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March 13, 2007

Comments

Anonymous

All very interesting. But is there a difference between resisting evil and coping with it? And if so what would it be?

jim gordon

Hello Anon. Part of the problem of evil, is that its victims observe other people coping with it by not resisting it, by not engaging with and seeking to reverse its consequences. If floods devastate areas of Bangladesh aid and support help the people to cope with it. But if something were done to oppose the stripping of the forests to prevent such catastrophe that would be resisting it.
I also think the distinction between 'resisting' and 'coping' is theologically and morally significant. I would have thought coping with evil's aftermath, without regard for its causes comes near to acceptance - resistance (which might include helping victims cope with their experience of evil) is of a morally and theologically different category. Is the nurse who tends the seriously ill enabling the patient to cope with their condition, or part of that resistance to pain which is integral to a human and Christian response to suffering? Was the cross a sign of God coping with human sin or resisting it?

Anonymous

Perhaps I’m wrong but what you say sounds more humanistic than Christian to me, if I may be allowed to put it this way for the moment. The humanist believes that the highest response to evil is to resist it, opposing the stripping of forests for example. The Christian recognizes that opposing the stripping of forests may be a current, most effective means of coping with a particular ‘evil’, but that effecting this opposition is also likely to generate new ‘evils’, which may or may not be foreseen. It is this recognition that informs the Christian view that resisting evil is not the highest response to evil, and to suppose that resisting evil is the highest response is unchristian, and a temptation to be avoided. The Christian recognizes that ultimately evil cannot be resisted, the “humanist” doesn’t. To answer your last question in the light of this recognition, I would say that Jesus “overcame” evil on the cross not by resisting it, but precisely by not resisting it. I wish I had the time to think this through and put it better.

jim gordon

I think this conversation is at cross purposes - and I use the word cross in its Christian cruci-centric sense! The cross is in one sense a response to evil that submits to all that human evil does - and that is the response of God, which seems to me to be indeed, the highest response. Except, that the cross cannot be separated in Christian theology from the reality of the divine love of the Triune God, and the eternal purposes of God, whose highest response to evil is to redeem and 'reconcile to himself all things...by making peace through his blood shed in the cross.' But that redemtpive response is consummated in resurrection and in God bringing all things to subjection under Christ, which is the Christian hope. far from being a humanist response, for the Christian and the Body of Christ to engage in redemptive gestures of resistance to evil, is to take with profound seriousness doctrines of incarnation, atonement and resurrection as truths which we live by, and on which we draw the resources and energy to satand alongside others in the name of Christ, in overcoming evil with good (as in Romans 12, and the sermon on the Mount). Anyway, that is my own take on the issue - hope this time it is a bit more clear.

jim gordon

Actually two other brief points.
First, the issue isn't only whether or not to resist - but why we do, and what we hope to achieve by doing so. Christian resistance to evil is, it seems to me, rooted in our loyalty to Christ and takes its forms from His example.
Second, resistance is in fact an act of faith, an affirmation that violent evil is not the last word. Just as in the death of Jesus, evil, violence, hate, fear and all the politically and religiously motivated undercurrents that led to such dire suffering were overcome by resurrection, so Christians refuse to be passive bystanders in a world of suffering, because we are a resurrection people whose faith is in the God of hope.

Anonymous

--------I think this conversation is at cross purposes - and I use the word cross in its Christian cruci-centric sense! The cross is in one sense a response to evil that submits to all that human evil does - and that is the response of God, which seems to me to be indeed, the highest response.

I agree. Jesus did not resist evil on the cross. And I would add that by not resisting evil he brought evil to light. (Surely, said a roman soldier of all people, this was the Son of God and many of those who were dead rose from their tombs and walked). That which was hidden since the foundation of the world is now in view. If Jesus had resisted evil all evil would still be hidden. What do you make of this last sentence?

--------Except, that the cross cannot be separated in Christian theology from the reality of the divine love of the Triune God, and the eternal purposes of God, whose highest response to evil is to redeem and 'reconcile to himself all things...by making peace through his blood shed in the cross.' But that redemtpive response is consummated in resurrection and in God bringing all things to subjection under Christ, which is the Christian hope.

I’m sorry, but there are too many biblical sounding phrases. I’m unable to unpack it.
If I would make a guess I would say that you are saying that the crucifixion and the resurrection must be seen together to be understood and the understanding is that God has redeemed men ‘in hope?’


--------far from being a humanist response, for the Christian and the Body of Christ to engage in redemptive gestures of resistance to evil, is to take with profound seriousness doctrines of incarnation, atonement and resurrection as truths which we live by, and on which we draw the resources and energy to satand alongside others in the name of Christ, in overcoming evil with good (as in Romans 12, and the sermon on the Mount). Anyway, that is my own take on the issue - hope this time it is a bit more clear.

Well I guess my central point is that ‘redemptive gestures of resistance to evil’ are never more than gestures, for those of us who live ‘in hope’ of being redeemed, and always less than that in so far as when we resist evil we invariably generate further evil. (This latter is indeed a hard saying and sure to exasperate the humanist at heart). Although I do not trust myself to claim to understand anything that Paul wrote, my whole sense of reading the sermon on the mount is that overcoming evil by good does not mean resisting evil. Just the opposite. To be poor in spirit is to know that one possesses nothing with which to resist evil. To mourn is to see evil and bear up to the intractability of its reality (and not hide from it through the veil of responsive gestures). To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to go hungry and become thirsty, not to sate either by resisting evil. To be blessed for being merciful, pure of heart and a peacemaker is not to be blessed for righting evils but by dealing mercifully, purely and peacefully without distinction. To be blessed for being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and when men revile, persecute and slander us is to be blessed for not resisting evil but for enduring it. To resist evil is to lose the taste of saltiness, to put the light under the bushel and to fail to exceed the humanist in righteousness. Our Father in heaven does not resist evil, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good and we have to become perfect even like him.


-------Actually two other brief points.
First, the issue isn't only whether or not to resist - but why we do, and what we hope to achieve by doing so. Christian resistance to evil is, it seems to me, rooted in our loyalty to Christ and takes its forms from His example.

On an external, practical level I would say that a humanist and a Christian (if I may continue to misuse both of these terms!) may both lead exactly the same life, yet one leads a humanistic life and the other leads a Christian life. I do not believe that Christ ever resisted evil, and we do not follow his example when we do. I believe that saying we resist evil out of loyalty to Christ is our Big Lie. (Even though everyone else should desert you Lord, I shall not…)

-------Second, resistance is in fact an act of faith, an affirmation that violent evil is not the last word. Just as in the death of Jesus, evil, violence, hate, fear and all the politically and religiously motivated undercurrents that led to such dire suffering were overcome by resurrection, so Christians refuse to be passive bystanders in a world of suffering, because we are a resurrection people whose faith is in the God of hope.

No. We can see resistance. Its tangibility is what makes it resistance. But the assurance of our faith lies in what we cannot see. We betray our faith when we try to give it substance. When we try to extend it beyond hope. Christians are never passive bystanders in a world of suffering, but not because they take on suffering by resisting it (like the humanist) but because the take on suffering by bearing it (like Jesus).

jim gordon

I'ts clear that anonymous and I don't seem to agree and we've had a couple of responses each - thanks for the feedback, but this post is now closed for comments.

andy goodliff

jim i just bought this today in oxford because of your recommendation - it looks great. although he does quote from 'michael goodliff', when it should be 'paul goodliff'!!!

Deb

I have found this book among the MOST helpful in my work as a hospital chaplain. It is unfortunate it does not have a wider readership, because I think it takes the responses from the pie-in-the-sky-theoretical to the real-world-dusty-road realities of life and death. For those who have not read it (as I suspect "Anonymous" has not), I would suggest to read it and then respond.

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