Why does God allow people to do evil?

This article was printed in the Winter edition of New Wine magazine, and is reproduced here by permission.

We are confronted almost daily with the reality of evil people at large in our world. Robert Mugabe is the latest in the long line of villainous leaders to dominate headlines. President of Zimbabwe since 1980, he has inflicted untold misery on his people—so why has he been allowed to continue? It is striking that Western policy in recent years has often appeared to be shaped by response to individuals, evil leaders who need to be toppled. So the second Gulf War in Iraq was directed specifically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. And it was seen to be a triumph of Western action that Gaddafi was deposed as leader of Libya. However evil certain systems or cultures appear to be, it is evil people that we feel the need to focus on.

Questions in Scripture

Scripture appears similarly to be concerned with evil individuals, and the challenge they offer to our understanding of God’s love and power. What will God’s response be to evil and obstinate Pharoah, oppressing and enslaving God’s people? asks the writer of Exodus. What will God do about a succession of kings of Israel and Judah who ‘do evil in the sight of the Lord’? asks the writer of 1 and 2 Kings. How can God not only allow the foreign leader Cyrus to flourish, but actually make use of him in liberating his people? asks Isaiah. What sense can we make of the tyrannical kings Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius as we face tyranny in our own day? asks Daniel. The questions continue to haunt us.

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Transforming encounters: John’s gospel

I am working with Celia Kellett at BBC Radio Nottingham on an idea to present most of the books of the Bible, one a week, during 2011 as part of the celebrations of the King James Bible. The plan is to read some verses from the book, to give a one-and-a-half minute summary, to hear a human interest story which relates, and then include a short discussion making the connections.

Here are the key verses and summary for the story of the Gospel of John (‘Transforming Encounters’), to be broadcast this Sunday 13th March from around 8.20 am:

Verses: John 8.3–11

They brought in a woman caught in adultery and made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

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Honey or vinegar?

I am a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council, and yesterday we had a meeting at Lambeth Palace. We were there to hear from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to ask him questions, in the end both about what he had said and about wider concerns for evangelicals in the Church.

Rowan’s address, starting with a careful exploration of the what the NT says about the Spirit and power (the role of the Spirit does not seem to be merely to give us power, but the Spirit and power enable us to be formed in the self-giving image of God, and we make space for it when we recognise our own human weakness) and ended on a quite inspirational note. In relation to the goal of mission and evangelism, he commented:

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