Tag Archives: tragedies

The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (Life’s Tragedies)

Life is, indeed, often tragic. But that’s why the GOSPEL is so critical! People need to hear the Good News about Jesus, put their faith in Him, and have their sins forgiven! Life will still bring tragedies, but one day . . . one day . . . He will make all things new!

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Posted by on June 18, 2020 in Calvin & Hobbes


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Some Thoughts on the Book “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” (Post #1) TRAGEDY!

This book, written by Martin Thielen, a United Methodist pastor, captured me with its title.  Many of us, I’m afraid, are content with a kind of minimalist Christianity, and I wanted to read this for some insight on that tendency.  However, as the next several posts will show, Thielen challenges us to give up certain beliefs which many Christians hold.  Some beliefs ought to be jettisoned.  Others, not so much.

The book is divided into two sections:  Part 1 lists “Ten Things Christians Don’t Need to Believe” and Part 2 is entitled “Ten Things Christians Do Need to Believe.”  Let’s think about the first thing Christians don’t need to believe.

1. God Causes Cancer, Car Wrecks, and Other Catastrophes:  Thielen subtitles this chapter “Although God can and does bring good results out of tragedy, God does not cause tragic events to occur.”  He rightly challenges Christians’ interpretations that God causes awful things to happen all the time (car wrecks, 911, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, etc.).  Some Christian leaders declared that 911 was God’s punishment on America for its immoral views of homosexuality and abortion; other Christian leaders pontificated that the Haiti earthquake was because of that country’s embrace of voodoo.

Thielen asks, “How can we love and serve a God who inflicts cancer on children, wipes out teenagers in car wrecks, destroys families in tornadoes, or kills hundreds of thousands of people in a tsunami or earthquake?” (p. 6).  “God,” Thielen says, “does not have a weekly quota of malignant tumors to distribute, heart attacks to pass out, or battlefield wounds to inflict.”

He refers to the tragedy of the tower falling and killing 18 workers in Luke 13:4-5 and concludes: “God didn’t cause that tragedy back then, and God doesn’t cause tragedies today.” [By the way, in this text Jesus doesn’t explain the WHY of vicious crimes or violent accidents.  He simply implies, “This life is dangerous.  Be ready to meet the Lord!”]

The author dogmatically declares: “God is not the author of suffering” and “God does not cause tragic events to occur.” (p. 8).

I certainly concur with the spirit of Thielen’s position.  God is not some angry, haphazard deity who doles out tragedies for sport.  But what biblical evidence does he have that God doesn’t cause tragedy?  What about Jesus’ purposely not keeping His friend Lazarus from dying (John 11)?  What would Thielen say about God executing Uzzah (2 Sam. 6) or Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5)?  What about His inflicting boils on the people of Ashdod because of the ark (I Sam. 5)?  God threatens His own people in Deuteronomy 28 when He says, “The Lord will afflict your knees and legs with painful boils that cannot be cured, spreading from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.” (v. 35).  How would he interpret the plagues of Egypt when God inflicted tragedy after tragedy upon that nation keeping His people captive (Exodus 5ff).  In fact, the Lord says in Exodus 9 – “I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.” (v. 14).

What does he do with a text like Exodus 4:11 where the Lord asks, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”?  Rather than unbiblically declaring that God doesn’t cause tragic events to occur, shouldn’t Thielen (and we) acknowledge that we don’t know why God causes or allows such events to take place?

There are many other examples of God’s sending or allowing to occur “tragic” events (some in judgment, such as His sending sickness or death upon the Corinthians for their abuse of the Lord’s Supper, I Cor. 11; some for His own purposes, such as all that happened to His righteous servant Job).

Thielen says he can’t love or serve a God who sends such tragedies.  But does his God know about those tragedies?  Does He (at least) allow them to take place?  If God doesn’t know such tragedies will occur, how can one say He is omniscient?  If He allows them but can’t prevent them, then what about His omnipotence?  (“Open theism” compromises God’s omniscience; Rabbi Harold Kushner compromises God’s omnipotence).

Conclusion for Chapter 1:  I too reject the idea of a God who cruelly deals out disasters for His entertainment.  But the problem isn’t God’s involvement in such tragedies, but our interpretations as to why such events occur.  YOUR THOUGHTS?




Is. re who makes the blind?

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Posted by on February 4, 2019 in tragedies


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Insight from a Blind Man — A Free Sermon Outline! (Part 1)

By God’s grace, I’ve been preaching since I was about sixteen years old or so (that’s sixty-two years!).  I’ve made every mistake in the book (I go over some of the most common mistakes in my booklet Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!).

I want to give away some of my favorite sermon outlines.  Hopefully, you will find these useful.

One sermon I’ve worked a lot on is entitled “Insight from a Blind Man” from John 9.  In fact, John 9 is the most extensively recorded miracle in the Bible and deserves much more than just one post.  I won’t reproduce the biblical text for you, but my major outline points with a bit of explanation.

I.  Tragedy Has Its Reasons! (vv. 1-5)

Jesus and His disciples encounter a man “blind from birth.”  How did they know he was blind from birth?  Perhaps his particular begging call was “Please help me.  Blind from birth!”  We don’t know.  But the disciples ask a critical question:  why?  They assume this man’s disability came from either his sin or his parents’ sin.  Jesus categorically rejects both of those answers (as only God can) and declares “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3).  If that were the only verse in the Bible that we had concerning tragedies, it ought to be enough!

If the Bible teaches a sovereign God — and it does — then whatever tragedy you or I face (in ourselves or in others) fits the category of “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  God can use our tragedies for His glory.  They are not purposeless!  Just because we may not know the specific reason for our tragedy does not mean no reason exists.

This is a powerful message that we can share with anyone.  When you and I begin to truly listen to the stories of lost people around us, they will begin to tell us about their tragedies.  And we can say as the Spirit leads us, “This has not happened to you by accident.  A loving, sovereign God wants to do something special in your life, through your tragedy!”  And then we can share with them one of our own tragedies.

As a teacher I sometimes give multiple-choice questions on exams.  Jesus basically says to His disciples, “Fellows, I don’t mind your multiple-choice question, but make sure you have the correct answer as one of the multiple choices!  Your letter ‘A’ (“this man sinned”) is not the right answer.  Your letter ‘B’ (“his parents sinned”) is not the right answer.  The right answer is “C’ — “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  (to be continued)



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Posted by on August 11, 2018 in john 9


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My Workshop “Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events” (for “Iron Sharpens Iron” conference) Part 5

Emmaus Bible College’s leadership conference “Iron Sharpens Iron” gives me the opportunity to present several workshops.  We’ve been thinking about my first workshop entitled —

“Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events”

We’ve noticed the first certainty which is: Man is fallen and capable of great evil. The second certainty is that  God is holy and will judge rightly. Third, we must teach that this life is brief– one must be ready to meet God!  And the fourth certainty that we must keep in mind is that man is still made in the image of God and is capable of incredible acts of kindness and heroism.

There are many other certainties that we could discuss, but the fifth that occurs to us this morning is this: Heaven and hell are real! Hell is not God’s over-reaction to sin, but rather the application of His righteousness to human depravity. We agree with C.S. Lewis who said, “In reality, along with the power to forgive, we have lost the power to condemn.”

The Bible is quite clear that we are not to seek vengeance ourselves, but to leave room for the wrath of God (Rom. 12:19). I’ve studied the wrath of God — and it is a fascinating study. Those in Christ should rejoice that they have been “rescued from God’s wrath” (“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” I Thes. 1:10).

Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” caused the people in that Connecticut church where he was a guest preacher to cling to their wooden pews, lest they fall into hell then and there.  Our society, raised on Stephen King horror films, seems not to be frightened by anything.  But — “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”, says Hebrews 10:31 (KJV).

God allows some human evil to occur.  As the late Paul Little once said, “If he were to stop all evil at midnight tonight, which of us would be left at 12:01?”  We grieve with those who have lost loved ones in terrible, man-made tragedies.  But we rejoice that God is holy and will wrap up history righteously!  And these certainties we must preach!




Posted by on May 25, 2018 in heaven and hell


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My Workshop “Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events” (for “Iron Sharpens Iron” conference) Part 2

Friends: We are thinking about three workshops that I will give at the upcoming conference at Emmaus Bible College. Registration for the conference can be found here.  Let’s continue our thinking about —

Workshop #1: “Five Certainties in the Light of Tragic Events”

We’ve seen the first certainty which is: Man is fallen and capable of great evil.  Let’s notice the second certainty which is: God is holy and will judge rightly.

If there is no judgment beyond this world, then absolute despair over the cruelty of this life (and its inhabitants) is quite logical.  If death leads to nothingness, then when Stephen Paddock (the Las Vegas mass murderer) turned one of his guns on himself, he ceased to exist.  He was not immediately cast into a temporary hell, awaiting final judgment before a holy God.  What an awful thought.

But the Bible is quite clear that God is holy and will just rightly!  We must take the long view of life and recognize that God will hold all evildoers responsible at the end of history.  In Psalm 37 the Psalmist challenges us not to fret about evildoers (v. 1). We are to trust in the Lord and do good (v. 3). He will one day vindicate the righteous (v. 6).

We are not to fret when the wicked are successful in their evil schemes, for those who are evil will be destroyed (v. 9). A little while and the wicked will be no more (v. 10). [May I remind you that “be no more” does not mean annihilation in the Bible. It means they will have no more impact on God’s good world].

The Lord laughs at the wicked, knowing their day of judgment is coming (v. 13). The power of the wicked will be broken; “those he curses will be destroyed” (v. 22). “All sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked” (v. 38).  And we must say to all who think otherwise, “You will stand before God’s judgment even if you don’t think you will stand!”

How would you answer this question?

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Posted by on May 22, 2018 in evil


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Pastor Jeff Philpott and I on John 9 (the man born blind)

One of my all-time favorite miracles in the Bible is the story of the man born blind in John 9.

My friend, Pastor Jeff Philpott, and I talked our way through this text a couple of weeks ago.

Comments welcome!


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Posted by on July 2, 2016 in john 9


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