Sermonette Part 2

Blog Post

 

“La paciencia es la ciencia de la paz.”

Literally, this means, “Patience is the science of peace.” But it has a much better ring to it when you say it in Spanish.

 

European Court OK’s Company Rule Neutrally Banning Wearing of All Signs of Religious Belief

In L.F. v. S.C.R.L., EU EDJ, Oct. 13, 2022), the Court of Justice of the European Communities, in a request from Belgium for a preliminary ruling, held that a private company may prohibit employees from wearing all visible signs of political, philosophical or religious belief in the workplace.  This would not constitute direct discrimination on the ground of religion or belief in violation of Council Directive 2000/78 so long as the company’s policy covers any manifestation of religious, philosophical or spiritual beliefs without distinction and treats all employees alike by requiring them in a general and undifferentiated way to dress neutrally. Such a rule might constitute indirect discrimination if it had a disparate impact on persons of one religion, but would not if it were objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim were appropriate and necessary. The question arose in the context of a company’s refusal to employ a Muslim woman as an intern because she insisted on wearing a hijab. The Court issued a press release announcing the decision. Law & Religion UK also has coverage.

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“If there were a God, wouldn’t He have done something about [insert your grievance here]?”

This topic has appeared on Virtual Mirage before and for those of you who recall the discussion, feel free to gloss over it if you’d like. There are a lot of LL opinions and that’s really all they are.

One can only deduce from the evidence available that man’s existence on Earth is difficult because it’s supposed to be difficult.

“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver” (Malachi 3:2-3).

We are removed from the presence of God and we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. (Paul to the Philippians, 2:12)

Suffering and brutal unfairness can seem incompatible with the reality of a kind, loving God…. (<i>Man’s Search for Meaning</i> by Viktor Frankl – on how we can cope with unavoidable suffering) This dichotomy is as old as mankind and cannot be explained in a simple sound bite or with a slogan on a bumper sticker.

Inherent in the [insert your grievance here] question is an assumption about this world and the role and nature of God in which people expect God to just do something to prevent evil in the world. If there is something I have learned many times over, it is that the hardest mental exercise is recognizing and challenging our own assumptions. Almost everyone who considers the question, “Why does God allow such terrible things like [insert your grievance here] to happen?” fails to follow that up with the question, “What is it that makes me think that God should do anything about it?”

The simplest answer to this is that God is good, good people should stop evil from happening, and God has the power to stop it. But the issue for the believer is that God is still there and loves us, but did not stop the evil. So from the perspective of a believer how should we resolve this issue?

To start I will ask a question to consider, and finding the answer will be left up to the interested reader.

The more interesting question is not, “Why does God allow evil to happen?”, but, “What is God doing to fix the evil that exists?”

When believers are faced with the problem of evil we seem to forget that God has already given us a framework to understand the problem of evil. Perhaps because we are so prone to view the story of Adam and Eve as an absolutely literal story we fail to consider the symbolic meaning of the story.

Fundamentally we find ourselves in a fallen world. The name Adam in Hebrew is literally the word for humanity. From the story of the Garden of Eden, we learn that we, all humanity, are cut off from the presence of God. We are quite literally left to ourselves. Perhaps we do not consider the full implications of that. We, humanity, are responsible for all the evil that we do. We cannot say that we live in a fallen world, cut off from the presence of God, and then expect God to actively take charge of everything that happens in the world.

The story of the fall is trying to teach us the reality of the world we live in. As believers we must confront this fact, in this world there exists both good and evil, and whether we have more good or evil depends on us.

In classical Christianity, the standard view is that there is the earth, and then there are heaven and hell. The usually unspoken assumption is that Earth is the middle point of glory. In Dante’s Inferno the Earth (or at least the surface) is the dividing line between heaven and hell. However you want to balance it, we live in a “fallen” world out of the presence of God.

If you follow me, from this perspective, our current state is not that different from those who are “thrust down to hell.” There is not much below us since we have “fallen” after all and considering all the terrible depravities committed by humanity there is not much further for us to fall.

In the Old Testament, it does not mention separate places, such as heaven and hell, for the righteous and the sinners. There is only one place, sheol, where all the dead go. This means that for those who die there is no real change in their spiritual state. Thus “hell”, or spiritual separation from God, is simply a continuation after the death of our current separation from God. The judgment and resurrection bring about a division (sheep from goats, etc.)

With this context, we can return to the original question, “How can God allow evil in the world?” The simplest bumper sticker answer is, “Because this world is Hell.” With one exception there is nothing lower in glory or goodness than this world. We are the furthest we can get from God. What we do in this situation where we find ourselves matters.

This view of things should change how we view the world we live in. The amount of goodness or evil in the world depends on us. Because we are already out of the presence of God there really is nowhere else to go but up.

16 thoughts on “Sermonette Part 2

  1. Larry, when you reference this world being the fartherest you can be from G-D, you mention one exception. When I think of the “exception” I have to recall the rich man in Hades requesting Father Abraham allow Lazurus to dip his finger in water to cool his tongue as he was in agony and later asking that Lazarus be sent to warn his brothers of the place of torment. The answer being a great gulf separates the two allowing no one to pass through and that his brothers have Moses and the Prophets and even someone rising from the dead wouldn’t convince them.
    Luke 16:19-31
    Cletus

    1. Yep. I believe that the term for Abraham’s Bosom was Paradise, where Jesus went to preach the Good News to after his crucifixion.
      He emptied the joint.

      1. Jesus had the all sin of the world from its foundation to its end and as such was separated from God. He went to Hell, the bad part, but it had no power over Him. He preached on that side too. Hell is not subject to time like our physical realm. All people from the past, present and future were there in Paradise or Hell. When Christ entered Hell with all the sin of all who ever lived, then those in Hell had their sin removed and I assume their torment ceased, so He preached to all and all heard the Word on both sides. Paradise most likely has/had the good (still sinners) from the non-Christian nations in it. And I suspect many in Hell and some in Paradise too, still rejected Him. Those that did reclaimed their sin and their station. And when Hell enlarged, Paradise ceased. The only people who don’t spend ‘time’ separated from God in either Paradise or Hell, are those saved by the Blood.

  2. Perhaps all mortal remains “go to” שְׁאוֹל (are buried in the earth), but I was taught that all (meaning each and every) souls, after their stay on earth, go to sit at the right hand of G-d (after all, I think it only reasonable to assume that we would return to our Maker [in whose image we are formed – but the meaning of that is a discussion for another day]).
    Whether “good” souls sit nearer or further, I’ll have to let you know after I arrive there.

  3. “If there were a God, wouldn’t He have done something about [insert your grievance here]?”

    The implication in the question is that God is all powerful. My answer to the question is the He is not. The reason is simple, because of his gift to man–free will. I like this verse–

    “Broken Dreams”

    As children bring their broken toys
    With tears for us to mend.
    I brought my broken dreams to God
    Because He was my Friend.

    But then instead of leaving Him
    In peace to work alone,
    I hung around and tried to help
    With ways that were my own.

    At last I snatched them back and cried,
    “How could You be so slow?”
    “My child,” He said,
    “What could I do? You never did let go.”
    Author: Loretta P Burns

    I do what I am able. There are blessings in my life. I try to remember to say thanks now and again.

  4. As we live in “a fallen” world the Model-Maker would prefer the Models return “home”, spiritually that is. That decision is up to each individual, however (to paraphrase Mark 3:23-26) rejection of of Him with a “blaspheming hardened heart” is the unforgivable sin.

    Some [sadly] choose this path, preferring their own ideals and failing to understand the depth of God’s love for each of us and a dulled spiritual connection we have in more modern times.

    An interesting take on a stronger Old Testament connection to God (right-brain aspect) is discussed in The Third Man Factor, a terrific book that focuses on instances when climbers or those finding themselves in dire situations (Shackleton’s experience included) and our mind eliminates all distraction as survival mode ramps up, the noise of the world goes away, and that connection we have with our Creator allows a “benevolent presence” to assist (what Geiger calls the Angel Switch). Most survivors do not want to speak on this to avoid appearing insane or dismissed as mere hallucinogenic episode in life-threatening situations. But the truth is it’s real, and lives have been saved by the Third Man when only two humans are present. Fascinating.

    1. 24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.

      25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

  5. That “God should have/could have/would have thing? Nope. God gave us Free Will. It is up to us to do with it as we will.

    We can’t stop volcanoes, or sunspots, or hurricanes or even other humans just by praying to God. Free Will means He gave us the possibility to change our future, to choose our future.

    This is the act of a parent to an adult. Which we are. Adults in this universe of His. We can choose to do evil or immoral stuff. It’s our choice. It’s also our choice to not do evil or immoral stuff.

    Growing up, had a priest who gave me and the other kids some really radical concepts. Like forgiveness. You can pray and be a ‘goodly person’ all your life and die, and if the last thing that goes through your mind is cursing God (and deeply meaning it) and that may keep you out of Heaven. But the last curse you think has to totally break you from believing in Him.

    And, you can be pretty much a totally foul and fallen person, but if the last thought that goes through your mind is “Forgive me, save me” then that may save you. But you really have to mean it.

    Further discussion along these lines led to me talking to him about the whole ‘adult’ and ‘free will’ thing.

    Like The Garden of Eden. It was an intelligence test. “Do you want to live as a child or an animal without a care in the world and not thinking about the future other than over food and sleep or do you want to have deep thoughts and cares and feelings and actually do things with your life?” Thus we were born children of reason, always questioning, always pushing the boundaries.

    Then there was the teenager phase of our interaction (you parents out there know about this, so do all of you out there who actually remember their teenager phase.) We start doing really stupid things and God, like any parent, tries to correct us, first by being ‘nice’ (Mr. Angel comes and says, “You all are heading to Hell, you might want to stop”) then by being a tad firm and then going to “You’re grounded, you lose tv privileges, the car is taken away, no more allowance and Mr. Belt is gonna lick your butt.”

    And then we finally reached adulthood, and Jesus died so we could be free of all previous sins. God tossed us the keys, gave us simple instructions (Just try to be nice to each other, okay?) and sits back and hopes we do good.

  6. God gave dominion of all worldly matters to Adam and Eve, humanity as you note. He also gave humanity free will to choose between good and evil. Adam and Eve chose to listen to Satan, and thereby gave the world to evil. Our redemption is choose good over evil. God doesn’t intervene because it is our purpose to make the right choice and vanquish evil ourselves.

  7. Again, good homily and exactly, given evil in the world, we should expect an all powerful loving God to fix it. And he does in the saving action of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. To which we’re united in the Church, Christ’s Mystical Body.

    Interesting Dante point, btw, nice one.

  8. If all that is good comes ultimately from God, and hell and hades are separation from God, then so long as there is still good in this world, it is neirher hell nor hades.
    If this earth we walk and live in were to resemble any of Dante’s imaginings, this world would be purgatory itself. But my issues with Dante are not small, nor are they easily or shortly discussed.

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