Blaming God

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There was a tragic car accident in our area  few days ago. It wasn’t all that unusual. These things happen on a regular basis especially in large urban areas.

But, it was on the news probably because it involved a dangerous stretch of road where accidents had occurred before and in this case a young woman died.

The news people went to the scene where they found the young woman’s understandably distraught uncle. The little lead in to speaking with the uncle mentioned the fact the uncle blamed God for the accident and indeed he did.

I can empathize with the uncle’s grief. Having someone precious ripped from you in a tragic car accident has to cut any feeling person to the core. The uncle’s emotional response was understandable just as it was sad.

Volumes have been written by theologians, pastors, lay people and even critics of Christianity about God’s involvement with his creation and accidents and tragedies.

An atheist of course doesn’t believe God is involved at all because an atheist by definition does not believe in God’s existence. An agnostic like I used to be would simply shrug their shoulders and say something like “who knows?”

Deists would believe that God created it all but then stepped back and just let the creation go unattended.

People claiming Christianity in one its myriad forms would all have a different opinion as to how much or how little God was involved in something so common as a car accident.

I do not know the uncle who lost his niece. The one minute he had to speak on the news was not long enough to learn anything about him or what else he may have thought about God. I do know that given his blame God comment he knew enough that God was at least a secondary cause of the tragedy. The primary cause could have been any number of things like going too fast for conditions, texting while driving, a dangerous road or whatever.

Whatever the primary cause of the accident was the uncle recognized that God could have prevented the accident. The uncle appeared to be bitter that he did not. He mentioned something along the lines of his niece not deserving her fate.

The episode filled me with sadness. It is tragic that a young life was sniffed out. I can empathize with the uncle’s pain. What is equally tragic in my opinion was the uncle’s interpretation of the event and his resulting bitterness.

I have no idea what his faith background was or is or even if he has a pastor or priest. I just know that his interpretation of the event does not line up with what Scripture teaches about God, man, sin or death.

The Scripture that came to my mind as I  pondered the news story was this one:

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38 ESV)

Jesus felt compassion for the people because they were like sheep with a shepherd. They had religion but they did not have truth. The people’s religious leaders had much wrong about God, about man, about sin, about death and most of all wrong about how God would make things right. Jesus’ compassion for the people  leads him to say that many of the people can be brought to the truth, but not many “harvesters”are available. He adds that his disciples should pray for more laborers.

My prayer is Lord of the harvest might minister to a bitter uncle’s heart and open the eyes of his heart to the truth of Scripture. God does care. It is why he sent his Son to die in our place.

Jn. 14:6

 

 

 

 

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A few comments on ghosts and spooky things, ok, more than a few…

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A number of years ago when I worked in industry one of my co-workers told me the following story.

He had grown up in rural North Dakota in a small farming community. He said that his small town was religious meaning that they believed in God and that all three denominations represented there got along very well. My friend was maybe two generations removed from his immigrant forefathers as was most of his community.

He said that once when he was a boy he attended a funeral in a person’s home (common in rural communities especially in the 1940s and 50s).

After the service while everyone was chatting there came a number of sharp raps on the door. The door was answered and no one was there. The night was very cold, but there was no wind.

A  seance. In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century spiritism was popular both here and in Europe. The vast majority were clever frauds if not all. In some circles it  is still popular and quite contrary to what the Bible teaches.

A séance. In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century spiritism was popular both here and in Europe. The vast majority were clever frauds if not all. In some circles it is still popular and quite contrary to what the Bible teaches.

The universal interpretation of the event was the rapping had been done by the recently departed. My friend shared the story in all sincerity knowing I was Bible student and wanting to know what I thought.

It is very difficult to diss someone’s personal experience meaning their interpretation of the event but I told him the following.

My mother also grew up in a rural area and she too was one generation removed from her Polish-German roots. My mother told me almost the same story that my work friend did.

I have not done extensive research on folklore but over the years have heard numerous variations on my friend’s and mom’s stories. It suggests European tradition within a culture or sub-culture that assigns to the dead the ability to say good-bye to loved ones and give them assurance that all is well.

I had to tell my friend that I could not argue with his experience but that the Bible gave no indication that the dead had that kind of ability. He shrugged and that was that.

On another occasion with another co-worker I heard the following.

We worked 3rd shift, also known as the graveyard shift. No pun intended.

My friend lived with his girlfriend and obviously third shift meant leaving her alone.

The day after the Easter weekend he told me that his girlfriend had been wakened in the middle of the night. On top of her was a short ugly being trying to strangle her.

She fought the hideous creature eventually knocking it off the bed and on  to the floor where it knocked over a fan as it ran down the hallway.

Remarkably, she pursued the creature into the bathroom where it vanished into thin air.

When my friend came home that morning he found his girlfriend curled up in a ball clutching her 2nd grade Catholic Catechism.

He then related to me other phenomena that occurred in their apartment such as decorative plates being taken off stands and laid down and him feeling the presence of his father who had died in a horrible accident when he was a boy.

I offered to visit with him and his girlfriend in order to share the gospel. I had been sharing the gospel with my friend prior to this anyway and it seemed that whatever had happened to his girlfriend her greatest need was Jesus not an interpretation of what happened.

The twist on this story was that my friend seemed open to gospel. He interpreted his girlfriend’s experience to his being open to the gospel. His response was to back off our conversations and so declined my offer to visit with both of them.

The movie Ghost from the 1980s starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore was widely popular. It combined the popular notions of the dead returning to say good-bye and give comfort as well as evil spirits coming to take evil people away. I recall it as being an entertaining, non-biblical movie.

The movie Ghost from the 1980s starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore was widely popular. It combined the popular notions of the dead returning to say good-bye and give comfort as well as evil spirits coming to take evil people away. I recall it as being an entertaining, non-biblical movie.

My arguments to the contrary failed to convince him that Jesus was more powerful than anything he or his girlfriend may have experienced.

Shortly after that episode I had an experience that I cannot explain.

The place where we worked had a large store-room behind the work shop. To get there you had travel past another larger work area and pass through two heavy doors. The store-room was a two-floor cavern and was populated by huge shelves and bins where parts were stored. We had to take parts from time to time and place them in the proper bins and I was on such a mission when the experience occurred.

I entered the storeroom and had to depart from the main aisle to find the appropriate shelf. When I found the right bin I suddenly and distinctly heard whispering in both of my ears! The words, if you could them that were unintelligible, but it did sound like multiple voices have a bit of a chat!

I was quite alone! The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I sensed a panic attack setting in as I grasped in vain for a rational explanation.  As if that was not bad enough  I heard a part slide across the floor on the other side of the shelf in the main aisle where I had just been. I immediately departed the area glancing at the main aisle and sure enough a part was on the floor where none had been previously.

I ran back to our work area in the hopes I’d find my two co-workers in hysterical laughter at the joke they had pulled on me. No such luck. They were sober and one remarked that I looked like I had seen a ghost. I related the story and they both came to the conclusion that the place was haunted.

The one who had been in the department  the longest told of the janitor who had been killed horribly by a fork lift truck as the driver made his rounds with the forks up-skewering the unfortunate janitor (a true story I discovered). The interpretation of my event was that the janitor haunted the place. This interpretation was confirmed by a 2nd shift co-worker who said in all sincerity that he had seen a monk like figure appear in the restroom. He connected the apparition to the deceased janitor.

Virtually all American Civil War battlefields carry with them stories of ghosts often accompanied by pictures, sometimes of orbs, sometimes of images of soldiers. A whole industry has grown up around it. The base belief seems to be that people who die horribly due to some trauma wander between two plains of existence until they find peace.

Virtually all American Civil War battlefields carry with them stories of ghosts often accompanied by pictures, sometimes of orbs, sometimes of images of soldiers. A whole industry has grown up around it. The base belief seems to be that people who die horribly due to some trauma wander between two planes of existence until they find peace. http://www.angelsghosts.com/civil_war_cemetery_ghosts.html

The commonality in these three stories is the interpretation that the various people put on the experience.

In the first case an interpretation that the dead return to say good-bye and in the second case evil spirits will torment loved ones because someone becomes interested in Christ.

In my case my co-wokers interpreted my experience to the ghost of a janitor who died horribly. That interpretation fits with the traditional interpretation that people who die in wars or other tragic circumstance sometimes wander between two planes of existence. Take a tour of Gettysburg and learn of the battle there and you will hear more than one story and some will even have videos.

My interpretation of my experience would have been an over active imagination combined with tiredness working at 3 a.m. in the morning had it not been for the part sliding across the floor and resting where there had been no part before.

Because of that I had to modify my interpretation to I cannot explain the experience in a rational, alternative way.

I can tell you what I did next though.

My friends saw my fear, a fear I readily admit. They knew I was a Bible student (very early in my education) and they expected me do something. I had the choice of cowering in our work area or I had the choice to return to the storage area. I knew I had to return to the storage area or lose all credibility with my two co-workers. I knew enough to not go unarmed. I went to the following passage in the Bible I kept in my toolbox:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. [11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [13] Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. [14] Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, [15] and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. [16] In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; [17] and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, [18] praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, [19] and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, [20] for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV)

I am not certain this was the best passage to go to but it is the one that came to mind, especially verse one and being strong in the Lord. I believed that and with the following verses understood that the Christian’s ultimate battle was against the unseen spiritual things or powers is the way Paul puts it.

I took a few minutes and studied the passage and prayed it best I knew how. I knew that if these things\experiences were real then God allowed them for his reasons. I also knew that the demonic cannot stand against Jesus. I didn’t know much at that time but with that I returned to the storage room.

I cannot explain it but upon entering it was just like any other visit to the store-room. No whispering, no hair standing up on the back of my neck although the part was still on the floor. I returned it to a bin. I came back to our work area and muttered something like, “whatever it was, it’s gone.”

These three stories came to mind as I posted the story that appeared on this blog yesterday-the story of the glass shattering caught on video and the comments debunking the incident as a fraud.

A few observations are perhaps in order here.

1. I think we live in a culture that is increasingly non-Christian (meaning non-gospel centered) but  is still vaguely spiritual and as a result sometimes accepts frauds because it wants to believe in things hard to explain like the video I posted yesterday.

2. I do not see that necessarily as a bad thing as long as it leads to truth as found in Holy Scripture.

3. The Bible does teach the reality of demonic spirits if you take the texts at face value and I do. C.S. Lewis deals with it masterfully in his classic Screwtape Letters.

4. The gospel accounts illustrate the Lord Jesus dealing with the demonic on more than one occasions and the apostle Paul (as cited above in Ephesians) also thought the demonic was the real deal. That is more than good enough for me.

5. It is popular today in church circles, especially liberal ones to dismiss the devil as myth. When they do this they ignore or rewrite Scripture. I do believe there is a right way to interpret Scripture and about 100 wrong ways to interpret it.

6. The Bible condemns divination and the “inquiring of the dead” thus raising the possibility of it being a real occurrence with some sort of real results (King Saul had a witch call up Samuel the prophet\judge. This may be the one time God allowed the real deal, meaning Samuel, to appear, all others being demonic impersonations of the dead.) Anyway, here is  the command to not do such things…

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer [11] or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, [12] for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12 ESV)

7. Whatever else we might say about these things Jesus spoke of a proper fear, in reality the only fear that matters in the end. This is what he said:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 ESV)

Jesus is speaking of God the Father and he is seeking to reassure the disciples that while persecution may take their lives (tradition holds that 11 of the 12 were martyred) their mission was still the gospel and their loyalty to it no matter what they may face.

8. There are plenty of things to fear, including spooky things, but it is the gospel that casts out fear because stronger is he that is in you (if you are a gospel-centered Christian) than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

9. I think many phenomena are not really phenomena but fraud. It’s good and right to be highly skeptical of such things.

10. Somethings are the result of cultural tradition and wishful thinking. I think there is also what is called syncretism. Syncretism in a Christian sense is the combining of Christianity with pagan ideas and beliefs. Just because Constantine declared the Roman Empire Christian does not mean everyone became a genuine Christian. Much tradition and pagan belief became part and parcel of average person Christianity. Halloween tied to Roman Catholic All Saints Day is one such obvious example where you have Celtic ghosts integrated into the overall holiday.

11. As I ponder these things I am forced to come back to my source of truth. I believe that the Word of God is truth when rightly divided (interpreted, 2 Tim. 2:15). Without a reliable source of truth we are left to imaginations, traditions and wishful thinking. Jesus is the truth, the living Word of God and if you believe that it seems critical to believe in what the Bible has to say about these things and not go beyond it in speculations.

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