Tag Archives: theodicy

God’s People, part 246: Dorcas

Read Acts 9:36-43

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”  (Romans 12:1, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Dorcas_TabithaPart 246: Dorcas. According to Luke, Tabitha (or Dorcas as she was known in Greek) was a Christian believer and someone that was kind, compassionate, and always serving others, especially the poor. She was a woman who lived by the very example of her Lord Jesus Christ and was, clearly, filled with the Holy Spirit. What a powerful witness she must have been to our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, it must come as a shock to learn that this sweet, kind, loving, compassionate and thoughtful woman found herself succumbing to a serious illness. How could a such a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ die? How could God allow that to happen? Such questions lead us into a realm of theology known as theodicy: why does God allow sin, evil, pain, and suffering to happen to good people. Why do those things exist at all?

Before we progress anymore into Luke’s account, I want us to pause here. First, there is no answer that will satisfy why evil, sin, pain, and suffering exist. The search for solving the dilemma of theodicy has led people in different directions. Some form some pretty horrifying theologies to explain why God either causes or “allows bad things to happen.” Such theology has done much physical, spiritual, psychological and emotional damage to people. While some have found a safe haven in such theology as it seems to give their suffering a purpose, others have been further lost in their suffering as a result of a theology that locks them within it.

What’s more, that theology has lead people to develop and opposite and equally damning theology. “If I am forced to believe in a God who causes or allows evil to happen,” such a people say, “then I would rather just not believe in God. Thank you very much! Have a nice day.” It’s what leads people like outspoken anti-theist Dr. Richard Dawkins to proclaim, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”[1]

What’s important to understand is that much of this comes from a misunderstanding. Most people think that, because God is good, then only good things will ever happen to those who follow God. Yet, as can be seen in Acts, Scripture never promises that. Yes, God is good and wants the very best for us; however, we live in a broken world where people use their free will to turn away from God and follow their own selfish desires. That is sin, which in turn can lead to evil, pain, and suffering for self and for others.

If God were to simply end all sin and evil, what would be left of this world? I think we have a story in the Old Testament that points to what would exactly happen were God to do that: NOAH and the flood. Dawkins, and those like him, fail to realize that the story of Noah was written to provide an explanation as to why God is so patient with the evil and sin that we perpetuate out in the world.

Again, that may not exhaustively satisfy one’s thirst to discover an answer to Theodicy; however, it is also important to not miss the forest for the trees when it comes to stuff that is beyond our understanding. The presence of evil, sin, suffering and pain do not cancel out the possibility of God’s existence any more than they prove any sort of divine reason or purpose for them existing.

Back to Dorcas. Yes, she was a faithful servant who got ill and died. Like countless faithful people before and after her, she fell ill from a virus and died. Had people not been greedy to the point of their being impoverished people, might she had avoided getting ill? We’ll never know as we don’t know how she got ill. Beyond that, even if she hadn’t gotten ill and died then, she would have died eventually. That is a fact of life.

The truth is, unlike Dorcas, most people don’t get resurrected back to life immediately after dying. As with any miracle, her resurrection brought honor and glory to God and caused many people to believe in Dorcas’ Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This miracle, as with all miracles, was performed to glorify and bring others to Christ.

Let us remember what miracles are for and let us also learn to not only look to aggrandized signs as miracles. Miracles happen every day and they come in all shapes and sizes. Anything that brings people into a relationship with Jesus Christ is a miracle.

Dorcas, herself, was a miracle because her loving, compassionate, kind spirit brought people to Christ in life, just as much as in death. Nurses and other frontline workers are miracles as they selflessly risk their lives to save the lives of others and you better believe people are coming to know the glory of God as a result of it. So, instead of waiting around for miracles and signs, and instead of us wondering why God doesn’t do anything to eliminate sin and evil, let us be the miracles that God created us to be.

How quickly we forget God’s great deliverances in our lives. How easily we take for granted the miracles he performed in our past.

Lord, help me to see the miracles in my life that have brought glory to you, and help me to be a miracle in the lives of others so that they may see your glory as well. Amen.

[1] Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008), 51.

The Plan 2.0

Read John 9:1-17

“Whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.” (1 John 5:4 NRSV)

VME-The-PlanWe, as human beings, have a very difficult time dealing with the unknown. We absolutely desire to be in control and nothing seems more “out of control”, then uncertainty and the great unknown. Right now, our world is going through traumatic and fatal pandemic that is leaving everyone in the dark, confused, isolated, in shock, and wondering why any of this is “allowed” to happen. It is in such moments, especially when we are caught off guard, that we begin to ask the question, “Why?”

This makes me think of the film, “Miracles From Heaven,” which tells the true story of a young girl who has a rare, serious, and terminal illness that causes her to not be able to digest food. This, of course, leaves her in considerable amounts of pain most of the time. Her life, at the age of 9 (or so), was relegated to bed rest in hospital rooms. In the midst of it, her family was seeking answers as to what they could do in order to cure their daughter of this illness. Yet, doctor after doctor could not even come up with what the illness was, let alone why it was or how they could cure it. One doctor, who was a renowned specialist at the renowned Children’s Hospital in Boston, was able to put his finger on what the disease was; however, with that said, he was also certain there really was no cure for it. All they could do was try to give the little girl pain medicine to keep her comfortable and wait for illness to take it’s inevitable course.

In the midst of their struggle to help their daughter, they turned to their church for spiritual and emotional support. While all certainly intended to provide that, what the family really got was a bucket load of terrible theology. Some congregation members were asking the mother if there was anything she or her husband did, or if there was anything the little girl did, to bring this terrible illness down on them. The pastor, thankfully, was not a part of this…and did try to support the family, however, the response of some of the congregation members was enough to drive the mother further and further away from her faith. What kind of God would punish an innocent little 9 year old because of the sins of her parents? What kind of God would punish a 9 year old girl, whose not even old enough to be held accountable according to Biblical standards, for her own sins?

While, I will not spoil the rest of the film (and I highly recommend that you watch it if you are able), I will say that THEOLOGY MATTERS. We often think that our suffering and struggles are a part of GOD’s PLAN. We will try to comfort people who are struggling by telling them that “they’ll be okay,” that “things will work out in the end,” and that “this is all a part of God’s plan” in order to “test them” and “help them grow.” Or, more judgmental people will try and speculate on what sorts of wrong people did to “deserve” the things that have befallen them. Both lines of theology are appalling, egregious, and dangerous. What kind of God causes people to suffer in order to help them grow? What kind of God blinds people, cripples them, puts them into gas chambers, or kills their family members as a part of “the plan?” What kind of God gives us “what we deserve?” Certainly the not Grace-filled God of Christianity.

Just as Jesus Christ did with his disciples, he is calling us to rethink our theology and to be careful in it. God’s plan is not to hurt, punish, or kill people as some sort of twisted means to an end. That never was God’s plan, nor will it ever be God’s plan. People have articulated it that way, even in the Bible, but only out of ignorance. Overall, the Scripture is consistent in what God’s plan is: to LOVE creation and to be present in relationship with it. That is God’s plan. Things happen, circumstances take us by storm, and life hits us in various ways, but GOD’s LOVE for us and GOD’s PRESENCE with us NEVER changes. God’s plan is to be with us and to be with others through us. That is the plan…and it certainly is a MIRACLE when we acknowledge the plan and LIVE INTO IT.

“You know what I noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying.” – The Joker
Lord, even when things do not go according to plan, you are present with me. Help me to acknowledge that and be a witness to your presence in my life and the lives of others. Amen.