Can Faith Accept Mystery?

In a recent video, which you can view here, Theologian and Pastor John Piper had the following to say:

God is taking life every day. He will take 50,000 lives today. Life is in God’s hand. God decides when your last heartbeat will be, and whether it ends through cancer or a bullet wound. God governs….

If I were to drop dead right now, or a suicide bomber downstairs were to blow this building up and I were blown into smithereens, God would have done me no wrong. He does no wrong to anybody when he takes their life, whether at two weeks or at age ninety-two.

For a fairly thorough response from Old Testament Scholar Peter Enns, click here.

Needless to say, I disagree with Piper.  I will neither deny that there are stories in scripture where God appears to be the active causal agent of death nor will I deny that God has the sovereign authority to give and take away life.  But Piper claims God as the active causal agent when death occurs… disturbing and disappointing, to say the least.

Perhaps I am more sensitive to this issue because I am the parent of a child who has died.  But a claim like this is not only wrong, I believe, but also very pastorally insensitive.  I used to believe that everything which happened pertaining to life and death was the will of God.  However, that was before I encountered the book of Job.

What is astonishing about the story of Job is the way Job’s friends are so sure about the reason for Job’s suffering and the Lord’s involvement in that suffering.  They believed that God must was punishing Job for sin.  Yet not only did they believe in error but they also spoke incorrectly about God (Job 42:7).

God never explains the reason for Job’s suffering and as such, it remains a mystery.  Like most suffering, it is a mystery.  As for how that all works in a world created and sustained by God…mystery.  Can we live with that?

In his recent blog post Embracing Mystery, fellow blogger and Pastor John Allan Turner writes:

When we try to take something as mysterious as why seemingly innocent people die, why there is evil in our world or who is to blame for the suffering in our world and reduce these things to some airtight sound byte of an answer, we’re doing something terribly violent to Scripture. We’re attempting to dispel mystery.

I cannot agree enough.  A few years back, I was asked to speak at a church on the question of “Why Do Children Die?”.  Obviously the church was expecting (and paying) me to speak more than three words on the issue but the first three words and the most important words out of my mouth on the subject was, “I don’t know!”  

That is the truth.  I don’t know and neither does anyone else know why suffering and death occur.  It is a mystery.  I don’t expect every Christian to be in a place where they can accept mystery as part of their faith.  I can but it was a long journey in learning to accept mystery with my faith, a journey in which I had pretty much lost faith before finding or rediscovering faith again.

Nevertheless, I ask…  Can we allow that mystery to be a part of our faith?

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4 responses to “Can Faith Accept Mystery?

  1. yes, but what Job did do, was to pursue truth, until He had an encounter beyond soundbytes, beyond propositional assertions, to a revelation beyond all that, “I have heard of Thee with the hearing of the ear; but now my eye seeth Thee (they eye of the heart, the nous, the spirit), and I repent in dust and ashes.” Mystery is not even realized with a shrug of the shoulders and a “I don’t know”; mystery is realized when He Who Is Mystery Reveals Himself in the Silence. That is Mystery.

  2. Piper’s views on how God controls every aspect of what goes on throughout history pretty much force him to take this stance. If you say that nothing happens unless it is God’s will, then he becomes responsible for every death.

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