The problem has to do with our choices
“I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified dead and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he arose from the dead … .”
This is the creed that we affirmed throughout the season of Lent. We use the creed even though historically we are not considered a “creedal” church. We recognize each of the historic creeds as well as those most recent not as tests of faith. We understand the creeds as expressions of faith that are based upon the one understanding that Christ Jesus is the Son of God and is Lord and Savior of the world.
Sadly, I heard a few years back a professor being interviewed on NPR who in teaching a course titled “The Problem of Evil” came to a troubling decision about his faith. He said that as he recited the Apostles Creed each Sunday during worship there was only one phrase he could profess with sincerity. The phrase that he could profess was, “he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified dead and buried.” Here is a person who knows of evil in the world, whose perspective is of a creator who is either uninvolved or uncaring. He wants there to be something that will make rational the suffering that takes place in the world.
Evil is a challenge to the faithful with unanswerable questions. Why does God allow death to take the mother of young children? Why does God allow children to die before they have the opportunity to truly live? Why does God allow the evil of school shootings? Why does God allow hate and power to destroy whole communities because of race or religion? How often we find ourselves only able to throw up our hands and shrug our shoulders in ignorance to the work and ways of God and God’s good creation. But should this problem of evil cause a crisis of Christian faith?
Christian faith acknowledges evil and suffering, yet, God faithfully hears our cries, tends our sorrows and mends our broken hearts. Christian faith describes the day of crucifixion as “Good Friday” for, to have a resurrection, there had to be a death. Is the professor any less troubled by evil than were the disciples gathered fearfully in the locked room following the arrest and crucifixion of their beloved “teacher”?
It was however, in their time of fear that Jesus appeared to the disciples. We, like the disciple Thomas, want to see and touch the risen Christ. We want to know God’s plan is intact for us and that evil has not won. Indeed, blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe evil does not have the final victory over life.
“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and buried” is a strong phrase in our statement of faith if we understand the suffering of our Savior was not an act of God. It was a choice of men. The apostle Paul wrote, “Although we were sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He understood the problem is not with evil. The problem has to do with our choices and the understanding of the truth of God’s unconditional love.
“We serve a risen Savior, he’s in the world today. I know that he is living, whatever men may say.” Evil abounds, but evil cannot succeed if we choose Christ. For Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Your Servant in Christ,
SAM ASKEW is the pastor of Windsor Congregational Christian Church. Contact him at 242-4794.