Why Does God Allow This?

Lately, I have seen more instances of the question, “Why does God allow terrible things to happen?” especially in the instances of the events in Paris and, as of today, San Bernardino. This is a fair question and one worthy of answer. It is one that men more learned than I have been wondering for a long time.

Why do bad things happen? Why does God allow such atrocities to be committed? Why do people suffer from natural and human disaster, and why does God not stop it? These questions have even been used to call into question the existence or even the goodness and love of God. So it is not something to take lightly. Below, I want to give three possible answers to the question, with the last being the most likely.

First, it is possible that greater evil would result if these were prevented. God is greater than we are and can see far more than we ever could, and he knows the hearts of man. He has given mankind the freedom to make choices, and he knows that humans are capable both of great evil and great good. He alone knows what people would do if given the chance to do it. It may be that by allowing this to happen, those who would commit evil are satisfied with this and do not try to do more, and also that their evil moves good men to stop them before their evil can continue to grow, and thus become more evil.

That said, I do not like that answer. It is a possibility, but it relies far too much on supposition and guessing what God would intend to do in other circumstances, and could be twisted to portray God as capricious and untrustworthy. It also gives no answer for natural disasters and is unsatisfying. So I will present another option.

Second, it is possible that God has instructed people to stop evil men before they commit atrocities, but for whatever reason, the people he commanded to act failed. This has some support in Scripture–when God commanded Jonah to preach to Ninevah, he refused and tried to run away. He was sent to Ninevah eventually anyway, but his spiteful message did not last long and Ninevah was later destroyed for its behavior. Likewise, Solomon was commanded to follow after God, and he did not, so his kingdom was split. Or even earlier, when because of their lack of faith, the Israelites were unable to defeat their foes in battle, and allowed themselves to be tricked.

This places the blame on those who have been instructed to carry out a command but did not because they did not put themselves to the task. It’s better than the first option because it correctly absolves God of responsibility, but then the question becomes who are these people who are called and why did they fail. It also cannot address the natural disaster aspect, and this explanation is also unsatisfying.

So, the last option, which I believe to be the most correct. Mankind is in rebellion against God and is reaping the consequences of sin. Humans have constructed for themselves a world of pain and suffering, and by and large they choose to maintain it rather than fix it by going with God’s plan for the world. When one creates a world of pain and suffering, there are consequences. Bad ones. Asking God to intervene is asking God to prevent mankind from dealing with the consequences of their behavior. This makes little sense. He has already given his instructions on what to do. What’s more, it would be unjust. It is like expecting a judge to acquit a known thief who has shown no signs of changing behavior. Consequences simply cannot be abandoned like that.

This solution accounts for both the evils of man and natural evil. It takes into account mankind’s sinfulness, and it maintains God’s justice and fairness. It also places the blame squarely on the shoulders of humans. The fact is that the world we live in is far from the ideal God intends for us, and it’s also a fact that humans are (and have been) doing whatever they can to ruin it from almost the beginning. But that can all change, if humans turn to God.

Sympathetic Antagonists

Is it okay to have an antagonist you can understand?

Those who have been reading the Footsteps of the Prophet story will have noticed that I have made a few unusual storytelling choices. One of them, and the one I want to talk about in this post, is my choice to make a couple of the TDO characters a little more complex than the average side character.

A little bit of backstory. Footsteps of the Prophet is a spinoff or fanfiction of sorts based in and around Poseidon Simons’ Dragon Isle universe. The TDO is the approximate equivalent of the Klan here in the States.

I’d written a couple other stories before this one, all following the same standard theme. Lacking any other strong villain or group, I allowed the TDO to serve as the primary villains, and they were more or less your standard fare. Evil, twisted, and willing to destroy a family. Not a group you wanted to support.

But for this story I did something a little bit different. FotP has some of the same characters as the first two stories, and their backstories and motives have not changed, but many years have passed. Life has become more complicated. The reader is allowed to learn why the characters made the bad choices they did. They don’t have to agree with them, but they are given the opportunity to see the characters as the individuals they are.

Then there is the character Ryan, introduced early on as an acquaintance of Judas. Now, Judas is supposed to be the object of Ryan’s hatred, but he can’t express those feelings, and he begins to question why he’s involved in that organization in the first place. He loses his friends, loses his family, and is taken in by a family he is supposed to dislike (and who does not necessarily trust him), and all this leads to his growth as a person.

And yet, he still does not want to leave the organization, even though it’s obvious he should, because he isn’t sure what to do.

Now, the story is not posted to the end yet, so I will not say how it is resolved. However, readers should have noticed a change in his character from the beginning.

What other examples of sympathetic antagonists have you come across in your reading? Do you write them? I’d like to hear what you have to say.

A Much-Needed Break

Beginning tomorrow, I’ll be travelling with family to one of my favorite cities: Charleston, SC. And there may be some of you surprised that this city, of all possibilities, would be my favorite–after all, there are no mountains there! And no, Mount Pleasant does not count…

But that is where I grew up, for the most part. Not only then, but when at college, I worked near there and visited the area often. There is much that draws me here. Many formative memories are from there or nearby. And while much has certainly changed, there is sure to be something that brings back memories happy and sad. What’ll it be? Who knows?

Regardless, it is sure to inspire. Maybe you’ll see some of the results of inspiration sooner, rather than later.

The Supreme Court was Wrong

The court made a bad call.

In its rush to be seen as progressive and on the right side of history, it “solved” one problem while leaving too many unresolved, and it overturned the republican method in the process.

Here is what should have happened:

Marriage, if it is going to be defined by government at all, would be left up to the states based on the Constitution and Amendments IX and X. Since marriage is not mentioned as something the federal government would have a say in, it would have to be a state decision. If a state wants to define marriage as between two people of the opposite sex only, or include two people of the same sex, or choose not to define it in any capacity at all, that would be up to the state to determine.

However, there is a little something called the full faith and credit clause which, I think, could be applied to marriage contracts without too much trouble. What it means is a marriage valid in one state would, therefore, be valid in all other states, too. This means a same-sex couple could travel to another state, be married, and when they moved back to their home state, their marriage would still be valid. Eventually this might become quite a hassle for states that didn’t want to go along at first, and this and social pressure would, sooner or later, result in those less-than-willing states to legalize it anyway. Yes, it would take a lot longer (years longer) than people want, but I am persuaded that too many people in their rush for immediate gratification forgot about a few very big problems that need to be resolved alongside the now-resolved marriage question.

The biggest problem I can think of that is still unresolved is that in several states it is legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation. This is wrong, but it is still the law of the land in many areas, and it remains the law of the land in these states even with this court decision. So what now? You could have a theoretical instance where two people of the same sex marry, one’s employer finds out about it, and conjures up a reason for dismissal that has to do with not wanting “people like that” on the job. Repulsive, but still possible. Ideally, it would have been better to work on both of those (discrimination problems and marriage) at once.

Now I have no doubt that the discrimination problem will be resolved shortly, but we’re going to have to put up with this fight even longer while that change works its way through the system. It will probably be resolved at the federal level within the next couple years depending on which ideology is popular in twelve months or so, but if it had been left at the state level, these problems could have been resolved side-by-side.

A couple other thoughts, only marginally related to the above…

I am sure there are many conservative evangelicals who are very upset today, although they should not have been surprised by today’s ruling. Our society has been steadily marching down this path for years, cheapening marriage a little more every decade, forgetting the glory it once held and turning it into a validation of the feelings you have for someone. So really, today is only the next logical step.

The church got it wrong, too. I want to admire its endeavor to uphold what it holds as good and true, but it was going about it all the wrong ways. Going to the court, influencing the legislature to pass laws to enshrine your beliefs into public law, that was the wrong way to do it. If they really wanted to get the message across effectively, they might try leading by example. Want the world to know what marriage is? Try living it. Try staying with your spouse rather than forming a contract based and dependent on emotion and dissolving the contract when the feeling is gone.

It will not change the law you do not like, but at least you’ll be consistent in your application.

Edit: Removed most of the sarcasm at the end.

 

Looking for a Music Streaming App…

So a little over a year ago, Wolfin introduced me to Rdio, which he really enjoyed and got me trying out, too. Before this I’d been using the radio or my sparse collection of CDs if I wanted to listen to music, and that was good enough for me, but he was enthusiastic and there was a free option, so I thought, “Why not?”

We even shared a plan for a few months.

But about late September, things started to go downhill. Rdio gave their app a massive overhaul, and it didn’t work well. It got worse in November with the release of Android 5.0. Their app didn’t even work! And as they didn’t fix it (they still haven’t–I checked recently), it wasn’t a good option to keep. Besides, they must be having licensing issues because what you select as a favorite one day might be unavailable for you the next.

Annoying.

So it was clear it was time to move on. But to what?

Wolfin has moved to Google Play Music. He likes it a lot, and I’m glad it works for him. It would work for me, too, since it’s got the neat feature where you can upload your own songs, but it does a lot more than I need and it isn’t worth the $10/month.

Pandora, IHeartRadio, that sort of thing… those spent about thirty minutes on my phone before being deleted. I don’t remember why I didn’t like them, but I didn’t care for them.

So far, I’ve been using Spotify’s free option. It seems to work for me. I would pay for premium, but for what I use music streaming for, $10/month is too expensive. I’d look at maybe $5/month, but no more than that.

Meanwhile, there’s always the radio. It works quite well.

Social Media Break

If you haven’t noticed, I have been taking something of a break from social media for a while. This is not because of anything bad, nor does it really have anything to do with the blog post about a lack of motivation that I posted the other day. It’s just a needed break for a while.

I’d noticed that I had been going to Twitter, especially, as “that thing I look at when bored or stressed”. And that didn’t seem to me the best use of time. So, I wanted to get rid of all social media for a few weeks to give my brain a little while to adjust to that which is closer to me. Maybe it will work, maybe it will not. Maybe I will check my blog more often. Who knows?

One thing I’ve noticed, barely a week into it, is that I don’t miss it. Yes, social media can be fun, and I wasn’t sure what kind of void it would leave in my life since I’ve spent quite a bit of time on Twitter in the past few months. As it turns out, I barely notice that it isn’t there.

Then again, I’ve been working lots and lots and lots of overtime in the past few weeks, so that’s a probable connection. I can’t miss something if I don’t have time to notice its absence.

Getting rid of Facebook and Google+ is easier. I don’t do much with the latter (although I would if there were more I knew on there), and Facebook is the sort of thing I try my hardest to forget exists. As I’ve told people before, if you don’t want me to see something, put it on Facebook. About the only thing it’s good for is finding out about a few meetups and such, and even those get cross-posted elsewhere.

But do not fret. I will be back in a few weeks. Come July I will be going on vacation with family, and there will be plenty of pictures and anecdotes I’ll want to share with the world, I’m sure.

Tropical Storm Bill

Thoughts as of this morning:

yawn

Yesterday, the media were doing an excellent job of hyping the system in the Gulf, and it looks like a lot of people bought into it. Now imagine my (lack of) surprise this morning when I woke up and there were the faintest hints of blue sky overhead, when from the way people were acting yesterday, the world was scheduled to end by noon.

Called the office emergency hotline just to be sure, and lo and behold, the offices are open. So, I’m at the office (don’t tell them I’m typing this up). The roads were clear, though. It was funny.

The more level-headed are saying that whatever we get (if anything) will move in this afternoon.

Maybe I’ll get some excitement after all, but I kind of doubt it.

The Writing Doldrums

I’ve hit that part of the writing process that every author* fears: the doldrums.

This is not a matter of not knowing where the story should go. For the past several weeks, I’ve had the basics of the story outlined. I don’t just know more or less where the story is going; I know exactly where it’s headed and it’s something I’ve been anticipating for months. It’s a very good direction for the novel and all the major storylines are resolved (minus a few that I like to leave open-ended because I’m annoying that way).

But I can’t write it.

For that matter, I can’t write anything. I’ve been trying to keep up the craft with some short stories, but those aren’t working out, either. Sure, I can put words on the page. That’s an easy task. And these words can say something, advance the plot in some way or another, but 150 words in, and I realize they are so vile that there is no point in continuing and I delete the whole thing, so no one else can see and I can forget they ever existed in the first place.

THAT is bad. And oh look, double-emphasis. I’m sure that’s some sort of sin that I should repent of later, but for now, I’ll leave it be. It’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever done.

But no, nothing is coming. This applies to other creative pursuits, too. The podcast takes up a lot of time, and even that has been sort of autopilot lately. Yes, I enjoy it, and I don’t want to stop any time in the next, oh, five years or so. But it’s become sort of an automatic thing.

And other creative projects I have? Forget it. They’re not happening. I don’t have the energy to do them in the end.

That’s one of the reasons the blog has been silent despite wanting to post something to it.

For the past six to eight weeks, whenever I get back from work, my creative energy is spent. I’ve not been good for a whole lot more than staring blankly at the wall or tablet or the dog or whatever happens to be right in front of my eyes, and I just don’t really want to think.

And right now, I’m not sure how to escape it. A career change is definitely in my future, but it is not in the immediate future for reasons I don’t want to go into right now. It could be the environment here, which as you are undoubtedly aware I am not a fan of. It could be any number of things.

What’s your advice on how to break it? I ask other writers, especially. How have you escaped it?

What can I do? My solution so far has been to force myself to write every day (except for the past three weeks where I can’t bring myself to do anything at all), but usually all that happens is I pull off a few hundred words and can’t keep a consistent tone or style. How might I break out of this?

*I have not spoken with every author, but I have confidence what I say is true.

On being a gay Christian

A few days ago, the Ask Papabear column featured a letter from an individual with some very good questions, but I didn’t feel he got the best answer he could have. So the following is my attempt to add to the initial answer and correct a few errors in Papabear’s response.

 

Wolfthorne,

I saw your email to Papabear, and you ask some really good questions. I understand the tension between what the scriptures say about this topic, and what your body says and also what our culture today says.

But sadly, Papabear did not provide the best advice and I’d like to offer an alternative answer that better answers your questions.

If you don’t mind, you say you are an apostate. Why is it you have walked away from the faith? Is it because you do not like what you believe it says about your orientation, or is it some other reason? Have you been able to objectively falsify it, or do you believe it to say things about you that you do not like? I realize this is a very personal question, but it’s an important one to know the answer to.

To be clear, I am answering your question from the perspective of a “walking talking duck” Christian. Like your mother, I am very committed to the faith and fervently believe it to be true, and proclaim it as such. I do not keep my faith to myself but am very public about it. You’d also consider me a very theologically conservative type.

And I will tell you the Bible does not say you have to give up “being gay” in order to be a Christian. It simply is not there. What is there, and this is where a few too many people are turned away, is that it does set certain standards of behavior and considers all sexual activity outside the marriage covenant to be wrong. When you strip away all the details, that is what you have left. By all means make of that what you will.

The Bible does not say whether or not “being gay” is a choice. That’s irrelevant from the perspective of Scripture. It has nothing positive or negative to say about being emotionally or romantically attracted to people of the same sex as you. (I would dare to say the authors weren’t quite aware that was a thing.) It does not say this attraction is a choice or something you are born with. What it does say is that you are not to have sex with anyone who is not your marriage partner. And I trust you’ll agree that whether or not you engage in sexual intercourse is a choice you make.

As someone in a similar situation to you, I recognize there is more to life than sex (something I agree with Papabear on) and pursuing sex is not something I want to do. I recommend you pursue a deep, intimate friendship with someone whom you trust, and leave sex out of the equation altogether.

There’s something Papabear touched on but got wrong about that. He’s right that way back when, adelphopoiesis was a thing. But it was not, as he claims and as Boswell claims, an endorsement of a gay relationship with sex expected. Boswell has been rather thoroughly refuted when it comes to this (1). Adelphopoiesis was a formal recognition of kinship, and it had nothing to do with sex. For that matter, quite often the two parties were already married–to women–and might even have had children. For a scriptural example of two men who would have been united in this way, had the ritual been around at the time, look to David and Jonathan. They were very dear friends, they viewed each other as brothers, but they were not lovers.

Papabear also doesn’t seem to know how we got the Bible. It was not edited by committee, and no groups of humans sat down and decided what books were in and what books were out. Development of the canon was a process that did indeed take centuries, but it was a matter of tradition and consensus. For the New Testament it was like this. There were certain books that everyone agreed on right away (the four gospels), some books that were less certain (Hebrews, 2 Peter, Revelation), some books that not everyone agreed was scripture (Shepherd of Hermas), and some books that everyone except the fringe groups who wrote them recognized as fake (all the various gnostic gospels and books). The Old Testament followed a similar path. Over the centuries you had the books everyone recognized (the Torah) and the other books which some accepted and some didn’t. In both instances, after consensus was reached, they held councils acknowledging that they’d reached this consensus. There was no formal decree of what belonged and what didn’t.

There is some disagreement today on what books belong in the Old Testament, and the rejection of apocryphal books is something the Protestant churches get wrong, but it is incorrect to say there are multiple versions of the Bible. By and large, everyone is using the same source documents to translate the Bible from. (It wasn’t a game of telephone or translations of translations. We have accumulated enough manuscripts by now to trace the history of any changes that took place, and we know what the original documents said with a very high degree of certainty.)

In conclusion, Papabear does have some good points, but what he says is incomplete, especially from a Christian perspective, which is your background. You do need to tread carefully, but there is a wholesome, fulfilling answer to your question to be found in friendship. I think you will find all you are seeking in a relationship there.

  1. Why Boswell is wrong. http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?print=1&did=1294-viscuso

Edit: Fixed the link at the top so you can actually see it exists.