Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. - Irenaeus

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Fatalistic Gospel

Is it really good news?
by Dale Brown

Christians often adopt the statement of Gamaliel as their creed when faced with theological positions that are difficult to sort out. His advice to the Jews was to not appose the Christians for "if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it" (Acts 5:38-39). Though Gamaliel’s advice is found in the Bible it is not Christian theology. Islam has grown to include nearly a fifth of the world’s population yet it is clearly a deceptive non-Christian cult, and it is not "coming to nought".

Since the beginning of time man has struggled with how to interpret pain and suffering. The extreme fatalistic view is that all is from God therefore embrace every painful experience that comes along. The Christian Science extreme is one of denial, that is, pain is only an allusion and if we ignore it it does not exist. The eastern religion view is that if we could meditate or pray the right mantra, one can reach nirvana bliss, and pain will no longer touch us. The Biblical view is that pain, suffering and death are a reality, yet are not the norm. They have been introduced by Adam’s sin into a perfect creation which now carries with it this blemish, which is referred to in Genesis as a curse. Added to this already fallen state, the law of Moses claims God rewards those who seek Him and that even more pain and suffering can be added to an already fallen creation by more sinning.

The gospel sheds some light on the subject yet we are still left grappling with the interpretation problem. A product of dispensational theology is that all of our rewards for following God and the gospel we will reap once we get to heaven. We often hear Christians who are going through cancer or some other painful situation in their life claiming it is some form of gift from God. Yet, these same people will be going to doctors and spending large sums of money and energy trying to get relief from this so called gift. Why does the Bible teach us to pray for the sick if it is a gift from God?

Jesus instructed us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. It is clear there will be no sickness and pain in heaven. He also said He came that we might have life and have life more abundantly. To even quote some of these verses makes one a target of criticism by those who have seen the shortcomings of what some call the health and wealth gospel. We cannot deny however that the gospel is supposed to be good news and Jesus "went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil." This suggests that sickness is not a gift from God at all but an affliction from the devil. His model prayer even tells us to pray for deliverance from evil or the "evil one." And, oh yes, the devil has a will as well. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy."

It is true Jesus said, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." Amidst our weakness, pain and suffering the God of mercy is always about his work of redemption and restoration, manifesting Himself to us. Apostle Paul talked of having a thorn in his flesh which he attributed to the devil, not a gift from God. He prayed that God would deliver him from this thorn yet God allowed it for the sake of keeping Paul’s pride in check. Strangely enough this was a manifestation of God’s mercy and love.

There is one sickness that none of us will be healed from. That is, our last one. However the Bible tells us that, "The last enemy that will be abolished is death."

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