I am very grateful for the comments many of you left after my post: “Doubting at Last.” Your stories were quite helpful.
I am serious when I say the online community I’ve met since I started blogging often counters by its maturity (not as in, “I am mature,” but as in “I have no idea if I am even on the right path”) and humility (ditto) that which so angers me about the American church at large…
My friend Pistol Pete blogged “Strong Doubts” after having read my post. The quote he posted by Elizabeth Goudge really encouraged me:
Faith given back to us after a night of doubt is a stronger thing, and far more valuable to us than faith that has never been tested.
But the icing was church this morning.
I am usually pretty whipped after a week of work and try and sleep in. So, when the dog got me up at 6, I went back to sleep. I woke up again at 7:45, then 8:30, and thought: I’ll sleep just a few more minutes.
But, heck, I didn’t mean TEN OCLOCK!!
I jumped out of bed and said to my husband: I really want to go to church, so let’s get moving (last week when I overslept, we headed out to see Prince Caspian instead). By 10:30 we were on our way, just in time to get kids settled in Sunday School and find a seat before the service started – in the front row of the balcony (why my husband who has been suffering from vertigo picked that spot, I shall never know!).An aside: we’ve decided to stay at our current church (see Why Should I Go to Church? and subsequent posts on the perfect church) after visiting around and realizing that we do have one of the most thoughtful and orthodox preachers in town.
Anyway, this week, they decided to have the choir lead the worship. And the choir leader is a neighbor.
They started out with one of my all-time favorite hymns: Crown Him with Many Crowns. We had this sung at our wedding.
Here’s a sampling of the words (tell me they don’t move you, too):
Crown him with many crowns,
the Lamb upon his throne,
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns
all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing
of him who died for thee,
and hail him as thy matchless King
through all eternity.
Crown him the Lord of life,
who triumphed o’er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife
for those he came to save.
His glories now we sing,
who died, and rose on high,
who died, eternal life to bring,
and lives that death may die.
Crown him the Lord of love;
those wounds, yet visible above,
in beauty glorified.
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
For thou hast died for me;
thy praise and glory shall not fail
And wouldn’t you know it? The waterworks started.
I was sure the entire choir and my neighbor (who was facing the congregation as she conducted us) saw black streaks descending continuously down my face. We were sitting on the FIRST row of the balcony, after all.
And how do you wipe your nose with no kleenex??
Your hand. It’s disgusting.
That wasn’t enough.
They followed up with two more of my favorite hymns: How Great Thou Art and Fairest Lord Jesus, with When I Survey the Wondrous Cross thrown in as a kicker.
I honestly don’t think I have ever cried so much during a service. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t trying to work up any emotion (and this isn’t the type of church or service that helps you do so, either).
It’s like whenever I talk about the cross to my kids, my eyes start to water.
My 10 year old thinks it’s very funny that I do this.
So, what was this thing that happened to me? A feeling. An experience. (see what I wrote about feelings and experiences in my Doubting post). The presence of the Holy Spirit in my life? The God-placed need to worship? An appropriate response to the Cross-displayed love?
After my last post, I emailed one of my blog-o-friends that the problem of evil was the most basic problem of Christianity (it’s the problem of any religion that posits an individual, transcendent God). All roads point to this problem, really: where did evil come from, if not from God?
And that stupid (pardon, me) explanation that the reason for evil is that God gives us free will and we introduce evil doesn’t cut it. (Besides, Lucifer fell before we did). If God is the uncreated creator, how could evil exist outside of Him? It must have flowed from Him. And if He is sovereign (which to me is the most logical and Biblical position to hold), then how is He not be the cause of evil? Well, the Bible says He isn’t the author of evil. But that doesn’t address the logic.
My usual self-with-no-doubts persona answers: “It’s a mystery; we’ll understand it when we get beyond our limiting four dimensions and enter eternity.” (maybe)
On the way home from church, I told my husband that the one thing that makes that evil problem sort of manageable is the Cross. There seems to be a contradiction between a God who would suffer and die for us and the origin or the cause of evil. Even if there is no other God before Him, even if he is the uncaused cause.
I don’t get it.
So my husband gave me John Feinberg’s 525 page The Many Faces of Evil: Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil and I picked up John Frame’s The Doctrine of God (which also addresses this issue in several places). I might as well start with some good Reformed thinkers as I face this issue instead of writing it off as mystery.
I think I will keep writing on this subject of doubt (I have too much doubt to write authoritatively on anything else right now!). I have some new thoughts on Doubting Thomas that I want to investigate first.
P.S. Check out this post: the hope in the steven curtis chapman’s family tragedy. Eugene Cho (a pastor) did a post about Steve Chapman’s daughter’s death (she was a China adoptee as is my daughter). It was the highest rated WordPress post ever! Do you know my first evil thought when I read that?? I wish I had posted an article on this tragedy first (and gotten the hits…). Now THAT’s evil!!! Where did such evil come from? LOL