Archive

Archive for May, 2011

The Theology of Tragedy

image Through the wonders of modern technology, our living rooms are connected to the rest of the world in a way undreamt of in the millennia past.  In the proverbial twinkling of an eye, events on the other side of the globe are visible in full color video within moments of their happening.  Recent months have seen the forces of nature unleashed, it would seem, to wreak havoc on scales to rival nuclear disasters.  Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados have inundated our video screens with images of total destruction.  Hundreds have died.  Even more have been so thoroughly devastated that one can only marvel at the resilience of the human spirit to be willing to continue in the face of what many would call “evil.”  Certainly the fact that humans have suffered so calls to mind the suffering of Job at the hands of an evil adversary and allowed by God for His greater glory.

But in the midst of all this, how can a Christian cling to the concept of an almighty and benevolent God?  Where is He in all this?  Is He powerless to stop such tragedy, in which case He is hardly omnipotent?  Or does He cause or allow such suffering, in which case He can hardly be considered good?

A careful reading of the Bible gives us the answers, but two quotes from men commenting on this topic are particularly useful in framing our understanding of this problem of evil (which has been debated, by the way, for centuries – there is nothing new under the sun).  First, from J. O. Buswell’s Systematic Theology (Vol. 1, page 63, Zondervan Publishing House, 1962), where he observes (emphasis added):

To show that the fact of evil is inconsistent with the omnipotence of God, one would have to show that a world in which evil could not come into actuality would be richer in moral and spiritual values than a world in which moral freedom may actually be exercised and the exceeding sinfulness of sin may be known in the concrete.

Underlying much of the controversy is the fallen human tendency to abhor any labor and pain for which we have no explanation.  As the center of our own universe, we want to know all the answers, and when they are not forthcoming, we will first blame someone or something else rather than admit that we are not in control and don’t know everything.  In other words, we assume in our pride that there can be no good in bad things.  This is a blatant fallacy, for biblical theology, not to mention our own experience if we were honest, repeatedly tells us both didactically (e.g., Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4) and experientially (1 Corinthians 10:11) that God uses the trials and suffering in our lives to burn out the dross and conform us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).  Those who brandish this argument like some kind of talisman against God must prove the proposition Dr. Buswell sets before us above, or else they should remain in humble silence.

The second quotation is more for the Christian who has endured such a trial.

Did we believe that so potent and fearful a thing as sin had broken into the original holy order of the universe in defiance of God’s purpose, and is rioting in defiance of His power, we might well surrender ourselves to terror and despair.  Unspeakably comforting and strengthening is the Scriptural assurance of our Standards (Westminster Confession V:4) that beneath all this wild tossing and lashing of evil purposes and agencies there lies, in mighty and controlling embrace, a Divine purpose that governs them all.  Over sin as over all else, God reigns supreme.  His sovereign Providence ‘extendeth to the first fall and all other sins of angels and men,’ so that these are as truly parts and developments of His Providence as are the movements of the stars or the activities of unfallen spirits in heaven itself.  Having chosen, for reasons most wise and holy though unrevealed to us, to admit sin, He hath joined to this bare permission a ‘most wise and powerful bounding’ of all sin, so that it can never overleap the lines which He has prescribed for its imprisonment, and such an ‘ordering and governing’ of it, as will secure ‘His own holy ends,’ and manifest in the final consummation not only His ‘almighty Power,’ but His ‘unsearchable Wisdom’ and His ‘infinite Goodness.’

This is by E. W. Smith, The Creed of Presbyterians (page 177) quoted by Loraine Boettner in his book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, (1965, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, Philadelphia, pages 240-241).  Here we find eloquently pointed out that even though we are not in control, the One who created the universe is, and still has, in His wisdom and providence, His hand on the shuttle weaving the tapestry of our lives.

Can God really deal with all the seemingly infinite threads of existence on this planet, let alone in the universe?  Remember, Scripture also asserts that His understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5).  Thus, an infinite God can, by definition, handle infinite detail.

Let us rest assured that an honest student of the Bible will find there all the knowledge he needs to answer life’s questions, even those of skeptics seeking only to destroy the faith, whose destruction is sure.

Advertisements

Memorial Day 2011

Political Cartoons by Bob Gorrell

 

Political Cartoons by Gary Varvel

In Memoriam 2011

In Honor of Fallen Patriots

Mark Alexander’s tribute this year more than says everything I might say at this time.  I reprint it below in its entirety.  If you don’t subscribe to the Patriot Post, you should.
Have a great Memorial Day this year.

~~~~~

 

They Gave Their Fortunes and Lives for Our Liberty

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." –John 15:12-14

Memorial Day was first observed as Decoration Day to commemorate those who died in the War Between the States. It is a day set aside in deference to American Patriots who pledged and delivered their lives to Support and Defend the Rule of Law enshrined in our Constitution.

Since our nation’s founding, more than one million American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have paid the ultimate price in defense of our nation, and it is their final sacrifice that we honor with solemn reverence.

Our Founders clearly understood that the burden of sustaining Liberty would be calculated in human sacrifice. As John Adams noted, "I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States." So, on this last Monday in May, millions of American Patriots will honor the service and sacrifice of these uniformed Patriots by participating in respectful commemorations across the nation.

Who were these brave souls?

On 12 May 1962, Gen. Douglas MacArthur addressed the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, offering this description: "Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man at arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefields many, many years ago and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world’s noblest figures — not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me, or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast."

Gen. MacArthur continued: "In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage. As I listened to those songs in memory’s eye, I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads; to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God. I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: duty, honor, country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light."

In the current era, too many of our countrymen have no understanding of, or appreciation for duty, honor, and country. They are swooned by media outlets luring them to Memorial Day "sales" that glorify the commercial exploitation now attendant to every national day of recognition. Indeed, while divisions of America’s Armed Forces around the world are standing in harm’s way against formidable Jihadi adversaries, many Americans will be too preoccupied with beer, barbecue and baseball to pause and recognize the priceless burden borne by generations of uniformed Patriots, that they may be so preoccupied.

To a great extent, Memorial Day has been sold out, and no more so than by politicians who use the occasion to feign Patriotism for a day (or a moment) while in reality, they are in constant violation of their sacred oaths to our Constitution.

In the last few weeks, I have observed the current commander in chief of our Armed Forces as he has converted Osama’s Termination into political fodder for his 2012 campaign. For a man who has shown so much contempt for our uniformed Patriots, he has wasted no time taking credit for their successes.

Is he fit for command?

Unlike political advancement, which in most cases is attained by duplicity and deception, moving up the ranks in our Armed Services is based largely on performance evaluations. Each service branch has its own assessment forms for officers and NCOs. The Army has Officer Evaluation Reports, the Air Force has Officer Performance Reports, and the Navy and Marine Corps have Fitness Reports (FITREPs), all in order to evaluate proficiency and character as prerequisites for advancement.

The Army evaluates loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. Let there be no doubt that if the current CINC were subject to the same appraisal as an Army or Marine Corps E-5 (sergeant), he would be judged severely under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Indeed, he would likely be court-martialed for dereliction of duty and dishonorably discharged. No CINC in our nation’s history has been less fit to serve in that capacity than Barack Hussein Obama.

Obama’s malfeasance notwithstanding, there is still great promise for Liberty and the security of that promise resides, first and foremost, within the ranks of our uniformed Patriots, our countrymen who have volunteered years of their young lives and have publicly declared their dedication to the ideals of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. It is fitting therefore that we honor their service accordingly.

On Memorial Day of 1982, President Ronald Reagan offered these words in honor of Patriots interred at Arlington National Cemetery: "I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them. Yet, we must try to honor them not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice."

He continued, "Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we — in a less final, less heroic way — be willing to give of ourselves. It is this, beyond the controversy and the congressional debate, beyond the blizzard of budget numbers and the complexity of modern weapons systems, that motivates us in our search for security and peace. … The willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. One gets that feeling here on this hallowed ground, and I have known that same poignant feeling as I looked out across the rows of white crosses and Stars of David in Europe, in the Philippines, and the military cemeteries here in our own land. Each one marks the resting place of an American hero and, in my lifetime, the heroes of World War I, the Doughboys, the GI’s of World War II or Korea or Vietnam. They span several generations of young Americans, all different and yet all alike, like the markers above their resting places, all alike in a truly meaningful way."

President Reagan concluded, "As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. … I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: ‘O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?’ That is what we must all ask."

Indeed we must.

For the fallen, we are certain of that which is noted on all Marine Corps Honorable Discharge orders: "Fideli Certa Merces" — to the faithful there is certain reward.

To the beneficiaries of the legacy of Liberty that they defended with their lives, I humbly ask that each of you observe Memorial Day with reverence.

You can help to prepare for Memorial Day by placing flags at headstones in your local military cemetery (generally the Saturday prior to Memorial Day). Take a moment and read about the Tomb of the Unknowns. In honor of American Patriots who have died in defense of our great nation, lower your flag to half-staff from sunrise to 1200 on Monday. (Read more about proper etiquette and protocol.) Join us by setting aside a time of silence for remembrance and prayer. Offer a personal word of gratitude and comfort to surviving family members you know who are grieving for a beloved warrior fallen in battle.

On this and every day, please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces now standing in harm’s way around the world in defense of our Liberty, and for the families awaiting their safe return.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

He is still coming back

This last week has seen quite the brouhaha over Harold Camping’s well publicized journey into disobedient absurdity.  Many have undertaken to point out that absurdity, but my main concern is that Mr. Camping’s efforts have only “given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.”  (2 Sam 12:14)  Cynical unbelief does not require much to pat itself on its back for its prideful rejection of anything to do with God.  Finding someone identified with Christianity who makes claims about Scripture in violation of Scripture only fuels their ridicule.

Political Cartoons by Steve Kelley

Now I was all prepared to add my two cents worth to the verbiage, but then I found two posts (by the same author, no less) that said almost all that needed to be said.

First, Dan Phillips, one of the Pyromaniacs, makes this important distinction here:

One more note: I know what people mean when they call Camping a "false prophet." He is not a false prophet, he is a false teacher. It may seem like an academic distinction, but it is an important one. Teaching falsities concerning prophecy does not make one a false prophet. Camping is not claiming to have direct personal revelation apart from Scripture, as far as I know. That is not what he does. Camping is not claiming to produce Scripture. What Camping does is to twist Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). There is a difference.

As Mr. Phillips correctly observes, Mr. Camping’s prediction was not in the form of an alleged new revelation, but an interpretation of pre-existing revelation.  Thus, the veracity of the original revelation is not necessarily diminished by his foolishness.  They are two separate things, albeit related.

But more importantly, Mr. Phillips shows us how this incident actually does bring glory to God and confirms the veracity of His Word in ways that are unintentional, unconscious, and in spite of Mr. Camping himself.  In fact, he delineates seventeen such ways!  For example:

Second, Harold Camping glorifies God because, by his refusal to repent for past false guesses and his insistence on "doubling down" and putting all his weight on yet another guess, he illustrates God’s wisdom in warning us: "Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly" (Proverbs 26:11).

This may sound harsh in a politically incorrect way, but truth is truth.

Or how about:

Fourth, Harold Camping glorifies God because his repeated false guesses about the future throw God’s exhaustive knowledge of the future — and inerrant declaration of the same through His genuine prophets — into stark and splendorous relief (Isaiah 41:22-23; 44:7 ; 46:10; Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

I strongly encourage you to look up those passages, particularly those in Isaiah.  Now one of my favorites:

Fifth, Harold Camping glorifies God because, by his repeated predictions despite past humiliation and exposure, he bears out God’s wisdom in warning that you can "Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him" (Proverbs 27:22).

While I would again encourage you to go to the above link and read them all for yourself, here is the last one:

Seventeenth, Harold Camping glorifies God by how his hopelessly (and oft-rebuked) muddled hermeneutics highlights the perspicuity of Scripture and the validity of a normal, grammatical historical theological approach — so much so that Christians of all traditions are publicly affirming the clarity of the dominical word, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. …Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming" (Matthew 24:36, 42).

Thus, the bottomline is, God’s Word still stands.  One sinful man with his wishful thinking and false teaching does not invalidate the mass of evidence indicating that this particular book is uniquely “God breathed.”  (For those who doubt this, I invite you to fit the evidence I’ve presented in my other unfinished series on apologetics which starts here.  Deny the data at your own risk.)

Oh, and yes, Jesus will still return someday to call His own to Himself and usher in His millenial kingdom.  But we now know it won’t be next October!

Political Cartoons by Larry Wright

Think you’ve had a bad day?

Compare the before and after pictures from Joplin here.  Spectacular aerial shots show some of the utter devastation.

Political Cartoons by Steve Breen

Categories: History, Science & Technology Tags:

Irony defined

Michael Ramirez Cartoon