Newtown Darkness and
Jesus enables the miracle of facing evil
peal to divine providence. Wolterstorff was most helped
by a view he picked up from Calvin that places emphasis
on the God who suffered in His Son Jesus. “Instead of
explaining our suffering, God shares it.”
In John 6 we are told of a time when many disciples
quit following Jesus. It was in the context of some demanding teaching by Jesus. Afterwards He asked the
Twelve if they were leaving too, and Peter replied, “Lord,
to whom would we go?” Peter sensed there was nowhere
else to turn. I have often thought of this passage when
pondering realities like the Newtown shootings.
Of course, many people choose different figures than
Jesus or different answers than Christian faith. Many prefer
Buddha and the promise of nirvana. Others prefer Krishna
and the promise of reincarnation. Still others make the
stark choice of atheism, with no hope beyond death. (The
existence of evil brings many to passionately rail against
God while remaining curiously unfazed their atheist universe holds no promise for the ultimate defeat of evil.)
Why do I think there is nowhere else
to go but Jesus? For one, Jesus does not
blame victims for their situation, as is
common in some Buddhist, Hindu, New
Age and pseudo-Christian teaching. My
brother Bob is a psychotherapist and deals
with really tragic, dark and evil situations
every week. In a recent open letter to gurus, therapists, life
coaches and Christian leaders, he contrasts the wisdom of
Jesus with the harmful and trite lines society often throws
to the wounded, such as: “Just let it go.” “People want their
pain.” “Time heals all wounds.” “Move on.”
Bob writes at www.findwisdomnow.com, “I find these
sayings insulting, insensitive, and deeply mistaken about
the lives of broken people in this very broken world. We
can’t ‘just’ let go of massive hurt. The same with ‘move
on’ – the furniture in your soul is bolted down. Internal
pain and brokenness go with you, even if you go out the
back door and never return.”
Another significant reality about Jesus is that He chose
not to philosophize about evil, but rather face it, endure it
(as Wolterstorff points out) and, most amazingly, conquer it.
His victory, as we experience it, is both total and yet
still working itself out. It’s awful we must still face Newtown and 9/11 and the Holocaust. But we do so knowing
the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are a sure sign
evil’s end is certain.
That’s the hope of Easter. FT
“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not
hinder them – for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Charlotte. Daniel. Olivia. Josephine. Ana. Dylan. Madeleine. Catherine. Chase. Jesse. James. Grace. Emilie. Jack.
Noah. Caroline. Jessica. Benjamin. Avielle. Allison.
it is telling that American president Barack Obama chose to quote the words of Jesus in Mark 10 before he recited the names of the children killed in the December school
shooting in Newtown. He had just come from visiting the
families of the children and teachers who were killed.
This was the context for American pastor Andy Stanley’s remark that Obama
was serving at that moment as “
pastor-in-chief” of the nation.
Evangelicals can disagree with Obama
on abortion, gay rights and other issues,
but his focus on Jesus in response to utter
darkness deserves commendation.
Many times a year I have to face the issue of evil in
terms of my thinking as a professor. I even teach a course
on evil and suffering. This led my wife to once ask, “Why
would anyone take a course like that?” Why indeed.
As we all know, the problem of evil is the biggest philosophical obstacle to belief in God. More important, the personal realization of evil is the biggest emotional obstacle to
trust in God. This is another way of noting the huge gap
between thinking about evil and the nightmare of experiencing it.
Nicholas Wolterstorff, an American Christian phi-
losopher, divides his life into two stages: before his son
Eric died in a mountain climbing accident in Austria and
after. His book Lament for a Son (Eerdmans, 1987) is a
heartbreaking read on how one’s theology and philosophy
change when evil strikes home. “I do not know why God
would watch him fall. I do not know why God would
watch me wounded. I cannot even guess.”
Wolterstorff, now retired from Yale University, has
written elsewhere that Eric’s death made him realize cer-
tain views of God gave him little help. Despite his own
Calvinist theology, he was not aided by focus on God’s
sovereignty, as if Eric’s death could be explained with ap-
Jesus does not
blame victims for
Ja MES a. BEvErlEY is professor of Christian thought
and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto.