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April 19, 2012

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The secret of rejoicing during the Holocaust? What the Holocaust ought impress on our hearts and minds are not the simplistic pieties of evangelical culture, but the horror of living in a world where you can neither count on God nor humanity to protect you from what is thoroughly and unfathomably crushing.

@Malebranche,Your response shows just how self righteous and man centered your worldview is.Anyone who even remotely understands how holy and righteous God is, doesn't ask why bad things happen to good people because they're are no good people.We ask how a holy God can know all the sins I've committed in my life in thought,word, and deed and yet still allow me to wake up this morning and steel his air.

Finally - Malebranche shows true colors:

... you can neither count on God nor humanity ...

Puts Malebranche's contributions to this site in clear relief.

For I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

i visited the holocaust museum in Washington DC at the end of January. The security guards stopped me and demanded that i wear a coat over the pro-life shirt i was wearing. The front of the shirt displayed a picture of a living unborn baby with the caption "I am a person". i was detained for 40 minutes as i refused to cover the shirt and the issue went up the chain of command.

So, if you visit the holocaust museum, be sure to wear a pro-life t-shirt.

What the Holocaust ought impress on our hearts and minds are not the simplistic pieties of evangelical culture, but the horror of living in a world where you can neither count on God nor humanity to protect you from what is thoroughly and unfathomably crushing.

But Malebranche, I’m with you! That’s exactly what it seems the Holocaust should teach. And that’s what brings me back over and over to thinking about and reading the works of Christians who have suffered--why I keep trying to understand. Because the truth is, as mystifying as it is, Corrie and her sister didn’t see it that way, and they were there. Doesn’t that astound you? Because it astounds me.

Now in one way, both Corrie and Paul agree with you: God will not protect us from bad things. He won’t. We can’t count on Him to keep us from these things. He never promised to. But that’s why I’m mesmerized by Paul saying “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” He was open to being crushed because something was more valuable to Him. I can’t think about that mystery without longing to grasp the value of Christ that he grasped and to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that I may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

You’re right to find this strains credulity. It does! It’s clearly beyond human capability. And yet it happened, and happens. They weren’t crushed by the unfathomably crushing. Why? How? That is my fascination and my longing.

Amy,

I’m glad that you, with Paul, affirm a faith in God that is realistic both about human vulnerability and what we cannot trust God to do. As you point out, we have no guarantee from God that we will be shielded from heart-breaking horrors. No matter where one stands theologically, that is just plainly obvious upon any survey of human history. God is apparently not in the habit of miraculously intervening to keep the sparrow, or the infant, from falling.

Unfortunately, however, spiritual triumph amidst catastrophe is hardly the rule. Many believers, after all, are thoroughly crushed under the merciless weight of circumstances blind to human tears. Often a triumphant “Hallelujah!”, far from emerging from the brutality, is suffocated by it, annihilating whatever faith was once had in God. I realize that such cases may be disputed (or at least carefully reconstructed) by students of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, but I doubt drawing upon those resources will help us see what there is worth rejoicing in amidst these matters, since, if I understand those doctrines correctly, one of the things God was probably doing during the Holocaust was shuffling the souls of many of the victims into hell in order to reap a harvest of glory, which is a thought against which no inclination to rejoice can triumph.

Many believers, after all, are thoroughly crushed under the merciless weight of circumstances blind to human tears.

I think what happens is that in the moment of suffering, we discover whether our vision of God is big enough, valuable enough, desirable enough, trusting in His character and purpose enough, to sustain us. Like I said, can we say those things with Paul, or not? That's the question. And the ones who come through these things are the ones who can.

It's the moment of Christ in the Garden. Facing torture and death, He said, "Your will be done" and walked right into it. Why? Hebrews says it was "for the joy set before Him" that He "endured the cross, despising the shame." He knew there was a purpose, and that the Father and His purpose were worth it. And I should also note that He wasn't happily singing praise songs to God at that very moment, though He was honoring Him and valuing Him throughout.

As I also said above, becoming like Christ in this way takes time. At times, my inadequate vision of and trust in God has been made plain to me, as suffering swallowed it up. But the means I mentioned above have been used by the Holy Spirit to enlarge my vision of God to overcome that sorrow and many more to come. I know I have much farther to go because I know my soul is still far too small to take in the fulness of God. So all I can do is seek Him through the means above and allow the Holy Spirit to enlarge me slowly but surely.

But by the way, you have no idea how much in the habit God is of restraining evil. How could anybody? We just have no idea how much He has prevented. However, He certainly does not prevent all. That much is plain.

Unfortunately, however, spiritual triumph amidst catastrophe is hardly the rule.
Thus Amy's fascination.
rs, since, if I understand those doctrines correctly, one of the things God was probably doing during the Holocaust was shuffling the souls of many of the victims into hell in order to reap a harvest of glory, which is a thought against which no inclination to rejoice can triumph.
Ahhh, the real point of Malebranche's lofty prose and restatement of Amy's points: he's a universalist and needs to remind this blog of this personal tidbit.

Before worrying too much about Malebranche's rejoicing it should be noted that he would think God a monster if even an unrepentant Stalin failed to find eternal bliss.

Very gracious responses, Amy.

I think it's natural to be scared of suffering and to amaze at those who can stand through it. I certainly don't want to suffer but at least I know no matter what happens God will be there with me. And even if I don't rejoice amidst my suffering, I hope that I would at least trust amidst my suffering.

Amy is right about God not letting the full expression of human evil reign (i.e. through common grace). I find myself thinking about the visions of humanity found in dystopian stories and how they seem much more realistic than sincere utopian stories. It could be so much worse than it is now. We see brief glimmers in cases of horrific human evil. Now just imagine that on a wide-spread, universal basis. God is seeing to our benefit. We don't appreciate it because we don't see the whole picture.

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