We Face Constant Perils and are Never Truly ‘Safe’ in this World

I’ve always found this passage from Calvin’s Institutes quite good:

Innumerable are the ills which beset human life, and present death in as many different forms. Not to go beyond ourselves, since the body is a receptacle, nay the nurse, of a thousand diseases, a man cannot move without carrying along with him many forms of destruction. His life is in a manner interwoven with death.

For what else can be said where heat and cold bring equal danger? Then, in what direction soever you turn, all surrounding objects not only may do harm, but almost openly threaten and seem to present immediate death. Go on board a ship, you are but a plank’s breadth from death. Mount a horse, the stumbling of a foot endangers your life. Walk along the streets, every tile upon the roofs is a source of danger. If a sharp instrument is in your own hand, or that of a friend, the possible harm is manifest.

All the savage beasts you see are so many beings armed for your destruction. Even within a high walled garden, where everything ministers to delight, a serpent will sometimes lurk. Your house, constantly exposed to fire, threatens you with poverty by day, with destruction by night. Your fields, subject to hail, mildew, drought, and other injuries, denounce barrenness, and thereby famine. I say nothing of poison, treachery, robbery, some of which beset us at home, others follow us abroad.

Amid these perils, must not man be very miserable, as one who, more dead than alive, with difficulty draws an anxious and feeble breath, just as if a drawn sword were constantly suspended over his neck? It may be said that these things happen seldom, at least not always, or to all, certainly never all at once. I admit it; but since we are reminded by the example of others, that they may also happen to us, and that our life is not an exception any more than theirs, it is impossible not to fear and dread as if they were to befall us.

What can you imagine more grievous than such trepidation? Add that there is something like an insult to God when it is said, that man, the noblest of the creatures, stands exposed to every blind and random stroke of fortune. Here, however, we were only referring to the misery which man should feel, were he placed under the dominion of chance.

But when once the light of Divine Providence has illumined the believer’s soul, he is relieved and set free, not only from the extreme fear and anxiety which formerly oppressed him, but from all care. For as he justly shudders at the idea of chance, so he can confidently commit himself to God.

This, I say, is his comfort, that his heavenly Father so embraces all things under his power—so governs them at will by his nod—so regulates them by his wisdom, that nothing takes place save according to his appointment; that received into his favour, and entrusted to the care of his angels, neither fire, nor water, nor sword, can do him harm, except in so far as God their master is pleased to permit.  Institutes I,17,10-11.

Ein Gott, der straft und tötet? Zwölf Fragen zum Gottesbild des Alten Testaments

This is fascinating.  The issue of Theodicy has been an interest of mine for a very long time, and this volume fits the bill perfectly in addressing it.

Das Buch ist so angelegt, dass das Thema in fünf Themenkreisen – Gericht und Vergeltung, Willkür und Gewalt, Zorn und Rache, Leiden und Sünde, Opfer und Sühne – sowie einem Einleitungs- und einem Schlusskapitel entfaltet wird. Es plädiert für ein umfassendes Reden von Gott jenseits der falschen Alternative »Lieber Gott« – »Böser Gott«. Ein Gott, der straft und tötet – und in dessen Namen Menschen strafen und töten? Ist das Alte Testament, das von einem solchen Gott spricht, nicht überholt und deswegen auch verzichtbar?

Während sich die einen ein Christentum ohne Altes Testament nicht vorstellen können, möchten die anderen es am liebsten aus der christlichen Bibel verbannen – vielleicht bis auf den Psalter, der zusammen mit dem Neuen Testament in vielen Hotelzimmern als Nachttischlektüre bereitliegt, um seinen Lesern innere Einkehr zu ermöglichen. Gerade die Psalmen sind aber ein Sammelbecken für schwierige Gottesbilder. Dieses Buch versucht anhand von zwölf besonders brisanten Fragen Antworten darauf zu geben, ob das Alte Testament für die Artikulation des christlichen Glaubens unentbehrlich oder nicht eher verzichtbar ist.

Es ist so angelegt, dass das Thema in fünf Themenkreisen

– Gericht und Vergeltung, Willkür und Gewalt, Zorn und Rache, Leiden und Sünde, Opfer und Sühne – sowie einem Einleitungs- und Schlusskapitel entfaltet wird. Im Blick auf die Frage des Eingangskapitels

– Ein anderer, »böser« Gott? – geht der Autor von einem klaren Nein aus: Der Gott des Alten Testaments ist kein anderer als der des Neuen Testaments! Und schon gar nicht spricht das Neue Testament vom »lieben« und das Alte Testament vom »bösen Gott«. Deshalb plädiert das Schlusskapitel

– Ein Gott, der straft und tötet? – für ein umfassenderes Reden von Gott, das jenseits des schlichten Duals »Lieber Gott« versus »Böser Gott« liegt. Jedoch scheint solche Einsicht gerade auch unter TheologInnen nicht mehr selbstverständlich zu sein. Diese Unselbstverständlichkeit ist der Anlass für das vorliegende Buch.

The book’s contents and front matter can be seen at the link above.  Do take a look before proceeding.  The author, no unknown in the realm of biblical studies, offers here to interested readers a book that …

… versucht auf die gestellten Fragen so zu antworten, dass die Schwierigkeiten ernst genommen werden, die weite Teile der Öffentlichkeit mit dem Alten Testament haben. Es bleibt aber nicht bei der Benennung dieser Schwierigkeiten stehen. Vielmehr wird der Versuch gemacht, anhand von zwölf besonders brisanten Fragen Antworten darauf zu geben, ob das Alte Testament für die Artikulation des christlichen Glaubens unentbehrlich oder nicht eher verzichtbar ist. Wie wir sehen werden, entscheiden nicht selten Fragen der Übersetzung über die angebliche Alltagstauglichkeit von schwierigen Gottesbildern.

There are no more problematic issues in the entire realm of theology than the questions raised by theodicy.  How can a good God allow what he allows or even cause what he causes?  How?  The Bible is filled with the questions which all people of faith have wondered about in their lifetime at some point or another, even if they never give voice to them.

It is not a new book, however.  It appeared in 2013 in its first edition.  The second edition appeared just a year later.  And now it has been republished again in 2018, in its third edition.  If you have read the first or second edition please be advised that the current volume has been corrected in terms of both minor errors and bibliographic material.

If you are among the many who did not read either the first or the second edition, I am very happy to introduce you to it in its new incarnation and I urge you in the strongest possible terms to give it a look.  Especially in an era when the world is a ‘mess’ and people are wondering why God has permitted it so to be.

The volume at hand is not only useful to we moderns in our troubled times.  It is that precisely because it is also an extraordinarily valuable investigation into texts of the Hebrew Bible that have raised eyebrows for centuries.

Is the God of the Old Testament an evil God?  Is God just?  Is God vengeful?  Is God powerful?   Is God horrible?  Is God satisfied by sacrifices?  These questions, again, not always spoken aloud but frequently in the minds of many thoughtful readers of the Bible, are asked and answered.

The introduction begins with this quotation of Bonhoeffer, and it sets the tone for the chapter in a wonderful way:

Man kann und darf das letzte Wort nicht vor dem vorletzten sprechen. Wir leben im Vorletzten und glauben das Letzte, ist es nicht so? … Warum wird im Alten Testament kräftig und oft zur Ehre Gottes gelogen, totgeschlagen, betrogen, geraubt, die Ehe geschieden, sogar gehurt, gezweifelt und gelästert und geflucht, während es im Neuen Testament dies alles nicht gibt? Religiöse ›Vorstufe‹? Das ist eine sehr naive Auskunft; es ist ja ein und derselbe Gott.

Each chapter begins with a quotation from a gifted mind.  And each quotation leads the reader into the conversation which the author wishes to engage in.  A conversation about God, good, and evil.

At the end of the volume there’s a collection of texts which readers are invited to contemplate:

Der Anhang enthält 30 Texte, die an verschiedenen Stellen des Buchs herangezogen oder in Ausschnitten zitiert werden. Auf sie wird jeweils mit dem Vermerk »s. Textanhang« hingewiesen. Auf diese Weise ist es möglich, sie im Zusammenhang nachzulesen.

The chapters are filled with citations from scripture as well as from theologians spanning the history of Christianity and Judaism and artistic illustrations when appropriate and helpful.  The textual analysis is intricate at times but this merely adds to the usefulness of the presentation.  This is a reader oriented thoughtful volume.  And, again, if you missed it when it came out 7 years ago, now is certainly the time to right that wrong.

America Rewards Incompetence and Punishes the Competent

This essay in The Atlantic about Elizabeth Warren is right on the mark.

America Punished Elizabeth Warren for Her Competence: The country still doesn’t know what to make of a woman—in politics, and beyond—who refuses to qualify her success.

It is a brilliant analysis and the perfect explanation of why America is headed for rack and ruin: Americans like stupid and incompetent.

The campaigns of those who deviate from the traditional model of the American president—the campaign of anyone who is not white and Christian and male—will always carry more than their share of weight. But Warren had something about her, apparently: something that galled the pundits and the public in a way that led to assessments of her not just as “strident” and “shrill,” but also as “condescending.” The matter is not merely that the candidate is unlikable, these deployments of condescending imply. The matter is instead that her unlikability has a specific source, beyond bias and internalized misogyny. Warren knows a lot, and has accomplished a lot, and is extremely competent, condescending acknowledges, before twisting the knife: It is precisely because of those achievements that she represents a threat. Condescending attempts to rationalize an irrational prejudice. It suggests the lurchings of a zero-sum world—a physics in which the achievements of one person are insulting to everyone else. When I hear her talk, I want to slap her, even when I agree with her.

Read the whole.


V&R published this volume just last year, but it seems particularly relevant these days. The link provides a flipbook showing the table of contents and other front matter.

The question of the justice or righteousness of God has tormented (or at least troubled) believers since at least as long ago as the period of the composition of Job (and doubtless much earlier).

Philosophical attempts to answer the question are set alongside theological attempts in this learned volume and readers are provided with all the major attempts to untie  this Gordian Knot, and left free to choose for themselves which is most satisfying.

Our author sets forth his aim thusly-

Ich versuche das alte Problem auf der Basis biblischer Zeugnisse neu zu bestimmen, so dass die theologische Perspektive nicht als eine Art „Krisenmanagement“ erscheint, sondern als eigenständiger Zugang sichtbar wird.

Insightfully he remarks

Nicht unser Wissen ist hier gefragt, sondern unsere Hoffnung.

And that’s certainly true.  Those who approach this issue aren’t really looking for answers to their questions, they are looking for hope, not knowledge.  The achievement of this quest follows a most sensible outline (on which, once more, see the link above and visit the table of contents).

The journey Link takes us on is one of thoughtful discovery and profound reflection as we ascend ever further, in concentric circles, visiting with philosophers and theologians along the way, towards the apex of the problem.  Towards the summit we read

Noch erfahren wir die Wirklichkeit des Bösen am eigenen Leibe, noch gibt es das „ängstliche Seufzen der Kreatur“ (Röm 8,19). Noch haben wir keine Antwort auf die Frage, warum das alles so sein muss. Auch die Kirche ist noch nicht an ihrem Ziel, sondern unterwegs. Sie kann den Grund ihrer Gewissheit nicht als Tatsache aufweisen. Sie „hat“ ihn nur in der Präsenz des Zeichens: in der Auferweckung des Gekreuzigten und in der Ausgießung des Geistes. Darum ist sie an den historischen Ort dieses Zeichens, die „Umgebung von Golgatha“ (Barth), gewiesen und blickt von dort aus in die Zukunft. Das aber tut sie schon heute in der Gewissheit, dass ihre Situation sich tatsächlich gewandelt hat gemäß dem Wort des Apostels Paulus: „Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen, der Tag aber nahe herbeigekommen“ (Röm 13,12).

Perhaps that’s the solution to be seen from the peak of this theological Himalaya: the night is passing, and day is dawning.  This volume pushes the mists of misprision aside and exposes the heart and soul of an ever abiding theological dilemma.

Link may not solve the problem, but he helps us towards it more than any of his predecessors, and that’s an amazing accomplishment itself.  Here we have a book worth reading several times.  And that’s my current plan.  I’m going to read it again.  I invite you to join me.

The #NRA: Cashing In While Children Cash Out

It’s ‘great’ to see the National Rifle Association doing its best to cash in on fear and hysteria! Well done you guys, well done!




Ooohhhh… the MOST DANGEROUS year in the 2nd Amendment’s history!  I bet it’s wetting itself right now in dread anticipation!  Thank goodness the NRA stands up for it….  and stands to make a buck with every shooting.

Outside the Comfort Zone: The Sensual God

Columbia University Press (or someone in Tel Aviv) thought I might enjoy this new book so they sent a copy:

9780231174701In the Old Testament, God wrestles with a man (and loses). In the Talmud, God wriggles his toes to make thunder and takes human form to shave the king of Assyria. In the New Testament, God is made flesh and dwells among humans. For religious thinkers trained in Greek philosophy and its deep distaste for matter, sacred scripture can be distressing. A philosophically respectable God should be untainted by sensuality, yet the God of sacred texts is often embarrassingly sensual.

Setting experts’ minds at ease was neither easy nor simple, and often faith and logic were stretched to their limits. Focusing on examples from both Christian and Jewish sources, from the Bible to sources from the Late Middle Ages, Aviad Kleinberg examines the way Christian and Jewish philosophers, exegetes, and theologians attempted to reconcile God’s supposed ineffability with numerous biblical and postbiblical accounts of seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and even tasting the almighty. The conceptual entanglements ensnaring religious thinkers, and the strange, ingenious solutions they used to extricate themselves, tell us something profound about human needs and divine attributes, about faith, hope, and cognitive dissonance.

It’s not my usual stomping grounds, but I’ll give it a read- because it’s not my usual stomping grounds.

Christian Brady’s “Biblical Theology of Suffering”

Christian notes

In the spring of 2015 I was invited by the Graduation Christian Fellowship and Chesterton House of Cornell University to lecture on suffering. Below, collected on one page for convenience, are the links to several posts of the lecture. The audio of the lecture can now be found at the bottom of this page as well.

Go here to listen.

Why Is This Woman Among the Living?

watkinsFire from heaven should have descended on her as she was about to perpetrate her thoroughly satanic act.

A woman in Ohio is accused in the brutal death of her own baby. Deasia Watkins, 20, of Hamilton County was taken into custody after the body of the 3-month-old girl was discovered in the family’s home yesterday morning. She’s charged with aggravated murder.

And what did Satan’s incarnation do?

Sources confirmed to WCPO in Cincinnati the child had been decapitated.

She cut off her three month old daughter’s head. Dear God.

“I was just watching to see what was going on and they was all over there with crime tape around the thing so I knew it was something serious,” said neighbor Jimmy Graham. The Hamilton County coroner won’t confirm the cause of death yet, but coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said the child had multiple injuries when she was found. “And it’s days like this when you really wonder how much evil there is in the world and how we’re fighting it,” said Dr. Sammarco. Family members at the home didn’t want to talk on camera, but say they can’t understand how something like this could have happened.

I can tell you how it can happen: evil.  Sorry, ‘she’s sick, bless her heart’ doesn’t cut it this time.  She’s not sick.  She’s pure evil incarnate.

Dr Myles Bradbury is Why Britain Needs the Death Penalty

Dr Myles Bradbury court caseA children’s doctor who abused boys in his care, including young cancer patients, even fondled some of his victims behind a curtain while their parents were in the room, a court has heard. Dr Myles Bradbury admitted carrying out examinations on children “purely for his own sexual gratification” and with no medical justification.

As a two day sentencing hearing began at Cambridge Crown Court, Bradbury, who worked at Addenbroooke’s Hospital, was warned to expect a substantial prison term. His 18 victims, aged between 10 and 16, included children with haemophilia, leukaemia and other serious illnesses.  In total, the married 41-year-old father-of-one has pleaded guilty to 25 offences including sexual assault, voyeurism and possessing more than 16,000 indecent images.

What a despicable and depraved person.  Only the death penalty suffices for these kinds of crimes.  Taking advantage of the most vulnerable… I seethe with rage and contempt.  My inner Luther may burst.

My first question of God will be- why did you allow these vermin to exist?  This kind of thing raises the issue of theodicy most acutely for me.

Everything That’s Wrong With America In One Story

I saw this (thanks to Chip Hardy on the twitter) and was gobsmacked.

The only thing bigger than high-school football in Texas is the caricature of high-school football in Texas that persists everywhere else. And so, as the dust settles from an election that featured ballot measures to bar Sharia law in Alabama and permit the use of sugary bait to hunt bears in Maine, it should come as little surprise that voters in the southeast corner of the Lone Star State decided to splurge on a $58 million high-school football stadium.

Part of a massive $748 million bond, the new stadium in Katy, Texas, is actually a scaled-down version of a previous stadium plan. Last year, the same voters rejected a proposal in which a new stadium comprised the lion’s share ($69.5 million) of a $99 million bond. You’re not reading that wrong. A $70 million high-school football stadium. The approved, slightly more modest stadium will seat 12,000 people instead of 14,000 for about $12 million less.

And there you have it.  Everything that’s wrong with America in a nutshell: 1) screwed up priorities; 2) worship of sports; and 3) Texas.

Joel is Joel and Bryan is Rick

Below are two photos.  One of Joel Watts and one of Bryan Lewis.  I understand your confusion if you think they’re actually Joel Osteen and Rick Warren.  What you don’t realize is that Joel Watts IS Joel Osteen, and Bryan Lewis IS Rick Warren.  They go by their screen names online in order to cozy up to actual scholars because they aren’t.

And now you know the rest of the story…  When next you speak to Joel Watts, you’re actually speaking to the arch-heretic Joel Osteen.  And when you speak to Bryan Lewis, you’re actually conversing with the slightly less heretical Rick Warren.  The truth is exposed.

She Forgot Her 5 Week Old Baby in the Car, and Left it 5 Hours…


A 44-year-old mother of two has been arrested after she left her five-week-old baby locked inside a car. The woman identified as Gloria Elzy left her newborn infant inside her car for more than half an hour on a hot summer day. According to KSN, The incident happened in the parking lot outside a mall at Slidell, Louisiana at around 5 pm local time. The episode could have turned into a tragedy had it not been for a good samaritan who called up 911 immediately after seeing an unresponsive baby inside the vehicle.

Slidell… that sounds very familiar.   Anyway… this can’t keep happening.  Let’s go, science people, invent a fix.

She claims she had just dropped off her other child and went to the mall. She has been charged with second-degree cruelty to juveniles. Upon investigation, she was also found to have not appeared for another unrelated case. A warrant against that case too has been issued against Gloria Elzy.

Ugh.  Why does God give children to people too cruel or incompetent to raise them?

Why Does This Continue to Happen?

Cobb County authorities are investigating a child’s death after a parent left a toddler in a vehicle near Cumberland Mall Wednesday.  Cobb County police tells WSB-TV, a father was supposed to take his 22-month-old to daycare around 8:30 a.m. Police said the father forgot and left his child inside his vehicle while he went to work.  When the father returned to his car around 4 p.m., he realized his child was still in the backseat. He pulled over immediately near 2955 Akers Mill Road and tried resuscitate his child, but he was unsuccessful.  The child was pronounced dead at the scene.

There’s nothing but heartbreak here.  The dad… what torment he now must live with.

Total Depravity: The Mom Who Beat the 3rd Grader in a Bathroom at School, With a Hammer

A third-grader was violently beaten at an Oakland, California school on Friday. Police state that the attacker, another child’s mother, lured the girl into a bathroom and then hit her repeatedly with a hammer. Police also state that this was a targeted attack and that it was the result of a family feud. And as we all know, the best way to settle familial differences is by bludgeoning someone small and defenseless with blunt objects. Poisoning and stabbing come a close second.

Fortunately, the third-grader’s injuries were not life-threatening and according Troy Flynt, the school district’s spokesperson, she was taken to the hospital and is now in remarkably good spirits, considering the trauma she’d experienced.

The attacker has been identified as Haseemah Diame, a volunteer at the school. Both Diame and the third-grade are recent immigrants from Yemen.

Good Lord.

Parents were concerned that Diame was walking around the school with a weapon, but Flynt states that she had kept it concealed until she had lured the child into the bathroom. I can’t believe I just had to type those words because that’s one of the most awful things I’ve ever heard.

Diame is now at the Alameda County jail. She’s been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Good Lord.  What an animal.

Tweeting Prayer: Silliness or Heresy?

Seen on twitter-

@SistahKim: Father, what can I do without You? Thank You for Your goodness. Never leave me; never let me go. In Jesus name.

Not to sound curmdgeony – but 1-does Kim really think God follows her on twitter? And 2- is this sort of thing in accord with Jesus’s admonition that when we pray we are to do it in secret?

Does no one claiming Christianity bother with the Bible? And does it not guide their decisions even at the most basic level? Is this tweeted prayer just an example of silliness or does it betray something more sinister? Is it evidence of a complete disregard for scripture?

Total Depravity: The 10 Year Old Who Was Raped By a Brother, and Sister, in the School Bathroom

Sing me that song you like where you tell me how people are just basically awesomely good… for old time’s sake…  Because, you know what, this kind of thing never happened when we middle age folk were kids.  Because back then sex wasn’t idolized by America like it is now that we have become a nation of profligates.

evil often wears a child's face

evil often wears a child’s face

Police in Oklahoma City are investigating an alleged sexual assault at an elementary school after a 10-year-old girl said she was held down by a female classmate while the classmate’s 8-year-old brother raped her.  The victim’s mother was waiting in the pick-up line outside of Edgemere Elementary school  when the girl ran out to tell her what had happened, according to KFOR 4, Oklahoma City. According to the girl’s mother, the victim was crying as she ran out to the car. …  

According to the girl she went to the bathroom after the school day ended, where she was confronted by a 10-year old classmate and her 8-year-old bother. “The little boy pulled his pants down, pulled her pants down.” said the mother, adding that the sister held the victim down while her younger brother raped her. The mother said that her daughter screamed, but was told that if she wasn’t quiet she would be beaten up.

“She said ‘it’s two of them mama, so I listened,’” the mother said. Police were called and escorted the girl and her mother to the hospital where a rape exam was conducted confirming injuries consistent with a sexual assault. The victim’s mother said of the assault that there is blame to go around.  “I’m not blaming just the kids,” she said. “I blame the teachers, the people who are supposed to protect our kids when they’re at school.’

With apologies to all you gentle souls who feel pity for the perps- had that happened to my child there would be more than a little revenge considered.  And at the very least, a lot, a whole lot, of imprecatory praying.