One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff!
But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in – suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.
But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”
Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.
HT: Trevin Wax
Rachel Held Evans asked her readers to bring their questions about Calvinism to Justin Taylor for response. Justin (unsurprisingly) did a wonderful job with his answers. Here’s one example:
From Josh: What, if anything, within Calvinism makes you feel uncomfortable? Is there anything particularly hard for you to swallow? What is the hardest tenet of Calvinism for you to buy into?
One clarification first: I’ll focus in these answers on what could be called “evangelical Calvinism” and the distinctive most people have in mind when discussing or refuting it, namely, God’s absolute sovereignty. It should be pointed out that Calvinism itself is an entire God-centered worldview, and is often used more specifically to refer to covenant theology. But I’ll focus here on God’s sovereignty in salvation.
John Piper once said something to the effect that if you’ve become a Calvinist and you haven’t shed any tears in the process, you probably don’t understand Calvinism in the first place. Yes, there have been tears. When I realized that my own views of how God should be were at odds with what he has revealed about himself and his actions, that was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever experienced.
But the adoption of a worldview often means that certain “defeaters” that were once troubling now become more understandable. Those things which at first are only believed intellectually begin to be absorbed spiritually.
All of that to say that there are not really areas of my theology where I feel an existential angst on a day-to-day basis. I find the theological alternatives to my belief in God’s absolute sovereignty to be (paradoxically) more rationalistic and simplistic, and I’ve grown content living in the light of God’s mysterious ways.
Those areas of my discomfort and struggle have more to do with the living in a post-Fall world with indwelling sin, a melancholy streak, and a longing for the day when all that is sad will come untrue.
Also worth reading
Commentary: Douglas Wilson offers some (complimentary) feedback based on Christopher Hitchens’ latest article on Slate: Simply Incoherent
Ministry: The Resurgence is sharing Driscoll and Perry Noble’s back & forth on Culture in the Church vs. Church in the Culture. Gotta say, I’ve never been terribly impressed with Noble; this didn’t help. James MacDonald did a great job voicing the real issue—pragmatism—at around the 34 minute mark.
Preaching: 10 Benefits of Preaching from a Manuscript
Commentary: New York’s Post-9/11 Church Boom
In case you missed it
Here are a few of this week’s notable post: