Friday, March 21, 2008

Could our Suffering be a Gift?


Debbie Maken and Captain Sensible constantly speak about how singleness cannot be a gift because of the fact that it produces suffering. In fact, if you read the promo for Debbie Maken's book on Amazon it says:


Singleness is a gift; at least that's what we've been taught. But if singleness is a gift, then why does it make us feel so miserable so often? Does God really want his children to embrace a gift they resent so much?

Debbie Maken proposes that marriage is the fundamental design and structure for life that God chose for his people. She argues that the church needs to reemphasize the importance of the gift of marriage. This book issues a challenge to churches in their teaching and attitudes toward singleness and to believers in their understanding of God' s intentions regarding marriage.



What if the answer were, even though you resent it, and it makes you feel miserable, it is still a gift, because even the things that you resent, and that make you feel miserable, are gifts? Of course, Debbie Maken and Captain Sensible would probably mock such an idea. However, as I pointed out, mockery is not an argument.


This brings me to one of my favorite sermons by one of my favorite speakers. Pastor William Shishko is pastor of Franklin Square Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and professor of pastoral theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Back in 2003, he preached a series on suffering called Where's God When it Hurts? One of my favorite sermons is part 3 of this five part sermon series, where Pastor Shishko talks about how Christ relates to our suffering. It is one of the best expositions of the phrase "fill up what is lacking in Christ afflictions" in Colossians 1:20 that I have ever seen. Not only that, but Pastor Shishko shows the necessity, even the goodness of suffering in our lives. How is it that the suffering of Christ is related to our suffering? How does it relate to our salvation as a whole? How does it help us to even define salvation? I was listening to it again this morning and was just struck by how relevant the sermon is to, not only our views of marriage and singleness, but also the modern church in general.


Sometimes discernment is required in these little areas so that we can have discernment in these greater areas. One of the many reasons why Debbie Maken and Captain Sensible's ideas have absolutely no appeal to me is because of the fact that I want to know Christ above all things, including being married. That is, if my singleness makes me know Christ more, it is to be perferred. Even if I suffer in "protracted singleness," and it helps me know Christ more, I would rather know Christ than marry. Now, could I have both? Yes, God grants both to many people. However, ultimately, it is more important to me to know Christ than anything else. Therefore, as I learn the sufferings of Christ, I am learning more and more to trust in him in whether I get what I want, or whether I do not. I know that, whether I go through times of pleasure or times of suffering, Christ is right there going through it together with me.

Throughout in this series, Pastor Shishko quotes a man by the name of Samuel Rutherford, a man who suffered greatly for his faith. Rutherford said that he feared that he might make his suffering an idol, because, through his suffering, he knew Christ more. Sadly, this is not a problem in the modern church. This is one case where comparing the problems of the church in Rutherford's time and the problems of the church in our time says a whole lot about the state of the church today.

26 comments:

Paul said...

And that is the essence of the "gift of singleness" teaching, and why a woman like Elisabeth Elliott - who believed all suffering in her life (including the murder of her first husband) was a "gift" from God - promoted the idea.

The accusation you make against God - that He has ordained every evil, depraved action that mankind has ever committed - while I wouldn't pay you the same insult of "heretic" which you pay me, is highly blasphemous of God's character.

And further, it is precisely the reason why strong Calvinists like yourself are so hostile to the claims of open theism and the concept of true human free will -- because it brings to your mind the libelous accusation you bring against God, that every wickedness, perversion, dysfunction and tragedy begins as a command that originated in His mind.

I rebuke you.

LadyElaine said...

whoa paul,

can you please show me where puritancalvinist actually EXPLICITLY SAID in his posting that God ordained evil? Also, can you give me exegeted Scripture that supports the claims of open free theism? Could you also explain what open free theism is for those who aren't seminary students? I'm not trying to attack your position or his. Just trying to CLEARLY understand what your position is.

Also, I have another question: What is your position on singleness and marriage?

Paul said...

Elaine,

He didn't talk about evil specifically in this post, but that is his position. Just like Elisabeth Elliott believes: The reason singleness is a gift from God is because literally everything that happens in our lives is a gift from God.

Here is a quote of his from another post:

"Calvinism teaches that God ordains the ends as well as the means. Thus, when someone sins...God ordained the ends [their act of sin] as well as the means [their evil desire to sin]."

And last fall when he and I were debating this topic, I left this comment:

"In one of my previous posts, I made the statement that both Calvinists and Open Theists believe we are defending God's honor in our theology [not that He needs any of us to defend Him, of course]. I think you really need to consider this, Adam: You and other strong Calvinists have absolutely no qualms about stating that God has planned in minute detail, every wicked, perverse act mankind has ever done, and that even the desire to commit those acts originated in the mind of God. And that He did this for His glory and pleasure."

And in response to my comment, his cousin left this comment:

"Actually last I knew, he does mean that. Off-line I'm his maternal first cousin. We've had discussion regarding the Bible and theology. In one of them, I asked him if he believed that, since God supposedly has predestined every detail of our lives, some people were designed by God to be homosexual. Adam replied in the affirmative. I then asked him if he felt that gays/lesbians were going to be sent to Hell anyway. Again he said yes. I asked him why, and he told me that it was to bring God glory."

And specifically to how this relates to singleness, here's what Adam believes (from another post last year):

"13. God works all things after the council of his will [Ephesians 1:11], and thus, in whatever situation we are in, God is using it for our own good [Romans 8:28]. Thus, even "circumstantial singleness" has a purpose in God's plan to mold us into the children he wants us to be.

14. Because God is sovereign, he ordains both the ends and the means. That includes both whether or not we search for a spouse, and whether or not that search will be successful. No matter what God ordains, it will always be for our good [Romans 8:28]."


Here is what I believe about singleness and marriage:

1. Marriage is good; and both desiring it and seeking it intentionally are good (Adam agrees with this).

2. There is also nothing wrong with a person remaining single for an extended period of his life, or even for his entire life. In fact there are certain liberties for ministry that singleness affords which marriage does not (Adam agrees).

3. There is no biblical "marriage mandate" that we are under such that we are living in a perpetual state of sin unless and until another person agrees to marry us (Adam agrees).

4. The vast majority of people need marriage for a multitude of reasons (I think Adam would generally agree with that).

5. It's generally wise for people to pursue marriage earlier in life than what is currently going on in our culture (I don't think Adam would have a problem with that statement).

6. If someone is single, it's not because God hasn't "allowed" him to get married yet. God is not controlling every aspect of our lives in minute detail (Adam adamantly rejects this statement). In other words, there is truly such a thing as "circumstantial" singleness, just as there is circumstantial illness.

7. God does not have a particular person picked out for each of us, and He does not play divine matchmaker, "bringing" our spouse, whom He has created just for us, into our lives at the "appointed time" (Adam's blood pressure shot up 20 points just reading that).

That's it in a nutshell.

As to open theism, the simple definition is that God is free to change the future. He is a living God who experiences time. And because He has created us in His likeness, we possess a will, which is the ability to do otherwise.

Adam's and other Calvinist's (that is, consistent Calvinists) conception of "free will" is that we are free to do what we choose to do; but that our choices, and even our very desires (sinful and otherwise), are ordained by God.

As for Scripture that supports this view of God and reality, please check out these two links:

"95 Verses about Free Will (or Open Theism)"

"From Genesis to Revelation Bible Summary"

RedKnight said...

Adam, if you believe that suffering is a necessary gift from God,did not Christ bear our suffering on the cross? If it is still required for us to suffer, because of our sins, why then did Jesus need to be scourged and crucified? This belief in mortification seems to me to be more like what Roman Catholics believe, than reformed protestants. By the way, do you observe lent as well?

PuritanCalvinist said...

Paul,

I never "accused" God of anything. God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil that he ordains. If God has a morally sufficient reason, then there is no reason for anyone to accuse him of anything, right?

Again, some clarification is in order when you talk about things "originating in his mind." God's purpose for the ordination of evil is always morally sufficient. Hence, it is not "libelous" in the least bit. In fact, it is one of the greatest praises one could ever give, that God is Lord, even of evil, and that no evil action comes about with out some good, morally sufficient purpose behind it.

Of course, as Pastor Shishko says, do we really want a universe in which evil has free reign to do whatever it wants? Do you seriously want to suggest that we live in a world where there is purposeless evil?

I understand why you are rebuking me. I just don't happen to think that the rebuke is valid. Paul, again, you do not understand why it is that I say that you are a heretic. It is not because of some desire to be mean and nasty, but you believe in a totally different God, and thus, we are trusting in two different Gods for our salvation.

God Bless,
Adam

PuritanCalvinist said...

rednight,

The point is that the suffering, for the believer, is not for sin. Pastor Shishko goes into this in detail in his audio. The suffering for the Christian is for the purpose of the conforming to the image of Christ. Thus, any suffering that we have is not propitiatory in any way shape or form [i.e., it doesn't take away sin], but is a tool that the Holy Spirit uses in order to sanctify us.

Again, Pastor Shishko goes through al of this in his series. I think that will help you to understand better what I am saying.

God Bless,
Adam

Paul said...

Adam said: "I never "accused" God of anything. God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil that he ordains. If God has a morally sufficient reason, then there is no reason for anyone to accuse him of anything, right?

Again, some clarification is in order when you talk about things "originating in his mind." God's purpose for the ordination of evil is always morally sufficient. Hence, it is not "libelous" in the least bit. In fact, it is one of the greatest praises one could ever give, that God is Lord, even of evil, and that no evil action comes about with out some good, morally sufficient purpose behind it."


First, I always find it amusing how reformed theologians assume that God is only allowing those specific evil acts for which He has some higher "purpose," and that He is preventing all the rest. So, for example, we are to assume that there would have been even more than 50 million legal abortions in America since 1973 if God was not "sifting out" all of the abortions that He didn't have some higher "purpose" for, and only allowing those that He did. It's just bizarre...not to mention sadistic.

Secondly, there is no morally sufficient reason for God to ordain evil, because right and wrong are objective things that flow from God's righteous character, and for Him to ordain evil would be evil.

This is related to that Euthyphro Dilemma issue. You obviously, along with most other reformed theologians, believe in the Divine Command theory of morality -- that things are either right or wrong because God says so, and not because He recognizes acts as right or wrong -- a standard which He himself would be guilty of if He did them, or even ordained them.

And before you bring it up, yes, I do understand the concept of "first cause" and "secondary causes," and I believe that that is simply philosophical mumbo-jumbo that theologians have come up with to try to explain how God can be the cause of sin without really being the cause of sin. It is theological double-talk.

This issue of God ordaining evil reminds me of an exchange in that Enyart/Lamerson debate in which Dr. Lamerson asked Enyart how, if God is not in control of everything that happens, how could he (Dr. Lamerson) be sure that God wouldn't lead him to marry a woman who would end up murdering his children?

Here was Enyart's response, in which he quoted a letter from Brian Rohrbough, the father of one of the slain students at Columbine High School:


My dear friend, Brian Rohrbough, whose son Danny was murdered at Columbine High School by Harris and Klebold, wants to send this message in response to Sam's worry that if God was not in total control, he might lead us to marry someone who will murder our children. I just reread the rules and believe it permissible to insert this:

Dr. Lamerson, I received a letter from Barbara Martin of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She wrote, "Our family faced this grim reality too when our grandchildren were murdered by their mother, Susan Smith… Many people blame God, but the Bible blames the devil (Hebrews 2:12)."

Mrs. Martin is correct when we realize that the devil represents all those in rebellion against God (John 8:44), but millions of Calvinists believe that God ordained every rape and murder, and the criminals do exactly what God predestined them to do, without any ability to do otherwise. Dr. Lamerson, you wrote that if God was not in complete control, then perhaps "the spouse that he leads me to marry may be the wrong one who will murder my children." But your Calvinist God supposedly did that already to David Smith. Sam, you believe that every mother who murders her child does so by God's decree. Aren't you betraying your own Calvinist belief to suggest that somehow your children should be specially protected?

After Columbine, many Christians publicly said God must have had a good reason, to have Danny and the others murdered. Jesus Himself rejected this "blame God attitude." Consider the importance of a report this week of an archaeological find of the discovery of the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. Perhaps you remember the tower near there. It fell over and killed eighteen people. And Jesus responded to the Greek superstition of that day, like Calvinism today, when people foolishly look for the will of God in murders, rapes, and tragedies of negligence, by saying:

"Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! …" -Jesus, Luke 13:4-5

And for those who were looking for an interpretation of the deaths of the Galileans who were murdered by Pilate, Jesus found their superstition useless too:

"Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no!" -Jesus, Luke 13:2-3

Here Jesus rejected the most obvious of the absurd "interpretations," that bad things happened to people because God was directly punishing them. Since Luke recorded Christ's rebuke, Calvinists today have to get around it. So they're more "creative." You assume that if God is not punishing the victims, then He's obviously achieving some other worthwhile goal -perhaps punishing their loved ones. Or maybe He just decided that this would be the best way for the victims to go, even for the ones He preordained to eternal torment. If today Jesus were at that Pool of Siloam and someone asked Him about Calvinism, I believe that He would respond by saying the answer has not changed with the passage of time.

When we consider that God has used a Flood, and kings to bring judgment against whole populations, that was by His direct decree. God has the authority to do that. However, God didn't give authority to individuals to murder others, and would never authorize the murder of two children by their mother - who hoped to save an adulterous affair. When you attribute my son's murder to the plan and glory of God, you have sacrificed the righteousness of God for humanism.

Sincerely, -Brian Rohrbough


Thank you Brian. (And here's a link to the finding of The Pool of Siloam.)

So Sam, one of your fears of the Open View is that by accident great cruelty might happen; but that is exactly what you say the Calvinist God does every day, intentionally. We believe the reason that Calvinists so frequently contradict themselves is because their theology, which long ago sacrificed goodness for immutability, claims that both wickedness and goodness flow from the mind of God. That ultimate contradiction leads to a lifelong chain of contradictions, especially between what a Calvinist believes, and how he lives his life.

By the way, to those Arminians (true "free will" Christians), who reject the Open View, your fellow Arminians were among the many Christians who said that it must have been "God's time" to take the Columbine victims. For "free will" believers by the millions slip into Calvinist ideas because the Arminian split with Calvinism failed to do away with utter immutability and exhaustive foreknowledge.

And Sam, obviously I think Brian's criticism is exactly right. But what must you think? You're in Battle Royale X defending God for ordaining all evil, including the killing of children, not in a judgment of God (which takes them into His hands), but by wickedly selfish rapists and murderers. Smith, Harris, and Klebold are among the most notorious murderers of the twentieth century. Brian's favorite verse to expose the superstition of Calvinism is Jesus rebuking those who interpreted the accidental deaths from the fall of the Tower in Siloam as judgment from God. So do you see my post as God's providence, or what? You serve up as a great fear something you regularly attribute to God, a spouse who murders her children, and we hear from a private letter from Susan Smith's mother-in-law, and Columbine dad Brian Rohrbough gets to quote Jesus about the Tower of Siloam when the whole world hears another piece of evidence that the Bible is historically accurate, with the report (on TV news as I write this!) of the discovery of the Pool of Siloam after 2,000 years! So, do you think that God predestined the confluence of all these dramatic events coming to me as I write this post, just so that I could win the TOL poll for round three?



Adam continued: "Do you seriously want to suggest that we live in a world where there is purposeless evil?"

"Purposeless" in the sense that God does not want certain things to happen and they happen anyway? Yes. I would rather call it "gratuitous" evil.

I know how much reformed theologians hate this answer and believe it to be trite, but, the "purpose" for evil is human free will; it really is that simple. God created us with the freedom to love Him, and in order for love to exist at all it must be freely given.

And that means that for love to exist, the opposite of love must also exist, that is, the freedom to hate God, hate one another, and hurt one another must exist. And God lets all that take place without orchestrating everything, or "sifting out" only those acts of evil for which He has no purpose, while allowing all the rest.

And about the "love must be freely given" thing: I noticed in one of your comments on Boundless that you repeated Enyart's statement in his debate with Dr. Gene Cook that Jesus could have hated the Father from eternity past. Lest you think that I found that statement embarrassing, I will affirm that, yes, hypothetically Jesus could have hated the Father from all eternity past. The reason for that is that love must be freely given, and that includes the love that is shared within the Godhead.

Christ loves God the Father willingly, not because He has no choice. And God gives us the freedom to love and worship Him willingly, not because He causes us to love and worship Him (as you also stated in a comment on Boundless).

So to answer your question again, yes, I do want to suggest that we live in a world in which "purposeless" (that is, gratuitous) evil exists. And furthermore, I'm thankful to God that He has created such a world, for only in such a world can love exist.

"Paul, again, you do not understand why it is that I say that you are a heretic. It is not because of some desire to be mean and nasty, but you believe in a totally different God, and thus, we are trusting in two different Gods for our salvation."

I understand fully, and I disagree with you that we are trusting two different Gods.

I know that it is highly unlikely that I will convince someone as studied in reformed theology as yourself that you are in error on this topic, so I don't intend to take up any more of your time with fruitless debate.

Take care and have a blessed Resurrection Sunday.

Oh ... and congrats on your upcoming wedding! I'm really happy for you (seriously).

- Paul

RedKnight said...

OK,Adam, so you do not believe that our personal suffering is necessary for our salvation.Just like a pentecostal/Holiness person, you make a distinction between salvation, and sanctification. Still I am reminded of members of some Catholic orders whom scourge themselve, in order to purify there souls from the flesh, which they believe to be evil by nature. As to the ones who claim that God never commanded people to kill in his name. He actually did. For example, here is just only one instance of God having others do His dirty work for Him. 1 Samuel 15:3 "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."

Paul said...

Hey RedKnight,

I hope you don't mind me addressing your question about Amalek, but God ordering the Israelites to kill certain people was not unjust. God created us and He has the authority to bring His created beings into the afterlife if He wants to, however He wants to do it. And He also has the authority to delegate the administration of that duty to humans, as He did with the Israelites at times. It is not "dirty work," or anything evil or unjust for God to do that. However, God did not give humans the authority to take each other's lives at their sole discretion (meaning, excluding capital punishment and self defense, which are spelled out in Scripture as allowed -- even mandatory).

Here are some podcast debates I'd like you to listen to (Adam might not like this because they feature my favorite talk show host, Bob Enyart -- but since it doesn't deal with open theism it should be OK). He is debating a hardened atheist who is accusing God of being unjust for wiping out the human race, including babies, in Noah's flood, and also saying that it was evil for God to command Joshua to have the Israelites wipe out entire cities, including children. Enyart lets him know that there was nothing unjust about that, for the reasons I stated above:

An atheist debates Bob Enyart on "God's Rights": Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

On a personal note: I noticed you mentioned pentecostal/holiness churches, and if my memory serves, I seem to recall in another comment of yours from months ago you mentioned the Church of God. Would that happen to be the "Church of God" of Cleveland, TN (the pentecostal one)? I was raised in that denomination. In fact, my father was a Church of God pastor. I know there is also a "Church of God" of Anderson, IN, which I believe is "holiness" but not pentecostal. Just curious. I'm no longer Church of God (or pentecostal), btw.

Take care. -- Paul

RedKnight said...

My sister is a ministerial student with the Anderson, Ind. Church of God. I understand what you mean about the slaughter of Caanan. I don't agree, but I understand. The funny thing is that if it had been Muhammed, instead of Joshua, being told by God to massacre whole communities,in the Quran and not the Bible, we'd never hear the end of it by conservative commentators. It would be used to demonstrate why Islam is a barbaric religion, and Allah is an evil deity. And rightly so. But I guess that in the end it all comes down to "might makes right". You feel your God is almighty, so therefore He's also all holy. Well I as a free thinker, critique all gods and religions, according to a secular humanist standpoint. I mean no disrespect to any adherent personaly. I do however consider killing people to be "dirty work", even from a biblical standpoint, as King David was not allowed the build the Temple, because he shed human blood.

gortexgrrl said...

Adam asks:

"What if the answer were, even though you resent it, and it makes you feel miserable, it is still a gift, because even the things that you resent, and that make you feel miserable, are gifts?"

This is a moot question Adam, because the Bible tells us to "rejoice in our sufferings", but even when they are "the will of God" (1 Peter 3), they are still not biblically referred to using the word "gift", in any way, shape or form.

The problem with calling negative things "a gift", is you end up reading INTENTIONS into God's will that may not be there.

For example let's say God allowed you (or your generation) to suffer as a consequence of your actions (or inaction), perhaps even as a punishment. It would be awfully hypocritical and cheeky to go around calling it "a gift". It waters downs the seriousness of your transgression.

Punishment is punishment. Consequences are consequences. Gifts are gifts.

And that's what I like about the Bible, it means what it says, and says what it means.

LadyElaine said...

gortexxgrl,

I do understand why you appreciate how the Bible says what it means and means what it says. However, we must be careful not to read into the Bible things that IT DOES NOT SPEAK EXPLICITLY ON. When you do so, you risk the danger of falling into the same error that you accuse Adam of: reading into Scripture intentions that are not there or are manufactured to prove a point out of context.




and as far as your dissection of adam's argument about suffering being a gift, I think of the analogy of birthdays and presents, where a person who loves you very much gives you the present WITH THE INTENT OF YOUR GOOD, but because it doesn't fit YOUR PERCEPTION AND UNDERSTANDING, you reject it because it's not what you really wanted, even though the gift will actually help you when used in light of its true purpose. It's like an immature teen who wants the latest IPOD and bristles at a gift that may not give them instant gratification or would help them stay "in" with their friends, but actually would highly benefit them if they used it in the present and used it in preparation for the future. Responsible parents also do not give their children presents that they do not have the capacity to handle in their developmental state(such as buying an automobile to drive for a 4 year old). This is not an attempt to manipulate or toy with the child, but an acknowledgement of the maturity of the child and the consequences of what is being given. I wonder if that is what Adam is likening it to.
Yes, there are singles out there who are still single, and it's not for lack of effort. There are also singles who have no desire to get married, and it's not because they have hangups about marriage or are in selfish living.
However, let me be clear in saying the following:

While I believe that marriage is important in the church, I believe that our identity, worth,and value as Christians should be attached to what the Bible says we are in Christ. The goal is God being glorified, and any time you focus on MARRIAGE as the ONE AND HIGHEST WAY to glorify God, then you are taking what God instituted for His purposes and turning it into legalistic yardstick of normalcy and adulthood on Christians. We all have gifts and talents to edify the body of Christ no matter what marital state we're in. I think there would be more productive use of our time discipling Christians and giving them the critical skills to be adults IN EVERY ASPECT(spiritually, emotionally, socially,financially,mentally etc.) so that they can use their gifts in edifying the body, glorifying God.

It is not our job to force or shame people to be like us, act like us, talk like us, walk like us, etc., whether we are married or single. Our responsibility as Christians is to encourage one another and walk in love with one another. We cannot make another person believe the truth--they must choose and act accordingly, not according to OUR PERCEPTIONS, BUT WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS.

So how about this---we actually encourage people to grow in God and as people, BEING A REAL FAMILY that we're supposed to reflect as the body of Christ, regardless of whether we're married or not.

gortexgrrl said...

Elaine writes:

"and as far as your dissection of adam's argument about suffering being a gift, I think of the analogy of birthdays and presents, where a person who loves you very much gives you the present WITH THE INTENT OF YOUR GOOD, but because it doesn't fit YOUR PERCEPTION AND UNDERSTANDING, you reject it because it's not what you really wanted, even though the gift will actually help you when used in light of its true purpose"

Here's the rub, Elaine:

In your entire lifetime, you will never know the "purpose" of your singleness-- such is the hidden will of God.

I agree with you that "we must be careful not to read into the Bible things that IT DOES NOT SPEAK EXPLICITLY ON". And for that reason, I don't think we have a right to extrapolate on the mysterious purposes of God (punishment? consequences? means to another end?) -- consider how much fruitless theorizing it leads to!

"It is not our job to force or shame people to be like us, act like us, talk like us, walk like us, etc., whether we are married or single"."

Agreed. But likewise, it's not our job to shame others (as Adam has done here) for not referring every situation we suffer as a "gift", when the Bible does not call for it. Rejoicing in our sufferings (as Paul said) and calling our sufferings a "gift" are two entirely different things.

Ted Slater said...

I offer Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno's benediction: "And may God deny you peace, and give you glory."

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful....

Emily said...

Hey Adam,
I feel as if I have just stepped into the middle of a heated discussion. I don't have a lot of biblical insight, but I can see where you say that suffering can be a gift. It depends on how you define that gift and the maturity and perspective one has on it.
Needless suffering as a result of poor decision making (did you hear about the family that prayed for their diabetic daughter instead of accepting medical intervention?) is not a "gift".
Off topic point: Why does being single past a certain age have to be talked about like one of life's greatest tragedies?
I am twenty-eight, single, Christian and I can see single life past 30 years of age as a joyful existence. I am not "dying on the vine" so to speak - but I would also like companionship. But no Christian man can bring me the joy that God can. *shrugs shoulders*
BTW - I know people who go to Trinity. Trinity is kind of a popular school at my old church.
If you are bored, come visit my blog: http://www.exchurchmouse.wordpress.com

Emily said...

Oh yeah - what do you think about the Boundless.org and other Christian thoughts about Christian women who want to be married NOT pursuing higher education in order to increase their chances of getting married?!

Paul said...

Emily said: Needless suffering as a result of poor decision making (did you hear about the family that prayed for their diabetic daughter instead of accepting medical intervention?) is not a "gift".

Emily -- Careful... Adam believes that God ordained that the family in that tragic story would withhold medical treatment from their daughter, and thus let her die, in order to bring Himself glory.

He doesn't believe there is such a thing as needless suffering; it is all bringing God glory and pleasure.

gortexgrrl said...

Emily,

You ask: "Why does being single past a certain age have to be talked about like one of life's greatest tragedies?
I am twenty-eight, single, Christian and I can see single life past 30 years of age as a joyful existence."

Emily, maybe you can answer your own question by putting yourself in another person's shoes.

It may be easy for you to see your singleness as a gift at 28, and even at 35. But let's say that you were pushing 40 and still hadn't married. Do you think you'd mind "a little" or do you think you'd mind "a lot"?

Another mental exercise: imagine going to the doctor next week and being told that you had a health problem that means you would never be able to have children. Do you think you'd grieve "a little" or do you think you'd grieve "a lot"?

I would reckon that those things would feel very tragic if they happened to you. People go through grief and loss not only for tragic events (such as a miscarriage) but for "non-events" as well (like *not* getting to marry, *not* getting to experience pregnancy, childbirth, etc.).

Probably most of the people on the internet who talk about singleness "as one of life's greatest tragedies" are women who, right now, are going through that grieving process (or are getting closer and closer to it). There's a shortage of marriageable men in the church that's causing many women to miss out on marriage and family life. So this is why there's this climate of anxiety around the whole issue of singleness.

Messages about "the gift of singleness" seem to have been crafted as a way of shutting women up. But, as anyone who has been through grief and loss will tell you -- be it a miscarriage, infertility or protracted singleness -- you cannot circumvent grief.

With God's help, do people work through their grief. But there are a lot of people who will not admit that there are more women than ever in the church who are dealing with this grief right now. And so they minimize it or shame those suffering, that somehow their grief is some kind of spiritual weakness, like they just don't *get it* that "Jesus is all you need" and that "suffering is a gift".

And that's why there are a few of us out there who step in whenever we are told that "singleness is a gift" or that "suffering is a gift". Not only because it's insensitive, but because the word "gift" is NEVER used in the scriptures to describe either.

This does not mean that we deny that God is sovereign, but rather, we look to The Bible for our examples of how to articulate meaning for our sufferings. A book that would never be so crass as to say "God designed your cancer/miscarriage/singleness/etc. for you.

Ted Slater said...

Emily -- please note that the founding editor of Boundless, Candice Watters, has a master's degree. Please be careful not to characterize our views so simply. Boundless is not anti-education.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Gortexgrrl,

Just because a word is not used does not mean that the text is not forcing us to that conclusion. For instance, the Bible does not use the word "trinity" of God, yet we all agree that God is a trinity. The Bible does not use the term "monotheistic" of God, yet we are all monotheists.

I would liken what you are saying someone hearing me say that I believe abortion is immoral, and then, later on telling someone that I don't believe abortion is wrong, because I didn't specifically use the term "wrong."

As far as seeing God's intentions, we can do so if he reveals himself in his word. That is what Pastor Shishko is arguing in this message, namely, that the intentions of God in our suffering is clearly laid out in his word.

As far as punishment, again, I have to wonder how many of the people who have criticized pastor Shishko have listened to his sermon series. He pointed out that the scriptures do not say that a Christian is punished. It is impossible for a Christian to be punished. A Christian is disciplined. That is, the consequences of his sin result in the discipline of a father, and thus, are intended to conform us to the image of Christ.

Again, the issue is whether or not the Bible reveals the purposes of God in our suffering. The specific words that it uses do not matter so long as the words that it does use force us to this conclusion.

God Bless,
Adam

PuritanCalvinist said...

Paul,

That passage in Luke is being taken grossly out of context. In Luke 13, Jesus is dealing with the issue of recognizing the times. He says the following back up in chapter 12:

Luke 12:53-59 "They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." 54 And He was also saying to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'A shower is coming,' and so it turns out. 55 "And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, 'It will be a hot day,' and it turns out that way. 56 "You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time? 57 "And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? 58 "For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 "I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent."

It sounds to me like Jesus is talking about discerning the wickedness of his time, the discernment of the time, and repentance from evil which will cause division. It sounds to me like he is pointing out the division that following him will cause. Because of this, he is encouraging people to repent and turn to him. Hence, the text has nothing whatsoever to do with theodicy, but is talking about being right with God so, if there is such a calamity, we will not perish in hell.

Secondly, with regards to the delemma you bring up, the simple answer is, again, to say that God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil that he ordains. As Pastor Shishko said, the evil that unbelievers experience are the birth pangs of the pain and suffering they will experience in hell. However, suffering for the believer is the discipline of the father which is used for the purpose of conforming him into the image of Christ.

When I say that, in your view, evil is purposeless I am simply saying that, given your view, when evil happens, it serves no purpose. A person cannot look at their evil and say that God is using it for a morally sufficient reason. He must believe that evil is simply unbridled. It pops up at unexpected times by total chance for no purpose whatsoever.

However, I can confidently say that the evil that I experience in this world is ordained of God to conform me more and more to the image of Christ. It has the purpose of, every day, teaching me to stop trusting in my self, and to trust in Christ with every area of my life, including the evil that happens to me.

Finally, with regards to Enyart's debate with Cook, I think that what Gene was saying is that this idea of libertarianism leads you exactly to that conclusion. We agree that a person must willfully choose to do something, however, the idea that the father could have hated the son, that Cyrus might not have allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to build the temple, that the Romans might not have decided to crucify Christ, and that Nebuchadnezzar might have decided not to destroy Jerusalem. When you say these things, on the basis of Isaiah 41:23, you are saying that God could have laid down his very nature as God. When you say these things, you are, indeed, teaching something that should be repulsive to every Christian.

God Bless,
Adam

Paul said...

Adam said:"When I say that, in your view, evil is purposeless I am simply saying that, given your view, when evil happens, it serves no purpose. A person cannot look at their evil and say that God is using it for a morally sufficient reason. He must believe that evil is simply unbridled. It pops up at unexpected times by total chance for no purpose whatsoever."

Yes, God is not "using" evil to achieve some higher purpose. Exactly. And yes, many things happen by chance. The tower in Siloam that fell, killed those particular 18 people by chance. [Unless you say that the "evil" that caused it was that it was poorly designed and constructed.] But it was not God's will for those 18 people to get crushed by a falling tower. God would have preferred if the tower had stayed upright and those people had lived. But according to you, if something like that happened, say to a relative of yours, it probably would be for the purpose of conforming you to the image of Christ. How special you must be that God would arrange for tragedies to occur to your loved ones to help you grow spiritually.

"Finally, with regards to Enyart's debate with Cook, I think that what Gene was saying is that this idea of libertarianism leads you exactly to that conclusion. We agree that a person must willfully choose to do something..."

No you don't. If Christ has no choice but to love the Father, it is not willful.

"...however, the idea that the father could have hated the son, that Cyrus might not have allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to build the temple, that the Romans might not have decided to crucify Christ, and that Nebuchadnezzar might have decided not to destroy Jerusalem. When you say these things, on the basis of Isaiah 41:23, you are saying that God could have laid down his very nature as God."

Here are a few example of prophesies in the Bible that did not come to pass...

* Ezekiel 26:7-9: Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Tyre ...didn't happen (Tyre was destroyed centuries later).

* Ezekiel 29: Babylonia would destroy and plunder Egypt ...didn't happen.

* Josh 3:10: God would without fail drive out from before the children of Israel: the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites. Didn't happen.

* Isaiah 5:1-7: God expected that Israel would believe. Didn't happen.

"Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:

My Well-beloved has a vineyard
On a very fruitful hill.
He dug it up and cleared out its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst,
And also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,
But it brought forth wild grapes.

“ And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
What more could have been done to My vineyard
That I have not done in it?
Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes,
Did it bring forth wild grapes?"


* Jeremiah 3:7: God said that Israel would return to Him ... but she didn't.

"And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return...."

* Jonah 3: God said Nineveh would be destroyed. Didn't happen. (Yeah, yeah, we've covered that one before).

Here's something to chew on...

"The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it." (Jer 18:7-8)

God did not stop being God when those prophesies didn't happen. And guess what? He wouldn't stop being God even if the Romans decided not to crucify Christ. There was no shortage of wicked men who wanted to see Jesus killed. But even if there was not a soul on earth willing to kill Him, God the Father still could have provided for our salvation by instructing the high priest to sacrifice His Son on Mount Moriah -- the very same spot where He was crucified, and where Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac.

You Calvinists act as though God is utterly impotent to affect the future unless He is controlling all events at all times.

"When you say these things, on the basis of Isaiah 41:23, you are saying that God could have laid down his very nature as God."

First, prophesy is not prewritten history, it is the speaking forth of the word of God. The classical conception of a God who is exerting meticulous control over every molecule in the universe comes from humanistic philosophy, not scripture. That's why reformed seminaries have always had an obsession with philosophy, in case you hadn't noticed.

"When you say these things, you are, indeed, teaching something that should be repulsive to every Christian."

Here is what should be repulsive to every Christian, Adam: your belief that wherever in the world a man is molesting a 5-year-old girl, video-recording it, and uploading it onto the internet for other perverts to enjoy, that God has ordained that wicked perversion for His glory and pleasure, and that the rapist could not even desire to do otherwise. And that God still plans on punishing the rapist eternally in hell for something he had absolutely no chance to avoid.

But I guess this event would have served some higher "purpose," huh? Perhaps to teach the little girl or her family some spiritual truths that could not have been garnered any other way...

Once again, I rebuke you.
[And I know I said was done debating this, but I couldn't help myself.]

Btw, Gortexgrrl, good job explaining to Emily what all the fuss is about.

gortexgrrl said...

Adam says "Just because a word is not used does not mean that the text is not forcing us to that conclusion...the scriptures do not say that a Christian is punished. It is impossible for a Christian to be punished. A Christian is disciplined."

Again, it raises the issue of whether or not the words you are using are properly discriptive. And again, along those same lines I would say that gifts are gifts, and discipline is discipline.

When the word "discipline" is used in the Bible in the context of God's will, it's basically affirming the rightness of suffering natural consequences, be it your own sin or someone else's. And indeed, suffering can build and strengthen character.

But would you say that God is "disciplining" that little girl being violated on the internet?? I don't think so! To do so, would make God the author of sin, which EVERY reformer has said that He is not. Can God take the remnants of that sin and use it to His glory? Of course, that is not the issue. It's whether God *intends* the sin that causes suffering, and if that suffering, be it endured by ourselves or others, is a "gift".

Indeed, Adam. Words do matter.

Emily said...

Ted - Chill out. I'm not going to waste my time arguing with you.

Gortexgrrl - If you wallow in self pity, you may end up scaring away prospects. Take it from someone who's been there. (me)

Emily said...

Adam wrote: "Even if I suffer in "protracted singleness," and it helps me know Christ more, I would rather know Christ than marry. Now, could I have both? Yes, God grants both to many people. However, ultimately, it is more important to me to know Christ than anything else. Therefore, as I learn the sufferings of Christ, I am learning more and more to trust in him in whether I get what I want, or whether I do not. I know that, whether I go through times of pleasure or times of suffering, Christ is right there going through it together with me."

Emily agrees.

Dan said...

In the words of former Minnesota Vikings coach (and unbeknownst to him, practical theologian)...

Ok, calm down!