Theodicy Paper( Based on the Hospital Visitation) by Phillip Bafana Phalane

Introduction

My visitation at Hospital was sad, but uplifting at the same time. I went to Hottentots Hospital and met a young man called Henry who was suffering from meningitis. He said the hospital is his second home, because anytime he is taken to the hospital to spend a month or two. He said the time he spends at the hospital is equal to the time he spends at home. I’m used to this place and there’s nothing I can do about it.

According to Bonheoffer in the letters from prison elaborates on the subject of the suffering God and says that unlike other religions that portrays God as an almighty, but the bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering; and he adds and says only the suffering God can help (Bonheoffer). When I look at Henry’s situation it will be useless to say God is big and can help anytime, the question that will stand out in his mind is that why doesn’t he intervene for him?

Henry’s is 21 years he says what hurts him the most is not the fact that he is sick, but because his age mates are progressing and he is stuck in his sick bed. When one looks at the life of Christ he seems to be for the poor and the suffering. C.S Lewis asks a question in his book and says if suffering is good ought it not to be pursued rather than avoided? When he answers he says suffering is not good in its self. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads. (Lewis, 1957).

Henry mentioned that his mother always cries when she visits him, and she always prays for him. One may wonder why God allows a parent to suffer without a resolution but Stanley Hauerwas says when a parent lost their child God  is not a spectator but suffers even more because He lost his child also (Hauerwas, 1990). Henry is a believer he goes to Anglican Church. He said he believes in God, and God is the one that sustains him. According to Feuerbach God is our own projection. When I was talking to Henry I have noticed that human being have put God in a very elevated place as if He is not interested in our day to day issues. In most time instances this view of God appears when we try we try to view God without the image of Christ in mind. When we give God credentials and try to elevate him is the more we make him a careless God. For an example Henry only recognizes as the one who sustains him but why would He sustain him? Because the more his days increase there more he suffers. When we look at the Islam to say Jesus is God is a taboo because God cannot be born, God cannot live with sinner and God cannot be killed. Jon Pouline when He writes about Islam and the Quran, He says it leaves God distant from us. The God of the Quran does not speak our language. Nor is He deeply involved in our existence. Instead, He is distant and easily seems uncaring and even vengeful unlike the God of Muhammad He is deeply engaged in the human condition (Pouline, 2002).

The blessing we have as human beings is that we have a God who has the same form as us and who suffers with us. According to the book of Matthew 18:7, He himself took our sickness and carried away our diseases. He didn’t did not make us numb so that we don’t experience the suffering but He suffers with us. Henry said that he changed his perspective towards life when he overheard the conversation his mother had with his doctor. The doctor said we can’t fix it we can only make him feel better. According to him life is just an ongoing thing that’s hurting day by day.

Henry has been in the hospital for the past two months people come and leave and he remains. Some come very sick and in a short period of time they get better and leave the hospital. He is always there. He was born in Bellville he has three brother and a sister and they are progressing in life, his younger sister is in matric he is stuck in his bed waiting for nothing. Why should all this happen if our God is almighty Jurgen Moltman comments on this and says that the suffering of a single innocent child is an irrefutable rebuttal of the notion of the almighty and kindly God in heaven. For a God who lets the innocent suffer and who permits senseless death is not worthy to be called God at all. Wherever the suffering of the living in all its manifold forms pierces our consciousness with its pain, we lose our childish primal confidence and our trust in God. The person who is torn by suffering stands alone (Moltman). Jurgen Moltman also adds says that There is no explanation of suffering which is capable of obliterating his pain, and no consolation of a higher wisdom which could assuage it. The person who cries out in pain over suffering has a dignity of his own which neither men nor gods can rob him of. The story of Job makes this evident; and since that time no theology can fall below Job’s level. The theology of ‘Job’s friends’ is confuted. Does Job have any real theological friend except the crucified Jesus on Golgotha? (Pp.47-48) (Moltman).

In this suffering world a powerful God has no place, unless if He doesn’t care about what we are going through. Only a suffering God can be a solution to Henry’s situation, a young man who has never enjoyed life all he does is to sleep. And drink his medication. Henry was transferred to Hottentots hospital because his specialist works at Hottentots hospital. When he told me this I remembered that our presupposition as Christian is that God is omnipresent and He is everywhere. The so called great physician is everywhere, and notices all sufferings of this world. The hospitals are full of hopeless people; people die everyday people go to sleep with empty stomachs. This world is full of hopelessness! If God is powerful and elevated above his own creation, while the world is sinking in the pool of suffering then there must be something wrong with him.

Edward Heppenstall states that God is the ultimate revelation of God (Heppenstall). If God is the most powerful being in this universe then He can’t be associated with the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ interest was for the poor those who suffered not the God who is elevated and ready to punish the Law transgressors. Jesus is a God who understands our suffering. Philip Yancey writes that the only people, who can teach us about suffering, both for the sake of our own preparation and our attempts comfort others, are the sufferers themselves (Yancey, 1990). Then Jesus who suffered is the only one who can teach us about suffering instead of asking questions and wondering if God care, we should learn this suffering from.

Conclusion

After my session with Henry I was tempted to say God loves him but instead I rephrased my thoughts and said Jesus knows what we all are going through because He himself suffered also. We prayed together and I didn’t know what to say in my prayer because I didn’t want to say stuff that will disturb him. There is notion that Jesus was powerful, we even sing the songs that He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set him free. These are kind of songs that strip him his care towards human beings. Just as Henry is weak and powerless so is Jesus who couldn’t even say a word against his persecutors, Jesus conquered in his weakness not in a splendor of his majestic throne with countless soldiers when elevating him we should give him his right place, He is strong when He is weak.

One author wrote that as paradoxical as it may seem, inherent in Jesus’ weakness was power. His weakness was powerful because it was the weakness of devotion to the will of God. So faithful was Jesus to the pledges of the eternal covenant, that He dedicated Himself to the cross, to all that the atonement involved, that He might bring many sons to glory. Jesus was strong enough to go to the cross that the purposes of God might be held inviolable. It was the weakness of love, long-suffering, and the weakness of consecration. For Henry to find peace in his heart He shouldn’t think of the God who is strong and powerful. He should reflect on the crucified Jesus who was powerless just like He is.

We exchanged numbers and He called me when I got here and keeps on sending sms’s to check if I’m well, I also send words of encouragement every day. Wish the Lord would give me strength to keep in touch.

 

 

Bibliography

  1. Bonheoffer, D. (n.d.). Letters from prison, Witness to Jesus Christ .

2. Hauerwas, S. (1990). A child’s dying. William B Erdmans.

3. Heppenstall, E. (n.d.). The Man Who Is God. Review and Herald.

4. Lewis, C. S. (1957). The problem of pain. London: Fontana Books.

5. Moltman, J. (n.d.). Trinity and the kingdom of God.

6. Pouline, J. (2002). The day that changed the world. Michigan: Review and Herald.

7.Yancey, P. (1990). where is God when it hurts. Michigan: Zondervan.

8. http://revlady.hubpages.com/hub/weakness).

 

 

 


[1] Bonheoffer Letters from Prison (Tegel 18 July 1944)

[2] C.S Lewis The Problem Of Pain page 77

[3] Jon Pouline The Day That Changed The Whole World page 71

[4] Jurgen Moltman The Trinity And The Kingdom

[5] Jurgen Moltman The Trinity And The Kingdom (Pp.47-48)

[6] Edward Heppenstall The Man Who Is God

[7] Phillip Yancey where is God when it hurts

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