I received an embarrassingly inadequate—indeed, spiritually harmful—theological education from the Candler School of Theology. To be fair, I was (as I see now) barely a Christian at the time and thus utterly unprepared to meet the challenge posed by critical scholarship and the liberal mainline. If there were evangelicals among its faculty (and I think they hired one recently), I didn’t know it at the time.
Be that as it may, between Candler’s sixth or seventh helping of “liberation theology,” it apparently didn’t have time to teach classic Reformation-era confessions of faith such as the Heidelberg Catechism.
So, for example, I didn’t know that it included these words in Answer 26:
I trust [God] so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and he will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this sad world. He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.
In this blog post, Andrew Wilson describes a letter expressing astonishment that Wilson would teach that God ever sends adversity to his children. He says this objection is becoming increasingly commonplace. In my experience, I have to agree. I blogged once about a sermon I read (from a fellow Candler grad, naturally) who said that God “never wants us to suffer. Never!”
When I tried to challenge this idea, politely, I received a pushback that suggested that my opinion on the subject was definitely in the minority, at least when it comes to mainline Protestantism.
Regardless, I like this last paragraph from Wilson’s post:
As I say, the irony of this particular objection is that the love of the Father, which (to be fair) is what the objection is trying to preserve, is often demonstrated most emphatically to us when we are suffering. It is suffering which produces perseverance, and character, and hope, which does not disappoint because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit. It is “in all these things” – persecution, danger, nakedness, sword – that we know nothing can separate us from the love of God. It is through sufferings that our comfort abounds in Christ, and through discipline that we know we are legitimate children of God. And it is God’s ability to turn all things to good, in precisely this context of pain and difficulty, that the Heidelberg Catechism makes central to its statement about God’s loving care for us: “He is able to do this because he is almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.”
Do you find anything objectionable here? I don’t.