Skip to main content

Tears, questions and theology

As I write this article, police are piecing together the events that led up to Derrick Bird’s horrific shooting spree. As this tragedy unfolded in Cumbria on Wednesday, shock and disbelief were quickly followed by tears and questions. Perhaps the most prominent question was ‘Why?’ Why did this 52 year old taxi driver start killing people? It’s a question that may never be fully answered, and even if it is, I doubt we’ll ever be able to understand it.

This weekend, it is likely that the focus of the ‘Why?’ question will move from Derrick Bird onto God - especially if there’s a Christian in the room. Why does God allow things like this to happen? So, if that ‘Christian in the room’ is you, what’s your answer going to be?

My suggestion is this: Don’t provide an answer to their question!

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t respond, that would be rude, just don’t respond with an answer! If we’re honest, we’ve all probably tried that, and however ‘right’ our answers were, I doubt they were that helpful.

One of the most famous examples of Jesus confronting tragedy is when he arrived in Bethany to be greeted by a distraught Mary and Martha. Their brother had just died. Like today, people were asking questions, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37) Jesus had the answers, and in this case he also had a very tangible solution, but first, “…he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled,” and then, he wept (John 11:33-35). If we discuss the ‘suffering questions’ without feeling the pain what we say will come across as academic and theoretical. Nine times out of ten, that’s not what people want at moments such as these. Genuine empathy can lead to a healthy discussion.

Secondly, join them in asking questions; this can be a lot more helpful than trying to provide answers. It is my experience that in situations such as this answers do not necessarily increase understanding, but asking questions can increase our faith. This approach appears to be extremely biblical – just flick through the Psalms and the books of Job and Ecclesiastes. Their authors ask many questions of God and about their experiences of life, which contains so much pain and injustice. Attempting to provide an answer is almost certainly the fastest way to end a conversation, asking genuine questions can lead to a healthy discussion.

There’s a danger that we associate theology with ‘knowing the answers to the God-questions’. That both diminishes the depth and misses the point! The word ‘theology’ is made up of two Greek words, one meaning God, the other meaning words, discourse and thinking. Theology is about discussing the things of God, not simply presenting answers. It’s not primarily about coming up with formulas and answers; it’s about increasing our faith in, and deepening our relationship with, the Creator.

Asking questions doesn’t necessarily result in increased confusion and doubt. Take a closer look at the Psalms and books of Job and Ecclesiastes. In all three examples, the questioners seem to end up with a greater respect of, and faith in God. As we wrestle with the ‘God-questions’ with our colleagues, friends and family, it gives us all an opportunity to discover more of the things of God – wherever we currently are on our faith journey.

Phil Green, Public Theology Research Assistant


Popular posts from this blog

When God turns a deaf ear on prayers

Does God always hear people’s prayers, or do some pray in vain thinking that God hears them, when in reality He chooses to turn a deaf hear to their cries? Some may perhaps have a notion that all prayers are worthy, and God being who He is is by nature willing to listen and hear their prayers delightfully. They entertain the notion that it is their birth right for God to listen to their prayers and answer them accordingly. Also, there are some who come before the presence of the Lord with severe doubts, defeated by the devils whisper that they are such an unworthy soul that for them to lift up their cries to the Lord is an abomination. They are mute by their own wickedness, depressed and thus fail to pray.

What does the scripture say about God turning a deaf hear to prayers? It is to be said that God is sovereign and can choose to answer any prayer as He sees fit. He is altogether happy and never backed into a corner, God always does whatever He pleases for He is free to do as He wills…

What does it mean to live a godly life?

If you ever asked yourself the question, what does it mean to live a godly life? and if your not exactly sure what living a godly life involves, this extract taking from Charles Seet book 'A Christian in a non-Christian world' provides ample guidance on just what to do.

Now it is worth asking the question then, 'What does it mean to live godly?' It does not mean that we are just to confine ourselves within a set of rules and regulations. Some people reduce godly living to a list of 'do’s and don'ts.' But the meaning of godly living goes far deeper than that.

Godly living means living in the manner that God wants us to live. It means having the same feelings, attitudes and heart's desires that God has. It means that we love the things that God loves, care for the things that God cares for, and dislike those things which He dislikes. And since God loves righteousness, a godly person also loves righteousness. Since God hates sin, a godly person also hates …

Women of the Bible: Adah and Zillah

The Sin of Adam and Eve resulted in the fall of humanity. Every generation after them became wicked and that is why scripture affirms, ‘that there is no one righteous, no, not even one.’ Mankind became enslave to the passions of its flesh, its desires became its ruler and men followed the natural dictates of their hearts; and were it not for Sovereign grace, the race of men would now only be read of by angels in the library of extinct creatures. Adam and Eve witnessed the consequences of their sin in the death of their beloved son, Abel, by the hands of Cain who murdered his brother in anger and was thus sent away from the presence of God. My dear sisters, sin is not only sin when it is found in its extremes, sin is also sin in its subtlety and vanity. Sin is sin when one's affection is set on another and not on God, when one lives to please a thing or a being which is not God; this is also sin.
This becomes especially evident in the lives of Adah and Zillah the wives of Lamech. Th…