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Teens and the Problem of Evil

Teens and the Problem of Evil

Why audacious questions are good and uncertainty is okay
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It's one of life's biggest, scariest theological and philosophical questions: How can a good God, who is all-powerful, allow evil to exist in the world? Scholars have attempted to produce an answer for as long as we have had the ability and inclination to assign meaning to our lives. The problem of evil is an audacious choice of discussion topic for a group of 12-18 year old teens, but as the youth group I volunteer with finished our final series of the year last week, we discovered that questions are good, and uncertainty is okay. We want our kids to know this as much as we need to remind ourselves.

As leaders, we try to address the questions we know they're hearing "out there" and most likely asking themselves. So there we were, sitting around a bonfire in our youth pastor's backyard, a few adults sprinkled in among the dozen or so teenagers who make up our youth group, listening as a guest speaker offered us his thoughts on this question that has plagued so many for so long.

Our speaker, standing above us in the light of the campfire as dusk settled in, laid it all out for us:

We have no answer.

We know that God's heart breaks for those who suffer; so too should ours break.

We know that God comforts those in pain; so too should we comfort those who mourn.

We know that God values those the world has put last; so too should we advocate for the powerless.

This is our response: that we see God's heart, and we make it our own.

When you're in the middle of something extremely painful, it can be comforting to put your pain in the context of God's plan, to push through it in faith that he is working it all out for good. There is a truth to that, even if it loses momentum when we begin to look outward at the seemingly senseless pain, violence, and injustice in the world. Sometimes it helps to truly weep, to grieve, to lament the fact that a painful thing has happened and to ask God why. There is a truth to that, too. When we look at this logical "problem," we have the advantage of knowing this is not the final truth. We know that we worship a great God who is preparing a place for us where all our pain will become untrue.

Teenagers want answers. I have heard it said they are natural scientists—they want to dissect things, to understand them, to boil them down to a formula. As a youth pastor or youth leader, you can try to simplify things down to bullet points and lists and logical defenses. But with every year I learn more that not everything can be simply good or bad, wrong or right.

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Laura Leonard

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June 14, 2013  8:40am

The Bible DOES explain why evil is allowed to exist in the world ~ it's all related to the fall of Adam & Eve and the gift of free will (see Genesis.) God wants mankind to love him, and love HAS to be freely given, or it is not love at all. We are given free will so we can choose to love & obey God, or not. We decide either way. Evil becomes manifest when people choose to listen to Satan (whom Jesus later calls "the enemy, that old serpent") instead of God. Why doesn't God protect us from other people's bad choices? Sometimes He does and sometimes He doesn't. We have to trust that whenever Satan causes something bad to happen, that even if God does not prevent it, He can still cause something good to happen based on the bad thing. For example, my sister's granddaughter was actually BORN with cancer (retinal blastoma.) She and her mother have rallied for legislation and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for research into its cause and cure - something good from something bad!

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June 13, 2013  8:45am

No, no, no, please do not tell your teenagers there are no answers except that the bible says so and to just believe Jesus. You will wreck their faith just as surely as the world will. Please start at www.answersingenesis.org and order "Already Gone," "The New Answers Books 1, 2 and 3," "Answers Book for Teens 1 and 2," "The Lie," and "Why Won't They Listen?" You might also want to show your teens the DVD's "Genesis- Key to Reclaiming the Culture," "Science Confirms the Bible," and "Check This Out." Also go to www.alwaysbeready.com and www.Ron Rhodes.com and start reading their articles. Most churches and their members have no idea that the questions teens, and really all people, Christians and non-, are asking can be reasonably and logically answered in the first eleven chapters of Genesis with some help from the sources I mentioned above.

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