Saturday, April 1, 2017

Guest Post: The Love of God and Suffering- Pt3

Excerpt from the book Is This A God Of Love
by A. E. Wilder-Smith

Chapter VI
Suffering: Is There Any
Reasonable Interpretation?

Resentment Against Purposeless

Many people as they undergo suffering
resent what is happening because
they can often see no constructive purpose
behind it. "Senseless" suffering, such
as we see when innocent children are
destroyed or mutilated in war, sickness,
plague or famine, makes our anger and
impatience rise. The impatience increases
when we see pain which is not only
“senseless” or “random” but apparently
designed and calculated, or even “refined,”
as is the pain at the root of malaria.

A good example of apparent sadism
arises in considering, as did C.S. Lewis,
the deafness of a musical genius such as

An absolute master of the art and
science of sound struck down with stone
deafness! Could a greater refinement of
apparent sadism be conceived? Hence the
impatience of many when they merely
begin to consider the problem of suffering.

Yet, on the other hand, anyone considering
Himself to be a Christian is warned
on every side to expect both joy and
suffering as normally as summer and
winter. Both are, according to the Scripture,
integral parts of the Christian experience.
Being a Christian does not provide
exemption from suffering with the rest of
mankind. Rather, there is the promise of
additional suffering for Christians. The
apostle Paul says explicitly that the
Christian must enter the Kingdom not
only in joy but through the gates of many
trials, tribulations and sufferings, being
forsaken of man, and, apparently by God
too, before reaching the final gate of death.

If God Is Good, Will He Hurt Us?

Lewis puts this very question in another
light when he writes: "If God's goodness
is inconsistent with his hurting us,
then either God is not good or there is no
God; for, in the only life we know he hurts
us beyond our worst fears and beyond all
we can imagine."  Plainly, this means that
if we believe in God at all, we must believe
that it is consistent with his perfect nature,
kindness and love to hurt us and to leave
us wallowing in our own blood, as it were,
right up to the end.

Lewis adds a rider to this statement
which asks, in effect, if we accept that in
this life God can hurt us beyond all that we
can imagine, and that this hurting is
consistent with his goodness, have we any
valid reasons for believing that he should
not, if necessary, continue hurting us in
the same way after this mortal life is over?
Obviously there is no moral reason why he
should not, if spirits can endure suffering
as mortal men do. Numerous passages of
Scripture need to be examined carefully in
this connection. Neither Lewis nor we are
suggesting that the torments of hell are
universal after death! The real question is
whether suffering serves any purpose in
this life and in that to come.

We can, however, go one step further
and still remain on safe ground. If God has
good reasons for hurting us now in this
mortal life, he might conceivably, have
equally good reason for continuing the
same process afterward, in death. Clarity
will only come by first asking ourselves,
"What do the Scriptures say?" And second,
from our answer to why he hurts us
now, what he intends us to achieve by it in
this life and beyond.

Was Christ Ever In Man's Position?

It is often helpful in dealing with such
questions to find out whether Christ the
man was ever in the same position as we
in regard to suffering. If he was, then the
investigation of what suffering achieved in
him will, perhaps, provide the answer as
to what it is supposed to achieve in us.

Accordingly, looking at one of the
most obvious cases of Christ's suffering—
the cross—may help to solve the problem.
God the Father remained "passive" while
millions of Jews, his own people, were
gassed in brutal cynicism, just as he
"stood passively by," as it were, while men
crucified his own beloved Son.

To make matters worse, the Scriptures
say that this brutal act was the
culmination of the prophecy that Christ
was the Lamb of God slain from the
foundation of the world. Thus, the cruel
cross was an eternally foreseen event —
an event which God presided at eternally
in an apparently passive manner in that
he did not stop it. Therefore, the hurting of
the beloved one must have been consistent
with God's eternal character. In fact,
God himself suffered, for he was in Christ
as he suffered (2 Cor. 5:19), so God was
actually not just passive during this event.
He actively suffered.

The Cross And God's Love

This means that if the central doctrine
of the Christian faith, the cross, is
true, then it is obviously consistent with
God's eternal love to hurt those he loves
best including himself, even to the point
of what we would call barbarism, for the
cross is barbaric.

Whichever way we look we find the
same picture in principle. Christ on the
eternal cruel cross and a so-called God of
love behind him and, indeed, in him.
Humanity and biology for millennia "under
the harrow" too, and yet allegedly,
according to the Scriptures, a God of love
behind us, who is until now entirely passive
at the spectacle. Confronted with this
situation, what Lewis feared was not so
much a loss of belief in God at all with its
concomitant victory of pure materialism
in him. That solution would have been too
easy, for it would have meant that a simple
overdose of sleeping pills at any time could
have gotten him out from "under the
harrow" forever. Far too simple! What
worried Lewis was that man and biology
might be trapped, as it were, in a laboratory
in which God might be the eternal
vivisector and we the rats!  Lewis says that
the despair in which the Son of God died
when he cried out “My God, why hast
thou forsaken me?” might have been the
result of Christ finding out that the cross
was, in reality, a carefully baited laboratory
trap which sprang at death and from
which there was no escape after God had
lured him into it.

Looked at dispassionately, surely even
a fallen person like myself, possessing
scarcely a trace of the love I attribute to a
God of love, could not have stood passively
by while they crucified him — or gassed
millions of Jews. But then, if we take that
view, God must be morally inferior—even
to me—which is completely nihilistic. We
shall have to scrap that thought too, for it
leads straight to the destruction of all
rational thought on the subject.

Of course God is more compassionate
than I. But then why was he so
relentlessly passive at the cross? Why
doesn't he relent at the millennia of human
and biological agony?

Hurting In Order To Heal

Might the key to the sore problem be
found in the following considerations: Can
we allow that to do good there are occasions
when we must do that which looks
as though it were bad? Put another way,
can we hurt to heal? Obviously we can
allow that, for every good surgeon and
dentist does so regularly and routinely. If,
every time I flinched, gripped the dentist's
chair, or drew back my head in pain at the
relentless drill, the dentist were to stop
and end the torture by filling up the still
dirty cavity with amalgam, he would be
less than a good dentist He would not be
being good, kind or loving to his patient if
he were anything but absolutely unrelenting
in his thoroughness in inflicting
this therapeutic suffering. We would all be
in trouble again in no time if he did relent.
And then all the pain he had inflicted in
earlier drillings would have been in vain.
He has to be apparently passive to the
pain he is causing. Does he seem devoid of
feeling? In reality, of course, his passiveness
to suffering, his apparent lack of
feeling and his relentlessness are merely
motivated by common sense and consideration
for his patient, even though the
intolerable pain might persuade me otherwise.

For anyone who has undergone a
molar root treatment, two further points
will emerge or throw light on this problem.
The bacterial infection not only causes
excruciating pain, but the toxins released
into the blood will poison the patient to
such an extent that his very consciousness
may become clouded. He may scarcely
know what he is doing because of the pain
and poison. Then the dentist begins work
with his awful drill. The pain becomes
more excruciating until the center of infection
is reached. Then the poison pressure
is released, and immediate relief is
felt though it is not yet complete. As soon
as no more poison is being released into
the blood, the head begins to clear and the
pain to subside.

First, then, in order to remove the
hurt of decay, sometimes more pain has to
be inflicted — worse than that of the
original sickness. But the worst pain acts
therapeutically on the first pain and purges
it away. Second, only when the basic
trouble begins to be cured does clarity of
thought return.

The Scriptural Position

Scripture teaches, in essence, precisely
this view on the meaning of suffering.
The fall introduced the "decay" of
humanity and nature resulting in the
hurt which afflicts us. To cure this festering
mess, the Bible says a good but relentless
surgeon is needed to drill and drill
until reality is too horrible to bear, until
flesh and blood can no longer take it —
until we believe we are forsaken by God
and man. The Bible describes in detail
both the setting in of the decay and its
radical, but painful cure. Our species has
decayed from its original state and become,
as it were, a lower or decayed
species, as I have described elsewhere.
The cure requires radical and drastic
treatment involving, first of all, the reaching
of the “focal point of the infection,” and
then the "removal of the deformities caused
by decay." Christ's death and resurrection
"reached the focal point" of the trouble, as
it were. But the "deformities of the decay"
have also to be corrected, and that takes
time and can be expected to be painful.

One of these "deformities" is connected
with the "clouding of the intellectual
and rational processes" which accompanies
the fall. The apostle described
them in Romans 1 as a "darkening of the
mind" so that the normal logical thought
processes for which we were designed
become garbled. One of the by-products of
suffering is seen here. For although suffering
and toxins may "knock us silly," the
removal of the latter can bring clarity of
thought. It is a fact that sin darkens the
mind. The corollary that redemption and
holiness enlighten the mind is also true.
For salvation not only redeems us from a
lost eternity; it also redeems us from a
lost, clouded, befuddled consciousness at
present. By taking away our sin, we become
saved for eternity. But we must not
forget that this same saving process brings
light and radiance to the heart and the
intellect right now, the process being one
of growth — growth in this life.

Accurate Surgery Or Wholesale

Can the skilled, accurately aimed
work of the dentist on a tooth with its
concomitant pain and healing, be compared
with the wild, indisciplined, purely
destructive agony which afflicts much of
mankind today? Here again, for any satisfactory
answer, we must turn back to
the archetype of all barbarous suffering,
namely, the cruel cross.

Is it possible to believe that when
wicked men, inspired by hatred and jealousy,
decided to take Jesus, hold a mock
trial, scourge him, display him all night for
the raucous amusement of the troops and
then finally drive iron stakes through his
hands and feet raising him on a cross to
bleed and suffocate to death — can we
reasonably hold that such a performance
was the work of a skilled surgeon in his
efforts to cure the world of its disease?

The Exact Therapy Of The Cross

The Christian position is frankly that
this was the case: that God, with the
butchery of the cross, did cure the world
of its disease; that the cross was the work
of a skilled surgeon, even though it looked
from the human point of view like the
exclusively destructive and adventitious
work of the ribald Roman soldiers and
hateful Pharisees. It looks so very much
like this that the cross was considered by
the Greeks to be so unworthy of Divinity
that it was a sheer “scandal.” But the fact
is, outward appearances may deceive.

The reason for this deception is simple.
Outwardly wicked men put him to death
and that was all that man ever saw of the
process. But behind the scenes the great
surgeon did an unseen work through
Christ's suffering. Christ took into his
own body the very “virus” which was at the
root of man's sickness — the turning of
man's back upon the only good one and
his perfect will. The Bible says that this
turning is "sin." It is as though Christ in
his death took the organism of decay (sin)
away from me, as well as the toxic products
of decay (sins) and allowed the organism
to be cultured in his body until it
killed him. A parasite may kill the host
organism, as when the influenza virus
kills the man it lives on as a parasite. But
in killing the host it also kills itself at the
same time. So Christ took on the causative
organism (sin) together with its toxins
(sins) so that mankind could be freed from
both by embracing his act.

This was the secret surgery or therapy
which went on unseen to the human eye
when they crucified him. Thus, the senselessness
of the cross is only superficial —
superficial to the uninitiated. Its senselessness
becomes sense to those who
probe to the bottom of the mystery and
find that he did, in fact, bear their sin and
sins in his own body on the tree.

Christ at Calvary reversed the process
of rejecting God's known will by
turning to, embracing and doing God's
known will, even though it meant his own
suffering and death. Man's act in turning
away from God was reversed by Christ
when he embraced God for us anew with
his will. However, he embraced not only
the basic cause of the ill — the turning
away — but he took on himself the consequences,
the "metabolic products," as it
were, of that fatal, wrong choice. He took
my sickness and my sicknesses on himself.
No one knows just how he accomplished
this, just what mechanism he
used. All we know is that we could not do
it, for none of us could die in a valid way
before God for the sin of another. The
Father gave his permission and command
to Christ to lay down his life as a ransom
for many. And Christ obediently did just
that. The man Christ reversed Man's

The Scriptures teach one other point
on the meaning of suffering. Hebrews 5:8
teaches that even the Son of God learned
obedience by the things he suffered. If the
suffering of the dreadful Cross produced
positive results in the Son of God in this
way, perhaps we are justified in thinking
that even dreadful butchery of this son
may not be entirely negative in its effects
even in our own case.

A Less Ugly Way?

This is, I suppose, the legal way of
looking at the therapy Christ accomplished
for me at the cross. As such, it is of vast
importance, providing, as it does, the
basis of salvation from the guilt of sin for
eternity. Some will say it is horrible. It is.
To think that God could find no other
method than a bloody cross, cruel iron
nails through his hands and feet, before
he could redeem me from Adam's fatal
mistake, fills me with dismay. Surely a
more genteel, aesthetically acceptable
method could have been found for such a
momentous piece of therapy.

This brings us to the second point we
must make on this subject. It concerns
the blood, the sweat and the desolation of
the cross of Calvary, in short, the ugliness
and horror of such a piece of restorative
therapy. The utter cruelty of it shocks
even wicked men. Let us look, then, at this
second great problem of the cross — its

It is written of Christ: "In the days of
his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and
supplications, with loud cries and tears,
to him who was able to save him from
death, and he was heard for his godly fear.
Although he was a son, he learned obedience
through what he suffered; and being
made perfect he became the source of
eternal salvation to all who obey him."

This is an almost incredible statement
for the writer of the letter to the
Hebrews to have made. The Son of God
had always been perfect from eternity
until he came into time at the incarnation.
During the incarnation he was without
sin and therefore still perfect. What the
writer is teaching here will answer our
question as to why God chose such a cruel
method of redemptive therapy.

Made Perfect

The process of “being made perfect”
referred to here means, in this context
being "made mature." If a child is perfect
in mind and body, there is nothing we can
complain about. But his perfection as a
child needs to grow into the mature perfection
of an adult. This process is one of
growth in body, mind and experience.
There is no quick way around it. To be
genuine, it must be gone through experimentally.

This is exactly what Christ went
through as a man. He was perfect from a
child onward. But the Bible says he grew
in wisdom and stature — that is, he
matured by his experience as a man. Even
though he was the second Person of the
Trinity, he was perfected by growing up as
a man, for he gathered actual experience
of manhood which he lacked experimentally
before the incarnation. He certainly
knew all about manhood before he became
a man, because he was omniscient.
But now he experienced manhood in the
body — and matured or became experienced,
and therefore perfected, in it.

Now notice what some of this manhood
experience involved for Christ —
something he, as God, had not experienced
as a man before: "In the days of his flesh,
Jesus offered up prayers and supplications,
with loud cries and tears, to him
who was able to save him from death." It
was the fight between the will to be obedient
and the terrible reality of a bloody
death on the tree. Here we have anxiety,
anguish and suffering—right up to bloody
sweat — in anticipation of the abyss of
such a death. He matured as a man by the
experience of anguished prayer in faith to
him who could deliver him. We are assured
that he was heard because of his godly
fear. But he was only saved from death by
going down through death and thus being
led out of it after tasting it.

The result, then, of this seemingly
unreasonable and cruel death of the cross
and the death which preceded it was that
although he was a Son, yet he learned
obedience through what he suffered. Of
course, he had always been obedient to
the Father's will — the two wills were
always congruent and the Father loved
the Son and the Son the Father. But here
was a new experience of the anguish of
facing death such as all creatures, but not
God, face. The God of life was to die for all
his creatures and share all their ugly

This anguish and suffering of the
cross and the preceding events demonstrated
that Christ was perfectly obedient
to the Father in all things. The experience
of the unnameable pain, anguish and
despair of the cross did something to the
incarnate Son of God which would have
been impossible before the incarnation.
The discipline, the setting of his face as a
flint to go to Jerusalem to face it all, the
refusal of even the analgesic (the myrrh)
before the nails were driven through him,
all that perfected even him, the Son of God
— as Man. Thus, the fact of the cross laid
down the legal basis for our salvation, but
the bloody cross showed what suffering
and anguish can do if accepted as Jesus
accepted them. His death was expiatory
for sin. But the manner of his death served
at the same time as a teacher of obedience
to God the Man; it was a maturer, a
perfecter of the perfect one. If the Son of
God as man was matured in his experience
and learned obedience by it then we
find yet another secret, hidden element in
the mode of "therapy" God introduced by
his Son to cure the creation of its fatal

It will be obvious then, that, purely
legally, Christ's bare death — by any
method—would have secured our salvation
for eternity. However, it was, perhaps,
not immediately obvious why such a
shocking and barbarous route to death
needed to be taken—a route which made
the cross a scandal to the Greeks and a
stumbling block to the Jews. No wonder
so few of the Greeks or Jews could under-
stand it without the extra information
given on the subject of suffering by the
New Testament—and by experience too.

Suffering — Not Senseless

Thus, the anguish and suffering of
the cross are not senseless. They are
refined, even though drastic, therapy,
hidden to the eyes of the mortal man in
general. But their function teaches us
why the whole Bible is full of references to
pain, suffering and anguish. Every person
who embraces the death of Christ (and his
resurrection) as his basis for eternal salvation
is warned to expect, as a matter of
routine, sufferings of some sort. Christ
having suffered in the flesh, he is told, is
warning us to arm ourselves with the
same mind—that is, to be on the lookout
for the squalls of suffering which certainly
await the consistent Christian.  In giving
us salvation, Christ suffered. In accepting
that salvation, suffering will certainly find
us out.

Further, we are told that the disciple
is not above his Master even in these
matters. This means that, in this context,
if the perfection or maturation of the
Master could not be effected without the
anguish of suffering, neither can the
maturation or perfection of the disciple be
accomplished by any other means. The
Christian who thinks he can get through
without this sort of perfecting is living in a
fool's paradise. The disciple is not above
his Master even in learning matters.

The New Testament is full of teaching
of this kind, teaching which is seldom
even touched upon today, for by its very
nature it is unpopular to the natural
human. Paul the apostle, when writing to
the Philippians, informed them that "It
has been granted to you that for the sake
of Christ you should not only believe in
him but also suffer for his sake." Surely
it would have been unnecessary for Paul
to have told the Philippians that it had
been granted them not only to believe but
also to suffer if just believing without
suffering was an ideal state. Clearly, no
one wants suffering. But in the light of the
above it must be a special privilege. Christ
did not relish it. He sweated blood in
anticipation of it. Yet he endured it as a
privilege in view of the glory of the maturity
gained by it.

This means, again, that even for us
mortals “senseless” suffering need not be
pointless. It may be more than the mere
adventitious agony produced in a mortal
body of flesh and blood. It can be the
gateway to special results in our characters.
In any case, it is poor policy to avoid
suffering by disobedience, for Christ embraced
trials and suffered because of obedience.
It is the Christian path to try to
follow the same policy. For by doing so
Christ has been matured and exalted by
the Father to his right hand. The Father
has committed the entire government of
the world into Christ's capable hands —
hands rendered mature and fit for the job
by being obedient even to letting them be
pierced at the cross.

Is it because the fruit of suffering is so
little known in the Western churches that
we have so few "giants" in the land today?

In the East the total number of Christians
has been reduced greatly by suffering.
But the proportion of "giants," mature
Christians, has certainly increased there.

Promised Tribulation

The Bible—both the Old and the New
Testament—is crammed with references
to suffering, anguish, tribulation, grief,
trial and affliction. For example, there is
this rather neglected text by the apostle
Paul: "But whatever gain I had, I counted
a loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count
everything as loss because of the surpassing
worth of knowing Christ Jesus my
Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss
of all things, and count them as refuse, in
order that I may gain Christ and be found
in him, not having a righteousness of my
own, based on law, but that which is
through faith in Christ...that I may know
him and the power of his resurrection,
and may share his sufferings, becoming
like him in his death, that if possible I may
attain the resurrection (out) from (among)
the dead."

The Reason Why

It is clear from the letter to the Romans
that Paul knew and experienced
salvation on the basis of a gift of God and
not on the basis of any works he had done.
Nothing he could do could save him from
the penalty of sin. On the Damascus road
he had learned that his own works could
not help him, but that Christ's work could
and did. Why, then, does Paul now insist
so much on the value of the work of
suffering he had done in losing everything
for Christ's sake? Those losses would
never save him.

As we read the cited passage carefully
it becomes obvious that Paul is referring
to the value of suffering and losses in
learning the surpassing worth of knowing
Christ. He is referring to a process which
can only be described as one of Christian
maturity or perfection. He suffered the
loss of every privilege which he had possessed
as a well-respected Pharisee in
order to be obedient to Christ. No doubt,
this caused anguish. But his losses were
not only abstract. He was whipped, imprisoned,
mishandled, shipwrecked and
generally maltreated as he went off scouring
the world for Christ's sake. He couples
these experiences with the greater experience
which resulted directly from knowing
the surpassing worth of Christ. Most
of us Western Christians know little of
this. Is it because we have not sought out
the only maturing process known in
Scripture leading to this knowledge —
and to Christ? Paul's obedience, like
Christ's obedience, in suffering while doing
the will and Word of God is the key to
such depth of experience.

But more about the maturing process
is to be discovered in Philippians 3.
Christ was exalted to power because he
was fitted for it by the things he obediently
suffered. Paul says in effect precisely the
same of himself and his own exaltation.
For he couples his loss and his suffering
with a capacity to take part in what he
calls the "out-resurrection" (exanastasis)…*

Apparently Paul's aim was to accept
the same type of loss and suffering that
his Master had gone through in order to
become prepared himself for high office
with Christ. All this is based on the free gift
of salvation by the blood of Christ. But in
building upon this sure basis of free salvation,
a maturing or a perfection process
occurs by means of suffering in the will of
God, foreseen both by Christ and by Paul.
Paul's attitude of heart is confirmed by his
instruction to Timothy: "If we have died
with him we shall also live with him; if we
endure, we shall also reign with him; if we
deny him, he also will deny us." This
surely clinches the matter. The Christian
owes his redemption to the free gift of God.
But he owes his degree of exaltation to
close knowledge of the surpassing worth
of Christ and close association with him
and his purposes in his kingdom, and to
the maturation processes which fitted
even the Son for his supreme office in the
kingdom. The experiences of suffering,
endurance and anguish in obedience to
the will of God, no matter how outwardly
senseless and adventitious they may appear,
are the therapeutic instruments
God used on his Son and uses on all his
redeemed who declare themselves willing
for the process.

The same process produces not only
the surpassing knowledge of his will, but
it also makes us useful to others. "For
because he has himself been tempted and
has suffered, he is able to help those who
are tempted."  On this basis, who could
be better fitted to help mankind than the
Son of Man who has been through the
same kind of temptation — though far
more acute? This establishes a bond of
confidence between us and him. He understands
because he has experienced
the fire of anguish. Therefore he can help
us. Our lot and his as mortals were once
congruous. It gives me confidence towards
him. If I suffer, I can help those who
are suffering, even as Christ has helped


This leads us to the third point. The
first point was that Christ died and rose
again to justify and redeem us, giving us
the basis for fellowship with the holy God.
The second point was that his sufferings
and endurance were the means of qualification
and maturation for his exaltation
to the right hand of God the Father. In a
parallel manner, the sufferings of Christians
are calculated to mature them for
high office in his kingdom. The third point
is also directly concerned with suffering
and its consequences. Peter develops the
subject in saying: "Since therefore Christ
suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with
the same thought (mind or will), for whoever
has suffered in the flesh has ceased
from sin, so as to live the rest of the time
in the flesh no longer by human passions
but by the will of God."

Peter was referring to "suffering in the
flesh," which he says, leads to ceasing
from sin in the flesh. But the same principle
also applies to matters not directly
concerned with the flesh, as he also confirms:
"For one is approved if, mindful of
God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly."

This simply means that any discomfort
we have to endure because of our
faithfulness to God will eventually lead
to our being "approved.” In fact, Peter says
that as Christ suffered the same kind of
discomfort for our sakes, so he left us "an
example, that you should follow in his
steps."  This, then, is the line of action to
which we "have been called.”

Therefore, according to Peter, suffering
leads to ceasing from sin and approval
from God. Is it then any wonder that after
his death and resurrection, Christ asked
the disciples questions that bring the
whole problem of suffering into focus:
“Was it not necessary that Christ should
suffer these things and enter into his
glory?” “The Christ should suffer and on
the third day arise from the dead.” The
same topic was the subject of Paul’s three week
long argument with the Jews in
Thessalonica: “And Paul went in, as was
his custom, and for three weeks he argued
with them from the Scriptures, explaining
and proving that it was necessary for the
Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.”

Among other things, suffering made
Christ “approved.”

It is generally conceded that Christ's
death is basic to the Christian's salvation.
But the suffering type of death is not
usually emphasized. Perhaps it is too
barbaric for our cultured society to bear.
Regardless of our reactions to the awfulness
of death on the cross, God chose it in
order to bring to mankind a full salvation
— not only from the guilt of sin but also
from its power, not only to save us from
eternal damnation but also to demonstrate
to us how to become approved in
the same way that Christ became approved.
In fact it was to teach us how to
cease from sin.

Rejoicing In Suffering

Paul sums it all up: "So we do not lose
heart. Though our outer nature is wasting
away, our inner nature is being renewed
every day. For this slight momentary affliction
is preparing for us an eternal
weight of glory beyond all comparison."
Clearly, Christ's death and resurrection
are the cornerstones of any salvation that
will take us to heaven. But Paul is talking
about something built on the foundation
of salvation as a superstructure. It is an
eternal, incomparable weight of glory
founded upon salvation, God's free gift.
And it is our suffering, borne in the will of
God, which makes us approved for incomparable
glory, just as afflictions and suffering
brought approval to Christ after he
had patiently and triumphantly borne
them. Temporary afflictions exchanged
for an incomparable weight of glory! Paul
considered it a bargain. So he acted upon
it immediately!

A Possible Misunderstanding

Of course, one might say that if suffering
is so useful and well rewarded in the
will of God, then let us afflict and scourge
our fellowmen all we can and seek suffering
ourselves. We are doing them a favor
by hurting them or ourselves. This seems
to echo the old argument: Let us sin
willfully so that grace may abound. Let us
seek and provoke suffering! God forbid!
The dentist does not willfully or wantonly
bore holes anywhere and everywhere in
our teeth to stop the future possibility of
decay. God is the surgeon, so let him
operate just where it is necessary. He may
and will use wicked men as his scalpel. He
has promised to punish them for their evil
intentions because they afflict others just
for the sake of hurting and killing. Though
he uses the same evil for his purposes,
that doesn't give us the right to sin so that
grace may abound by hurting others or
ourselves unnecessarily.

To indiscriminately inflict pain is
wanton. Jesus never regarded pain and
suffering as good things in themselves, for
he abolished them by healing on many
occasions. He also told us to do the same.
The Scripture speaks of death itself as the
last enemy. Pain falls into the same category.
Pain and death entered into the
world by the fall, when man turned his
back upon God. The point is that God
reverses the evils of pain and death to
produce a glorious result — to glorify his
Son and to glorify man when they both
withstand and endure pain and death in
doing his will. This is how God triumphs
over evil — not by "stopping" it, but by
using it to his greater glory.

Gentling Process

A minister wrote to me on the subject
of the meekness of Jesus, pointing out
that the word meek is often misunderstood.
In the context used in the Sermon
on the Mount the word translated by
"meek" really means "gentled" or "broken
in" as those terms are applied to horses
trained to work in a harness. The minister
recounted how, as a boy, he had worked
on a farm and helped with "gentling"
horses, breaking them in for farm work.
Later the horses were often used for pulling
out tree stumps prior to preparing
wasteland for arable purposes.

The untamed wild horses were useless
for doing the skilled work necessary
for removing tree stumps. They had to be
thoroughly "tamed" before they could work
constructively with other horses in teams.
The taming or "gentling" process was a
prerequisite for useful work. Once they
had been submitted to the sometimes
harsh process of breaking in, which involved
punishment as well as rewards,
they worked productively for the rest of
their lives and obviously enjoyed it thoroughly.
As their experience grew, the reins
could be left on their necks and they
would go by themselves from tree stump
to tree stump, assume the correct position,
wait for the chains to be hitched to
the trunk, and then with all their strength
—nipping and nudging one another in the
process — pull out the stump. If a stump
did not come up at the first pull they would
move to a more favorable angle and try

Affliction and suffering can work as a
"gentling" process, fitting us for God's
work in the present world and the next.
This is the true meaning of the word
"meek" as Jesus used it. What if the
abysmal suffering of mankind and of nature
is now being used in God's good
hands to "gentle" us all — even as it
"gentled" his Son? The stakes are high
indeed. Suffering makes us kind to others
who suffer. But what if a bloody war, a rule
of tyranny is really working out an incomparable
weight of glory for all those who
allow themselves to be "gentled" and disciplined
thereby? If this is so, it would be
a fatal blow for the despair and nihilism
into which our generation is so obviously
falling. If eternal glory were to result (and
the Bible says it will), then we could, with
the Christians of old, rejoice in suffering
and jubilate with the apostle Paul: "We
rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that
suffering produces endurance, and endurance
produces character, and character
produces hope, and hope does not
disappoint us, because God's love has
been poured into our hearts."

Again, Why All The Barbarism And

Some time ago I had the pleasure of
discussing this and related questions with
a U.S. Air Force chaplain. We came to two
main conclusions, which, as we shall see,
throw light on the above problem:

1. We all have some sort of freedom to
choose among the paths in life which are
made available to us. But we never have
any freedom of choice as to the consequences
of any path we choose. For these
consequences are the built-in properties
of the way which we may freely have
chosen. For example, though I choose the
way of cheating in examinations, I cannot
choose the consequences of cheating. They
are built into the way known as cheating.
Similarly, I may freely choose to abuse
drugs — it's entirely my own choice. But,
having chosen this way, I cannot choose
the consequences of drug abuse such as
drug dependence, liver necrosis, delirium
tremens or hallucinations. They may be
built into the path of drug abuse. The
choice of the way is free, but not its

Man chose and still chooses to turn
his back on the only good — God. Before
doing this he was automatically part of
paradise, for paradise was everywhere
that God was. Having chosen good (God),
paradise could not be chosen — it was
part of the way with God, paradise was
"built in" it. Of course, paradise included
eternal and abundant life. However, later,
in turning his back on God, man refused
the way of paradise and chose the alternative
way built into the choice of following
Satan. The built-in consequences included
such matters as pain, sorrow and death.
Thus man found that after making his
perfectly free choice for Satan, he automatically
began to reap the consequences of this choice.

What can be done about the situation?
To get man out from "under the
harrow," to "pull the tines” out of his flesh
now that they are there is painful too.
Piercing flesh hurts in the first place, but
so does pulling out the tines.

2. Suffering is not necessarily a judgment.
Christ has assured us on that
point. In a way, suffering was a judgment
— the judgment following a wrong
choice. But curing the consequences of
the fall is painful too. When we suffer, the
pain may be either punitive or curative. It
may also be a mixture of the two. Until we
get behind the scenes of the material life,
we shall probably never be able to sort out
the two. Nevertheless, both kinds of agony
can serve to heal us.

Importance Of The Stakes

There is just one more point to be
made in dealing with our problem. Probably
few of us know what we really believe
until we are asked to suffer some inconvenience
or even pain for it. How much are
we willing to suffer for what we really
believe? The length we go along that road
shows the depth of our belief. The Bible
holds up Christ as an example — he
suffered unto death because he totally
believed in redeeming us. Some, like
Falstaff, run away to fight another day,
believing that discretion is the better part
of valor. Surely such persons have shallow
faith in what they fight for!

Christ loved his own, right up to the
cruel death on the cross. This fact establishes
forever his absolute faith in his
calling to redeem the world. Second, it
establishes the degree of his love toward
those whom he purposes to redeem.

Therefore, it is obvious that suffering
may act as a sieve or a filter to sift out the
lighter elements of love and faith and
separate them from the deeper ones.
Suffering may show us what we really do
believe as compared to what are only
words and hot air. The little suffering that
I personally have experienced has certainty
shown me the shallowness of my
faith in many directions. It produces a
clarity of thought in these matters which
is vital, for it leads me to repentance at the
sight of my own shallowness in eternal
matters. Therefore, suffering can act as
the filter I personally need to sort out the
wheat from the chaff in my own dealings
with God, the good one. Fire must separate
the dross from the gold in normal
refining processes. But after enduring the
fire, the gold is pure gold, though it may be
less in volume than before the fiery refining
process. Similarly, strong winds blow
away the chaff and leave the corn.

The Joy Of Relief

In C.S. Lewis’ famous Screwtape Letters
the "Law of Undulation" is used to
describe the ups and downs to which all
humans are subject. If we experience
heights of joy, we shall also experience
depths of misery. This is a perfectly normal
process to which all flesh is heir.

This idea may be applied to our interpretation
of the suffering of mankind. The
person who has experienced the horrors
of great pain is the most thankful, positively
grateful, for any periods in which he
experiences less or no pain. Such joy is
unknown to the man who has not experienced

The apostle John in the Revelation
speaks of this type of exultation when he
describes the arrival in heaven of those
"who came out of great tribulation."  By
the very contrast that which they had
suffered made their joy the greater.

It may be legitimately asked why the
fall of man should have of necessity brought
the suffering and death of which the Bible
speaks. One can understand it having
brought suffering and death to Adam. But
why to the rest of the world? It does not
help much to maintain that Adam was the
head of visible creation which fell and that
it fell with him. The creation under Adam
was not rational as was Adam and therefore
could not possibly bear the guilt that
he, being rational, had to bear.

Our answer to this question really
depends on our conception of the state of
nature before the fall of Adam. When the
Bible maintains that death and decay did
not exist before Adam's fall, it is really
introducing a concept entirety beyond the
power of mortal man today to conceive of.
For the idea of no death and decay cuts
clean across our total experience of the
laws of thermodynamics, particularly the
second law. It implies no ageing — no
entropy increase. The second law states
that although the total energy in the
cosmos remains constant the amount of
energy available to do useful work in the
cosmos is always getting smaller with the
passage of time. As I have pointed out
elsewhere, this again brings with it the
concept that chaos, disorder and decay
are always on the increase with the passage
of time in our total cosmos.

Illness, decay, suffering and death
can be regarded as accompanying symptoms
of entropy increase. In fact, we measure
the passage of time itself, in the last
analysis, by the rate of entropy increase—
how fast a clock, atomic or otherwise,
runs down. The corollary holds equally
well that without time there could be no
increase in entropy. The same meaning
conveyed by "timelessness" and "no entropy
increase" could be communicated
by saying that an “eternal” or changeless
state had been reached.

The creation of Adam, as described in
Genesis, corresponds roughly to this external
state of affairs. For we are introduced
to him in Genesis not as a growing
baby or as a maturing young man but as
an ageless person. Even Eve, produced
from Adam's flesh, was apparently ageless
too — she was, at least, no infant when
she appeared to Adam. In their innocent
state there is no record of their having
children, although Eve certainty had the
sexual organs of a woman and Adam had
those of a man. If they lived in a pre-fall
world where no decay, no death and no
second law of thermodynamics ruled, then
reproduction there was not necessary —
and, indeed, would probably have been an

A consequence of all this is that a
species living in a world in which the
second law did not exist must have been
vastly different from what we would expect
today where the second law reigns
supreme. For example, Adam before the
fall could walk and talk freely with the
Eternal, whose infinite dimensions he
experienced as a matter of course. Traces
of this ability are still seen in Moses and
some of the prophets who moved in the
eternal realm much more easily than we
do. Christ did, too.

If these considerations concerning
Adam's state before his fall are correct
then everything in that primeval state
must have been permanent or “eternal”—
without time, entropy increase or decay,
as they are in heaven or paradise. If the fall
took place in such conditions of eternity
and these eternal conditions had remained
after the fall, this would have meant that
the fall and its consequences are eternal
too, and therefore irreversible. Adam would
have turned his back eternally upon God
and good, and his chances of returning
would have been ruined forever. This is
probably the state of the lost angels and
Satan, who, living in eternity where no
change in time can be, are lost forever.

Presumably, then, for this reason
God threw Adam and Eve, and the creation
over which they had been set, out of
eternity — and its permanence in paradise
— into time with its decay, sorrow
and death. God introduced the second
law, the law of impermanence and death,
as a measure to counteract the "freezing"
of Adam's fall. So, he rendered Adam's
kingdom and its sin subject to time, the
passage of thus providing a way back into
the kingdom of love for which he had
created man.

Death and decay became fully developed
as a means of return when Christ
used death to overcome the fall on the
cross. This made the second law, and its
accompanying culmination in death, the
grand highway back from the fall to the
kingdom, thus confirming what we have
said above about its significance. Of course,
the introduction of death and decay to
biology introduced the necessity of reproduction,
which did not exist in the
realm of the eternal —just as it does not
exist in the realms of angels, who are
neither married nor given in marriage.
Reproduction is a consequence, at least to
some extent, of the introduction of suffering
and death.

The undoing of the consequences of
the fall is best seen in Christ's deed on the
cross. On dealing with the cause of the fall,
in embracing God's will, Christ in the flesh
became Christ the immortal man (the last
Adam), rejoicing at the right hand of God.
The undoing of the causes of the fall undid
the consequences of the fall. Man, first of
all in Christ, then took on the properties
and attributes of the original created species
known as man. He could again move
in time and eternity with equal facility, as
demonstrated by his meeting with the
disciples on the Emmaus road after his
resurrection. The same process (the
reopening of paradise) is open to all who
wish for it and seek it in the same way that
Christ did.

The conclusion we draw, then, as far
as our original question is concerned, is
that time and its concomitant decay, suffering
and death were introduced to the
whole of Adam's cosmos so as to permit a
way back for Adam's cosmos. If Adam and
his kingdom had remained in eternity,
then Adam's sin would have remained
forever "frozen." Seen in this light, the
tortures of our present time seem to be
necessary mercies consistent with a God
intent on restoring to man and his cosmos
a kingdom of love, and intent on restoring
to Adam his own image.

The undoing of creation was accompanied
by the introduction of the second
law and its concomitant death and decay.
This is really the opposite of a creation and
its concomitant decrease in entropy. The
abolition of the second law, suffering and
death, is, in reality the same thing as re-creation
and is spoken of as such in the
Revelation of John.

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