Friday 20th April 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.

Priests are performing exorcisms over the phone, cardinal claims

Priests have been carrying out exorcisms over the phone as demand continues to rise, a Cardinal has said. Speaking at the Vatican’s annual exorcist training conference in Rome, Cardinal Ernest Simoni said priests are delivering prayers of liberation, part of…Continue Reading

Twitter suspends right-wing commentator Mark Dice for saying transsexualism is a mental illness

April 16, 2018 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Right-wing commentator Mark Dice, famous for YouTube video interviews with random passers-by in public spaces, says that his Twitter account was suspended Thursday of last week after he implied that transgenderism is a mental illness.…Continue Reading

Pope: ‘Troubled’ over Syria, praying for Alfie Evans

At the Regina Caeli, Pope Francis calls for greater commitment from the international community for a joint action for peace in Syria. He also asks that Alfie, who is suffering from a degenerative disease and whom doctors want to deny…Continue Reading

There’s no ‘bridge’ between modernism and faithful Catholicism

April 13, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Catholic Church today is suffering greatly from a split among the faithful.  This split is evident in matters pertaining to the liturgy, doctrine, social teaching, morality, theology, and even in how the Faithful view…Continue Reading

Trump Unleashes Military Strikes on Syria Over Chemical Attack

President Donald Trump said he had approved military strikes on Syria in retaliation for an apparent chemical attack by the regime of Bashar al-Assad on a rebel town. “A short time ago I ordered the United States armed forces to…Continue Reading

Full text of Pope Francis’ letter to Chilean bishops

Vatican City, Apr 11, 2018 / 04:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter addressed to Chile’s bishops, Pope Francis admitted to making “serious mistakes” in handling the nation’s massive sex abuse crisis and asked for forgiveness. The pope summoned Chile’s…Continue Reading

Citing growing interest in Traditional Latin Mass, Archbishop Chaput creates quasi-parish

Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 12, 2018 / 12:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new quasi-parish for Catholics interested in the Traditional Latin Mass will open in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at a church that had been part of a 2014 parish merger.…Continue Reading

Cecile Richards speaking at Catholic university in SF Archdiocese

Cecile Richards, a national leader for women’s rights and social and economic justice, has been added to the Institute for Leadership Studies (ILS) 2018 Spring Leadership Lecture Series at Dominican University of California. The series is presented by Dominican in…Continue Reading

Pope Francis releases exhortation on holiness

VATICAN CITY — God calls all Christians to be saints — not plastic statues of saints, but real people who make time for prayer and who show loving care for others in the simplest gestures, Pope Francis said in his…Continue Reading

Cuomo Loots A Catholic Charity

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a disturbing new way to raise revenue: using government muscle to squeeze private organizations into “voluntarily” writing billion-dollar checks. That’s what he did to Fidelis Care, a nonprofit health plan affiliated with the Catholic Church, and…Continue Reading

Chappaquiddick And Us

Ah, you can always predict The New York Times;  from covering up the crimes of Stalin, courtesy of their Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Walter Duranty, their goal is to ever protect the left.  Thus, it is unsurprising that they published a hit…Continue Reading

Catholic morality has been replaced by a destructive sexuality

During the course of his journalistic and literary career, Cork writer Seán O’Faoláin (1900-1991) was fond of lists, often with a view to lampooning the excessive strictures of his era. He was 20-years-old and a university student before he learned…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 . . .

The surprising reason why LGBT and abortion activists have been close allies from the beginning

CLEVELAND, Ohio, April 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The pro-abortion and LGBT movements are linked spiritually, ideologically and politically, a Christian pro-family advocate says. Because of this, it has become more important than ever before for pro-life and family advocates to unite against these enemies of life and the family. Former abortion volunteer and Christian convert Linda Harvey explained to a recent pro-life conference how the LGBT and abortion movements have the common elements of rejecting God’s…Continue Reading

A plea for mercy: Thomas Evans asks Pope Francis to save little Alfie

ROME, April 16, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Alfie Evans’ father has said he is knocking “on the Church’s door” asking for help to save his son from being euthanized, and is pleading that his “voice be brought to the Holy Father” so that Alfie can be transferred to “the Pope’s hospital” in Rome. In a letter sent on Sunday to the archbishop of Liverpool, Thomas Evans also confirmed that he and Alfie are both

Syrian patriarchs condemn ‘unjust aggression’ of Friday allied airstrikes, ask for prayers

Damascus, Syria, Apr 15, 2018 / 03:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The airstrikes carried out by the United States, the United Kingdom and France against Syria on Friday constituted “unjust” and “brutal” aggression, the patriarchs of the major Christian Churches in Syria have said in a joint statement. President Donald Trump ordered the airstrikes along with the U.K. and France in a joint show of military force following the suspected use of chemical warfare by the…Continue Reading

FULL TEXT: Cardinal Burke’s talk on the limits of papal power

ROME, April 13, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — What is the extent of papal power? Are there any limits, and if so how is the violation of those limits judged and corrected? These and other questions were addressed by Cardinal Raymond Burke last Saturday, April 7, at a conference in Rome titled ‘Catholic Church: Where are you heading?’ The afternoon symposium, sponsored by the ‘Frie

Trump supporters slam decision to launch strikes against Syria

Prominent supporters of President Trump are expressing skepticism over his decision to launch airstrikes against Syria, slamming the move as overly aggressive and unnecessary. Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham both questioned Trump’s decision Friday to launch strikes in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack last weekend that the U.S. has attributed to the Syrian government. Carlson noted the move was inconsistent with the president’s message during his 2016 campaign, and Ingraham said

Advertisement(2)

A Book Review… Edith Stein’s Love Of Wisdom

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN Edith Stein: The Life and Legacy of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda (Sophia Institute Press: Manchester, NH, 2017), 221 pp.; paperback $15.95. Available from www.SophiaInstitute.com or 1-800-888-9344. An engaging, comprehensive introduction to the life, writings, thought, and martyrdom of a Jewish convert to the Catholic faith beatified…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic… The Illusion Of Independent Thinking

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

A Book Review… The Interruption Of A Catholic Renaissance

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Douthat, Ross. To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018. xvii + 234 pp. Available at Amazon.com. (Editor’s Note: Please also see James K. Fitzpatrick’s review of the Douthat book in The Wanderer, March 1, 2018, p. 1.) + + + The Archdiocese…Continue Reading

The Incredible Enlarging Child

By DONALD DeMARCO Psychologists who study perception tell us that we interpret things against a background. We notice what is called the figure, but we interpret the figure in relation to a background which we do not notice. A candle is holy when set on an altar, romantic on a piano, eerie in a jack-o-lantern,…Continue Reading

Has The War Party Hooked Trump?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN With his Sunday, April 8 tweet that Bashar Assad, “Animal Assad,” ordered a gas attack on Syrian civilians, and Vladimir Putin was morally complicit in the atrocity, President Donald Trump just painted himself and us into a corner. “Many dead, including women and children, in mindless chemical attack in Syria,” tweeted…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Raymond Cardinal Burke… Pope Francis Is “Increasing The Confusion”

(Editor’s Note: Below is the full text of an April 5 interview Raymond Cardinal Burke granted to an Italian Catholic publication, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. LifeSiteNews reprinted that interview with permission of Riccardo Cascioli, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana’s editor, and we provide it here. All rights reserved. (Diane Montagna did the translation for LifeSiteNews.) + + + ROME (LifeSiteNews) —…Continue Reading

The Sheep Of The Lord’s Flock

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fourth Sunday Of Easter (YR B) Readings: Acts 4:8-12 1 John 3:1-2 John 10:11-18 Our faith is one of mystery and what might appear to some as contradictions. Of course, there are no contradictions; paradox would probably be the better word to describe it. Our readings today describe several paradoxes for our consideration. First, we hear…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Confusion, Straw Men Mar Papal Document

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Pope Francis gets high marks in his latest apostolic exhortation on personal holiness, Gaudete et Exsultate (GE), for defending solid teaching on at least one embattled doctrinal truth: “Jesus wanted us to conclude by asking the Father to ‘deliver us from evil.’ That final word does not refer to evil in the abstract; a more…Continue Reading

The Sacraments Instituted By Christ… Christ Is The Fulfillment Of The Sacrifices Of The Old Law

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 24 In the two previous articles, we considered the three most important ceremonies of the Old Law, namely, the Sacrifice of the Covenant, the Pasch, and the Day of Atonement. In the New Testament, the Sacrifice of Calvary is closely connected to those three central Jewish sacrifices. In this article, we will see how…Continue Reading

Overview Of The Eight Beatitudes

By DON FIER The dignity of the human person, as we saw last week, “is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], n. 1700). Precisely because he is “endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Pedro Calungsod

By CAROLE BRESLIN Guam, a small island about 1,600 miles east of the Philippines, is an unincorporated territory of the United States. This small island, which has played an important role in U.S. military activities in Southeast Asia since the early twenty-first century, was recently a pawn in the political chess game with North Korea. The Jesuits first came to…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Agnes Of Montepulciano

By CAROLE BRESLIN When St. Therese of Lisieux was only 15 years old, she begged her father to let her enter a convent. Her parents, Saints Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin, were faithful Catholics and raised their children to cherish the religious life. About six hundred years before St. Therese was born, another saint had the same ambition: to join…Continue Reading