Category : Theodicy

Orangeburg, South Carolina, minister gets closer to God in a year of suffering

Within the past year, a series of experiences brought the Rev. Jerome Anderson to his knees.

Not in a posture of defeat, but humble submission to God’s plan.

As a leader in the Christian community, Anderson is accustomed to counseling people during life’s darkest moments, helping them to not just find light at the end of the tunnel, but teaching them how to apply scripture to their situation.

A timeline of the past 18 months of the minister’s life is parallel to the Biblical account of the sufferings of Job in the Old Testament that depicts love, long-suffering and restoration.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology

South Carolina Rector Marcus Kaiser's Sermon from this past Sunday–"The Devil is Real"

Take the time to listen to it all (an MP3 file). You can read more about read more about Marcus there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

[Christianity Today] Ebola and the Glory of God – an interview with Nancy Writebol's family

Excellent reading. Ed Stetzer interviewed Nancy & David Writebol’s adult children about how the family has coped with Nancy’s illness with the Ebola virus.
Here’s an excerpt.

What do you want to come from this?

Jeremy: I think the perspective that we hope others will gain from this is that in suffering there is hope, namely Jesus himself. Often we are tempted to think “why me” when suffering comes about and unless we see it in the larger picture of God’s glory and the unfolding and revealing of his character and nature to the world we will miss the joy that it is to be part of God’s great story.
In suffering there is hope, namely Jesus himself.

Brian: I think I would like those who look into our lives through this time to see Christ and see He alone in our refuge in trying times. This “strong tower” comes in the form of prayer, Scripture, and the Holy Sprint providing comfort and peace in our hearts in the darkest moments. Through this peace we are able to worship and glorify him no matter the outcome.

Esther: I want people to see Christ lifted high and to see that God’s plans for each of our lives is always for our good and His glory. God is Sovereign, he is Holy and he is good- all the time, no matter what the circumstances in our lives are- we can trust him to lovingly walk us through the dark and scary times as well as the joyful times of our lives.

How has this affected her faith?

Brian: In conversations with Mom I’ve picked up a sense that she has a deeper understanding on Christ sufficiency in all circumstances. He really is able to give peace and comfort when we have no where else to turn.


Stephanie: I had a wonderful conversation with my mother-in-law one day while she was laying in the bed at Emory University””looking at her through glass. She said:

“Steph, I have asked myself many, many times in my life, Is Jesus enough? I wasn’t always sure how I could really answer that. When I was being put on that plane to come to the US, I knew I was leaving my home where all my things would be destroyed. I was saying goodbye to David, not knowing if I would see him again. I was getting on that plane unsure if I would be alive when I got to the US to see all of you. It was that moment when I cried out and knew, ‘Jesus, you have to be enough. Jesus, you are all I have – you are enough.'”

Oh how perspective changes””He really is enough!

It’s worth reading the whole article.

Posted in * General Interest, Theodicy, Theology

Ralph Wood–The Place of the Demonic in the Fiction of Flannery O'Connor

The fiction of Flannery O’Connor, especially her novel The Violent Bear It Away, resists the relegation of Satan to an abstract principle and thus to his ultimate irrelevance. She envisions Luciferian evil in traditional terms as a personal power determined to achieve his own supremacy. When Satan appears in her fiction, she candidly observed, he is not to be understood as “this or that psychological tendency.” She cites Baudelaire’s celebrated dictum that the Devil’s greatest wile is to convince us he does not exist, and she declares his considerable success in our own time.

Yet for all that is traditional in her conception of Satan, O’Connor is concerned not to make him obvious, lest he be easily dismissed as a bogeyman. In fact, her demons disguise themselves in thoroughly Freudian and Jungian terms. Freud regarded Satan as nothing other than a symbol, albeit a powerful one, of repressed erotic desires or else of neuroses lying deep within the unconscious, often negatively projected “onto individuals or groups that we identify as enemies or potential enemies.” In the work of Jung, Freud’s student, Lucifer represents the massive destructive energy resident in the universe as it stands over against the equally enormous constructive powers that Jung links to the divine. Yet for Jung, Lucifer’s name still applies: He is the light-bearer whose demonic negativity dwells in a mandala-like complementarity with divine positivity. Only as good incorporates evil into itself, Jung teaches, can higher wisdom and wholeness be attained.

It is noteworthy that, when I ask students to identify the voice that speaks inwardly to young Francis Marion Tarwater from the very beginning of the novel, they respond in Jungian and Freudian ways. They almost always answer that this “stranger” who gradually becomes Tarwater’s “friend” is the boy’s sub-conscious mind, his inward self, his alter ego. Such obtuseness is as predictable as it is inexcusable. Yet it plays perfectly into O’Connor’s fictional purposes. Far from being an artistic failure, her ploy enables her readers, at least potentially, to experience Francis Marion Tarwater’s own terrible awakening to the true identity of his inner voice.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology

(Time Cover Story) Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness

Few who have heard or read [Barbara Brown] Taylor are surprised that she is nudging people down a path toward endarkenment. For years, her sermons have been required reading at seminaries nationwide, and she often lectures at Princeton, Duke and the National Cathedral in Washington. She is the most requested Sunday speaker at New York’s Chautauqua Institution and draws both atheists and divinity students to her book signings. And 13 books on, she has chronicled her own fascinating and complex faith journey for hundreds of thousands of readers. Taylor, says Randall Balmer, chair of Dartmouth’s department of religion, “belongs in the pantheon of spiritual writers that includes such luminaries as the late Will Campbell, Anne Lamott and Frederick Buechner. She doesn’t shy away from big issues, and her honesty is disarming.”

Certainly, Taylor’s new memoir, Learning to Walk in the Dark”“on spirituality and self-help shelves in time for Good Friday”“challenges the broad theological belief that darkness is evil, scary and just plain bad. But she is also taking on the sometimes far-too-sunny fashion in which churches tell their most important stories. It is easy to forget, amid “the Easter lilies, the sound of trumpets and bright streaming light,” she notes, that the Resurrection happened in a dark cave. “God and darkness have been friends for a long time,” Taylor says. “It’s just one nighttime story after another”“amazing.”

Read it all and take a look at the Time Cover picture also.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Theodicy, Theology

(Seattle Times) Ministering to mudslide survivors takes many forms

Enio Aguero had never been to Oso before late last month. But he recognized the faces.

“Faces of hopelessness, trying to find out why or how this could happen,” said the 53-year-old chaplain from Northern Virginia, a veteran of disaster relief in Moore, Okla., where a tornado last May obliterated entire subdivisions and killed 24 people.

“When a disaster like this happens, it touches the deepest part of our being. At one minute, there was everything; a minute later, there was nothing,” said Aguero, a chaplain coordinator for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. “There’s no way we can make sense of this, except that God is in control.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Theodicy, Theology

Andrew Solomon: The Reckoning–The Father of the Sandy Hook Killer Searches for Answers

Legal definitions of insanity still focus on psychosis, the delusions of which are held to diminish responsibility. Medical conceptions include many additional bizarre behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. The legal definition has historically encompassed both questions of agency (he didn’t know what he was doing) and morality (he didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong). The psychiatric profession doesn’t consider mass killers to be necessarily insane, which distresses Peter. For him, the crime defines the illness””as he said, soon after we met, you’d have to be crazy to do such a thing. He found the idea of Adam’s not being insane much more devastating than the thought of his being insane. Peter has searched the psychiatric literature on mass killers, trying to understand what happened to his son. He came across the work of Park Dietz, a psychiatrist who, in 1986, coined the term “pseudocommando.” Dietz says that for pseudocommandos a preoccupation with weapons and war regalia makes up for a sense of impotence and failure. He wrote that we insist that mass killers are insane only to reassure ourselves that normal people are incapable of such evil.

Crimes of passion are relational, whereas plotted crimes such as Adam’s are unsocial. But the dichotomy isn’t clear-cut; most crimes lie along a spectrum. So Sandy Hook was a culmination””neither sudden nor entirely calculated, at least until the very end. James Knoll, a forensic psychiatrist at suny, has written that Adam’s act conveyed a message: “I carry profound hurt””I’ll go ballistic and transfer it onto you.” That’s as much motive as we’re likely to find.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Theodicy, Theology, Violence

(NY Times Op-Ed) T. M. Luhrmann–When Demons Are Real

While this feels very different from soft-toned American evangelical Christianity, which emphasizes God’s loving mercy rather than God’s judgment, spiritual warfare is deeply embedded in the evangelical tradition. The post-1960s charismatic revival in the United States, sometimes called “Third Wave” Christianity (classical Pentecostalism was the first wave and charismatic Catholicism the second), introduced the idea that all Christians interact with supernatural forces daily. That included demons.

In fact, I found American books on dealing with demons in all the bookstores of the African charismatic churches I visited. In one church where I stood looking at the shelf of demon manuals, a helpful clerk leaned over to fish one off for me. She chose an American one. “Here,” she said as she handed me Larry Huch’s “Free at Last,” “this one is good.”

In many American evangelical churches, people will tell you that demons are real, but they do not treat them as particularly salient.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Evangelicals, Ghana, Globalization, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology

([London] Times) Drug wars in Mexico fuel exorcism craze

Mexico’s deadly drugs war is not just a question of supply and demand but a symptom of the rise of Satan, according to some Catholic leaders. With the death toll at about 80,000 and counting, the number of exorcisms is rising.

Father Carlos Triana, an exorcist in Mexico City, said: “We believe that behind all these big and structural evils there is a dark agent and his name is The Demon. As much as we believe that the Devil was behind Adolf Hitler, possessing and directing him, we also believe that he [the Devil] is here behind the drug cartels.”

Exorcisms and spiritual cleansings are common in Mexico, a superstitious country where Catholicism overlaid the religious beliefs of its indigenous inhabitants, including the Aztecs.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Mexico, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theodicy, Theology

(RNS) What Dallas pastors preached the Sunday after JFK was killed

Facing crowded pews and heavy hearts, Dallas clergy took to the pulpits on Nov. 24, 1963 to try to make sense of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy just two days before.

“The ministers saw the assassination as an unwelcome opportunity for some serious, city-wide soul-searching,” said Tom Stone, an English professor at Southern Methodist University, who has studied the sermons delivered that day.

“Though Dallas could not be reasonably blamed for the killing, it needed to face up to its tolerance of extremism and its narrow, self-centered values,” Stone said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Theodicy, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(Redeemer NYC) Tim Keller–Getting Stuck in Suffering

What must you do? If you suffer then you””or your friends and care-givers””must be keenly aware of these possibilities so you can move through them. Obviously, any afflicted person needs times of solitude, but isolation must ultimately be resisted. Suffering can make you more lonely or drive you into deeper community. Let it be the latter. And while all afflicted persons need to spend a great deal of time self-examining and healing, at some point they must face outward and think of others and love their neighbors and not think exclusively of themselves.

Even for Christians who understand the gospel, the feeling of condemnation can be a great challenge, but it is in the end a welcome one. We may think we believe we are saved by grace, but in times of difficulty we can finally learn to use the doctrine we know on our hearts, remembering that God’s wrath and punishment of our sin fell into the heart of Jesus, and now that we believe in him, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

Our anger can be the greatest challenge of all. Again, the answer is to not merely believe gospel doctrine but use it.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Christology, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Theodicy, Theology

(Living Church) Daniel Muth reviews recent books on God and the problem of evil

[In Norman Geisler’s book]…the chapters are admirably clear and succinct. Christians called upon to answer the typical prattle of the village (or dorm room) atheist will find it useful. An electronic copy would provide particularly quick and handy reference.

On the other hand, while Geisler is clearly a capable and experienced pastor and peppers his text with practical anecdotes, he suffers from the malady of most writers on the intellectual problem of theodicy: he fails to address the visceral response that suffering and evil provokes in Christian and secular hearts alike. On the whole, I would not hand his book to a grieving parent….

A somewhat deeper chord is struck by Terence Fretheim’s Creation Untamed, which limits itself to the question of natural evil. Fretheim, Elva B. Lovell Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, brings an Old Testament scholar’s background and sensibility to the question, building his case mainly around the Genesis accounts of creation and the flood, and the book of Job.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Theodicy, Theology

(First Things On the Square) Richard Mouw–Halloween and the Power of Evil

The powers of evil work in very personal ways. Among their subtle seductive strategies are the ones that lure us into a fascination with skulls, curses, mysterious personages, and magical sights and sounds in the night. Which is why I should perhaps get over deciding about Halloween on the basis of pleasant memories of past Octobers. At least I should act on the obligation to encourage a more assertive teaching ministry about these matters.

Not too far from the “Spooktacular” banners in the local shopping district there is also a sign in front of a church announcing some classes in parenting. I have a good idea of what goes on in those classes: insights drawn from “family systems” theory and child/adolescent research. Very worthwhile. But maybe it is time to have some theologians teach classes for parents as well. The local businesses have been marketing Halloween for at least a month now. It would be a good thing if the churches would beat them to it next year, with some solid catechesis, focusing on the practical realities of evil in our daily lives.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology

(Zondervan's Koinonia Blog) What is the Purpose of Job? Read some of John Walton's Answer

The purpose of [the book of Job] is to explore God’s policies with regard to suffering in the world, especially by the righteous or the innocent. In the process it seeks to revolutionize our thinking about God and the way that he runs the world.

Most importantly, the book shifts our attention from the idea that God’s justice … is foundational to the operation of the world to the alternative that God’s wisdom is the more appropriate foundation. It does not offer a reason for suffering and does not try to defend God’s justice.

It does not answer the “why” question that we are so prone to ask when things go wrong. Instead, we are to trust God’s wisdom and, in the process, to conclude by faith that he is also just.

In truth, we will never be in a position to evaluate God’s justice….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–How One question, asked in faith, has the power to change a life

Whenever we come close to despair, the strongest lifeline is to think like Joseph. That is how psychotherapist Viktor Frankl saved the lives of several of his fellow prisoners in Auschwitz, by helping them realise that they had a task to perform or a mission to fulfil that they could only do by surviving. This gave them the will to live. People who have suffered tragedy have often found meaning by alleviating the suffering of others. The grief may not disappear but it is redeemed. The adagio, with its intense sadness, is not the last movement of the symphony.

Seen through the eyes of faith life is not what Joseph Heller called it: “a trashbag of random coincidences blown open in a wind.” Each of us is here for a reason, to do something only we can do, and all the pain and heartbreak are bearable if we can discern God’s purpose or hear, however muffled, His call. As Nietzsche used to say, “He who has a strong enough Why can bear almost any How.”

In crisis, the wrong question to ask is, “What have I done to deserve this?” The right one is, “What am I now being summoned to do?” Each of us has a task. Every life has a purpose. We can bear the pain of the past when we discover the future we are called on to make.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(RNS) Boston amputees face a long spiritual struggle ahead

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings that left three dead and more than 260 injured, perhaps none face more significant adjustments or a longer road ahead than the 14 amputees who lost a limb.

For these victims, the path forward involves relearning almost everything, from getting out of bed to getting in a car. Whether they go on to lead satisfying lives depends largely on how they handle the spiritual challenges at hand, according to amputees and researchers.

Losing a limb is like losing a family member: It involves grief and mourning, according to Jack Richmond, a Chattanooga, Tenn., amputee who leads education efforts for the Manassas, Va.-based Amputee Coalition. When one’s body and abilities are radically changed, questions of meaning are suddenly urgent: Why did this happen? Why am I here?

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Spirituality/Prayer, Sports, Terrorism, Theodicy, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence, Young Adults

PBS ' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly–Religious Responses to Boston Bombing

CHAPLAIN MARY LOU VON EUEW (Tufts Medical Center): She said “the hardest thing about this is that some human beings can treat other human beings like this. I just don’t understand it.”

[KIM] LAWTON: Indeed, Von Euew says, after a tragedy like the bombing, clergy often hear age old questions about the nature of good and evil, suffering and the existence of a loving God.

VON EUEW: You know most of the time people deep down inside aren’t asking for an answer. They’re asking for you to fight and wrestle with the questions with them. We truly believe that God is with us when it happens, so we’re not suffering alone, that we have someone with us who loves us beyond all measure.

Watch or read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theodicy, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(CT) Marguerite Shuster–The Mystery of Original Sin

Legend has it that G. K. Chesterton, asked by a newspaper reporter what was wrong with the world, skipped over all the expected answers. He said nothing about corrupt politicians or ancient rivalries between warring nations, or the greed of the rich and the covetousness of the poor. He left aside street crime and unjust laws and inadequate education. Environmental degradation and population growth overwhelming the earth’s carrying capacity were not on his radar. Neither were the structural evils that burgeoned as wickedness became engrained in society and its institutions in ever more complex ways.

What’s wrong with the world? As the story goes, Chesterton responded with just two words: “I am.”

His answer is unlikely to be popular with a generation schooled to cultivate self-esteem, to pursue its passions and chase self-fulfillment first and foremost. After all, we say, there are reasons for our failures and foibles. It’s not our fault that we didn’t win the genetic lottery, or that our parents fell short in their parenting, or that our third-grade teacher made us so ashamed of our arithmetic errors that we gave up pursuing a career in science. Besides, we weren’t any worse than our friends, and going along with the gang made life a lot more comfortable. We have lots of excuses for why things go wrong, and””as with any lie worth its salt””most of them contain some truth.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(LA Times) In the aftermath of the West, Texas, explosion, a town turns to faith

The crowd that had gathered ”” lighting candles, offering prayers, crying as they tightly embraced family and friends ”” had streamed from the dimly lighted sanctuary of Assumption Catholic Church, but Kelly Nelson lingered behind.

“The people who we lost, these are people I know, I see on a daily basis,” Nelson said. “Knowing that I’m never going to see these people on the Earth again is very difficult for me to handle.”

On Wednesday night, a blast at a fertilizer plant rocked this small east-central Texas town. A day later Nelson and hundreds of others gathered in the red brick Assumption church. Nelson wasn’t the only one to stay behind after the service concluded. A pair of young men sobbed as they knelt before the altar. Others stared blankly forward as they sat in the pews. In a time when residents of West sought hard-to-find clarity, they are relying on faith.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Science & Technology, Theodicy, Theology

(WSJ) After Boston Bombing, Renewed Fears About Homegrown Terror Threat

The Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed suspected marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 at the request of the Russian government, but didn’t find evidence of suspicious activity and closed the case, an FBI official said Friday.

The fact that the FBI spoke with Mr. Tsarnaev, who was killed Friday morning in a firefight with authorities, is likely to become a focal point of the post mortem into how the attack was able to be carried out at the Boston Marathon. It also speaks to the challenge faced by authorities as terrorism morphs to some extent from the complex international plots of a decade ago to small-scale attacks carried out by individuals located within U.S.

U.S. counterterrorism policy has since 2001 focused largely on killing terrorists overseas or preventing them from getting into the U.S. But the Boston bombings show how the diffusion of terrorist tactics easily transcends borders. Countering small groups of individuals inside the U.S. can be a bedeviling assignment.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Russia, Terrorism, Theodicy, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence, Young Adults

(USA Today) Oliver Thomas–America's rough week

Life is difficult. It can knock you down. Sometimes, an entire nation gets knocked down.

First it was Boston. Some mad man (or men) lays waste to one of America’s most hallowed sporting events ”” the Boston Marathon. Sidewalks that should have been covered with confetti were covered in blood.

Then it was the quintessential small Texas town of West[, Texas]…

Taken together, it was a bruising week for a nation wearied by war and nagged by chronic unemployment.

Yet Americans are people of faith….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theodicy, Theology, Violence

Andrew Ferguson on Evil, the Chattering Media Elite, and Sandy Hook

Our news media suffer from a terrible supply-side problem. The number of people paid to offer opinions greatly outstrips the number of things worth having an opinion about. Even now, several weeks after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, I don’t think the slaughter was the kind of event toward which one can profitably form an interesting point of view. Leaving church one morning, so the story goes, the great Coolidge was asked the subject of his pastor’s sermon. “Sin,” Coolidge replied. And what did the pastor say about sin? “He said he was ag’in it.” Some things don’t require much elaboration.

In an important sense””in the literal sense””what happened at Sandy Hook was unspeakable, which is why, I suppose, the public disputations that followed it were a towering jumble of non sequitur and irrelevance, a rodeo of hobby horses ridden by straw men. The disputations began even before the authorities had released a final count of victims. Indeed, at the time, good information was hard to come by. For as much as 10 hours after the first reporters arrived on the scene, print and TV journalists were misreporting the killer’s name, his place of residence, his relationship to the elementary school, his mother’s line of work, the types and source of the guns he used, the reaction of school officials in the immediate aftermath of the crime””the long string of mistakes we have come to expect when the compulsion to get it first overwhelms the need to get it right.

The slaughter at Sandy Hook wasn’t merely a rebuke to politics or law enforcement or government regulation–it was a rebuke to our desperate hope that evil can be destroyed, or at least quarantined.

–From the February 2013 issue of Commentary, pages 63-64

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology, Violence

Peter Mullen–Condemning evil, without advertising it

…surely some things should be left to the imagination? The ancient Greeks knew the meaning of the word “obscene” and obscene acts ”“ castrations, rapes, beheadings and the like ”“ were not depicted in the theatre, but had to be imagined as having taken place offstage, the literal meaning of “obscene.”

Unfortunately for us, we live in the age of blatancy. Everything must be seen in all its disgusting horror or squalor ”“ and usually both. We have been taught since Freud to think that this is somehow good for us. But all it has done is corrupt our morality and obliterate our powers of imagination. We live in an age where every image is an advert. Now I’ve gone and said it: we have forgotten the prohibition on the making and worshipping of images.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Movies & Television, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theodicy, Theology

(Living Church) Bishop Mark MacDonald on the the abuse of indigenous children–”˜Swamped by Evil’

From 1870 to 1996, 130 different residential schools, most run by Anglican and other churches, including Anglican, were built on military models, he said. Indigenous children were taken from their families at about age 5 and returned when they were 16 or 17.

“The purpose was to destroy the family bond, the connection to culture and language, and to make it impossible for indigenous life to continue into the future,” he said. “It was for indigenous people to die out….”

The church’s reaction is “a case study in when evil so swamps and floods a group of people they will deny it,” he said. “The church doesn’t have the capacity to describe or accept within itself what happened. There’s a tremendous amount of denial.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Canada, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology

Simon Critchley–The Freedom of Faith: A Christmas Sermon

In an essay in The Times’ Sunday Book Review this week the writer Paul Elie asks the intriguing question: Has fiction lost its faith? As we are gathered here today, let us consider one of the most oddly faithful of all fiction writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky. More specifically, I’d like focus pretty intensely on what some consider to be the key moment in his greatest novel — arguably one of the greatest of all time — “The Brothers Karamazov.” (Elie himself notes the 1880 masterpiece as an example of the truly faith-engaged fiction of yore.) I speak in particular of the “Grand Inquisitor” scene, a sort of fiction within a fiction that draws on something powerful from the New Testament — Jesus’s refusal of Satan’s three temptations — and in doing so digs at the meaning of faith, freedom, happiness and the diabolic satisfaction of our desires.

Read it all. Be warned–this is not short and it is not light bed-time reading; it is, however, well worth the time–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Christology, Europe, Philosophy, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture, Russia, Soteriology, Theodicy, Theology

William Murchison–The Problem of Evil

Could it not be ”” maybe? conceivably? ”” that politics and consolatory speeches and clever laws need a foundation of realism, one which acknowledges human affairs as the huge mess they are: too big, too inexplicable for the combined power of president and Congress to “change”?

Just a few days lie between Christmas and us. It was around this time, we hear, that the Son of God came to our rescue ”” not to perfect everything at that precise moment, but to invite repentance and amendment of life, before offering his own life as a sacrifice. Don’t believe a word of it? The alternative is to believe another act of Congress will bring us finally to that gun-controlled paradise where the evil, the murderous and the frankly loony embrace the pure of heart. It might happen in heaven. I wouldn’t count too much on watching as politicians throw open the gates.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Religion & Culture, Rural/Town Life, Theodicy, Theology, Violence

Tulsa, Oklahoma's Trinity Episcopal Church holds vigil for kids who died at Sandy Hook school

Focusing Wednesday afternoon’s service on the victims is a way for some to get through the tragedy, [the Rev. Stephen] McKee said.

“Lighting a candle, there’s something tactile about that,” he said. “After we leave, those candles will go on. Religion is supposed to bring people together.”

He noted that one thing the service at Trinity – or any service or vigil – can’t do is explain why it happened.

A important thing to remember is that death and violence didn’t just happen on Friday in a small town in Connecticut. Acts of violence occur often, and he noted everyone should work together to prevent them.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Education, Episcopal Church (TEC), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer, TEC Parishes, Theodicy, Theology, Violence

John Stackhouse on the Connecticut School Shootings–Evil Encore

In the wake of the Newtown school shooting, I’ve been asked to comment since I am a theologian by profession and the author of a book on the problem of evil, Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil (Oxford, 1998; 2nd edition IVP, 2009).

Most of what I have to say is in that book. But I’ve posted remarks here in the past that are relevant to this incident, so I’ll just list them here in case they can be of use to you

Read it all and follow and peruse all the links.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Canada, Seminary / Theological Education, Theodicy, Theology

(From 1999) Kendall Harmon on the Columbine High School shooting and the Judgment of God

While the tragedy…[at Columbine High School] continues to grip the nation, real answers for the reason behind it have so far proved elusive.

You have heard the voices. Youth culture is the problem, Hollywood is to blame. Where were the parents? What about the school officials who could have, should have, known sooner? Maybe gun availability is the culprit.

Others point the finger at the devastating impact of peer pressure, and on and on it goes.

But amidst this din of stories, analysis and commentary, there is one thing which is not being said. Its silence has become deafening, yet it begs to be heard because it points the way to a more painful, yet more hopeful answer.

Can you think of what is not being said? What is nearly always blurted out in other situations but has not been articulated in this one?

Judge not. You remember this one, don’t you? Jesus said it, right? What is fine for you is fine for you, but I have a different take on it. You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to, you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to.

But suddenly the cat is out of the bag, because the one thing everyone is doing is judging.
. To say Hollywood is showing too much violence implies there is a standard of decency which Hollywood has violated. If people are upset that the parents did not know, that implies an idea of an effective parent (involved) and a bad parent (uninvolved).

Strange word, that, BAD. Opposite of GOOD (not effective, as misused above – did you notice?)

We do not hear these words, good and bad, very much anymore, do we? What happened to the so-called “post-modern” world? I thought we were to speak of values and preferences. I thought we were not supposed to judge.

Our reaction to Littleton says volumes more than even the tragedy of Littleton itself, because it exposes our hypocrisy about judgment. We claim to live in a world of taste and lifestyle, but the moment anything of real import occurs the game shifts to be played on another field. On this field, words like God and goodness, the satanic and evil, beg to be used, because they are the only way in which to begin to wrestle with the magnitude of it all. “Anger management” classes just are not enough.

But then the guns went off, and not only our judgments poured forth, but God’s did as well. If Littleton means anything, it means God’s judgment upon an America which is losing its moral and spiritual vocabulary and imagination.

When Jesus said “judge not” in Matthew 7:1, he did not mean what he is often alleged to have meant, that we are not to judge. He calls for his followers to judge “with right judgment” (John 7:24) which is how we, like him, are able to distinguish between true and false prophets (Matt. 7:15-20).

What is at issue is what is being judged and how. The human heart and a person’s ultimate spiritual condition is something God alone can judge, but we can judge people’s behavior and words – “you will know them by their fruits” – and render partial verdicts when appropriate.

The full verse, the second half of which is frequently left off, is, “judge not, that you be not judged,” by which Jesus means we are to judge with the awareness that the standard we use on others is one which we will also be judged by.

So we are called by the judgments about Littleton [the community in Colorado where Columbine High School is located] to hear the judgment we are bringing on ourselves, and the far more important judgment God is making and will render upon us. We are indeed one nation under God.

As applicable today as when I first wrote it–KSH.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Education, Theodicy, Theology, Violence

(SHNS) Terry Mattingly–Why not blame God for the Connecticut School shootings?

Blame it on the guns. No, blame the judges who banned God talk in schools, along with most lessons about right and wrong. No, our lousy national mental health care system caused this hellish bloodbath.No, the problem is the decay of American families, with workaholic parents chained to their desks while their children grow up in suburban cocoons with too much time on their hands.

No, it’s Hollywood’s fault. How can children tell the difference between fantasy and reality when they’ve been baptized in violent movies, television and single-shooter videogames? Why not blame God?

These were the questions in 1999 when two teen gunmen at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killed 13 people and themselves in the massacre that set the standard for soul-searching media frenzies in postmodern America.All the questions asked about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are now being asked about Adam Lanza after he gunned down 20 first-graders and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., before taking his life….

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Advent, Children, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Death / Burial / Funerals, Education, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology, Violence