Recently a brief commentary by a national television network focused on Christian faith. It asked, "How did September 11, 2001 affect faith in God?" Included was a statement from a member of a Christian rock group. Before September 11, he toured America using songs to urge people to trust our good God by placing full confidence in Him. The events of September 11 resurrected an ancient question in his thinking: "How could a good God allow us to suffer such incredible evil?"

In recent years our American culture's growing emptiness motivated many to renew their search for God. That is good. Many began that search with seriously distorted views of God. That is bad. Why? Seriously distorted views of God produce flawed expectations. Failed expectations attack faith. Consider some insights.

Insight # 1: In many somewheres on earth, horrible evils of great magnitude occur daily. The AIDS epidemic in some African nations daily results in unbelievable acts. Atrocities in nations torn by warring factions produce acts of horrible violence we never experience. The realities surrounding starvation in some nations exceed our comprehension. Injustices within some South American nations add layers of intolerable misery on top of intolerable misery. Americans may not be accustomed to acts of great evil, but much of the world is. For many people, faith in God must exist as great acts of evil occur.

Insight # 2: Too many American Christians are prey to a spiritual predator. Too many hold a uniquely American definition of salvation. Our definition produces a uniquely American view of God. While we pay verbal tribute to eternal aspects of salvation, our salvation expectations focus on "life now." Salvation expectations commonly include these: no "untimely" physical death in my family; no catastrophic illness in my family; no poverty; steady lifestyle improvement; constant upgrades in my opportunities; and achieving my basic "this life" goals. We resent public appeals to a "health and wealth" gospel, but often we cling to a "health and wealth" gospel privately.

Insight # 3: Too many American Christians believe they have the divine right to a physically desirable "good life." Physical life is not a journey through this physical world to a home in God's world. Physical life is the destination. Since "we only live once" we must make physical life enjoyable. A sobering statement: "Child, remember that during your life you received your good things ..." (Luke 16:25).

Perhaps great acts of evil terrify us because we distort God and redefine salvation.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 3 March 2002

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