I’ll be blogging through Christopher Wright’s book by the above title (subtitle: Reflections on tought questions of faith) published by Zondervan, 2008. John Stott writes the forward. Unlike his “Mission of God” book, this is personal, and just over 200 pages. I am finding it a treasure to read. He tackles the problem of suffering and evil and the mystery/unanswered questions we have with great faith and trust–and does so looking at Ecclesiastes. He avoids easy answers but you also sense his basic trust and worship of God on every page.
In 4 sections he considers the problem of evil and suffering, the problem of the Canaanites (violence in the OT), the mystery of the Cross, and the mystery surrounding the end of the world. To whet your appetite, here’s some of his thoughts in the preface and introduction.
Right off on the first page he reiterates his joy of knowing and trusting God. “But knowing and trusting God does not necessarily add up to understanding.” He goes on to talk about the common experience of thinking that some suffering “just isn’t fair.” And he admits that his lack of suffering sometimes seems unfair too. “There seems to be no rhyme or reason to explain such unevenness of experience, when all of us are believers. None of us is any better as a saint. None of us is any worse as a sinner. Yet God has permitted great suffering for some and spared it for others” (p. 15).
Again, he clarifies his position: “It seems to me that the older I get the less I think I really understand GOd. Which is not to say that I don’t love and trust him.”
But still, “why Lord?” and “How long Lord?” are frequently part of his conversations with God.
He goes on to say that those who claim to have answers to the deep problems of life on earth are fooling themselves, “living in some kind of delusion.”
he finishes the introduction by exploring 5 different kinds of “not understanding.”
1. Things I don’t understand that leave me angry or grieved. He says here that the “very essence of evil is the negation of all goodness–and ‘sense’ is a good thing. In the end, evil does not and cannot ‘make sense’.”
2. Things I don’t understand about God that leave me morally disturbed. Such as the violent way God gives Israel their land.
3. Things I don’t understand about God that leave me puzzled. (ex: how Christians have so abused parts of the Bible and why God allows it.)
4. Things that I don’t understand about God but that flood me with gratitude (ex: the cross)
5. Things I don’t understand about God but they fill me with hope (ex: heaven)
Finally, he ends with reminding us that our questions have good company. Abraham, Sarah, Hagar (he mentions that Hagar was the first to give God a name in the OT), Moses, Naomi, David, Elijah, Job, Habakkuk, etc. all question God with WHY, HOW LONG, and WHEN.Even Jesus asks WHY on the cross.
Here are some last choice quotes:
“…faith seeks understanding, and faith builds on understanding where it is granted, but faith does not finally depend on understanding. (p. 22)
And he says something I say in my suffering lectures, that Psalm 73 brings our lack of understanding into faithful worship. It is in the context of worship that the Psalmist, who had been struggling with understanding God’s goodness when seeing life around him, has his perspective changed. His perspective, “does not change the realities of the present.” …the author does not go back and erase all that he has written in the first half [of the Psalm]. He lets us hear both his struggling lack of understanding and his restored, worshiping faith.” (p. 23)