I read this article in Christianity Today (click the link to read the article). It takes a look at the question that we all have asked and tried to answer. How can there be a “good” God and there be so much evil and suffering in the world? The article is interesting on a couple of levels.
First, the author, Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today, looks at the short clause in one of the ancient creeds of the church. The phrase comes from the Nicene Creed (you can read it here) and is this,
“crucified under Pontius Pilate.”
This appears to be a relatively simple statement of fact. This four-word clause gives us a historical context clue about when the event we are talking about took place. The person that was crucified, was executed during that time when Judea’s (or modern day Israel’s) governor was Pontius Pilate. Great! So why is that important when we are talking about whether or not God is a good God? The answer to this question is where Galli’s article makes its strongest argument.
Too often the discussion of evil, suffering, and God’s goodness descends to the point of speculation and second guesses.
- “Well, if I were God I would do this or would have done that.”
- “A good God wouldn’t allow people to suffer.”
- “If God were really good, he would never condemn an innocent child who never heard about him or Jesus to hell.”
Every statement or question that has this tone, this attitude, forgets one very important FACT. Jesus was “crucified under Pontius Pilate!” The abstract guesses and assumptions that lead us to question God’s goodness are completely and forever contradicted by the FACT of Jesus’s life, death, and (Praise God!) resurrection from the grave. The power of this little phrase is that it reveals to us that God did not address the reality and the horror of sin, death, and hell in an abstract way. God dealt with the reality of our hell-bound trajectory by coming into the mess we call humanity. Jesus became one of us so that we could enjoy what he and the Father have enjoyed for all eternity.
This is a startling and counterintuitive revelation; this is not a grand religious idea one can logically work toward, but an event that occurred under Pontius Pilate, not a theology but a God caught in the act of loving us. This factoid and its revealed meaning are what we are called to believe and to proclaim, not what God might or might not do in this or that situation. We are asked not to preach according to our imaginations or our nightmares, but according to what God has, in fact, done for us in Jesus Christ.
And that is the point of this whole thing: The guy who let Jesus get murdered proves God’s love for sinners. God did not “run” from our sin. As a matter of fact, God sent Jesus and Jesus came willingly to die for the sin of the whole world. The FACT of Jesus’s ministry, life, death, and resurrection is substantiated and corroborated by the life of the one who “washed his hands” of Jesus.