The previous post about my brother Mike was hard to write.
I phoned my Mom to warn her because she reads my blog and I knew it might be hard for her to read.
But today I need to return to Mike again…another phone call.
That post entitled “Theodicy” on August 18 explained that many of the tragic things that happen in life are due to accidents. Mike died in 1989 due to an accident.
This flies in the face of many Christians who believe in theological determinism.*
In Mike’s case, theological determinists think that God brought about Mike’s death for a reason. I was in Marion Kentucky on the day of his death and I have a hard time thinking that God had anything to do with the pain that my Dad and Mom were going through that day.
Theological determinists [a very popular Christian belief] feel that God directed the whole episode. He knew what was going to happen, and in fact He had a reason for Mike to die. God may not have been the direct agent that caused the death but He planned it and is ultimately the cause for the effect.
Our culture is obsessed with causes for effects. When anything happens, we seek out reasons. In times of tragedy, too many Christians pin the cause on God; the loss of a baby in childbirth, the unexpected death of a loved one due to an auto accident or the horrific loss of a person due to criminal homicide.
Too many Christians lose their faith in the process.
They can’t accept that God can be the author of so much pain.
This past week the world paused to view the image of a Syrian boy who was pulled from the rubble of the Syrian city of Aleppo. We paused because we were shocked that this was happening and suddenly the news media put it right in front of us. The picture was hard to look at. To make matters worse, the following day after the boy was pulled from the rubble of the bombing, his 10 year old brother died from the same bombing episode.
How can we love a God who can be the author of so much pain?
Let’s take theological determinism and apply it to this situation. God had a reason for the pain this child experienced. It was God’s will. God wanted to take his older brother. It is all part of God’s plan.
Or the horrific circumstances are the result of the choices of man.
Let’s return to my brother Mike. Mike had a difficult life. He suffered from epileptic seizures due to a very painful blow to the head on a construction project. He had a horrible fall from an upper level of a building and landed on his hands which broke all his fingers. Yet Mike chose to continue his life as an EMT with the Crittenden County Ambulance Service. I can tell you that if you had a need, Mike would help you in any way that he could.
He was a member of Marion Christian Church and he knew God.
Mike did not have to help the farmer repair the standpipe for his pond that day in 1989. He had worked hard the previous day on his farm and was probably too tired to take on this task. But he had the skills to do this work and he was an experienced scuba diver. He also lived his life helping people.
He chose to take on this task.
We are not pawns on a big chessboard that God controls. We have choices. God gave us the human power to choose. Sometimes we make good choices and sometimes we make bad ones but God has made a world that has certain rules. We have the freedom to take risks in life where we challenge the rules or push them to the limit. Pastor Hamilton cites the following: “God allows us to build homes in flood plains, and hurricane-prone areas. God lets us smoke cigarettes, overeat, or become addicted to alcohol. And God allows us to abuse our freedom” [Seeing Gray, 128]. In the case of the poor Syrian boy, he was caught in the cross-fire of a multi-faceted civil war where people are hurting and killing one another, including non-combatants like innocent women and children.
Yes, my brother Mike may have died due to a tragic accident.
Also my brother Mike may have died due to his choices.
He chose to give of himself to help another.
I am proud of that choice. Proud of my brother.
*Theological determinism-God is involved in our world and has pre-determined everything that will happen on earth. God controls all things, knows all things and is all-powerful.