The Sweet Taste of Sovereign Suffering, III (Selah)

“This is not hard to see in the Bible. And it is precious beyond words! I don’t like to get angry at people who call themselves evangelicals; I don’t delight in critiquing people who have major leadership positions [who are] very popular, nice people. This is not fun. It’s heartbreaking! But what can you do when they attack the center with blasphemous cynicism? What can you do?”
— John Piper

John Piper said this concerning N.T. Wright, the British bishop who is now bringing doubt to the orthodox doctrine of Justification. When Piper said this, he was weeping. It has been haunting me these past few days. What you are reading now is my third attempt in writing this post. I keep writing a bit then having to toss it out. Each time my heart still hasn’t been in the right place.

I need to repent. My heart has not been in the right place in these rebuttals. While I feel I’ve done a good job of not letting that effect what I’ve written, sin management is still sin, and it eats you up more than most other sins. My heart has only in the past couple of days been brought to the place that Piper’s quote above comes from. As of a few days ago, I was excited. I, the “great Paul Burkhart,” have been successfully dismantling the argument of a real Pastor. I was defending the faith. I was rebuking lies. I was showing myself better suited for this task than this man. Though I never said these things, I see now this was the state of my heart. Pride. Making my theology an idol, no matter how right it may be, is still sin – and for that I am sorry.

At the end of all these posts, I intend to send them to Pastor Slye and to the person who (with glowing praise) referred me to his sermon. I let unrighteous anger and pride drive me to write, rather than love, and I need to let Slye know that I see this, and I repent. All the Bible says about us young guys is that we are strong, prideful, and foolish. The Bible knows us better than we do, and I thought I could rise above the norm for other twentysomethings. How wrong I was! “O what a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Now, I need to do the rest of this tactfully and biblically. The verses right after the verses I just quoted (Romans 7:24-25a) are as follows: “So then, I myself serve the Law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” I think I relate to Paul here. Though with my flesh I have served the law of sin with my pride and arrogance, I still believe I have been serving the Law of God with my mind. I am still certain in the things I have been writing and writing against, I just need to repent for the heart from which I wrote them.

So, I’m going to finish this series, but I hope the tone is different. I no longer look at Slye in contempt as a heretic who needs to be rebuked and shown proper exegetical and theological integrity by the punk VCU student about to go into seminary. I go through this now as a fellow wounded sojourner, seeing why he thinks how he does. I see him as a man who stands week after week in front of God knows how many people who have been burned and hurt by the church, that come to him with their broken suffering hearts needing to know why. Needing to know God has not abandoned them. Needing to know that God is still good and they are still loved. O how calloused I’ve become because of my theology! After Lazarus dies, and Mary doubts Jesus for not being there earlier. Jesus doesn’t say, “Now now, Mary, your theology is all wrong. How dare you doubt me? O you of little faith.” No. He weeps with her, and then lives out those theological truths before her.

Though I am certain that Slye’s view on suffering is unbiblical and ultimately only leads to more cynicism and pain on behalf of the sufferer, I know that as a man who was reluctant to become Pastor in the first place (as their website says), it must have been hard when faced with the weight and realities of real life that I have yet to experience. But experience aside, the Bible is the greatest commentary and authority on true reality, and as such, I believe I have Biblical warrant to honestly and humbly show where Slye has erred in his theology.

This process now for the first time hurts me and breaks my heart. Please pray for me as I continue in this. I no longer want to do this, but the Gospel of Christ compels me, as I have seen that there is only one true comforting view in the midst of the hardest pains. And that is the view of a loving Father who lets nothing touch you that does not first pass through his loving, ordaining hand such that all things that come our way have been ordained and brought to pass ultimately by a God working for our good – building us into the strong, persevering, hope-filled, Glory-loving, broken clay vessels that we need to be to truly enjoy Him and fully worship Him when He finally takes us home.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”


One thought on “The Sweet Taste of Sovereign Suffering, III (Selah)

  1. I really appreciated this post, Paul. This is not an easy issue you are addressing, and I think it requires speaking much of God’s love and goodness and compassion when speaking of how He allows–er, ordains horrible circumstances to come to pass. And I feel that indirectly, this post gives us, your readers, a glimpse of what it means to be a sinner in the hands of a God who loves by allowing suffering.


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