Belfast Telegraph

We worry about threats to our very existence today, but we will survive by trusting in God

By Allen Sleith: Hillsborough Presbyterian Church

There's a recurrent tendency to think that the crises of the moment, the traumas of the present are deeper and worse than those of other people. The phrase 'existential threat' has come into vogue recently, a way of indicating that there are certain dangers that threaten the very core of our being, not just as individuals but as a culture or a society.

I don't seek to minimise the reality or severity of some of those phenomena but has it not always been so?

In 1916, 100 years ago, the theologian PT Forsyth published a book called 'The Justification of God' in which he tried to address, from a Christian perspective, the acute existential crisis of the First World War. By then, whatever heady idealism and optimism may have been held about the war had been exposed as naive and mistaken by the excruciating events on the battlefield to be replaced by doubt running to despair.

Such acute anguish struck home no less for those who belonged to the church and who still harboured hope, albeit, a battered one, in God.

Addressing such dismay, Forsyth still dared to believe in God's ultimate victory in Christ, stating that "this reconciliation... though now working in history, is not to be traced on its course but trusted at its source in Him'.'

That quote is consistent with Forsyth's perennial insistence that whatever else we may discern or conjecture about God's mysterious ways moving through creation, it is supremely in Christ that we are given the decisive revelation into what God intends, does and achieves.

And the radiant source, the luminous centre, in light of which the darkness begins to subside, is to be found in Christ Jesus, and especially his crucifixion and resurrection in which our worst is exposed, exhausted and overcome by the glory of God's grace.

The great and abiding insight that the Bible makes about our relationship to God is that what's wrong with it is put right by divine grace which we accept by faith as trust.

But that's not the same thing as the attempt to explain or justify each and every event in life as though God set it in stone. Job's comforters offer no comfort at all.

Belfast Telegraph


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