Theology

55 posts

Suffering: “Our net of meaning is too small.”

To the ‘why’ of suffering we get no firm answer. Of course some suffering is easily seen to be the result of our sin: war, assault, poverty amidst plenty, the hurtful word. And maybe some is chastisement. But not all. The meaning of the remainder is not told us. It eludes us. Our net of meaning is too small. There’s more to our suffering than our guilt. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son, (Grand Rapids, […]

CS Lewis and George MacDonald on Theological (un)Certainty

This image was on a Facebook meme, so I am not sure of the source of the quotes. The one from Lewis is in keeping with various other analogies which he has made in The Problem of Pain. [Others have pointed out that the quote above is from his Reflections on the Psalms.] There is a passage in his chapter “Divine Goodness” (pp. 32-33) that also provides an analogy with dogs that speaks to this […]

Let’s be honest, why did Jesus die on a cross?

We are fast approaching Good Friday and the interwebs is filling with people post and reposting essays about the crucifixion. The ones that always nag at me are those that seek to argue that Jesus’ death was not somehow an atoning sacrifice offered for our sins.1 The usual objection is based upon a rejection of penal substation or any of the other various models of atonement theory. The link provided has a very nice summary […]

The Utter Unacceptability of Death

My SEC colleague from Vanderbilt this week graciously gave me the gift of a slim volume by a former professor of his. The book is A Boy Thirteen: Reflections on Death (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), by Jerry A. Irish. Their 13 year old son Lee died of meningitis in 1973, the second of their three sons to die within 4 years. The younger son had been born with a serious heart defect and died before […]

Confusion is Sovereign

Warning: This short post is the definition of pedantic. I am going to quibble with the use of the word “sovereign” as applied to God by many Reformed theologians.  It is not surprising that exploring the topic of suffering and grace has led me to consider questions of humanity’s free will, predestination, and God’s sovereignty. For many, the origins and purpose of suffering are directly related to the latter, God’s control over all of creation and history. If God is truly “sovereign” then all events in our lives are controlled and dictated by God. God truly is sovereign . […]

The Divine Perspective: Open Theism and Human Will

[TLDR: Open theism is appealing, but, like Reformed theology today, it insists on looking at things from a human rather than divine perspective of history.] Ages ago, so long ago, in fact, that I do not remember the time or the day or even the year, I realized that I could not hold to a strict belief that God had ordained, structured, determined, and ordered, every final detail of history. Whether one calls it Calvinism, […]

“Whoever is not against us is for us.”

What does Jesus really mean when he says “whoever is not against us is for us”? This concept comes up in the Gospel reading for this past Sunday, Mark 9:38-40 (Proper 21, Yr. B), and in the parallel in Luke 9:49-50. (Matt. 12:30 and Luke 11:23 have a similar, yet different phrase in a different context, “he who is not with me is against me.” We will return to that.) In Mark and Luke the […]

Walking in Grace

I continue to wrestle not only with the issue of suffering and grace, but also the book I am attempting to write on the matter. What tone should I take? Should it be more academic, more of a personal reflection, or more essay based? The following is part of the latter effort. Walking in Grace On January 18, 2013 I posted this short reflection on my blog.  A poor analogy but the best one I […]

To every thing there is a season.

“It is what it is”

“It is what it is.” A phrase people utter when they are enduring a hardship or, just as often, when there is a problem they would rather not deal with. It is what it is. A horrible, trite phrase. Used all the time, devoid of any real meaning, and all too often intended as a justification for inaction, only slightly more articulate than the monosyllabic “meh,” accompanied by the shrug of the shoulders. It is […]