Calling evil good

lutherAndrew, I’m more partial to the Lutheran view of suffering myself:

In Thesis 20, Luther says “He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.” This is part of the answer to the pastoral question. You don’t answer a suffering person, such as someone who lost limbs or loved ones in the collapse, by assuring him God caused it and is being glorified. That’s basically saying, “God has carefully orchestrated things for the purpose of screwing you over, because in some obtuse, incomprehensible way it helps him achieve a greater level of satisfaction. And that alone should make you feel better.” You remind him of Jesus’ suffering, not just how Jesus suffered freely for his salvation, but how because of Jesus and that ineffable mystery we call the Incarnation, God actually knows what it’s like to suffer. He’s with you in your suffering as one who empathizes because he himself has suffered in his own flesh and his own human soul. And it’s in his own suffering that God promises to redeem you of yours, to set right everything that’s gone wrong in this life. So you don’t explain the event except to affirm it’s wrongness and point people toward Christ’s suffering and the redemption he promises.

In the 21st disputation, Luther says, “A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the things what it actually is.” Usually, when people try to rationalize some life-taking tragedy, such as saying God caused it for his glory or some other way of saying, “Well, it’s all for the best,” they’re calling evil good. They’re actually calling death itself, that which Christ came to abolish, good because “it redounds to the glory of God.” Death is an evil, satanic thing. I think the “best of all possible worlds” theory is absolute bunk, because God himself tells us the best of all possible worlds is one where there’s no death and no sin, the one that Christ came to create through his own death and resurrection. God himself condemned death, so what are you doing justifying it? I was baptized out of this crappy world and into the best of all possible worlds. This is all part of this psychological need many Christians have to justify God before the throne of the human ego. We’re the ones who need to be justified, but we act like God is the one who needs it. So when you start off with some kind of natural theology, seeing God as the one who does everything in the world, you quickly find yourself trying to justify God and ultimately end up declaring evil to be good.

So don’t water down the evil of death. Call the thing what it is, and that will allow you to give real comfort in the Cross and the resurrection. And unlike consoling yourself that God is screwing you to the wall because it makes him look awesome somehow, the Cross brings real comfort.

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