Sunday, September 6, 2009

Through a Glass Darkly

I meant to blog last Friday but ended up frolicking with atheists at Dwindling in Unbelief instead. We discussed the story of the prophet Elisha being mocked by a group of boys who said, "Go up, you bald head! Go up, you bald head!" Elisha, as you may recall, replied by sending down a curse so that two bears appeared and tore the boys apart.

The discussion had been going on for some time (years) before I commented, with people arguing between themselves about the ages of the boys, and other things. I replied something to the effect of, "I don't care if they were five or twenty-five, I find that atrocious!" A self-described ex-Christian congratulated me on not engaging in the cognitive dissonant truth-twisting "that is so common among Christians." But, he warned, be careful where it takes you. (Apparently his path toward "deconversion" began when he read this story to his small children, and it had brought tears to his eyes because of what it said about God.)

I told him that I know exactly where it takes me--to Christ. He had to deal with cognitive dissonant truth-twisting from religious people all the time. The Pharisees were hateful and self-righteous, and their religion blinded them to Jesus's goodness. They went so far as to accuse Jesus of having an evil spirit, and he replied by saying that a sin against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven them. The sin against the Holy Spirit is to call good evil, and evil good, something that gradually shuts the light of truth out of our souls. So instead of defending the indefensible in the name of God, it's often best to leave it alone and admit that we don't understand.

Another man then apologized for his earlier outburst in response to my first post. He explained that it makes him so mad when people say that God is good in spite of everything he does. My reply (which is still in moderator limbo) is the subject of this post.

Good in spite of everything he does? I suppose that's a natural attitude if we think of God as a wrathful, indiscriminately murderous deity. And that's how he's often described in the Old Testament. I don't know what to make of that.

There are many things we don't understand about God. As Paul said, we see him "through a glass darkly." But the Gospels give us a clear portrait of Christ, who is the "exact representation of [God's] nature." (Hebrews 1:3) We don't have to dig through the Old Testament to figure out what God is like. Jesus was the incarnate God. So we know that when we see him face to face, we won't be confronting an irrational killer of children. We will see the face of pure love, the epitome of goodness, the one Mahatma Ghandi referred to as "a beautiful example of the perfect man."

If we spend our lives blaming God for all the evil in the world, it is Jesus we are blaming. Jesus who spent the three years of his ministry welcoming sinners, healing the sick, and who sacrificed his life to defeat evil. Never once was he philosophical about suffering--he simply alleviated it. He wept when Lazarus died. He healed on the Sabbath because he couldn't allow Satan to torment a woman one more day. By any honest standard, he was full of grace and truth.

And he is the Christian God. If we truly understand that, many questions become irrelevant.


Becky said...

Hi, I just had a look on the Dwindling in Unbelief site and read your comments there - i have to say that i think you responded in a very gracious, wise way.....

Rick said...

Atrocious? That's one of my favorite OT stories! ;-)

Anette Acker said...

Thanks, Becky.

Ha ha, Rick! Hopefully people will think twice before picking on bald heads, right? :)