I spent Saturday at the Wild Goose Festival. I wish I'd been able to camp & enjoy the whole thing but that wasn't possible this year, so I'm content with the "taste" I enjoyed.
One speaker I was determined to hear: Ed Dobson (not to be confused with or related to James Dobson). We come from the same world. I was eager to listen and frankly just be in his presence. Something about our shared history and the fact that he is suffering with ALS drew me to him. He listened as much or more as he spoke but I enjoyed sitting there on the ground near him in the geodesic dome (as cool a place as its name suggests).
He shared with us a question he doesn't know the answer to. It was not an original one and I appreciated that; he wasn't trying to sound pithy or uber-intelligent. His question was, "Why did God command the slaughter of entire people groups in the Old Testament?" which he followed by saying, "Personally I maintain a presupposition that this is the same Creator God who is revealed to us in Jesus Christ."
Of course people had lots of thoughts. None satisfied, and that's to be expected. No answers.
Then someone said something I agreed with. Why do we have to go back into a history that is muddled and uncertain, to ask this question? Don't we claim God is sovereign? And don't entire people groups - families, children - suffer and die by the millions, today? Why does this have to be an abstract question from the Old Testament? Where's the Jesus-God right NOW? Does He ordain this? Does He will this? Is He in control, or are His hands tied? Bono asks this question well in the controversial song, Wake Up Dead Man.
And with that, NOW we have a question. Because we can argue all day about the Bible and about historical perspective and suppositions and errancy or inerrancy, which frankly serve as a smokescreen shielding us from the real question, the real rub.
Do I have an answer? No. But here's what was screaming inside of me and what I wish I'd said in the geodesic dome:
If I didn't believe that the God who made this world and called it good, very good, can and intends to restore it - ALL - to a better state than we can possibly imagine, for His own glory... that there will be (as Julian wrote) a Great Deed whereby all will be well ... that this Deed began at the Cross but has not yet come to full fruition and that we can't begin to understand it or conceive of it right now (just as the Old Testament believers couldn't begin to understand the cross, what that would look like) ... that Jesus is and will be at the center of this because He IS The Way, The Truth, The Life, that everything was made through Him, in Him everything has its being, and He will lose NONE of it to evil ... that our present sufferings cannot compare to what is to come ... that it's better than we can imagine (I can imagine a LOT) but we can participate in it now ... if I didn't believe this to be the bigger story and have hope for its eventual realization, then I'd have to walk away in hopeless despair. Nothing less is consistent, to my sensibilities. I've tasted the various streams of interpretation and none satisfy, nothing less than all is enough for me. Anything short is talking circles around an elephant in the room. And yet that's an impossible, nonsensical "if" because I do believe and I could never walk away. I am His. I don't have Him, He has me. I know this now. Without a doubt. And so, it is well with my soul.
This is the bigger narrative that I believe in: