When Keith and I were first married (about 10 or so years ago) it was during a time in my spiritual journey when I was searching for my way spiritually. I was filled with angst over several “big ticket” spiritual paradoxes.
Hell was not an issue since I never really believed in hell. True, until I happened upon the Tentmaker sight, I couldn’t actually support universalism via scripture but that was mainly because I was a new Christian and didn’t know that much about scripture. Through Tentmaker and other similar sites, I eventually learned that virtually all scriptures that preach a hot, eternal hell can be explained.
And I had never been used or abused by religion…what I’ve heard Lynn Hiles refer to as “hoodwinked or bamboozled” by religion.
One of my biggies was free will versus sovereignty. But the biggest biggie….which could actually be deemed a sub category of determinism….the one that dogged me for years….was the POE. The problem of evil.
Keith and I talked endlessly about it. He is very settled in his beliefs and has no problem seeing God as the cause of all the things in the world that we, in our short sighted humanness, deem evil. If not Him, then who? The “devil”? Evil men? The idea that any one or any thing could wreak havoc outside of the plan and purpose of God was far more troubling.
This view was….totally unacceptable to me. Yet, a good case can be made to support it. Believe me, Keith came up with many, many arguments. None sufficed. None appeased. None let God off the hook.
Yeah…I know….who are you, oh man, to talk back to God. Does the clay have the right to get pissy with the potter? But I did….and I seethed with unanswered questions and the utter outrage at the unfairness of the way He set things up.
And during our discussions, Keith would often point out how those who suffered the greatest evils, like the Christian martyrs, were given a depth of spiritual bliss that the rest of us did not experience. One name in particular came up often.
His books line the bottom shelf in the book case in the living room. Richard Wumbrand. At the time, I didn’t want to hear about spiritual bliss in exchange for horrific suffering. Not fair. Not acceptable.
And now…ten years later, I still don’t have any definitive answers. I do have some intuitive beliefs that have given me peace. I am not haunted anymore by the questions.
Oddly, a quote by Wumbrand….whose mistreatment “at the hands of the Communists” but allegedly purposed by God casts the faintest light of understanding on the POE.
"God sees things differently than we see them, just as we see differently than an ant. From the human point of view, to be tied to a cross and smeared with excrement is a horrible thing. Nonetheless, the Bible calls the sufferings of martyrs light afflictions. To be in prison for fourteen years is a long period to us. The Bible calls it 'but for a moment,' and tells us that these things are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2Co 4:17). This gives us the right to suppose that the fierce crimes of the Communists, which are inexcusable to us, are lighter in the eyes of God than they are in our eyes. Their tyranny, which has lasted almost an entire century, may be before God, for whom a thousand years are like one day, only a moment of erring astray. They still have the possibility of being saved." Tortured For Christ
And another comment articulated by a young mother on a Christian message board cast another dim beam of light. She talked about her kids…and skinned knees. How, when they skinned their knees, it was like THE WORST THING THAT COULD EVER HAPPEN TO ANYONE EVER….FOR ALL TIME. That was the skinned knee seen through the eyes of the child. A skinned knee seen through the eyes of a parent….well, she knew that this too would pass and that in the grand scheme of things, a skinned knee was really not that big of a deal. Even if the injury was the result of being pushed or tripped. So she hugged them, wiped their tears away and told them it would be okay.
And doesn’t God do the same thing for us. He wipes our tears. He tells us it will be okay. Through the Apostle Paul, God tells us that these light momentary afflictions (skinned knees) are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…..in us.
In this earthly realm those promises still ring kind of hollow. For the families of the victims of the Colorado shooting, the verse in Romans might be very little comfort.
Perhaps we are like little kids with skinned knees. What seems utterly unredeemable in our eyes to God is not really a problem. The Bible says He will work all things together for good.
How he can bring good out of tragedies like the death of a child, the Holocaust, war, famine and pestilence, disease, I haven’t a clue.