Wednesday, 30 October 2013



Where's God when it hurts?We have a major theological crisis. It's really bad. In the public square we hear it, read it, and are shaped by it. Most of the proponents of this bad theology make the most amazing statements about their 'god' and then make the outrageous assertion that they are describing our God. For those introduced to God, it is easy to detect this bad theology. Truthful theology presents God as the Sovereign, All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Good God who demands, expects and deserves our utter devotion and submission. Deceptive theology presents its god as the one responsible for our happiness and existing to grant our requests. Even the youngest Christian with an elementary understanding of the Bible can spot the difference. And you can easily tell the difference for yourself between those who hold to Truthful Theology and those who hold to Deceptive theology: their response to tragedy.
For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife because John had been saying to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her."
Matthew 14:3-4
Suffering and TheologyTheology is the study of God and His ways, His Word, and His will. Deceptive theology does not do this. Rather, it fancifully imagines that God is like the god they have created. Truthful theology gives real knowledge of the true God and how He deals with people. Deceptive theology sets up an expectation of God as the god who exists to make people happy. Thus, when tragedy strikes the one who is beguiled by Deceptive theology they become angry with their god and assume that they are angry with God - and take out their anger on those who claim allegiance to God.
And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet."
Matthew 14:5
Truthful Theology is grounded in the Scriptures. The Bible provides the knowledge of the truth about God. This is no mere "head knowedge". When dealing with truth, there is only knowledge - not head knowledge. When tragedy strikes those in love with Truthful Theology they are able to draw on their knowledge of the truth and experience a richer, sweeter, devotion to God.
Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter."
Matthew 14:8
Jesus gave His highest accolades to one man. "No one is greater in the Kingdom", Jesus said of him. He loved John The Baptist deeply. When John was imprisoned, John doubted his faith in Christ. Doubt is not the same as unbelief. To doubt is to question. And that's exactly what John the Baptist did.
¶ Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?"
Matthew 11:2-3
momentary light afflictionI wonder if behind John's questioning of Christ there was a cry of confusion - a cry for help? After all, if we live for Christ aern't things supposed to go well for us? When we get into trouble isn't our God supposed to come and rescue us? Maybe John The Baptist thought so too? I wonder if Jesus similarly considered whether He should rescue John? What actually happened helps us to understand how real life - and God - works when tragedy happens. Too many people assume that when a disaster strikes them or someone they know/love that God is inactive. Our perspective of disaster is often that harm or even death is an indication of God's absence. But this story of the imprisonment of John The Baptist counters this idea. Christ knew where John The Baptist was. He knew what John was enduring. And He knew what John was about to face.
Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter."
Matthew 14:8
What happened to John The Baptist and how Christ responded shows us how differently God views suffering and tragedy. We are so consumed with the here and now that we forget that whatcomes to pass comes to pass - and does not last in eternity!  The Bible calls our adverse circumstances, "light momentary affliction" (2Cor. 4:17). This does not lessen the ache and pain that such affliction causes, nor does it lessen the grief we feel when it affects those we care about. When the Son of God received word that John had been executed He was deeply moved and exhibited the immediate signs of human grief.
And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.
¶ Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

Matthew 14:12-13
Whenever we experience tragedy or loss, we follow in the blood-stained footprints of our Lord who experienced the worst tragedy and loss! He understands our grief. He understands our pain. He understands our heart and the pain that fills it during such times. How can there be a good loving all-powerful God when people experience tragedy? It's actually in times of tragedy that we need the good, loving, all-powerful God to help and comfort us.
¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Second Corinthians 1:3-4
Those holding Deceptive theology clench their fist at God in anger for the tragedy they are experiencing because their bad theology deludes them into thinking that God is like the god their dysfunctional theology has created. John The Baptist didn't. Jesus didn't. The apostles didn't - because they had good Theology. Rather, like the Psalmists, they lifted their open hands in worship of the One who knows, understands, and feels what we go through. Good Theology always produces good worship. When you offer up an open hand to God rather than a clenched fist, you are demonstrating that you have a sound theological understanding of God and His dealings with those He loves - yet who suffer. And in a world dogged by really bad theology, it's not how the follower of Christ argues about the goodness of God during times of tragedy - it's how they demonstrate it in their worship of Him.

Ps. Andrew


  1. Well said Andrew!
    Hard to have a theological crisis with good theologians such as yourself are around. The only crisis I see here is one of typography :-)

  2. Yes, but a proper understanding of God produces (or should) a delight and happiness. John Piper's book Desiring God helped me understand this either/or fallacy. It is both/and. Be careful here Andrew. Scripture speaks of happiness and joy as an outworking of true knowledge of the Holy One.

  3. I think perhaps you're too hard on those who feel abandoned. We all carry some part of this bad theology with us; it's in our nature. That is why every servant of God who is recorded facing such hardship wonders where God is -- Elijah, John the Baptist, even the Lord, Himself, on the cross.

    You do us no service to condemn as "weak theology" a weakness that we all carry, and must face. God is with us when we suffer, yes -- so He is not disappointed with us when we wonder, "Where is God?" It is in facing this dilemma that we grow strong.

    The useful fact about all this is that invariably, it is not God who produced the deep suffering, but the evil one. The correct answer to the question, "Where is God in this?" is "He's in you... and what you do is what He is doing."