suffering

I noticed in the sidebar at the Straight Up blog a three part series on God’s role in suffering by Gerald Hiestand. Here is part three which contains links to the first two parts. Go check it out.

I like these bits here especially well, but it is all good and very much worth a read:

And it is at this particular point that I find indeterminism wanting. As a theodicy, indeterminism generally attempts to lessen the tension between God’s goodness and human suffering by appealing to moral freedom. It is through the wrong choices of free moral agents, we are told, that suffering has been introduced into the world. Well and good—even determinists would agree so far. But then indeterminists often (not always) make a logic-leap and conclude that when faced with suffering, we should look not to God, but rather man, Satan, and the random effects of a fallen world as the ultimate source. The subtle and (often not so-subtle) implication of indeterminism is that God has no causal relation to our suffering. Now I affirm human freedom. And I affirm that much of the suffering we experience is the direct result of creation’s choice to live independently of God. But one cannot simply sprinkle the pixie dust “free will” over all suffering and magically resolve the tension between God’s goodness and human suffering.

At the end of the day, there’s no way around it. God, by very nature of his being, is the ultimate “buck stops here” person in the universe. Nothing can happen apart from his divine sovereignty. He could have prevented the planes from crashing into the towers. But he chose not to. From massive natural disasters, to the death of the smallest creatures, God’s eye beholds all; his hand oversees all. And nothing happens apart from his divine counsel. Not even open theism, with it denial of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, gets God off the hook. Even the open theist has to admit that God knew the intentions of the terrorists—if not from the dawn of time—then at least on the morning of 9/11. And still he chose not to intervene. The fact remains that creaturely freedom, however immediately the cause of suffering, does not operate outside the exhaustive scope of God’s sovereignty. The story of Job is a classic example.

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As far as theodicy is concerned, I prefer determinism’s willingness to call a spade a spade. It acknowledges up front that God is the ultimate first mover, the One who ordains all things. Nothing happens apart from his divine will. At the end of the day, peace in the midst of suffering comes through submission to the divine will. It comes through trusting that God has a good reason for why he ordains what he ordains in relation to my life. And perhaps even more significantly, it acknowledges that he has the right to do so. Any theodicy that attempts too vigorously to wipe the blood off of God’s hands robs us of the rest that comes from resting submissively in the wisdom of God’s divine care. Such theodicies are an emotional quick fix, but they can’t satisfy the hurting heart in the end. Like Job, we find our ultimate peace in bowing before the mighty hand of a sovereign God who, beholden to no one, has the right to purposefully ordain all things—even suffering—for our good and his glory. Determinism reminds us that God owes us nothing, and yet has given us everything.

that bit about trying to wipe the blood off of God’s hands reminded me of Roger Olson being scared of the “calvinist” (I think he means the Biblical) God. The way I read the Bible it says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. As a matter of fact, the Bible talks a lot about fearing the Lord. hmmmmmm.

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One Response

  1. God is sovereign. Nothing comes to us that He doesn’t allow. I have to believe that He is faithful and completely trustworthy. Our plans are not His plans. Our ways are not His ways. I just need to let Him do the work that He wants to do in the way He wants to do it. I am hurting but He is able to take the brokenness of these circumstances and make something eternally beautiful. The key word in that sentence is “eternally”.

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