Thursday, February 04, 2016

How would you answer Charles Darwin?

Melissa and I are currently taking a class on Christian apologetics.  This week we're discussing the problem of evil/pain.  The following is a class discussion prompt, followed by my answer:

Many people believe like Charles Darwin.  His beloved daughter Annie, died at an early age and something broke inside of him.  He determined to have nothing to do with a so-called God who would allow his Annie to die.  If you were to sit down with Darwin over coffee, what are some questions you might ask that would surface some of the underlying issues?  How would you evaluate Darwin's feelings?  How would you analyze the logic of his argument?  How is you response to Darwin different than your response to someone who has doubts about the possibility of God and suffering both existing in the world?

My answer:
How would I answer Darwin?  I wouldn't, honestly.

I would ask questions and listen.  I would esteem his pain.  I'd weep with him and affirm his emotional place.  I'd ask if there was anything I could do to help.  How can I serve his family?  How can I listen?  Is there anything he needs?

The incoherent logic of his argument for disbelieving in God is irrelevant in that context.  Ultimately, a time may come when we could visit his logic, but that could be a long way away, if it ever comes.

Communicating, even things such as the gospel, demand that we first understand and plow the soil in order for people to even be able to hear what we are saying.  Otherwise, we're throwing pearls to swine.  Theres a reason Jesus didn't preach in certain towns and a reason he only explained certain parables to his disciples.

To that end, honestly, I have a hard time believing anybody can just be in the "intellectual argument" side wholly and be void of the emotional argument to the problem of pain.  We have a lot of tilling to do in people's lives if we're to bring them to a place in which they're willing to listen to logical arguments regarding the problem of evil/pain.

Then, and only then, can we begin to present our answer to the problem of pain/evil -- but we'll find that we've been incarnation-ally presenting it all along.  

God's answer to the problem of pain was to enter himself into it.  It was to stoop down and embrace it headfirst, finding that it meant his own death.  His answer to pain was to let it do its worst to him, and then find it crushed 3 days later.

As Albert Schweitzer once put it, Jesus was called to throw himself on the wheel of world history, so that, even though it crushed him, it might start to turn in the opposite direction.

What it means to be people that follow Christ is to be a people that would enter into the pain of a hurting world and embrace it.  Let you pain do it's worst to us.  We know that the victory of Christ can not only stem the tide of evil, but reshape it into a beautiful new creation.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Revisiting the pain

This morning I've dedicated some time to revisiting one of the more painful experiences of my life.  Yay!

Revisiting is an interesting word for me to use.  Dwelling in, or sitting with, or reliving would be apt terms as well.

One immediate hurdle I have is to even give these past experiences the time of day.  "Don't be such a wimp," I hear within.  Or, "It wasn't such a big deal, get over it."  Or "other people have it much worse."

But regardless of the pull of inner-Bart's voice (or is it someone else's voice?), I deeply hold the belief that in order to begin to be a whole, functioning, helpful and healthy part of this world it requires that I revisit the pain.  I see only one future destination if I do not: a grumpy, embittered, whiny old man.  Or, at the very least, a man that holds wounds within that can and will cause harm to others and himself.

Ignoring pain is never a wise choice physically, so why should I do so emotionally?

So I opened my journal and began to process.  I do so with an awareness that this is something God is asking me to do.  His presence seems hovering over this whole time.

I'm surprised at the things I can remember.  The smells.  The exact place I was sitting.  I remember the morning before.  I remember my insides boiling.  I remember my hands shaking.  I can feel my eyes darting around, trying to grab hold of anything that could anchor my heart.  I remember how I felt.  Betrayed.  Abandoned.  Like an animal caged and trapped.  I felt my personhood slipping away. I felt dehumanized.  I was bewildered and lost.  How could this be happening?!



I sit there, in process, for a while.  I sit there now with a heavy heart as I write.

And yet.  Something is different this time.  I've invited someone else along into the past.

He is there.  He takes my hand as the betrayal sets in my heart.  I notice that his hands shake along with mine, he is going through the exact thing I am.  He enters the cage and is animalized along with me.  He sets aside his humanity to be present.  And there, in the cage, he weeps with me.  His eyes glistening and knowing the depths of the hurt.  He doesn't wipe the tears away, but just weeps with me.  He is present.  He wishes this were not my story, nor his.

And there, in the cage together, I know once again that this man is my best friend and the love of my life.

And maybe, just maybe, my best friend can heal these wounds and bring healing to my heart.

"No one can ever go so low that God in Jesus has not gone lower.  What other faith has at its heart a writhing body, torn flesh, shameful desertion and disgrace, anguished desolation, and a darkness that can be felt?  God liberates not by removing suffering from us, but by sharing it with us.  Jesus is 'God-who-suffers-with-us.'" -- Os Guiness, philosopher, survivor of the Henan famine in China, 1943