Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


“How can that woman believe?” A Letter

posted by Scot McKnight

Here is a letter sent to me about a woman struggling with faith, and one of her major questions is a deep, dread-type question: The shocking injustices some experience.

Gary Haugen spoke at the service at Willow on the International Justice
Mission.  He discussed the sex trafficking, as well as many other
injustices going on around the world.  He would tell a story of some
injustice occurring in the world and then say, “How are these people
supposed to believe?”  Gary then described some of the work that IJM
did… and, I believe, his idea was to show that there is hope….and
that God created us to fight the injustice.

However, I have heard the arguments about free will and that God is
merciful and just and of this sounds good in theory.  But the question
I need answered is this one: “How is that woman supposed to believe
that there is a God that is good and just—a God that she can trust? 
How?  How is that woman supposed to trust?”
  She was stripped of that
ability.


Our questions for today: What are your experiences with such abusive situations? Have you seen such women (re)learn to trust God? How did they do so? What can you say to this “seeker”?

You can’t tell me you can go on … after being raped or sold into prostitution … where you see evil at it’s finest, where you see power being abused to its greatest extent …  Question: How is someone like that ever supposed to believe/trust in anyone or anything, let alone, God?  Not just state a belief. In her very core, in the middle of the night, when no one is around, when she is all by herself. I cannot believe that someone like that could trust … and it’s not for lack of trying and praying … because God knows I want to believe. I fell a bit like Charles Templeton. I would like to believe….but…

The book that John Ortberg wrote about faith and doubt – describes his own doubts….but he was not in a brothel serving men 30 x a day.  Imagine being stripped of all dignity.  When I put myself in that woman’s shoes, I cannot believe.   I would feel nothing, as the only possible coping mechanism; the pain would be too great.



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Jason

posted December 23, 2008 at 1:19 am


If I were her, I would not believe. Indeed, knowing she exists out there, I am seriously struggling with my faith.



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Jennifer

posted December 23, 2008 at 2:52 am


Do not fall to the temptation to strip women like that of their dignity even further. As one who is still made in God’s image, yes she can still believe. That is her birthright as a human being. That is the most basic part of her dignity. She may struggle greatly, she may have terrible troubles trusting God and others (even good, safe people), but no human can be so damaged by evil that they have to forfeit their ability to respond to the God who made them, even in micro-amounts.



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Jeremiah Daniels

posted December 23, 2008 at 3:28 am


I can think of no easy answer, but just to observe that getting rid of God does not get rid of the problem. In fact, if anything, it makes the situation worse.
Though it does bring to mind the faith exhibited in some holocaust survivors. How did they cope with it? Apparently, not everyone throws in the towel in the face of evil.



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Michael Phillips

posted December 23, 2008 at 4:04 am


You ask many questions
How is that woman supposed to trust? ? I do not have the answer. How does any of us trust God; even the most comfortable among us have encountered circumstances that deny the immediate, down to earth reality of a just and good God.
What can you say to this “seeker”? ? I cannot use my personal experience. I would encourage a battered seeker to read/hear from those who have gone through horrific experiences; perhaps Corrie ten Boom. Also, encourage such a seeker to encounter the the book of Job and the passages in the Bible on the Crucifixion and subsequent Rsurrection. For if one trusts the God described in the Bible, one will have great hope for the eternal future.
Of course for every Corrie ten Boom there is an Elie Wiesel whose faith takes a beating from life?s experiences.
We know that God is moving in all people in ways we cannot discern or fathom to create a relationship with Him. We can hope we are used by God to fight injustice and create an environment that promotes faith for others. He is in charge of the results. If we try to ?help?, it seems that it is more than likely it will be our faith that God will impact.
May God give us the wisdom to actually help and not lose our own faith in Him and lose hope in the promises He has made for our eternal future beyond this earth.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted December 23, 2008 at 4:56 am


No easy answer, but I side with Jennifer. I remember seeing a woman worker with her pimp (I think I was told) come to a ministry on the street. She seemed to have a devotion for God and for Scripture, or at least a longing that way. God may have been at work in her life. Awful what these women go through, and not to diminish that at all, and it would be devastating and debilitating, but God and God’s salvation in Jesus is greater than any trouble we face or go through. Easy to say that, harder when living in it, but nevertheless true.



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mariam

posted December 23, 2008 at 5:21 am


Some of you know of my struggle with my daughter’s sexual assaults by a family friend and her subsequent struggles with depression, attempted suicides and an eating disorder. And also how that experience sent me, as an atheist, seeking God. Some people, including my husband, have asked me how I could believe in a God who would allow a child to be abused and to suffer. The fact that her abuser was a conservative Christian who was allowed to continue on as if nothing had happened seemed to be the final nail in God’s coffin. It seems that belief in God is not sufficient to prevent people from evil acts and that God allows the innocent to suffer and the evildoers to continue without consequence. Our situation, while heartbreaking, is nowhere near as bad as the one you describe, and I wonder myself at how these women can cope. But we should not say that suffering makes it impossible to believe, because then we take away the only thing that gives meaning to their suffering.
If we suffer without a belief in God, we never have the hope that our suffering of that of others will be redeemed. We live a meaningless life of pain and suffering, followed by a meaningless death. My faith gives me hope that God will comfort those who mourn and suffer, if not in this life, then in the next. I am comforted by the story of Lazarus, who went straight to the bosom of Abraham upon his death. The story tells us that God has set aside a special place in his Kingdom for those who he did not allow his rain to fall on this side of eternity. God allows suffering to allow us free choice but also, I believe for other reasons. I have never believed that God is finished with creation and suffering and death are a necessary consequence of the way he has chosen to create. Perhaps suffering is a means by which creation will eventually be perfected. Certainly it is the sight of the suffering of others which inspires us to seek justice and to try to improve the human condition. We can believe that those who suffer, suffer with Christ and participate in atoning for evil we have done . Those who suffer should be honored by us because they are helping to pay for, along with Christ, the debts of all. Their sacrifice should move us compassion and loving acts.
We do not know the mind or the will of God. However, I, for one, trust that God has a plan which has the suffering of his children into account and will make things right in the end. In fact, Christ tells us this in the Beatitudes. Our sojourn on this earth is a blink of an eye compared to eternity. God has a long time to make the crooked straight and the rough smooth.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted December 23, 2008 at 6:10 am


Mariam,
Thanks for sharing that. Quite encouraging and good.
I would say that we can only proclaim what God has done and is doing in Jesus. That redemption is complete but its outworking is ongoing, and we certainly, in Jesus participate in that.



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Jeremiah Daniels

posted December 23, 2008 at 7:48 am


Mariam,
Thanks too. I love having someone who actually has first hand experience contributing something which I feel I could never approach from my own experiences.



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Peter+

posted December 23, 2008 at 7:49 am


I don’t know — only God does.



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Samuel

posted December 23, 2008 at 8:44 am


Miriam,
I also am very encouraged with your words as you make very critical points. It is very difficult to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has gone through horrific events, however I really can’t help but think that all that is purposive. Of course, there ought to be wisdom in communicating that to people who are still hurting and still trying to resolve these types of issues mentally and emotionally. When we hear of stories like this, it should move us to compassion and acts of love (i.e., good Samaritan). Stories like this seem to be unending which makes a bit of sense given the fact that we are encouraged to pray without ceasing. The Spirit of God comforts us and by that we are able to comfort others.



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Scot McKnight

posted December 23, 2008 at 8:47 am


There is another side to this woman’s letter: not only “how can that woman believe” but:
“How can this letter writer believe in a God who permits a world with this kind of evil?”
I think this is the paramount question for our post today.



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Sharon

posted December 23, 2008 at 8:53 am


I read and empathize with Miriams post, however, I often wonder if the God and Hope she portrays, which is real to her – is more something created to get through suffering. Much like running a marathon, one will play many mind games with oneself to push one to the finish line. Or, any time one has to do something that causes pain, many will enter into fantasy or delusion to push one through to the end. One can make up many excuses for people, for God, or for circumstance. I imagine Gods from many religions offer this hope that Miriam speaks of. Why would one choose to believe in the christian God? It seems that the christian God leaves this man free, and allows suffering. Miriam claims the bible says there is end to suffering for this woman. However, what would make a woman abused to this extent believe and trust the christian bible? And when does these womens hope among their despair become real faith….or is it just a false hope needed to get through their suffering? What would be the difference between believing in goodness or some magical heaven or some fantastical savior of another religion to get some of these women through? Why would one choose the christian God?



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RJS

posted December 23, 2008 at 9:21 am


Scot,
In part this doubt is a consequence of our culture – we have made our faith into blessings, promises, health, prosperity, and eternal life. It even seems that most think that eternal life means that they and their loved ones will never die…
I don’t think that this is the story we have in the Bible or in the church. We are fallen – and there is systemic human evil as a result.
This is where I think that the pray the prayer ticket to eternity really goes wrong. We’ve often reduced the story to sweetness and light on one hand and to a get out of hell free card on the other. God is just, and merciful, and forgiving, – but repentance is part of the picture. So is persecution and even martyrdom. One of the core pieces of the gospel story is judgment and accountability. Death is not the finish line and there is no cheating to pass the test. So — why can we believe in God in the presence of great human evil? Because there will be judgment and accounting.



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dopderbeck

posted December 23, 2008 at 9:29 am


A Socratic question to the questioner: what does it mean to “trust” or “believe” in God? Is “trust” and “belief” the same as complete emotional security and happiness? For some people — like me — who struggle with doubt and insecurity, the perfect picture of faith is that of the tax collector in Luke 18, who “would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.'”
Somehow this picture helps me, just a little, with these terribly hard questions about evil in the world. I don’t know why God allows such evil as sex trafficking, but I do know that He offers me hope and the promise of a full accounting and restoration at the end of all things.
A God who enters into our suffering by becoming man and living and dying with us, and who offers the hope of a final redemption, seems much better to me than a lifetime of anger and bitterness ending with finality in the dust of death.
BTW, I love Gary Haugen and the work of IJM I think is an absolutely sterling, sterling example of vibrant missional faith. I might offer one critique of Gary’s book “Good News About Injustice,” though, relating to this question of theodicy: I don’t think “we,” the Church, are the means by which God is redeeming the world. I think the cross is the means by which God has already redeemed the world. The final victory, the final accounting, is secured; we, the Church, are the living embodiment of that victory before Christ returns — including, most of all, by rescuing the poor and oppressed as IJM does.
The practical impact for me of thinking “eschatologically” like this is to find some hope in the despair of how huge the problem of evil really is. All of our efforts are only drops in a bucket, true; our “blessed hope” is in the tidal wave of Christ’s return.



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Richie "Rich" Merritt

posted December 23, 2008 at 9:37 am


Having lived through a myriad of events myself as a male – not a woman, where my dignity and my innocence were taken from me at an early age; I can sympathize with this woman and her perspective.
However…, the flip side of this equation is Love. If there were no evil, the evidence of God’s Love being manifested through the actions of events and people would not be evident either? How would we recognize Good or Love if there were not bad and evil? We would be mind numbed robots or beings wandering around in bliss or in total despair because of the absence of one or the other. This is one aspect that I believe to be true.
Finally, having lived through some pretty traumatic events in my lifetime, it makes the discovery of God’s Love much more sweeter. I have seen and experienced evil; but I have now experienced God’s Love, Mercy, and Grace; and yes even the blessing of Forgiving those who did me wrong in the first place. I would have never experienced any of that, had I not gone through the trial in the first place.
I could say so much more and I would love to be able to dialog versus a comment on a blog about this, but I totally understand where she is coming from. All I can say and pray for is that God puts someone in the path of these ladies and young boys too; that God hears our prayer and sends them a Moses of sorts to free them from the bondage of their slavery; so that they can one day understand and know the Love of the Father’s heart.
In His Love,
Richie



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Kyle

posted December 23, 2008 at 10:01 am


RJS,
I’m with RJS on this one. There will be judgment, and everything will be “put to rights.” That is our hope, and the radical message of Christianity…God on a cross reconciling the world to Himself.
I’m one of those people who sees these situations as real, metaphysical, categorical evil. A former student of mine was raped and doubted for a long period of time. Her, her family, friends and I struggled together through all of her questions. We discussed how doubt is actually a compliment to faith, because only those who have some amount of faith can doubt at all. It didn’t make everything better, but she finally came to the realization one day that in a godless world the situation didn’t get any easier to answer or cope with. She sought answers in a godless worldview, but the answers she was given were that our concept of evil isn’t a “real” thing at all, but simply our response to a long evolution and group ethic. This disturbed her even more because in her mind it minimized the reality of the evil committed against her. It was (and still is) very hard for her, but she now realizes that only through her faith in Christ can something that was really, truly evil even hope to be made right. So she doubts, hurts and cries, but does so in faith.



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Julie Clawson

posted December 23, 2008 at 10:08 am


“How can this letter writer believe in a God who permits a world with this kind of evil?”
because we are often the ones permitting the evil, or at least doing nothing about it because doing something might get political or interfere with our favorite economic theory or some other crap excuse like that.
But as for the woman – she is to some extent one in four of us women here, statistically speaking. At one point in our house church of misfits and seekers, over 90% of the women there had faced some sort of sexual abuse in their life. They had a hard time ever feeling comfortable in churches where the all male leadership often suggested that they were to blame for tempting men to rape, molest, and abuse them. From that perspective one can wonder why any of these women believe at all.



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Dianne P

posted December 23, 2008 at 10:28 am


To your question in #11, Scot…
It can be such a cliche, but I have been truly blessed beyond words to attend one of the annual prayer weekends at IJM with Gary Haugen and join in prayer with their prayer teams from all around the world. It’s 2 days of stories such as these. It’s coming up again in March – truly a world-changer. I can’t describe it. If you can, do it.
Haugen gave a wonderful sermon about 3 or 4 years ago where he told of their struggles to press on in the face of all the pain. He gives a great twist on the story of the 5 loaves and 2 fish. I’ll email it to you – don’t know how I can attach it here. The main points…
-10,000 people – no way they could feed them – “Jesus, we don’t have that kind of cash on us, send them home”
-Jesus has something else in mind. He asks – what do you have? Well, they didn’t have “nothing”, so they had to pony up what they did have – one little boy’s lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish. Totally inadequate for the task at hand.
-Jesus says – give it to me.
-then the disciples had to give it to Jesus, step back and let Jesus do the miracle.
I especially love Haugen’s last comment on this story – why didn’t God just do a really big miracle? Like rain down manna from heaven? Haugen thinks it’s because God wanted to give one little boy a REALLY cool day – Mom, Mom, guess what Jesus did with MY lunch today!!!
If you’ve ever heard Haugen speak, you can close your eyes and do a far better job on this story with your imagination than my pathetic summary here.
Back to the first question – this doesn’t seem to be a deal-breaker for those who suffer. I take RJS’ point – we are surrounded by so much abundance that our expectations are in a totally different place. Through CISF at Trinity, we spent much time with Africans who had story after story to tell. I remember one day being asked to pray for one woman’s 13 year old niece who had been kidnapped by a neighboring tribe. How do I juxtapose that prayer with my prayer to sell my house for a good price? or a hoped for promotion at work? Or a good semester for my children at school? But I continue to believe that God does care for our whole life.
Right now, we spend our Sunday mornings with 200 homeless and urban poor. Most have stories that simultaneously break your heart and take your breath away. I want to wrap each one in a blanket, throw them in my car, and take them home to a warm shower and clean bed. Last week, Pamela told me of the man who stole her coat and then threw it into the canal. That very day she came across another coat – just out there in the open – and it even had a dollar bill in the pocket. For Pamela, a sure promise of God’s presence in her life. All told with a glowing smile on her face.
When I used to work in cancer nursing, people asked how I could go to work each day and see all the pain and suffering. I don’t know. I only know that I was so encouraged by the power of each person’s story, and the incredible undeniable presence of God in each one’s life. Each day was, and still is, a wonder to see what Jesus will do with my lunch.



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Dan

posted December 23, 2008 at 10:41 am


I suspect the answer to your question comes only in a deeply personal revelation of God in that woman’s life. David Bentley Hart’s discussion of the issue in his little book “The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?” seems appropriate for this conversation.



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Your Name

posted December 23, 2008 at 10:42 am


Julie
Fantastic point. It applies to the letter writer, and it applies to our churches as well. As in your example, I don?t know if those men in leadership had any idea of the healing force they could have been in those women’s lives. They may have pitied the women, but that kind of contemptuous sorrow isn’t helpful – and it often leads to blaming the victim as you described. Pity holds people at arm’s length, never really asking you to get into the mess with them. It’s easy to pity the woman caught up in human slavery, or ?average? abuse survivor…but it does her no good, and it does us no good. In both cases, action is needed. I understand that it?s just as tricky – can’t you hear the resistance…”I’m a man, this is an area for women to minister to each other” or “It could be dangerous to get involved, the abused woman might become attached to the caregiver? or ?she?s so needy, I will be swallowed up by it.?
I guess I?m feeling frustrated with this whole question. What good does it do for people to shake their heads and question God ? to say that their faith is shaken by someone else?s tragedy that they pity, but don?t get involved in. If you want to see God in the mess, you have to get into the mess too. Staying on the edges seems to only provide a fruitless perspective.



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SamB

posted December 23, 2008 at 10:43 am


Please understand I do not mean to minimize the suffering that results from the evil we do to each other by answering Scot’s question simply by saying she (I) can trust because God is real and he does a work in my heart making it possible. Even knowing the evil that resides in me, I trust him to deliver me from it. I can no longer attribute the evil that we do to each other to God and blame him. Part of me wants to. There is enmity in me toward God. But that is not all that is in me. There is also faith in God who came as a baby into our world, suffered all the evil that we could do to him, never responded in violence but always in love, and rose from the dead to show that our evil and even death does not have the last word.
We can participate in God’s love and healing by prayer and working for justice. One of the most wonderful books I have read about our ministry of compassion is Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen. The book is illustrated by a doctor in Nicaragua whose son was brutally tortured and murdered by the government. It is a powerful call to us to take seriously our vocation to minister God’s love and compassion to others. Also, has anyone seen the BBC movie God On Trial?



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Jennifer

posted December 23, 2008 at 10:45 am


OOpss…#20 was me



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cas

posted December 23, 2008 at 10:50 am


I stuggle with this issue most days. My son is dead. My husband and living child are both struggling with debilating health problems. Our wealth is gone. All of it, in some measure a consequence of leaving an upper-middle class life to go into full time ministry and having it end with us stumbling upon a sexual abuse nightmare and deciding to be whistleblowers. I really could have endured all the consequences without too much doubt, but then our precious son took his own life. That really was too much.
I believe he is with God, but doubts and guilt assault me pretty regularly.
One day, I was really struggling and took a long walk by the bay. I told my dead son that I just needed to know he is okay. Nothing. The silence from the grave is maddening.
Later that day, my mother and I were trying to find a Survivors of Suicide support group. It was supposed to be meeting at a Catholic church on a rainy evening. It was a church outside which a woman I knew was murdered by her husband in front of her children, before he turned the gun on himself. The same church where my three gay cousins grew up. A place that inspires questions for God from me.
Some women were praying in a chapel. One of them came out into the hall to help me. There was no SOS group that night, but, just because of what we were looking for, her compassion kicked into high gear. I told her it was my son who had died. She said, “You know he’s in heaven right?” and then she gave me her medal from Medjugorie, where Mary is supposed to be appearing to people and healing them.
This was significant, because, as you know Scot, Mary has become someone whose witness I cherish even more since my son’s death. I am not a Catholic and I don’t worship Mary, but I took that medal and wear it around me neck to reassure me when doubts creep in. I take the woman’s words as an answer to my question from God. Love spoke to me through a stranger. She had no basis upon which to know my son is in heaven. It doesn’t matter. I know what his faith was. I needed the reminder. I needed to know God hears. I need it often.
I’ve been reading Job this year, and the thing that comforts me most is that God doesn’t condemn the questions. He condemns the pontifications on the causes of suffering by Job’s friends. The only guy who doesn’t get any reprimand is the young latecomer who defends God’s character. He challenges Job without accusation. He’s too green to have all the answers or to have reason for the kind of doubt Job is wrestling with.
And then God puts Job in his place by talking about all the beautiful and frightening things he’s created. It’s a very strange and awful thing how suffering can make the beauty in the world come into sharp relief. We hear it all the time from cancer survivors, etc. Beauty speaks of God. Ever bit of it condemns the darkness. Some will be overcome by the darkness. Others will see the light in a flower or a sunset or a friend’s smile.



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Craig Beard

posted December 23, 2008 at 11:03 am


I hope I don’t seem to imply that it is facile a thing to believe in the wake of such abuse, but a friend of mine who does mission work in a couple of African countries tells me of women who have come to faith in Jesus and do live lives of belief in the MIDST of abuse (including almost daily beatings).



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Karl

posted December 23, 2008 at 11:04 am


How can she believe? Many in such circumstances do believe. Miriam adds her testimony above to that of Corrie Ten Boom and countless others whose faith sustained them, or perhaps even was birthed, in the midst of terrible suffering. While such experiences – or the knowledge of them – often do send people away from faith, in many other instances it is precisely the people who are suffering most from the horrors of evil, who find comfort in faith in a good and just God who is reconciling all to Himself and who will make all things well, even the horrors that we can’t see ever being healed or redeemed. I would not deny them that hope.
I would also ask – where else will you go? What other religion or irreligion offers more comfort or more hope to the suffering, than the message of Jesus Christ and the love of the trinitarian God? Telling her that suffering is an illusion and that she needs to rid herself of all desire sounds even worse. So does telling her that she is reaping in this life what she sowed in a prior life through the outworkings of karma. And the answer that everything is basically random and we’re just a lump of sensate biological material with no greater purpose in life and no hope after death, and that bad sh_t just happens but you’ve got to make the best you can of it until you die, isn’t all that comforting either. Where else will you go?



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Eric

posted December 23, 2008 at 11:08 am


I was abused as a kid, and it has affected my ability to trust anyone, including God. The extent and type of abuse was different from the woman Scot describes. But for what its worth . . .
My biggest problem hasn’t been some sort of academic questioning of how God can allow evil in the world. Its more of a raw emotional roadblock, expressed in fear, sadness and anger. What made it worse was that people who claimed to be Christians didn’t prevent the abuse.
For me, it hasn’t helped so much to hear that God has a plan to put all to rights in the life to come. And, frankly, it doesn’t help to hear philosophical arguments about how there really is a God who cares.
What does help me is tanglible expressions of love by people who are Christ followers. People who took the time to get involved in my life at the time (in a sustained way), or who now take the time to listen to what I went through and care about me. People who don’t have all the answers, but are willing to sit next to me when I need to cry.
So how can a person believe, despite evil? I don’t know what the answer is for everyone. But a great place to start is to love them. In a sustained way.



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joanne

posted December 23, 2008 at 11:41 am


I have not experienced the level of abuse others have but one thing that helps me is to see Jesus as liberator. I watch the way he is in the bible, welcoming and lifting the unclean, the women, the marginalized and it helps. If i look at the American evangelical church as it is today, i have trouble believing because of the perceptions about women and their roles and subordination. but if I look and Jesus myself, faith is restored and I notice him going about, doing the work of restoration.
Honestly, I still struggle with why the American Evangelical church cannot perceive women as equals and treat her so in function and personhood. While they will stand against some abuse and that encourages me, they will not stand against other forms of abuse. I keep focusing on the fact that Jesus is still calling us to greater justice and more thoughtful action.



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Dianne P

posted December 23, 2008 at 11:56 am


To tag onto Jennifer at 20, a quote from kind of a cheesey book by Hugh Prather from those crazy 60s …
“Ideas are clean. They soar in the serene supernal. I can take them out and look at them, they fit in books, they lead me down that narrow way. And in the morning they are there. Ideas are straight-But the world is round, and a messy mortal is my friend. Come walk with me in the mud.” ~ Hugh Prather
When I decided to skip getting my PhD in experimental psychology and change to nursing (try explaining that one to your academic advisor!), that was an important statement for me. It still is today.
How do we as church communities encourage each other to walk with each other in the mud?



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cas

posted December 23, 2008 at 12:01 pm


Diane P,
Thanks for that. I’ve copied the quote.



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Mary

posted December 23, 2008 at 12:12 pm


As one who has experienced profound abuse and also as a social worker, I?ve put a lot of thought into this topic but with very little resolve. I?ve been in a sort of theological crisis for the past several years- caught in between orthodox evangelical theology (what I know and think to be true) and open theism (what I have been taught to think is wrong). I think the open theist?s answer to suffering provides much more comfort and intellectual satisfaction to those in pain, but it?s difficult for me to embrace. However, I do think I am slowly yet surely (and unintentionally) inching my way there. I have definitely abandoned Calvinism.
I will say that I think it is actually easier for victims to believe in God than a bystander. Suffering creates a posture conducive to being desperate for the comfort of God. However, those in the throes of pain do not necessarily want to be part of Christian culture and all the rules and regulations it involves. The church too often wants to do the job of convicting when in fact it is the Holy Spirit?s job. For example, gays and lesbians have the highest rate of suicide?which is a pretty reliable barometer of pain if the only perceived option for comfort is to end one?s life. And yet, I don?t think the church provides an avenue for them to really pursue God without the unremitting condemnation.



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Elizabeth Chapin

posted December 23, 2008 at 12:49 pm


I appreciate Scot’s question, “How can this letter writer believe in a God who permits a world with this kind of evil?” To me, this question leads to the search of who God really is. We so often have this misconception that if God is really God then he will just wipe out all the evil people and leave only the good to survive. The problem with this thinking is that we would all be dead. Certainly, “this kind of evil” troubles us more than the everyday evil of greed, lust, envy, wrath, etc. but nonetheless, God wants to deliver us not only from evil doers, but from doing evil.
It seems our focus on justice is delivering the victims from the oppressors – but who is working to deliver the oppressors from evil so they will stop doing evil? While we must certainly work towards justice for the oppressed, we must not forget to be messengers of mercy not only for the victims but for the abusers.
My father abused my family – I still ask the questions, “Where were you, God? Why didn’t you stop him!?!” Which I think is a part of the letter writer’s questioning – “where are you, God and why don’t you stop this kind of evil?” My answers to the why are feeble, but I do believe God is with us in these situations and desires to deliver us all from the power of evil. I can say with faith that God delivered my father in many ways and has given my mother, sister and I mercy and grace to extend to him. I believe he received God’s grace and while he still struggled with anger issues for most of his life, he is now free from all of that in the presence of the Lord.
May God have mercy on us all.



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Hugh Hollowell

posted December 23, 2008 at 12:51 pm


“How can this letter writer believe in a God who permits a world with this kind of evil?”
I am competely with Julie. God did not permit this: we did.
God had a plan to prevent this: God’s plan is us.
God had a plan, but we wanted to make the plan something else (that generally did not involve us getting our hands dirty). Then, when we get different results, we are ready to blame God for it.



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Brian in NZ

posted December 23, 2008 at 1:05 pm


I certainly think that faith and hope are possible for anyone, regardless of how painful or hopeless their situations appear to be. The rise of soul music came out of a very dark period during the black slavery in the US. The slaves had little or no physical hope of freedom in this world, thus leaving them with the hope of freedom in the next. They put their hope and trust in a God who would fulfill their dreams, but didn’t expect to see it in their lifetimes.
Our current world places so much emphasis on the importance of us having a comfortable lifestyle, lack of pain or inconvenience, etc, that we as Christians have come to believe it to be a God given birthright. We forget that most of human history has lived without this universal belief in human rights.
Is God diminished because we have pain (emotional or physical) in this life? If we see God as the Santa who gives us good gifts in this world, then the answer will probably be yes, but if we see God as the creator of eternity, then the answer may be no.



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BeckyR

posted December 23, 2008 at 1:18 pm


I grew up in a household with evil. I turned to the christian faith because I saw love in it. Perhaps that is how people immersed in evil can come to believe. The yearning to be loved. God courted me with his love and learning of his love has been the theme for 33 yrs. What do they have for hope if they do not believe. I inventory my faith from time to time and what I come up with is I cannot live as if there isn’t the christian God. What is there for optimism, for hope, without the christian God. That’s one of the bottom lines that oome up with me. God may woo them. A piece of their heart may be pricked by the something good in the faith. And that pricking may urge them to move on to get more of what is in the pricking. There’s my 2 cents.



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Terry

posted December 23, 2008 at 1:19 pm


>>> Scot #11 “How can this letter writer believe in a God who permits a world with this kind of evil?”
This is a tough question, and one that — even as a pastor — I have been forced to deal with and live with personally. A few years ago it was discovered that a staff pastor in our congregation had been molesting my young daughter. It had gone on for more than four years, and right under my nose. Under my nose while I prayed for her, prayed for him, ministered to him, asked God questions about him… the devastation in my daughter’s life, my marriage, my family and my congregation couldn’t be exaggerated.
My choice, thus far, and it has been exceptionally difficult as I continue to share from the Scriptures and minister to the needs of others all week long, has been to believe in a God (our God) that has permitted this. To recognize that my idea of God doesn’t shape Him, but rather God Himself is to shape me and my understanding of Him.
Those events changed everything — including my views of God and Scripture. The one thing that hasn’t changed is God Himself. I may not have understanding, but I understand enough to know that God is God. That has been better than any understanding — even if it were completely right — that I could ever come to.
This is likely of little help to others, but it has made all the difference to me.



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BeckyR #2

posted December 23, 2008 at 1:47 pm


For those who performend evil on me, free will is a great encourager for me. The perpertrator is responsible for what they did and will be held accountable for it when they face God. God is only responsible in allowing us to do what we do. God is not the bad God, he does not do the evil, humans are the bad guys. It also lends hope to know this is not the end of the story. The end is 1) when the perp is before God and held acoountable and 2) when Christ returns and there is no more evil. That is a great hope for me. As for my perp, hopsfully God has more mercy than I can imagine and will have that for her at the end, and is extending it to her daily now.



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ChrisB

posted December 23, 2008 at 3:03 pm


With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.



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dopderbeck

posted December 23, 2008 at 3:05 pm


Wow — thanks to all the folks who have been sharing their stories on this thread! Literally, you all brought me to tears! I’m truly awed by the faith and resolve you’re showing by sharing these stories.
Hugh (#32) — c’mon, do you really think that’s an adequate explanation? What kind of God makes plans that (a) he either knows will be foiled; or (b) that he is surprised to find are foiled? You have to do better than that for all the innocent victims out there.



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Mark

posted December 23, 2008 at 3:30 pm


I am a pastor who has suffered little if at all but I meet regularly with people who have suffered greatly, including repeated sexual abuse. In thinking about believing in a God who permits this kind of evil I go back to incarnation and the cross. What was God’s motivation for creating humanity and for choosing to become part of the human race forever in the second member of the trinity? There is no one to whom God is answerable, no one who can force God to do anything. God was in no way obligated to become human and go to the cross. How does it bring God glory- who is God trying to impress and why does God need to be glorified (as if God needs anything)?
If God ultimately exists as a relationship- a perfect love relationship among three in one, then God did not need an object to love. Rather, God chose to create us in order to invite us to particpate in this love realtionship. Somehow the knowledge of the suffering that would occur because free will is necessary for love to exist was worth it in God’s mind. I don’t understand how that could be but I know He subjects Himself to it even though He didn’t have to. Somehow an immutable God was fundamentally changed forever at the moment of incarnation. Somehow something took place on the cross between the Father and the Son that is not fully comprehensible to us. And through it God’s love for us is expressed-it was His motivation for doing it.
This knowledge is useless to a 5 year old being repeatedly abused by a “trusted” family member. I want love to protect her, to protect me. But no matter what evil is committed somehow it does not detract from God’s love for us. I just don’t know why else Jesus would have become human and died for us if He didn’t love us.



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Hugh Hollowell

posted December 23, 2008 at 4:54 pm


dopderbeck (#38)
I subscribe to a generally open view of God, so I think God has knowledge of all possible outcomes, but not the specific outcome. I believe he knew it was possible we would ignore his plan, and if we did choose to ignore his plan he knew the consequences, but I do not believe he had complete foreknowledge that the world would end up the way it is.
In America, we spend 450 Billion dollars on Christmas, and just 9 billion would give fresh, clear, safe drinking water to the whole world. How do we explain THAT to all those victims out there? God is not making people die of disease–we are.
All the prayer in the world will not change that.



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dopderbeck

posted December 23, 2008 at 7:15 pm


Hugh (#40) — I appreciate what your saying, but I think it’s really unsatisfying for at least three reasons.
1 — IMHO, it’s a view of God that doesn’t square with scripture, reason or the tradition. Why worship such an anemic god?
2 — Even if the future is ontologically undetermined, as you note, God foreknew all possible outcomes — and so He is still liable for going forward with a plan that could result in such terrible suffering.
3 — As a stronger version of 2, God not only foreknew what could possibly happen, he would have know what would probably happen. The consequences of God-given freedom seem inevitably to lead to rebellion (it happened with the angels, right?).
As to the thing about Africa — yes, BUT — enough aid money is already given in many places — the problem isn’t the money, it’s the corrupt governments that steal the aid. Moreover, no amount of donated money will stop sex trafficking. We in the rich world bear some responsibility, very true — but there are evil people in the poor world preying on the poor as well. In any event, none of this absolves God for creating a world in which He knew, to at least some degree of probability even from an open theist perspective, that this would happen.
I personally find Mark’s (#39) answer more satisfying — “I really don’t know, but from what I know of God in Christ, this is what I cling to in faith….”



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Doug Allen

posted December 23, 2008 at 8:25 pm


First let me say I have great sympathy and some empathy with the letter writer and the person raped and sold into slavery. As usual, I am impressed by Julie’s comments #17.
I usually read all the comments before posting, but RJS #13 made a point that really confuses me about Christianity-
“One of the core pieces of the gospel story is judgment and accountability. Death is not the finish line and there is no cheating to pass the test. So — why can we believe in God in the presence of great human evil? Because there will be judgment and accounting.”
One of the problems I have with Christianity (or is it just a problem of understanding Christianity?) is what so many Christians believe (many of you frequently post it here) that all sinners are forgiven in Christ and that this woman’s rapists, captors who sold her into slavery, captors who hold her in sexual slavery, and those that further abuse her may all be forgiven and suffer no consequences. I’ve read that there are a larger per centage of born again Christians in prison than any where else. I find the tragedy of this woman’s life heartbreaking. Yes, I strongly believe we should forgive each other, but my sorrow at this woman’s bondage and abuse is only magnified by the Christian orthodoxy that we sinners are need not be held accountable. Is there any justice anywhere? Now you know one reason I put so much emphasis on justice in the hear and now.
Doug



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Your Name

posted December 23, 2008 at 9:56 pm


Sharon #12:
Good questions. I have asked them myself. Is the God I believe in something I created to help me through suffering? Maybe. That is how my family see it. But my husband, who once threatened to divorce me if I became “some sort of religious nut”, has seen that the choice to believe has kept me from possible self-destruction and is now supportive, even if still an atheist himself. He is grateful that my daughter is now attending a church – a downtown church next to the hospital which is a centre for the treatment of AIDS and drug addiction, which welcomes and affirms all.
It seems to me that we have no concrete proof either way of the existence of God so we choose. I chose to believe because it gives me strength and hope and makes meaning of suffering. Yes, it could all be a fantasy, but what if it is? What have I lost? Looking a little foolish, or even a lot foolish? I can live with that.
If God is just my longing for justice, mercy and redemption and that longing makes me work for those things, is that a bad thing? If God is just the best part of us and some of us need to externalize that in order to realize it, I can’t see that that is wrong. When everything is broken down into subatomic parts and particle waves the concrete “reality” that we experience may be nothing more than perception in any case, so my “truth” is as valid as that of the atheist. It took me a good year or more to move from atheist to believer. I prayed every night to a God I didn’t believe in. What can I say? God spoke to me and now I believe.
Why choose the Christian God? Another good question. I am not an exclusivist. I believe that God speaks to people through other faiths and that God listens to their prayers and knows their hearts. God is very big and his grace very wide. For every faith the question of why we suffer is central. However, I needed God right away and I had a head start on being a Christian because I grew up in North America. THis is the reason I think the Christian view of God is best:
1. God gives us the means through his laws to create a perfect world. OK, so we can’t actually be sure whether some of the laws are His or what ancient people thought sounded good, but the basic Jesus Creed of Love God (if your view of God is very vague like mine was, read: love and choose that which is good, noble, beautiful, etc. See Phillipians 4:8) and Love Your Neighbour can’t be faulted.
2. The basic story of Christianity is of God redeeming creation and calling us to be part of that.
3. The message of hope in the resurrection. Even if you believe that the resurrection is just a metaphor for the freedom to start again it gives us a reason to carry on.
4. Jesus’ message of forgiveness is what we have to eventually accomplish if we are to ever achieve a peaceable Kingdom – and I believe that God calls us to participate in creating that Kingdom.
Without that message of hope, our suffering and death mean nothing. We are left with the bitter taste of injustice that will never be righted. There are things worse than pain and even death. Living without purpose is one of them.
Doperbeck:
I started out believing in an anemic God – that is one that wanted things to be different, but just kept getting blind-sided by the evil we do. Sort of a fire-fighter God. You know, God’s doing His best but the universe is a big place to try and run and He can’t do everything by himself – especially with that whole “free will” thing in place. But He suffers with us and does His best to make things work out for the best.
But I agree, what sort of God is that? Trust, to me, defines God. If we can’t trust God, what is the point? How can you trust a God who isn’t quite sure what might happen tomorrow, a God who gets caught by surprise. A God who really wants everyone to be saved, but darn it, our free will is just too mighty for him. But if God is sovereign and does have a plan and has thought of all the possibilities, then why does He allow suffering? I know some believe that no one is innocent, so no one has a right not to be punished in this life and eternally, but let’s face it, there are degrees of evil and innocence. Can we trust a God who allows the innocent to suffer? What sort of God is that?
I therefore believe that in God’s plan there is a place for suffering and a reason for it. Those who suffer in this life are not forgotten by God and will have their reward which will make their suffering here insignificant – as the pains of childbirth are forgotten (well somewhat) when you hold that beautiful child in your arms. However, I am with Hugh on this: we, as a race, create most of our own suffering. God does not cause suffering. He allows it. As a parent allows their child to fall so that they can learn to walk. He has plans for us, not just as individuals, but as a race and as part of creation. Some individuals do more then their share in their sacrifice and suffering and that sacrifice has been noted.
Eric said in #26 that sufferers do not want to be told that their suffering has a higher purpose. THis is not what they need to hear and I agree. We can support them by giving them a place and space to heal, by honoring what they have been through and by fighting the injustice that caused them to suffer.



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mariam

posted December 23, 2008 at 10:03 pm


that long comment in #43 was me, although I’m a bit embarrased to admit. Sometimes “your name” is a good moniker.



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Your Name

posted December 24, 2008 at 1:15 am


Very interesting posts…I wish words were enough. I wish words could portray the woman in the articles suffering. Fortunately, that is the beauty of drama, music, art…it gives voice to things that cannot be portrayed by words alone.
But…this is a blog…so..it is with words that I write. Imagine this woman: She was taken from her home, and promised a better life. She was given hope. Only to be betrayed by the very women who were supposed to help her. Not only was she betrayed, but she was sold into a lifestyle – where she was to serve men 20-30, a day. Stop…think about this. It was not clean. It was dark. It was dirty. She was not just raped by one man, but two, three, four, five….all day, every day. She was used like a dirty rag. A dirty rag probably has more dignity than she experienced.
It is easy to discuss philosophy and theology on a blog, much more difficult to discuss reality-to walk in anothers reality. Think about the burn units in hospitals or even the childrens hospital… I ‘m reminded of a man……cancer, almost every joint needed replacement….immense amount of pain, medication didn’t touch the physical pain….asked him what kept him going…he said that one walk through the childrens hospital…and “I know I am a lucky man.”
Everyone must find meaning, hope, something to carry them through suffering. Viktr Frankl, holocaust survivor once said “The last of human freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
I once spoke to a man who served in the US military….genocide…still has trouble with babies. Why? Oh….it was because he had to toss thousands of dead childrens bodies into graves. He still can smell that smell.
Our world is littered with pain and suffering – and we have all lived our stories or seen and heard the stories of others. Once you see it…can’t ignore. Or can we? I certainly do. My life would look a whole lot different, if I didn’t. I think most people’s lives would look a lot more like Mother Teresa if we did not ignore it.
With that being said. I am among those that create suffering. Even something as small as driving my car, using heat, drinking the water I drink…we can all trace back the seemingly innocent things we do, and find that somehow, somewhere we are causing or contributing to suffering. The very pain each of us has – whether emotional or physical…We have indirectly/directly caused another. Paying ttaxes to the government….whether knowingly or unknowingly we contribute suffering in the world. No person is conscientious enough to live a life void of this. Alas….one at one time or another – either faces this reality or runs. Man can either run from the depravity or face it.
Facing this woman head on…if I were to walk in her shoes….I would have to wonder if I would even know of a better life. I have to wonder….I may think the brothel was all there is. Why not? If that had been my reality. What if the woman was shown another world, …if she was given the chance to meet safe “christian, loving people”. If I were to walk in her shoes…knowing that way of life was abusive – that could be one of the most painful experiences. Facing ones reality. Sometimes if we are ignorant to bad intentions…much like denial works in the grief process…it is much easier to cope. But…once she realizes that which was done to her – then comes an emotional pain, I would never want to experience as long as I live on this earth.
Have you ever seen a burn victim without pain medication…or sometimes even with pain medication….I would have to imagine that pain would be similar.
Ok…done with my illustrations. My point. I am not smart enough to know why. Why the suffering? Who is God? People describe the christian God as merciful and just. Now let’s take reality and compare. A woman with that much pain – God, merciful? Not so sure I agree….one of the bloggers suggested..well, several…that God created us; that love is what the woman needs-that is God’s example of mercy. Are you telling me that one of us is going to walk with this woman all day every day? No. Impossible. She has to live with her pain every minute, hour, day, year. In addition, she is not the only one. She is one, among many. You may say….well, God is to walk with her. Tell that to one who suffers. I don’t care if God is walking with her…much like the burn victim screams in pain (medication can’t touch)…the person still feels the pain. Therefore, despite the fact that someone may be kind and helpful, or help with a home…wonderful things…that person still has to walk with either emotional pain or physical pain every minute, every hour, of every day. If we were honest with ourselves…one would soon realize they need more than God. They need something else. God….can provide hope….but one must create their own meaning in suffering, if God works…so be it. I have found living a life of compassion and love is helpful. By giving, loving, being kind, trying to live a life of compassion and empathy is the only way that I can live with myself – and I fall way short, all the time.
So… – God isn’t enough for the sufferer….God does not relieve the pain. The christian response varies: Some say that there is a special place in heaven for the sufferer, or others say that suffering is necessary to show good, some say that suffering produces faith-blessed are those who mourn, or others say…that the christian life is not to be pain-free….tell that to those who suffer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you got a smack in the face.
Bottom line. Those answers aren’t good enough for me. I would say…life purpose, to me is..to help end suffering. The golden rule, treat others the way you want to be treated. By living a life of love, kindness, goodness, etc…we will never end the suffering of the world, but we can at least tip the scales. And…do something….. So…who is God? Which God is right? Which religion? Christianity? One can spend hours debating the ins and outs of God, his character, the church….but frankly, who really knows? Who could even fathom or have any clue….is the bible literal or figurative? Slavery or no slavery? Women in the church or not? Really…..it’s all becoming a bit old to me. Whatever happened to loving your neighbor. Hmm….don’t think you have to go to church for that. Christian rituals…so silly….and if the christian devil is real…probably laughing. I bet religion and christianity is one of his tools. Really, I think many people are right….we have to do something, and who, what, why God does what God does….I don’t know. And…really….if you pretend to know…I have to wonder….I am sure there is a higher power…but to waste time figuring out…seems to take away from the mission….why aren’t there more mother teresas? I’m tired….:)



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Michael Phillips

posted December 24, 2008 at 3:29 am


Many comments seem to indicate that there is a need for hope and that belief in god creates that hope. I imagine that many an atheist or agnostic would consider these beliefs just wishful thinking. As a christian I realize we all need a crutch, but a crutch that is imaginary is not helpful, and in fact will cause greater pain for ourselves and those who suffer from our resulting anger (or perhaps, indifference).
I have found that the Biblical description of God turns a theoretical subject matter into reality. I realize that there are many passages that do not seem to be intergrated with the messages of a majority of other passages. But I have found that reading about these ?contradictions? have, in a majority of cases, revealed a much wiser and powerful God than I had previously known. Also, it logically explains much of the life I have experienced and observed. The result of our Savior?s life on this earth and His teachings and sacrifice has made clear many of the OT lessons. (But not all, not yet.) The continued existence of followers of Christ, whose original members were persecuted and had no power is further evidence of the Biblical God?s existence and power. And for me especially, the Book of Job, which I understand is the oldest book written, has an abundance of wisdom about who God is that seems to go beyond any other belief system and seems to go beyond what I have read in history books about the wisdom of any ancient culture. I think I have a real crutch to rest upon! I have faith in what God will do and trust in what He will do because of the evidence He has given of His existence.
Here is an example of the (seemingly convoluted) wisdon God imparts. In Job, God in chapters 40 and 41 describes the great strenght of the beast and the levithian. God makes Job aware that he cannot handle these creatures, which are pictures of self sufficiency and pride that are part of Job himself. God in this situation makes it clear that He is in control over all evil.
We want to fix injustices and help those who are ?unfortunate?. But, it seems that those who are hurting and obviously suffer from the effects of evil have been stripped of pride and are more likely helping us through their great faith and reliance on God. We should continue to help others, not that we will eradicate evil or that we can erase the pain others feel, but so we can be drawn closer to a wholesome relationship with God.
As I jotted these thoughts down I see post 46:
?I don’t care if God is walking with her…much like the burn victim screams in pain (medication can’t touch)…the person still feels the pain. Therefore, despite the fact that someone may be kind and helpful, or help with a home…wonderful things…that person still has to walk with either emotional pain or physical pain every minute, every hour, of every day. If we were honest with ourselves…one would soon realize they need more than God. They need something else. God….can provide hope….but one must create their own meaning in suffering, if God works…so be it. ?
IMHO, I think that the meaning must come from the Creator, than some imaginery or cobbled together meaning a human might create.
?So… – God isn’t enough for the sufferer….God does not relieve the pain.?
IMHO, God does not relieve the pain, in every instance. But God does use pain, and injustice, and evil to serve His ends (which includes loving us).
?I have found living a life of compassion and love is helpful. By giving, loving, being kind, trying to live a life of compassion and empathy is the only way that I can live with myself – and I fall way short, all the time.
By living a life of love, kindness, goodness, etc…we will never end the suffering of the world, but we can at least tip the scales. And…do something…..
And…really….if you pretend to know…I have to wonder….I am sure there is a higher power…but to waste time figuring out…seems to take away from the mission….why aren’t there more mother teresas? I’m tired….:)?
The need to do ?something, anything? seems to me to be another imaginery crutch. I see the need to do ?something, anything? lead peple into poor situations. To choose a mission that relies upon your efforts, acknowleding that you fall short, all the time, must make one tired. But, to ?waste time? figuring out who God is may add to the mission, may give it real purpose that energizes you knowing that through God?s provisions for us, the war is won, even as we fight the battles of this earth.
There is real justice in God?s creation, and it exists with foregiveness. God, kmowing that evil would exist on earth, planned from OT times to send His Son into our world to die for all the sins of the world. The rapists and abusers do suffer consequences in this world, a major consequence, they are separated futher from God. It is such a major consequence that Jesus cried out on the Cross, ?My God, why have You forsaken Me?? So they are held accountable and miss a great blessing here on earth. But because of forgiveness and Christ?s death on the Cross, they have the opportunity to go home to their Father. If we spend much time mulling over punishing the injustice of others we will miss seeing the same sin in ourselves and be like the older son in Like 15. We should try to stop injustice. But, if that is our primary mission, we too could commit grave injustices. For example, would God be glorified if, in an attempt to stop abortions, we killed abortionists. Or maybe just tortured them. I could consider additional objections here over possible contradictions but my post is already too long. Suffice it to say Christians will disagree over how far we should go to stop injustice. Remember, Jephthah is in the the hall of faith in Hebrews 11.



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Susie

posted December 24, 2008 at 6:51 am


“I have found that the Biblical description of God turns a theoretical subject matter into reality. I realize that there are many passages that do not seem to be intergrated with the messages of a majority of other passages. But I have found that reading about these ?contradictions? have, in a majority of cases, revealed a much wiser and powerful God than I had previously known. ”
47…interesting post….however, using the above quote…it seems you are OK with the majority of cases. You would bet your whole life on a majority of cases? It seems much like the research project or the ideology one comes up with….decides on and then looks for confirming evidence. Accepts that which confirms…and makes all else fit the confirmation. Not safe, I’m afraid. Hmm…I think I’ll pick mormonism….there are man who love God just as much as you I am sure, who serve God just as much…I know them. However, they will rule a planet. You will not. I would rather be a mormon. I can OK mormonism just as well as you can. In the majority of cases it reveals a wiser and powerful, more so than I had previously known….to quote you. My point is not to argue which religion is true…only to say it seems silly to make a point, choose a belief system…and to find all evidence that confirms. Seems limited at best.
“IMHO, God does not relieve the pain, in every instance. But God does use pain, and injustice, and evil to serve His ends (which includes loving us). ”
Are you making excuses for God? Now that one cannot answer the question…he is suddenly teaching a lesson – are you God? Or…are you looking for meaning in your unanswerable question. Or finding meaning. It’s OK…I do it to. But, it certainly does not make God powerful…
What is wrong with feeling tired? Somebody has to fight the injustice. Not out of pride or ego….just a deep stirring…that given the same situation as many….one would will or want some sort of way out of the pain. Compassion…entering the deep suffering of another, and wanting to relieve it. Jesus seems like a great representation of compassion. Surely…it would be great if Jesus was real? But we can’t be certain. I know of many kind, good natured, loving, caring…non-christians ….with huge hearts, and many christians cold as ice. Would think one who is loving would bring more to end suffering…seems to give purpose to life. Why must one follow Jesus or God…who blog 47 has already agreed there are contradictions….when one can love without. You say it’s not possible?? Join the peace corps.



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Scot McKnight

posted December 24, 2008 at 8:21 am


Your Name and Susie (same person?),
Thanks for writing in and for your deeply-felt perceptions and thoughts. I have one question, and it springs from my perception that you struggle with faith because of the injustices of this world:
What kind of world would it take for you to think it just? Or, what would a just world look like?
That’s a very serious question for me. And it can lead to this:
Do we have that kind of world? If not, why do you think not? (Even if we can’t answer that question.)
Now it comes back to this for me: In light of the world that we do live in, a world where there is both injustice and a striving for justice, what is the best way to live?
Eli Wiesel, meeting with the famed Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, said that after the Holocaust he could not believe in God. The Rebbe said back, “No, after the Holocaust you cannot not believe in God.”
We don’t know why God made the world that we live in; we know that we create injustices all around. Who is to blame?



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Scot McKnight

posted December 24, 2008 at 8:25 am


Your Name,
You ask either an arm chair question or a deeply haunting question: Why are there not more Mother Theresas?
Let me ask you one or two questions back:
Are you one?
What should we be doing if we are all Mother Theresas?
How do you strive to end injustices in this world?
I’m not seeking to push back but I’m seeking to probe how it is that you are working this out yourself. Your question is too deep to be left unanswered.



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cas

posted December 24, 2008 at 9:42 am


It seems to me that some skeptical commenters are confusing mystery with fantasy. In suffering, logic fails. It does not comfort because the apparent injustice of the suffering makes no sense. However, sometimes when we are in agony, we find comfort and recognize that it comes from God.



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Marcia

posted December 24, 2008 at 10:51 am


I attended the Willow Creek service, also–well, part of it. When they showed the video of the little girl giving pricing information for sexual services, I grabbed my things and did the “walk of shame”, sobbing as people stared and I hurried away. I was about the same age as that little girl when my father stopped molesting me.
Someone asked me once if I was angry with God, blamed Him, and without thinking, I replied that God was my only hope. How could I let go of Him? The little girls who grow up safe and loved are the ones that I think have a harder time trusting. How can you seek God when you don’t need Him?
I am the walking wounded. I struggle every day to be an adult, a wife, a mother, sometimes just to exist. I don’t expect to see complete healing this side of eternity. But I cling to a God who walks with me, and to a hope that some day I will have a whole heart.



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Your Name

posted December 24, 2008 at 11:24 am


“How can this letter writer believe in a God who permits a world with this kind of evil?”
Could it be that the woman who actually *suffered* the ineffable evil is more likely to believe in God than the letter writer who only heard about it and struggles with *a God who permits this kind of evil*?
If God can’t stop it, God is anemic.
If God can stop it and doesn’t, God is a monster.
Calvinism has screwed more people than Calvinists are willing to admit.



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John W Frye

posted December 24, 2008 at 11:27 am


Oops! I am sorry. In comment #53 I meant to write “Calvinism has screwed up more people…”



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Susie

posted December 24, 2008 at 5:13 pm


Scot…
By the way great questions. Forgot to say. I’ve made my life about answering those questions. Reminded of a poem by an early monk…
When I was young I tried to change the world…great read.
Or…the quote by Ghandi…be the change you wish to be in the world.
The only way I have found to live…is all the injustice I see, feel, hear…is I try to be more honest, more loving, more kind….more warm. I try to take every pain I see….and turn it around. It is the only way I can live. In my darkest moment…I had so much despair…faced with my own depravity and helplessnes…but then realized the only I could do to fight all I feel…or find a reason to press on…was to “lose my life in the service of others”…can’t remember who wrote that. But…I’m also a fan of the quote…you make a living by what you get…a life by what you give.”
The Bible seems like a bunch of baloney to me at times…but I think in the end I believe in Jesus. Sat down one spring break in college read the whole new testament…studied Jesus….compassionate guy. Ghandi is to. Mother Teresa is too. I am miles away…they are my heros. Christianity…still up in the air. Maybe I’ll go to hell. But…I would rather pursue a life of loving than be concerned with the silly things christians I have met seem concerned about. If I met a christian with a heart of Gold…imagine I would be sold. Yet to have that happen….



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Susie

posted December 25, 2008 at 12:11 am


Scot,
Hmm…that was unfortunate…I did answer the questions you posed…somehow did not make the blog. Will try again.
You ask either an arm chair question or a deeply haunting question: Why are there not more Mother Theresas?
Let me ask you one or two questions back:
Are you one?
I am certianly not a Mother Teresa.
What should we be doing if we are all Mother Theresas?
Denying self.
How do you strive to end injustices in this world?
About ten years ago…after a low moment, sat down, read the New Testament…studied Jesus. And…I said to myself, well…if I’m going to be a christian – I surely should live a life that looks like Christ. Joined an organization that traveled around the U.S. doing service projects. From what I read, Jesus spent time with the poor. So…that is what I did. I then realized that I needed a skill. So…I got a degree in the medical field…and am working in a medical profession. I learned quickly it may not be what we do that matters…it is who we are that does. It does not matter what I do in many cases….so every day I try to be loving and generous and kind. I realize the only person I can change is myself. I can become more kind, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more generous, etc….I try to love my patients. I fail miserably most days…worked today, which is probably why I was a bit cavalier with my last comment….but, I give to my church, perform disaster relief,work in a giving profession – try to go above and beyond…, and do secret giving to those in need. Try to love my family, and pay off money for the wonderful debt I have incurred from my medical education.
How do I end the injustices….just trying to change myself at the moment…will be going to africa hopefully on a medical mission. Medical debt can be tricky…
Do I think I do enough. No way. So selfish in so many ways.
In response to your other post..
“What kind of world would it take for you to think it just? Or, what would a just world look like?”
Great question. Simply – A just world would be one where the innocent did not suffer, evil punished, and goodness abounds. A world where a child in a mothers womb is not killed by a drunk driver. However, I am not looking for a just world. I am looking for an answer to pain. A way to relieve suffering. I am looking for a why? I suppose…the Job question. And…unanswerable, I’m finding…at least from posts I’ve read. I’m afraid I knew this before joining the conversation…but I suppose there is still some part of me that hopes there is an answer out there, that somewhere, somehow…someone does know the why. I here all the blog posts trying to explain…but have heard it all before. Clearly, I am not intelligent enough to understand the why?
“That’s a very serious question for me. And it can lead to this:
Do we have that kind of world? If not, why do you think not? (Even if we can’t answer that question.)”
No…I do not believe we have that kind of world….and, as I mentioned before…I don’t know why. I don’t know why a young child…who has not the ability to think of harming….can be killed, raped, or abused. Not intelligent enough…I suppose to answer.
Now it comes back to this for me: In light of the world that we do live in, a world where there is both injustice and a striving for justice, what is the best way to live?
I choose striving for justice. But…that is a conclusion, I have already come to many years ago…and, as mentioned before…why I’ve chosen the life path I have.
But…because I have chosen this life path. Where….I seek to listen, to understand, to empathize….my heart breaks everyday. And….I have to wonder if God is good enough. I see so much pain all the time, so many stories….spent many years in christian ministry….have heard many, too many heart breaking stories….I choose to live a life that fights injustice…and seeks to love….but apparently, according to many bloggers…..I am self centered in this pursuit…as I am apparently doing it for some unknown gain. Sure….a person can never be sure of his/her intentions…and I’m willing to bet mine may be purely selfish…but I would have to say….many times my very reason for stepping in…is I cannot imagine being in that kind of pain…and I would want someone to understand, help, empathize with me….so that is what I try to do for others. I have a yearning to help relieve their pain. If that is selfish…then, selfish I must be. I thought it was compassion. But…apparently, if I don’t call myself a christian….it’s selfish…but if I call my self a christian it is compassionate living.
My question to you:
What if my desires are in line with the christian God – I pursue a life of goodness, gentleness, self-control, love, don’t seek power, money, sex….however, don’t trust man – man wrote the bible, man leads the church, etc….
So….do not formally call myself a christian. Decide not to join this “religion”. Rather follow a loving God…who looks a lot like the christian God…but without dealing with the christian church, setting questions aside about figurative vs literal? Design vs evolution? Etc…and just live a life of loving….
Not certain of Jesus…not certain of a lot in the bible…but have chosen to walk the path to fight injustice….for the past 10 years. In that time…God has not brought any revelations about truth – so…one person suggested, just jumping in…and seeing what God will do. So…I’m waiting. Have been for 10 years.



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Scot McKnight

posted December 25, 2008 at 9:31 pm


Susie,
I can’t discern if you are selfish or self-sacrificing and I won’t even enter into that kind of set of categories. Nor is this about your intelligence. You are addressing a question that has no answer that satisfies everyone or every issue involved.
I’m relieved you aren’t thinking the world is just; you admit the world is unjust. That’s rock-solidly important for me. What’s also important to me is this: I believe in God and in Christ and I think somehow, and beyond our understanding, God made a world in which we live where massive injustices occur. These injustices somehow both risk our capacity to believe there even is a God and yet somehow (at the same time) lead us into questing for that God and understanding why.
I live in this unjust world in hope (believing in a God and in a world where all injustices will be undone and the final result will be even better than the sufferings of this unjust world) and faith (in a God who has revealed enough of himself in Christ to make me think it’s all true and that the Story of Christ makes sense of the world in which we live) and action (to work for that just world and in the teeth of injustice, yet knowing that we cannot undo it yet). There is one more point here that I think is not addressed often enough: I believe God enters into our suffering in order to redeem it. The oddest thing about the Christian faith is the Cross and the really odd thing about it is that God reveals himself right smack-dab in the middle of a huge injustice and undoes it and transforms it so that the suffering event of injustice becomes the redeeming event of justice. That God enters into suffering with us is very important to me.
What if … I like your question. And I’d put it this way: keep after that way, seek God, God reveals himself over time to those who are open to who God truly is, and keep your hands on that Bible that tells you about Jesus Christ.



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