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HolyGround >> Two Quotes on Death


9/13/10 1:25 AM
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Ridgeback
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 From Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart:


[...] Having departed from the garden of our first innocence, as I called it earlier, we're called not to become disenchanted realists, content to dwell here under the dominion of death, looking for rationales for why there is death, why this person died, refusing to acknowledge the sheer idiot hideousness of death, refusing to recognize death as a thing that is evil but instead learning to be wise and at peace with it -- no! We're summoned, rather, to enter into the city of a second and higher innocence which knows death only as a shadow and a falsehood overcome by infinite love ........ 

If I had lost my child ... I would want the absolute evil of my son's death to be acknowledged. To be told that it was God's good Will or part of God's plan would be obscene to me and would, of course, make either hate my comforter or hate God or hate both .... when it comes time to say something, say nothing that suggests, and this is both fidelity to the Gospel and compassion to someone who's suffering, say nothing that suggests that the death of that child was anything but an absolute and damnable evil. Do not ask people to find comfort in such things or to see a deeper meaning in them or accept them .... many Christians ... rationalize death in a way that may be comforting but I don't think Christian.
9/13/10 2:26 PM
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Grakman
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When you suggest to the person whose child has passed that it is an absolute and damnable evil, what do you tell them when they inevitably ask you, 'Why did God allow this to happen?"
9/13/10 5:45 PM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman - When you suggest to the person whose child has passed that it is an absolute and damnable evil, what do you tell them when they inevitably ask you, 'Why did God allow this to happen?"

 I wouldn't say "its all part of the plan."  I might not say anything, but my answer would be that we can't share in the life of God without freedom and freedom is a perilous thing to give to creatures.  I've had this conversation.  It is a pretty horrible conversation to have.  If God is the kind of God who kills children just to prove a point (which is what a lot of Christians wind up telling suffering parents) then I want nothing to do with him.  

How would you respond with your "the world is good" view?  I think that is a far harder pill to swallow.
9/13/10 7:24 PM
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martial_shadow
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a plan assumes fatalism or determinism. the world is good has numerous underlying implications (of course good and world would have to be defined).

its much simpler to assume something about their biology and circumstances.
9/13/10 8:03 PM
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Grakman
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 I don't have pat answers to any of these questions. There aren't any. Engaging in a conversation about meaning with someone who has just lost a child is a very difficult task, as you are aware. I don't think the 'it's all part of the plan' is really any more satisfying across the board than the 'it's a damnable evil' remark. I just don't think telling someone it's evil but God doesn't care to fix it or change it right now is much better. :-/

We always have to tread lightly in situations like this but too often well meaning people barge in with theological explanations at the wrong time. What's worse is those people in evangelical circles who murmur about whether the dead person was 'saved' or not before he died.

How you approach each person and their grief will vary from individual to individual. Each person's beliefs are different and circumspection is always best. Sometimes maybe the best thing you can say is 'I'm sorry for your loss," and hug them.

For me, I hope and pray that if I ever face this situation in my own life that the belief system I have in place will support me and offer me comfort. I accept that we all live and die, it's a part of the nature of life on this planet, and I believe that this earth is the way it is on purpose, yeah cliched as it sounds 'for a reason.'  I hold the concomitant belief that our true nature is that of a spiritual, immortal being and that death is not truly the end of life. I believe that we will still see our loved ones again on the other side of life, it's just a matter of time.

Maybe that's the last best hope one can offer; that we will see them again.
9/13/10 8:08 PM
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Grakman
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martial_shadow - a plan assumes fatalism or determinism. the world is good has numerous underlying implications (of course good and world would have to be defined).

its much simpler to assume something about their biology and circumstances.
 I see the world as both material and spiritual. Of course there are material reasons for illness, death, etc. I think where Ridge and I differ is that I think that this world is serving a purpose in God's plan just as it is, otherwise he would change it;  whereas Ridge holds to the more traditional view that the world is fallen and tainted by sin and God will eventually change it.

If we get down to brass tacks, I think Ridge and I actually think the same thing we choose to focus on different aspects.
9/14/10 1:16 AM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman - 
martial_shadow - a plan assumes fatalism or determinism. the world is good has numerous underlying implications (of course good and world would have to be defined).

its much simpler to assume something about their biology and circumstances.
 I see the world as both material and spiritual. Of course there are material reasons for illness, death, etc. I think where Ridge and I differ is that I think that this world is serving a purpose in God's plan just as it is, otherwise he would change it;  whereas Ridge holds to the more traditional view that the world is fallen and tainted by sin and God will eventually change it.

If we get down to brass tacks, I think Ridge and I actually think the same thing we choose to focus on different aspects.

1. I agree in those situations that the less we say the better.  I avoided saying anything unless I was asked a direct question.  People need someone to talk to, not someone to feed them theodicies explaining the motives of God.  

2. I agree that we are very close in our views.  I agree that God does allow things to go on and so it must be serving some kind of larger purpose for him to do so.  What I mainly want to emphasize is that I don't think God wanted human death to unfold the way it did (as demonstrated with Jesus crying at the tomb of Lazarus) and that a great deal of suffering has occurred that God would rather have not had happen, but which he allows because it is the cost of freedom and freedom is the only condition agape love can thrive in.  For the sake of drawing his creatures into communion with him and his Trinitarian life, he allows evil to thrive, but evil is not of God and God is our co-sufferer in that evil rather than a puppet master bringing about various horrors to serve as lessons.
9/14/10 1:42 AM
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Grakman
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Thanks for the reply Ridge. I do want to clarify something in your second paragraph. While I realize that you probably weren't trying to characterize my views specifically, I want to say that I do not see God as a puppet master engineering various horrors to serve as lessons. It may seem like semantics, but I see a big difference in believing that God ordained the world to be this way (and leaves it as is) for a purpose and believing that he micromanages and foreordains evil.
9/14/10 11:32 AM
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Grakman
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Edited: 09/14/10 11:33 AM
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9/14/10 11:39 AM
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Grakman
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 "All kinds and manner of chastisements and punishments that come from Him are not brought about to requite past actions, but for the sake of the subsequent gain to be gotten from them."

- St Isaac the Syrian
9/14/10 1:05 PM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman - Thanks for the reply Ridge. I do want to clarify something in your second paragraph. While I realize that you probably weren't trying to characterize my views specifically, I want to say that I do not see God as a puppet master engineering various horrors to serve as lessons. It may seem like semantics, but I see a big difference in believing that God ordained the world to be this way (and leaves it as is) for a purpose and believing that he micromanages and foreordains evil.

 My apologies.  I should have clarified that I wasn't speaking to your view.  I was thinking more in terms of the extreme sects of Calvinism that so uphold the sovereignty of God that every event must flow from the direct will of God.  I was actually thinking of some pretty callous Christian responses to the Tsunami.  

I did understand that your views are not along those lines.


9/14/10 1:07 PM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman -  "All kinds and manner of chastisements and punishments that come from Him are not brought about to requite past actions, but for the sake of the subsequent gain to be gotten from them."

- St Isaac the Syrian

 I definitely agree with this as well.  I just don't want to be in the business of telling a parent that God allowed his son to die so he could learn some kind of lesson from it.  Keep in mind too that St. Isaac is a universalist so everything is viewed from that grand narrative of eventual reconciliation.  I see the same kind of things in George MacDonald, who was also a universalist.  
9/14/10 2:41 PM
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jimmy23
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I think when talking to someone who has lost a loved one, especially a child, the best choice is to show compassion. Often, people who respond with theological explanations are using them as a defense mechanism against the pain of loss. It is not only perfectly acceptable but perfectly honest to say "I don't know."


Because, in specific cases of tragedy, we don't know.  It is protective pride to say that we do. Comforting a person who has experienced such a loss is an opportunity for us to practice our love for them,and  for our own faith to grow. 

Such opportunities are rare and should be fully experienced and participated in.
9/14/10 10:36 PM
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Grakman
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Ridgeback - 
Grakman -  "All kinds and manner of chastisements and punishments that come from Him are not brought about to requite past actions, but for the sake of the subsequent gain to be gotten from them."

- St Isaac the Syrian

 I definitely agree with this as well.  I just don't want to be in the business of telling a parent that God allowed his son to die so he could learn some kind of lesson from it.  Keep in mind too that St. Isaac is a universalist so everything is viewed from that grand narrative of eventual reconciliation.  I see the same kind of things in George MacDonald, who was also a universalist.  
I knew you'd agree, I stole if from one of your posts in another thread. :-P

Isaac the Syrian here  encapsulates what I have been trying to say, he just says it more eloquently.  In modern parlance it sounds a lot like he is saying that bad things happen so we learn from or grow spiritually from them. :P


 
9/15/10 4:03 AM
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Ridgeback
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 This is the whole section from the book that used the St. Isaac quote on his views of Universal Salvation.  I think it fleshes out the import of that particular passage:

http://en.hilarion.orthodoxia.org/print/6-6-10

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