Monday, June 5, 2017
June 5, 2017 Sometimes I wonder why those who decided which documents made it into our Bibles chose some of the writings we find there. Or why God saw fit to have some of it recorded in the first place. I've been reading in 1 Kings where David's last days are recorded. The book opens with political intrigue, followed by a purge of the contenders for the throne; pretty bloody business. Then comes the building of the temple under Solomon, spelled out in great detail. Why all the measurements, descriptions, etc.? I'm sure there's a reason for all the specifics, but I haven't figured out how it might in any way pertain to life today. Then there are those things I wish were in the Bible, like why a young mother we know after having had a miracle healing, has had her cancer return with a vengeance. Sometimes it seems like God either doesn't know what he is doing, or is playing some macabre game with us. Theologians call it theodicy, the problem of evil. I've known plenty of people whose own trauma or that of the innocents has pushed them over the edge into agnosticism or atheism. Is there any answer to the evil we see all around us? Years ago, I took a course in apologetics from a well-known theologian. No, he wasn't teaching us how to apologize for our faith, but how to defend it. He had developed a system of logical thought that "proved" that this was the best of all possible worlds, or at least the only one possible. Logically, I wasn't able to punch any holes in his argument, but I thought to myself, "Try selling that to a mother who has just lost her baby." The classic study of this problem is found in the Biblical book of Job. Job was a godly man who in a single day lost his entire family except for a nagging wife. Talk about adding insult to injury! Then his health suddenly collapsed, leaving him with painful boils from head to toe. Three friends come to comfort him, but end up accusing him of some hidden evil for which he was being punished. He audaciously affirms his righteousness, but continues to suffer. Interestingly, the book proposes two very different answers to the problem of evil. The first solution is an attempt to answer the "why" question by stating that Job has been caught in a cosmic game of chess between God and the devil. God is boasting of his servant, so Satan (literally, his name means "adversary") cynically challenges Job's faithfulness, whereupon God allows evil to come as a way of proving his point. Theoretically, this answers the question, but when you are the one going through the fire, it is of little comfort to think of yourself as the victim of such a contest. At the end of the story, another solution is posited. After all the accusations are over and in the middle of Job's self-defense, God suddenly appears thundering in a tornado, not answering Job's questions or affirming his righteousness, but challenging him twice. "You've been questioning me, Job. Now it's my turn." "Prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me!" God roars (Job 38:3 and 40:7). When confronted with the majesty and mystery of the Almighty God, Job confessed that he had spoken things of which he really had no knowledge. Having been thus challenged by God, the conversation ends with Job confessing, "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but. Now my eye sees you. Therefore, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes" (42:5-6). Job's questions were never answered, but he had come face to face with Ultimate Reality, God himself. And his questions took a backseat to that encounter. There are a lot of things in life I don't understand. To be honest, I often think I could do a better job of it than God is doing. I know that sounds arrogant or silly, but that's what my questions amount to. But then I come face to face with the sub-atomic size of my knowledge of life, of the universe, of all that God knows. It doesn't make the evil any easier, but knowing the promise of the Gospel that one day (not in this life) God will wipe away every tear gives me hope. And for that I am thankful even as I pray with my limited understanding for miracles that God in his infinite wisdom may or may not give.