I was at a graduation on Friday when I saw the news on my phone: An elementary school in Connecticut was attacked by a gunman, Adam Lanza, who murdered 26 people, 20 of them young children. I admit that what I experienced first was not grief, but more like angry cynicism: Again? I am afraid I am becoming numb to bad news that’s reported from far away places; not because I don’t care, but because there is so much crap going on in the world.
After a few days of processing it, it’s still mindboggling that someone would even think to do such a thing. The details are both confusing and disturbing: A quiet, loner of a young man stole his mother’s guns, shot her, and then for unfathomable reasons went to the local elementary school and mowed down both children and teachers before shooting himself. Questions have circulated in everyone’s minds: Why would this guy do this? Was he angry? Was he crazy? Was he seeking attention? All of the above? Why did nobody see this coming? Why aren’t there stricter gun control laws?
Of course, the most common question, asked with genuine confusion and sadness but also with angry accusation, is quite simply, “Where was God?”
I’ve watched a couple of movies recently, so I’ll write brief reviews of both:
The Hobbit: I heard some negative things about it before I watched it, most notably that it was often slow and that the special effects looked fake, but when I watched it I actually really enjoyed the movie. I greatly appreciated the fact that it kept the tone of movies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as I felt a bit of nostalgia throughout the movie. I think, generally, the special effects were well done, though the fat goblin king looked silly.
The fight scenes were either added or greatly embellished from the book, but I didn’t mind it too much because it’s, well, a movie, and since a great deal of the audience hasn’t read the book or know anything about Tolkien’s world, it helps keep them attentive. Some of them were ridiculous, but people love ridiculous fight scenes. They also did a clever job of keeping Gandalf around and providing excuses as to why he would not be present, as he randomly just leaves on his own accord during the book to do other things.
One time, while I was listening to a Matt Chandler sermon, I noted something with interest: As he talked about his battle with brain cancer, he taught that God could use what happened to him for good. No disagreement there. However, one point of emphasis caught my attention:
“God allowed… he didn’t cause… he allowed… this to happen to me.”
I like Matt Chandler, but since I know his theological framework, this made me raise my eyebrow. Oh really, Calvinist?
One of the most frequent questions posed to the theist is the problem of evil: If God is omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent, shouldn’t he want to get rid of evil, have the power to, and know how to? Since there is evil, it is not reasonable to believe God exists. The typical theist response is roughly that God has good reasons for permitting or allowing evil, though we may not know exactly what they are. (See Alvin Plantinga’s God, Freedom, and Evil for a refutation of the logical problem of evil as well as for his Free Will Defense.)
I should be writing my paper, but I will write a quick post on this for fun.
D.A. Carson, a renowned New Testament scholar, has a very famous book called Exegetical Fallacies, where he enumerates several exegetical and logical fallacies often used by both scholars and pastors. Carson is a brilliant academic and his book is a very good resource, if not a discouraging one that might scare pastors away from trying to use Greek in their sermons (sure makes me think twice about using Greek or Hebrew). Carson is generally fair throughout the work, and as he criticizes others he criticizes his own mistakes as well.
I have now been part of the college ministry of Arlington Chinese Church for 2.5 years now, though I am not Chinese but Korean (thankfully, since our food is better; bring it, ya chinks). The ministry itself is basically the same age, starting the summer before I arrived at the church. I have been thinking about our brief history, and I find it interesting to look back over the last couple of years and see how God has worked through our modest group and brought different people together for a ministry. I will re-tell some of that history below, hoping that we are but in the early chapters of a story that will continue for many years, long after I and my colleagues are gone. In that regard, there is still a lot of work to be done on our part, but regardless, God has done much already through whatever meager efforts we have put forth so far.
I want to stress that because I am writing this, this will obviously come primarily from my perspective, though I will try to incorporate others’ as well as I know them and is fair for me to relate (and a lot of details will have to be left out, in general). This doesn’t mean that I am the most important person or did the most work (far from it, actually), nor does it mean that my perspective is the most significant. In addition, I must say that I am normally hesitant to just chalk up things to “God’s providence” as a general copout explanation, as if we presume to know how God works in all circumstances, but in this case, I think we can look back and see his fingerprints pretty clearly.
If I miss anyone’s name… sorry. Write your own blog post ;).