Sunday, May 1, 2011

the death of the wicked

In a cruel irony, the day I post a review of Carson's book on suffering, a man who caused the suffering of millions was found and killed.

This provides comfort and victory, in some ways. God is just. Osama will not go unpunished. Unless he confessed Jesus as Lord before his death, bin Laden is in hell tonight.

But as that comforts our need for justice, does it also keep us awake at night, wondering? As one of my professors so wisely noted just this past week, hell is something we should not wish on anyone. It is a fate so real, so sobering, so horrific, that it should make us weep.

It causes our God sorrow, too. "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23) While God is wholly just and wholly sovereign, He is also completely good, gracious, and merciful. The sacrifice of His Son on the cross has satisfied His righteous wrath against sin. He has made clear the way to eternal life and grace in Jesus Christ, and longs for all sinners to come to repentance.

But for some reason, unbeknownst to me, not all of them do. With the rejection of Jesus Christ comes the full and just reward for sin -- endless torment forever and ever. Scripture teaches us that God is sovereign even over that. Were it not for His redemption, I would be on a pathway to hell myself, and justly so.

The more I ponder this, the more it is a mystery to me. Perhaps, as I concluded the previous post, the solution in a situation like this is to seek to know and understand our God better. In the meantime, let us rejoice in who He is, in His justice and His offer of redemption, and weep at the depravity of man.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy

Thoughts on "How Long, O Lord?"

I just finished reading "How Long, O Lord?" by D. A. Carson. (Yes... I read this for class. You can safely assume that homework is almost all I'm doing for the next week or so...)

Even though I have a crazy schedule in the next couple weeks, I though I'd take a moment or two to recommend this book to you. Carson's thoughts on suffering do not provide a quick fix, nor do they explain away the pain we feel. His book offers some pieces of perspective that will prepare Christians to have an unshaken theology when tragedy strikes.

Rather than attempting to conclude with a cheesy answer, Carson urges his readers to accept the truths of Scripture and live with their tensions. He spends an entire two chapters discussing the understanding of two seemingly contradictory things that Scripture holds as true: humans are responsible for their actions, yet God is sovereign over all.

This truth applies in a key way to suffering. Suffering is a consequence of human sin; we live in a world that is fallen. Still, we cannot deny the fact that, since God created a world that allows for suffering, He is in some sense behind it. Carson describes this as asymmetrical to being behind good: God is behind good in that He is always its direct cause, while He is behind suffering in that He uses secondary causes to accomplish His purposes.

Carson postulates a few possibilities for why God might have allowed suffering in the first place, but he ends by insisting that the only way to find rest is to seek to know God. Rather than finding a logical explanation for the tension, understand that it is part of the mystery. The mystery is in who God is, not in an outward evil. He is a God who wants to be sought.

I will freely admit that this is, at best, a very brief summary, and Carson makes the arguments much better than I do. Always, he supports his claims with Scripture, and in the end, he produces a theology of suffering that is very orthodox. I would encourage Christians to read the book, to grapple with the questions it asks, and, in the end, to seek to know God.

With love from an absolute doll,

Erin Joy