Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A stone instead of bread

So I stumbled upon this post by Tim Challies that is apparently creating a little storm in the blog-internet-webby- world; so of course I thought I’d throw my two cents in to the conversation. Abraham Piper has a much shorter, much better post on this than me and the comments over there are great too.

The piece is a doctrinal response to an email he received a few months ago from a young woman (it was not the response he sent to her via email, just to be clear). The writer of the email now counsels women who have had abortions or are seeking abortions (I think I’m right about that), but once found herself in the same shoes as those whom she counsels. From the email excerpt he prints, it appears that she had two abortions earlier in life. She comes to Challies with a heart-wrenching question about his beliefs about what happen to children who die as babies or in the womb. She makes clear that she had always found comfort in her belief that those babies were now with God in Heaven. After she read something Challies posted previously, she was calling that belief into question.

In my opinion Challies approaches her hurt and heart-felt question in a cold, calloused way. Perhaps doctrinally correct-perhaps not as well- but most certainly without feeling and with many assumptions and a lot of judgment. As I read through the post, as someone who has lost a baby before he had a chance to take his first breath, I was astonished at the tone and overcome by the thought: “This is one of the reasons people don’t like Christians.” He takes a woman at a vulnerable and broken place and speaks to her about doctrine. Theology. She must not have the right doctrine; she must have the wrong Theology about the ultimate fate of the souls of her unborn children.

Ultimately, I think Challies’s major mistake in his piece was the tone he took and the way it was a literary look down his nose at the young woman. I didn’t read the whole email, so maybe he was right to make some of the assumptions he did about her and her faith, but they came across really harsh and judgmental. It was the epitome of giving your child a stone when he asks you for bread; a snake when he asks for a fish (Matthew 7:9-10).

Where he was not mistaken is in the basic premise: we cannot know for sure what happens to babies when they die; the Bible simply doesn’t answer the questions clearly. He was not wrong to point that out, nor was he wrong to bring up the fact of original sin or the need to find hope in Christ and not in our children, living or dead. This is where he and I would part ways though. He may very well be right. Or he may be wrong. It is just as possible that all babies go to Heaven as it is that they do not. This is a question that hits too close to home for some of us for whom this is more a matter of the heart than the head though. It is not a question on which an individual’s salvation hinges, and I think Challies would be wise to save the brow-beating and doctrine trumpeting for matters with more eternal consequences.

As I’ve stepped away from his post for a couple of days now, I have tried to look back at it to see what I can take from it as a lesson. This morning as I read Oswald Chambers for today my eyes were opened to the lesson of it that anyone can walk away with no matter on which side of the argument you fall. Do I trust in God because of the outcome of any given situation? Because he allows/creates/causes good things in my life? Or do I trust in God because I believe his ways are best, he is trustworthy because of who he is and not because of what he does?

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