Friday 16th November 2018

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

A Book Review… Dispelling The False Images Of God

September 21, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN

The Light Shines on in the Darkness: Transforming Suffering through Faith, by Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, Ph.D. (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2017), 543 pp. $19.95. Available from www.ignatius.com or 1-800-651-1531.

For anyone who struggles to make sense of human suffering or to reconcile the unconditional love of God with the weight of sorrow that burdens human lives, Fr. Spitzer’s book justifies the ways of God to man with exceptionally lucid, cogent, and comprehensive reasons that put man’s mind, heart, and soul to rest.
Placing the weight of the argument on the image of God as the merciful, compassionate Father in the Parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, Spitzer explores in depth this theme throughout the book —God as the loving father addressed in the Lord’s Prayer, in the word used by Christ “Abba” (Daddy), and on the love of the Father for His Only Begotten Son offered in sacrifice for the salvation of all His children.
A Christian understanding on the meaning of suffering depends entirely on a true knowledge of God’s real nature, and all mistaken ideas about the existence of evil in the world derive from false conceptions about God’s essence. Spitzer begins with God’s own Revelation of His being: “God is not merely a ‘what’; He is a ‘who,’ a personal and interpersonal Being.” Christ’s references to His Father in the use of “Abba” communicate an “affectionate, caring, compassionate, understanding Father.”
In The Parable of the Prodigal Son the father welcomes his wayward son, rejoices in his return, attends to all of his basic needs with sandals and tunic, embraces him with affection, treats him with kingly hospitality by killing the fatted calf, and forgives his sins with a merciful heart. He mirrors the love of God the Father: “Jesus’ implication is clear: If God loves a completely egregious sinner . . . then He must love us in the same way — unconditionally.”
As Spitzer observes, in St. Paul’s letter on love in 1 Cor. 13, all the attributes of charity naturally apply to the God of love who is “unconditionally patient and kind” and never “irritable or resentful.” As Christ’s own miracles of healing further illustrate, “He and His Father are caring, compassionate, redeeming, saving, empathizing, self-sacrificing love.” The Beatitudes also reflect the same fatherly mildness that enjoins man to be meek, merciful, peace-loving, and poor in spirit: “The ‘logic’ of Jesus is the logic of love that says that power is humility, gentleness, affection, and ‘littleness’.”
When man’s mind grasps these revealed truths about God’s nature and love, they dispel all the false images about God that distort the purpose, value, and meaning of human suffering.
Spitzer identifies these common misrepresentations of God that result in a simplistic or twisted explanation of evil: The Payback God who exacts retribution; The Domineering God who oppresses and subjugates with hosts of armies; The Terrifying God who, in the language of Jonathan Edwards, holds man over the pit of Hell like an insect; The Stoic God who remains aloof and detached, “non-emotional, imperturbable, unsympathetic”; and The Disgusted God who disdains man for his mediocrity and failures.
All these contorted views of God do not reflect the loving, merciful heart of the father (“Abba”) of unconditional love who forgives and rejoices in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
The images of God’s fatherly love that abound in Christ’s teaching counteract the simplistic view of suffering as punishment for sin held by Job’s friends or as the consequence of the moral failures of earlier generations. The truth about God as “Abba” also surpasses the idea of Satan as the accuser who prosecutes man before God’s tribunal “to test a good person as a challenge to God” as Satan attempts to do at the beginning of the Book of Job.
Spitzer finds it irrational to view God teaching forgiveness of enemies yet punishing evildoers down to the fourth generation. The God who teaches man to forgive seventy times seven and lets the rain and the sun fall on the just and the unjust has nothing in common with The Payback God or The Terrifying God. The New Testament and Christ’s agony and crucifixion provide a new dimension into the mystery of human suffering that does not reduce it to mere legalistic punishment.
Suffering, Spitzer argues, can serve a medicinal and instructive purpose — not vindictive retribution — as in the case of St. Paul struck blind on the road to Damascus to learn humility and repentance. The role of suffering as medicinal leads to conversion and repentance that bring the spiritual health of salvation.
It serves the purpose of preventing “lifestyles and beliefs that are self-destructive and destructive of others” and of shocking the complacent “out of superficial meaning in life” dominated by a love of pleasure and wealth.
God uses suffering to create “hearts of flesh” to replace “hearts of stone” to use the language of Ezekiel. Thus, instead of God using suffering as retribution or as a test for the endurance of pain, God allows suffering for nobler purposes: “to reach for higher meaning, deeper love, and eternal salvation,” “to define our eternal identity,” and to contribute to Christ’s redemptive work in the world.
Using the story of Job who practiced fidelity and learned humility in his suffering, Spitzer explains that “suffering is a great mystery known to God alone” and that “we cannot possibly know how God is operating through our and others’ suffering.”
However, man needs to grant God the benefit of the doubt even in the crisis of loss and affliction. Though man cannot comprehend the mind of God and His unsearchable ways, man can know the heart of God as revealed in Christ’s Parable of the Prodigal Son that illustrates the unconditional love of a father’s unlimited mercy and compassion.
In this loving relationship with a father, man “can know the heart of the Father enough to trust that He would not do anything contrary to perfect love and our salvation.”
Spitzer identifies certain habits of the heart man needs to adopt during all the trials of suffering: to avoid impulsive false charges against God, to resist the presumption of doubting God’s love and wisdom, to accept God’s will with humility, to give the benefit of the doubt, and to make “a rational judgment to trust in the God of Jesus Christ, even when we feel completely alone, abandoned, depressed, and resentful.”
In these times of affliction man also needs prayers similar to the blind man Bartimaeus who pleaded to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Spitzer explains, “He wants us to choose His help freely.” Christ’s example in Gethsemane that petitioned the Father to let the cup of sorrow pass from Him provides the paradigm.
In these greatest of life’s sorrows, man’s clear understanding of God’s true nature leads him to remember that “God loves us without limit, and therefore His will is to optimize love, goodness, and salvation, for us and through us.”
Man never suffers alone without God’s presence and nearness. It is imperative to trust that “the Lord is working when we cannot perceive it,” to wait on the Lord without demanding instant results or exact dates, to persevere in patience, and to believe, in St. Paul’s words, that God makes “all things work together for the good of those who love Him.”
Spitzer argues that “God does not passively look upon our suffering” but allows it out of respect for man’s free will that gives man the capacity to love and to prove his worth and dignity that define themselves by the noble virtues of faith, hope, fortitude, and patience that shine in the midst of tribulations.
God permits a fallen, imperfect world that gives man an opportunity to be a Good Samaritan and to grow in the many facets of love from compassion, empathy, and forgiveness to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: “Therefore, the imperfections of this world are opportunities to call us out of superficiality, egocentricity, and domination, providing a conduit to humility, empathy, compassion, contribution, and faith.”
In short, the fall of Adam and Eve does not explain the entire reason for the human sufferings of division, loss, tragedy, disease, and death. In an imperfect, fallen world, the hardships people endure “actualize the human spirit” and awaken “recourse to interior resources” that move the will to find “the spirit and energy to meet, fight, and overcome challenges.” Spitzer notes how superficial human life would be with no contributions, sacrifices, or good works to enrich the lives of other people and alleviate their sufferings.
This struggle fortifies man’s heart and deepens his conscience, often inspiring heroic acts of love. These trials define and develop man’s character and raise him above complacency, mediocrity, and sloth. They provide man “an impetus to choose piety, honor, respect, and reciprocal obligation” and “to choose our identity and eternity with Him.”
As Viktor Frankl’s sufferings in the German concentration camps taught him, man’s moral decisions in the cruelest circumstances form the basis of human character. Testing the heart, soul, and conscience of each person, suffering always carries the potentiality of an increase in faith and love.
Finally, this imperfect world creates an opportunity for man to imitate Christ’s redemptive love by offering human sufferings for God’s salvific work in saving souls. Just as He offered His life and death to the Father and St. Paul wrote that he wished “to complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body,” all persons can offer this sacrificial love on behalf of others. Someday man will know the great benefits of these gifts that will, “like the mustard seed, be turned into an abundance of grace available to those who need it most.”
Sufferings, then, are never wasted, useless, or merely tragic but carry with them the power of rebirth and resurrection. “Suffering plus faith equals extraordinary love.”
This book, then, gives comfort to all who sorrow and peace to all who struggle to make sense of life’s injustices and cruelties. It deepens a person’s faith and hope and offers an honest, realistic view of the human condition that is never devoid of the Father’s boundless love and inexhaustible mercy. The Light Shines in the Darkness gives more than ample reasons for resisting despair, depression, cynicism, and nihilism.
As Spitzer shows throughout the book, though life is often tragic, horrific, and desolate, it is never “ultimately tragic” because in the mystery of suffering God’s Providence can always miraculously bring good out of evil, and, in St. Paul’s words, can do more abundantly than man can ever imagine or think.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

Load More...

Cardinal guilty of covering up sex abuse addresses US bishops’ conference

BALTIMORE, November 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A cardinal barred from public ministry since 2013 as a result of his systematic cover-up of sex abuse spoke at the U.S. Bishops’ General Assembly in Baltimore Tuesday, telling the bishops they “need to lead by witness.” In…Continue Reading

US bishops consider asking Pope Francis to release McCarrick documents

BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 13, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will consider officially asking Pope Francis to release any documents related to alleged serial sexual abuser Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. The motion was made from the…Continue Reading

U.S. Catholic Bishops Meet in the Shadow, Still, of Clergy Sex Abuse

This weekend, the Catholic bishops of the United States gather in Baltimore ahead of their three-day annual general assembly, which opens Monday. By coincidence, it will be 16 years exactly since their session in 2002, when they met to amend…Continue Reading

The Synodal Church

Antonio Spadaro, SJ – Carlos Galli Forty years ago, Jesuit Father Arij Roest Crollius wrote: “What is so new about inculturation?”[1] His reflection was a milestone in the understanding of that word and in welcoming a concept at the heart of…Continue Reading

National network of Catholic church leaders told to preserve all communications

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has asked the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to preserve all electronic and paper documents in case other federal prosecutors need to look into accusations of sexual assault against current…Continue Reading

Cdl. Burke ‘strongly’ endorses new virtue education program for young people

October 26, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the Church’s most outspoken defenders of life, marriage, and family, has “strongly” endorsed a new virtue education program for children. “Alive to the World” is a continuous, story-based virtues/values program. Much…Continue Reading

Pittsburgh wants to revoke Chick-fil-A’s sponsorship of kids event over Christian marriage views

PITTSBURGH, October 24, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – America’s most successful Christian food chain may be driven out of a children’s community event in Pittsburgh over the owners’ Christian-based view of marriage and homosexuality, if the Pittsburgh City Council has its way.…Continue Reading

Australian bishop touts women’s ordination: ‘transformation of priesthood’ is underway

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, October 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – An Australian bishop recently told priests that admitting women to the priesthood in the Church’s current state of affairs would be like pouring new wine into old wine skins, but that a “transformation…Continue Reading

Twitter locks LifeSite out of account for ‘hate’: fact-based post on rise in gay STDs

October 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Twitter has just locked LifeSiteNews out of our Twitter account over an article we posted four years ago that provided expert analysis on the rise in sexually-transmitted diseases among homosexuals. The 2014 piece by Dr. Gerard M.…Continue Reading

Ave Maria U president who criticized Cdl. Burke, Archbishop Viganò announces resignation

AVE MARIA, Florida, October 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Just six weeks after he issued a statement criticizing Vatican whistleblower Archbishop Carlo Vigano, Ave Maria University (AMU) announced its president Jim Towey will step down in June 2020. Vigano’s 11-page testimony…Continue Reading

‘Just glad we ruined Kavanaugh’s life’: Pro-abortion Left responds to Supreme Court defeat

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Judge Brett Kavanaugh is now Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and the left-wing forces who pulled out all the stops to defeat him show no signs of cooling down anytime soon. The Senate voted 50-48 on…Continue Reading

Pope selects youth from pro-gay Vatican consultant’s media org to attend Synod

October 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The four young people from Canada now at the Vatican synod on youth are all from Salt and Light Media. The Toronto-based media outlet is run by Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who is also on…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

US bishop challenges brother bishops for allowing pro-LGBT priest to speak in dioceses

BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland forthrightly articulated Church teaching on the immorality of homosexual acts to the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Tuesday. He questioned whether his brother bishops believed this “doctrine of the Church or not,” and if they did, why some of them have allowed certain clergy to speak in their dioceses with a pro-homosexual message. “Brothers, I think part of the fraterna

Abp. Viganò urges U.S. bishops to confront sex abuse as ‘courageous shepherds’

ROME, November 13, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò today has issued a brief note to the U.S. Bishops, urging them to confront sex abuse as “courageous shepherds” rather than “frightened sheep.” The U.S. Bishops are currently in Baltimore at their much-anticipated fall annual meeting at which they were expected to vote on concrete proposals to hold bishops accountable for their failures after the reve

Pope Francis . . . “First, there is the immense and ongoing crisis of climate change and the nuclear menace”

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO PARTICIPANTS IN THE PLENARY SESSION OF THE PONTIFICAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES Consistory Hall Monday, 12 November 2018 [Multimedia]   Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to meet the full complement of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. I offer cordial welcome to the new Members and I am grateful to the former President, Professor Werner Arber for his gracious words of introduction, while I pray that Professor Joachim von…Continue Reading

Vatican orders U.S. bishops to halt plans for vote on sex-abuse reforms

BALTIMORE – The first gathering of the nation’s Catholic bishops since a summer wave of anger and recrimination over clergy sex abuse in the American church opened Monday with a stunning announcement: The prelates would not vote on a series of new accountability measures – and it was the Vatican who ordered them to hold off.

Our Veterans Fought and Died For Our Freedom, Not for Abortion

(Reprinted from 2013) In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, thirty men from the small town of Bedford, Virginia, huddled close together in landing craft churning through the dark waters of the English Channel on a mission unlike any other the world had ever known. Their destination: a strip of sand known as Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Most of the thoughts running through the minds of these young men are lost to…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly]. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society…Continue Reading

Conflicting Rights In A Divided Nation

By LAWRENCE P. GRAYSON The Senate Judiciary hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as an associate justice of the Supreme Court were brutal to his personal reputation, devastating to the comity of the congressional body, and inflammatory in an already divided nation. Protesters shouted in the hearing room, had sit-ins in the hall, accosted a senator…Continue Reading

The Paradox Of The Person

By DONALD DeMARCO The first law of nature is self-preservation. The highest law of morality is self-sacrifice. What the content these two sentences makes abundantly clear is that the life of the human being is one of perpetual tension. Self-preservation and self-sacrifice are not exactly on the same page. However, it is important to note…Continue Reading

Mass Migration: Mortal Threat To Red State America

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Among the reasons Donald Trump is president is that his natural political instincts are superior to those of any other current figure. As campaign 2018 entered its final week, Trump seized upon and elevated the single issue that most energizes his populist base and most convulses our media elite. Warning of…Continue Reading

Shawnee State . . . Professors Must Speak Contrary To Their Beliefs Or Be Punished

CINCINNATI — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against Shawnee State University officials Monday, November 5 on behalf of a professor that the university punished because he declined a male student’s demand to be referred to as a woman, with feminine titles and pronouns (“Miss,” “she,” etc.). Although philosophy professor Dr. Nicholas Meriwether…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Indifference

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian, Washington, D.C. Monsignor kindly gave The Wanderer permission to reprint this essay from his blog, which appeared there on November 5, 2018. All rights reserved.) + + + The Gospel for Tuesday of the 31st Week features the Lucan version of the parable about…Continue Reading

Shine Brightly Like The Stars

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Thirty-Third Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Daniel 12:1-3 Heb. 10:11-14, 18 Mark 13:24-32 In the Gospel reading today our Lord teaches us about what will happen at the end of the world: The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will be falling from the sky, and the…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Life Is Beautiful With Final Judgment In View

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The prospect of final judgment brings negative impressions, images, or emotions to mind for many. Sometimes it also does so for some who claim our Catholic faith. As a step along the way to spiritual maturity, we must often be purged of our childish or worldly impressions. With an authentic and deeper faith, the prospect…Continue Reading

The Sacrament Of Holy Orders… More On Women Priests — Why Not?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA Part 4 The participation of women in the life of the Catholic Church over the centuries has been remarkable. Without being priests, women have played a major role in the instruction of the faithful, service of the sick and needy, and the works of the apostolate. The work of spreading the Gospel, as early as in…Continue Reading

Humility — Foundation Of The Spiritual Life

By DON FIER As has been demonstrated over the past two weeks, temperance is the cardinal virtue that “moderates the attraction of pleasures, assures the mastery of the will over instincts, and provides balance in the use of created goods” (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 383). Although most often associated with man’s innate appetitive drives to…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Gertrude The Great

By CAROLE BRESLIN In Christian spirituality, prayer has many types and forms. There are prayers of adoration, thanksgiving, reparation, and petition. There are vocal prayers and mental prayers. Again there are liturgical prayers and private prayers. Only one woman in the history of the Church has been called great, St. Gertrude the Great, a Benedictine nun, known for her wisdom…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Elizabeth Of The Trinity

By CAROLE BRESLIN When a woman receives the Carmelite habit, she also receives a new name. St. Teresa of Avila received the name “of Jesus” and St. Therese of Lisieux received the name “of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.” Likewise, when Elizabeth Catez became a Carmelite and received her name, she was given the title “of the Trinity,”…Continue Reading