Posted by Kendall Harmon

Within the past year, a series of experiences brought the Rev. Jerome Anderson to his knees.

Not in a posture of defeat, but humble submission to God’s plan.

As a leader in the Christian community, Anderson is accustomed to counseling people during life’s darkest moments, helping them to not just find light at the end of the tunnel, but teaching them how to apply scripture to their situation.

A timeline of the past 18 months of the minister’s life is parallel to the Biblical account of the sufferings of Job in the Old Testament that depicts love, long-suffering and restoration.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyPsychologyReligion & Culture* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted December 14, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Take the time to listen to it all (an MP3 file). You can read more about read more about Marcus there.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* South Carolina* TheologyChristologySoteriologyTheodicyTheology: Scripture

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Posted September 16, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by The_Elves

Excellent reading. Ed Stetzer interviewed Nancy & David Writebol's adult children about how the family has coped with Nancy's illness with the Ebola virus.
Here's an excerpt.


What do you want to come from this?

Jeremy: I think the perspective that we hope others will gain from this is that in suffering there is hope, namely Jesus himself. Often we are tempted to think “why me” when suffering comes about and unless we see it in the larger picture of God’s glory and the unfolding and revealing of his character and nature to the world we will miss the joy that it is to be part of God’s great story.
In suffering there is hope, namely Jesus himself.

Brian: I think I would like those who look into our lives through this time to see Christ and see He alone in our refuge in trying times. This “strong tower” comes in the form of prayer, Scripture, and the Holy Sprint providing comfort and peace in our hearts in the darkest moments. Through this peace we are able to worship and glorify him no matter the outcome.

Esther: I want people to see Christ lifted high and to see that God’s plans for each of our lives is always for our good and His glory. God is Sovereign, he is Holy and he is good- all the time, no matter what the circumstances in our lives are- we can trust him to lovingly walk us through the dark and scary times as well as the joyful times of our lives.

How has this affected her faith?

Brian: In conversations with Mom I’ve picked up a sense that she has a deeper understanding on Christ sufficiency in all circumstances. He really is able to give peace and comfort when we have no where else to turn.

[...]

Stephanie: I had a wonderful conversation with my mother-in-law one day while she was laying in the bed at Emory University—looking at her through glass. She said:

"Steph, I have asked myself many, many times in my life, Is Jesus enough? I wasn't always sure how I could really answer that. When I was being put on that plane to come to the US, I knew I was leaving my home where all my things would be destroyed. I was saying goodbye to David, not knowing if I would see him again. I was getting on that plane unsure if I would be alive when I got to the US to see all of you. It was that moment when I cried out and knew, 'Jesus, you have to be enough. Jesus, you are all I have - you are enough.'"

Oh how perspective changes—He really is enough!

It's worth reading the whole article.

Filed under: * General Interest* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted August 22, 2014 at 12:17 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The fiction of Flannery O'Connor, especially her novel The Violent Bear It Away, resists the relegation of Satan to an abstract principle and thus to his ultimate irrelevance. She envisions Luciferian evil in traditional terms as a personal power determined to achieve his own supremacy. When Satan appears in her fiction, she candidly observed, he is not to be understood as "this or that psychological tendency." She cites Baudelaire's celebrated dictum that the Devil's greatest wile is to convince us he does not exist, and she declares his considerable success in our own time.

Yet for all that is traditional in her conception of Satan, O'Connor is concerned not to make him obvious, lest he be easily dismissed as a bogeyman. In fact, her demons disguise themselves in thoroughly Freudian and Jungian terms. Freud regarded Satan as nothing other than a symbol, albeit a powerful one, of repressed erotic desires or else of neuroses lying deep within the unconscious, often negatively projected "onto individuals or groups that we identify as enemies or potential enemies." In the work of Jung, Freud's student, Lucifer represents the massive destructive energy resident in the universe as it stands over against the equally enormous constructive powers that Jung links to the divine. Yet for Jung, Lucifer's name still applies: He is the light-bearer whose demonic negativity dwells in a mandala-like complementarity with divine positivity. Only as good incorporates evil into itself, Jung teaches, can higher wisdom and wholeness be attained.

It is noteworthy that, when I ask students to identify the voice that speaks inwardly to young Francis Marion Tarwater from the very beginning of the novel, they respond in Jungian and Freudian ways. They almost always answer that this "stranger" who gradually becomes Tarwater's "friend" is the boy's sub-conscious mind, his inward self, his alter ego. Such obtuseness is as predictable as it is inexcusable. Yet it plays perfectly into O'Connor's fictional purposes. Far from being an artistic failure, her ploy enables her readers, at least potentially, to experience Francis Marion Tarwater's own terrible awakening to the true identity of his inner voice.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistoryReligion & Culture* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted August 19, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Few who have heard or read [Barbara Brown] Taylor are surprised that she is nudging people down a path toward endarkenment. For years, her sermons have been required reading at seminaries nationwide, and she often lectures at Princeton, Duke and the National Cathedral in Washington. She is the most requested Sunday speaker at New York’s Chautauqua Institution and draws both atheists and divinity students to her book signings. And 13 books on, she has chronicled her own fascinating and complex faith journey for hundreds of thousands of readers. Taylor, says Randall Balmer, chair of Dartmouth’s department of religion, “belongs in the pantheon of spiritual writers that includes such luminaries as the late Will Campbell, Anne Lamott and Frederick Buechner. She doesn’t shy away from big issues, and her honesty is disarming.”

Certainly, Taylor’s new memoir, Learning to Walk in the Dark–on spirituality and self-help shelves in time for Good Friday–challenges the broad theological belief that darkness is evil, scary and just plain bad. But she is also taking on the sometimes far-too-sunny fashion in which churches tell their most important stories. It is easy to forget, amid “the Easter lilies, the sound of trumpets and bright streaming light,” she notes, that the Resurrection happened in a dark cave. “God and darkness have been friends for a long time,” Taylor says. “It’s just one nighttime story after another–amazing.”

Read it all and take a look at the Time Cover picture also.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistrySpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted April 17, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Enio Aguero had never been to Oso before late last month. But he recognized the faces.

“Faces of hopelessness, trying to find out why or how this could happen,” said the 53-year-old chaplain from Northern Virginia, a veteran of disaster relief in Moore, Okla., where a tornado last May obliterated entire subdivisions and killed 24 people.

“When a disaster like this happens, it touches the deepest part of our being. At one minute, there was everything; a minute later, there was nothing,” said Aguero, a chaplain coordinator for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. “There’s no way we can make sense of this, except that God is in control.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureRural/Town Life* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted April 10, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Legal definitions of insanity still focus on psychosis, the delusions of which are held to diminish responsibility. Medical conceptions include many additional bizarre behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. The legal definition has historically encompassed both questions of agency (he didn’t know what he was doing) and morality (he didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong). The psychiatric profession doesn’t consider mass killers to be necessarily insane, which distresses Peter. For him, the crime defines the illness—as he said, soon after we met, you’d have to be crazy to do such a thing. He found the idea of Adam’s not being insane much more devastating than the thought of his being insane. Peter has searched the psychiatric literature on mass killers, trying to understand what happened to his son. He came across the work of Park Dietz, a psychiatrist who, in 1986, coined the term “pseudocommando.” Dietz says that for pseudocommandos a preoccupation with weapons and war regalia makes up for a sense of impotence and failure. He wrote that we insist that mass killers are insane only to reassure ourselves that normal people are incapable of such evil.

Crimes of passion are relational, whereas plotted crimes such as Adam’s are unsocial. But the dichotomy isn’t clear-cut; most crimes lie along a spectrum. So Sandy Hook was a culmination—neither sudden nor entirely calculated, at least until the very end. James Knoll, a forensic psychiatrist at suny, has written that Adam’s act conveyed a message: “I carry profound hurt—I’ll go ballistic and transfer it onto you.” That’s as much motive as we’re likely to find.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationMarriage & FamilyPsychologyViolence* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted March 13, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While this feels very different from soft-toned American evangelical Christianity, which emphasizes God’s loving mercy rather than God’s judgment, spiritual warfare is deeply embedded in the evangelical tradition. The post-1960s charismatic revival in the United States, sometimes called “Third Wave” Christianity (classical Pentecostalism was the first wave and charismatic Catholicism the second), introduced the idea that all Christians interact with supernatural forces daily. That included demons.

In fact, I found American books on dealing with demons in all the bookstores of the African charismatic churches I visited. In one church where I stood looking at the shelf of demon manuals, a helpful clerk leaned over to fish one off for me. She chose an American one. “Here,” she said as she handed me Larry Huch’s “Free at Last,” “this one is good.”

In many American evangelical churches, people will tell you that demons are real, but they do not treat them as particularly salient.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAfricaGhana* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted December 30, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mexico’s deadly drugs war is not just a question of supply and demand but a symptom of the rise of Satan, according to some Catholic leaders. With the death toll at about 80,000 and counting, the number of exorcisms is rising.

Father Carlos Triana, an exorcist in Mexico City, said: “We believe that behind all these big and structural evils there is a dark agent and his name is The Demon. As much as we believe that the Devil was behind Adolf Hitler, possessing and directing him, we also believe that he [the Devil] is here behind the drug cartels.”

Exorcisms and spiritual cleansings are common in Mexico, a superstitious country where Catholicism overlaid the religious beliefs of its indigenous inhabitants, including the Aztecs.

Read it all (subscription required).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMexico* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted December 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Facing crowded pews and heavy hearts, Dallas clergy took to the pulpits on Nov. 24, 1963 to try to make sense of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy just two days before.

“The ministers saw the assassination as an unwelcome opportunity for some serious, city-wide soul-searching,” said Tom Stone, an English professor at Southern Methodist University, who has studied the sermons delivered that day.

“Though Dallas could not be reasonably blamed for the killing, it needed to face up to its tolerance of extremism and its narrow, self-centered values,” Stone said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheodicy

4 Comments
Posted November 23, 2013 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What must you do? If you suffer then you—or your friends and care-givers—must be keenly aware of these possibilities so you can move through them. Obviously, any afflicted person needs times of solitude, but isolation must ultimately be resisted. Suffering can make you more lonely or drive you into deeper community. Let it be the latter. And while all afflicted persons need to spend a great deal of time self-examining and healing, at some point they must face outward and think of others and love their neighbors and not think exclusively of themselves.

Even for Christians who understand the gospel, the feeling of condemnation can be a great challenge, but it is in the end a welcome one. We may think we believe we are saved by grace, but in times of difficulty we can finally learn to use the doctrine we know on our hearts, remembering that God’s wrath and punishment of our sin fell into the heart of Jesus, and now that we believe in him, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

Our anger can be the greatest challenge of all. Again, the answer is to not merely believe gospel doctrine but use it.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted November 14, 2013 at 8:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[In Norman Geisler's book]...the chapters are admirably clear and succinct. Christians called upon to answer the typical prattle of the village (or dorm room) atheist will find it useful. An electronic copy would provide particularly quick and handy reference.

On the other hand, while Geisler is clearly a capable and experienced pastor and peppers his text with practical anecdotes, he suffers from the malady of most writers on the intellectual problem of theodicy: he fails to address the visceral response that suffering and evil provokes in Christian and secular hearts alike. On the whole, I would not hand his book to a grieving parent....

A somewhat deeper chord is struck by Terence Fretheim’s Creation Untamed, which limits itself to the question of natural evil. Fretheim, Elva B. Lovell Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, brings an Old Testament scholar’s background and sensibility to the question, building his case mainly around the Genesis accounts of creation and the flood, and the book of Job.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooks* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted November 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The powers of evil work in very personal ways. Among their subtle seductive strategies are the ones that lure us into a fascination with skulls, curses, mysterious personages, and magical sights and sounds in the night. Which is why I should perhaps get over deciding about Halloween on the basis of pleasant memories of past Octobers. At least I should act on the obligation to encourage a more assertive teaching ministry about these matters.

Not too far from the “Spooktacular” banners in the local shopping district there is also a sign in front of a church announcing some classes in parenting. I have a good idea of what goes on in those classes: insights drawn from “family systems” theory and child/adolescent research. Very worthwhile. But maybe it is time to have some theologians teach classes for parents as well. The local businesses have been marketing Halloween for at least a month now. It would be a good thing if the churches would beat them to it next year, with some solid catechesis, focusing on the practical realities of evil in our daily lives.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted November 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The purpose of [the book of Job] is to explore God’s policies with regard to suffering in the world, especially by the righteous or the innocent. In the process it seeks to revolutionize our thinking about God and the way that he runs the world.

Most importantly, the book shifts our attention from the idea that God’s justice ... is foundational to the operation of the world to the alternative that God’s wisdom is the more appropriate foundation. It does not offer a reason for suffering and does not try to defend God’s justice.

It does not answer the “why” question that we are so prone to ask when things go wrong. Instead, we are to trust God’s wisdom and, in the process, to conclude by faith that he is also just.

In truth, we will never be in a position to evaluate God’s justice....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooks* TheologyTheodicyTheology: Scripture

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Posted September 8, 2013 at 1:24 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Whenever we come close to despair, the strongest lifeline is to think like Joseph. That is how psychotherapist Viktor Frankl saved the lives of several of his fellow prisoners in Auschwitz, by helping them realise that they had a task to perform or a mission to fulfil that they could only do by surviving. This gave them the will to live. People who have suffered tragedy have often found meaning by alleviating the suffering of others. The grief may not disappear but it is redeemed. The adagio, with its intense sadness, is not the last movement of the symphony.

Seen through the eyes of faith life is not what Joseph Heller called it: “a trashbag of random coincidences blown open in a wind.” Each of us is here for a reason, to do something only we can do, and all the pain and heartbreak are bearable if we can discern God’s purpose or hear, however muffled, His call. As Nietzsche used to say, “He who has a strong enough Why can bear almost any How.”

In crisis, the wrong question to ask is, “What have I done to deserve this?” The right one is, “What am I now being summoned to do?” Each of us has a task. Every life has a purpose. We can bear the pain of the past when we discover the future we are called on to make.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicyTheology: Scripture

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Posted June 17, 2013 at 11:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings that left three dead and more than 260 injured, perhaps none face more significant adjustments or a longer road ahead than the 14 amputees who lost a limb.

For these victims, the path forward involves relearning almost everything, from getting out of bed to getting in a car. Whether they go on to lead satisfying lives depends largely on how they handle the spiritual challenges at hand, according to amputees and researchers.

Losing a limb is like losing a family member: It involves grief and mourning, according to Jack Richmond, a Chattanooga, Tenn., amputee who leads education efforts for the Manassas, Va.-based Amputee Coalition. When one’s body and abilities are radically changed, questions of meaning are suddenly urgent: Why did this happen? Why am I here?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchHealth & MedicinePsychologySportsUrban/City Life and IssuesViolenceYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted April 25, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

CHAPLAIN MARY LOU VON EUEW (Tufts Medical Center): She said “the hardest thing about this is that some human beings can treat other human beings like this. I just don’t understand it.”

[KIM] LAWTON: Indeed, Von Euew says, after a tragedy like the bombing, clergy often hear age old questions about the nature of good and evil, suffering and the existence of a loving God.

VON EUEW: You know most of the time people deep down inside aren’t asking for an answer. They’re asking for you to fight and wrestle with the questions with them. We truly believe that God is with us when it happens, so we’re not suffering alone, that we have someone with us who loves us beyond all measure.

Watch or read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted April 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Legend has it that G. K. Chesterton, asked by a newspaper reporter what was wrong with the world, skipped over all the expected answers. He said nothing about corrupt politicians or ancient rivalries between warring nations, or the greed of the rich and the covetousness of the poor. He left aside street crime and unjust laws and inadequate education. Environmental degradation and population growth overwhelming the earth's carrying capacity were not on his radar. Neither were the structural evils that burgeoned as wickedness became engrained in society and its institutions in ever more complex ways.

What's wrong with the world? As the story goes, Chesterton responded with just two words: "I am."

His answer is unlikely to be popular with a generation schooled to cultivate self-esteem, to pursue its passions and chase self-fulfillment first and foremost. After all, we say, there are reasons for our failures and foibles. It's not our fault that we didn't win the genetic lottery, or that our parents fell short in their parenting, or that our third-grade teacher made us so ashamed of our arithmetic errors that we gave up pursuing a career in science. Besides, we weren't any worse than our friends, and going along with the gang made life a lot more comfortable. We have lots of excuses for why things go wrong, and—as with any lie worth its salt—most of them contain some truth.

Read it all.

Filed under: * TheologyAnthropologyTheodicyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The crowd that had gathered — lighting candles, offering prayers, crying as they tightly embraced family and friends — had streamed from the dimly lighted sanctuary of Assumption Catholic Church, but Kelly Nelson lingered behind.

“The people who we lost, these are people I know, I see on a daily basis,” Nelson said. “Knowing that I'm never going to see these people on the Earth again is very difficult for me to handle.”

On Wednesday night, a blast at a fertilizer plant rocked this small east-central Texas town. A day later Nelson and hundreds of others gathered in the red brick Assumption church. Nelson wasn’t the only one to stay behind after the service concluded. A pair of young men sobbed as they knelt before the altar. Others stared blankly forward as they sat in the pews. In a time when residents of West sought hard-to-find clarity, they are relying on faith.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureRural/Town LifeScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate Life* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted April 20, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed suspected marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 at the request of the Russian government, but didn't find evidence of suspicious activity and closed the case, an FBI official said Friday.

The fact that the FBI spoke with Mr. Tsarnaev, who was killed Friday morning in a firefight with authorities, is likely to become a focal point of the post mortem into how the attack was able to be carried out at the Boston Marathon. It also speaks to the challenge faced by authorities as terrorism morphs to some extent from the complex international plots of a decade ago to small-scale attacks carried out by individuals located within U.S.

U.S. counterterrorism policy has since 2001 focused largely on killing terrorists overseas or preventing them from getting into the U.S. But the Boston bombings show how the diffusion of terrorist tactics easily transcends borders. Countering small groups of individuals inside the U.S. can be a bedeviling assignment.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FirePsychologyReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolenceYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia* TheologyAnthropologyTheodicy

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Posted April 20, 2013 at 7:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Life is difficult. It can knock you down. Sometimes, an entire nation gets knocked down.

First it was Boston. Some mad man (or men) lays waste to one of America's most hallowed sporting events — the Boston Marathon. Sidewalks that should have been covered with confetti were covered in blood.

Then it was the quintessential small Texas town of West[, Texas]...

Taken together, it was a bruising week for a nation wearied by war and nagged by chronic unemployment.

Yet Americans are people of faith....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPhilosophyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyTheodicy

0 Comments
Posted April 19, 2013 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Our news media suffer from a terrible supply-side problem. The number of people paid to offer opinions greatly outstrips the number of things worth having an opinion about. Even now, several weeks after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, I don’t think the slaughter was the kind of event toward which one can profitably form an interesting point of view. Leaving church one morning, so the story goes, the great Coolidge was asked the subject of his pastor’s sermon. “Sin,” Coolidge replied. And what did the pastor say about sin? “He said he was ag’in it.” Some things don’t require much elaboration.

In an important sense—in the literal sense—what happened at Sandy Hook was unspeakable, which is why, I suppose, the public disputations that followed it were a towering jumble of non sequitur and irrelevance, a rodeo of hobby horses ridden by straw men. The disputations began even before the authorities had released a final count of victims. Indeed, at the time, good information was hard to come by. For as much as 10 hours after the first reporters arrived on the scene, print and TV journalists were misreporting the killer’s name, his place of residence, his relationship to the elementary school, his mother’s line of work, the types and source of the guns he used, the reaction of school officials in the immediate aftermath of the crime—the long string of mistakes we have come to expect when the compulsion to get it first overwhelms the need to get it right.

The slaughter at Sandy Hook wasn't merely a rebuke to politics or law enforcement or government regulation--it was a rebuke to our desperate hope that evil can be destroyed, or at least quarantined.
--From the February 2013 issue of Commentary, pages 63-64

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationMediaPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheodicy

16 Comments
Posted February 8, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...surely some things should be left to the imagination? The ancient Greeks knew the meaning of the word “obscene” and obscene acts – castrations, rapes, beheadings and the like – were not depicted in the theatre, but had to be imagined as having taken place offstage, the literal meaning of “obscene.”

Unfortunately for us, we live in the age of blatancy. Everything must be seen in all its disgusting horror or squalor – and usually both. We have been taught since Freud to think that this is somehow good for us. But all it has done is corrupt our morality and obliterate our powers of imagination. We live in an age where every image is an advert. Now I’ve gone and said it: we have forgotten the prohibition on the making and worshipping of images.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchMediaMovies & TelevisionReligion & CultureTheatre/Drama/Plays* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

0 Comments
Posted January 29, 2013 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From 1870 to 1996, 130 different residential schools, most run by Anglican and other churches, including Anglican, were built on military models, he said. Indigenous children were taken from their families at about age 5 and returned when they were 16 or 17.

“The purpose was to destroy the family bond, the connection to culture and language, and to make it impossible for indigenous life to continue into the future,” he said. “It was for indigenous people to die out....”

The church’s reaction is “a case study in when evil so swamps and floods a group of people they will deny it,” he said. “The church doesn’t have the capacity to describe or accept within itself what happened. There’s a tremendous amount of denial.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Canada* Culture-WatchChildrenEducationHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCanada* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted January 17, 2013 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In an essay in The Times’ Sunday Book Review this week the writer Paul Elie asks the intriguing question: Has fiction lost its faith? As we are gathered here today, let us consider one of the most oddly faithful of all fiction writers, Fyodor Dostoevsky. More specifically, I’d like focus pretty intensely on what some consider to be the key moment in his greatest novel — arguably one of the greatest of all time — “The Brothers Karamazov.” (Elie himself notes the 1880 masterpiece as an example of the truly faith-engaged fiction of yore.) I speak in particular of the “Grand Inquisitor” scene, a sort of fiction within a fiction that draws on something powerful from the New Testament — Jesus’s refusal of Satan’s three temptations — and in doing so digs at the meaning of faith, freedom, happiness and the diabolic satisfaction of our desires.

Read it all. Be warned--this is not short and it is not light bed-time reading; it is, however, well worth the time--KSH.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPhilosophyPoetry & LiteratureReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEuropeRussia* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriologyTheodicy

0 Comments
Posted December 27, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Could it not be — maybe? conceivably? — that politics and consolatory speeches and clever laws need a foundation of realism, one which acknowledges human affairs as the huge mess they are: too big, too inexplicable for the combined power of president and Congress to "change"?

Just a few days lie between Christmas and us. It was around this time, we hear, that the Son of God came to our rescue — not to perfect everything at that precise moment, but to invite repentance and amendment of life, before offering his own life as a sacrifice. Don't believe a word of it? The alternative is to believe another act of Congress will bring us finally to that gun-controlled paradise where the evil, the murderous and the frankly loony embrace the pure of heart. It might happen in heaven. I wouldn't count too much on watching as politicians throw open the gates.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchChildrenReligion & CultureRural/Town LifeViolence* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyTheodicy

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Posted December 24, 2012 at 4:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Focusing Wednesday afternoon's service on the victims is a way for some to get through the tragedy, [the Rev. Stephen] McKee said.

"Lighting a candle, there's something tactile about that," he said. "After we leave, those candles will go on. Religion is supposed to bring people together."

He noted that one thing the service at Trinity - or any service or vigil - can't do is explain why it happened.

A important thing to remember is that death and violence didn't just happen on Friday in a small town in Connecticut. Acts of violence occur often, and he noted everyone should work together to prevent them.

Read it all.

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Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the wake of the Newtown school shooting, I’ve been asked to comment since I am a theologian by profession and the author of a book on the problem of evil, Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil (Oxford, 1998; 2nd edition IVP, 2009).

Most of what I have to say is in that book. But I’ve posted remarks here in the past that are relevant to this incident, so I’ll just list them here in case they can be of use to you

Read it all and follow and peruse all the links.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryCanada* TheologySeminary / Theological EducationTheodicy

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Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While the tragedy...[at Columbine High School] continues to grip the nation, real answers for the reason behind it have so far proved elusive.

You have heard the voices. Youth culture is the problem, Hollywood is to blame. Where were the parents? What about the school officials who could have, should have, known sooner? Maybe gun availability is the culprit.

Others point the finger at the devastating impact of peer pressure, and on and on it goes.

But amidst this din of stories, analysis and commentary, there is one thing which is not being said. Its silence has become deafening, yet it begs to be heard because it points the way to a more painful, yet more hopeful answer.

Can you think of what is not being said? What is nearly always blurted out in other situations but has not been articulated in this one?

Judge not. You remember this one, don't you? Jesus said it, right? What is fine for you is fine for you, but I have a different take on it. You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to, you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to.

But suddenly the cat is out of the bag, because the one thing everyone is doing is judging.

. To say Hollywood is showing too much violence implies there is a standard of decency which Hollywood has violated. If people are upset that the parents did not know, that implies an idea of an effective parent (involved) and a bad parent (uninvolved).

Strange word, that, BAD. Opposite of GOOD (not effective, as misused above - did you notice?)

We do not hear these words, good and bad, very much anymore, do we? What happened to the so-called "post-modern" world? I thought we were to speak of values and preferences. I thought we were not supposed to judge.

Our reaction to Littleton says volumes more than even the tragedy of Littleton itself, because it exposes our hypocrisy about judgment. We claim to live in a world of taste and lifestyle, but the moment anything of real import occurs the game shifts to be played on another field. On this field, words like God and goodness, the satanic and evil, beg to be used, because they are the only way in which to begin to wrestle with the magnitude of it all. "Anger management" classes just are not enough.

But then the guns went off, and not only our judgments poured forth, but God's did as well. If Littleton means anything, it means God's judgment upon an America which is losing its moral and spiritual vocabulary and imagination.

When Jesus said "judge not" in Matthew 7:1, he did not mean what he is often alleged to have meant, that we are not to judge. He calls for his followers to judge "with right judgment" (John 7:24) which is how we, like him, are able to distinguish between true and false prophets (Matt. 7:15-20).

What is at issue is what is being judged and how. The human heart and a person's ultimate spiritual condition is something God alone can judge, but we can judge people's behavior and words - "you will know them by their fruits" - and render partial verdicts when appropriate.

The full verse, the second half of which is frequently left off, is, "judge not, that you be not judged," by which Jesus means we are to judge with the awareness that the standard we use on others is one which we will also be judged by.

So we are called by the judgments about Littleton [the community in Colorado where Columbine High School is located] to hear the judgment we are bringing on ourselves, and the far more important judgment God is making and will render upon us. We are indeed one nation under God.

As applicable today as when I first wrote it--KSH.

Filed under: * By Kendall* Culture-WatchEducationViolence* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted December 20, 2012 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Blame it on the guns. No, blame the judges who banned God talk in schools, along with most lessons about right and wrong. No, our lousy national mental health care system caused this hellish bloodbath.No, the problem is the decay of American families, with workaholic parents chained to their desks while their children grow up in suburban cocoons with too much time on their hands.

No, it’s Hollywood’s fault. How can children tell the difference between fantasy and reality when they’ve been baptized in violent movies, television and single-shooter videogames? Why not blame God?

These were the questions in 1999 when two teen gunmen at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killed 13 people and themselves in the massacre that set the standard for soul-searching media frenzies in postmodern America.All the questions asked about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are now being asked about Adam Lanza after he gunned down 20 first-graders and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., before taking his life....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsAdventParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchChildrenEducationReligion & CultureViolence* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted December 20, 2012 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pulling into the filling station on my way to Newtown in the early afternoon last Friday, the woman at the gas pump next to me asked: "How do we make sense of all of this?" She was a young mother, with tears in her eyes, on her way to our local elementary school to collect her children. She noticed my clerical collar and felt free to engage me about the horror and tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

My response to the young mother's question was that there was no way we could make sense of what had happened. No explanation or rationale could assuage our shock, pain and grief. As a religious leader, I knew that my job was not to try and make sense of what had happened. Rather my job was to be there, simply be there, with those who had lost loved ones in the terrible rampage.

Read it all.

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Posted December 20, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s famous novel, Ivan is the Karamazov brother who collects stories of children tortured, beaten, killed — babes caught on the points of soldiers’ bayonets, a serf boy run down by his master’s hounds, a child of 5 locked in a freezing outhouse by her parents....

It’s telling that Dostoyevsky, himself a Christian, offered no direct theological rebuttal to his character’s speech. The counterpoint to Ivan in “The Brothers Karamazov” is supplied by other characters’ examples of Christian love transcending suffering, not by a rhetorical justification of God’s goodness.

In this, the Russian novelist was being true to the spirit of the New Testament, which likewise seeks to establish God’s goodness through a narrative rather than an argument, a revelation of his solidarity with human struggle rather than a philosophical proof of his benevolence....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksChildrenEducation* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted December 18, 2012 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There were four of them growing up in Atlanta, four girls close in age, the daughters of an Episcopal priest and his wife....

...today Sarah Ball Damewood and one sister are all who remain with their father in a family robbed of its pieces by physical and mental illness. In 2009, they lost their mother to complications from a stroke.

In 2010, they lost the oldest of the four sisters to breast cancer. She was just 54.

And this year, they lost Caroline, the youngest daughter. They lost Caroline to herself, to the emptiness she had yet to fill.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyPsychologyMental IllnessReligion & Culture* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted December 16, 2012 at 11:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

First, we must recognize that this tragedy is just as evil, horrible, and ugly as it appears. Christianity does not deny the reality and power of evil, but instead calls evil by its necessary names — murder, massacre, killing, homicide, slaughter. The closer we look at this tragedy, the more it will appear unfathomable and more grotesque than the human imagination can take in.

What else can we say about the murder of children and their teachers? How can we understand the evil of killing little children one by one, forcing them to watch their little friends die and realizing that they were to be next? How can we bear this?

Resisting our instinct toward a coping mechanism, we cannot accept the inevitable claims that this young murderer is to be understood as merely sick....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationViolence* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted December 16, 2012 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We live in a world where Rachel weeps for her children. Where mothers wail and fathers curse because their children are no more. Where friends go mute, and bloodied children stand shocked, and a nation mourns, and a President weeps—for 20 innocent children in Connecticut.

One wants to say, "It will be okay. Order will be restored. We'll do something about this, so that it will never happen again." One wants to say this, but we know that it is not okay, that the restored order will be broken again; sadly, it will happen again.

This is why our hearts froze when we heard the news. Not only could it have happened here, but someday it may very well happen here. That's because we've seen it happen so often, going way back. It happened in biblical times at least twice, once after the birth of Moses, and once at the birth of our Lord. Sad to say in this respect, the Bible continues to be a very relevant book.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureViolence* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted December 15, 2012 at 3:19 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Every single person who is watching the news today is asking ‘Where is God when this happens?’” says Max Lucado, a prominent Christian pastor and author based in San Antonio.

Lucado says that pastors everywhere will be scrapping their scheduled Sunday sermons to address the massacre.

“You have to address it - you have to turn everything you had planned upside down on Friday because that’s where people’s hearts are,” Lucado says.

“The challenge here is to avoid the extremes – those who say there are easy answers and those who say there are no answers.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* TheologyTheodicy

3 Comments
Posted December 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I join my fellow Americans in grieving the terrible tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary and in praying for the families involved. It is unthinkable that someone would have such anger and bitterness in his heart that he would attack innocent people in such a devastating way. Truly, it is difficult for any of us to grasp. When I think of the terrifying last moments of the children and staff members of the school, I am absolutely heartbroken for them, their families, their schoolmates, and everyone at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Certainly, there are many who are wondering why God would allow such a horrific tragedy. Where was He? Why did He allow this? Why didn’t He stop this young man from perpetrating this terrible crime? I confess I have many questions myself. But does it shake my faith in God? No. It actually makes me more grateful for Him. This is because in God, I always have hope, no matter what happens.

We may never discover the answer to our questions this side of heaven. The truth is, evil is dangerous and destructive, and it is no respecter of the innocent among us. But we also know that this tragedy grieves the heart of God very deeply....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureViolence* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted December 15, 2012 at 9:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...religiously speaking, there are only three possible responses: you can continue to believe in a God who knows in advance the number of our days; you can sharply limit your conception of God’s power, by positing a deity who does not know in advance what we will do, or who cannot control what we will do; or you can scrap the whole idea of divinity. The problem with the first position is that most believers, as Richard Mourdock did not do, run away from the dread implications of their own beliefs; and the problem with the second position is that it is not clear why such a limited deity would be worth worshipping. So cut Richard Mourdock some slack. He’s more honest than most of his evangelical peers; and his naïve honesty at least helpfully illuminates a horrid abyss.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLife EthicsPhilosophyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyApologeticsTheodicy

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Posted October 28, 2012 at 5:58 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in - suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.

But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.

And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection....

Read it carefully (noting especially the original setting as described) and read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyChristologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted September 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President and Mrs. Bush, I want to say a personal word on behalf of many people. Thank you, Mr. President, for calling this day of prayer and remembrance. We needed it at this time.

We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious, or political background may be. The Bible says that He’s the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles. No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock, and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. September eleven will go down in our history as a day to remember.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation, but today we need Him especially. We’re facing a new kind of enemy. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God. The Bible words are our hope: God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have. We’ve seen so much on our television, on our — heard on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.

But what are some of the lessons we can learn? First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I’ve been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is sovereign, and He’s a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a mystery. In 1st Thessalonians 2:7 it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Who can understand it?” He asked that question, ‘Who can understand it?’ And that’s one reason we each need God in our lives.

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly it’s a lesson about our need for each other. What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days. None of us will ever forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, many of whom have lost friends and colleagues; or the hundreds of people attending or standing patiently in line to donate blood. A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart. But instead it has united us, and we’ve become a family. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way — it’s back lashed. It’s backfired. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder the other day and sang “God Bless America.”

Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope — hope for the present, and hope for the future. Yes, there is hope. There’s hope for the present, because I believe the stage has already been set for a new spirit in our nation. One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way. But there’s also hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I hope not for just this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven right now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. And that’s the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.

This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if even one those people who got on those planes, or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon last Tuesday morning thought it would be the last day of their lives. It didn’t occur to them. And that’s why each of us needs to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will now.

Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us symbols of the cross. For the Christian — I’m speaking for the Christian now — the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering. For He took upon himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares “I love you. I know the heart aches, and the sorrows, and the pains that you feel, but I love you.” The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil, and death, and hell. Yes, there’s hope.

I’ve become an old man now. And I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago, and proclaimed it in many languages to many parts of the world. Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young, who had just gone through the tragic death of his wife, closed his talk with a quote from the old hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.” We all watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of the prosperity and creativity of America. When damaged, those buildings eventually plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet underneath the debris is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that old hymn that Andrew Young quoted: “How firm a foundation.”

Yes, our nation has been attacked. Buildings destroyed. Lives lost. But now we have a choice: Whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people, and a nation, or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe that we’re in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. That’s what this service is all about. And in that faith we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we’ve experienced this week.

This has been a terrible week with many tears. But also it’s been a week of great faith. Churches all across the country have called prayer meetings. And today is a day that they’re celebrating not only in this country, but in many parts of the world. And the words of that familiar hymn that Andrew Young quoted, it says, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed for I am thy God and will give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upon” my righteous — on “thy righteous, omnipotent hand.”

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him. We also know that God is going to give wisdom, and courage, and strength to the President, and those around him. And this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory. May God bless you all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted September 11, 2012 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Barbara Held, Bowdoin’s Barry N. Wish Professor of Psychology and Social Studies, is co-editor of Humanity’s Dark Side: Evil, Destructive Experience, and Psychotherapy, which was just published by the American Psychological Association.

Held has also received the 2012 Joseph B. Gittler Award, which recognizes “the most scholarly contribution to the philosophical foundations of psychological knowledge, ” by the American Psychological Foundation, of the American Psychological Association.

Held’s book, which evolved from a symposium conceived by Held, is a compilation of essays by prominent writers on psychotherapy who offer disparate views regarding humanity’s “dark side,” defined as the capacity for destructiveness that ranges from the everyday little ways in which we hurt each other to atrocities such as genocide and slavery.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksPsychology* TheologyAnthropologyTheodicy

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Posted September 7, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

But there in Aurora, there was no Batman to stop the killer, no director to cut the scene. There was no plan to it, no plot — at least not that we can see. It’s just a tragedy — another senseless horror in a world that’s known far too many.

Of all the words that can be used to describe the Aurora shooting, “senseless” may be the worst word of all — particularly for those of us who call ourselves Christian. We claim to worship a good, just and all-powerful God — a God who loves us with a passion as broad as the universe itself. We are His children, we say. And God wouldn’t let any harm come to His children … would He?

And the question hangs in the air, waiting, pleading for an answer.

It’s sadly appropriate Holmes took on The Joker’s persona. He, among all of Batman’s archvillains, offers the worst possible answer to that hanging question: God? he chirps, brushing a hand through his caterpillar-green hair. How quaint. How precious. There is no God. There is no meaning. There is no reason in this cold, dark place. The only truth is that there is no truth.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMovies & TelevisionPhilosophyReligion & CultureViolence* TheologyTheodicy

1 Comments
Posted July 21, 2012 at 1:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Some people complain that the Second World War still exerts a dominating influence nearly seven decades after its end, as the disproportionate number of books, plays and films shows, while museums continue to spawn a remembrance industry. This phenomenon should hardly be surprising, if only because the nature of evil seems to provide an endless fascination. Moral choice is the fundamental element in human drama, because it lies in the very heart of humanity itself.

No other period in history offers so rich a source for the study of dilemmas, individual and mass tragedy, the corruption of power politics, ideological hypocrisy, the egomania of commanders, betrayal, perversity, self-sacrifice, unbelievable sadism and unpredictable compassion.
--Antony Beevor, The Second World War (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012), page 782 [my emphasis]

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistory* TheologyAnthropologyTheodicy

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Posted June 5, 2012 at 6:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Christopher Wright is a great Old Testament scholar. His work on Old Testament ethics for the people of God has been foundational in my understanding of the character of God through the laws he laid down.

So to have him admit that there are difficult parts of Scripture, for which pat answers will not suffice, is… spirit warming. Some evangelical writers are so adamant in their writing that they leave no room for doubt, no room for mystery, no room for limits in human understanding!

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooks* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ* TheologyTheodicyTheology: Scripture

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Posted May 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If our hope is for salvation in.. [the] sense [of being safe from final annihilation when we die and will be happy eternally in our life after death]— and for many that is the main point of religion—then this hope depends on certain religious beliefs’ being true. In particular, for the main theistic religions, it depends on there being a God who is good enough to desire our salvation and powerful enough to achieve it.

But here we come to a point that is generally overlooked in debates about theism, which center on whether there is reason to believe in God, understood as all-good and all-powerful. Suppose that the existence of such a God could be decisively established. Suppose, for example, we were to be entirely convinced that a version of the ontological argument, which claims to show that the very idea of an all-perfect being requires that such a being exist, is sound. We would then be entirely certain that there is a being of supreme power and goodness. But what would this imply about our chances for eternal salvation?

On reflection, very little. Granted, we would know that our salvation was possible: an all-powerful being could bring it about. But would we have any reason to think that God would in fact do this? Well, how could an all-good being not desire our salvation? The problem is that an all-good being needs to take account of the entire universe, not just us.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchPhilosophyReligion & Culture* TheologyApologeticsTheodicy

5 Comments
Posted March 26, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in - suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.

But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.

And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection....

Read it carefully (noting especially the original setting as described) and read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyChristologySoteriologyTheodicy

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Posted September 12, 2011 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

How then do we speak of God’s rule and reconcile this with the reality of evil? Between these two errors the Bible points us to the radical affirmation of God’s sovereignty as the ground of our salvation and the assurance of our own good. We cannot explain why God has allowed sin, but we understand that God’s glory is more perfectly demonstrated through the victory of Christ over sin. We cannot understand why God would allow sickness and suffering, but we must affirm that even these realities are rooted in sin and its cosmic effects.

How does God exercise His rule? Does He order all events by decree, or does He allow some evil acts by His mere permission? This much we know-we cannot speak of God’s decree in a way that would imply Him to be the author of evil, and we cannot fall back to speak of His mere permission, as if this allows a denial of His sovereignty and active will....

We dare not speak on God’s behalf to explain why He allowed these particular acts of evil to happen at this time to these persons and in this manner. Yet, at the same time, we dare not be silent when we should testify to the God of righteousness and love and justice who rules over all in omnipotence. Humility requires that we affirm all that the Bible teaches, and go no further. There is much we do not understand. As Charles Spurgeon explained, when we cannot trace God’s hand, we must simply trust His heart.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted September 12, 2011 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Shortly after 9/11, I visited the father of Muhammad Atta, the ringleader of the hijackers, in Cairo. Muhammad al-Amir Atta, the father, told me that, against all evidence, his son was still alive, that it was the Mossad that had framed him. He was angry and aggressive, but also seemed gripped by melancholy, and I sensed he knew the truth: That his son was a mass murderer, and that he was dead. We spoke for a few minutes, and I asked him a question he answered as if it were theoretical. I asked, What would motivate your son to do such a thing to innocent people? He answered, "You can't be a human and do this thing. It's impossible."

That is the crucial truth of 9/11. Osama Bin Laden had gathered to him men who were devoid of love, and who found in al Qaeda a vehicle for expressing their hatred of humanity. On the 10th anniversary of the murderous rampage committed by soulless men, we should remember the victims, and count our own blessings, and recommit ourselves to the suppression of evil and the protection of the innocent.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted September 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Here is part of one answer from musician Matt Redmon:
During the first few days we spent in the United States [after returning from being overseas in England on 9/11], it seemed that, in all the shock and vulnerability, many people were heading to church for comfort and clarity. I was so impressed by the preachers: every place we visited, we heard messages of hope and reminders of God's sovereignty.

But it left me wondering: What could we sing to God at a time like this? It was as if our worship songs were missing some important vocabulary—the language of tragedy and struggle, of the valley at the bottom of the mountain—which I found surprising, as the Psalms are full of lament.

Soon after the tragedy, my wife and I wrote "Blessed Be Your Name." It's a simple worship offering about choosing to worship and trust God no matter what the season.
Read them all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

5 Comments
Posted September 8, 2011 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

That Jesus is this Creator come among us is the heart of the story of how God deals with the bad things that happen. It is not just that Jesus calms the storm, but that he himself endures the worst storm that his creatures can throw at him. Recall another reference to the Jonah story in the gospels. Jesus stated: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40) At the deepest level of the biblical pattern of how God deals with evil is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In the biblical account, the very Creator of the Universe, who loves and cares for his creation, who does not abandon but rescues those in distress, rescues them by himself becoming one of them, and goes through what they go through. As Jonah sank into the depths, so Jesus faced the cross, and the greatest evil that humans fear, death itself. As Jonah was rescued from the depths, so God the Father rescued his Son by raising him from death on the third day.

In one of my favorite essays, Dorothy Sayers refers to the incarnation of God in Jesus as “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged.” (1) If the incarnation is true, she says, then, for whatever reason that God made human beings, “limited and suffering and subject to death – He had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair,” she writes. And, of course, a subset of the final theme is that the followers of Jesus, his church, share in his death and resurrection as we become his disciples through faith and the sacraments. So from top to bottom, from beginning to end, the Christian version of how it is that God deals with suffering and evil is that God loves and cares for his creation, but also takes it seriously, so seriously that he provides rescue and redemption from evil and suffering in that creation by taking the full consequences of death and evil on himself, and coming out on the other side, and taking us with him.

That has interesting implications....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPreaching / Homiletics* TheologyApologeticsTheodicy

2 Comments
Posted September 6, 2011 at 5:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Go here then click on the "Latest programme in full" link to launch the audio player. It starts at about 1:49 in, and lasts about 2 minutes. Bishop James references Augustine, the challenge of understanding evil, and the Easter season.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAsiaPakistan* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted May 4, 2011 at 6:57 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Father Thomas expressed the belief that learning about exorcisms is today more necessary than ever, because there are more Catholics who are involved in paganism, idolatry and the occult (psychics, tarot cards, Ouija boards, crystals, Wicca, séances, and the like), so there are a lot of people who are opening a lot of doors to the diabolical.

Certain signs would indicate possible demonic activity in someone. For example, "if somebody was able to speak in a language that he had no prior competency in, or if someone would foam at the mouth or have a lot of rolling of the eyes," Father Thomas said.

Another sign of a diabolical attachment can be found "if the person were not able to walk into a church or be close to any Catholic sacramental: holy water, a crucifix, the sacrament of the Eucharist, the sacramental anointing of the sick, or someone wearing some kind of a Christian symbol. If these caused a reaction, it certainly would be a sign."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

6 Comments
Posted April 7, 2011 at 5:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The first page of the first chapter of Henning Mankell’s latest (and apparently last) Wallander novel The Troubled Man is sheer misery. Inspector Kurt Wallander, divorced for 15 years, lives in a flat “where so many unpleasant memories were etched into the walls”; he “reminded himself over and over again of his father’s lonely old age ... now it seemed as if his father was taking him over ... he had no religious hopes of anything being in store for him ... nothing but the same darkness he had once emerged from ... he would be dead for such a long time ... he had seen far too many dead bodies in his life”.

Wallander novels might be prefaced by the sign Dante imagined above the gates of Hell – “lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’ intrate”: “all hope abandon, ye who enter here”: for in these books, the descent is often through deepening layers of horror. The same could be said for much of rest of the now enormously popular, critically acclaimed school of Scandinavian noir – for noir they are, set in the bleakness of towns and forests, dark for much of the year. The cult BBC hit of the year so far, the Danish-made Copenhagen-set The Killing, which ends this weekend, is shot almost wholly at night....

...the most striking commercial success in novel writing in the past five years has come from Marxists who write of people beset with misery who either commit or must deal with acts of extreme sadistic violence. It is not a development that a publisher or an agent would naturally have arrived at as a formula for success. So what explains its extraordinary appeal?

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksSexualityViolence* International News & CommentaryEuropeDenmarkNorwaySweden* TheologyAnthropologyTheodicy

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Posted March 27, 2011 at 11:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Why photograph atrocities? And why pass them around to buddies back home or fellow soldiers in other units? How could the soldiers’ sense of what is unacceptable be so lost? No outsider can have a complete answer to such a question. As someone who has been writing about war crimes since My Lai, though, I have come to have a personal belief: these soldiers had come to accept the killing of civilians—recklessly, as payback, or just at random—as a facet of modern unconventional warfare. In other words, killing itself, whether in a firefight with the Taliban or in sport with innocent bystanders in a strange land with a strange language and strange customs, has become ordinary. In long, unsuccessful wars, in which the enemy—the people trying to kill you—do not wear uniforms and are seldom seen, soldiers can lose their bearings, moral and otherwise. The consequences of that lost bearing can be hideous. This is part of the toll wars take on the young people we send to fight them for us. The G.I.s in Afghanistan were responsible for their actions, of course. But it must be said that, in some cases, surely, as in Vietnam, the soldiers can also be victims.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* TheologyAnthropologyTheodicy

5 Comments
Posted March 24, 2011 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was John Paul II who, with a clarity unparalleled in the twentieth century, recognized that in our very attempt to oppose the "Evil" we dread in others - whether in the form of genocide or totalitarian violence, down to the fear that immigrants will steal away our idolatrous "way of life," or that the unwanted elderly or unwanted pregnancies will restrict our freedom - has ended up institutionalizing "Evil" in what he memorably described as our "culture of death."
"To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin' (John 8.34)."
In this way, far from being a bizarre relic of primitive Christianity, the rite of exorcism could represent an authentic expression of the Christian virtues of solidarity, mutuality and love, which alone can oppose the devil and all his works.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Yesterday, I scanned Twitter, that great marketplace of ideas and current thought, to see what the grassroots are saying. "Stay focused," one person wrote. "No matter wht comes ur way; opinions, doubt, fear, anxieties, etc. God is in control. Trust ."

Trust is very hard. Then I stumbled across a blog by Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (on an unrelated topic) where he asks why some children are abandoned in this world and others are not; why evil falls in one place but not another. Like the rest of us, he doesn't know.

"The Creator chooses, for reasons unknown to us," he writes, "to hide behind the veil of nature and it is we humans who must fill in the seemingly empty spaces."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyTheodicy

2 Comments
Posted January 13, 2011 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pity the poor exorcist, caught between evil spirits eager to invade human bodies and a society skeptical that demons exist outside of Hollywood horror movies.

Even some church leaders look askance at exorcists as peddlers of a practice best left in the Middle Ages. Most American exorcists, particularly the handful of priests appointed by the Roman Catholic Church, keep a low profile, hesitating to open themselves — or their church — to ridicule and quacks.

But exorcists may soon be moving out of the shadows.

U.S. Catholic bishops are sponsoring a conference this weekend in Baltimore on the "liturgical and pastoral practice of exorcism." Fifty-six bishops and 66 priests have registered to hear about the shortage of trained exorcists and the growing interest in the mysterious rite, according to Catholic News Service.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted November 14, 2010 at 3:19 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Exorcism is as old as Christianity itself. The New Testament has accounts of Jesus casting out demons, and it is cited in the Catholic Church’s catechism. But it is now far more popular in Europe, Africa and Latin America than in the United States.

Most exorcisms are not as dramatic as the bloody scenes in films. The ritual is based on a prayer in which the priest invokes the name of Jesus. The priest also uses holy water and a cross, and can alter the prayer depending on the reaction he gets from the possessed person, said Matt Baglio, a journalist in Rome who wrote the book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist” (Doubleday, 2009).

“The prayer comes from the power of Jesus’ name and the church. It doesn’t come from the power of the exorcist. The priest doesn’t have the magic power,” said Mr. Baglio, whose book has been made into a movie to be released in January, starring Anthony Hopkins.

Read it all.

Update: PZ Meyers is upset that the NY Times is taking such "madness" seriously:

Now if only we had media that dared to point out that angels and demons don't exist.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

25 Comments
Posted November 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

KIM LAWTON, correspondent: Joni Eareckson Tada is a woman of many talents. She’s a bestselling author, an acclaimed artist, and an internationally known advocate for people with disabilities. Paralyzed for more than 40 years, Tada is one of the longest living quadriplegics on record. She endures chronic pain, and just a few months ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tada says it’s her faith that keeps her going.

JONI EARECKSON TADA: Boy, when Jesus said in this world you will have trouble, he wasn’t kidding. In this world there will be trouble. Perhaps the gift of this cancer and pain and quadriplegia is that it forces me to recognize my desperate, desperate need of God, and that is a good thing.

LAWTON: Tada was an active, athletic teenager. Then, at the age of 17, she broke her neck in a diving accident in the Chesapeake Bay. Her spinal chord was severed, and she became paralyzed from the shoulders down. She has limited arm motion but can’t use her hands or her legs. Immediately after the accident, she was angry and depressed and begged friends to help her commit suicide. Ultimately, she says she found peace when she committed her life to God.

EARECKSON TADA: God is that big, and he’s that good, and his grace is that sufficient.

Read or watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

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Posted September 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

About 75 people showed up for the two-day event, organized by the Institute of African American Research. Among them was Umar Muhammad, a former assistant basketball coach at N.C. Central University in Durham.

"I came here to learn about how both religious traditions have common solutions to the problems of African-Americans," said Muhammad, who is Muslim and lives in Durham.

As a sports consultant to young black men, he said, he wanted to be in a better position to offer spiritual solutions to some of the questions the men are asking.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted August 10, 2010 at 7:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[LUCKY] SEVERSON: Michael Abbatello joined the Marines September 12, 2001, the day after the terrorist attack on the Twin Trade Towers. Like tens of thousands of American soldiers coming home, he has struggled with the warning signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, symptoms like nightmares, insomnia, hyper-vigilance and guilt, and for him something even deeper—a wounding of the soul.

[MICHAEL] ABBATELLO: Something is changed. You know, you feel down to your spirit. You know that you’re different now. You know, we don’t really have a consciousness of our own spirit until it’s wounded, and then it needs help.

SEVERSON: With the increase in crime and suicide among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the notion that war can actually damage or warp the soul has been gaining traction among experts in the field. Nancy Sherman, a professor at Georgetown University, has studied and written extensively about the hearts, minds, and souls of soldiers.

PROFESSOR NANCY SHERMAN (Georgetown University): I like to talk about the moral emotions of war, and they include wounds, but they’re the hard, bad feelings that may erode at your character. That’s the really deep ones.

Read or watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMilitary / Armed ForcesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsIraq WarWar in Afghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

1 Comments
Posted May 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In this six-part interview Hart talks about the impact of Christianity on the West, some questionable interpretations of history, suffering and the problem of evil and why he remains a believer.

The topics are:

The violence of Christian history

The new atheists and an ugly God

Ethics and the good life

Nostalgia for a pagan past

Gnosticism and alternative gospels

Suffering and the problem of evil

Check them out.

Filed under: * TheologyApologeticsTheodicy

0 Comments
Posted May 18, 2010 at 12:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Contemporary Christians may hesitate to assign a direct connection between particular natural disasters and sins. Yet many still believe that the reason for the existence of natural disasters in general is punitive and a direct consequence of early human disobedience in the Garden.

As harsh as that may sound to some, the alternative seems bleaker from a religious perspective. If natural disasters are not anyone's fault, human or divine, wouldn't that mean these catastrophes are also without purpose, just another tragic event reflecting the fragility of our lives? If God isn't using natural disasters to punish disobedient creatures, why does He allow them at all?

One historically significant answer finds divine purpose in natural horrors—without those horrors signifying punishment. This year marks the 300th anniversary of Gottfried Leibniz's "Theodicy," which remains one of the grandest attempts to prove the goodness and justice of a God who created an evil-soaked cosmos like ours. Most affecting was his claim that our world is, in fact, the best world that God could have made (so don't complain!), which sounds either crudely optimistic or despairingly pessimistic.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchPhilosophy* TheologyTheodicy

7 Comments
Posted April 9, 2010 at 12:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Rabbi Harold Kushner.... tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "There's always a fresh supply of grieving people asking, 'Where was God when I needed him most?' "

That's a question Kushner himself confronted as a young father when his first-born child died, leading him to rethink his view of an omnipotent God.

"It just seemed so terribly unfair and it forced me to reconsider everything I'd been taught in seminary about God's role in the world," Kushner says. "It was shattering."

He says people from a more traditional perspective have asked him whether he thought his son's death was part of God's plan. He says they said that going through the tragedy of a child's loss prompted him to write his first book. But Kushner rejects that idea.

"If that were God's plan, it's a bad bargain," Kushner says. "I don't want to have to deal with a God like that."

Read or listen to it all (audio strongly recommended, just a little over 7 3/4 minutes)--KSH.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

0 Comments
Posted March 13, 2010 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

People of faith have responded to such disasters in two ways. First they, like Darwin, have attempted to try and understand how such a world can be created by a loving God. While some at the fringes of the church have proclaimed the horror caused by earthquakes and hurricanes as the judgement of God, most Christians see something in the view that the creativity inherent in the world also brings with it risk. So the fault lines which cause devastating earthquakes have also been of immense benefit by providing minerals, oil, and good soil for agriculture. In fact, the 19th century evangelical and friend of Darwin, Asa Gray, argued that evolution's waste and suffering were necessary for more complex forms of life to emerge in creation.

However, such insights can sound very trite to the person who has lost a loved one or been made homeless. In addition, they don't provide a full explanation to the extent of suffering, a point which struck Darwin strongly.

It's here that there has been a second response. Seeing in Jesus, both a God who gives genuine freedom to the Universe and a God of compassion in the face of need, churches have been motivated to be at the forefront of help to those affected by earthquakes despite the unanswered questions of suffering.

Read the whole reflection.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryCaribbeanHaitiSouth AmericaChile* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

1 Comments
Posted March 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is important to maintain two contradictory attitudes at once in many areas of Christian theology, and this is one of those areas. These are the two clashing points of view in this case:

Point of view #1: The creation does declare the glory of God, and the "Thunderstorm Psalm" (#29: "The Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon") proclaims that message magnificently. God is not only the Creator but also the One who rules over the cosmos. The theophany in the book of Job (chs. 38-41) is the preeminent biblical passage treating of this subject, and the phrase "the doors of the sea" is derived from 38:8. Many people have experienced a sort of theophany--a manifestation of the power of God--even in the midst of destruction; people have testified to this even when they have had to face the dire consequences of a natural catastrophe (there are examples of this in Isaac's Storm, the book about the hurricane that destroyed Galveston, and in David McCullough's account of the Johnstown Flood). So the wild, untamed aspect of nature can be either comforting or exhilarating or both, depending on one's point of view.

Point of view #2: At the same time, nature is not benign. Nature is "red in tooth and claw." Nature, like the human race, is fallen and is subject to the powers of the evil one who continues to occupy this sphere. Flannery O'Connor wrote that her work was about the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil; we should not fail to realize that "nature" is part of that occupied territory. Nature is often hostile, as Annie Dillard has so powerfully shown us, and the nature-worshippers among us fail to acknowledge this hostility in their pantheistic enthusiasm. Only by action of the Creator will the peaceable kingdom arrive, where the lion lies down with the lamb (isn't it suggestive that "Lion of Judah" and "Lamb of God" are both titles of our Lord?)

The conflict between these two realities cannot be resolved in this life. Does the Creator of all that is have the power to say to those tectonic plates, "Be still!" Of course. Then why doesn't he? Why does he permit earthquakes in the poorest country in the hemisphere?

We do not know.

Read the whole thing.

Filed under: * International News & CommentaryCaribbeanHaiti* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

3 Comments
Posted January 31, 2010 at 2:37 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[BOB] ABERNETHY: When people come to you and say where was God in what happened in Haiti, what do you tell them?

[RABBI JACK] MOLINE: The glib answer is to just say God was there. But I was walking through the synagogue the other day and a couple of kids were horsing around. One of them bumped her head and started to cry. Her friend immediately apologized, and I walked over and gave her a hug. I wasn’t able to stop the pain, but I was able to share it with her a little bit, as was her friend. I think that’s where God is—sharing that pain.

ABERNETHY: With the people who are suffering, suffering with them?

MOLINE: With the people who are suffering. Absolutely.

Read or watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCaribbeanHaiti* TheologyPastoral TheologyTheodicy

0 Comments
Posted January 31, 2010 at 2:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Interviewer]This is an appalling tragedy, the UN are saying that it may well be the biggest natural disaster in history. How do we reconcile our faith with this terrible tragedy on this scale?

ABY: I think it is not an easy thing to reconcile, the heart of it because it is just so so awful and the people suffering terribly. We tend to look for answers actually where there are sometimes no answers.

I think the reconciliation for me comes in my understanding of God as I see him in Jesus Christ. A God who is almighty and powerful is born like a little baby, grows up and is crucified, doing for us that which we can not do for ourselves. On the cross you hear him say "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" But that's not the end. He rises from death, conquering evil and death and pointing out to us that actually in the end it is life in God which matters. So a God who has becomes like one of us, dies, rises, sends his Spirit, that we may be forgiven for the wrongs we have done in the past, and given new life in the present and hope for the future.

That kind of a God is neither to be seen as the sort of grand puppet master who just pulls pulleys nor is he a Dr Who, or a Wonderwoman or Superman but actually a God who is there with us. Rabbi Hugo Gryn was a survivor of the Holocaust and was asked the same question "Where was God when the Jews were being gassed? Why did he allow it to happen?" and Rabbi Hugo Gryn said "God in those gas chambers was being violated and blasphemed". That God is always around us, with us, suffering with us and giving us the hope that in tragedy and death and things we can't explain - in the end these things are not the end.

Read the whole thing (or use the audio link at the bottom).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)Archbishop of York John Sentamu* International News & CommentaryCaribbeanHaiti* TheologyTheodicy

0 Comments
Posted January 26, 2010 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was a blessing for me to encounter the theologian Austin Farrer a year before his sudden death. With him, I was one handshake away from his friends Tolkien, Lewis, and Sayers. In reflecting on natural disasters and God's action in the world, he said with stark realism that in an earthquake, God's will is that the elements of the Earth's crust should behave in accordance with their nature. He was speaking of the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, which killed about the same number of people counted so far in devastated Haiti. Most were killed in churches on All Saints Day, which gave license to rationalists of the "Enlightenment" to mock the doctrine of a good God. Atheists can suddenly pretend to be theologians puzzled by the contradictory behavior of a benevolent God. On the other extreme, doltish TV evangelists summon a half-baked Calvinism to say that people who get hit hard deserve it.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* International News & CommentaryCaribbeanHaiti* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyTheodicy

1 Comments
Posted January 26, 2010 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The only people who would seem to have the right to invoke God at the moment are the Haitians themselves, who beseech his help amidst dreadful pain. They, too, alas, appear to wander the wasteland of theodicy. News reports have described some Haitians giving voice to a worldview uncomfortably close to Pat Robertson’s, in which a vengeful God has been meting out justified retribution: “I blame man. God gave us nature, and we Haitians, and our governments, abused the land. You cannot get away without consequences,” one man told The Times last week.

Others sound like a more frankly theological President Obama: a 27-year-old survivor, Mondésir Raymone, was quoted thus: “We have survived by the grace of God.” Bishop Éric Toussaint, standing near his damaged cathedral, said something similar: “Why give thanks to God? Because we are here. What happened is the will of God. We are in the hands of God now.” A survivor’s gratitude is combined with theological fatalism. This response is entirely understandable, uttered in a ruined landscape beyond the experience of most of us, and a likely source of pastoral comfort to the bishop’s desperate flock. But that should not obscure the fact that it is little more than a piece of helpless mystification, a contradictory cry of optimistic despair.

Terrible catastrophes inevitably encourage appeals to God. We who are, at present, unfairly luckier, whether believers or not, might reflect on the almost invariably uncharitable history of theodicy, and on the reality that in this context no invocation of God beyond a desperate appeal for help makes much theological sense. For either God is punitive and interventionist (the Robertson view), or as capricious as nature and so absent as to be effectively nonexistent (the Obama view). Unfortunately, the Bible, which frequently uses God’s power over earth and seas as the sign of his majesty and intervening power, supports the first view; and the history of humanity’s lonely suffering decisively suggests the second.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryCaribbeanHaiti* TheologyTheodicy

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Posted January 25, 2010 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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