Thursday 17th January 2019

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

"I do not think it is accurate to say that the sexual abuse of minors is owed to clericalism. That would be to give the impression that there is something about the clerical state that involves the sexual abuse of minors." Part 2 .. Interview
https://t.co/7Ja8po3UlN

Honest to God, I am really getting sick and tired of these caravans. What in the world is this? Just come and push your way into the country? And all of this just happening by itself? Thank you, @realDonaldTrump for standing firm against the un-American #Democrat party. #MAGA

@BethellDonna @Church_Militant @george_neumayr @JZmirak
@TaylorRMarshall @DanielCMattson @Patrick_Coffin @DictatorPope @ProtecttheFaith @TheWandererNews @LorlebergPetra Please help share and sign! This is a good way of putting pressure on Rome to do the right thing in February!

LifeSiteNews.com on Twitter

“Swiss group launches global petition asking Catholic bishops to stop homosexual networks https://t.co/EyvvxXzIeM”

twitter.com

Load More...

China’s crackdown on Christians continues

Beijing, China, Jan 15, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A campaign by the Chinese government to ‘Sinicize’ religion is ongoing, with detention and indoctrination of Muslims in the far west of the country, and the closing of underground churches…Continue Reading

Cdl. Wuerl will not celebrate youth Mass prior to March for Life

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 16, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Embattled Cardinal Donald Wuerl will not celebrate the Archdiocese of Washington’s January 18 Mass for Life, which is scheduled to occur before the annual March for Life. Instead, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to…Continue Reading

Support Archbishop Viganò on his 78th birthday!

January 16, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, turns 78 years old today. Born in northern Italy, Archbishop Viganò was ordained to the priesthood in 1968. He spent the next several…Continue Reading

Cdl. Burke: Pope Francis’ response to abuse crisis is ‘more confusing than anything’

January 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke told German TV in a January 8 interview that Pope Francis’ response to the abuse crisis is “confusing.” Cardinal Burke stated that Pope Benedict was “very clear on this [matter of abuse],”…Continue Reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Trashes Pro-Life People: You’re “Not in Line With Society”

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s radically pro-abortion prime minister, blasted pro-life advocates Wednesday amid a nation-wide outrage about barring pro-life groups from a federal grant program. “An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion,…Continue Reading

Cardinal’s trial puts French Church in glare of Catholic abuse scandal

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Lyon goes on trial on Monday charged with failing to act on historical allegations of sexual abuse of boy scouts by a priest in his diocese. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin is the highest-profile cleric to be…Continue Reading

Trudeau to issue new coin commemorating decriminalizaton of gay sex

OTTAWA, January 4, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has granted the Royal Mint permission to release a new one-dollar coin designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his father’s decriminalization of homosexuality. Trudeau’s government approved the coin…Continue Reading

CARDINAL CUPICH KEYNOTE SPEAKER FOR DISSIDENT PRIESTS’ CONFERENCE

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (ChurchMilitant.com) – Cardinal Blase Cupich is slated to be the keynote speaker at the annual conference for a notorious dissident priests’ organization. The annual assembly of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) will take place in June 2019, and…Continue Reading

Vatican spokesman, deputy, resign over strategy differences

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican spokesman and his deputy resigned on Monday over disagreements on strategy, ending a year of upheaval in the Holy See’s communications structure. A brief Vatican statement gave no reason for the resignations. Spokesman Greg…Continue Reading

Chinese city bans public displays of Christmas, cites ‘clean city’ as reason

LANGFANG, China, December 19, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A city in China has issued a sweeping ban on Christmas-related decorations, public celebrations, and advertisements, claiming it’s necessary to keep the city clean for an upcoming awards contest. Christmas is not an…Continue Reading

Priest: Pro-LGBT rainbow rosary promoted by Fr. Martin ‘comes from the pit of hell’

December 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – During a radio interview about the pro-homosexual “social justice” rosary that Fr. James Martin has been promoting, Fr. Donald Calloway prayed for Martin’s “radical conversion” and that the Jesuit might “repent of the things he has…Continue Reading

President Trump’s Decision to Defund Planned Parenthood of $50-60 Million Likely to Win in Court

President Donald Trump appears likely to win a court battle against the abortion giant Planned Parenthood. At issue are new guidelines for Title X grants, which fund family planning programs across the country. In February, the U.S. Department of Health and…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 . . .

Vatican: Abuse summit to help bishops know ‘what they need to do’

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2019 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Just over a month ahead of the much-anticipated February meeting on sex abuse, the Vatican said the summit’s goal is for bishops to leave the meeting knowing clearly what it is they need to do to stop the abuse of minors. According to a statement by papal spokesperson Alessandro Gisotti Jan. 16, the February meeting “has a concrete purpose: the goal is that all of…Continue Reading

Archbishop Viganò urges McCarrick to publicly repent in new open letter

ROME, January 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — With a tone of fraternal and priestly charity, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has written an open letter to former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, encouraging him to publicly repent of his sins and thus to save his soul. In the brief letter, dated January 13, 2019 and published in English and Italian (see full text below), Archbishop Viganò has also sought to persuade McCarrick that he has a unique opportunity to greatly benefit the Churc

U.S. Catholics losing trust in clergy, survey finds

Washington D.C., Jan 11, 2019 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Trust in the clergy has declined sharply over the last year, a new Gallup poll shows. Only 31 percent of American Catholics now rate the honesty or ethical standards of the clergy as “high” or “very high.” The figures, released Friday, show a drop of 18 points since 2017. Among American Protestants, the same question produced a relatively stable number of 48 percent, a drop of…Continue Reading

Vatican News pays tribute to Cuba’s brutal communist revolution, then deletes post

ROME, January 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – An article at Vatican News, in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, disappeared from the Holy See’s website just one day after it appeared on January 1. No explanation was offered for the self-censorship of the article, which marked the rise to power of Fidel Castro and his anti-clerical Marxist government, which has long been marked by grievous human rights violations. The Vatican News article, in…Continue Reading

Wuerl knew McCarrick abuse allegations in 2004

Washington D.C., Jan 10, 2019 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- An allegation of misconduct against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was reported to Cardinal Donald Wuerl in 2004, despite Wuerl’s insistence he knew nothing about McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct until 2018. Wuerl forwarded the report to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, DC, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said Thursday. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington confirmed to CNA that an allegation against McCarrick was presented to Wuerl while…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

An Answer To A Sedevacantist Wannabe

By FR. JOHN T. ZUHLSDORF (Editor’s Note: Someone who is “seriously considering adopting some form of sedevacantism” wrote recently to Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf, and Fr. Z posted his reply on his January 7 blog. The question and answer are reprinted here with permission.) + + + Quaeritur: Father, I’ll get straight to the point:…Continue Reading

Critics Warn… New Mexico Bill Could Allow “Suicide Tourism”

SANTA FE, N.M. (CNA/EWTN News) — Proposed legislation in New Mexico could legalize assisted suicide in the state, and may even allow for the prescription of deadly drugs outside the state via telemedicine, and by health-care professionals other than physicians. Deacon Steve Rangel, associate director for the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the…Continue Reading

The Case Against The Sign Of Peace At Mass

By REY FLORES O Lord Jesus Christ, Who said to Your Apostles: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you,” regarda not my sins but the faith of your Church, and deign to give her peace and unity according to Your will: Who live and reign God, world without end. Amen. — At…Continue Reading

Candor Is Not The Enemy Of Love

By DONALD DeMARCO Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, in his book Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World, makes two most important points when he reminds all those who love life that “candor is not the enemy of love” and that “real hope begins in honesty.” Candor may disturb one’s…Continue Reading

No, This Is Not JFK’s Democratic Party

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House has more women, persons of color, and LGBT members than any House in history — and fewer white males. And Thursday, January 3, the day Rashida Tlaib was sworn in, her hand on a Koran, our first Palestinian-American congresswoman showed us what we may expect. As a…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

His Bride Is The Church

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Isaiah 62:1-5 1 Cor. 12:4-11 John 2:1-11 In the readings for the past three weeks, the Church has given us the three traditional events which manifested our Lord’s divinity. The word Epiphany means manifestation. These manifestations took place thirty years apart, but were celebrated together because they point…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… The Wall And Abortion: No Moral Equivalency

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The March for Life event each January draws thousands of pro-life Americans to Washington, D.C., to witness for the weakest and most defenseless among us, preborn boys and girls who cannot speak on behalf of the sacredness of their lives in the face of legalized abortion which, in some cases, threatens their existence at every…Continue Reading

The Authority Of Bishops . . . The Hierarchy Of Orders In The Catholic Church

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 8 It is a well-known fact that the Church today is going through a crisis, especially in faith, as can be seen as early as 1985 when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger allowed the publication of The Ratzinger Report. I believe that Benedict XVI was the only Pope in Church history whose mind was already well-known…Continue Reading

The Crisis Of Hope In The Modern World

By DON FIER Two opposing vices were identified last week as contrary to the theological virtue of hope: despair and presumption. Despair, on the one hand, goes against Divine Mercy; presumption, on the other hand, goes against Divine Justice. To explain, the renowned Thomist philosopher Dr. Josef Pieper describes hope as “preeminently the virtue of the status viatoris [condition or…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: In a recent reply about the appropriateness of giving blessings to those coming to Holy Communion, we said that the practice was an unauthorized innovation that should be discouraged. We have since learned that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., has instructed his priests and deacons not to give such blessings. Here is his rationale: “I do not…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. John Calabria

By CAROLE BRESLIN St. Teresa of Calcutta answered a call within a call by founding the Missionaries of Charity to help the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India. Soon her apostolic endeavors to serve the most destitute of persons spread throughout the world, while she said that the greatest poverty is in the West where people do not know…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Of Egypt, Abbot

By CAROLE BRESLIN While we can understand that God is infinite, it is difficult to comprehend the stretch of such infinity. Certainly our finite minds cannot begin to comprehend it. Hence, since our minds are finite, the more we have cluttering our minds with worldly affairs such as possessions, relationships, and activities, the less time and room we have in…Continue Reading