'Misconceptions of God’s Roll in Suffering '
by Mai-Anh Le
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“Seeing Through God’s Magnifying Eyes - Part III”
September 1, 2005 †
"Misconceptions of God’s Roll in Suffering "
After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, many school systems all over the world had their teachers and counselors lead classroom discussions on the events of that day so that children could be counseled and allowed an opportunity to talk about their feelings. In a local private elementary school near by a young boy raised his hands to say: “I don’t understand,” he asked his teacher confusingly “why did God have to take all those people at the same time?”
In his innocence the child expressed some of our tendencies to think of God as someone “whose out to get us,” wanting us to suffer and die because somehow that satisfies Him. Adherent of an “ambush theology”, this way of thinking is like imagining God hiding along our path of life waiting to spring upon us to get even for some wrong we committed. Even Jesus found it necessary to correct His disciples for following the same simplistic system. In the Gospel of John 9:2-3, when Jesus and His disciples encounter a blind man, the disciples ask: "Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents' sin?" Jesus flatly rejects this way of thinking and answers: "His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents' sins. He is blind so that God's power might be seen at work in him." Or another example that is common amongst both believers and non-believers is that, if we surrender ourselves to God – really open up our hearts to do His will – He may inflict some terrible cross on us. Again such a thought is like thinking: if I submit completely to God today, tomorrow He’ll give me leprosy. Reading these sentences we can already hear how ridiculous the logic sounds. And chances are, in response to the boy most of us would be willing to reassure him saying: God didn’t cause the planes to crash that day. Such things sometimes happen in an imperfect world. Yet when seeing senseless tragedies occur over and over again in the world few of us are better equipped than the young child to cope with the evils of pain and suffering or to avoid temptations of wanting to blame God for it all. We might even go as far as questioning our faith by wondering if there is any justice or fairness in this world, or if there really is a God.
Views that are misguided like those often stem from a person’s limited understanding of the Bible. For instance, sometimes what is written may require the definition of the root word from the language which is common to that culture – like Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. We’ve already seen how “love” in our society’s context today differs extensively from the definition of “love” as it is used in the Bible. In addition to that, sometimes what is written in the Bible is the proper or appropriate way of speaking for that time and culture, but if we took its literal translation and applied it to our time today, much of what was originally recorded by the apostles would sound crass, cruel, and crude. That is why some non-believers comment that Christianity is like a cult; if you take what Christ said literally it would be easy in some cases to twist the definitions that way. The Church does try to stay updated with the translations of the Bible so that it is appropriate for today’s time and culture, but in some cases the words can not be toyed with. And, so, it is really our responsibility to study the Bible appropriately.
It is not always easy to reconcile with our Christian beliefs, but the denial of God does not eliminate the problems of suffering either. It is just one way of saying there is no solution. If there were no God there would be no point in looking for answers as we are now, and it also wouldn’t change the fact that injustice and agony would still continue to challenge our lives. The other things that do not eliminate the problems of suffering are the unproven, non-logical misconceptions of God’s roll in the world’s suffering. We must up-root such simplistic ways of thinking and get beyond the tit-for-tat theology. Christ never taught us to abide by “an eye for an eye.” Such distorted views of God can stifle our relationship with Him and it can even interfere with our everyday prayer life. We already know how dangerous that could become in our imperfect world.
(SEE PART IV - WHY IS THERE SUFFERING IN THE WORLD
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