At their next meeting, Brent began by saying Let’s start discussing the question of what faith really is. I’d like to begin by telling you about a funeral service I attended at another church, for a 39 year old man, William, who had died after a massive stroke. The pastor said some helpful things about Jesus raising the dead, and dying and rising himself as a hopeful sign of life beyond this life for all who trust in Him, and “There will be rejoicing in your family, you will have reasons to rejoice, and God will be with you to comfort you and strengthen you, and so you will handle it by God’s grace.”
But I tell you, I’ve been puzzling over some other things he said: “We don’t know why God took\ William, but we know it’s all for the best.” I thought, “It’s all for the best”? The young man left a wife and a two-year old son! That’s for the best? I thought, This makes as much sense as a pastor saying at the graveside of a five-year old child, “God needed his little angel in heaven.” As if that would be for the best—for whom, for God? Certainly not for the child’s family!
And then the idea that “God took William.” What exactly does that mean?
Tony Kalinga, the philosophy student, speaks up. Really! I had a prof who told the story about when he was in a Christian high school there was a freak accident in the night of the Junior-Senior Prom, and the most popular student, Warren, was killed when his best friend drove out into the path of a speeding car. He was thrown out of the car, his head smashing into a telephone pole, where he died instantly. At the next Monday’s special assembly the principal said, “God took Warren.” My prof often wondered, ‘What exactly did the principal mean? Did God take Warren? Did God take Warren? Or did God take Warren? It depends on where you put the emphasis, for each of these has a different connotation. For instance, the first emphasis implies ‘God—not just death—took Warren, who’s now in heaven.’ The third one implies ‘God took Warren, when he could have taken some other student in the car.’
Pastor Henry, who was the resource pastor that evening, interjects: I see where you’re going with this. You’re wondering what this pastor meant, and it almost seems that he was blaming God for removing the man from this world, from his family.
Yes, replies Kalinga, the truth may be quite different, and difficult to face: I don’t know the man at all, but it may have been something in his life-style that ruined his health and killed him. In my study of medieval philosophy, I learned about “Ockham’s razor.” Bishop Ockham, a philosopher, taught that if you have two different explanations of a phenomenon, if there are no other variables, you should choose the simpler one as being the truest. What’s simpler—that a stroke took him, or that God, willy-nilly, took him?
Brent said, Maybe having faith in God does not mean that God does everything, which would make Him even responsible for evil. Although it’s true that God took William’s spirit to heaven, it was really the stroke that “took” him, not God willy-nilly reaching down as if to say, “I need him up here more than his family needs him.” Let’s talk more about this over coffee and merienda.