unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior and can lead us out of those problems.  I do not believe the vast majority of Christians need counseling about their low self-esteem.  I think that people do need to grow in their experience of Christ through the Holy Spirit.  As that growth takes place, they are going to experience the “witness of the Spirit” that assures them of their acceptance by God as beloved children.  That certainly will affect their mental health and well-being. 
                What about calling people sinners?  First, I defend that as an accurate statement of Biblical revelation.  Second, it is done in the context of God’s offer of salvation.  Generally, a physician reveals her diagnosis to a patient in a straightforward way.  But the diagnosis is in the context of treatment.  “You have coronary heart disease.  The best treatment for you would be bypass surgery.”  This is your disease, and this is the cure.  So it is with the gospel.  One cannot preach the gospel without talking about sin.  But the center of the gospel is the salvation that is in the work of Jesus Christ. 
                We cannot accept Christ without accepting the truth of our sinfulness.  But that truth does not devastate us because we recognize that Christ has died for our sins and we can be saved through Him.  The truth of the gospel does not damage our self-esteem, because we know God has done great things for us in Christ.  The disciples of self-esteem used to love to sneer at the old hymn’s words:  “Alas, and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die?  Would He devote that sacred head for such as worm as I?”  “That is worm theology!” they would snort.  Well, excuse me, it is Biblical theology.  The author of that hymn recognized that without Christ he was indeed nothing.  He also recognized that God loved him so much that He gave the most sacred head—and most sacred blood—in the universe for his salvation, so that he no longer would be a worm but would be a child of God.  That many Christians reject that theology as “worm theology”  is a sad commentary on the destructive influence of the gospel of self-esteem.

C.  Objections Based on the Degree of Some Suffering
Some people just do not buy my whole thesis, that God has provided an answer for suffering through the plan of salvation.  They would say something like the following:
I have read your plan of salvation.  I understand what you are saying, that God someday will remove all pain and suffering and that, if we accept Christ, then we have received God’s answer to suffering.  However, how does that make the pain of a hungry child any better?  How does that take away the horror of innocents killed in war?  How does that make a young mother who is dying of cancer feel any better.  It simply is not enough!  If sin is the reason the suffering has come, then God has allowed too much suffering to come because of sin.  The whole “system” is unjust and God still must answer for the “why” of all this suffering.
                In a sense, it seems that I would have to repeat my whole argument to try to answer this objection. 
Moreover, there is a logical difficulty.  The problem is that the argument is based on the perception of the degrees of the suffering that people are undergoing.  That is, those who would argue this way are saying that my argument cannot hold up because the suffering in some cases is so bad.  So, the question would be, how much less would the suffering have to be for my argument to be valid?  Could the argument be valid if only old men and women got cancer?  What would they say about that?  Would the argument be valid if only soldiers died in war?  Would it be valid if only rich people were robbed?  It is obvious where this is going.  It is an attempt for us to play God by choosing our part of The Big Picture that we want changed.  In this case, we are not picking and choosing in order to make life bearable, but, rather, to make God seem just in allowing the suffering that goes on.  But it really is not different than earlier examples that we discussed in which people try to select those aspects of The Big Picture that they desire to delete in order to bring life as it is in conformance with their own ideas about how life should be.                 
That is not what God is offering to us.  God is offering to us a radical solution to the human condition.  His offer implicitly concedes that this present order of existence is far from ideal.  But Paul’s conclusion is this:  “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that shall be revealed in us.”  When some dispute this, they are arguing with the revealed Word of God through the Apostle. 
Also, I believe, implicit in this objection is a rejection of the horror of eternal punishment.  It is bad for someone to be very sick.  It is sad to see someone die.  But I believe that we need to recognize that there are eternal issues.  Jesus talked about fear.  He said, “Do not fear the person who can kill your body, fear the One who can destroy body and soul in hell.”  If we dwell exclusively on temporal sufferings and somehow make our estimation of them a reason to reject the gospel, then we have not seriously considered the God with Whom we deal. 

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