Easter & the meaning of suffering

Thoughtful article from Barney Zwartz, The Age, on “acts of God”, suffering and the relevance of the events of Easter.

He quotes a book from a long ago philosopher brother in Christ, Bruce Langtry as well as Peter Adam and Wolterstorff, among others. I liked the comment on natural disasters as  “acts of God”:

Although the concept survives in some countries, ”acts of God” have disappeared from the insurance industry in Australia, which now covers many natural disasters it once did not.

But, as leading Australian philosopher Tony Coady points out, talking about ”acts of God” this way is independent of belief in God. He says it is a shorthand way of suggesting no human caused a particular disaster, such as an earthquake, so no one can be blamed. The only result is that God gets a bad press: he gets blamed for tsunamis, but no one calls a marvellous growing season for farmers an act of God.

More comments,

Whether God is responsible for natural events has been hotly debated by theologians, who distinguish between what he actively wills and what he merely allows. . . .

Melbourne philosopher Bruce Langtry, an evangelical Christian, believes he has found a formula (described in his book, God the Best, and Evil) that renders this distinction unnecessary, and avoids the supposed contradiction between God’s goodness and power exposed by suffering.  . . .

Philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, who lost his son in a mountaineering accident, wrote in Lament for a Son that he could not ”fit it all together” with either of two common attempts to do that, either by saying God did it or by saying there was nothing God could do about it. ”I cannot fit it together at all. I can only, with Job, endure. I do not know why God did not prevent Eric’s death. To live without the answer is precarious.”

Wolterstorff concludes that suffering is ”deep down at the centre of things, deep down where the meaning is. Suffering is the meaning of our world. For Love is the meaning. And Love suffers. The tears of God are the meaning of history.”

That is the Christian message of Easter, that Easter represents the ultimate act of God – that, according to their faith, God took on human form to die for humans, and be resurrected. Ridley’s Peter Adam says: ”The act of God in Jesus Christ is not that of a remote and uncaring god. God is personally present in Jesus Christ, in his humble birth, life of service, atoning death and resurrection, and present to rescue and help us.”

Well worth reading more: The meaning of suffering.

See also seven articles on suffering by various contributors, Christians respond to suffering #1, through to  Christians respond to suffering # 7.

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