Comprehending the incomprehensible

One of the strangest, saddest stories to come out of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, thus far is that of Jessica Redfield. Last month, Redfield wrote a blog post about how "an odd feeling" prompted her to leave a Toronto mall just before a shooting took place there. It would be her last blog post. Last night, she was killed in the Aurora movie theater shooting.

Why would this young woman's life be miraculously spared one month and taken the next?

I wish I had an answer.


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And Just In Case…
…my goofiness is too far out for some, let it be known that I love and delight in every last one of you. No exceptions.
“Thoughtful Responses”, she said. Hehe.
You spoke too soon, Gina.

Dorcas and Nimrod in…

(sorry; you’ll have to read to the end to get the title)

Dorcas: Looks like Rolley’s flaming people over on Facebook.
Nimrod: You’re kidding. Why’s he doing that? Someone kipe his Milk Duds?
Dorcas: I imagine it has to do with G giving him the treatment earlier today.
Nimrod: Popped him with the dreaded YOD, did she?
Dorcas: Naw, nothing that routine. She banned him from commenting on the blog.
Nimrod: Seriously. Why’d she do that?
Dorcas: For flaming people.
Nimrod: On the BreakPoint blog?
Dorcas: Yep.
Nimrod: Facebook and BreakPoint? I can’t believe it. Sounds like Rolley’s become a regular troll.
Dorcas: You just never know about people.
Nimrod: Too true. Got any particulars?
Dorcas: Just that it’s pretty much the same story in both places: he picks apart some scholar’s theology; you know, disputes their calculations of how many angels you can fit on a pin head; that sort of thing.
Nimrod: Anyone I know?
Dorcas: The scholar?
Nimrod: No, the pinhead.
Dorcas: Don’t go there.
Nimrod: I won’t. How long is he banned?
Dorcas: A month. Unless he repents by giving everyone a virtual group hug.
Nimrod: A group hug, eh? Never happen.
Dorcas: Why do you say that?
Nimrod: You know Rolley.
Dorcas: I do?
Nimrod: Yep. Think about it.
Dorcas: I’m thinking. Nothing’s happening.
Nimrod: (And they call ME ‘Nimrod‘). Come on Dorcas, what do you think Rolley’s going to do when he hears G wants a group hug?
Dorcas: Make some kind of off topic joke?
Nimrod: Close --
Dorcas: Yeah, I know; “but no exploding cigar”. You need to give that a rest, Nimrod. It’s really tired.
Nimrod: Think about it, Dorcas. He’s going to turn it into a groaner pun.
Dorcas: You really think so?
Nimrod: That question doesn’t rate a reply.
Dorcas: Shhh. Here he comes. Act natural.
Nimrod: That would be an act.
Rolley: Hi, guys.
Dorcas & Nimrod: Hi, Rolley. What news?
Rolley: Not a whole lot. Though I did come up with a title for your latest sketch like you asked me to.
Nimrod: Yeah? Good deal. Let’s have it.
Rolley: A drumroll would be nice. Regis?
Regis: (drumroll)
Rolley: Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly present; no, scratch that. I humbly present: Dorcas and Nimrod in (again, Regis, again)
Regis: (drumroll)
Rolley: I humbly present: Dorcas and Nimrod --and Rolley-- in, “VIRTUAL GROUP UGH”. Get it? “Virtual Group UGH”.
Gina [groaning]: You know what you are, Rolley?
Rolley: Incomprehensible?
Gina: Close, but no exploding cigar.
Rolley: I give up then.
Gina: I’d tell you, but I find it unspeakable.
Rolley: Then I’ll ask Shane.
LeeQuod: Ba-da-bing!

Epilogue –
Jason: That was rather nazificatory of you, Rolley.
Rolley: Yeah, but look on the bright side.
Jason: What bright side?
Rolley: As long as I’m banned from BreakPoint I can’t get hit with the dreaded YOD.
Jason: Then you didn’t hear?
Rolley: Didn’t hear what?
Jason: Gina’s taken a second job.
Rolley: A second job?
Jason: Editor of Facebook.
Shane: Ba-da-bing!
I appreciate all the thoughtful responses here, more than I can say. The truth is, my question was pretty much a rhetorical one. I don't suppose there's any answer that we could fully understand, this side of heaven. This really was incomprehensible.

There's an exchange in an episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (no, bear with me, I really am going somewhere with this) that goes like this:

"With Crow under our evil power, we can command him to perform unspeakable acts!"

"Like what?"

"Unspeakable, Mike. What do you need, a dictionary?"

In the same way, incomprehensible, by definition, is really . . . incomprehensible.

But as I said, I deeply appreciate you all. Please consider all virtual hugs accepted and returned.
Can clue? Shun?
Never get involved in a land war in Asia, a contest with a Sicilian when death is on the line, or a theological argument with Duckquinas when Acme has steamrollers on sale. Oy.

My dear brother Rolley, I'm delighted to learn that we arrived at essentially the same conclusion via different routes. I got hit with a version of your argument in the first few pages o of Rodney Stark's _The Victory of Reason_, so I consider your insistence here to be a Sign. ( :-) ) I'm simply saying that to every thing there is a season. Gina has said, via another post, that social media can be very depressing. Last I checked, blogs with comment sections were social media; we have met the enemy, and he is us. But we can change that. You are spot-on that we should work out our beliefs on the senselessness of tragedy prior to the tragedy, instead of attempting it immediately after, when our emotions can cloud our ability to reason.

I'm just wondering if Gina will get her virtual group hug.
The Conclusion of the Whole Matter
A long time ago, in a galaxy that now seems far, far away, I responded to Shane’s contention regarding the Aurora tragedy that, per Ephesians 1:11 [God] “works EVERYTHING in according with the purpose of His will. Nothing is senseless from His perspective. Take heart. There is a reason for even this.”

Disagreeing with him, I said:

“An explanation for it, yes. A reason for it, no.”

But alas, I had no time to elaborate. I now have the time.

Three points. First:

To assert there is a “reason” for the tragedy implies divine intentionality.

To say there is an “explanation” implies no such problematic intentionality.

The assertion of “reason” is founded on the notion that a proper view of divine sovereignty requires we go ahead and form a conclusion now, even before all the facts are brought to bear.

The alternative assertion, that there is an “explanation”, rejects the rush to judgment (i.e., the premature supposition that this all happened by God’s free will and/or permission) and merely affirms that yes, there is an answer, though not yet known.

I submit that a thorough investigation that incorporates all necessary evidence is possible and that it will produce a satisfactory answer proving premise B (“explanation”) and disproving premise A (“reason”). Therefore, I propose we hold off on the dogmatism until we’ve done the due diligence.

That’s my first point.

Second point:

An interpretation of Ephesians 1:11 which assumes a “reason” for literally “everything” is exegetically indefensible, and here’s why. Though it is POSSIBLE to read the verse that way, it is also POSSIBLE to read Proverbs 16:4 and a surprising number of other Bible verses in a similar fashion and effectively make God the author of evil. But the question is not, and never should be, is it POSSIBLE to read it that way. When stakes are this high, the question should always be, is it IMPOSSIBLE to read it any other way.

I submit that it is not only NOT impossible to read it another way, but that the evidence in Eph 1 and throughout the Scriptures overwhelmingly favors an interpretation that is wholly consonant with the character of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and that is at odds with the interpretation propounded at the beginning of this comment thread.

Now I know of very few credible believers who will outright admit they think the Scriptures teach God is the author of evil. But I’m of the studied opinion that those who adopt the “reason for everything” interpretation of Scripture do, nevertheless, despite the most emphatic and sincere denials, unavoidably implicate God in the origin of evil by dint of sheer consistent logic; if not in their own hearts and minds, in the hearts and minds of many of their hearers.

Third point:

Romans 8:20ff speaks of “futility”, of a meaninglessness, of a (cough) senselessness, that became part of our human existence through the curse and because of the fall. Ecclesiastes has a similar theme. My question to those who are quick to ascribe a “reason” for everything that happens: what was God’s “reason” for allegedly permitting evil into the universe in the first place? And was it truly a “reason”? Or is there, instead, an “explanation”, yet to be fully disclosed, that will reconcile both the blamelessness of God and a proper definition of divine sovereignty?

Some of my dearest, well-meaning friends think I ought to leave this question alone. Let them know I do not – I do not – pass over their entreaties without deep and prolonged introspection.

But if it is true that “ideas have consequences”, I cannot help but assess the consequences of an idea that suggests Christ’s declaration “he who has seen Me has seen the Father” does not tell the whole story. We become like the gods we worship.

I, too, want to give comfort to those who grieve at tragedies. But compassion -- if not also ‘brilliantly reasoned theological propositions founded on bulletproof exegesis and homiletics’ -- is obliged to call such tragedies “senseless”. Anything else is worse than cold comfort.
I'm an Aspie. I could probably count the number of hugs I've given on my own initiative on two hands. Nevertheless if Gina needs a virtual hug from me she can have it.
Only a couple of people have taken a crack at answering your question and heaven only knows how little I understand these things. But, I did want to share with you an insight that might help.

One day, years ago, I was driving on an autumn day. The sky was heavy, glowering with dark clouds. A part of the sky was not yet clouded over, and the sun shone through. It highlighted all the beautiful colors in the trees--all the purples, reds, oranges, yellows, greens and browns, making them seem tinged with glitter. I pulled over on the side of the road to admire the scene and thank God for the beauty. As I looked--drank in that amazing scene--it occured to me that heaven will be so much more beautiful than what I was seeing, as to be uncomprehensible. And I remember thinking, it's a good thing God doesn't tell us any more about heaven than He has--our heads would explode!

Whenever I have a problem understanding why God has allowed somehing, I always think back to that moment. I always admit to myself that God is showing me mercy by not explaining His purposes to me. If I knew the Mind of God, my head would explode!
Now that it is no longer your birthday, dear Rolley, I shall return to an issue you raised earlier. You know well that I steadfastly refuse to have anything to do with the empire of Mr. Zuckerberg. I'm well aware that this has caused me to miss out on seeing Shane hold his own, and on many other blessings from God - having turned as it were my Facebook from Him - but this is a downside I am continually willing to accept.

As to your response to my major point, I have been and always will be ready to concede that your argument is theologically superior to the alternatives. Furthermore, you consistently present it with great grace, so my vision of a steamrollered Shane is purely hypothetical.

However, when we see one young female blogger lamenting the death of another young female blogger, and obliquely asking about the meaning of life - particularly the blogging life - when the latter female blogs about narrowly escaping a rare death only to meet it head on a short time later . . . in such a case, I'm doubtful that the former is asking for Scriptural platitudes, tautological responses or even brilliantly reasoned theological propositions founded on bulletproof exegesis and homiletics. No, I think in such a case the blogger is asking for reassurance of her value, and a slightly more tangible expression of the presence of God, via a virtual hug. And I'll note in passing that virtual hugs avoid all the social awkwardness of physical contact between Christians of opposite gender who are not married to each other, with which Jon Acuff has so much fun. ( ) In fact, hang on while Gina and I demonstrate:

There. See? Had Shane and Jason and you and I all just done that on the 20th, Gina would have been a lot better off.

Fortunately, it's never too late.
"Happy birthday, Rolley! And, happy belated birthday, Anthony! Hope you both had/have a great day, and a new year of life full of God's blessings!"
-Thank you Carol, how very kind of you. It was an evening of magic and enchantment, to say the least :) Although I'm never a fan of being sung to in the middle of a crowded restaurant.

*Ahem* No mercy is right, Jason. I was the smallest one there (at 5'5" and 124-lb.) and I ate the most :D
Paradoxically, Kevin
That very laying aside of doctrinal distinctives is precisely the sort of Biblical agreement I’m talking about. That, right there, is the “better collective understanding of the word” that I’m suggesting is gradually happening.

I’m suggesting that the Spirit is illumining us about the written word in an almost parabolic way that, like other more obvious parables, is divinely intended to separate the humbler sheep from the self-important Pharisaical goats – not to condemn us, but to embarrass us, so that we quit playing foolish “let’s see who we can impress” games.

I’ll try to illustrate what I’m talking about. What follows is a gross oversimplification, but hopefully it will serve.

Baptists and Presbyterians (for example) are divided over the mode of baptism; the former believe Scripture teaches adult immersion, the latter infant sprinkling. “Surely”, (so our thinking often goes) “God has only one mode in mind and the spiritual thing is to roll up the sleeves and get to it. The one who does the better Bible Study will be the one to figure out which mode it is that God has revealed in His word is His approved choice”.

But the “better collective understanding of the word” that I’m talking about has nothing to do with athletically superior Bible Study that proves what the Scriptures really teach about the mode of baptism. The divine purpose of Bible Study and the goal of Christ’s prayer for universal church unity is mutual understanding of each other and acceptance of each other (i.e. of fellow believers on the basis of shared commonality of faith in Christ). The purpose and goal is not better and better Bible Study that results in finality on every point of Biblical doctrine. Quite the contrary.

In fact, God, spoilsport that He is, tells us such outrageous things as “knowledge puffs up whereas love builds up”, and then drops Romans 14 in our laps, which we are all too happy to minimize or ignore, as it poops our party line by suggesting the truly spiritual thing is not to “win the argument” (doggone it), but rather simply to accept the guy with (what we consider) the inferior argument as being just as acceptable to God as us, and to let God, not us, do the correcting, if correcting, indeed, is called for.

Those who listen to the Spirit more than to their clever little Bible-study-sharpened minds, wind up acquiring the true mind of Christ, which is filled not with knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but with knowledge for the neighbor’s sake; knowledge of the supreme importance of the other, and of our own tendency towards intellectual/spiritual pride, and a consequent ashamedness of self that leads to true spirituality, which again, is on the one hand a proper perspective of ourselves, and on the other hand an infinitely high esteem for the other guy for whom Christ died (Rom 14:15).

God didn’t put all the conundra we find in His word there by accident. It was quite deliberate. He wants us to agree not first of all on what it says at every point, but on what is REALLY important; namely, that we accept and love one another, even with all our irksome differences.

Lesson Number One, then, of the collective understanding of the Bible which we need to learn and which is eventually going to lay the groundwork necessary to unite all believers is that we have to get the plank of snooty doctrinal pride out of our own eyes before we can see clearly to get the speck of irritating doctrinal error out of our brother’s.

In reality, there is only one doctrine that we need to nail, and that is Christ; for “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). Space (and Gina’s YOD) does not permit me to elaborate on this grand theme here; but if any think that statement is yet another of Rolley’s gross oversimplifications I say, at the risk of being thought even more vastly peculiar than I deliberately portray myself, “sometimes we are so blind we don’t even know we are blind”.

I submit that that’s where we’ve been for much of the past 20 sometimes Satanically uncharitable centuries; but it’s changing, thank God, it’s changing. He is building His church.

BTW, sincerest thanks, my friend – and all my friends here -- for the birthday wishes. It’s so much fun I may stick around and do it again another year.
Happy Birthday!!!
Happy birthday, Rolley! And, happy belated birthday, Anthony! Hope you both had/have a great day, and a new year of life full of God's blessings!

Re your thread, I have to agree Kevin that our working together on projects is vatly unrelated to our religious convictions. Short example: my daughter, through her co-workers, became involved in sending care packages to the troops overseas. I have been (and continue to be) adamantly against the "wars" in the Middle East. However, I bought things to put in the packages, too. I'm not against our soldiers, I'm against the wars. When something means enough to you, you put aside your differences and talk about the kids, the garden, whether we should have bought "brand x" or "brand y", etc. What really matters is getting the job done.
No mercy, Anthony!
Rolley it's your birthday?!?!
"I think I broke the rule about number of consecutive comments. I think it’s my first time to do so. In any event, I plead for mercy, even though by so doing I commit the offense yet again."
-Best one yet.

Happy Birthday, Rolley!! I just had my 26th last Monday...although I'm stuffed with *cough* chicken *cough* alfredo angel-hair, Zuppa Tuscana soup, breadsticks, and a large slice of Black-Tie Mousse Cake, I'll choke down a chocolate chip your honor. :)
Happy Birthday, Rolley!
(glad I poked my head in here just in time to give my wishes on the actual day... =)
Rolley, some of the cooperative relationships you enumerate, rather than showing agreement on the Word, are actually possible only because the participants put aside much of their doctrine in order to get along. I'm not saying that's always a bad thing; evangelicals, Catholics, Muslims, etc., can't be expected to work side-by-side on good causes if they're constantly fighting over their differences. But let's not mistake that for a better collective understanding of the Word.

I do believe you make many good points, however, and I hope you're right. Mostly, I wish you a happy birthday!
Jason, the Beatings Will Start Immediately
As soon as I get my stomach pumped.

Oh snapdip. I just jumped another shark thread, didn’t I?

BUT AS IT’S MY HIPPO BIRDIE (thank You, friend Lee, for keeping this in front of certain stern monitors), I guess that means no firing squad (((OR YOD))).


That’s definitely what it means.


Can I have that blindfold?

Thank you.

Hippo birdie two ewes,
Hippo birdie two ewes,
Hippo birdie deer Ducky,
Hippo birdie two ewes!
Actually it is not heretical bears I am afraid of so much, Rolley, as the fear that one really can't reconcile Athens and Jerusalem after all. In many ways I would rather you beat me, if you could convince me well.
Hmm. Wonder What Else I Can Get Away With…
In the spirit of my birthday, Gina, tell those guys in the firing squad they can eat cake. Haha.

Hey, lighten up guys; that was just a joke. Besides, I don’t have a blindfold, and I have rights you know.

I swear some people…

Jason, before one of those BreakPoint thugs gets trigger happy with or without provocation and notwithstanding that its harumph my birthday, what say we settle this thing once and for all, shall we?

You say that to mitigate the risk of wandering off in the wrong direction we ought to put down our tent pegs here. I say if we stay here we’ll get eaten by bears. So what’s the solution?

I see no alternative but for you stay here with the firing squad and fend off the bears while I take the flashlight and go get the Park Ranger. He knows this terrain like the back of His hand. And besides, I happen to know we won’t be the first troupe He’s safely led through the wilderness.
Happy Birthday Rolley
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