Thursday, 10 April 2014

Suffering & Sovereingty

Suffering & Sovereingty
I don't know what it is about the subject of suffering and the Christian faith that has so entranced me as of late, but it has come up again as I have been reading through the book of Job. As I hear the emotion in Job's questions and the ardent responses of his friends, whom I honestly believe were trying to give Job the best "answers" they could, I cannot help but ask the question of "why?" This one little word, "why," pervades almost every question Job offers up to both his friends and to God. Is it wrong for the creation to question the Creator? It becomes painfully obvious that Job finds absolutely no sin in questioning the reasoning and action of God:
Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins? (Job 7:20b-21a)

- Martin Luther King, Jr
(from "A Time to Break Silence")

Yet, I think the conclusion reached by Job and his friends is wholly wrong--at least from my perspective. It seems that in the mindset of Job and his contemporaries pain, heartache and physical ailments were all punishments for sin. The way in which God interacted with God's creation was to bless them when they chose right and to punish them when they chose wrong. This theme recurs again and again throughout the book of Job, and I honestly believe we, as the modern Church, have assimilated it, meaning the mindset of Job and his contemporaries, into our own theological understanding of suffering. Yet, we must ask the question of whether such assimilation is a correct understanding, theologically, of how God chooses to interact with God's creation.
As a 21st century, American Christian, I often hear preachers and pundits alike blame hardship, pain and loss on the "sovereignty of God." Am I the only one who fears this is simply a cop out for not wanting to tackle the truly tough issues? Can we really believe that all the evil and pain in this world is the work of God? Now don't get me wrong. Theologically, I do believe God created this world in such a way as to necessitate natural consequences to certain decisions. Yet, for me, I cannot rationalize the loss of a child to a mother who has no other as the "sovereignty of God." I can say that I am sorry for their loss and wish there was something I could do. But it's lazy of me to simply say that God's sovereignty is to blame.
In the past, I read a book by Tony Campolo entitled Speaking My Mind. In one particular section, Campolo tackles this very subject regarding God's control (read: sovereignty) over this world. In Campolo's own theological estimation, God is not in control over every action or consequence that occurs in this world. While he affirms my above theological understanding and does not limit God's ability to interject miraculously into this created world, Campolo fails to believe that God is responsible for such horrible things as the mass murder of millions of Jews, the loss of young life or the terrible ravages of war. To blame God for such things is to fail to look at ourselves as responsible--whether directly, through our own actions, or indirectly through the results of sin.

So, then, what do we say when bad things happen, especially when they happen to "good people?" Well, we offer our support, as Job's friends tried to with their limited understanding, but more importantly we offer our prayers. Romans 8:28 says,

So, while God may not be to blame for our suffering and pain, God is responsible for helping us discover a means of coping, a means of dependence upon God and a means of sharing commonality with all of humanity.
May all your times of suffering be peppered with moments of God's peace.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Labels: God, Sovereignty, Suffering, Theology
A True Revolution
This quote comes from King's address given on April 4th, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City. Much was said about his confrontational stance on the war in Vietnam and whether Dr. King should have merged it with the ongoing struggle for civil rights. The fact of the matter is that King believed he could not remain silent about injustice no matter where it may be found. Regardless of his own personal struggles, Dr. King leaves a legacy of prophetic vision and voice that is badly needed today.

"When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism, are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies."

The Pope & Politics
While I must admit I am not one for Catholic theology, harboring many reasons for disagreement with my Vatican-devoted brothers and sisters, I do appreciate the opportunities the Pope is given to speak up in the face of injustice. In his forthcoming book entitled "Jesus of Nazareth," Pope Benedict calls "rich" countries to task for plundering Africa and other poor regions of the world for monetary gain. It seems as if the Pope, and his predecessors, have always been a conscience for the Western, imperialist world, but it's always a welcome surprise when the Pope and the Vatican use their given platform to stand up for those individuals, and countries, who have been the brunt of mistreatment and pillaging.
In a related note (which may only seem related in my own mind), Kim Fabricius has posted another one of his enlightening "Ten Propositions" over at Ben Myer's blog Faith & Theology. This particular post, and why I believe it is related to the above story, is entitled Ten Propositions on Political Theology. It is Kim's position that Christian theology, and the scriptures as well, cannot be divorced from their political underpinnings and foundations. To do so would be create numerous and vast holes in our system of belief. My favorite line from the post is this: "We should not fear dirty hands but bloody hands." Hopefully you will see how it is related to the above article upon reading it.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Don't Almost Give
Thanks are due to a friend of mine for providing me the web address for this particular campaign undertaken by the Ad Council, an organization that happens to be the largest producer of Public Service Announcements. Recently, as of September 2006, the Ad Council began a campaign entitled Don't Almost Give. This particular campaign is an effort to raise awareness of community involvement, volunteerism and sharing with those with whom we share many of life's moments. I would encourage you to check out their website, which contains all the PSAs which are a part of the campaign. Each of them is worthy of a viewing.
If you're looking for ways to get involved in areas where your particular interests may lie, the Ad Council also provides links to particular organizations which deal with various areas of service.

Soli Deo Gloria!
1 Corinthians 6:11

There was a time when some of you were just like that,
but now your sins have been washed away,
and you have been set apart for God.
You have been made right with God
because of what the Lord Jesus Christ
and the Spirit of our God
have done for you.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Labels: Corinthians, Scripture