Here is Bryan Fischer, evangelical Christian radio host, graduate of Stanford with a Bachelors in philosophy, and then a graduate degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (read his bio at wikipedia here). Fischer is an educated man, but he is genuinely wrong in and insensitive in his interpretation of the events that unfolded yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut at the elementary school there. His premise is that if God was in the schools (meaning the Ten Commandments, prayer, and the Bible), that God would have prevented and protected these innocent little children from this tragic end. Here are his comments, I will respond briefly afterwards:
What is saddening, and I say this as an American Evangelical Christian, this guy is somewhat representative of mainstream Evangelical spokespersons. If you have a heart, and just plain intuition, you will immediately recognize how deranged Fischer’s sentiment is. Here are a couple of problems I see going on here:
- Fischer presupposes a Pelagian conception of God’s relation to the world. He posits that God is a gentleman, and he will not impose and insert himself in ways and places where he is not wanted—so the public school system. —But this is simply not true. God is Sovereign and his sovereignty is shaped by his Triune life of love. We know that he is sovereign and love by seeing that demonstrated in his Self-condescending love at the cross of Christ. In other words, God was present at the school yesterday; so Bryan Fischer will have to try and find another explanation for why God did not apparently act to ‘protect’ these children. Maybe God’s protection is bigger and beyond protection from facing physical/bodily death; or maybe his protection works in and through the fall-out produced by the reality of us living in a fallen-travailing world. Maybe God’s protection does not go around death, but through death in Christ. Maybe God’s protection has more ultimacy tied to; in and through the resurrection power and life of Jesus Christ.
- A second alternative explanation to why God did not apparently protect these kids and staff members yesterday is a simple one; we still live in a fallen world, and thus fallen things still happen. This over-laps with some sentiment I just voiced under the last point. God hasn’t chosen to eradicate us and this world, and its falleness; instead, he has loving chosen, in accord with his nature, to redeem, recreate and resurrect this world and us as part of this world in Christ. It is wrong to frame this in the way Fischer does. It is not a matter of God’s protection; it is a matter of God’s ways and thoughts not being ours. God’s ways are always shaped by his ultimate life of love and gracious action toward us in Christ. This certainly involves ‘protection’, but the question is; protection from what? God’s protection in Christ provides ultimate protection from an ultimate and eternal (and for some Christians, ‘temporal’) demise—to be eternally separated from his eternal life, in a salvific way. God in Christ never ever communicated that he would ‘protect’ us from the brokenness of this world; in fact he in Christ said just the opposite. Jesus said: 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33. So there is an ultimacy and eschatological hope and reality that shapes Jesus’ message and reality to us. Certainly this eschatological hope and life of God breaks in on our present daily reality from moment to moment; but this can only look the way that God intends it to look, which is dynamic and different from situation to situation. God does not act in law-like, deterministic and predictable ways, he acts according to his life of dynamic relational love. This means that he is not bound to act according to a preconceived template that we might impose upon him, he will act in ways that are commensurate with his ways, not ours. To reiterate, then, God has , for some reason, loving chosen to not go around falleness and its fall-out, but through it. To apply this to yesterday’s tragedy; God chose not to act in a way that we would consider protective, in a temporal way. God’s purposes and ends are much greater, and more loving than to act in the way we would have him act. He acts for the good, which only he knows and can see and control. This is not to suggest that he is insensitive to what happened yesterday; just the opposite! Remember, Jesus Wept at Lazurus’ tomb; even though he knew that he was about to raise Lazurus from the dead (contextually as a foreshadowing of his own ultimate resurrection that he was about to experience in Easter hope). No doubt, Jesus Wept yesterday too; and this in light of the ultimate fact that he knows that he has ‘overcome this world’, he knows that these children will be resurrected at the last day (and that they entered into his presence yesterday … just as the thief did: ‘today you will be with me in paradise’).
So there are multitudinous things wrong with Fischer’s interpretation of these events. His interpretive grid is befuddled by the fact that he has a faulty doctrine of God operative in his thoughts. His primary faulty conception of God is that God is a static God who is determined to be what he is by our response to him (Pelagian and Arian), and that God operates in cold, deterministic and law-like ways. None of these things jive with who God has revealed himself to be in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. God is freely Self-determinatively Sovereign, shaped by his life of dynamic and gracious love for the other. Bryan Fischer has the wrong God!