Have faith, things may end beautifully

CPX Senior Fellow, Barney Zwartz writes for The Age about Pauline hope in the face of the Gaza/Ukraine wars, poverty, and injustice.

The only Christian doctrine confirmed on the front pages of the newspapers every day is that of original sin. That is so right back to the invention of newspapers – whether dated to the 16th century or news sheets in ancient Rome.

And there is plenty of evidence, as always, this week: destruction in Israel/Gaza, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, famine, persecution, poverty – they are always with us. How can anyone who pays attention not be overwhelmed?When terrible things happen in the world, people may question their faith.

And how can we explain it? The theological discussion – how can an all-good, all-powerful God allow such suffering – is called theodicy, and although religions offer various explanations and suggestions, none is entirely successful because our understanding is finite. The non-religious can offer no explanation at all, other than “s— happens” or “we need more education”.

Where for me, as a Christian, the Bible helps not in explaining suffering but in enduring it – and knowing that this too shall pass.

The Bible has much to say about injustice and exploitation, and about God’s care for the suffering, and this is especially true in the Psalms – ancient Israel’s theology sung, not spoken – which records us talking to God rather than the other way round.

In Psalm 37, King David writes: “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither.” He also says: “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil” and that the vindication of those who trust in the Lord will be like the noonday sun.

Since it was patently obvious to David, as it is to us, that the powerful tend to triumph in this life, David must refer to justice beyond the grave. I know this idea infuriates many non-believers (once including me), who regard it as “pie in the sky when we die”.

But it should not: the conviction of eventual justice has not stopped Christians fighting for it in daily life over the centuries and today.

Barney Zwartz is a Senior Fellow at The Centre for Public Christianity. This article first appeared in The Sunday Age

Image source: Алексей Филатов. “Large Crowd of People.” Canva, 13 November 2023.