MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning! The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom helps safeguard this liberty around the world. But it’s at risk for change that could threaten its mission.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead on Washington Wednesday.
Also today, World Tour and The Olasky Interview. Today a conversation on the nature of evil in the world.
PECKHAM: The ultimate solution to the problem of evil is eschatological. By that I mean, only God can solve it. And he will. Not just theoretically, he will remove evil forever.
EICHER: And Joel Belz on a particular, yet rather unexpected, appeal to pray.
REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, November 6th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Now here’s Kent Covington with today’s news.
Democrats win in VA, KY, while GOP holds governorship in MS » Voters went to the polls in several states last night, including Kentucky … where Democrat Andy Beshear appears to have defeated GOP Governor Matt Bevin in a photo finish.
[Start crowd noise under at start of above paragraph]
BESHEAR: I stand her tonight grateful, grateful to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and its great voters. [applause under and very slowly out]
Andy Beshear is the son of the state’s last Democratic governor, Steve Beshear.
With almost 1-and-half-million votes cast … his apparent margin of victory was about 5,000 votes. And Governor Bevin told supporters last night … he won’t call it quits before looking into what he called some irregularities.
BEVIN: We are not conceding this race by any stretch. Not a chance.
Meantime in Virginia, Democrats took control full control of the statehouse for the first time in more than two decades. And the party will control the legislature and the governorship for the first time in 26 years.
But it was a different story in Mississippi, where Republican Tate Reeves will be the next governor, after holding off Democratic challenger Jim Hood.
Trump offers to help “wage war” on Mexican cartels following attack on U.S. citizens » President Trump offered on Tuesday to help the Mexican government—quote— “wage war on drug cartels.” That offer came after gunmen ambushed a group of U-S citizens living in northern Mexico.
The attackers opened fire on the SUVs they were traveling in, killing at least six children and three women. Officials said they may have mistaken the vehicles for those of rival gangs.
But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador turned down Trump’s offer.
OBRADOR (Spanish): [up from 3-6 sec mark]
He said he does not believe using “force, blood, and fire will solve the problem.”
But Utah Senator Mitt Romney said Mexico should reconsider the offer.
ROMNEY: This has been something that Mexico’s been working on for a long, long time, and there’s still a problem, and it’s getting worse. And so the president said, look, let’s get serious about it, and has indicated that he’d be willing to help, and I think that’s the right sentiment.
The victims were part of a religious group that broke away from the Mormon church. Some of them have family ties in Utah.
Eight children escaped the vehicles alive. At least five had bullet wounds or other injuries and were taken to Phoenix for treatment.
Top diplomat revises testimony in impeachment inquiry » A top diplomat has revised his testimony in the House impeachment inquiry.
U-S Ambassador Gordon Sondland said he now recalls telling a top aide to Ukraine’s president … that military aid to the country likely would not resume … until Ukraine had provided a public anti-corruption statement.
The change appeared in a three-page update inside hundreds of pages of sworn testimony.
But House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said Sondland’s testimony doesn’t really matter.
SCALISE: The bottom line is they’re trying to remove a sitting president for something President Trump did in a conversation with President Zelensky that neither side felt was inappropriate. Zelensky never felt pressured, Ukraine got the money. And yet they still want to remove a sitting president.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Tuesday continued to hammer the Trump administration over no-show witnesses … suggesting the White House has something to hide.
Meantime, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chimed in on Tuesday. He said Democrats aren’t providing the same kind of due process rights that were provided both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Hong Kong, central Chinese governments signals crackdown on protests » Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that she has received the backing of Chinese President Xi Jinping in her handling of anti-government protests.
Xi and Lam unexpectedly held talks Monday on the sidelines of a trade event in Shanghai. That came amid signals from China’s central government that it may tighten its grip on Hong Kong to quell the unrest.
Lam told reporters that the Chinese president expressed “care and concern” during their brief meeting. She vowed that the government will strive to stamp out violent or destructive protests with strict law enforcement. That even as pro-democracy demonstrators continue to demand investigations into police abuse of peaceful protesters.
Study: Drinking water unsafe in parts of many Canadian cities » Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have been unknowingly exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water. That according to an investigation made public this week. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johnansen has that story.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: More than a hundred journalists conducted a yearlong investigation … studying drinking water in 11 Canadian cities.
The study found that contamination in several cities … was consistently higher than it ever was in Flint, Michigan. That included some homes in Montreal.
The investigation found some schools and day care centers had lead levels so high that researchers noted it could impact children’s health. Making matters worse, many water providers aren’t testing drinking water at all.
Canada does not regulate legal standards for drinking water at the federal level … and critics say some provinces completely ignore the problem.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen.
NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Wednesday, the 6th of November, 2019.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
Before we get started today, a reminder. We will be putting together parts of the program before a live audience in a few days—15 days to be precise. It’s The World and Everything in It Live! This time we’re in Nashville, Tennessee, for a time to meet you, take some pictures, and talk about why this kind of journalism matters in the marketplace. Sound journalism grounded in facts and biblical truth.
EICHER: Right, why it makes such a difference. These live events are so much fun, and if you are in the Nashville area the week before Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll come on out so we can meet you in person. November 21st is the date, 7 p.m. Central is the time.
Tickets are free, but you do have to register to get your seat. Just go to worldandeverything.org, look for the “engage” tab, then click “live events.”
REICHARD: OK, lots of details for this Washington Wednesday now.
Among all the headlines that you see about Syria, Ukraine, and impeachment, an important storyline has received much less attention: The government is set to run out of money in two weeks. Actually on that same date we just talked about—November 21st.
Congress passed another short-term spending bill just in September to fund the government through that date.
EICHER: It’s understandable if you feel like this is Groundhog Day.
And once again lawmakers are rushing to hammer out the details for the rest of the fiscal year. Another short-term deal to fund the government through December appears likely.
On Monday, President Trump was noncommittal on signing another short-term spending agreement.
REICHARD: One negotiating point of interest to Christian advocacy groups is what will happen to the U-S Commission on International Religious Freedom. It goes by the acronym USCIRF.
The commission is independent, but it is government funded. And some lawmakers want to make changes during all these budget negotiations.
WORLD’s Washington, D.C., reporter Harvest Prude has been following this story, and she’s here now to talk about the latest.
Harvest, good morning!
HARVEST PRUDE, REPORTER: good morning!
REICHARD: OK, let’s start at the beginning. What is USCIRF’s reason to exist?
PRUDE: USCIRF was established to advocate for religious freedom as an important component of the United States’ foreign policy and also to advocate for people who are persecuted because of their faith around the world…
REICHARD: How did it begin and why does it matter?
PRUDE: Congress established USCIRF in 1998 to monitor religious freedom abuses abroad. And it’s the only commission like it in the world. So nine commissioners on a volunteer, pro bono basis travel to some of these very dangerous countries and they give independent advice to Congress, to the president, to the Secretary of State on how to move forward. One concrete example of why USCIRF matters is Andrew Brunson–the American pastor who was jailed in Turkey for two years, and who the United States secured his release last year. One of the commissioners adopted him as prisoner of conscience during his imprisonment. And that advocacy was really, that’s something Turkey doesn’t like that stands out. That a U-S entity is calling them out for their bad behavior.
REICHARD: And the commission produces an annual report, as I understand it?
PRUDE: Yes, the 2019 report was released in April. And I mean, similar to the Andrew Brunson situation, other countries don’t like being listed by the commission as here are the problems you all have with religious freedom and oppression.
REICHARD: Countries that don’t want to be called out for denying people the freedom to live according to one’s own conscience. What are some of the countries named in the latest report?
PRUDE: So countries with Muslim theocracies like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Countries with communist, totalitarian governments like China and North Korea, among others.
REICHARD: Yeah, and perhaps another measure of its effectiveness is the attention this receives from members of Congress. It seems like every time USCIRF is up for reauthorization, there’s a battle of some sort.
PRUDE: Religious freedom long been a bipartisan issue; but over the years when it comes to getting this thing funded, lawmakers wrangled over the direction of the commission; In 2011, Sen. Dick Durbin proposed amendments like creating separate democrat and republican staffs to help the commissioners you know which ejected party politics, almost derailed the funding process. Then in 2015–Durbin’s office proposed more changes that would basically micromanage USCIRF and ultimately forced off some of the most experienced commissioners at the time.
REICHARD: So that’s some of the history, various attempts to inject political aspiration into something not designed to be that way. And that brings us up now to the present. What changes are on the table this time around?
PRUDE: Right, so USCIRF is once again facing reauthorization. The commission needs to be reauthorized in a couple weeks. And actually nothing is on the table right now. Lawmakers introduced a bill last month, but it proved to be so controversial that the senate offices have gone back to the drawing board. So that bill contained provisions that some said would really restrict the independence of the commissioners. They would have to do things like get approval ahead of giving talks to outside groups in their official capacity; they’d have to report back about any event that they were identified at as a commissioner by a third party; they’d have to forward all of their communications to staff. But others, when I talked to other about the bill they said some of these measures are needed as accountability measures, to make sure there isn’t confusion about when commissioners are acting as private citizens versus as a U.S. official. So there was a tug-of-war there; but overall the bill got pulled because of overall contention about the process.
REICHARD: And what do outside groups think about it?
PRUDE: At this point, people in the int’l religious freedom community I talked to they’re just hopeful that whatever the next iteration looks like–that it will allow USCIRF to maintain bipartisan support and to continue to carry out its mission.
REICHARD: And then if this bill doesn’t pass as stand-alone legislation, what happens?
PRUDE: If it doesn’t pass as stand-alone, it’ll be funded as-is, part of a you know continuing resolution tacked on to some other funding bill. But of course that means in another 12 months or so you’re facing the same fight.
And of course what’s at stake here is that—if the commission doesn’t get funded, if it goes under; a lot of those totalitarian, repressive governments we mentioned earlier, you know, they’re the ones that are going to be rejoicing because that’s one less watchful eye calling them out and one less voice for those around the world who are persecuted and oppressed.
REICHARD: Harvest Prude is WORLD’s Capitol Hill reporter. She writes a weekly roundup for WORLD Digital called The Stew. Harvest, thanks so much for this update.
PRUDE: You’re welcome.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with Africa reporter Onize Ohikere.
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: ISIS claims terror attack in Mali—We start today here in Africa.
Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for a deadly terror attack on an army outpost in Mali. At least 54 people died. A separate attack on a military convoy killed one French soldier.
Jihadist violence in Mali and neighboring Burkina Faso has grown increasingly common in recent months. Some aid groups have compared the violence to the start of Boko Haram’s insurgency in Nigeria.
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly visited Burkina Faso on Monday.
PARLY: Florence Parly [fade under]
She said the fight against terrorism required international cooperation.
More than 500 people have died at the hands of Islamic militants in Burkina Faso since last year. Nearly 500-thousand have fled their homes. Christians have increasingly become targets. The Federation of Evangelical Churches and Missions lists at least five pastors and missionaries who have been murdered by terrorists.
India battles high pollution levels—Next we go to India.
AUDIO: New Delhi under severe pollution [fade under]
Officials in the capital New Delhi shut down schools and banned construction work for at least three days after the city’s air quality reached crisis levels. The Environment Pollution Authority declared a public health emergency on Friday.
Residents say the pollution is impossible to escape, even indoors.
On Sunday, the city’s international airport had to divert some flights because of the thick smog.
New Delhi usually experiences a seasonal drop in air quality in October and November each year. It’s caused in part by agricultural fires outside the city. Firecrackers used in the Hindu festival of lights celebration known as Diwali also contribute to the smoky haze.
Clashes continue in Kashmir—Meanwhile, clashes continue north of India’s capital in the disputed region of Kashmir.
India officially revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status last week. Violence erupted in the region after the government announced the plan in August.
AUDIO: Clashes inn Kashmir [fade under]
Protesters tried to disrupt a visit from European lawmakers last week by setting up roadblocks and throwing rocks at security forces. On Monday, an attacker threw a grenade into a busy market crowd. One person died and 25 others suffered injuries.
The region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. Both countries claim a right to the land. They have fought two wars over control of the region.
United States sets record-low refugee cap—And finally, we end today in the United States.
President Trump officially set the refugee resettlement cap at 18-thousand for fiscal year 20-20. That’s the lowest number of refugees allowed into the United States in 50 years.
The U.S. government did not allow any refugees into the country in October. Aid groups said they hoped the president’s order would clear the way for new refugee arrivals.
But they also urged the administration to reconsider raising the cap to historic levels. Previous administrations welcomed about 90-thousand refugees each year.
That’s this week’s World Tour. For WORLD Radio, I’m Onize Ohikere reporting from Abuja, Nigeria.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Shandong Province, China witnessed a remarkable birth recently.
A woman, identified only by her surname, Tian, gave birth to a healthy 5-and-a-half pound baby girl by cesarean.
There were a few complications, but nothing doctors couldn’t handle.
What’s remarkable here is not how she gave birth … but that she did.
Tian is 67 years old.
That made her —by some reports—the oldest woman in that country to give birth.
Her doctor found that Tian’s ovaries were more typical of someone much, much younger, which might explain how she got pregnant naturally.
Here’s what’s most interesting: Now that China has lifted its brutal one-child policy, it’s led to heightened demand for fertility treatments, and many older women are taking advantage of that.
Tian and her husband decided to give their new baby girl a Chinese name that translates to “given by God.”
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, November 6th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Olasky Interview. Today, a conversation with John Peckham—professor of theology and Christian philosophy at Andrews University in Michigan.
Last year, Peckham wrote an important book tackling the problem of evil in the world. If God is entirely good and entirely powerful, why then, does He allow evil to exist?
Tough question, but a fairly common one. And in answering it, Peckham introduces readers to two ideas.
First is the term: “theodicy”—or a “defense of God” which argues that evil exists in the world to bring about a greater good. The second idea is of the “cosmic conflict” occurring all around us that reveals the true source of evil.
WORLD Editor in Chief, Marvin Olasky, starts the conversation.
MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: If you were on an elevator and you had several minutes to explain “cosmic conflict,” take a take a shot at it.
JOHN PECKHAM, GUEST: Okay, so I think the simplest way to introduce the idea of a cosmic conflict of the rules of engagement is to mention Christ’s parable of the wheat and the tares. If you’re familiar with the parable of the wheat and the tares, you have the story that Jesus tells of a landowner and this land owner sows good seed in his field. But time passes and there are then tares in his field, which are noxious weeds. His servants come to the land owner and ask him: “sir, didn’t you sow good seed? Why then does it have tears?” Which is basically analogous to the question that people asked in our world today, right? “God, didn’t you create a good world? Aren’t you a good God? Why then is there evil in the world?” Right?
And the response that the land owner gives is quite simple, but indicates what I call cosmic conflict and many others call cosmic conflict. He says: “this, an enemy has done, an enemy has done this.” And if you keep reading when Christ explains the parable, he clearly identifies this enemy as the devil. That the devil has sown tares in the field. And all throughout scripture, not just in parables, in Christ’s temptations—in fact, if you just start reading the book of Matthew—you’ll see Christ’s engagement with demonic agencies just all the way through the gospel. And you see this also in Old Testament narratives and Old Testament statements. Part of the Biblical worldview is that there is good and there is evil and there is also an agency of evil. That agent is created. It’s not an eternal conflict between good and evil, but there’s a created agent whom we call the devil who was created as an entirely good and perfect being. Fell of his own moral freedom and since wreaks havoc on the world along with his minions. That’s the basic idea of a cosmic conflict.
Now when it comes to the problem of evil, there are many scenes of the cosmic conflict in scripture where you see that the cosmic conflict is one that is not just a conflict of power. In fact, when someone first hears of the cosmic conflict, if they say: “God is omnipotent, how could there be a conflict between God and any creature, Satan or anyone else?” Right? If God is all powerful, he could exercise his power in such a way that there would be no evil, right? So if the conflict is one of sheer power, there could be no conflict. But in the Biblical narratives, I think there’s good evidence to suggest that this conflict is one of character, not of sheer power, right? There is a question that has been raised and you see it in places like the book of Job and in many other instances in scripture as well. That the enemy, the devil who—the word devil in Greek actually means slanderer—he has slandered God’s character.
He’s raised allegations against the goodness of God and the character of God. And these kinds of allegations cannot be met by sheer or brute force. Why not? Well, just think about it for a moment. If someone raises a question of your character, right? Let’s say you’re the mayor of this town and someone accuses you of being a corrupt mayor. How much executive power or other power would you have to show to prove that the allegation is false? There’s no amount of power that you can exercise to prove the allegation false, right? In fact, particular uses of power could actually play into the hands of the allegation.
I think there is strong evidence in scripture, and I can’t do justice to all of it here, but I think there’s strong evidence in scripture that there’s this kind of a cosmic conflict. A cosmic conflict where the enemy, the devil who’s called the accuser of the brethren, has raised allegations against God’s character and God meets those allegations by a demonstration of character that first legally defeats Satan and then God will actually defeat Satan by exercise of power.
OLASKY: And then, how do you bring this out from the academic discussion into a general arena, or do you?
PECKHAM: The ultimate solution to the problem of evil is eschatological. By that I mean, only God can solve it. And he will. Not just theoretically, he will remove evil forever. And so what I point people to is number one, we don’t know everything we think we know. But in the end, we should look to the cross. And the one who is willing to go to the cross for us we can trust.
In fact, Jesus himself appeals to this parable of the vineyard owner in Isaiah 5. Where the punchline of that song of the vineyard owner is: “What more could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done?” And this is God speaking about his people. “What more could I have done that I have not done?” Jesus picks up on that in a parable that he tells about a landowner who sends a number of servants, and his servants get killed one after another, by those trying to take over his vineyard. Finally he sends his son. And they kill his son too. And the hanging question of the parable is: “What more could he have done that he has not done?”
Even if we don’t understand why God is doing this, or not doing this, the question we can ask: “If a God who is himself willing to suffer and die for us in the person of Christ, what more could he do that he has not done?” We can trust a God like that, even if we don’t understand. And I think that’s pastorally where I want to start and end—with Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, November 6th. Thanks for listening to The World and Everything in It. Good morning! I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. WORLD founder Joel Belz is going to tell us about a time he remembers when National Public Radio asked for prayers!
JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: “Thanks very much,” said the impassioned radio announcer just as I tuned in at the end of her plea, “for your calls, for your concern, and for your prayers.”
For your prayers?
Even though this happened some 25 years ago, it was a little much. I checked my radio dial to see what might be out of adjustment. This was no radio evangelist I was listening to. This was the local outlet for National Public Radio, thanking me for my prayers.
As a matter of fact, I hadn’t prayed anytime that morning for NPR—or any morning before. Nor did I have any intentions of adding NPR to my prayer list in the future. Do I say that with a tad of embarrassment? Perhaps.
Let’s give them their due. In some ways, NPR is radio broadcasting at its best. The NPR folks know how to tell a compelling story for the ear.
Here at WORLD, we’ve been frank imitators of NPR’s professional and technical skills as we’ve developed this program—and you’ve given us all kinds of kudos for doing it.
But there are two big reasons I don’t want NPR to prosper.
The first is that it’s simply not an appropriate role for an arm of government to be a major news reporter. Of course, NPR argues that it is independent and gets less than 1 percent of its funding from federal grants. But NPR’s member stations across the country get about 12 percent of their operating funds from federal and local government subsidies.
No one can credibly argue that has no effect on NPR’s coverage decisions.
Regardless of the amount, the bigger issue is whether any money is spent at all. If there is one thing government should not be doing with the money of its citizens, it is trying to influence how those citizens think.
On dozens of other issues, there may be room to disagree. But the wrongness of government indoctrination isn’t one of them. My father used to say he’d far rather have the government feed, clothe, and house his children than to have that same government shape their minds.
But I said there are two reasons I don’t want NPR to prosper. The other reason is that the values NPR regularly promotes are—overall—tilted so heavily against the value system of the Bible.
Oh, it thinks it’s objective. But as we’ve pointed out here repeatedly, there’s no such thing as real objectivity apart from the Bible.
NPR is most misleading when it acts as if it does not have a starting point. The whole task of selecting, ordering, and scheduling each day’s stories is an exercise in indoctrination.
NPR is free to do as it wants—but not at our expense.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: A victory for free speech in Pittsburgh. Pro-lifers fight city hall there and win.
And, we’ll take you to a special theater that puts on miniature musicals in Chicago.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST:
And I’m Mary Reichard. The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.
2nd Corinthians tells us that whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Go now in grace and peace.