Evil and the human suffering that goes with it is a strange thing to observe. With the constant news cycle there is no end to the evils that we read. Every day, every hour, new evil is uncovered, new evil that is really old evil, the same tired patterns endlessly repeating. It becomes a background to life and we become inoculated against caring because life is too short to take the time to feel the pain of everyone.
Then there comes an event of particular magnitude, evil beyond the usual and its as though all the unfelt injustice, all the unconsidered empathy, all the pain not shared, all of it gets rolled up into this one horrific event. The terrorist attack on Paris was such an event of particular evil, in a place not too far away, with acts of violence that given meaning to the word "senseless". The only purpose to cause as much human suffering as could be achieved.
The immediate response I had was to pray: "Lord Jesus, come back soon." For seeing such evil, how could I ever want to see such a thing again? Better by far that the world end, that Jesus returns, that this present fallen world is done away with. Even if there are 10 billion more of God's elect still to be saved, it seems better to have the world end now.
Why is the New Testament God so angry all the time? How can the Old Testament God be so loving? A common problem people have with the Bible is the disconnect between the loving and forgiving God of the Old Testament and the angry and wrathful God of the New Testament. How can one be so loving and kind and the other so cruel and capricious? The implication being, of course, that the Bible is completely wrong as a result of this seeming contradiction.
Let’s dive right in then and examine this disconnect between the New and Old. First up: the angry, wrathful, vengeful God of the New Testament. There’s no better to place to start than 2 Thessalonians, a book of the Bible which has proportionally more on Hell and judgement than any save perhaps Revelation. Take the following quote:
“This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” 2 Thessalonians 1 v 7 – 8.
I used to think that the worst thing about Facebook was all the other people on it. To be fair, I still like to think that, and yes, in case you're wondering that does include you.
The number of pet hates I have is so great I've split them into two lists. Those that merit instant unfollowing and those that I tolerate but still basically hate. The former list is reserved for anyone who does those ridiculous gratitude challenges, people who take selfies of their six pack and any individual who posts more than three status updates in the one day.
My second list is a lot longer and includes in no particular order: pictures of meals (either home cooked or at a restaurant) - I've yet to see one which doesn't make the meal look both unappetising and a little pathetic. "Cute" couple statuses along the lines of: "isn't my [insert name here] totally amazing" or an abundance of couple photos. Quoting the Bible too many times, too many baby photos, too many clubbing photos, any attempt at the ice bucket challenge or any other viral charity campaign which people share so everyone can glory in their generous nature. Any status with the word "blessed" in. Sports related updates. Everyone who shared their degree result online. Anyone who "pokes" people - seriously, like, who does that? Anyone who invites me to play some stupid game. Anyone who posts those: "I took a quiz and got 100%" things. Oh yeah, and Guardian articles, Nationalist propaganda, Left Wing nonsense and Liberal theology. Pictures of drunken escapades. Pictures of fake drunken escapades. The "so and so such a babe" posts. The like this to win competitions. The sympathy craving posts. I could go on.
Last Monday evening I attended a public lecture given by Tom Wright (also known as R.T. Wright), the ex Bishop of Durham and a lecturer at St Andrews University and as you might expect a very clever and able man. His lecture was on “How do we speak about God in a confused world?” which basically translated to the role of the Christian faith in public discourse. His lecture was almost brilliant. But the almost left me feeling troubled.
The brilliance was in his insight into modern culture and it's failings; the divinity of progress now that any conception of god has been removed, the failure of science-ism (hot air, resting on thin air, leaving us in mid air, as he wonderfully said) and the place of Christianity in Western society. His diagnoses was accurate but in describing Christianity as the solution he worried me.
The almost was in what he did not say. This makes it a subtle error but it has been my observation that often the most tricky errors are found in what is not said rather than what is. Before I get to the exact error of omission that was concerning I think it is necessary to say that Tom Wright is hardly the only one doing this. Indeed, he acts a figurehead for a broader church wide movement of not preaching the gospel as well as it should be preached. From my own experience I find it most common in evangelical charismatic circles but it is creeping into conservative circles too.