The situation described in the following letters continues to be entirely fictitious, including persons, names, crimes, sins, relationships, circumstances and all particulars. The kind of situation that is described, however, is all too common and my hope is that biblical principles applied to this fictitious scenario may be of some help to individuals tangled up in a real one.
Greetings again. I am very glad you decided to write me, even if it felt like going against your better judgment. Maybe we can get into that part of it later on.
But the first thing that I would want to address was, fortunately, the centerpiece of your letter. The theology of anything is always the foundational aspect of every subject, and this, one of most evil things that can happen, means that we have to grapple with the theology of evil, the problem of evil. In brief, how could a good God let something as bad as this happen?
You came into this world a defenseless girl, and while you were in that defenseless condition, your father began to prey on you. Not only did he molest you, grievously, over the course of years, but I also saw in the court records (which Camille sent me) that there was a good deal of gas lighting going on—trying to make you feel like you were causing it, or somehow deserved it, or that you were the one to blame. Given the evil that had your father in its grip, what was it that had God in its grip? Why did God put you in that home, with no defenses?
From your letter, I see that you want to believe, that you want to be a Christian, but that you have no answer to this taunt when the enemy throws it at you. “So, you are going to pray to Him again, are you? Let’s hope He answers more promptly than all those times late at night when you prayed that your father would never come to your bedroom again.” I would guess that something along those lines has been thrown at you more than once.
This is a problem that—on a practical level—needs to be answered in stages, not all at once. And the first stage is this. There are certain things you know about this tragedy, and there are certain things you don’t know. An example of something you know is that your father’s treatment of you was evil. An example of something you don’t know is why a loving Father in Heaven would allow an earthly father to behave that way. So you know that your mistreatment was evil, and you don’t know why God would permit it. And this would lead to my first bit of counsel. Don’t sacrifice what you do know on the altar of what you do not know.
This is what I mean. There are many questions that are swirling around in your heart and mind because of what your father has done to you. The one thing you must not do is gratify those questions (which is not the same thing as answering them) by surrendering the one central thing that you do know—that your father’s behavior was evil, as measured by an objective standard outside all of us.
This might draw a protest, where you might say that you are not about to give any room for justifying your father’s treatment of you. But you might recall that in your letter you mentioned that some of your friends at school were urging you to “throw away the Scriptures, the headwaters of the patriarchy that must be smashed.” I am glad you are not currently listening to those voices (although you do feel a tug from them). But the prospect of going along with them, condemning your father (along with all other men) as the source of all evil, certainly does not feel like it would be excusing your father. How could a complete rejection of him, along with the Christianity he pretended to represent, be something that exonerates him?
It is because a relativistic rejection of anything is, by definition, not a complete rejection. If you were to deny that there is a God, on the basis of your father’s abuse of you, what is the first thing that happens? If there is no God, then what is wrong with a father doing what your father did? If the response is that he is going to spend the rest of his life in jail, this only reveals the sinfulness of getting caught.
If there is no God, then it is certainly true that you can then give free rein to your hurt, resentment, hatred, bitterness, and malice. Just open that valve. There is no God to tell you that there is anything wrong with any of your responses. But—and here is the catch—neither is there a God who can tell your father that there was anything wrong with his lusts.
This means that you must not give an inch to any philosophy that would, if adopted by your father, exonerate and justify him completely. You must continue to say that what he did was wrong—truly, completely, fully and totally wrong. It was wrong by an objective standard that existed before the world was created, and was outside the reach of his manipulations. It was wrong because it was a violation of fatherhood.
So what you know now is something you must take care to cling to. If you do, then there will come a time when the answers to your other questions will start to come into focus. I trust that we will get to some of those in these exchanges. The Christian faith provides tough answers to tough questions—the kind of tough questions that a messed up world can generate. But every form of relativism is a boy’s philosophy, giving you license for certain emotional reactions while simultaneously giving license to all the behaviors that might provoke such reactions. Relativism is a liar and a cheat.
In short, if you reject God because He didn’t intervene to stop what happened to you, then what you are actually doing is surrendering to what happened to you. You would have to stop thinking of your father’s behavior as bestial and evil, and simply relegate it to the realm of the foolish—and foolish only because he was caught.
Your Aunt Camille has told me about the courage you displayed when testifying. But there are other realms where courage is required also, and the intellectual realm, the realm where there is true authority in argument, is one of them. What I am doing here is pleading with you to be courageous across the board.
So then, in summary, we know that your father’s abuse of you was wicked and sinful, and we know this because God the Father in Heaven condemns it in His Word. We also learn from Scripture that God allows sin to exist for a time, that He does not judge it immediately, and that He has wonderful reasons for delaying that judgment. In the meantime, while we wait for Him to put everything to rights, we place all our questions on the altar of what we know (that God is infinitely good and that such behavior is therefore evil) instead of going the other way around. We refuse to place this one certainty (that this behavior is evil) on the altar of our questions. For once we have done that, there is no stopping the spiral down into madness.
Thank you for responding. I hope that in your next letter you might expand your question about the meaning of forgiveness. This is important because a lot of Christians misunderstand what is actually involved in biblical forgiveness. And for you in your situation, I understand, it is no trivial point.
Cordially in Christ . . .