By Brian Lowther
For those of you who subscribe to Christianity Today, you may have noticed an article in the April 2012 issue entitled When a Daughter Dies: Walking the Way of Grace in the Midst of My Grief, byBen Witherington, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. If not, I recommend it. If you’ve lost a loved one, the article will likely bring back a rush of grief emotions. You will surely be reminded of the one you miss. In my own journey, I’m finding these emotions are excruciating to process, but also essential, and this article points out why.
In addition to sharing a moving, emotional story, Dr. Witherington takes a definitive theological stance about his tragedy:
God did not do this to my child. God is not the author of evil. God does not terminate sweet lives with a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms are a result of the bent nature of this world.
Then he explains these convictions:
... the words, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away,” from the lips of Job (1:21), are not good theology. According to Job 1, it was not God but the Devil who took away Job’s children, health, and wealth. God allowed it to happen, but when Job said these words, as the rest of the story shows, he was not yet enlightened about the true nature of the source of his calamity and God’s actual will for his life.
Witherington even goes so far as to say:
If God is the author of...evil, suffering...and death, then the Bible makes no sense when it tells us that God tempts no one, that God’s will is that none should perish but have everlasting life, and that death is the very enemy of God and humankind that Jesus, who is life, came to abolish and destroy.
This is an interesting and insightful reflection on one of the more difficult mysteries of the Christian life from a respected evangelical scholar. I highly recommend it.