Ask Shawn Hart (July 30-August 3, 2018)

shawnhart

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

@Shawn_Hart is focused on you and your questions this week!

Shawn is a bold, humble, and kind leader. He carries a big vision for people’s lives to be transformed by meeting Christ and participating in God’s kingdom. His work in leading university missions around the US has brought a spirit of revival and a depth of evangelistic equipping to many campuses.

I know you will benefit from this opportunity - please do share the questions of your heart and Shawn will prayerfully address them this week.

Carson

Shawn Hart bio:

Shawn is the Assistant Director of the Zacharias Institute and a member of the US speaking team. He began serving with Young Life shortly after becoming a Christian in his early twenties. During these years, a desire to take the gospel to unreached people groups in the world motivated Shawn and his wife, Carly, eventually taking them to Africa where they served with Africa Inland Mission from 2008-2012. While serving among an unreached, animistic people group in the mountains of South Sudan, their team had to evacuate and were unable to return. Following their escape from South Sudan, they worked among an unreached, Muslim people group on a coastal African island for two years.

During his time in Africa, Shawn saw the need and benefit of apologetics in evangelism and discipleship. Cross-cultural mission work stirred in him a love for culture and an interest in thinking about how to respectfully engage with people from diverse cultural perspectives. Upon graduation from the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA), Shawn served as the Chapter Director for Ratio Christi at Portland State University (PSU). While at PSU, Shawn organized and led one of the first weeklong university missions in the US in partnership with RZIM and several other campus ministries.

Shawn first joined RZIM in 2015 as an OCCA Fellow in Washington, DC. Since that time, he has led several university missions in the US and UK and was part of the leadership team for the Chicago Festival of Thought.

Shawn has a Certificate in Theological Studies from Oxford University and a degree in Ministry and Leadership from Western Seminary. He currently lives in Alpharetta, Georgia, with his wife and their three young children.


Introduction:Susan
Introduction:Susan
(Carson Weitnauer) #2

Shawn,

One question I have for you: can you share how you have seen the Holy Spirit at work in your life and the life of the team in evangelism? Practically, what does it look like to do evangelism in the power of the Holy Spirit?


(Shawn Hart) #4

Thanks for the intro Carson.

I am looking forward to interacting with the RZIM Connect community this week. Unfortunately I went home sick today so I was unable to do much. However, tomorrow I plan to start by answering Carson’s question. Feel free to post other questions and I will do my best to respond to as many as I am able.

Thanks,
Shawn


(Kerryn Perry) #5

My question is related to the argument,“if God is Good and loving he would make himself known and not allow his features to suffer and ultimately end up in Hell” I have been debating this with my son and my question is how to respond to this with the idea of Free Will. In what way are we “free” to choose God when he is all powerful and controls everything?


(Shawn Hart) #6

Thanks for the question, Carson. This is a very important to think about because one thing we don’t want to be doing in evangelism is trying to function in our own power, thinking that it is our wit and intellect that will bring people to repentance. One thing I love about our team is the diverse experiences they have with the Holy Spirit in evangelism.

I think prayer is the foundation to evangelism because it puts us in the correct posture. We must rely on God to do the work in our hearts and the hearts of others in evangelism. We need to asking for a manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit in us as we attempt to be witnesses for Christ. I could go through the list in Galatians 5:22-23 and write a paragraph on how each fruit is needed in evangelism, but I would actually encourage every Christian to do this work themselves by meditating on these two verses and asking God how each fruit needs to be seen in their evangelism. If several people took one fruit each and replied to this thread with a paragraph, I think we could have a pretty great resource.

When it comes to the Holy Spirit practically working in my evangelistic efforts, I will list three things in the order of how common they are for me. Here they are from most common to least common.

A Thought : Often times I will get a thought about going somewhere or saying something to someone and I have the choice to act on this or not. I wish I always acted on these thoughts because if I did then I think I would grow better in my ability to discern whether it is my own brilliant idea (sarcasm) or if it is God prompting me. Our team often notices this during university missions where we are extremely focused on evangelistic conversations and are often trying to discern who to talk to and spend time with. What if that idea to invite your next-door neighbor over for dinner wasn’t just an inconvenient blip in your thoughts, but rather it was a prompting by the Holy Spirit? Don’t you want to know?

An Inescapable “Coincidence” : Two days before I left Oxford, I sat on a packed bus, next to a young Muslim woman who had just started reading the Bible and the Qur’an. The next day she showed up at my apartment to have tea with me and my wife 24 hours before the plane would take us back to America, and she told us her story. She woke up with the words “God is my shepherd” coming out of her mouth and she didn’t know why. There is much more to this story, but the story she told is one of God shepherding her all the way to a bus where I would sit next to her and then she would be in our living room the next day. I was able to point out to her just how much God was shepherding her throughout her life.

Sometimes we need to call out the obvious circumstances for people. It is common to have a university student say, “Man, I have been thinking about this stuff a lot lately, and then you guys show up talking about this stuff…woah!!” The most helpful response will likely be, “You have to ask yourself, ‘is this all just a coincidence?’ or do you think that God might be trying to communicate with you?” I find that often times people can be really close to making these connections, but they actually need a helpful nudge to make the connection. I think the helpful nudge is best formulated as a question that they have to answer rather than a statement (or worse, a sermon) from the Christian. If we can ask a good question, it also shows we have been listening well.

An Image : I have friends who get this much more than I do, but sometimes I will get an image enter my mind about the person. When I worked as a missionary in Africa I had a friend who rejected religion because he was young and wanted to live his life, but he said when he gets older he would either choose to be a Muslim, the religion of his mother, or a Jehovah’s Witness, the religion of his father. When he said this an image shot into my mind of him standing before two sets of chains. So I told him about the image that came to mind and then asked him, “do you feel like when it comes time to make that decision that you will be choosing between two sets of shackles?” He was blown away at how accurate this described how he felt. I was then able to tell him about true freedom in Christ.

I do think we want to be very cautious about how we interpret and share these kinds of visions/images though. I think a helpful phrase is, “I just had this picture come to mind, does this mean anything to you?” We have to remember that we are not walking in the Spirit like Jesus was so I don’t think any of us should be saying the equivalent of “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.” (John 4:17-18) Even if you think God told you something, there is no need to say, “God told me”. When people do this, I think it is more out of pride where they want to be seen as communicating with God or it is out of control, where they want to baptize their will, thoughts, or preferences.


Does God still speak in supernatural ways? How?
(Carson Weitnauer) #7

Shawn, one theme I’ve noticed in evangelism is fear. We are afraid to share our faith. Have you ever felt afraid to share your faith? What helps you share your faith when it is risky? How can we grow past our fear and be confident evangelists?


(Shawn Hart) #8

Thanks Carson,
Yes, I have felt afraid, but as I come to grips more and more of the life giving and transformative work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I grow in my boldness and desire to share the amazing news. If we are not seeing the gospel do what it promises to do in our lives and the lives of those around us, then I can see why we might fear sharing it. We might fear sharing the gospel because we may not actually believe it.

I know this is a strong challenge, but we have no problem telling people about the life transformation a new diet, a new technological device, or a new way of organizing our lives has had a positive effect on our lives, right? Is the gospel really not as important as these things? Is the latest invention in artificial intelligence really more impactful than the good news that I have been reconciled with the creator of the universe? I think not, but do my actions prove consistent with my thoughts?

One problem we have is the cultural pressure to be silent on “religion” while it is open to a vague spirituality that doesn’t define things. So I understand the resistance that comes our way, but we need to identify the pressure for what it is and then push into the current in a winsome and kind way. Many people who are not afraid to step into the cultural current with the gospel are not winsome or gentle, which makes a lot of people not want to jump in and be associated with “those people”. But we have to push in and show the gospel to be good news…if we truly believe it is.

Let me tell you my biggest place of fear that I have had to (and sometimes still have to continue to) work through. I like people to like me. I like to be viewed as nice, funny, friendly, and positive. I used to care about this so much that it got in the way of my evangelism. I feared being seen as close minded, pushy, stupid, and exclusive. As I prayed and continually asked God to make my fear of Him to increase and my fear of men to decrease, he answered my prayer.

When I start to feel any kind of fear I pause and ask myself the question, “Are you really going to care more about what people think about you than what God thinks about you?” Make a choice. When I do this I almost always choose God. God already approves of me as His child so I don’t have to fear what people think of me. When I care more about what others think of me I am essentially saying that God’s opinion is not enough. Soaking in this truth has had me do things I never thought I would ever do, like open air preaching in the middle of a college campus or performing spoken word in the middle the of a subway car in downtown Chicago. We must put to death the fear of man and submit ourselves to God.

I would suggest prayer and musical worship as a great preparation for evangelism. It helps me get my heart in the right posture before the loving redeemer because although, the question of fear is very real, we have to ultimately ask ourselves, who do we love? Perfect love cast out fear. We are perfectly loved and we should want to share of this love so others can be wrapped up in it as well. We are called to love God with all we are and love our neighbor as ourselves. How are you feeling today? Did you get all your meals and snacks? Did you get a shower? Did you make sure you were well taken care of? If you are like me, then your answer is yes. You and I do not have a hard time loving ourselves. We need to recommit ourselves to loving God more than ourselves and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Please don’t apply this by trying to comb your neighbor’s hair for them and brush their teeth the way you do your own, but do care enough about them to share the amazing news that God has made reconciliation with him possible.

It is good news. Do we believe it is good enough to be shared?


(Shawn Hart) #9

@Oomara, This is a great question and I decided to record a video to respond. Here you go

Shawn


(Carson Weitnauer) #10

Hi Shawn, given your leadership for our Festival of Thoughts and university missions, can you speak to how Christians can effectively share their faith in the workplace? What is distinctive about sharing the gospel at the office or the worksite - vs sharing with our family or neighbors?


(Shawn Hart) #11

Thanks for this question @susanwade . I have responded in two parts below.

PART 1
You wrote:
“I think my biggest hurdle is getting people who “want” to know more. I have a Russian friend who said , “I cannot believe in a person like God.” She says she is a Buddhist, however she is extremely depressed and self-centered.”

I realize I am not in this relationship and therefore have a limited scope on the conversation, but just from what you wrote I have some ideas for questions I would likely ask your friend. You could use these as an immediate response, but also, don’t feel the pressure to think you have lost your chance to have this conversation if you can’t think about anything at the moment. We can always go back to conversations anytime we want. All we have to say is something like, “I was thinking more about our conversation the other day and a question came to mind…” then ask your question. Here are a few ideas on how to respond to the comment you quoted above:

Example:

  • Real-time Conversation response: “Why is that?”
  • Revisiting the topic later: I was thinking more about our conversation a few weeks ago and you said something that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. You said that you cannot believe in a person like God, but I never asked you why that is, and I am curious to know why you feel you couldn’t ever believe in a person like God?

Other responses:

  • When you say you can’t believe in a person like God, what is the God that you could not believe like? Can you describe your concept of God?
  • It seems like you have an idea of God in order for you not to believe in him/her/it, what is God like to you?
  • Have you ever had an experienced that made you think that God exists?
    • There usually is if they are being reflective. Ask them to tell you the story.
    • Then ask: So how do you reconcile that experience if God doesn’t exist?

PART 2
You wrote:
"My daughter, living in Vietnam is attracted to Buddhism because of the calming, “lets get along with everyone”-type of surface philosophy. However, it get people to want to go deeper, is a challenge.

I realize that you cannot force people to think deeper. I guess I am wanting to attract people and follow more of Jesus’s model. Any suggestions?"

I must first admit that I have very little expertise in Buddhism and most I have learned comes from talking with Buddhists and reading others like Ravi Zacharias and Douglas Groothuis. As I have had conversations with people who consider themselves Buddhist (or are flirting with Buddhism) I have found one approach to be most beneficial. Let me share my approach and see if it helps you at all. I feel like we have to show the beauty of Christianity, while respectfully challenging Buddhists beliefs. One way to do this is to take a question or a set of questions and to put them to each worldview to respond to. This allows you to compare the response of each religion to a particular question and see the results. Os Guinness is known for saying “contrast is the mother of clarity”, which I think is very true.

This could get much more in depth, but I want to give you something that you can easily remember for when you are comparing worldviews. Two questions: What is the problem? How do we solve it? Every religion has a diagnosis for the problem with how things are in our world (problem) and all of them offer liberation from this problematic state (solution).

There are some people who try to argue with this and say that there is not a problem with humanity, but I think this is a very difficult objection to uphold in light of history and, well, reality. All you have to do is open up the newspaper or log onto the internet and you will see that there is something seriously wrong. Sometimes all you have to do is walk outside. There is a problem with the human condition, so what is it and which worldview provides the most satisfactory answer. There are different sects of the Buddhism, but I am just going to cover the broad worldview.

Buddhism

  • PROBLEM: The Buddha saw the human condition as stricken with suffering which is brought about by unfulfilled desires. He did not teach that we can satisfy our souls, because we do not have souls.
  • SOLUTION: The solution to the human condition is to cease from desiring through a rigorous discipline. If a person did this successfully, then they could attain Nirvana. Nirvana is not a person or place, it is a state. Salvation in Buddhism is freedom from rebirth, through Nirvana.

Christianity

  • PROBLEM: Christianity teaches that on earth mankind was created in the image of God. But due to sin they fell from this relationship and the outflow of this rebellious decision is death. God could have left humanity on our own, but instead, he graciously and continuously offers himself to us. The problem with humanity is not a lack of education and not enough money, it is an issue of a broken human heart. We can’t even live up to our own standards let alone God’s. So out of God’s gracious love, he becomes a human and encounters life as we do, but he does not forsake his Father and although he is tempted Jesus lives in perfect union and obedience to God. Then he unjustly dies on the cross to take the penalty we deserve, conquers the grave, and he offers us eternal life and reconciliation with God if we follow him.
  • SOLUTION: Spiritual liberation comes not through a concept, philosophy or ultimately through a set of teachings. In Christianity, spiritual liberation comes through a person. Through a relationship with a person. It is only Christianity that you can have a relationship with the creator of this world and this is partly because it is the only worldview that offers it.

Buddha points to an eightfold path to follow, but Jesus points to himself. We follow a person who claims to be the solution.

Also, I highly suggest Ravi’s small and easy read, The Lotus and the Cross . I also suggest Douglas Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics where he lays out this comparative framework in greater details and includes other religions.


(Jamie Hobbs) #12

@Shawn_Hart, I recently watched the replay of your ReFresh talk called “Living as Sent People”. Great stuff first of all. My question is on the concept of cultivating a relationship with God. I saw in your presentation slide the strategy of devotion to knowing God through prayer, His Word, His mission, and community. Can you go into more detail on how you’ve used this yourself, particularly how it relates to community? The first thing that comes to mind is your local church community. How did you start there and expand your relationship with God?

Thanks, brother.


(Kerryn Perry) #13

Thankyou Shawn for your insights and taking the time to discuss this question. Thinking about what hell is was a very useful addition to my thinking and definitely ties in with the idea of free will. If someone chooses to reject God then this is the logical place for them – a place separated from God.

My son who is 16 and is really questioning his faith is bringing up many hard questions that I know are debated even among theologians. I, myself first looked into these questions in relation to my own suffering and I began to understand more about who God is and how he operates in the world. Here is some attempt to present my thoughts and expand on what my son is asking.

One the one side – God’s Sovereignty and Election

My son is defining God’s sovereignty or “control” as being absolute. In respect to our salvation it is the idea that God chooses us we do not choose him. There are a number of verses that say that God is the instigator of our faith – he has predestined or chosen us “since before the creation of the world”.

Eph 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…

The whole of Romans 9 is very interesting on this point and I can’t see how we can argue against the fact that God’s purpose in election will stand. Paul even covers our objections in v 14 “is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” It does not therefore depend on man’s desire or effort but on God’s mercy.” And again in v 19 “…Then why does God still blame us for who resists His will?” To which Paul responds “Who are we to talk back to God? …”

And then the very confronting Verse 22

Romans 9:21-22
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,*

Eph 2:1-10 says that we were dead in our sins and objects of his wrath but because of God’s love and mercy we were made alive with Christ - a gift from God.

I personally find it hard to accept some of these verses and my son has concluded that if all this is true then God may be omnipotent but he is not Good.

My son seems to have also concluded that we have no choice and people who are destined for Hell have no choice because there is nothing they can do if God does not choose them. (the very argument Paul anticipates) So because of God’s sovereignty we therefore effectively do not have free will.

One the other side – Our ability to choose – effectively Free Will

I usually think of the story of Joseph where we are shown the interplay of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Joseph tells his brothers - “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Both God and man are shown to have intentions (will to choose) in the same event. The brothers chose evil but God intendedit for good.

Shawn this is where I am interested in your comments about God’s level of control and that we need to be careful we don’t make God the author of evil. In my example above of Joseph (or any other example – pharaoh, Judas, the Babalonians in Habakkuk…)- not sure if we can in any way gain insight into this but any thoughts on how God intends ( so authors?!) the evil actions but yet man not God is in fact held responsible for them?

This is the part that is a mystery because we cannot seem to reconcile how the two truths can be true. (Both God and man in some way intend the evil but with the added complexity that we can’t charge God with evil itself)

My view is we should not try to explain it away or rationalise it. If the word of God says it then it is true – even if it seems to be impossible for us – or goes against what we would like to think about God.

I attempt to understand this in a couple of ways;

  1. The idea of “concurrence” or “compatibilism” (D.A Carson). Two things that are true and can be supported by scripture but to our minds seems contradictory. God is both sovereign and yet we have the will to make choices. This is how DA Carson defines it;

The Bible as a whole and sometimes in specific texts teaches that both the following are true;

    1. God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in such a way that human responsibility is curtailed or mitigated
      1. Human beings are morally responsible creatures – they significantly choose, rebel, obey, believe, defy, make decisions and so forth, and they are rightly held accountable for such actions; but this characteristic never functions so as to make God absolutely contingent.

I agree with you Shawn that this topic is so huge and for me it seems to jump from one question to the next. So although I don’t in any way understand how it works I agree that I am free to choose God and His ways or not and I will be held responsible for that choice. And at the same time as God is the one who reveals himself to me and has called me to himself. God wants us to love him and be in a relationship with him ( I think that is obvious from the old testament and God’s pursuit of his people and books like Hosea that show us how jealous God is for our love) but as Sawn pointed out we must be able to freely choose him or it is no longer love but like a robot only doing what it is instructed or compelled to do. That is not love or a relationship.

  1. Mystery - The fact that God is God and He is the Supreme being and we are His creation. There will inevitably be aspects of God Himself and his actions that we cannot understand.

I’m sure there are more ways to think about this. I don’t really know how to answer the thing that is really troubling my son – that a good God could allow or intend such suffering. I suppose faith comes into it as well - that we need to trust that God has a reason for it.


(Sara Isaac) #14

Hello there Shawn! My question is about what did jesus mean when he told his disciples to go buy a sword in luke 22? I realize that you can respond to that by saying Jesus told Peter that those who take the sword will perish by sword, and some say that he meant a spiritual type of sword, like that mentioned by Paul in Ephesians “the sword of the spirit”. But i have trouble interpreting it in a metaphorical sense, since all the previously mentioned things is purely materialistic and physical, “cloaks, knapsack, sandals”. Others use Jesus’ reply to the disciples as evidence that he didn’t mean a materialistic sword, like what happened in the incident of the “leaven of the Pharisees”, by saying “that’s enough!”, it’s perceived as if he was mad at them for not understanding. But, i tried to understand it more by referring to the ancient greek text and other translations and “it’s enough” is mentioned in greek (ikavov ebstiv) or ikanon ebstin…which means sufficient. And some other translations say, “they are enough”. So, HELP ME please.


(Shawn Hart) #15

@saraisaac, Thanks for the question. As it is the end of the week and I have two other questions that came in before yours, I am not going to have time to do the research needed in order to give you a thorough response. You might consider asking @Michael_Suderman this question since he will be taking questions next week. I will say that I have never thought about this question and now I have something to look into, so thanks for bringing it up.
Blessings,
Shawn


(Shawn Hart) #16

@Jamie_Hobbs, thanks so much for taking the time to watch the talk I gave at ReFresh. I am glad you enjoyed it and I really appreciate you pushing into this particular point.

You are exactly right about the local church. A church that takes prayer, scripture, mission, and community seriously should be a priority for all Christians. In that talk since I was envisioning the students going off to campus, I remained more vague, (which on second thought might not have have been the best idea) because of the various choices students are faced with on campus. I wanted them to have a filter for how they prioritize their time, keeping the listed avenues as the most important things to engage in. With all of the groups college students have to choose from, I want them to choose one that has prayer, scripture, and mission as a focus.

More to your question about how this has worked out in my life. At a personal level, I try to maintain a consistent pattern of scripture reading and prayer for my personal walk with the Lord and in my prayer times I am asking God to provide me opportunities to serve others and to share the gospel. For me, the mission starts in prayer because this is where I get the correct perspective of who I am, whose I am, and what I am here for. Since I am only about four months at our church, we are still working on fostering community, but the first thing I did when we landed at this church was join a 6:30am Bible study because I figured the type of people I want to get to know are those who will wake up early to study the Bible with a church community.

I feel the most growth I have had in my walk with God was when I was living on mission with a group where we studied the Bible together, prayed together and shared stories about our efforts to reach out to our communities. I am sad to report that I have a difficult time finding Christians who are willing to live this way because people are so busy with other things like sports, Netflix, etc. Part of the gospel in Acts 2 is the gift of a new community and I think this is an aspect of the gospel that we miss in the American church. I hope this answers your question in some way.

Shawn


(Jamie Hobbs) #17

That pretty well sums it up. Thank you for your response. It seems that your prayer is my prayer.


(Carson Weitnauer) #18

(Shawn Hart) #19

@Oomara, Thanks for putting together such a thorough response. You are wrestling with one of the most difficult topics within Christianity and I am not going to attempt to settle the debate on the topics of free-will, election, and predestination. You have sighted a lot of scripture that one side puts forth, but you have to be sure to interact with the troves of scripture that would support the other side of the debate. I think the best way to do theological studies is to take into account as much scripture as possible with the least amount of problems. Read widely, don’t settle quickly, and beware of any position that just sights scriptures that they think supports their position. There are a lot of great books on the more Calvinistic side of the things. I think those should be read and considered, but also consider books arguing for the other side. One like John Lennox’s new book, Determined to Believe which gives a counter argument. I think it is good to explore every side and I feel like I sit comfortably in the middle of both views knowing that I am not God and therefore I will not, and cannot expect to, ever fully understand how he works. So that is the in-house debate that I am not interested in trying to solve. However, I am really interested in how your son is processing these ideas.

You say the main thing that is troubling him is "that a good God could allow or intend such suffering". Let me respond in more depth to this specific thought. I have two main points I want to make:

How much suffering should God allow? We can object to God on the basis of the amount of suffering he allows, but how much is too much? Do you expect a world without any suffering like a stubbed toe, or is it more that fact that cancer exists and kids get abused? I could deal with a stubbed toe every day, but I really struggle with the idea that children are being trafficked and abused as I write this. But I have to come back to the question, what is your proposed plan for the world if you have a complaint about the current one we live in? I don’t ask this to be harsh, but as I have thought this through, I realize that I have a really hard time answering the question so I choose to trust that God (who came and suffered with us in the person of Christ) cares more about the suffering we endure than I do since he sees it all and actually did something about it. I say can complain about the suffering in the world and even get upset about something as horrendous as sex trafficking, but if I am honest, I have not donated one dollar to fighting sex trafficking so I have to ask myself; how much do I really care?

The reason I think it is important to ask this question about how much should be allowed is because I don’t think we understand what we are asking for when we say that God should remove suffering from the world. God is not the cause of suffering, we are. So let’s take sex trafficking down an uncomfortable track. I think we can agree that we don’t want children trafficked and sexually abused. In order for this not to happen, people need to stop participating in such an industry. In order for this to happen they need to stop desiring such evil things. What is the evil root of this desire? It is lust. What person has not lusted? So we need God to remove lust from the world in order to stop this evil. Not only does this have God limiting our free will (going back to the robots idea), but if he is going to get rid of lust then he has to wipe out all of humanity and we are no longer having a discussion about the amount of suffering God allows. I say all of this to just show that it is a lot more complex than we often think it is. It is easy to complain about God, but it is hard to conceive of alternative.

Our conflicting desires: This second thought is closely tied to the first. I find it interesting that this question/objection about God allowing suffering is asked in conjunction with the idea of God allowing people to go to Hell (in the original post). Sometimes I think we put out our objections and questions in a barrage and we don’t understand how the objections don’t actually work together. We say, “A loving God should not allow suffering?” and we also say, “A loving God shouldn’t send people to hell?”, but one is the solution to the other. Do you want a world that is without suffering and pain? Good it will happen when God makes all things right, but in order for this to happen He is going to have to put the evil that causes pain and suffering somewhere. That somewhere is hell. Hell is actually the answer to your problem with suffering. Evil goes there. I find it difficult to maintain a problem with hell, while we complain to God about the suffering in our world. We live in a broken world that will eventually be recreated as the New Heavens and New Earth. God will protect this place with His Holy presence (Zechariah 2:4-5) and suffering will be no more.

I would suggest reading the book, Skeleton’s In God’s Closet by Joshua Ryan Butler. He gives a lot of good things to think about on the topics of Hell, Judgement and Holy War.

I hope this helps some. Thanks for interacting this week. It has been good to correspond with you.

Shawn