Happyhobbit:

June 30, 2004

Many thanks for reading and responding to what I wrote…

Yes I agree that at the cross God demonstrates that he loves us, and in Jesus’ cry of ‘My God, my God – why have you forsaken me?’ Jesus also identifies with the suffering and the godforsaken. I suffer, but God understands and even suffers alongside me.

Yet we still live in a contradiction – evil, sin and death have been overcome and yet they still exist everywhere. The resurrection gives us hope that in the future, everything will transformed and there will be no suffering and all things will be made new, and there will be no more suffering or death or pain etc… I don’t doubt this but a future without suffering is neither a comfort or an answer to suffering now.

Jesus suffered on the cross and so has also experience human suffering, and so I cannot justifiably accuse him of not understanding or experiencing suffering, but as one theologian once remarked: “What good does it do me to know that when I suffer, God is in the same boat with me?”

True enough, God does console those who suffer by offering companionship and hope – but the flip side is this: He can intervene and console but does not intervene and prevent the suffering in the first place?

One of the early church fathers called Irenaeus argued that suffering and evil were a necessary part of human experience so that a greater good might be brought about. That’s fine – but look at suffering on the scale of the holocaust, or the Rwandan genocide – what possible good was worth that?

These are the things I struggle with, though I am interested in what you have to say. I’ll close for now with a quote from a Jewish writer who experienced the holocaust:

“God sought me out and God struck me down. So let him stay away from me. His company is annoying me. He is unwelcome in my house. And in my life. If he wants to play, let him play by himself…Men and women are being beaten, tortured and killed […] True, they are the victims of men. But the killers kill in his name. Not all? True, but numbers are unimportant. Let one killer kill for His glory, and He is guilty. Every man who suffers or who causes suffering, every woman who is raped, every child who is tormented implicates Him […] Listen: either He is responsible or He is not. If He is, let’s judge Him; if He is not, let Him stop judging us.”

I’m in a theological mess trying to reconcile the doctrine of the cross and resurrection with human experience, including my own.

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Kiss my Left Behind

June 30, 2004

I think I have become a heretic.

No one will take me seriously for saying that, but I really am. The lot of a theology student is to regularly have to reconsider everyhting you believe in the light of learning new stuff, but the problem of suffering and pain is causing me a real headache.

I guess you could say my questions are the classical questions of protest against God, but they’re classical because no one has answered them yet without resorting to pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die. My problem is not that I no longer believe in God, but I am uncertain as to precisely what he is like.

We hold that God is all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful. Ok. But then why is there so much evil and suffering and pain in the world? If God is able to prevent it, and yet he doesn’t – can we still say he is all-loving and all powerful? If he is all-powerful, he could intervene – but he doesn’t. Or maybe he does, but not for a while. In the holocaust 6 million Jews were exterminated and it only stoppped because the war ended in 1945. But why not end it in 1944? Or why even let it happen?

I’m playing devil’s advocate, and no doubt anyone I said that to would wheel out the free-will defence to defend God’s seeming inaction, but I just can’t support that either. We say that human suffering is a result of free will – but I call into question just how free our will is. How many choices can we really make, and how free are they? If someone bursts into your house and at gunpoint forces you to leave for a concentration camp, how free is your will for you to say ‘no’? Human suffering is synonymous with a total restriction on free will. Those caught in suffering and bondage are very far from free. Like babies born into starvation – tell them that their suffering is the result of free will being exercised. Unless you are so naive as to assume that people choose to starve. There is no free will in suffering.

That the innocent suffer is a massive problem – and I’m not saying that God causes it, but his inaction must somehow implicate him. Christians who love God and who serve him wholeheartedly still undergo tremendous heartache and loss. OK, so faith in God gets them through it – but why did he let it happen in the first place? I don’t understand how God is glorified in human misery he could have prevented.

I feel like Judas for writing this, but I am being honest. If I sin and accuse God wrongdoing or of mismanagement then I prove him to be correct – I am a man and therefore a sinner.

So I could go to hell, but what would that do to God? He loves me because he is love, and so he cannot choose not to love. God will always love me then. To love me he must somehow be connected to me, because love can only be expressed in a relationship. So I could go to hell and God would be grieved because I was separated from him, but as I suffered forever, so God would be grieved and hurt for ever, and there would never be any chance for us to be reconciled. We would both suffer eternal loss and grief, and what would have been achieved?

And so to my next problem – God judges us and condemns those who do not know him to hell. But he also wants to save us from hell. In salvation, he is trying to deliver us from hell, but it is also him who sends us to hell and casts us from his presence. With one action (salvation), he is trying to rescue us from his second action (condemnation). It just seems illogical that God is trying to save us from himself, whilst also trying to draw us to himself. It just seems such a contradiction, one not apparent to those who willingly and joyfully announce that God is going to send sinners to hell and that God is the way out.

God is able to rescue all of us from sin, yet he doesn’t. He could intervene and save everyone, but he doesn’t. He could save people as they walk into hell, and he wants to – or maybe God is indifferent to suffering and pain? But if God is ever indifferent to suffering and sin, he could never judge us for being indifferent. But we are. I don’t get it.

Christians are supposed to be like Jesus, and they are to love one another as he loves us. Yet so many I know are lonely, disappointed and feel alienated from God, from each other, and from life. Following Jesus has become a spectator sport and been replaced by a passive version of Christianity consisting of conferences, meetings, agendas, planning, proof-texts and projects. That which we were supposed to live and experience directly has become a distant idea that we entertain and we are alienated from the true reality that is Christ because we do not particpate in him.

Whoever controls the consciousness and thinking of the Church becomes our new Mediator and Intercessor. That is, they represent God to us, or at least their version of God. A small minority of Christians write all the books, speak at all the conferences and head up all the big ministries. They represent God to us, and because their influence is so total, to disagree with them is to disagree with God. So we become spectator Christians, watching and reading and lapping up the dominant (yet minority) form of Christianity as though it were Christ himself.

Wherever this dominant mode of Christianity disagrees with Christ, it cannot claim to be called Christian and yet so often it does appear genuine because there is no critical voice present where imitation Christianity is totally dominant. It perpetuates spectator Christianity as a substitute for direct participation in God. We play a simulation of the Gospel and do not participate in or commune with God directly, and so do not so his works.

Christianity then becomes shallow and transforms into a prison, and prison of alienation. By beholding the imitation of Christianity as though it were the real thing, we become alienated from Christ. We become passive Christians cut off from Life itself. We are not radical, or different, but we are isolated and lonely because we are truly in darkness, although we believe that we are chasing an ideal that is ultimately elusive and nothing more than a spectacle lacking all substance, and which is in actuality all image.

I want out of this form of Christianity. It is shallow, and its followers are shallow because they are alienated from Christ Himself because they only behold the spectacle of Christianity and so are never able to offer real hope, real love, or real connectedness.

I think I also want a moment away from God, but that is not possible, because he is everywhere. I do not know if I can trust him, and I am in the middle of a Christian system that is afraid to lament, afraid to protest and afraid to recognise pain and suffering as central to the human experience. I cannot live apart from God if he is omnipresent, but I cannot live with him in comfort when I am so unsure of him.


Atheists of the world unite. And then shut up.

June 23, 2004

Weirdly, I have been invited to join two online communities that are dedicated to debate between atheists and Christians.

One atheist website to which I was invited begins: “We, the majority of the world’s population, are opposed to Christianity…” Wow. The majority of the world’s population eh? How did you persuade over 3 billion people (most of them illiterate and never even seen a computer) to join your website? Or are you just lying to make yourself sound better? Hmm.

Nevertheless, I have joined two atheist communities to engage in ill-informed arguments that go something like ‘obviously Jesus never really existed – that’s ridiculous’, by which they assume that their opinion alone is sufficient to debunk the entire Christian religion without offering any actual evidence. ‘Well obviously the Gospels can’t be trusted.’ Why? Because you don’t like what they have to say?

Actually debating with atheists is less stressful than trying to make Christians see sense. This is totally true:

“This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.” Zechariah 14:12

No problem so far, but the Bible can be subject to ridicule when totally misused. The above scripture was followed by the following ‘proof for the existence of God’ (and all in big letters too, perhaps to make it more authoritative):

“CLEARLY THIS IS GOD DESCRIBING HOW THE ATOMIC BOMB WORKS. HOW COULD THE BIBLE HAVE FOREKNOWN THIS UNLESS IT WAS THE WORD OF GOD?”

Clearly you know nothing of a) Atomic Bombs b) Old Testament history c) Common sense

As if God would explain to people living 3,500 years ago how an atomic bomb worked – and even worse, it means Hiroshima is God’s fault.

This country.

In fact, this planet.

The thing that bothers me about this blog is that I sound really bitter and twisted. I had better redeem myself by writing about poetry, flowers, village fetes and nice things in the future.

Coming soon: Sven gives tips on getting the best out of your homemade jam.

The words ‘idiot’ and ‘intelligent’ can be really embarrassing when you mispell them e.g. ‘Christians are so unintellgent for believing in God ‘. Quite. You idoit.

In the future: I am going to argue that all western Christianity is actually grossly perverted from the real thing, and that the culture in which we live perpetuates that deception more and more. We are like a body running around without a head. I will explain later.

Night.

Look for sventheist


Pub bore

June 18, 2004

I am officially the pub bore. Somehow, without even trying, I sat and moaned all the way through England’s comprehensive 3-0 drubbing of the Swiss whilst taking an hour to down my pint.

Wayne Rooney looks like Shrek.

When he scored, the landlady of the pub shouts out “The scousers have done it again!”. Presumably she was referring to Rooney’s goal and not to the extensive mess in the toilets or the Lexus with missing hubcaps in the pub car park.

Happily, I won at ten-pin bowling tonight with a humongous score of 142 and have also overcome by habit of subconciously wiggling my bum before I go to bowl. Things are definitely on the up.

France drew 2-2 with Croatia…will England progress to the quarter-finals? If they don’t I have have my back up nationality at the ready. Two world wars and one world cup – does that beat three world cups and two European Championships? Possibly.

Manchester has been invaded by about 300 fibreglass cows covered in various pieces of art in an attempt to raise public interest in art and culture. On one cow, someone has graffited “This is a load of Bull.” Quite.

Night.


Pre-match nerves

June 17, 2004

Obviously Football is only a game, so why do I let it bother me so much? England play the Swiss tomorrow and if we lose I have absolutely nothing to look forward to. So it is imperative that we win. I am still recovering from being taunted by Becky Higg after the France defeat with the chant ‘Allez les Francais‘, which I can only assume is French for ‘Although we acknowledge that England’s superiority to ourselves (the French) is historically undeniable, we do admit that we did not deserve to ever beat them in the way we did, and humbly apologise for the victory that was thrust upon us. We beg for mercy in the future. We will also have a shower as a token of our sincerity. Did you know we have holes in the ground instead of toilets? And that we have no word for ‘soap’?’ I think that’s a rough translation.

I am a procrastinator. Those of you who know what I am talking about…well, you know what I’m talking about hehehe.

But it’s all ok, because tomorrow is another day off work. Yay.

Obviously I’m super-hard and could well deck anyone but today I was reduced to floods of tears today after having to chop a load of onions at work. I had to leave the kitchen because I was crying so much. The only sympathy I got was “Hahaha you big ****** girl” from one of the kitchen staff, but now he has a broken hand and will be off work for two weeks so now who’s laughing?

Actually that’s a bit harsh.

Night.


Exciting News

June 16, 2004

You can now post on Forum of Sven by going here:

http://pub38.bravenet.com/forum/3253373381

Enjoy!


15th June – Kelvin the Mouse

June 16, 2004

Today I caught a baby mouse who was acting suspiciously in my hallway at home. Me and Matt decided to name him Kelvin, at which point I grabbed him and threw him in the wheelie bin. I feel bad, but not as bad as I’d feel if I caught Weils’ disease from him weeing in my food, so the end justfies the means.

I got hit by a cricket ball in the stomach on Sunday. It didn’t hurt at first but now I have a bruise on my belly about 4 inches across which is supremely painful yet kind of cool because it looks like a serious wound and makes me feel really hard when people go ‘ooooouch mate, you must be really suffering’. Doesn’t hurt as much as when my spine got blown off in Vietnam though.

Pete has been ill, and got told by one of his leaders that his sickness was the result of sin. LOL ok Job’s friends because theology and life are just that simple. Obviously the Third World are poor and sick because they’ve all sinned too? Of course the Bible ends in Deuteronomy where you get cursed for disobedience and blessed for obedience, so we can ignore the rest of scripture. Paul and Timothy also got quite ill, so presumably they were terrible sinners too. Tony Robins must be the most righteous man alive.