He Asked About the Killings… and God

This past Friday, after the tragic deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in imgresNewtown, Conn., I received the following inquiry from a friend. It has been abridged to respect his anonymity.

 

Good afternoon friend.

 

Like most people in America right now, I’m staring at the news right now and just shaking my head trying to figure out how/why something like that shooting could have happened.  Most likely no one will truly know, but that doesn’t make it easier to process. …

 

I have never actively disrespected Christianity, as some people i know have.  Whatever works for you is what works.  A little liberal i realize, but I respect religion for what it is, and what it is (to me) is a method of ways to process what happens in the world into some form of useable information that one can use to find a meaning and purpose in all things.

 

So, as I read the news today about the CT shooting, I just keep asking myself the question, why would I want to place my trust in something or someone that would be ok with this happening.  I know all the tropes, ie, God’s plan, or something good will come from this, always darkest before the dawn, you name it. 

 

it seems like an overwhelmingly selfish thing to ask, in that something like this happens and I can only think “HOW DOES THIS IMPACT ME” but, please, no this isn’t from a selfish place. 

 

I realize that if there is a God there are multiple miracles he could be responsible for. …

 

But for all of those, how does this fit in?  How is this ok? How is this part of a plan?  And if it IS part of an omnipotent being’s plan, how can I possibly trust in it/Him explicitly when he signs off on things like this happening.  Does he say ‘well lots of people got home safely yesterday, I suppose today is a good day for this one’? I’m not trying to be disrespectful, I just don’t understand it.  I hadn’t really asked myself these questions in about a decade, and I can’t shake it.  Perhaps there are no answers for these questions, and such is the strict definition of faith.  And it’s not that I set metrics for God and if He can’t hit them, then i’m out, no thank you, ask me again later.  I just can’t answer the fundamental question of why would I place my trust and faith in someone that allows this to happen.  Am I asking the wrong questions?  Are my inquiries too selfishly motivated to have proper answers?

 

Again, I ask you these things because …  I couldn’t ask my parents bc I’d get written out of the will, and I could ask my wife, but I don’t really want to sleep on the couch for a week. 

 

 

Here is my reply:

 

These are great questions which warrant more discussion than this space comfortably allows. However, I’ll be glad to continue beyond this, either here or over a beer.

So… let me, for now, offer four points for consideration:

1. You’re asking what I’m convinced is THE most difficult question for any religion – or any belief system – to deal with: the reality of evil.

If you, personally, are entertaining atheism, let me suggest the challenge will be greatest for you. How does someone determine that something is in fact evil and speak out against it when they’ve removed any transcendent standard of measure against which a conclusion must be reached?

2. Of all the possible belief systems, you won’t find any that take the problem of evil more seriously than Christianity. (Of course, I think the reason behind this is because it’s TRUE.)  The entire purpose behind God’s work in and through Christ is to confront, defeat and rectify evil and its consequences. I John 3:8 says, “The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works.”

3. Given that, I would not dismiss some of the explanations you listed that you’ve heard from Christian believers.

4. Finally, if I look solely at the tragedy in CT, I see no sign of God’s love and goodness. I have to go beyond such events – even beyond events that suggest there may be a loving and gracious God – and look at Jesus – His life, death and resurrection – to see most clearly the demonstration of a God who loves you and me.

Would love to keep in touch.

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Filed under Apologetics, Evil, Jesus, Johnny Price Mindfield, Religion

In case you missed this: 864-400-9431

In case you missed this notice a few blogs back:

Given my conviction that praying is the best thing we can ever do for someone, and given the fact that I want to be involved in the best, I’ve established a second phone line in my home, strictly for people to use to request prayers. If you call and I’m home – and can answer – I’ll be happy to pray with you if you’d like. Otherwise, you’ll be able to leave a message. All calls will be held in strictest confidence. Every prayer request will be honored. The number is 864-400-9431Please feel free to share it with your friends.

man-praying

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(podcast) with Dr. Timothy Keller: Christmas Message

Christmas Message (click here)

Since we are deep into the Christmas season, this is the third of four podcasts imgresI’m sharing (see November 28 and December 5 for the previous two), one each week, from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

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Sloppy Thinking: Exhibit #5

leo-tolstoy

From time to time, I’m responding to various ideas that I think are prime examples of sloppy thinking. Such as:

All happy families resemble one another,                                        each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

-Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

This is one of the most memorable opening lines in all of world literature. It’s right up there with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” and “Call me Ishmael.”

But, memorable as it may be, it’s just not true. In fact, the opposite is true.

All unhappy families resemble each other because the few components that go into making a family unhappy — impatience, selfishness, bitterness, resentment — are all self-centered. All self-serving people look pretty much alike. Under the same roo, these people can only take their family into places of misery and more misery. And misery — however you arrive — just looks miserable.

The components that produce a happy family, such as love for each other, the desire to support each other, efforts not to offend, the willingness to forgive when offended, hoping the best for each other… are all other-oriented.

And when these are active, the individual members are free to flourish into their own unique personalities. Mix and match those flourishing personalities together and you get a family that is like no other.

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(podcast) with Dr. Tim Keller: The Meaning of Christmas

The Meaning of Christmas

Having entered the Christmas season, I’m sharing four podcasts (see Novemberimgres 28 for the previous one), one each week, from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christmas, Jesus, Podcast, Podcasts, Religion

Ralphie vs. George Bailey

This morning James Emery White sent out an insightful blog concerning two movie favorites. I thought I’d share it with you. AND … your thoughts are always welcome. -J. P.

A couple of years ago a film crew from our church hit the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, to produce a “person on the street” video asking people “What comes to your mind when you think of the Christmas story?”

Number one answer?

“The movie.”ralphie-head-logo

Yep, the 1983 “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” tale from 1940’s Indiana of a nine-year-old boy’s desire for a Red-Ryder Carbon-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle BB-Gun (and, lest we forget, with a compass in the stock).

An intriguing editorial in Time magazine at around the same time noted how A Christmas Story had become the quintessential American film for Christmas, replacing It’s a Wonderful Life. Titled “Generation X-Mas,” it chronicled how an “upstart film became a holiday icon for the post-boomer set.”

As for George Bailey?thanksx-topper-medium

“Not so into him anymore.”

Those from older generations stayed with Bedford Falls, along with Macy’s (Miracle on 34th Street) as their favorite film destinations. But respondents a bit younger, from 18 to 41 years old, granted the “major award” to Scott Fargas, Flick and the Bumpus’ dogs.

Time suggested this as one of the “pop-cultural shifts” such as football overtaking baseball, or salsa defeating ketchup, that “signal bigger changes.”

Perhaps because A Christmas Story is everything It’s a Wonderful Life is not – “satiric and myth-deflating, down to the cranky store Santa kicking Ralphie down a slide.”

Or perhaps it is because of the changing relationship between the community and the individual. Whereas the older films position Christmas as that which “uplifts the suicidal, raises every voice in Whoville, [and] renders peace between Macy and Gimbel,” A Christmas Story “inverts the moral.”

Now it’s the individual Christmas experience that matters. Getting the BB-gun, instead of protecting the local Savings and Loan for the poor, is the point. Or as Time put it, “It’s the individual Christmas that matters. Bedford Falls can take a hike…[it’s not about] angels’ getting their wings. Christmas is about the kids getting their due.”

But perhaps we can go where Time could not.

The great divide between It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story is more than just the radical individualism that marks our day, but what has spawned such individualism. The real divide between the two films is that one retains the idea that Christmas is about the birth of the Christ child, and one does not.

Unless I have missed it, A Christmas Story does not have a single reference, symbol, picture or event that would suggest Christmas is about the birth of Christ, or has religious significance of any kind. A brief snippet of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” is revealed in a downtown scene, but that’s about it. No nativity scenes, no church services, no Christian music – even the department store, Higbees, honors the season not with shepherds or wise men, but with characters from The Wizard of Oz.

It’s a Wonderful Life, on the other hand, was rich in Christian idea and ethos, from traditional Christmas songs celebrating the birth of Christ (the climax of the movie is marked by the spontaneous outburst of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”) to the central character of an angel.

Yet this reflects more than the choice of one movie over another.

An analysis of 48,000 hours of programming by the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) found that 90 percent of holiday programming did not have a significant spiritual theme; 7 percent had a religious or spiritual theme, but did not refer to Jesus or the biblical story of His birth.

Jesus was the focus of only 3 percent of all Christmas programming.

I’ll confess that A Christmas Story has become one of my favorite movies. The nostalgia of the time, and the way it reveals how Christmas often “works,” runs deep and familiar.

But when I watch it, along with millions of others, I remind myself that while it is Christmas story,

…it is not the Christmas story.

For a taste of that, I need to go back to Bedford Falls.

For a full course meal, I need to go all the way back to Bethlehem.

James Emery White

Sources

Adapted from James Emery White, The Church in An Age of Crisis (Baker).

“Generation X-Mas: How an upstart film became a holiday icon for the post-boomer set,” James Poniewozik, Time, December 10, 2007, p. 90. Read the article online.

National Religious Broadcasters analysis can be found in the Winter 2004 edition of Enrichment, and also on the website of Preaching Today (a service of Christianity Today magazine). The website for the NRB is www.nrb.org.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

 

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Filed under Christmas, Film analyses, Jesus, Johnny Price Mindfield, Media, Religion

(podcast) with Dr. Tim Keller: Who is this Jesus?- Open Forum

Who is this Jesus- – Open Forum (click here)

Now that we’ve entered the Christmas season, I want to share four podcasts over the  (you guessed it), four weeks leading up to the Big Day from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christmas, Islam, Jesus, Johnny Price Mindfield, Podcast, Podcasts, Religion