I am very honored to welcome guest blogger, Louis Soto to www.whatgoddoes.com. David’s view on theodicy (a spiritual/philosophical attempt to reconcile the idea that God is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing with the very real presence of evil and suffering in the world) is simple, but profound, basically, “I don’t know.” He holds on to hope but admits, “I only see through a glass darkly.” I appreciate Louis’s honest, humble, straightforward manner, and his commitment to telling the story of how losing his son caused him to reexamine traditional beliefs about God’s intentions toward humanity. His experience is so much more than the churchy word “theodicy,” so much more than just a blog in a blog series. That’s why I say I am honored that he has taken the time to write a blog for this series, based on Thomas G. Long’s book, What Shall We Say?: Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith.
Here are the other blogs in this series:
It’s been four years since I had to view my son’s lifeless body and put him in the ground. In the following months reading the police and medical reports that described his death has created a vivid visual that has haunted me almost daily. Despite the many hours and shifts in mood and perspective every minute has been pinned to the backdrop of the deepest sorrow. There have been many emotions; so much fear and despair in the first few days that have become months and now years. I couldn’t find a reasonable explanation for why God had allowed this to happen, but thought that in His mercy He would allow me to understand. I felt as if God had hidden Himself from me. No one could explain how this could have happened, but certainly God knew and I felt that if He helped me to understand I could somehow get through this. The truth is that after years of pleading with God for that understanding He has remained silent. I do not know why David couldn’t be saved and why God did not prevent this. David choked to death with incredible odds in his favor; a police officer at his side at the time of the incident and EMT and ambulance 20 feet away. It appeared that these people did everything they knew to do to save David, but tragically failed. One of the EMT’s present told me that this should not have gone down this way and all he could think of is that there was a higher power controlling the outcome. This has to be the greatest of all sorrows. Why would God cause us to love our children so and then take them away?
My other grave concern was what had become of David. Everyone told me he was in a better place; that he had gone home to be with the Lord. While I wanted to believe this, common religion teaches that the probability of damnation far exceeds the possibility of salvation and couldn’t understand how so many could be so sure. I was conflicted with years of the typical Christian soteriology. I had preached a gospel whose power was fear; turn or burn, what a horrible thought. Sometimes, well-meaning Christians would attempt to comfort me by saying that David was in heaven, then paused and asked David was saved, wasn’t he? Uhhh… I don’t know, what if he wasn’t! Of course, silence ensued. Why would God create the living, allow them to die so that they wouldn’t live forever in a state of sin, but allow a part of them to survive to be tormented while they wait to be brought back to life completely and be kept alive forever in a torture chamber. How is that better than living forever in sin? There had to be a better purpose for death. That is what I had believed, but the thought that this could be the fate of my own son shocked me into a greater awareness. I knew something was wrong with this thinking and am grateful to God for having revealed Himself to me in a way I had not known. It probably would have been simpler to accept all the assurances that I was receiving, but I wanted assurance from God.
While I believed David to be a good kid and have a basic belief in God, I was unsure that he met the Christian definition of being saved. As I grappled with God and approached scripture with a new heart and mind I began to see many things that settled the matter of David’s destiny. Everyone that assured me of David’s salvation had David in mind when reaching that conclusion. It always came back to David was a good kid, David was only 16, David believed in God, David was a Christian, David accepted Jesus. It wasn’t until I realized that salvation, eternal life and reconciliation were not all necessarily the same thing and that David’s ultimate end was not found in David’s life, but in Jesus’. I found assurance when I understood that in the same way that David was included in Adam in his earthly life, so too was he included in Jesus’ in his spiritual life. Living without David is extremely difficult, but living with the fear that David could potentially be tormented in hell forever would make this life intolerable. I don’t understand how those who believe in the hell doctrine as it is commonly taught can remain calm and sane while thinking that their loved ones are either there or heading there. How could anyone live with that thought and even worse, how could we ever enjoy heaven while many of our children suffer in hell; our heaven would become hell. To desire to enjoy an eternal bliss while our loved ones suffer hellish blisters seems ungodly and selfish.
While I wish that God hadn’t placed me on this path and miss David terribly I am convinced that David will live again. For now the sorrow is deep and long for the day when my tears are wiped away as the trumpet of God rouses David from the grave and I see my boy even more beautiful than I knew him to be.
I have created a website that describes in more detail this hope that David will live again.
Next blog in this series: Fellow Pilgrims