Tom Long on God and The Suffering of Innocents

These are my notes at the opening keynote of the Mo Ranch Men’s Conference on 4 May 2012

Keynote Tom Long
Has authored or co-authored 17 books
Baylor calls him one of the best 10 preachers in America

“on being a Christian” By Hans Kuhn
– being a Christian is a very hard thing – little Presbyterians are not growing up to be big Presbyterians as much as they used to

What are the Christians with the megaphones saying?

MY THOUGHT: YOUTUBE PRESENTS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR US ALL TO HAVE A MEGAPHONE

Story of earthquake in Lisbon Portugal Nov 1. 1755?
– 9:40 am all saints day
10,000 – 50,000 people died that day
– changed the way people thought about God and suffering

Why Lisbon: 1st major world disaster after “The Enlightenment”
– before this, people during a disaster would ask “What is God trying to teach us about?”
– most people realized something was wrong about the way we thought about God

Newton said there was slippage in his formulas

La Pleias wrote about the creation but didn’t mention the creator
– Napoleon asked him
– he said “I have no need for that hypothesis”

Leibniz – said God imagined every possibility of all permutations and picked the best of all of them
– Lisbon cured people from that we of thinking

Problem we have all thought about: There is a God, He is loving and compassionate, he is all powerful, there is innocent suffering
– some say that is a philosophical and mathematical problem which demands a philosophical and mathematical answer

Is God good?
– is God all powerful

Louis Smeads wrote in “The Christian Century”
– story of losing a child together

The problem of innocent suffering
– a challenge to rethink our theology

Rabbi Kushner’s book “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People”
– he rejects “the bromides” that people often say at times like this
– Kushner interpreted that verse that God is doing the best he can, but he can’t handle the power of evil
– he rejects the phrase “God is all powerful”
– cost of that is very high – Kushner says evil comes from Fate (that makes a 2nd God called Fte)

St Augustine gave a different answer
– world was all in balance, but creatures used free will to rebel against God and thereby created evil
– tragic consequences to free will – many people have trouble attributing death of baby in a crib to Adam and Eve

Theologian John Hick said
– maybe Augustine’s idea of paradise is our ideas
– maybe a world in which souls are made is a very different paradise

Story of child who wanted a real baby who chose her / needed her
– if God is interested in soul making maybe this is God’s world
– that doesn’t go well with catastrophic suffering

Matthew 13

Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
“The farmer’s workers went to him and said, `Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
“`An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
“`Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
“`No,’ he replied, `you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.'” (Matthew 13:24-30 NLT)

So every one of these gets redefined in and through Jesus Christ

This parable is often demonically interpreted: don’t pluck out any weeds
– ethical quietism

Properly understood this is is an authorization for us to raise our fists to heaven
– Psalms give us that permission
– as trusting children we can do this with our fathers

It is NOT our theology that God uses suffering of innocents to build character

God does not will the death of babies “an enemy has done this, he is my enemy as well as yours”

We don’t have the power to pluck out evil

There is wisdom give to us about what constitutes good and evil

Story of a friend who had polio

No, it is God’s enemy too It is not given to us to unwind string
Will it always be this way? No, God in Jesus Christ is even now battling the evil in the world

Museum to the Holocaust in Dachau
– tragic photograph inspires prayer: mother and daughter being marched to the gas chamber at Aushwitz
– holding her hand over her daughter’s eyes as she marches to the death chamber

Charles DeGualle
– parent with Yvonne of Ann with down’s syndrome
– she died Helen she was 12 years old
– mom couldn’t pull herself away from the grave
– at death, she is now like the others

In God’s time overcoming all the evil

God says, I do it in the way that looks like Jesus Christ
– wins the great victory of Easter
– oh death where is your sting?

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