Time and Time Again

Time's David Van Biema is getting kudos for Christianity Today's Weblog and GetReligion.org
for his piece on the atonement, or "Why did Jesus Have to Die?"

I just asked a theology professor to do a piece on the atonement for the Companion and I'd be amazed if he could match the way Van Biema conveys the competing views of the atonement--a sophisticated theological topic--with such grace and nuance.

Still for sheer emotional, visceral impact, the story doesn't match his 2001 story When God Hides His Face about a family that lost two children to a terrible childhood disease. The story, which was reprinted uses the story of Job to relay the story of David and Nancy Guthie and their children Hope and Gabriel, who died from a ruthless, incurable, terminal disease called Zellweger Syndrome.

When we meet Nancy, she's pregnant with Gabriel and visiting Hope's grave.

It is a warm, hazy day at the Harpeth Hills Memorial Gardens. Nancy, wearing a pink maternity suit, kneels down to wipe dirt from a plaque reading Hope Lauren Guthrie. A woman whose son lies nearby has hinted repeatedly that Hope's plot is due for a resodding.

"I'm gonna have to tell her," says Nancy wearily. "You know what? We don't need to replant that grass because we're gonna dig it up again soon. We're gonna have this baby," she glances at her belly and then at the grave, "and we already know that's where he's gonna go."

Nancy has told her own story in her book Holding on to Hope. When I interviewed her for a piece in the Companion two years, she was still holding on to hope--believing she would see her children again someday, but knowing it was long way until that day would come.

This is the kind of story with no easy answers, no immediately visible redeeming qualities. Seeing "The Passion of the Crist" is excruciating but there's a relief in the resurrection on Easter. In the Guthrie's story, redemption is delayed. They are left on Good Friday, waiting for Easter. children.

In a way, we are all still at Good Friday awaiting Easter. There's great hope in the resurrection, but still terror and despair and signs that the Devil is still loose in the world.

The Telegraph ran a piece recently about the Armenian massacres in Turkey in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a precursor to the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda, the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the killing fields of Cambodia, the massive civilian death toll in Sudan.

It makes me wonder what in the world God is waiting for? Can God really save this world?

Easter tells us that God can. But it's a long hard road on Good Friday to get there.


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