Jump to content

Excusing God In Suffering? Implications From Philip Yancey Book


Recommended Posts

A friend on facebook recently posted a quote and link to an interview from Philip Yancey about his new book "The Question That Never Goes Away".  The tag line of the book is "What is God up to - or not - in a world of such tragedy and pain"

 

I haven't read the book, and the quote didn't make any sense to me, nor did the interview really.  What I took away from the interview and the topic of his new book is that he wrote a book on how the "Church" gets the answer wrong about the question of God and his role in suffering.  One thing Yancey said in the interview was that in times of suffering and crisis, we need to look towards the helpers...and figure out how we can be "helpers".  My take away from this is that Yancey is not really answering the question at all, but rather saying something like God reveals himself in the people who help others in times of tragedy.  So we could say that the people who came to the aid of the people who suffered in the Newtown CT shootings were extensions of "God"...for example.  Maybe my take is all wrong, but that is what he appears to be getting at.

 

If what I have deduced is true, then Yancey is kind of avoiding the question all together about God's role in allowing/causing suffering in the first place, other than maybe saying God allows it or causes it because it helps people become better in their character?  Can God not find a better way to sharpen people than to allow or cause tragedy?  This seems like he is letting God off the hook completely.  I am trying to think of a real world analogy, but can't come up with a very good one.  Maybe it's like me driving down a neighborhood street and deciding that I should run over a child playing near the street in their front yard simply because I can see the value of their neighbors coming together around the family of the child I killed in support and love.  I killed the child and want to "allow" the neighbors the opportunity to show this family love and compassion.  Maybe that's a bad analogy, or maybe I have Yancey all wrong...as I haven't read the book.

 

Here is a link to the interview:

I think that health is the ability to make wholeness out of our lives. Our tendency is to amputate painful things, but I try not to do that. I have seen what happens when people do that. - See more at: http://janariess.religionnews.com/2013/08/16/philip-yancey-a-new-book-and-a-whole-new-way-of-publishing-it/#sthash.VoaLiSOR.dpuf

http://janariess.religionnews.com/2013/08/16/philip-yancey-a-new-book-and-a-whole-new-way-of-publishing-it/

 

The particular quote my facebook friend mentioned is:

"I think that Health is the ability to make wholeness out of our lives.  Our tendency is to amputate painful things, but I try not to do that.  I have seen what happens when people do that." 

 

What does that mean???  Any other ideas on what Yancey is trying to convey to people with his new book?

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just another way of elevating suffering. The Christian must find a value in suffering, otherwise God is no longer "good".

 

Too bad its not a satisfactory answer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've heard that idea of "look for the helpers" attributed to Mr. Rogers.  He said his mother taught him that when he was young.  Anyway, not to diss Mr. Rogers, but I had the same reaction you did -- so we should be grateful when tragedies happen to people so that other people have a chance to help?  If it's supposed to be biblical, and a chance for us to show god how much we care, then that's twisted.

 

And a lot of people, when they have a chance and are able, are very willing to run and help someone in desperate need.  That's a normal human reaction.  We have empathy for each other because we are human.

 

And I've learned from some painful things in my life -- and other painful things were just painful with no good lesson I ever figured out.  But I'd be thrilled to "amputate" them all.  But I can't.  So I have no idea what he means by "I have seen what happens when people do that."  Amputate brain cells?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just another way of elevating suffering. The Christian must find a value in suffering, otherwise God is no longer "good".

 

Too bad its not a satisfactory answer.

Succinct and to the point.  The Problem of Evil (Suffering) is an insoluble problem for Christians who assert the existence of a tri-omni god.  The OP's Yancy's reference is one of the more shallow apologetics created to mask the problem - suffering/evil is necessary to create more good.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's so goddamn easy for people who haven't lived in constant physical torment to sashay around making such trite statements.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only positive thing I have to say about that viewpoint is that I've heard it used to counter an even worse idea: the idea that if you're suffering, god is punishing you for something, or that for some reason it's god's will that you suffer, that god likes to see you suffer. In comparison to that, the idea that god wishes suffering didn't happen and god's will is in the helpers and in the fixing is... well, it at least encourages christians to be helpers instead of trying to convince suffering people that Jesus loves you and has a plan and it's all good. And considering that I grew up in a christian environment where the response to "i had a bad day" was always "Smile! Jesus loves you!", acknowledging that suffering is real and that it sucks is an improvement.

 

(edited for typos)

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The bible really is based on a sacrificial viewpoint, the whole foundation is built upon sacrificing the innocent for some greater good or to pay for the crimes of the guilty by the blood of the innocent.  So to take a biblical viewpoint on suffering you have to start with that very disturbing foundation.  The bible's take on suffering seems to be that any degree of suffering or torture of innocent lives is ok so long as god deems it to be within the plan of the "greater good", his version of utopia/heaven that he wants to create.  So oceans of innocent blood are going to be poured out all through the ages so that this "utopia" can somehow be born.  With the god of the bible it is not about the means, but the ends.  I find this horrifying and greatly immoral.  But time and again I have heard Christians (who have had very cozy lives, obviously, or they wouldn't say such drivel)....explaining that although there is tremendous pain and tragedy in the world it's all in fact, ok, because god has a greater plan and one day he is going to make everything all right so that there is no more pain and suffering.  Nevermind the millions of years of agony it took to arrive at the great utopia.  We'll just brush those innocent screams and tears under the rug and go play some football in heaven. 

This is the primary reason I left Christianity because to me the means need to be justified in and of themselves.  If the means are torturous, it doesnt' matter that the ends are good. 

“Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last. Imagine that you are doing this but that it is essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature...in order to found that edifice on its unavenged tears. Would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me. Tell the truth.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

 
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's so goddamn easy for people who haven't lived in constant physical torment to sashay around making such trite statements.

 

No kidding.

 

I have a series of autoimmune diseases that cause constant physical pain and discomfort.  I have often lived in remote places...once in the interior of Alaska where there wasn't much of anyone.  I was still a fundie then....constantly crying out to God for solace in my suffering and asking him to take away the pain or help me stand it or whatever.  I didn't have any of the "helpers" that Yancey is mentioning.  My husband's job took us from one place to another and I didn't know anyone.  I was too sick to go to church and God never once brought these helpers of his to my door.  I know a family member of mine whose child is dying and they are Christians and they talk about how even though God is allowing the suffering that he is showing them his love and care through all the friends, the cards, the casseroles, etc.  What about those who die alone?  It is such a cop out, anyway, to take the acts of kindness from humans and give God all the credit just to guild the pill of suffering.  Yancey's book sounds like the usual chicken shit for the soul.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a series of autoimmune diseases that cause constant physical pain and discomfort.  I have often lived in remote places...once in the interior of Alaska where there wasn't much of anyone.  I was still a fundie then....constantly crying out to God for solace in my suffering and asking him to take away the pain or help me stand it or whatever.  I didn't have any of the "helpers" that Yancey is mentioning.  My husband's job took us from one place to another and I didn't know anyone.  I was too sick to go to church and God never once brought these helpers of his to my door.  I know a family member of mine whose child is dying and they are Christians and they talk about how even though God is allowing the suffering that he is showing them his love and care through all the friends, the cards, the casseroles, etc.  What about those who die alone?  It is such a cop out, anyway, to take the acts of kindness from humans and give God all the credit just to guild the pill of suffering.  Yancey's book sounds like the usual chicken shit for the soul.

 

 

Wow, gingernut. You and I have much in common. I was ill for years and years, also unable to go to church. My illness and chronic pain sucked the life out of me (and my faith tpp, while it was at it). Through a random chance, I discovered I have celiac disease with a huge neurological component. I finally have quality of life, but no thanks to God. Why couldn't God have given someone a 'vision' or 'picture' of a loaf of bread during one of the 1000s of prayer meetings I went to/led? Why didn't God "use" one of the many medical practitioners (many of whom are Christians i.e. they have a hotline to God, yes?) I saw for my symptoms? Why did God let this disease progress unchecked, leading to infertility and almost suicide? It's so absurd. I am so afraid I will become passive aggressive as I tell my fundy-in-laws how disappointed I am that God did not tell me 'in time' so that I could at least have a family--and then say something like "Well, God knows best. My pain, suffering and grief is a sweet scent in his nostrils. He has a plan in all of this! God is great! God is good!!!!!" Wendycrazy.gif 

 

God. How insanse. (Thanks for the rant. I know you can relate!!!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, the good ole' problem of evil. It's been nagging at Christians for years. Can't quite seem to go away, especially for the lovey-dovey Jesus ones. Fill a book with Christian platitudes, arm chair philosophy, some feel good crap...and boom! Best seller. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Huh. That IS one wacky quote.

 

I think it means that we shouldn't cut off other people around us who are suffering? Like, someone is going through grief and it's easier to just stay away than to stay close and comfort them and ask what we can do to help?

 

Or maybe we have a difficult relationship with a family member and we should put in the effort to try to heal the rift?

 

I can't really say, except that now that I'm an ex-C, I recognize the difference of when people are going through a rough time and I can help, as opposed to when people are sociopaths or sponges or total negative black holes who cause nothing but destruction to everyone around them. And yeah, I do keep my distance or cut people like that off. They can do enormous damage, and I'm not signing up for abuse. Christians (some of them) think we should keep treating even the most abusive spouse, friend, or family member with love and forgiveness and kindness.

 

I don't mind saying that when someone has repeatedly done something cruel or damaging to me (and I don't mean accidentally thoughtless or whatever--I mean betrayal or actual malicious cruelty here), I happily cut them right out of my life and never look back with so much as an ounce of regret.

 

I mean, why on earth would anyone sign up for suffering when they don't have to?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

I have a series of autoimmune diseases that cause constant physical pain and discomfort.  I have often lived in remote places...once in the interior of Alaska where there wasn't much of anyone.  I was still a fundie then....constantly crying out to God for solace in my suffering and asking him to take away the pain or help me stand it or whatever.  I didn't have any of the "helpers" that Yancey is mentioning.  My husband's job took us from one place to another and I didn't know anyone.  I was too sick to go to church and God never once brought these helpers of his to my door.  I know a family member of mine whose child is dying and they are Christians and they talk about how even though God is allowing the suffering that he is showing them his love and care through all the friends, the cards, the casseroles, etc.  What about those who die alone?  It is such a cop out, anyway, to take the acts of kindness from humans and give God all the credit just to guild the pill of suffering.  Yancey's book sounds like the usual chicken shit for the soul.

 

 

Wow, gingernut. You and I have much in common. I was ill for years and years, also unable to go to church. My illness and chronic pain sucked the life out of me (and my faith tpp, while it was at it). Through a random chance, I discovered I have celiac disease with a huge neurological component. I finally have quality of life, but no thanks to God. Why couldn't God have given someone a 'vision' or 'picture' of a loaf of bread during one of the 1000s of prayer meetings I went to/led? Why didn't God "use" one of the many medical practitioners (many of whom are Christians i.e. they have a hotline to God, yes?) I saw for my symptoms? Why did God let this disease progress unchecked, leading to infertility and almost suicide? It's so absurd. I am so afraid I will become passive aggressive as I tell my fundy-in-laws how disappointed I am that God did not tell me 'in time' so that I could at least have a family--and then say something like "Well, God knows best. My pain, suffering and grief is a sweet scent in his nostrils. He has a plan in all of this! God is great! God is good!!!!!" Wendycrazy.gif

 

God. How insanse. (Thanks for the rant. I know you can relate!!!)

 

So glad that you figured out the celiac disease and have gotten some relief.  I know what you mean...surely all the praying I am sure you did would have resulted in someone somewhere helping you figure this out.  Oh wait...unless of course that God used those years of pain to draw you to him...to keep you cleaved to him In suffering as a sacrifice of praise to himself.  So that your patient suffering would lead others to look at your life and want to be a Christian. (so they can join the suffer club I guess)  Bleck.  Anyway...I am so sorry you didn't find any answers in time to have a family. That sucks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.