Thursday, April 17, 2014

Part II: Why Didn't God Intervene in the Holocaust?

As we near Easter, I have been pondering the nature of evil in our world.  The ultimate symbol of evil is the Holocaust and so I am asking the question in the title as part of this pondering.  The Garden of Eden is my starting point, and the results of our First Parents' choice leads directly to the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Divine Gamble Was Lost
      Adam and Eve chose to do wrong.  They now had to live out the consequences:  death came to their souls and bodies.  This was no doubt the most painful day in the life of His creation:  the day His children hid from Him.
      Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’
      He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’
     And he said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’
     The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’
    Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’
    The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (Gen. 3:8-13)
    Notice what our First Parents did, and what we have done ever since:  the evil that we do is ultimately God’s fault. 
     God first inquires after His children’s whereabouts—He knows where they are but He wants to see if they know where they are.  The Garden is no longer a place to walk in the sunshine.  Adam and Eve sought its shadows, the places where God would not be.  Fear is now palpable in the Garden:  Adam fears God’s very presence, and God senses His relationship with His children is altered.  Adam is very literal in his response at first:  I am naked, I am afraid, I have hidden myself from You.
     No longer is Adam at ease with His Creator; no longer is he free to walk alongside God and talk; no longer is he free to simply be.  He now worries about the future and what it holds.
     God then wants to hear an admission from Adam of what he did—God knows, but again wants to know if Adam truly understands what he did.  Adams avoids the first question—he will not admit to God where he learned of his nakedness.  Adam now knows Good from Evil (the apple provided him with that) and he could have said that he followed the Serpent’s lead.  He now sees how truly good God is, and he could have confessed his direct disobedience to God, and how sorry he is.   
     Adam now knows what evil is and how far away he is from God.  He could have confessed how seductive possessing such knowledge was and now he realizes how burdensome it has become.  He could have simply said to God, "You talked with me directly about what I was supposed to do.  Now, I hide from Your sight.  I miss You." 
     Did he?  No.  He says that the woman God provided him is to blame:   "The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.'"  The not-so-subtle implication is, if God had not given Adam Eve, then Adam would have been able to remain obedient. 
     So...God, it’s Your fault that I am in this predicament. 
    Then God turns to Eve, and wants to hear her admission of guilt.  She knew the prohibition and still chose to eat the apple.  She could have said that she should have never been near that Tree and listened to the perverse logic of the Serpent.  She should have walked away and warned Adam of the Serpent’s presence.  Perhaps she could have said she did not fully understand the prohibition.    
     Did she?  No.  She says that the Serpent deceived her:
"The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’”  The not-so-subtle implication is that God created the Serpent and so if God hadn’t done so, she would not have been deceived. 
     So...God, it’s Your fault I am in this predicament.

God’s Response:  The Wages of Sin
     Does God cry?  I am sure that day, standing in the midst of this beautiful Garden, with its dazzling array of singing birds, butterflies and tasty fruit shining from every branch, a tear dropped from God’s eye.
     God explains how dramatically Creation has changed for each of the members in this terrible event.  Their lives are forever altered and so will be their descendants’.
     First, God addresses Satan.  Although Satan may have won this battle, but he will eventually lose the war.  Satan’s days are numbered:   
     “So the Lord God said to the serpent,
‘Because you have done this,
Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.’”
(Gen. 3:14-15)
     The snake, inhabited by Satan to tempt Eve, will from now on be a fearful reminder of Satan’s presence in the world.  Snakes are on every continent.  Many are venomous.  One bite will be as deadly to someone as the one bite of that apple was to our First Parents. 
     God then assures Satan there will be a day when One of Eve’s descendants will arrive to take back the planet.  He will bring God’s mightiness back to Creation, recreating a people whose hearts will be obedient once again out of love and gratitude for God.  The whisperings of Satan will be silenced under His crushing heel. Satan’s ultimate weapon, death, will be dismantled in the future when a stone rolls away from a tomb on an early spring morning.   
     Eve is next.  Her pain in childbirth will be a reminder of her disobedience:
     “To the woman he said,
     ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
    Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.’” (Gen. 3:16)
     Our First Parents walked as equals in the Garden.  Eve was taken from Adam’s side, so that was her place in his life.  Now, she is under him—ruled by him.  She will look to him the way she used to look to God: for love, guidance and direction.  She will love Adam the way she used to love God:  with her heart and soul.  She will be disappointed to her very soul:  her husband will be a poor substitute for her Creator.  Her husband will disappoint her time and time again.  
     But there will be someday One Who will restore that equality:  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)
     Then Adam, the very one God spoke directly with, receives the final words: 
“To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it,”
Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.’” (Gen. 3:17-19)
    The disobedience of Adam now has rendered the soil hostile to him.  The ground will still provide food, but no longer will Adam stroll through a welcoming grove, with shiny fruit inviting him to pick it.  He will toil endlessly to feed himself and his family.  He chose to listen to his own logic on how he should live, and now his own logic will have to figure out when and where to plant.  The dust swirling up from the plow and blowing away in the wind will remind him of the nature of his own existence:  he is animated clay, his body destined for the dirt and his spirit for the wind.

Our Future and Our Hope
    Even as the tear dried upon God’s face, He looked sorrowfully to a long future ahead for His children:  the wars, the sins, the cries, the genocides.  He saw abused children, bodies thrown into ditches, women beaten by their husbands, and the endless cries that will rise up to heaven of “Why, God?” 
   Since that day God’s pronouncements resounded throughout creation, Satan has never ceased his endless assassination of God’s character.  The three perpetrators of the Fall—Adam, Eve and Satan—rush off stage and hide behind the curtain.  God stands on stage, facing an accusing humanity, goaded on by the author of sin himself, Satan.  Satan whips up the audience to yell at God, blaming Him for everything that goes wrong:  the abuse of children, the bodies thrown into ditches, the women beaten by their husbands, and the seemingly unanswered question of “Why, God?”
   We stand angrily in the audience and pelt Him with accusations.  We cry and fall to our knees, and with our tear-stained faces, scream, "Why didn't You do something?"  
   Satan would have us believe that God's responsibility for this fallen world renders Him unreliable and suspect as to His goodness.  Satan whispers that God is derelict in His duties and trusting Him is ridiculous.  
  Satan will keep the focus from the Garden of Eden forward on God's failure to be God.  Our Parents, driven from the Garden, entered a world that is as adversely affected by their choice as they and their descendants will be:  "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."  (Romans 8:22-25)
     Creation groans under the burden of our choices:  the very soil that Adam will till is filled with weeds and thorns.  Disease ravishes our bodies, and creation at times, acts very in a very hostile manner to us:  earthquakes, fires, tsunamis plague us.  Animals too, will sicken and die and their diseases plague us as well--avian flu, swine flu.  
  We inherited sin from our Parents. We sadly inherited something else from our First Parents: an unwillingness to look at ourselves and the evil that we do. We seek to blame God for everything that goes wrong. We bask in the glories of our accomplishments, but when we fail, God is responsible.  
   Satan wants us to believe that this world--as it now stands--was God's original design.  Thus, bad world, bad God. 
  We were driven from the Garden, but God did not vacate the universe. In the midst of denial of our responsibility for our choices, Hope is woven into the very fabric of this polluted world: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God."  (Romans 8:18-21). 
   God promises a Hope and an ultimate vanquishing of evil by providing a "he":
"And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel."

    God will not only continue to reign over this corrupted planet, but one day, He will leave the beauty of the courts of Heaven and enter in our world, as one of us.  He will be subjected to all the evil this world has to offer.  Then, when we cry, "But You don't understand, God!"  Jesus will lean over and whisper in our ear, "Oh yes I do."

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