Tag Archives: problem-of-evil

Don’t Waste the Point

In the ruckus following Rachel Held Evan’s attack on various and sundry, at least three important things have been going on in the barrage of comments at various sites.

The first has to do with the alleged abuse case at Sovereign Grace Ministries. That is a situation about which I know next to nothing, and so I will content myself with the praiseworthy policy of saying nothing about it. But I will say something about a related matter. In my day, I have been the recipient of the tender ministrations of various discernment bloggers, the kind who have the discernment of a particularly dimwitted and goggle-eyed goldfish, peering out of a particularly curved bowl, to know that certain kinds of cases are best not tried in venues like this one. When I see a lynch mob outside the courthouse, yelling and waving a rope, it does not tell me if the man inside is innocent or guilty. But it does tell me something.

The second point has to do with whether or not John Piper is a “miserable comforter,” as Internet Monk put it. With all the perspective that Monday morning quarterbacks enjoy, I think it is possible that the original tweets would have been better placed had they been sent out a day or two later. So I understand why John took them down — it was precisely because he is not a miserable comforter, and was trying to be reasonable with regard to the feelings and responses of others. But notice how such accommodations make no difference at all to the fellowship of the grievance. For those who are theologically tweaked, their problem with you is that you still think it, and that God is still sovereign, and that the world is still the way it is. The problem is that the world (the way God governs it) is still resented, and especially resented are those who have made their peace with God’s majesty — a majesty on terrible display in tornadoes like this one. John Piper is among those who understand this, but anyone who believes that this makes him calloused or insensitive or unfeeling towards the sufferings of men, are huntsmen who do not know their quarry. It is like saying that Jeremiah didn’t love Jerusalem.

Related to this, whenever a dispute like this breaks out, ostensibly over the “timeliness” of the comments, this is frequently just a proxy for the real issue — in this case, distaste of Calvinism. If you don’t share that distaste, as I do not, then it will be harder to see the problem, if indeed there was a problem. We can illustrate this easily by flipping it around. If you do not share RHE’s peculiar theological approach, it is much easier to see her post as opportunistic ambulance-chasing. A Calvinist lecturing tornado victims in the rubble is an easy caricature to draw, but that’s not the only one. How about the pharmaceutical rep who says something like “our hearts are broken over the devastation caused by this tornado. It reminds me, in fact, of the heartbreak of psoriasis. I happen to have a bottle here . . .”

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Rachel Held Evans Denies the Cat

In the aftermath of the Oklahoma tragedy, Rachel Held Evans took John Piper to task for claiming, right in line with the Bible, that if disaster befalls a city, it is from the hand of God (Amos 3:6). Not only is it from the hand of God, but it is from the hand of a holy God. But to know — as insurance companies do — that such things are classified as acts of God, is not to say that God is abusive.

This stance of Piper’s upsets Evans, and she went on at length about it, maintaining that this creates abusive church environments, etc. I don’t want to go point-by-point through her post here — I simply want to make one observation, in line with the great Chesterton:

“If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.”

Here is the problem. Rachel Held Evans rebukes John Piper for answering the problem of evil as all orthodox Christians must, but then cops out herself. “We don’t know exactly why suffering happens in every situation . . .” Now of course this is quite right if we are maintaining that Henry got cancer because he cheated on his taxes three years ago. We don’t know that. But it is staggeringly wrong if we are talking about why our world is broken the way it is. We do know that. We have been told.

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