“THE GOD PROBLEM”

I suspect that we all have books that will forever be our touchstones; books that we return to over and over again to re-orientate our lives to what is important.  The Bible is that book for me unlike any other book. I say that not because I am a minister nor because I am a Christian; to the contrary, I am both because of the Bible.  It is in a category of its own and the speaks to me from the one who alone is always able to right all things in this universe. I also go to C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer and Prof. Peter Kreeft; writers whose words are not merely for this moment but for all moments, past and present.  In this moment of chaos and fear, I have recently returned to a book written by Thomas Long entitled What Shall We Say? 

Thomas Long retells the events of November 1, 1755 when on a Lord’s Day in Lisbon Spain—Europe’s most religious and pious city where one of every ten citizens were either priests or monks or nuns and where the heart of the Inquisition lived—an earthquake shook not only the city but the faith of her people.   At approximately 9:30am, when worshippers were singing about and to their Almighty God, no one could have imagined the disaster that was unfolding just miles off the coast. As the earth began to shake violently, the people of Lisbon were crushed by falling buildings, burned by ensuing fires and the streets were soon filled with death.  Those who escaped ran instinctively to the harbor perhaps following gravity or maybe even to escape to the sea, only to be met by the eerie sight of a dry harbor unsuspecting that a tsunami was in process. The victims were many that day and impossible to count, but estimates place the death toll at 50,000 to 60,000 men, women and children.  Among the casualties….the reputation of the God many faithfully followed.  
 
As Christians philosophers and theologians attempted to explain the events of Lisbon and really, the reality of life in general, Gottfied Leibniz submitted his explanation entitled Theodicy to defend the moral goodness of God.  Theodicy came to be known as “the God problem,” It is the situation created by a God who we believe to be all knowing, all powerful and all good who at worst causes the situations that bring hardship and suffering into our lives, and at best, fails to intervene to stop our hardship.  Great minds throughout history have wrestled with and explained the dilemma, from Augustine to Luther to Lewis, and all have a hard time telling us what we want to hear even if it is the truth. Yet they do remind us of an important fact: that our suffering—expressed in many ways including the virus and its ramifications in our own time—at the very least as C.S. Lewis put it in The Problem of Pain is God’s call to look in his direction once again.  Lewis famously said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  
 

My pray and desire through our time of suffering is that we as Christians will guide our world to look to God, have faith in God and follow God, while helping others begin that process.  We have something that the world doesn’t always see looking at our church buildings from the outside, something they don’t hear as they scan past our radio stations, something that is not discerned from our moral positions:  we have HOPE. The love of God expressed through Jesus and his followers once upon a time won the world. Let’s follow Christ through our tribulation as he speaks once again to us: “In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

Lance Tamerius – CCH Director