While we are all scrambling to make sense of the murder of 26 people almost a week ago in NewTown Connecticut, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach urges us to cope by challenging God on why He allowed it to happen. In short, Rabbi Boteach wants us to engage in a “theology of defiance.”
By the way, what exactly would a theology informed by “defiance” look like? What would be the penalty for God if He doesn’t measure up? With what exactly does the Rabbi propose we threaten God with and who among us would be the one to administer this penalty? Rabbi Boteach is venting foolishness. While the Rabbi may be seen as a religious man it is his core value of self-oriented theology that is precisely at the center of mankind’s problem – we act as if WE are God or, at least, God answers to us. People like the Rabbi want you to take matters into your own hands, to throw off the rule of God by leaning on your own understanding. However, has the Rabbi stopped to consider what our own appetites are satisfied with? Our craving for self-rule can be seen being expressed in media outlets pushing illicit sexual relationships in the storylines of most TV shows and movies because they know that “sex sells.” Liberation from God pulses in a music industry that glorifies rebellion from authority. Every day we endure politicians who measure every position they take and every word they utter by how it will help them get reelected. Now we even have churches that throw off God’s Word as they celebrate the “marriage” of same-sex couples. It seems even when God is mentioned on “Christian” TV it is often because He is peddled like a commodity that will line the pocket of both the pulpiteer and the viewer. From my vantage point we are well schooled in the “theology of defiance.”
The “theology of defiance” is old news …
In Genesis 3:8 we see the first attempt at a “theology of defiance:”
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
The theology of grace and truth is what we need today. What was the response of God to this act of defiance? God chose to love and to chase after humanity throughout history. It is this chase that led Jesus to be born in a manger over two thousand years ago. God’s answer to a well-crafted “theology of defiance” was to walk among us so we could see how He cares, to be overwhelmed with His power to heal the sick and to raise the dead. To stand in amazement when this sinless Son of God was tortured and murdered so that we may realize that WE are the ones who have walked away from a glorious God. Our act of defiance was answered by His act of grace and mercy by sending Jesus. The life of Jesus stands as a rock-solid hope that defying a glorious God is the ultimate expression of a fool. Rabbi Boteach is simply one more iteration of a fool masquerading as a spiritual advisor.
While we are in this world, we will experience pain at the hands of evil people. Our world is broken. Jesus told us as much when He said:
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Everyday we are exposed to expressions of evil on the loose on radio, TV, the Internet, etc. Is God to be blamed? Did God thrust evil and evil people onto us for some type of demented pleasure? No. God warned us that the ultimate expression of loss and suffering (i.e. “death”) would be the result if our forerunners chose a “theology of defiance.” Do we wrestle with questions? Yes. Do we find ourselves stunned into bewilderment as to why a horrific event like the murder of little children could occur? Absolutely. But do we have the right to go so far as to doubt God’s power or love or purpose as if we are over Him? Absolutely not. The evil that was perpetrated in NewTown was a stark reminder that God was telling the truth when He told Adam and Eve that the consequences for rejecting His rule would be terrible. God was right and Adam and Eve were wrong. Every day we live with the consequences of their fateful act of defiance and have each experienced our own expressions of rebellion against God. In short, we have craved self-rule in our own lives. However, the good news is that Jesus came to rescue us from ourselves and give us hope that, on a day to come, evil will be judged once and for all.
While we are in this world we will experience more horrors at the hands of evil people. Expressions of evil are and will be experienced and reported on every day. However, make no mistake, God will vent His vengeance on those who perpetrate evil and reject His rule:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
Make sure you are on the right side when the day of vengeance comes.