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God in the Dock: Tragedy and Trilemma

Suffering

The day after my son Joshua died, after the necessary funeral and burial arrangements had been made, I got into my car, drove aimlessly some distance, and finally parked in a relatively desolate place away from traffic, noise, and people. I turned the car off and began to talk out loud to God, but at a volume more accurately described with the term 'yell.' "Why? Why him? He had done absolutely nothing wrong. He most certainly didn't deserve this. He suffered so much over these last two years. How could you let this happen? How could you just watch this happen, right in front of your omniscient view? How could you have just watched all this happen this whole time, silently, as from a distance, and done absolutely nothing? Nobody I know with even a shred of moral decency would do such a thing! Why didn't you do something to help him, to heal him? Why even bring him into the world, only to allow him to suffer so much, and then give him no chance to grow up, not even a chance to enjoy childhood? Why? How could you possibly be good and just, and allow an innocent child to suffer and die in this way?" In my anger and grief, as I hurled these questions at God I was repeatedly pounding my fist on the center of the steering wheel.

JoshuaThen at some point while still pounding on the wheel and repeatedly interrogating God with no reply forthcoming, a kind of trilemma began to form in my mind, and I gradually realized that under each of its three horns what I was doing was silly and pointless. Either God did not exist, or God was evil, or God was good. In what I had witnessed in Joshua's suffering, any God who was morally indifferent or 'neutral' or apathetic was just evil. If God did not exist, my complaining was silly and pointless, because in that case nobody was listening. And if God were evil, then my complaints were also silly and pointless, because there would be no point complaining to an evil deity about ill treatment, since if he were evil he wouldn't care about failing to be good. I realized by this process of reasoning that my act of complaining to God about an injustice could only make sense if God is good. But then, of course, if God, being God, is good not by participation in goodness or by derived goodness, but as Goodness itself (ipsum bonum), then my act of complaining to Him also did not make sense because in that case He certainly has a good reason for allowing my son's suffering and death to happen, a reason I cannot presently see. I would be complaining to Goodness itself about its behavior, as though I know Goodness better than Goodness knows Goodness, and as though I know better than Goodness how Goodness ought to run things. And that too would be silly and pointless (and arrogant), because one can't show up Goodness by appealing to Goodness. Any attempt to do so only shows up one's own insufficient understanding of Goodness, and is thus self-refuting. The proper response, if God is Goodness, would not be to rail against Him but instead to trust Him, even if I never found out the good, justifying reason for Joshua's death, even if for the rest of eternity I never could find out that reason because it was so far above my finite comprehension.

I realized further that if God did not exist, or if God were evil, not only was my complaining pointless, I would never see Joshua again. My only hope to see him again lay under that third option, namely, that God is good. If in my anguish I were to turn against God, or deny His existence, I would cut myself off spiritually, mentally, emotionally, ontologically, and eschatologically, from the only possible way I could see Joshua again, and the only possible condition under which his life and suffering had been meaningful, worthwhile, and ultimately redeemable as truly good and not ultimately pointless or his suffering gratuitous. Of course that logical truth did not entail that God exists and is good. But I knew that I was not the ultimate source of the goodness and justice to which I was appealing in my complaint to whichever higher being was in charge. The only intelligible option of the three was that the goodness I longed for, and which inasmuch as I was aware of it was the fire behind the anger driving me to pummel the center of my steering wheel, was the very goodness at the heart of all things, the goodness by which I lived and breathed at that moment, and by which Joshua had lived and breathed, and breathed his last breath by my side the day before. And then the great inversion grew clearer to me. I had been yelling and railing at Goodness for His alleged lack of goodness, and all along Goodness had been giving me life, breath by which to yell, and even a little glimpse of itself such that I could make my complaint by appeal to what I knew of it by that glimpse. He who is Goodness itself all along had been looking me in the eyes, reaching into the center of my grieving soul, and embracing me with the gift of infinite love.

Then I rested my head on the steering wheel, and the tears began to pour down. I decided to trust God regarding Joshua's death, to trust that He had a justifying reason, such that Joshua's life and suffering were entirely worthwhile, even though I may never be able fully to understand that reason, either in this life or the next. This act of trust was based entirely on the thesis that the underlying source of all things is not evil, not indifferent, but is rather bonitas pura (i.e. pure goodness), the very source of the goodness I knew, and the ultimate object of the goodness for which I hoped. This thesis alone, of the three, made intellectual room for my tears, and made sense of my grief and anger, even while calling me to trust. The other two theses of the trilemma held me aloft above all reality, like Descartes's mind aloft above his body, forcing me to 'discover' what didn't exist before and under me, and thus destroying that very law by which I made my case against God on behalf of Joshua's suffering and death. Here, however, in the embrace of bonitas pura, my case against God could fail delightfully, not by knocking out its fundamental principle, but by the principle's perfection overflowing beyond the present limits of my perception and beyond the limits of what I could conceive in my present condition. If bonitas pura is the source behind and beneath all things, then Joshua's life, his suffering, and his death, all have genuine justifying and redeeming worth; they were worth it. His life was not in vain. His life was still ultimately a great gift to him, to my wife and me, and to the world. I could not out-wish or out-hope or out-plan bonitas pura. If my wishes, hopes, and plans for Joshua were good, a fortiori those of bonitas pura for my son were far better.

Joshua graveThis conclusion sank deeply into my soul, like a ship scuttled, sinking slowly and silently onto the ocean floor, never again to be moved. After the debris had settled some time later, I raised my head, wiped my eyes, started my car, drove home, and prepared to receive visitors and family from out-of-town for the funeral. But this conclusion resting on the sea floor of my soul did not shelter me from grief in the days to come. At the cemetery, as his small casket was being lowered into the ground, the pain of grief, loss, and separation, so overwhelmed me that I passed out. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in the driver's seat of my car, the seat reclined. My grandfather was standing beside the open car door. He looked at me and said, "Don't feel bad about passing out. Your great-grandfather passed out at the cemetery when my brother was being buried." Even though it did not keep grief from me, the truth that God is pure goodness allowed me to recover slowly through the grief over the weeks and months that followed. Grief did not crush me, because in every shadow of bereavement I found comfort in the truth that death is not the last word, that in my flesh I shall see the God who is bonitas pura.

Awareness that bonitas pura underlies all things changes one's stance toward reality. Faith then is not a blind leap, but a trust in One who is utterly and infinitely trustworthy. It stands in contrast to the stance of fear and despair that follow from a metaphysic in which indifference or evil is thought to be the source of all. Ultimately, is bonitas pura behind and under and surrounding all things, such that I can rest everything on it and let go in peaceful trust when death comes to me, or is reality indifferent or out to get me, such that I must fight against nature's blood-thirsty hunger game as long as I can, even though ultimately my fight is a losing and meaningless battle? On that day after my son's death, as I sat in the car struggling to make sense of what had just happened, I found within myself a kind of language of goodness, justice, and hope, a language not merely of words, but intelligible only as an ontological resonance with the bonitas pura at the center of all things, and unintelligible apart from it. As this bonitas pura so exceeds our comprehension, so by resting in its embrace through faith we can possess what the Apostle Paul referred to as a peace that surpasses all our understanding (Philippians 4:7), and what the Apostle Peter called an "unspeakable joy" (1 Peter 1:8).
 

"Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun making the day glorious with its bright beams, question the moon tempering the darkness of the following night with its shining rays, question the animals that move in the waters, that amble about on dry land, that fly in the air; ... question all these things. All respond, "See, we are beautiful." Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not unchangeable Beauty?" (St. Augustine, Sermon 241)

 

 
Happy twenty-first birthday, son.
 
 
(Image credit: Big Think)

Dr. Bryan Cross

Written by

Dr. Bryan Cross was raised as a Pentecostal Christian then became a Reformed Protestant shortly after completing his bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan. He then received an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary. In 2003 he and his wife and two daughters became Anglican. On October 8, 2006, he and his family were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. He recently received a PhD in philosophy from Saint Louis University and began a tenure track position as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Mount Mercy University. Follow Bryan at his personal blog, Principium Unitatis, and at CalledToCommunion.com.

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  • Suzanne Morgan McConnell

    Sir, we lost a little almost two year old son in May, 1986. David. Thank you for this ...there are still times we go back over our thoughts of those times and God placed this before me this morning. Blessed days...we have little Saints awaiting us, brother in the Faith.

  • Rick DeLano

    My heart is wounded sweetly by this beautiful witness to Joshua's God. Joshua, pray for us.

  • Loreen Lee

    Thank you for celebrating your son's birthday with us. Your thoughts have been for me the opportunity to find new perspective regarding the debate that has just concluded. You and your son have inspired me to feel that, yes, if goodness can/is related to having value, then yes, there would be a possibility that this worth is inherent in all things, and thus there is indeed, a moral basis to the world order. I shall therefore conclude that both of the debaters have made a 'good' point. On the human level I shall aspire to develop more objectivity in my reasoning and judgment, as this is the foundation of my 'human' ability to act morally.
    But what of when it comes to your trilogy of: God, indifference, or evil? Well, have I not been taught that evil is a lack, and therefore fundamentally does not 'exist'. On this basis I shall not look for proofs of Satan's 'existence'. (grin grin) But this thought is held only in conjunction with your proposition that even in his perfection, and 'unchangeability', that God's Goodness still increases. Perhaps 'Satan' in cutting himself off from the Golden rule has just stopped looking for the 'good'. The 'world' is indeed good, and yes, I, like all that 'exists', have value. Thank you.

  • David Nickol

    Of course, one is rightly reluctant to respond with a different view to a poster who has found comfort in a particular solution to problem as difficult and emotional as the loss of a child. But it seems to me that implied in this post is the idea that if something truly terrible were about to happen, God would intervene and stop it. It seems to be implied that when God does not intervene, it is because his plan is somehow being carried out and is just too mysterious for us to fathom. They used to say, "God writes straight with crooked lines." But it seems to me this implies that everything that happens is for the best, happens for a reason, and is part of God's plan. If we are shocked at the terrible loss of life in the storm that just struck the Philippines, it must mean we have insufficient faith, because God could have prevented it, but he didn't, and so it must all be part of God's intended plan.

    The only conclusion, it seems to me, in reconciling God's goodness with the terrible things that happen is that God does not intervene, ever. Terrible things really do happen in this world, and they do not happen because God prevents truly terrible things from happening but permits seemingly terrible things because of some mysterious plan. God does not intervene at all. The question is not why did he save my niece when my sister had a life-threatening pregnancy, and then why did he let my sister's second child die by miscarriage. He did not save the first and allow the second to die. Both events happened without any divine interference. We do not need to concern ourselves with why God saved some in the Philippines but allowed 10,000 others to die. He didn't save anyone or allow anyone to die. He doesn't pick and choose which tragedies to avert and which to permit. He doesn't intervene at all.

    So yes, in some sense, God "allows" terrible things to happen, but the question is not which things are allowed by God and which aren't. The question is why doesn't God intervene at all. And I think the answer, while difficult, is easier to fathom than trying to come up with an answer each and every time something terrible happens as to why God didn't work a visible miracle or a hidden miracle to change the course of history. God simply doesn't change the course of history.

    As Bryan Cross says, these kinds of conjectures are not logical proofs of anything. But to think that God exists and is evil is to think the unthinkable, so if one has a conviction that there is a God, it seems to me most reasonable to assume he is good and that the terrible things that happen really are terrible, but he "allows" them only in the sense that he knows and allows everything, because he created a world in which there is true freedom, not a world that is tampered with now and then to mitigate the actions of men or of the physical world.

    • Joseph R.

      We do not need to concern ourselves with why God saved some in the Philippines but allowed 10,000 others to die. He didn't save anyone or allow anyone to die. He doesn't pick and choose which tragedies to avert and which to permit. He doesn't intervene at all.

      You bring up an interesting perspective. Though I think the claim that God "doesn't intervene at all," as in He never intervenes, is too strong. Suppose God does intervene but at some unknown level to us outsiders, it could very well be His intervention saved the 10,001st person because that person has yet to achieve the goodness God wills of him.

      • Andre Boillot

        I think David's perspective is more palatable -- and comes across as more intellectually honest -- than the 'good = God intervening / bad = God mysterious' dichotomy.

        • Joseph R.

          The dichotomy to which you refer is unpalatable to me as well, and mostly because there is at least a third option: 'good = God mysterious.' Perhaps, like Dr. Cross indicated, when one understands that God could intervene but does not, it becomes His invitation for one to deepen one's trust in Him. Of course, some of His invitations don't get replies or are altogether declined.

          That makes sense, right?

          • Andre Boillot

            I should have put an asterisk after 'bad' in my example -- your third option is usually implied: it only seems bad because we've yet to see the good God is bringing out of it. Though, for me, this is no more compelling a way to think about it.

          • Loreen Lee

            Have faith.

      • josh

        It could very well be that Superman intervened to save the 10,001st person using his powers to remain undetectable, but I wouldn't object to the claim that he doesn't intervene at all. Of course, with his unwavering drive to do good, I would expect Superman to save everyone, unless prevented by the limitations of his powers or the opposition of suitable opponents.

        • Joseph R.

          Maybe I live in a cave, but I don't know of anyone who has seriously argued that the Superman popularly known by the fictional character in D.C comic books actually intervenes in this physical world. I do, however, find it a bit ironic that you chose one of the fictional characters best known for fighting evil with good and being a fairly virtuous person when not saving the world from disasters. Doubly ironic considering the Jewish roots of the character:

          http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/superman.html

          Thanks, Josh.

          Edited: corrected the popular comic publisher

          • josh

            "Maybe I live in a cave, but I don't know of anyone who has seriously argued that the Superman popularly known by the fictional character in D.C comic books actually intervenes in this physical world."

            Most Superman fanboys have their fantasies under control. I'm not sure why you find him an ironic choice for a fictional do-gooder whose Jewish literary sources and later modifications (including enhancement of powers) are well known.

          • Joseph R.

            I'm sorry if I misinterpreted what you wrote. It sounded like you think a fictional comic character is interchangeable with God. I found it ironic that you chose Superman because even if the character was remotely analogous to God, Superman achieved super goodness by saving the people he could; if God were to behave in this same manner, we would have a reason to deny His omnipotence but we would never have a reason to call Him evil or bad.

          • josh

            So we agree that if God existed he could not be both omnipotent and uniformly good? God shares the property of being a fictional character with comic book heroes, although I find the latter to be better written in many cases. Superman is fundamentally noble and good and that is what motivates him to try to save people. I'm still not sure what you think the word 'ironic' means.

          • MrSpock

            No, God is omnipotent and uniformly good. We are nowhere near to being on the same level as God. Humans (in general) don't care whether they harm an occasional insect. God not only cares for those "insects", to use an analogy, but created them and now provides for their very existence every moment. Besides, if he were to prevent every death, no man would ever go to Heaven.

          • josh

            "Besides, if he were to prevent every death, no man would ever go to Heaven." Why would God be bound by a rule like that? Why not put people in Heaven to start with, and make them perfect with an unwavering Beatific Vision? Your idea of God doesn't sound very omnipotent. If for some inexplicable reason there needs to be death, why make it painful and terrifying for so many? Why impose it on animals?

            Perhaps you have overestimated your ability to know things about something that is nowhere near being on your level?

          • MrSpock

            "Why would God be bound by a rule like that? Why not put people in Heaven to start with, and make them perfect with an unwavering Beatific Vision?" God gave us free will to decide to be with him or not. Some choose to be with him, some choose otherwise. A human example of this is in marriage. One cannot be forced into love. There is no love in a forced marriage. And animals die because they were never meant to live eternally.

          • MichaelNewsham

            "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars."
            Charles Darwin

          • Joseph R.

            So we agree that if God existed he could not be both omnipotent and uniformly good?

            Maybe I would agree that if God existed He could not merely be omnipotent and "uniformly good": presumably He has the power to instantly change the physical world for the better (must said change be fully agreeable to everybody else?), but He does not make said change. With these premises It seems fruitless to conclude whether God is "uniformly good" since it wholly depends on what changes will be defined as better and who gets to agree upon them.

            However, isn't God also considered to be all-knowing? In a nutshell, He knows when to use His power whether or not the changes are interpreted as acceptable by us. Thus God being omnipotent and all-knowing must exclusively be "uniformly evil" or "uniformly good".

            From an atheists perspective, if one can know good from evil without God, and one knows that the morally good action is always preferable over the morally bad action, then so must God who is all-knowing and omnipotent. Therefore if God exists, then He is "uniformly good."

            I'm still not sure what you think the word 'ironic' means.

            The irony is that, within the context of the comment thread which tried to establish that God does not intervene at all, you tried to mock the idea that God could have saved the 10,001st person (i.e. God intervenes to some degree) by substituting Him with a fictional Superhero - the very same superhero whose limited intervention in a fake world you do not deny but whose character you conclude is fundamentally noble and good in the real world. Even if we agree that God is also fictional, you didn't refute my point; you made it.

      • David Nickol

        . . . . it could very well be His intervention saved the 10,001st person because
        that person has yet to achieve the goodness God wills of him.

        If so, then you must explain why God didn't intervene to save the first 10,000. If God intervenes at all—once in ten thousand times, once in a million times, or once in a billion times—that means in all the other instances, he did nothing when he could have done something.

        I have told this story before, but it bears retelling here. When I was in my teens, the pastor of our church began a program that urged parishioners to tithe (5% of income to the church, 5% to other charitable causes). He would get up on Sundays and preach sermons about people who had started to tithe, and who reported that good things had happened, which they attributed to miraculous rewards for their contributions. They were all along the following lines:

        "The roof of our house was leaky, and we needed to replace it, but ever since we started tithing, it hasn't leaked!"

        "Ever since we started tithing, all our appliances have begun to work properly. We don't have to get a new toaster!"

        "Our furnace was barely heating the house, but now that we have started tithing, the house is toasty warm!"

        If you want to put yourself in the position of having to come up with an explanation for a God who didn't prevent the Holocaust, or didn't prevent the destruction and thousands of deaths in the Philippines a few days ago, but who fixes your toaster or plugs the leak in your roof because you give money to the church, be my guest.

        • MrSpock

          Your fallacy lies in the assumption that death is intrinsically evil. Death is something which each and every living thing on this planet will experience at some point. Either you're an atheist, and no intrinsic evil exists, or you're a theist, and God has provided something beyond this life. However, I agree with your second story, in that people are attempting supernatural explanations for natural phenomena.

          • David Nickol

            Your fallacy lies in the assumption that death is intrinsically evil.

            No, I quite agree that if Christians are right about immortal souls and eternal life in heaven, death is not intrinsically evil. However, in a news broadcast I watched yesterday, they showed a woman who had lost eleven members of her family. Over the years, I have lost friends and family members, but I have never lost eleven family members at once, all the buildings in the town where I live, and everything I own but the clothes on my back. Death, to a sincere and devout Christian, may not be evil, but sudden, mass death by a violent storm that causes panic and terror and separates loved ones is not simply death. Even those whose faith is so deep that they do not concern themselves with the ultimate fate of those who were killed, believing them to be in heaven, may devoutly wish that so many people had not had to die in such a violent and terrifying way. And of course there is the suffering of the survivors to think of as well. Can you imagine losing eleven members of your own family all at one time?

          • MrSpock

            I see your point about the survivors plight. It would be a great sorrow to lose that many loved ones simultaneously. However, if death is not the end, the sorrow is much less because there is little reason to be sad.

          • David Nickol

            However, if death is not the end, the sorrow is much less because there is little reason to be sad.

            I don't think Bryan Cross was making the point that there was "little reason to be sad" because of the loss of his son. To the extent that grief the pain of loss, then there is no less reason to grieve for a lost love one if he or she goes on to some life after death or simply ceases to exist. A father who loses a son, a husband who loses a wife, or a child who loses a parent suffers no less of a loss if the one who dies goes to heaven. The most impressive book I have ever read by a believer on the death of a loved on is C. S. Lewis's A Grief Observed in which he says

            Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.

            Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions 'on the further shore,' pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There's not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn't be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! 'Things on this side are not so different after all.' There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.”

          • Danny Getchell

            all that stuff about family reunions 'on the further shore'

            Interestingly enough, that is exactly the picture that Lewis himself paints in the closing chapter of "The Last Battle", the conclusion of the Narnia series.

            And I must admit that that book is by far the most moving and appealing picture of heaven - "Come further up! Come farther in!" - that this skeptic has ever read.

    • Paul Sho

      Sometimes God does not intervene at all; sometimes He intervenes massively; most times He intervenes minimally and even then majority of these are the result of our prayers for Him to intervene. Interventions which more often than not is by the direct action of the Angels and Saints.
      Nevertheless as the Psalmist says,
      "The judgments of the Lord are just;
      they are always fair.
      "They are more desirable than the finest gold;
      they are sweeter than the purest honey.
      11 They give knowledge to me, your servant;
      I am rewarded for obeying them."

      • David Nickol

        Paul, how do you know this? I have no quarrel with you believing it. It may even be true. But what motivates you to state it as factual?

        • Rick DeLano

          Because God has revealed it. No comparable guarantee of factual truth is conceivable.

          • Andre Boillot

            Hey, look who's back! Same name...new profile or did you get un-banned?

          • Rick DeLano

            A mutation has thus far been selected for.

          • David Nickol

            Because God has revealed it. No comparable guarantee of factual truth is conceivable.

            God has revealed himself in Judaism, Bahá'í, Hinduism, Mormonism, and Islam as well. Or so adherents of each one of those religions would say with as much conviction as Catholics.

          • Rick DeLano

            No. Only Catholicism; that is to say, Christ rose from the dead and founded One Church.

            No other religion presents comparable motives of credibility, although the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true in the multitude of false religions, three of the most significant (Protestantism, Orthodoxy and Islam) being nothing more or less than schismatic offshoots of Her.

        • Paul Sho

          It will take too many web pages to demonstrate this satisfactorily. But these notions can be gleaned from the Sacred Scriptures and the Church Fathers.

          For example the Lord Jesus hardly ever performed any miracle except on request, and even then the recipient has to often clearly demonstrate that he does want the Lord Jesus to intervene. And when he fed the Five thousand he could have brought out the bread and fish from thin air but he rather chose to multiply what was already available. An example of massive intervention is the incident when he told the paralytic in public to get up and go home; and of course his own resurrection is another example.

          There are so many instances in the Old testament - e.g Gideon and the 300 soldiers.

          Nevertheless, i will tell Dr Cross to go tell the Lord Jesus hidden in the tabernacle what he wants for himself and his family.
          "Behold,I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you" (Luke 10 v 19)

    • James Hartic

      "why God saved some in the Philippines but allowed 10,000 others to die."

      Is god playing Peek-a-Boo....and whak-A-mole again?

  • Peter Piper

    One of the horns of Dr. Cross' trilemma is that if there is no God to cry out to in grief and anger then there is no point in crying out in grief and anger towards God. it is clear that if there is no God then such crying out could have no effect on God. But perhaps it could have an effect on the person who is crying out, and therefore still be a helpful thing to do even in this case.

    Disclaimer: I'm not a psychologist, and I don't know whether it really would be a helpful thing to do. But the point is that it isn't in principle clear that such behaviour becomes pointless if there is no God.

    • Morrie Chamberlain

      Dr. Cross pointed out that he continued in his grief so obviously he is not talking about his emotions. So no psychologist needed here. He is pointing out the irrationality of complaining to a God that does not exist or is evil. His complaining to Pure Goodness is like walking up to the sun with a water hose to prevent a sun burn.

      • Peter Piper

        You are right that Dr. Cross was talking about actions rather than emotion. Then again, so was I. I was suggesting it might do some good to yell at God in such circumstances, even if there is no God.

  • Danny Getchell

    Dr. Cross:

    Those of us who have never lost a child cannot really put ourselves in your position, nor would we (at least I) desire to, by word play, deny you any consolation in your loss.

    So your article will receive no "challenge" from me.

  • Ted Bigelow

    My deepest, deepest, sympathies to you and your family.

    In tender respect, I look forward to meeting Joshua.

  • anna lisa

    We lost our sweet baby boy just over two years ago. I still grieve for our loss, but had already worked the outrage out of my system when we lost a late-term baby girl years before.

    Over the years I have come to the conclusion that these beautiful little children of God are blessed to be ushered into the presence of God. When we finally get to heaven (and reunited) we will be revered as *veterans* of the great war on earth, that we were chosen to fight, for *all* of humanity.

    Heaven couldn't be heaven without children.

    If we had a glimpse of heaven in advance, *as it really is* we would probably not be able to muster the will to keep living and fighting.

  • anna lisa

    Thank you so much for writing this. What a beautiful, sweet boy. God bless your family.

  • James Hartic

    Most people seen to equate god with being loving as per the human definition of the word....and if he does not treat us as we expect a loving god to do, he must not exist or this entity is a "monster". We are all born into a certain cultural, religious melieu....and hence we tend to adopt the religion and philosophical beliefs of said society. We just seem to assume that god must have certain attributes.

    There is one other remote possibility than most do not even consider. If one doesn't believe in or accept the Christian God....or other monotheistic religion, is it outside the realm of possibilty, that at death one may encounter a creative intelligence, an entity or intelligence who is responsible for creation....one that is like nature...red in tooth and claw….but indifferent…not benevolent, or malevolent…that sends no one to hell...one that is still in the process of creating….and has deemed that the end of the physical form of existence, only means another step in the cosmic evolutionary ladder...from the physical realm...to an ongoing evolution of individual beings, of consciousness, of self, of "soul", culminating in the “oneness” of that entity from whence the "singularity"(big bang)...from which our universe began? I often wonder if the concept of God, from the human perspective, from the Christian perspective isn't too small. The Christian religion is comforting no doubt in that it seems to give some answers, in a round about convoluted manner. I am not trying to take that away from anyone....but what if? Those who have no Christian god may like some hope as well. We are all, like drowning men, grasping at straws.

  • Mark Ryan

    I am preparing a talk for my teen youth group this week on suffering. Your story and explanation of suffering has helped me tremendously. Thank you.

  • John Médaille

    Speaking as a theologian, the one thing I am sure of is that in every deeply felt moment of life, theology fails. Faith, and faith alone remains. Faith in what? We actually don't know, not in any real sense, or it wouldn't be faith. But we have assurance of this: When we feel the loss of an innocent son, God says, "I know how that feels." When we suffer for something that was not our fault, Jesus says, "I know how that feels and I feel for you." And when we suffer for our own folly, and accept that suffering as consequence of our folly, we help to "make up in ourselves what is lacking in the suffering of Christ." Beyond this, there is no answer, at least not one that we would be able to bear.