Thinking Christian

Thinking Christianity for church, home, and community

“Rachel Weeping for Her Children”

Posted on Dec 15, 2012 by Tom Gilson

I was stunned into silence yesterday at the news from Connecticut. Albert Mohler's response speaks for me, that which I have been unable to say myself.

 

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40 Responses to “ “Rachel Weeping for Her Children” ”

  1. SteveK says:

    In the face of such horror, we are driven again and again to the cross and resurrection of Christ, knowing that the reconciling power of God in Christ is the only adequate answer to such a depraved and diabolical power.

    As I thought about this horrible tragedy, I thought about the hope we have in Christ. He is our only hope, and thankfully he won the war, even though the battle rages on for a brief time.

    I thought about who/what others might put there hope in – various men and women, technology, etc. If these things are our only hope then the war is already lost, the battle will never cease and there is no hope.

  2. SteveK says:

    The pictures in the media of people pouring into local churches, on their knees praying, comforting others – those pictures put a smile on my face because they are outward expressions of the hope we have in Christ.

    It’s not an expression of some social contract or utilitarian pragmatism for the benefit of the species. Sorry naturalists, nobody has that on their mind right now. It’s a genuine outpouring of the love that comes from being made in the image of God.

  3. Holopupenko says:

    Well… Richard Dawkins would have us take comfort and be “brave” in the face of this atrocity through his sociopathic logic:

    “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

  4. Andrew W says:

    And yet, when thinking deeply about such a tragedy, both athiest and Christian alike share a common reference point: everyone dies eventually.

    We all have an intuition that death is somehow “wrong”, and yet we all die, whether suddenly and unexpectedly or when our bodies wear out. In many ways, it is a great blessing that we in this age can find this event shocking and tragic – for many in past ages and other places, events like this are commonplace.

    From a Christian perspective, all death, whether by old age, natural disaster or human agency, is ultimately an act of God. God gives life, and he takes it away. Death is not an uncontrolled event – it is a direct consequence and response to our cosmic treason, the creation declaring its moral autonomy from the creator. And from this declaration of autonomy comes our capacity to hurt and kill each other: Adam and Eve see their “nakedness” and are ashamed, covering themselves (Gen 3); Cain kills Abel from jealously (Gen 4); and the pattern continues from there.

    And in all this, God is still there, speaking a message of repentance and reconciliation, of comfort and hope, that there is life beyond the our corruption of the world. Yet how hard it is, in the face of suffering, to stand with Job and say “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord”.

  5. When ever Herod’s massacre of the children is mentioned I wonder why God warned Joseph of the oncoming storm but no other parents living Bethlehem …Also reminds me of Saul who was chosen by God at his birth and yet was allowed to execute Christians prior to becoming Paul?Otherwise i thought Mohlers article very apt

  6. ryan says:

    Holopupenko,

    some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.

    I don’t agree with everything Dawkins, but in light of historical tragedies, this doesn’t seem like a silly or ‘sociopathic’ statement.

    More like someone resigned to the possibility that there may not be a God in the absence obvious intervention.

    Fred Phelps uses Scripture to teach that this is a result of God’s judgement on America. Maybe you should focus on dissecting whether Christian leaders are speaking truth or not rather than a anti-atheist pot shot.

  7. Holopupenko says:

    Ryan:

    Maybe you should try to understand more than you think you do.

    Apart from the blatant hypocrisy of leveling charges of “hypocrisy” against Christians and all the other bizarre claims against the Christian faith he routinely makes (e.g., “child abuse”), the words are Dawkins’ — not mine…

    … while the characterization of “sociopathic” was not quite correct. I should have used the term ‘psychopath[y]” whose general definition as a personality disorder includes, shallow emotions (including reduced fear, a lack of empathy, and stress tolerance), coldheartedness, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity, antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse, and a parasitic lifestyle….

    Does this, too, resemble Phelps’ mannerisms? To some extent, yes. And your point…?

  8. ryan says:

    My point is, I’m confused why someone would spend time assigning another person with the label of sociopath and now psychopath when beliefs held in the same realm of one’s belief system, using the same ‘Holy Scripture’, fit the criteria of being sociopathic.

    In other words, WBC is actively using this to spread ‘God’s word’ and honestly, it seems more socially damaging than a statement from an atheist.

    Why not attempt to clarify a proper scriptural stance on this tragedy rather than use it as a venue to bash atheists?

  9. Holopupenko says:

    Ryan:

    If it wasn’t clear, my initial reference of the Dawkin’s quote was to direct people’s attention to the self-imposed emptiness (again, it’s Dawkins’ words, not mine) of atheism’s inability not only to deal with tragedies but with joy and fortune as well. (No, I’m not going to entertain addressing the non-starter of absolutist subjectivism.)

    I refuse to defend the WBC because I believe what they’re doing is loathsome.

    But, objectively speaking, what is worse – holding to a disordered view of good and evil (the WBC) or holding to a disordered view in which there is no good or evil (and yet decrying faith as “evil”)? There is hope for the latter. The former?

    Take another example: there’s a VERY small percentage of Catholic priests who manifest their unfaithfulness to their vows by permitting the disorder of homosexuality to express itself through pedophilia and ephebophilia. Yet, the Church itself cries and bleeds when such travesties occur: it doesn’t jettison good and evil or objective truth–it puts out encyclicals like Fides et ratio, Veritatis splendor, and champions life. What exactly is atheism’s response to the mind-numbing body count left in its wake? “Oh… well, those aren’t real atheists or expressions of atheism.” Yeah, right.

    By the way, I’m not interested “in clarify[ing] a proper scriptural stance on this [Sandy Hook] tragedy” because there is an authoritative one. And, no, I’m not interested in pursuing that.

  10. BillT says:

    The problem Ryan, is that if you don’t believe in God, Dawkins’ statement is true and true for you. You see, Dawkins’ position is an accurate understanding of a universe without a God. He’s only parroting what many other athiests have said. (In fact, parroting what many other athiests have said is just about the only think Dawkins does when he is speaking about these kind of issues.)

    On the other hand WBC (which isn’t Baptist or a church) is saying things that no other church or religious organization says. Of course it’s a cult made up of members of essentially a single family so that’s not surprising.

  11. ryan says:

    Bill, do you think that the atheist viewpoint can be characterized as psychopathic? Does Holopupenko represent what most Christians think about an atheistic worldview?

    I did look more into WBC. You are correct.

  12. SteveK says:

    Fred Phelps uses Scripture to teach that this is a result of God’s judgement on America.

    Think about it for a minute, Ryan. You cannot use scripture for this sort of thing because there is no connection between the context of the scripture and this specific event.

    Does God actively, with intent, pour out his judgement from time to time? He has in the past and I would expect that to continue from time to time in this present age. Absent any direct revelation from God, that’s about all anyone can say. Considering Phelps’s track record, I’d say he is blowing smoke. Did God allow the events of this past week to occur? Of course.

  13. ryan says:

    Steve,
    Phelps’ church is labeled a Baptist Church and he claims to be doing God’s work and uses scripture for his teaching.

    Think about what you’re saying for a minute.

    “Absent any direct revelation from God, that’s about all anyone can say.”

    You’re saying that WBC may or may not be doing the will of God. Even an atheist is willing to stand up and say they are damaging to society, yet a Christian will entertain the idea that their foolish antics could possibly be God speaking to someone.

    Sorry, I’m going to have to go with faith in my moral instinct on this one and say that no good God would tell Phelps’ to preach this message.

  14. SteveK says:

    Phelps’ church is labeled a Baptist Church and he claims to be doing God’s work and uses scripture for his teaching.

    Anyone can claim they are doing God’s work. Anyone can distort scripture.

    Sorry, I’m going to have to go with faith in my moral instinct on this one and say that no good God would tell Phelps’ to preach this message.

    Why are you sorry? I agree.

  15. Holopupenko says:

    Ryan@11:

    Please present evidence that I labeled the atheistic world view “sociopathic” or “psychopathic.” @3 I specifically referred to Dawkin’s words, and later to his behavior as such… and I stand by my words.

    I would, however, assert the atheist worldview is anti-human… and more often than not, inhumane. Chew on that for a while.

    And, surprise, surprise, you keep avoiding the point I’m making: atheism is, an an ultimate sense, completely EMPTY in its ability to deal with either tragedy or joy.

  16. SteveK says:

    ryan,

    You’re saying that WBC may or may not be doing the will of God.

    Just so it’s clear, I’m not saying this at all. I’m saying, if you think about it,

    (a) scripture cannot be used to bolster the message they are preaching concerning this specific event, hence, Phelps’s credibility is shot right from the start; and

    (b) if Phelps’s message about God’s judgement on America is true, they could only know this via recent divine revelation – not via scripture. Phelps’s isn’t claiming this so we can safely ignore him as the nutter he is.

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    Phelps and the WBC claim to be Christian, but they are acting in precisely the opposite manner, in most or maybe even all of their public displays.

    Ryan, it’s true they claim to be supporting their actions scripturally. They are wrong. It’s really that simple; no need to complicate it.

  18. ryan says:

    @Holopupenko,

    I apologize, I hastily made a connection between what Bill was saying about Dawkins and popular atheist beliefs and your presentation of your thoughts on Dawkins. Sorry for the mix up.

    I chewed, but it was devoid of taste so I spit it out.

    Surprise, surprise? What are you surprised about? That is the first time you made that point. And don’t go back to the Dawkins quote, because you just stated how in post 3 you didn’t connect Dawkins quote with atheism…and in post 7, you still stuck with talking only about Dawkins.

    I’ll address the point anyway though. I don’t know enough about atheist beliefs to agree or disagree. I guess I would ask you what you mean by ‘ability to deal with’?

  19. ryan says:

    SteveK,

    Thanks for clearing that up. You scared me for a second :)

  20. BillT says:

    Ryan,

    Like I said, Holo’s quote in #3 is an accurate description of an atheistic worldview. If there is no God then that statement is true. It doesn’t matter what Holo thinks of it. What do you think of it. Ring true to you? If not, why?

  21. ryan says:

    Bill, My wife just saw this post and wanted to wiegh in. She thinks Christians should show up and give ‘em (WBC) the ole 1, 2 and not let them out of their car :)

    She is a devout Christian and believes it is the responsibility of Christians to close that rhetoric down and not allow others to misrepresent our Holy God.

    I am going to think over your question. I’ll have to respond after laundry. Yes, she weighed in on that too :)

  22. SteveK says:

    You mean like this, ryan?

  23. BillT says:

    Ryan,

    WBC and it’s message has benn rejected by every responsible Christian organization in the world from day one. More than that just isn’t possible.

  24. Tom Gilson says:

    What boggles the mind—and that’s an understatement—is that Ryan and others will still say, “Well, they claim to be Christian,” implying, “so how can you say they aren’t?” It’s as if the word “Christian” had no distinctions associated with it, as if it had no definition at all; for a definition states what a word means and what it doesn’t mean.

    “Christian” is a word that excludes some things, including the activities of the WBC. Why that’s hard to explain, or why some people can’t see how utterly obvious it is, considering for example what BillT just reminded us of, is completely beyond me.

  25. Tom Gilson says:

    And Ryan, I have been at a meeting where the WBC also showed up. I didn’t try to shut them down because it was better not giving them that much attention in that particular context. If it were a funeral, on the other hand, I would be first in line to oppose them. In the meantime I’m standing against their anti-Christian antics the best way I know how–here.

  26. SteveK says:

    Tom,
    That mindset really does boggle the mind. Over at the A-unicornist website, I recently got into a discussion about what it means to be a Christian. Someone actually had the nerve to say that the term Christian included Christian atheists because these people identified themselves as being Christian. They provided me with a link to ‘prove’ their point.

  27. Tom Gilson says:

    I mean, it’s not as if Christianity is a club that only admits people of a certain moral standing. Anyone can come in. But to be in Christ is not to be an atheist. To represent Christ is absolutely not to do at as WBC has claimed to do it. There is room for everyone, not on your terms or my terms but God’s terms. He invites all to come to him. Those who do come to him will seek to become more like him. Those who do not seek to become more like him are identifiably not among those who have accepted his invitation to come to him.

  28. ryan says:

    Why are guys so boggled by this? Over the 2000 years or so of Christianity, the teachings and denominations have only increased in pluralism not reinforced by authority of truth.

    One would think that over years of people and scholars praying and pouring over the text, there would be enough divine revelation through the Christian community to utterly distinguish a Christian from a non-Christian.

    If your mind is boggled by people having an issue distinguishing WBC from other Christians or churches, go visit other churches. Pretend you are an outsider, or your son is gay, or your brother died in the military, or your nefu is a democrat, and just soak in some of the things said by Christian teachers. You might be surprised by what you hear.

    So, before you get too boggled, put on some non-Christian goggles head down to the marketplace of ideas. Listen in on what Bob the Christian is telling Sally the atheist.

    Besides, this is something I said before you were boggled:

    I did look more into WBC. You are correct.

    Yet I was still lumped in with your alleged bogglers.

  29. SteveK says:

    Ryan,
    I wasn’t lumping you in with the bogglers because you backed off, but you came very close to making the cut.

  30. Melissa says:

    @Ryan,

    While you did agree with Bill that WBC was neither Baptist or a church you followed that up with this statement in a subsequent comment:

    Phelps’ church is labeled a Baptist Church and he claims to be doing God’s work and uses scripture for his teaching.

  31. ryan says:

    @Melissa,
    So? Where in that statement am I confusing WBC with other Christian teachings? The BC in WBC is Baptist Church. Phelps claims to be doing God’s work. And Phelps uses scripture. Are those false statements?

    Also, they were in response to one of Steve’s comments that scripture cannot be used. etc. etc.

    At any rate. If one thinks their message is too easily confused, most likely the message needs to be sharpened.

  32. ryan says:

    “but you came very close to making the cut.”

    Lol, you can’t win for losing around here. :)

  33. SteveK says:

    You’re a winner, ryan.

  34. Ray Ingles says:

    Holopupenko -

    holding to a disordered view in which there is no good or evil

    Blue pigment doesn’t arise naturally much, if ever, on Earth. Consider blue jays. The material their feathers are made of is pretty much black, not blue. But the structure of the feathers preferentially scatters blue light.

    So the blue doesn’t go ‘all the way down’. “At bottom”, a blue jay isn’t blue. But there is definitely blueness at a higher level.

    It’s possible to believe that “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference” – but believe that evil and good and even justice can arise at a higher level than electrons and protons.

    atheism is, an an ultimate sense, completely EMPTY in its ability to deal with either tragedy or joy.

    What if it can deal with them on a human level – which is the level where such phenomena actually happen? If tragedy and joy have meaning to humans? Things have a meaning to someone; the idea that something could ‘mean something’ (in the sense of significance or importance, in the sense of tragedy or joy) without someone for it to ‘mean something’ to is incoherent.

  35. BillT says:

    Ryan,

    “I am going to think over your question. I’ll have to respond after laundry.”

    ?

  36. ryan says:

    BillT,

    As far as Dawkins quote. Does it ring true to me? yes and no.

    Yes because my human experience/emotion agrees. There are historical events and personal events or times when the only explanation for me was that there is no God. It is an idea I can fully understand. Since there is no direct proof of his existence, these are thoughts that do frequent my head.

    No because I observe a lot of order in the universe. I am awe struck by the order that can be found. For us to be purely random is hard for me to swallow in light of evidence. Therefore, I find it very hopeful that a Creator does exist. My current struggle is the level on which that Creator interacts with us in the present (is a ‘relationship’ possible or is my imaginative faculty just a portion of my creators image?). And on which level has He in the past (is there a true religion or is that man adding human ‘layers’ to God?).

    I am currently reading Ecclesiastes and I can identify a bit with Solomon here. Sometimes things just seem so meaningless! However, he points to the seasons and the order of things and a Creator. To me the Bible is full of universal truths you can ‘hang your hat on’ but other religious texts offer similar bits of universal wisdom. Therefore, I do not hold the Bible to be the only true image of God.

    So, yeah, not really scholarly but me nonetheless.

  37. BillT says:

    “To me the Bible is full of universal truths you can ‘hang your hat on’ but other religious texts offer similar bits of universal wisdom. Therefore, I do not hold the Bible to be the only true image of God.”

    The Bible may have some universal truths in it but that’s not what the Bible is. The Bible is one story of God and the redemption of His people. There is no other religious text like it and certainly none that culminates with His own arrival in Christ. That arrival turns religion upside down. For what all other religions tell us is that if we try long enough and hard enough that God will eventually love us and save us. However, in Christ it is God that tries long enough and hard enough and wins our salvation for us. All we are asked to do is love Him for it

  38. ryan says:

    BillT,

    I do agree that the Bible does stand unique in some regards.

    “However, in Christ it is God that tries long enough and hard enough and wins our salvation for us.”

    These are encouraging words for a seeker.

  39. SteveK says:

    Not sure where to put this one, but I think it fits here somewhat.

    DNA of Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza to be examined for ‘evil’ gene in first study of its kind ever conducted on a mass murderer

    I don’t think for a second that they can find an ‘evil’ gene, but suppose they believe that they’ve found it – what then?

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