The Vanity of Answers


As any student taking a test will tell you, some questions are far more answerable than others. And any teacher will tell you, some answers are a better than others. It seems almost any answer we could give to a very difficult question, could be followed by a, “Yeah, but what about…”.

For example, people are so cruel to one another because there is no limit to the potential for good or evil in the human soul, and God has allowed us to make our own choices (though a Calvinist may disagree.)

But what about a Hitler, Stalin, or Sadam Hussein, who killed hundreds of thousands? Why didn’t God somehow prevent that? Is he that “hands off” with humanity? Yet, people thank him for getting a job, or a good parking place, claiming he is intimately concerned about the minutiae of their lives. Which is it? Is he closely involved, or hands off?

Why don’t good ideas work out, and why do bad things happen to good people?

We could say, we simply, don’t understand all of the implications, but God does. But that’s a really incomplete answer. In some places in scripture it seems God rewards good behavior. Frequently, the church teaches that good behavior will be rewarded. “If you do this, God will do that.” Then, why all of the injustice? Why would God allow so much pain to befall his precious creation, especially those who follow him?

What about the Old Testament genocide, where it seems that God wants his people to kill everyone in another tribe including men, women, children, and even their animals?

We could respond, they must have been terribly evil and unredeemable people. God had to keep his people from being corrupted by their influence. It was a violent world back then, it was the only way his people could survive.

Maybe, God is schizophrenic, because it seems He is quite the opposite in the New Testament. Maybe,  people misunderstood God, and simply responded in a typical cultural manner to a threat.

What is the connection between geography and salvation? If I were born on most other continents, the likelihood of my being Christian, would be very slim. So, what’s the story about those people who have the misfortune of being born somewhere where Christianity is not prevalent? If God is omnipotent and omnipresent, why isn’t He there, saving people, like he is here?

We could respond, that’s why we need missionaries. Or, maybe, they are just bad people who would never come to faith. Or, maybe, God is active there, in a different way, sort of under the radar.

I have two conclusions about the whole issue of the mystery of God (and life.)

Ask questions, because anything that is true can withstand any question we could ever think of.

Don’t settle for simplistic, trite answers, that are not really answers at all. Usually, the best answer to something mysterious is, “I don’t know.” That’s why it is called mystery.

But, mystery messes with our minds, as though we have assembled a beautiful scene from a jig-saw puzzle box, but several key pieces are missing. There is a lot of beauty revealed, but you can’t help yourself from getting fixated on the missing pieces. And those pieces are nowhere to be found.

What do you do?


How about, accepting what is before us, both the beauty, and the mystery. Both are definitely true of God, and life.


Photo Credit: walkinboston. Creative Commons.

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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