Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A God who turns the other cheek

In Patience with God Tomas Halik tells of a man who sent him a manuscript whose purpose was to disprove the existence of God. After advancing the usual arguments it suddenly turned personal as the writer expressed his rage at God for allowing the death of his granddaughter from cancer. It ended with the line: "You're a tyrant with bloody claws. I curse you!"

With his litanies of atheist arguments, was the man trying to take revenge on God for the loss he had suffered? Did he really want to trample God into nonexistence? Or had the vacuum left by the God whose nonexistence he had so intricately proved been immediately filled by the "tyrant with bloody claws," the very God he needed on whom to vent his rage, because yelling into a total void is even more wretched?

Am I to write to him that the "tyrant with bloody claws" really does not exist, that the arguments with which he'd just filled so many sheets of paper were all true as regards that monster? A god like that truly does not exist - we are in total agreement on that score! But what is his prospect now? Will it help him to think that the death of his granddaughter was just an "accident," an absurdity without any meaning at all? Will it help him to be advised not to seek any deeper meaning in her death, to simply content himself with the medical explanation of the malignant process that cause the death of such and such a number of people according to statistics, and simply suppress the unanswerable question: "Why me of all people?" "Why her of all people?" Did it come as a relief for him to find in God a culprit into whose face he could yell all his pain because he could find no other culprit? And even if he found one - a doctor who had diagnosed the condition too late, or the mother who failed to seek medical advice in time - could he use the same tone with impunity when speaking to them?

Is it part of God's service to humanity that he "turns the other cheek," that he puts up with a cry that is even harsher than Job's indictment - or had God really hidden his face from this atheist, so that he wrestled with only a projection of his own horror and pain?

Or had the man never in fact encountered the Gospel, so that his religious world was actually the world of ancient tragedy, where all events in the world of humans are directly controlled by gods, and implacable Fate rules over gods and man alike? A Promethean revolt against the gods may have made some sense there. But the God of the Bible is not a cold-blooded director of our destinies, hidden somewhere behind the scenes of the historical stage. He personally entered the history of our misfortune and drained the cup of our pain to its dregs; He knows all too well the weight of our crosses! Why revile a God who does not intervene in our lives like a deus ex machina in the dramas of antiquity, a God to whom we have access solely through the one who took upon himself the fate of a servant, "who came in human likeness," who "was accustomed to suffering"? After all, Christianity does not offer us a God who is to provide us with a life without adversity or who will immediately provide satisfactory answers to all the painful questions that adversity raises in our hearts, nor does it promise days that will not be followed by night. All He assures us is that, in those profoundest nights, He is with us, so that this assurance itself would give the strength not only to bear their darkness and burden, but also to help others to bear it, particularly those who have not heard or accepted His assurance.
He goes on to say that it is at times like these that we should simply "mourn with those that mourn", not offer contrived arguments. He concludes:
I still haven't replied to his letter, and I'm not sure whether it is due to cowardice, laziness, weakness, and the irresoluteness of my own faith and theology, or whether I judged correctly that any words in this phase could only pour more oil on the flames and salt in the wound. If I didn't live so far away, I expect I would have gone to see him and gripped his hand in mine. "Where was God when your granddaughter was dying? I don't know," I'd tell him truthfully. "But at this moment, I'd like you to feel Him in the hand gripping yours."

1 comment:

  1. God is Within Each and Everyone of Us. To Know God One Must Know Themselves.


About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.