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McWilliams Delivers OBU Hobbs Lecture on Problem of Pain

October 30, 2008

McWilliams presented his lecture following several performances by the OBU Symphonic Band, conducted by Dr. Jim Hansford, OBU Burton Patterson Professor of Music and Director of Bands. The message followed the theme for chapel services this year at OBU titled "Lost and Found: Reclaiming the Knowledge of the Holiness of God," touching on the topics of God's omnipresence and omnipotence. The chapel series is based on the book "The Knowledge of the Holy" by Christian author A.W. Tozer.

McWilliams began his lecture addressing the problem of pain and the role God plays in that problem. Using the story of the widow Naomi from the book of Ruth, McWilliams illustrated his point by quoting Ruth 1:20-21, which says, "She said to them, 'Do not call me Naomi [Pleasant]; call me Mara [Bitter], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?'"

Using Naomi's struggles as a platform, McWilliams addressed the fact that though God is both omnipresent and omnipotent, belief in Him will not prevent pain from occurring.

The second topic of McWilliams' lecture dealt with the omnipresence of God. Using Scripture from Psalm 139 and 1 Kings 8:27 as biblical sources, McWilliams contended that God is truly in all places at all times. He pointed out that God is in McWilliams' hometown of Fort Smith, Ark., God is in Iraq, God is on the OBU campus.

McWilliams said God's presence is a loving, compassionate presence which students should seek to model. Using a literary example, McWilliams drew on the famous Dr. Seuss character Horton, an elephant and main character from Seuss's "Horton Hears a Who." In the story, Horton saves the population of "Whos" by hearing their tiny voices plead for help.

"Horton is compassionate," McWilliams said. "This is not a political statement, but all of us need to be elephants and have big ears and hear the pain around us just as God does."

McWilliams' also addressed the issue of God's omnipotence - His almighty power.

"God's power is always guided by His character," McWilliams said. "Since the essence of God is love, His omnipotence is a loving power."

McWilliams quoted 1 Corinthians 1:25, which reads, "This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength."

He concluded his lecture by giving the students a homework assignment: "If you have felt the compassionate love of God in your life, find a way to help others," McWilliams said.

The Herschel H. and Frances J. Hobbs Lectureship in Baptist Faith and Heritage was OBU's first endowed lectureship. Friends of the late Dr. Hobbs, who was longtime pastor of First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, and the late Mrs. Hobbs created this endowed fund in honor of the couple's years of outstanding Christian service. The Hobbs Lectureship program sponsors a lecture on the OBU campus every semester. The lectures are designed to help students grow in their knowledge of Baptist theology, Baptist history, studies of the Bible and other related themes. The lectureship began in the fall of 1980.