How can a good God allow so much evil and suffering in the world? And why do some people seem to suffer so much more than others? According to a recent survey of college students, the problem of evil is the question about Christianity that college students find most difficult to answer. This week, Eric Johnson joins Garrick and Timothy to discuss the difficult question of how to respond when suffering seems to stand in the way of someone’s trust in God. The Eric Johnson who shows up on the program today is not—Timothy is slightly saddened to learn—the epic guitarist who plays “Cliffs of Dover.” He is, instead, a leading Christian psychologist and scholar who serves as director of the Gideon Institute of Christian Psychology and Counseling at Houston Baptist University.
In the second half of this week’s episode, Garrick pulls on his striped spandex and Timothy finds his long lost can of AquaNet aerosol hairspray in preparation for discussing one of the greatest hair metal bands of the 1980s, Stryper. All of this spandex and hairspray results in a discussion of human freedom and divine sovereignty in the song “Free” from Stryper‘s 1986 album To Hell with the Devil. When Timothy shares what the backronym “S.T.R.Y.P.E.R.” stands for, the dynamic duo can barely contain themselves. Then, they lose it completely when they learn that their beloved Steve Perry is a favorite vocalist of Stryper‘s lead singer Michael Sweet, confirming once and for all that anything wonderful about the 1980s is only a degree or two removed from Steve Perry. (To quote Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, “It’s just like Kevin Bacon!”) In the end, your intrepid cohosts regain their focus just long enough to survey the question of humanity’s freedom in salvation throughout the entirety of church history, resulting in a trip through history that’s basically like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure except theology. Along the way, Garrick and Timothy manage to include music not only from Stryper but also from an Elton John impersonator, Led Zeppelin, and maybe even Aerosmith. Also they discover an amazing new possible name for their band: “Pelagian Residue.” This week’s query from the gauntlet that snapped away half of all life in Avengers: Infinity War forces the Star Wars universe into mortal combat against Middle Earth. In the end, Lucasfilm falls on its face before the combined might of Mordor, Gondor, Smeagol, and the rest of the cast from The Lord of the Rings.
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In this Episode
Eric L. Johnson, Ph.D., is professor of Christian Psychology at Houston Baptist University. He has taught for almost 30 years and published more than 50 articles and two books on Christian psychology, Foundations for Soul Care and God and Soul Care. The founding director of the Society for Christian Psychology, he is the director of the Gideon Center of Christian Psychology and Counseling, a new Houston Baptist University program. Follow Dr. Johnson at @DrELJohnson.
Questions to Discuss about the Problem of Evil
1. Does the Epicurean Paradox actually present us with an unsolvable logical problem of evil?
2. In some sense, there are three problems of evil: logical, evidential, and existential. Alvin Plantinga’s book God, Freedom, and Evil dealt a death blow to the logical problem of evil; so, the focus of this episode is on the existential and pastoral problem of evil. What is most important to remember when someone is struggling to believe in the midst of suffering?
3. In what sense can we say that God understands our suffering?
Links to Click about Stryper and the Problem of Evil
If you want to dig deeper into apologetics after listening to this podcast, one great place to start is Reasons for Our Hope by H. Wayne House and Dennis Jowers. To download a sample chapter, visit http://www.bhacademic.com
Foundations for Soul Care: book by Eric Johnson
God and Soul Care: book by Eric Johnson
God, Freedom, and Evil: book by Alvin Plantinga
“Sing-Along Song“: song by Stryper
“Cliffs of Dover (Live)“: song by Eric Johnson
“No Rain“: song by Blind Melon
“Here We Go!“: song by Roger Wood
“Don’t Stop Believin’“: song by Journey
“More Than A Man“: song by Stryper
“Stairway to Heaven“: song by Led Zeppelin
“Love In An Elevator“: song by Aerosmith
“Free“: song by Stryper
To Hell with the Devil: album by Stryper
If you are interested in earning a master’s degree online or on campus that will equip you with the most comprehensive apologetics training available anywhere, go to http://www.sbts.edu/bgs/degree-programs/mdiv/apologetics/
How to Make Three Chords and the Truth More Amazing than It Already Is
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The Closing Credits
Three Chords and the Truth: The Apologetics Podcast thanks B and H Academic for their sponsorship.
Music for the podcast has been licensed through Artlist.io and performed by the band Vegan Friendly—even though neither Garrick nor Timothy has ever been vegan friendly.
Brief excerpts of music played in each program are included solely for the purposes of comment and critique as allowed under the fair-use provision of U.S. copyright law. “The fair use of a copyrighted work … for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, … scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright” (U.S. Code § 107, Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use).