Archive for November, 2013
I just began Tim Keller’s monumental new book on the problem of evil Walking with God through Pain and Suffering and it’s, well, it’s monumental. I’ve read a number of books on the subject, especially in my undergrad in philosophy, and I have to say, though I’m only a couple of chapters in, it’s going to be the new classic on the subject. Unlike other works on the subject, he’s not only pastoral, or only philosophical, or only theological, but he approaches the issue of suffering from all of these angles and more. Sociology, literature, theology, philosophy, and, of course, the Scriptures, are brought to bear on the seemingly intractable burden of suffering and evil.
While we can’t logic ourselves out of pain, making meaning of our suffering is inevitable, and the framework through which you view life reveals itself most clearly in our approach to pain. Without doing a…
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“Satan accuses Christians day and night. It is not just that he will work on our conscience to make us feel as dirty, guilty, defeated, destroyed, weak, and ugly as he possibly can; it is something worse: his entire play in the past is to accuse us before God day and night, bringing charges against us that we know we can never answer before the majesty of God’s holiness.
What can we say in response? Will our defense be, ‘Oh, I’m not that bad?’ You will never beat Satan that way. Never. What you must say is, ‘Satan, I’m even worse than you think, but God loves me anyway. He has accepted me because of the blood of the Lamb.’
— D. A. Carson
Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 98-99
And in another letter to Jerome (#82), Augustine writes:
“Of all the books of the world, I believe that only the authors of Holy Scripture were totally free from error, and if I am puzzled by anything in them that seems to me to go against the truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either 1) the manuscript is faulty or 2) the translator has not caught sense of what was said or 3) I have failed to understand it for myself.”
Augustine is pretty clear here on his doctrine of Scripture. He understands Scripture as inerrant, but he also recognizes that humans err in 1) manuscript transmission, 2) in translating, or 3) in simply not understanding a passage. I think the way Augustine approaches this is a helpful example for us today. How many times do we counsel people or even find in ourselves a struggle with the difficult things of Scripture and unfortunately rely on human, fallible understanding, and Scripture then loses out. Going all the way back to Augustine’s era, this has clearly been a struggle for centuries.
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“If we have sinned, it is wonderful consciously to say, ‘Thank you for a completed work,’ after we have brought that specific sin under the finished work of Christ. The conscious giving of thanks brings assurance and peace. We say, ‘Thank you’ for work completed upon the cross, which is sufficient for a completely restored relationship.
This isn’t on the basis of my emotions, any more than in my justification. The basis is the finished work of Christ in history and the objective promises of God in the written Word. If I believe Him, and if I believe what He has taught me about the sufficiency of the work of Christ for restoration, I can have assurance, no matter how black the blot has been. This is the Christian reality of salvation from one’s conscience.
For myself, through the thirty years or so since I began to struggle with this in my own life, I picture my conscience as a big black dog with enormous paws which leaps upon me, threatening to cover me with mud and devour me. But as this conscience of mine jumps upon me, after a specific sin has been dealt with on basis of Christ’s finished work, then I should turn to my conscience and say, in effect, ‘Down! Be still!’ I am to believe God and be quiet.
— Francis Schaeffer