Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Disagreeing on Good Fridaay

A video with the AB of C, Justin Welby - Good Friday: Getting The Answer You Didn’t Want ...

And a post by Ron Rolheiser - The Resurrection as Revealing God as Redeemer, not as Rescuer ...

[F]aith in Jesus and the resurrection won't save us from humiliation, pain, and death in this life. Faith isn't meant to do that. Jesus doesn't grant special exemptions to his friends, no more than God granted special exemptions to Jesus. We see this everywhere in the Gospels, though most clearly in Jesus' resurrection ...

I guess most people look at suffering and death in this way ... inevitable, perhaps even ennobling, and redeemed by life after death. And I guess most see God as unable or unwilling to "rescue" us.

I hate this attitude and I dislike where I think it comes from: it's not from the Bible, which has a very active God who does "rescue" people in both the OT and the NT. Life here is important, and the quality of life here matters too - Jesus wanted to make this life here better for us. When people asked for his help, he didn't tell them to suck it up and hope for a better life in heaven: he healed the sick and injured, he brought the dead back to life, back to life *here*. Jesus told us to ask God's help in prayer, help for practical things like food - was he being rhetorical? Should we really not pray for people to get well, for help with our problems, or should we really put such riders on our prayers that our desires are essentially unowned? I know that when I prayed for my loved ones who have suffered and died, I wasn't saying, "I'd really like them to not suffer so much, but if that's your will, then whatever,"

Of course Jesus did suffer and die - God didn't save him - and many people do suffer and ask God for help that never comes. I don't know why this is so, and this inconsistency is the biggest test of my belief. But what I'm unwilling to do is create a scenario that resolves this conflict. Ambiguity is hard to live with, but I'm more willing to live with it than to imagine a God who makes suffering and death acceptable to us.


Blogger PrickliestPear said...

I've read this post a few times now throughout the day, and I have a comment and a question:

Your point that "life here is important" is an important point, and I share your distaste for the view that we should just accept all the crap that life throws at us, because things will be better on the other side. That's a dangerous belief, and it seems to me to be completely incompatible with Jesus's message about the reign of God.

But when it comes to the existence of suffering, I understand your feelings about that, but I wonder, what would life be like if God was constantly intervening in the natural order to prevent suffering from happening? My question really is, how do you imagine things could be different?

10:53 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Yes, if God did intervene often or always when something bad was happening it seems like it would just be chaos, stuff happening without any cause-effect relationship. Life here seems set up to incorporate suffering.

I guess the way I feel about it is emotional, not rational. When I was a kid I would lay in bed at night and think of all the people in the world who were being tortured or murdered or were starving or alone or scared, and then there were all the animals - yikes! I don't want a God who can live with all that collateral damage. I want him to come up with a better plan. If things can be just swell in heaven, why not here too?

Dopey, I know, but it just makes me angry. And scared, I guess, because it means that anything can happen. William Barry SJ says in one of his books that real religion doesn't tell you that if God loves you, you'll be protected from bad things, it tells you that bad things will probably happen to you but it won't really matter. But I think it does matter.

11:25 PM  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...

I hear what you're saying.

I don't know if you ever read James McGrath's Exploring Our Matrix, but his post "This Life Matters" talks about this problem of trivializing this life by focusing too heavily on the next. I particularly like what he says in the last two paragraphs.

2:29 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for the link. I see his blog posts mentioned now and then at Mark Goodacre's NT Blog.

"Why would God make this life, with its temptations and trials, if we could simply be made to exist in a form that is perfect and incorruptible? If we can be transformed into beings incapable of suffering or sinning, then why not simply make us that way from the outset? Or if there can never be guaranteed perfection, then might an afterlife simply be a prelude to another Fall and another mess?"

Yes, that's what I've been wondering about.

In a way it seems like Gnosticism and Buddhism have in common the idea that this life is something to get away from?

10:20 PM  

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