Editor’s Note: Below is an outline for the talk given by Robert Kurka at our
recent Apologetics Conference. At the bottom is included an outline on a case
study: The Problem of Pain and Suffering.
International Apologetics Conference
Dr. Robert C. Kurka
Professor, Theology and Church in Culture
June 22-24, 2007
?Connecting Jerusalemwith Athens: The Place of Worldview in Apologetics?
A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute
with him. Some of them asked, ?What is this babbler trying to say?? Others remarked,
?He seems to be advocating foreign gods.??Then they took him to meeting of the
Areopagus, where they said to him, ?May we know what this new teaching is that
you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want
to know what they mean.?
— Acts 17:18-20 (NIV)
Suppose you wanted to arrive at a specific location in central Chicago. A st
reetmap of the city would be a great help to you in reaching your destination. But suppose
you were given the wrong map. Through a printing error, the map labeled ‘Chi
cago’ was actually a map of Detroit. Can you imagine the frustration, the ineffectiveness
of trying to reach your destination? …You might work on your behavior?You
might work on your attitude?The point is, you’d still be lost. The fundamental
problem has nothing to do with your behavior or your attitude. It has everything to
do with having a ?wrong map.
— Stephen Covey. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, 23-24
A generation ago in America, a Christian who cited a Bible verse to a non-Christian
most likely would have seen that word taken as authoritative or worthy of respect,
even if the hearer didn?t want to heed it. But today Christians are told, ?Your
Bible is nice for you, but what about the Qu?ran or the Book of Mormon?? Judeo-Christian
assumptions?the existence of a personal Creator, moral accountability, moral
absolutes, divine revelation, life after death, sin, and the existence of objective
truth?no longer are taken for granted?Before we tell others about the Gospel of
Jesus, we almost always have to lay a groundwork that makes our biblical worldview
more understandable to non-Christians. This ?pre-evangelism??exposing the inconsistencies of
non-Christian belief- systems and answering basic objections to Christianity?
is highly necessary.
–Paul Copan, ?True for You, But Not for
? Have you ever wondered why some people don’t seem to ?connect? with
your presentation of the Christian faith?or why you can’t ?connect? with them?
? The above citation suggest that our ?lack of communication? is due
to our lack of a ?shared worldview? or paradigm of reality; i.e., we describe
a world through the lenses of Christian theism while others are looking at the
same picture but with the ?eyes? of a naturalist, pantheist, or polytheist.
In our pluralistic world, this lack of common perspective is only going to become more
? Not only does this worldview disparity make sharing the Gospel message
more difficult (e.g., ?What does the divinity of Jesus mean to a Hindu who has
potentially millions of gods to worship??), but it also creates a major challenge
to our traditional apologetics methods (e.g., what seem to be convincing ?evidences?
for the reliability of Christianity make little sense to someone who does not
share some basic theistic convictions). As Dorothy Gale noted so memorably in
The Wizard of Oz, ?We?re not in Kansasanymore, Toto.? The world of 2007 is not
the world of 1977, or to put it more bluntly, we are far removed from the environment
in which Josh McDowell could simply present Evidence That Demands a Verdict! Sadly,
for many in our world today, the wonderful message, ?Jesus is the Answer!? will
only bring a confused and/or annoyed response, ?So what is the Question??
? Fortunately, this new world is not really a new problem for the Church?
in fact, it is very first-century. While Peter could preach to God-fearing Jews
(and Cornelius) and ?prove? Jesus? messiahship by citing Old Testament prophecies
and His miraculous fulfillment of such, PAUL, on the other hand, had to encounter PAG
AN GENTILES who knew little or nothing about the Scriptures and had conceptions about
the nature of reality far different than Jews or Christians. While Peter could
be successful with his ?traditional? apologetic approach in Jerusalem, Paul
had to ?re-invent? the process in order to bring Christ to ATHENS. And since
our century ?mirrors? Athensfar more than it does Jerusalem, it is important
to learn the ?pre-evangelism lessons? of Acts 17 so our culture does not miss
the life-changing good news that we bring.
A ?Worldview Primer?
I. (Preliminary Issue #1)What is a ?Worldview??
A. Worldview definition: ?A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation
of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or a set of presuppositions (assumptions
which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously
or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality,
and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.? (James
Sire, The Universe Next Door, 4th ed., 2004)
B. Worldviews provide their adherents with an integrative story
that makes sense of their past, present and future. This ?meta-narrative? attempts
to answer three fundamental life questions: 1) Where did we (or anything, for
that matter) come from?; 2) How did things go wrong? 3) How can/will it all
C. Along with their narrative functions, worldviews also provide
essential understandings to the great ?philosophical questions? of life:
1. What is prime or ultimate reality?
2. What is nature (cosmology)?
3. What is humanity?
4. What happens to people at death?
5. What is the basis for knowledge?
6. What is the basis for ethics?
7. What is the meaning of human history?
Fuller Seminary anthropologist/missiologist Charles Kraft summarizes the function
of worldviews in the following manner:
1. To interpret the data of experience
2. To provide a basis for our judgment
3. To prioritize our commitments
4. To integrate our experience
5. To enable us to adapt to the new or unexpected
D. While there appears to be almost a limitless number of worldview varieties,
have suggested that All worldviews can really be organized around THREE, genuinely
distinctive ?reality models.? My own LCCS colleague, Richard Knopp has proposed
the following schematic:
a. Biblical theism (Infinite, personal, Triune God)
c. Theistic existentialism
a. Eastern pantheistic monism (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.)
c. New Age?
a. Secular humanism
d. Atheistic existentialism
e. Postmodernism (worldview affirming the ?rightness? or
?wrongness? of every/any worldview)
f. New Age
II. (Preliminary Issue)How Does One DO ?Worldview Apologetics??:
A. There are three (3) key issues which will either affirm or betray
the narrative power and/or truth claims of a worldview:
1. Ethics (How We Behave)
2. Epistemology (How We Know)
3. Human significance (Why We Matter)
B. These issues, in turn, suggest a three-tiered approach that will
cast serious questions about the viability of every worldview (except Christian Theism):
1. Existence of objective truth (i.e., that which corresponds to reality;
science and medicine are ?key categories,? here) and the possibility of knowledge
2. Analysis of the primary worl
dview alternatives to provide a satisfactory
explanation for truth ( theism, naturalism, and pantheism [possibly polytheism])
3. Conclusion that only a form of Theism (Christianity, Judaism, or Islam)
can provide this ?absolute? basis?and the ?evidence? for the Christian Faith
is solid: e.g., reliability of the Gospels, the probability of Jesus? bodily
resurrection, the existence of the Christian Church and its ?scandalous message,?
unique self-understanding of Jesus, etc. (?traditional? apologetic issues).
We can still ?use Josh??but only after we have ?cleared the worldview brush?!
C. Only Christian theism passes these critical tests: logic
?and life!! [Note: Even the postmodernist who dismisses logic as a ?western,
cultural construct,? has to use LOGIC to make his/her case!] In fact, only the
Christian worldview can actually ask some of life?s most difficult questions; e.g., ?If
there is an all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing God, why is there so much
suffering and evil??
D. The ?Cultural Credibility? (or ?Culture-transforming Credibility?)
?of the Christian worldview can be seen by observing the key developments of
western history: e.g., human rights, literacy and education, the arts, labor
and economic freedom, and especially in the rise of science and medicine. O
nly biblical theism could (and did!) provide the necessary philosophical foundations
that resulted in the abolition of slavery, hospitals for the sick, care for
the needy (especially widows and orphans), and the ability to understand and
?cooperate? with a physical universe that is far more than ?earth, fire, water,
and sky.? In fact, the ?First Commission? in the Bible is not the mandate to
disciple the nations (Mt 28:18-20; cf. Gen 12:2-3), but rather the ?CULTURA
L COMMAND? (?Rule over the fish of the sea?? Gen 1:28)!
III. Now?on to ATHENSand the ?Preferred Paradigm? for sharing your
faith in 2007 -Acts 17:16-32
A. Analyzing the Speech:
1. Does not begin with ?fulfilled prophecy? (Scripture)
2. Offers a Christian analysis of culture – ?idols?
3. Exhibits courtesy, sensitivity…and restraint
4. Establishes a ?point of contact? with the audience
5. Engages a ?biblically-ignorant? audience by briefly narrating
the ESSENTIAL BIBLICAL STORY (i.e., God-> Creation [Fall]-> God?s Sovereignty [history]->Jesus[Peopl
e of God]->Judgment). Paul puts his ?incomprehensible? (to them) message of ?Jesus and the
Resurrection? in the comprehensible storyline of Scripture?a Genesis to Revelation
approach?that like the Bible, itself, places the Christ-event two-thirds of
?the way through the narrative. It is clear by the audience?s response (largely,
negative-vv32-34) that after this presentation, they understood the message.
6. This biblical storyline approach, in turn, initiates a ?World View?
encounter (by politely, but decisively, deconstructing the competing [and erroneous]
worldviews of the Epicureans (deists) and Stoics (panentheists). Note the movement
a. Independence of God (ultimate reality)
b. God of all (humanity)
c. God who reveals (knowledge)
d. God who orders history (history)
e. Resurrection of Jesus (cosmos; i.e., physical reality is
7. This approach assumes a ?critical realist? view of reality
(i.e., there is an external, objective God/world) ?a view that even the most
ardent non-theist practices, even if they deny ?objective truth?!
B. Results of the ?Athenian Approach??
Admittedly, few converts (at least in comparison to ?Jerusalemdays?[Pentecost]), but
apparently believers of high quality (Dionysius and Damaris). Yet, don?t disregard
that a non-Christian audience NOW UNDERSTOOD the Gospel message, as well as how inferior-inte
llectually, morally, and practically?their ?preferred paradigms? were to the
Bible?s worldview! Though comparatively few in number, those who came to Jesus
that day in Athens, came with a ?full surrender? of their pagan beliefs and
values to the TRUTH.
Conclusion: In order to meaningfully explain your Christian beliefs in today’s world,
a worldview approach is imperative:
? Know your own worldview (theism)
? Know your neighbor’s worldview
? Tell them ?THE (Bible?s) STORY?
? Help them critique their models
? Help them see the viability of the Christian theistic
model (intellectually and experientially)
? [Be prepared to ?back up? this model with solid, historical
? Point them towards Christ
Part II A Case Study
Dr. Robert C. Kurka, Prof.,
Theology and Churc
h in Culture, LincolnChristian Seminary
?A Test Case for Belief: The Problem of Suffering and Evil?
Some ?recent? horrific events:
April 20, 1999: Kleebold and Harris kill 12 students, 1 teacher (and finally, themselves)
at Columbine High School, Littleton, CO.
September 11, 2001: Arab terrorists destroy the twin-towers of the WorldTradeCe
nterin New York Cityand severely damage the Pentagon in WashingtonD.C., killing over
2,900 people. Four airliners are hijacked and used as the ?suicidal? weapons of destruction.
February 1, 2003: US Space Shuttle Columbia breaks up during re-entry, killing all
November 15, 2003: 15 people killed when gangway collapses on Queen Mary 2.
2003: It is estimated that one child is orphaned by AIDS every 14 seconds around
August, 2005: ?Hurricane Katrina? strikes the GulfCoastregion of the US, taki
ng nearly 1900 of lives, displacing thousands of people, and virtually destroying
the city of New Orleans(not to mention 82 billion dollars (USD) damage
September?October, 2006: Several school shootings throughout the US, includin
g the killing of five young girls in an Amish schoolhouse
October, 2006: 100 USservicepersons die in Iraq
April 16, 2007: Seung-Hui Cho kills 33 students and faculty members (including
himself) at VirginiaTechUniversityin seemingly- pastoral, Blacksburg, VA
Atrocities like these have produced an understandable series of commentaries?
?If God were good, he would wish to make his creatures perfectly happy, and
if God were almighty he would be able to do what he wished. But the creatures are
not happy. Therefore God lacks either the goodness, or power, or both.? This is the problem
of pain in its simplest form.
— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Why, but why, should I bless Him??Because He had thousands of children burned
in His pits? Because He kept six crematories working night and day, on Sundays and
feast days? Because in His great might He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and
so many factories of death??There was no longer any reason why I should fast. I
?no longer accepted God’s silence. — Elie Wiesel, ?The Death of God?
Of faith I have nothing, only of truth: that this one God is a brute and traitor,
abandoning us to time, to necessity, and the engines of matter unhinged.
— Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not
also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? — Paul, Romans 8:32
1. God is omnipotent and omniscient
2. God is completely good
3. There is suffering and evil in this world
Two Perplexing Questions:
1. If God, then, is all-powerful and all-knowing, He is not all-good; or
2. If He is all-good, He cannot be all-powerful and all-knowing
The problem of suffering and evil is only a problem really for Christian theists
— because of our understanding of God!
I. ?Classical? (Inadequate) Responses to the Problem of Evil
A. Modify concept of ?good? (G. Clark)
D. (More recently): Open Theism
II. Some Suggested Themes for a more Adequate (Biblical) Understanding of Suffering
and Evil?as well as Implications for Ministry:
A. Preliminary Matters:
? Key Texts: John 9:1-3; Job 1:1-12; Romans 8:28-39
? Key Theological conclusions to avoid:
– Exact-reward concept
– All suffering = Judgment of God
– All suffering = Work of Satan
? Historical: Origins of suffering and evil; ?Fall? – Gen. 3:14-19 (Rom.
? Human Freedom (?Free Will Defense?): If God makes morally free agents (angelic
and human) they must be capable of making free choices – including evil
– Freedom without the possibility of evil is logically impossible
?even for God
– ?Hell is a monument to man’s freedom? — G.K.
? If God were to eliminate evil – and He eventually will -He would do
it completely — Lam. 3:22; II Peter 3:8,9
– He ?allows? evil in the present to accomplish His salvific will –
to bring people to Christ
– When this ?period of invitation? is completed, evil and suffering
will cease – Rev. 21:4
? God has already begun working out His solution to the problem of suffering
and evil – the Kingdom, Cross, and Resurrection – Gen. 3:15; Rom. 8:32f; Heb. 2:18, 4:1
– ?Now/not yet?
– Ultimate victory assured!
? Even now the believer is ?perfected? (made mature) through suffering – Ro
– In ministry- John 9:1-3
? (An alternative to theodicy) ?Agapaeic Nature of Creation? (William Desmond)
Conclusion: ?Where is God When It Hurts?? (Phil Yancey)
? Answer: Here? in the midst of the ?plague?, suffering with us but
bringing His perfect, redemptive work to full and final completion.
? What then is suffering to the Christian? It is Christ’s invitation to us to
follow him. Christ goes to the cross, and we are invited to follow the same cross.
Not because it is the cross, but because it is his. Suffering is not the context
that explains the cross; the cross is the context that explains suffering; it
is now not only between God and me but also between Father and Son.
— Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering