Category Archives: Suffering

TALKING ABOUT TRAGEDY

In light of many friends struggling through the recent floods here in Texas, I offer a few words from my forthcoming book, God, What on Earth are You Doing?

Learning to trust God in the midst of intense suffering is a process which usually contains many twists and turns.  That certainly was the case for C.S. Lewis who wrote two books on the subject of suffering.  The first one, The Problem of Pain, sought to address some of the typical questions about suffering.  Rather predictably, Lewis underscored things like human freedom.  The Problem of Pain has some helpful insights, but it is what I like to call a “rather neat and tidy book.”  Suffering is presented in such a way that the reader is invited to conclude, “Oh yes, I see, this suffering of mine makes sense after all.”  Lewis was a bachelor when he wrote The Problem of Pain.

On the other side of the spectrum is A Grief Observed.  It is like reading the dark and desperate reflections of a friend’s private journal.[1]  This second book on suffering was written as Lewis tried to “make sense” of losing his wife.  The ache Lewis felt was too raw for neat and tidy, philosophical truths, no matter how true they happened to be.

Suffering has many causes.  Furthermore, everyone processes their suffering differently.  Different Christians tend to emphasize different things about God, so what it means to trust God during times of suffering is no simple matter.  I vividly remember our two sons playing with a favorite train set.  Well, our oldest son was playing with it while his younger brother was trying to join in.  Our older son is typically good at sharing, but not on this occasion.  Spying out an opportunity to wow our two young sons with some godly wisdom, I asked, “Hey David.  What do you think Jesus would do?”  David briefly looked my way and nonchalantly responded, “Jesus would make another train.”  My son was focused on the power of God while I was focused on God’s generosity.

[1] It is not unusual to see the two books by Lewis characterized in this sort of manner.  For example, see Armand M. Nicholi, Jr., The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life (New York, NY: The Free Press, 2002), 210.

DESTROYER OF THE gods

Here’s a snippet from my interview with Larry Hurtado of the University of Edinburgh:

Moore: It’s become somewhat of a self-evident truth that early Christianity only appealed to the down and out. Is that accurate to the historical record?

Hurtado: For several decades now that old notion has been discredited among scholars of early Christianity. Studies of the people named and described in earliest Christian texts show that, right from the earliest years, they included craftsmen, merchants, and owners of businesses. Of course, there were also slaves and poor among believers. By at least the second century, there were also believers from upper levels of Roman society. That upward progress socially is likely part of what prompted pagan sophisticates such as Celsus to attack Christianity so vehemently.

The full interview is here:

Larry Hurtado: An Interview

THE PHARMACIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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https://www.amazon.com/Pharmacist-Auschwitz-Untold-Story-ebook/dp/B01M8KHLF0

I have developed a “Moore’s Law of Reading” that helps me see whether a book was worth my time or not. I first count my marginal notes. I then check out the total number of pages of the book. If my marginal notes add up to at least half the number of pages, the book is either important (say something by Nietzsche whom I mightily disagree with), or a book that I appreciated very much. With The Pharmacist of Auschwitz, both categories are true.

Reading about the concentration camps is tough. For me, I kept avoiding books like Night by Elie Wiesel and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I finally broke down and read both. I’m glad I did, but these kinds of books make me terribly sad and cry for justice. As a Christian, I find my sanity in the belief that God will one day make all things right. But I “live by faith and not sight” so the struggle for sanity in the interim is a daily battle.

I call Patricia (aka Trisha) Posner “Detective Posner” because she was relentless in accumulating the salient details in telling a little known story. The story revolves around a pharmacist named Victor Capesius. Capesius was involved in all kinds of heinous activities while working at the infamous Auschwitz camp.

Posner does a great job of teasing out the relevant details that make you see how such a “normal” person could be complicit in such barbarity. The ruthlessness of the Nazis is maddening to make sense of. Posner describes some of the ghoulish things the Nazis did, but does not overdo it. It’s not easy to tell a story full of dark realities and not get lost in all the depressing things that transpired. Posner does a good job of walking a tightrope between being true to the story, but not indulging the prurient interests of some.

There are many other things I appreciate about this book, but I will close with one more. Posner does a nice job of contextualizing the story of Capesius in the overall story of the Nazis. In telling the larger story of the Nazis you are reminded of how sinister their approach to life was. The insanity of the Nazis was demonstrated in many ways, like worshiping their dogs, but treating the Jews as less than animals. As a Christian, it reminded me of the perversity the apostle Paul speaks of in Romans 1.


I highly recommend this book, with the caveat lector that one be at least high school age.

COMPLAINTS, LAMENTS, AND STILL CONTENT

As I get older (58 now) I noticed rather effortlessly that two things dominated my prayers: please come soon Lord to make everything right, and a corollary of “God, do you know how hard it is to live in this world”?  Complaints and laments, but still content in Christ.  I’m glad Scripture gives a much more expansive vocabulary than many of us American Christians have been led to believe. 

MINISTERING TO THOSE WITH PHYSICAL AILMENTS

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Many of us experience awkwardness when we see someone whose physical struggle limits a “normal life.”  They may be paralyzed or missing a limb.  Whatever the problem, I believe a Gnostic-like understanding of the body, even for too many evangelical Christians, makes us unable to minister more holistically to those who battle with daily pain and the limits placed on them by physical problems.

MAKING SENSE OF MADNESS

Carlos Eire, eminent professor of history and religious studies at Yale helpfully explains the mythical spell of Fidel Castro:

Oddly enough, some will mourn his passing, and many an obituary will praise him… Because deceit was one of Fidel Castro’s greatest talents, and gullibility is one of the world’s greatest frailties. A genius at myth-making, Castro relied on the human thirst for myths and heroes. His lies were beautiful, and so appealing. According to Castro and to his propagandists, the so-called revolution was not about creating a repressive totalitarian state and securing his rule as an absolute monarch, but rather about eliminating illiteracy, poverty, racism, class differences and every other ill known to humankind. This bold lie became believable, thanks largely to Castro’s incessant boasting about free schools and medical care, which made his myth of the benevolent utopian revolution irresistible to many of the world’s poor.

Many intellectuals, journalists and educated people in the First World fell for this myth, too — though they would have been among the first to be jailed or killed by Castro in his own realm — and their assumptions acquired an intensity similar to that of religious convictions. Pointing out to such believers that Castro imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands more of his own people than any other Latin American dictator was usually futile. His well-documented cruelty made little difference, even when acknowledged, for he was judged according to some aberrant ethical code that defied logic.

The rest is here.  HT: Alan Jacobs

http://https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/farewell-to-cubas-brutal-big-brother/2016/11/26/d369affe-0eeb-11e6-bfa1-4efa856caf2a_story.html?postshare=1341480166071356&tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.ee07ecbf5211