Why? Making Sense of God’s Will

This week, I read Why?: Making Sense of God’s Will by Adam Hamilton. In this short book, Hamilton addresses three questions of theodicy, God’s justice in the face of suffering, Why do the innocent suffer? Why do my prayers go unanswered? Why can’t I see God’s will for my life? He concludes with a few words about Why God’s love prevails.

As a pastor, I have spent time studying the history of Christian thought around these questions as well as spending time with people who are asking some of these very same questions. In this book, I found both a few new approaches to responding to these questions and encouragement for my own why questions. I appreciated the clear illustrations, biblical examples and easy to follow structure.

While this book will be helpful for anyone who is struggling with why questions about their faith, I most strongly recommend it for leaders of Christian communities who will interact with people who are trying to make sense of God’s presence and action in their life at difficult times. In addition, I believe that you will find, as I did, that the words of this book provided helpful guidance for my life in ways that I was not expecting.

I know that I will refer back to this book again in the future for both personal and professional use.

Holiday in Hellmouth: God and Suffering

My first experience of reading from The New Yorker was James Wood article, Holiday in Hellmouth:God may be dead, but the question of why he permits suffering lives on. Although this article was a review of the book God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer by Bart Ehrman, Wood addresses God and suffering in a well thought out article that seems to move beyond the scope of the book being reviewed.

I enjoyed reading the article and found it to be well written and articulate. Wood outlines many of the common responses to the question of the reality of both evil and a good and loving God. I am comfortable with two of the responses that Wood gives – God suffers with us and that the reality of free will allows evil to happen. In contrast to Wood, I believe that suffering does not limit God’s power. Also, I would make a distinction between the free will given to humanity and the regular workings of the natural world.

In Woods’ final paragraphs, he concludes that the hope for a second coming puts off and does not adequately address the question of suffering. Woods asserts that the hope for a new heaven and earth leaves the question – Why not now, God? What is the point of this life when a new one is coming? Here I see Woods response as deficient. Woods addresses free will in relationship to suffering, but does not address free will in relationship to the possible good that comes of the ability for us to accept God’s grace and live as a part of God’s kingdom today. I believe that we have the opportunity to live by the customs and norms of God’s coming kingdom and be a part of God’s kingdom here on earth. Is there the possibility to suffering as a result of free will? Yes. Is there the possibility for good as a result of free will. Also, yes.

I recommend the article and welcome your comments both on it and my response.

Did Peter know what he meant by saying, “You are the Christ?”

I have had the opportunity to lead the Builders Sunday Morning Small Group for three weeks studying the gospel according to Mark. This question was from a breakout group studying Mark 8:27-30.

Peter’s confession is the first human confession that is recorded in Mark. To this point in the narrative the naming of Jesus identity had come from demons that had been cast out by Jesus.

I think that Peter knew what he was saying. He would have likely had some understanding of the expectation for a messiah and what that might look like. However, I do not think that Peter understood the depths of the truth that he was saying and the nuances of how this would actually take place.

There are two places where I think Peter may not have fully understood what he was saying. Jesus is savior not just for the Jewish people, but for all of creation. Also, suffering was a key part of Jesus journey to resurrection.

You can find previous responses to questions coming from this class here:

Why did Jesus not want to be identified?

I have had the opportunity to lead the Builders Sunday Morning Small Group for three weeks studying the gospel according to Mark. This question was from a breakout group studying Mark 8:27-30.

In this scripture passage, Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah or Christ and then Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about it. The so-called messianic secret of Jesus has been a source of question for me as well over time.

Scholar Pheme Perkins asserts in the New Interpreter’s Bible that there are several possible reasons for Jesus asking the disciples to keep quiet about his identity as Messiah.

  • Timing – The proclamation of Jesus as messiah is not completely true until after resurrection. Peter’s proclamation is not yet completely realized.
  • Context – Prior to Peter’s naming of Jesus as messiah the only time that this has occurred is in the context of an exorcism or healing. This may not be the proper context to proclaim Jesus’ identity.
  • Witnesses – Previously the witnesses to Jesus identity had been demons and perhaps these are not truly witnesses to Jesus.
  • Suffering – The disciples did not seem to understand that being a savior involves suffering.

I find these to be pretty compelling reasons, but on a few of them I still have some questions. For example, if someone is witnessing to Jesus but is not a believer does this particularly matter? Or is the fact that Jesus is being proclaimed enough?

What do you think? How would you respond to this question?

You can find previous responses to questions coming from this class here: