This Sunday will be the last week in our Walking In Their Shoes series. Therefore, today is the last blog entry exploring the minor prophets. Today we will study Habakkuk.
Habakkuk is not often studied or preached on— probably because of his very hard to pronounce name! But to ignore Habakkuk is to miss incredible insight into God’s presence in a conflict-filled world.
The opening lines of this short book capture Habakkuk’s complaint against God’s seeming indifference to the violence and pain that Habakkuk has experienced.
How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
You’ve probably wondered something along these lines as well. If God is good and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world? Shouldn’t God simply eliminate one’s capacity for evil? Or as Habakkuk lamented thousands of years ago—why does God tolerate wrongdoing? Why does God allow injustice?
I’d like to offer two ways that Christians historically have responded to these questions.
1) The Moral Argument
In his book God, Freedom, and Evil, Alvin Plantinga asks his readers to imagine two worlds.
World 1 – A place where all creatures are able to act freely. Creatures can choose to make all sorts of choices— good or bad.
World 2 – A place where all creatures must act nicely. Like robots programmed in a certain way, humans must act in a certain way.
Which world is better?
Plantinga argues that World 1 is superior because a person’s ability to freely make choices is tantamount to what it means to be human. Implication: For humans to be capable of moral goodness, humans must also have the capacity for moral evil.
God created a world in which we are free to behave in any manner we choose. Through Jesus’ teaching and God’s guiding spirit, God encourages each of us to choose the good. But we do not have to. Thus, we live in a world too often consumed by pain and conflict.
2) The Negation Argument
St. Augustine wrote in the fifth century that evil does not exist. You may wonder to yourself “Was he blind?! How could he claim that evil does not exist?!” Augustine would respond that evil is not real. The only essence in the world that is truly real is goodness itself.
Evil is simply the corruption of the good.
This is similar to how darkness does not truly exist, but is simply the absence of light. Or how a hole in a log does not truly exist, but is just the absence of wood. To Augustine, evil is simply the absence of good.
Therefore, God did not create evil or pain or suffering. God created goodness. Think back to the Genesis account— after each day of creation God pronounce it good! Too often our world corrupts that goodness in ways that lead to pain and suffering.
Habakkuk displays the correct response toward God in the face of suffering. His book began with lamenting God’s seeming indifference toward injustice and ends with a profound affirmation of faith.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk proclaims that even though the world appears at its lowest low (no food, no crops, no sheep!), his circumstances do not determine God’s goodness. God is still good— always and forever. Therefore, he will rejoice in the Lord.
I encourage us to assume a similar posture. Lament and actively work against the injustice and causes of pain and suffering in the world. But do not become consumed by them. At the end of the day, rejoice in God. Proclaim God’s goodness.
Just a reminder— we have resumed offering TWO worship services: the 9:30 am casual and 11 am traditional. This Sunday we will offer Homecoming biscuits outside between the services. Please join us!
See you on Sunday!