Sunday, May 03, 2015

Nepal, Doubt, Aquinas, Lament

There are days when I get overwhelmed by doubt about the whole God thing. I'm sure it happens to some of you. Of not. Maybe I have a weak faith.

Technically, I don't wrestle with the existence of God. I would never become a true atheist. I find Aquinas' "first cause" argument and teleological arguments very convincing. I don't think I could ever look at the world and think that it just came into existence without some supernatural help.

But, natural disasters like the earthquake in Nepal are my theological downfall. They make me want to be a deist. On my Facebook feed was posted a picture of a baby rescued over a day after the earthquake, which really is amazing. People were sharing the picture and commenting how God was really looking out for this little one. I just wanted to cry out, "But what about the thousand other little ones?! Was God taking a break then?"

I know that there's some mature, Christian answer to this about it all being God's plan, etc., etc., but I'm not a Calvinist for a reason. It makes God a monster. And the God described in the Bible, particularly the New Testament, is a loving and merciful God, not a monster.

So, what is a reasonable response to this without going flat out agnostic or deist? I think it starts with lament. There are several places in the Bible that we see lament: Job, Psalms, and Lamentations (along with a few other places in the major and minor prophets). These are scriptures where humans are crying out to God for justice and mercy. This is a legitimate request. When are you going to restore Jerusalem? Yes, we broke the covenant, but have we paid enough yet? OUr enemies are crushing us, Lord; when will you save us?

I prefer the book of Lamentations. A bit more than halfway through, Jeremiah (the author) suddenly says this:
Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
I'm not quite sure HOW he is able to say this, but he does. In the book of Job, Job is talking to his friends about how God has deserted him, but then he says this:25 
I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!

Again, Job is hanging on to his faith in the midst of his crisis. But, he is doing so honestly, through his lament.

He is not presenting a triumphalism that isn't real. He isn't trying to say that life is great when it's not. This isn't the Evangelical "happy clappy" "let's show  the world how great life is because we're Christians" kind of airbrushing. He and Jeremiah and the writer of the Psalms are honest and open about how rotten life is. Yet, they cling to what they know.

And I will do the same thing. I am following Jesus. Even when the world around me is crumbling. Even when earthquakes kill thousands of people for reasons I will never fathom. Even when there are riots that I don't understand. Even when I have chronic illness and am stuck not doing what I thought was my calling in life. Because I know that my redeemer lives. And because of the Lord's great love, I am not consumed, his compassions are new every morning.

Join me in lament and prayer for all the horrible things that are going wrong in the world. And let's hang on to the truth of Jesus and not give up.

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