Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Why Do Bad Things Happen To 'Good' People?" Part 2: Walking By Faith

My last post introduced this question that is so commonly asked amongst all of us. I plan on doing three posts, total, on this question -- this being the second. This post is actually going to be short and sweet and to the point. In fact this post will provide an answer that I am sure will prove to be an unsatisfactory answer for most -- me included -- but it is the truth. I hinted at this in my previous post, and in fact this point served as the basis for how it is that we are to approach the above question (the title of the post). The answer to the above question is that (as I highlighted in my first post, that there really aren't any "good people") we walk by faith. 

The medieval way of parsing what "faith" entails was to note three prongs; those are, faith is: knowledge, assent, trust. I think each of these prongs have merit. Biblically faith, I think, entails all three of these. The most prominent, or the one I want to discuss a bit, is trust. It seems today, that trusting God is getting an awful lot of short shrift. Knowledge and Assent play a much more prominent role for today's "faithful;" at least this is how it seems to me. We, today, want to know answers to all of our most pressing questions; the kinds of questions that "we" are dealing with in the 21st century, existential ones. We have a hard time understanding how it is that Christian faith can be "relevant" unless it can provide answers to "our" questions in the terms that "we" deem adequate. So in turn, so often, it seems that our intellectual/existential questions become the tail that wags the dog of so called Christian faith. I can think of one glaring example of this, one that is very recent, and still somewhat dangling within the broader ethos of "Evangelical" Christianity; no doubt, what I am referring to is Rob Bell's problem with the idea that hell is eternal, conscious, torment. While the "Faith" has most prominently held that hell, indeed, is "eternal, conscious, torment;" today, with our cultural ethos in place -- the one shaped (in America) by a society of free-hipster-love (a la the 60's and 70's) -- the notion that love (and God being love) could ever place anyone in a hell that is eternal, conscious, torment cannot jive with our existential sensibilities and understandings of what love actually is. This is just one example, in my mind, that illustrates, quite well, what "faith" looks like if only defined by "knowledge & assent," to the preclusion of "trust."

But, I think "trust" is the foundation of the other two. In fact, I am not really sure this medieval schema is in fact the most faithful way to construe faith. So maybe I've already moved from what I said above about this medieval concept capturing the biblical conception of faith. Because really, "faith" is best epitomized by Jesus' relationship to the Father. Knowledge of God and assent to that knowledge does not seem to be the most prominent thing in God's self-revelation of Himself to humanity through Christ. Instead, what we see is the Son submitting Himself to the Father's will out of love based upon the trust that He has in the Father's purposes. I think this provides the best frame for understanding what "faith" entails; that is, by looking at how that plays out in the inter-relations between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

If this is the case, then the way we answer the question of this post is not primarily one that will seek to assuage our intellectual desires; but instead, this question is set within the life of God himself, within and through the Son's trusting and loving gaze upon the Father by the Holy Spirit. So in other words, the way we answer this question is an issue that is set within the boundaries of salvation and reconciliation itself; instead of the typical starting point, which is to start in the realm of philosophy and apologetics. This issue is only going to be answered by starting with faith from and in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Do you find this satisfying, or relevant?


  1. I think the only way we can be called "good" people, is if we are declared such by Christ. So I will answer with this assumption in mind.
    I believe that bad things happen to us in order to perfect us. They help us to see where we have not totally let go of our old selves, our old assumptions. The testing of our faith makes us complete and lacking of nothing. It gives us practice in recognizing that God is the Good God who is the eternal Giver of Good Gifts.


  2. Hi Craig,

    My first part to this post, develops your point on "good." Yes, I see God's redemptive purposes in trial too.

  3. I should say, my first part in this series of posts develops your point on "good."

  4. Agreed.
    My simple answer is that trials strip away our illusions. It is painful, but I want my illusions stripped away. I don't want to be deceived, and I want Him to truly be my everything.

  5. @Craig,

    Yes, II Cor. 1:8ff is always a good passage to think about in this regard. Paul saying that he had the sentence of death written upon him so that he wouldn't trust in himself but in the one who raises the dead. Or Rom 5:1-5 comes to mind as well. It is painful, I don't like being stripped away; but as the author of Hebrews said:

    7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:7-11

  6. I agree. I wondered where you were going to go with this, because usually (as you said) this is dealt with as an academic question.

    Well, for a while (several chapters) Job had the floor, and God was in the dock. True to form, He was silent to His interrogator. What God knew, was that it was Job who was being tested. Not as in being "put to the test", but as in "tried as gold": heated up, and the impurities removed.
    For the lost, the academic question is their best shot. For the lost fleeing God it is a shot at the pursuer, as a bandit in the movies shot at the possey from the back of his horse. They are trying to ward of God with academic questions they hope will never be answered.

    For the faithful, the question gets personal.
    "Why WHY?!?"
    (Still silence.)
    "No, I need to know!"
    (more silence)
    Somehow, amid the no longer academic questions, there is a chemistry that speaks more life and more reallity into our cold broken bodies that we can not verbalize. I'm certain it is the apothecary of the Fellowship of His Suffering. Is it the ointment poured over our Lord's head and feet, or is it the tears with which we wash away the dust of our questions?

    Why do I ever resist?