John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Leaving Room for Mystery

If you want to help the Haitian relief efforts, you might want to consider World Vision. They were already in place in Haiti helping people, and they have my full support. --------------------

I guess my biggest problem with the theology we hear about from guys like Pat Robertson is the notion that everything has a rational explanation. I used to believe that, but I’m less certain now. The Bible itself affirms that for now we only know in part — we can only see things dimly, like in a fogged-up mirror. None of us knows completely why things like the earthquake in Haiti happen. Sure, you can draw a direct line from a drunk driver to a fatal car accident. But connecting the dots between occult practices and this disaster is more than a little presumptuous.

In fact, to use the words of Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel, “Religion begins with wonder and mystery.” I fear that the modern church’s attempt to dispel all the mystery from Christianity has robbed us of a way of dealing with evil. Whether it is “natural evil” like an earthquake or “personal evil” like genocide in the Sudan — saying, “Well, it must be God’s will” just doesn’t cut it. That is an insufficient answer for a suffering world.

The world (and the events of the world) is a mystery, a question, not an answer. Perhaps even a rhetorical question at that. Any attempt to answer a rhetorical question is really an exercise in both redundancy and futility. The mystery of a Creative Genius rather than the aloof concept of power — the God of mystery rather than the Master Mind who stands apart — in other words, the God of the Incarnation, the God who became the Suffering Servant, the God in relation to Whom the here-and-now world derives meaning — this is the only idea adequate.

Our admission that we do not completely understand this mystery is more honest and compelling than outlining the abstract concept of a Grand Designer. Our willingness to emulate this God by entering into the suffering of others with a firm commitment and resolve to roll up our sleeves and respond to evil with goodness (with holiness, even) — this is the righteous response.

May it be ours.