Columnists > Voices

Always on God's mind

He never forgets the cross and so never forgets us

Issue: "Beginning of the end," March 29, 2003

WHY WAR? WHY DOESN'T GOD JUST STOP IT AND get rid of Saddam Hussein and his clique in some way that does not result in the loss of any more innocent life? Why should, say, a beloved minister contract cancer and die relatively young, while Saddam in his 60s lives on?

Why, why, why? Some who sink into despair recognize that a holy God angry with sin would demean Himself if, like a fairy godmother, He were to wave a wand and eliminate its consequences. But they still question the legitimacy of God's anger. Some ask, "Didn't God create the problem? Why didn't He create people unable to rebel against Him?"

Those are good questions and can be answered in a variety of ways, starting with the recognition that God is not a puppeteer. Still, we can never (in man's wisdom) answer them with complete satisfaction. At some point we have to acknowledge that God has written a great story with lots of twists and turns.

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Christianity, after all, is not a religion like a manufactured home, with straight lines and windows. Christianity is a religion like a mountain, given by God and full of outcroppings and crevices. What makes it difficult is also what makes it real. We need to accept some mystery, while trying to understand what we can within our limited perspective.

Lots of theologians have made good stabs at understanding. My own attempts are pinpricks. I think of it this way: that for God in His omniscience all times are the present. He knows and ordains past and future, while we know only a little about the past and nothing about the future.

Keeping that in mind, we can move past historian Herbert Butterfield's provocative but ultimately misleading view of God as a composer repeatedly revising His music because the orchestra playing it is incompetent. God is not frustrated by incompetence or forced to revise the score so the symphony will end up where He wants it. Since God does not operate in time, He finished the revised score before it ever needed revising, compensating in advance (as we humans understand time) for the clarinetist's confusion and the tuba player's tumble.

For me, this is the key to understanding how God has foreordained the future without limiting human freedom. It makes sense that we who operate within time experience it differently than does the Creator who is outside time. Of course, the key question is not what makes sense to us but what makes sense to God. The Bible is very clear on that: He is sovereign in all things, and nothing happens outside of God's plan.

The idea that God's in complete charge is not only biblically true but existentially comforting. Otherwise, imagine the torment after an accident: If I hadn't delayed my son by giving him a second helping of pie, he wouldn't have been in the path of that truck ...

Or, even when individuals do not feel guilty, the torment after a war: If only he had been a few feet (or inches) to the right or left ...

The Bible tells us that any evil, even war, works for the good of those who love God. Christianity tells us what the man-made religions do not: that at a specific historical moment God experienced intimately what it is like to be tortured and abandoned, to endure overwhelming loss, and to be killed unjustly. And, since for God all time is the present, all His teachings to man from the beginning of what we perceive as time were based on the experience and compassion of the cross.

The ancient Greeks distinguished between gnosis (intellectual knowledge) and epignosis (intimate understanding drawn from personal experience). Regardless of how well-made some travel videos are, virtual travel is not the real thing. I've never seen a photo or video that conveys the full magnificence of the Grand Canyon or a great glacier. I can view a major-league ballpark on television many times, but until I've been there myself I don't really comprehend its nooks and crannies. That is the difference between gnosis and epignosis.

A comfort in times of war is that God never forgets the epignosis of the cross. Since He has a perfect memory, time for God does not heal all wounds. The suffering of the cross is always on God's mind. The pain never heals. He never forgets it, and so He never forgets us, even in wartime.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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