Surveying the evangelical landscape, those of us of Calvinist or Reformation conviction are supposed to be the intellectual types, the so-called smarty-pants always ready with an answer. At any rate, that's our reputation. But what do we say when it comes to the difficult and intensely personal "why" questions that arise in the midst of suffering? This is our topic for this issue of Modern Reformation.
We begin with the White Horse Inn radio hosts in an introductory discussion of the book of Job. Here we learn that this story about suffering is actually a story about something bigger, though God doesn't explain that larger perspective to Job. In this vein, Editor-in-Chief Michael Horton explores Jesus' climactic sign in an article on the raising of Lazarus in John's Gospel. The story "isn't really about Lazarus," Horton reminds us, but about seeing Jesus as "the end, and not just the means" of life in this mortal coil. Ultimately, Jesus did not really go to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead, "but to announce himself as the gospel."
Later in this issue, pastor and WHI host Kim Riddlebarger takes up two very curious passages of Scripture: Luke 13 about the tower of Siloam and John 9 about the man born blind. "Who sinned that this man was born blind?" the people ask Jesus. Here our Savior's answer demonstrates the futility of trying to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between a particular sin and most suffering. Instead, Jesus simply tells them of his larger purpose: "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the words of God might be displayed in him."
What are those works of God? Brian Cosby applies the wisdom of the Puritans in providing solid biblical reflections on these "what" and "why" questions. Then, Lutheran Rick Ritchie argues that in many—if not most—cases, it's not so much that the "why" questions are definitively answered, as that they have a way of fading in poignancy as life moves on and happiness returns. This highlights God's goodness and is even a sign pointing to the fulfilment of God's good intention to one day restore all things. Also in this issue, Reformed minister Brian Lee asks what sanctification should feel like, looking to the Heidelberg Catechism for solid answers. And Reverend Zach Keele explores the idea of a "soft opening" in relation to John the Baptist's announcement of the arrival of the Lamb of God.
Throughout we are reminded that we form a fellowship of sufferers, together with Christ in whom we find life, hope, and peace. But the glory of Christ was the way of the cross, or as Rev. Keele says, "Isaiah's Servant was the Suffering Servant." May we all arrive at the place where—in spite of the difficulties of this life—we declare with Job that the Lord's name be praised, for we know that our Redeemer lives.
Ryan Glomsrud (D.Phil., University of Oxford) is Executive Editor for Modern Reformation and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the History Department at Harvard University. He earned his M.A. in Historical Theology from Westminster Seminary California and B.A. from Wheaton College, Illinois.
Issue: "WHY?" March/April 2014 Vol. 23 No. 2 Page number(s): 4
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