An Aurora victim whose life was spared

A former student wrote me after the Aurora shootings saying that a friend of his was in the theater and had been shot.  He said she was from an active homeschooling family, a leader in the Colorado homeschool debate league, and a committed Christian, very much like our other students.  He was distraught about it, and the parallels with our other students made the shootings disturbingly real to me.

A few days later, my student updated me about how his friend’s life was providentially, if not miraculously, spared.  I’ll let NBC News tell the story:

Petra Anderson, one of 58 people injured in the Aurora movie theater attack, is lucky to be alive.

Anderson, a 22-year-old aspiring music professor, was hit by a shotgun blast during the assault that killed 12 people. Three pellets struck her arm and one rocketed through her head, but it missed the brain’s many blood vessels and key sections controlling vital functions, according to her doctor.

“If the pellet had wavered a millimeter, really in any direction from what it actually took, then she would have likely either died or been severely injured,” said Dr. Michael Rauzzino, a neurosurgeon at The Medical Center of Aurora who operated on Anderson to remove the pellet. “I would say this is definitely a miracle,” he said, while showing an MRI of Anderson’s brain.

The MRI reveals a faint trace of the pellet’s path after it entered the left side of Petra’s nose, broke through the front of her skull, and passed through her brain, before lodging in the back of her head. . . .

“It would be hard to create a path similar to this where it goes all the way from the front to the back and misses every single blood vessel, doesn’t bother any of the major structures, and leaves her able to talk and move everything and not be paralyzed or dead,” he added. “Never in my entire career have I seen a case where a bullet has traversed the entire brain like this and not caused severe damage or death.”

via Shotgun pellet’s ‘miracle’ path spared Aurora victim’s life – U.S. News.

At first the report was that she was saved by a birth defect–a channel in her brain that the pellet exactly followed–but the doctor says now that this was not the case.  The pellet just went through her brain missing every blood vessel and vital structures.  That’s miraculous enough.   I know it’s hard to talk about such things, given the people who were not spared, but still, this is remarkable.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    “That’s miraculous enough. I know it’s hard to talk about such things, given the people who were not spared, but still, this is remarkable.”

    That’s the rub, isn’t it? If one person was deliberately spared, then another was deliberately shot. Whenever there is a tragedy and someone says that the people who avoided it “are miracles” or “God was looking out for them”, I wish someone would say in response, “Well, was God not looking out for the people who were killed?” I find it the height of arrogance to think that God is looking out for you and not for somebody else.

    And then there comes the question of why God didn’t spare them? Not powerful enough? Was he punishing them? Is it part of some greater plan? What plan? And if the plan requires evil, doesn’t that mean that God isn’t powerful enough to do it with only good?

  • Michael B.

    “That’s miraculous enough. I know it’s hard to talk about such things, given the people who were not spared, but still, this is remarkable.”

    That’s the rub, isn’t it? If one person was deliberately spared, then another was deliberately shot. Whenever there is a tragedy and someone says that the people who avoided it “are miracles” or “God was looking out for them”, I wish someone would say in response, “Well, was God not looking out for the people who were killed?” I find it the height of arrogance to think that God is looking out for you and not for somebody else.

    And then there comes the question of why God didn’t spare them? Not powerful enough? Was he punishing them? Is it part of some greater plan? What plan? And if the plan requires evil, doesn’t that mean that God isn’t powerful enough to do it with only good?

  • Tom Hering

    Michael B., the question to ask is: why don’t we all get a bullet through the brain? As sinners, we all deserve one. So yeah, it’s a sign of God’s love and grace when we don’t suffer something, or don’t suffer as much as we deserve. If He withdrew Himself from this world and our lives, we wouldn’t have to wait for Hell to know every sort of suffering, and suffering beyond imagination.

  • Tom Hering

    Michael B., the question to ask is: why don’t we all get a bullet through the brain? As sinners, we all deserve one. So yeah, it’s a sign of God’s love and grace when we don’t suffer something, or don’t suffer as much as we deserve. If He withdrew Himself from this world and our lives, we wouldn’t have to wait for Hell to know every sort of suffering, and suffering beyond imagination.

  • CRB

    A helpful comment from Pastor Cwirla’s blog of a few years ago:
    http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/article/528.html

  • CRB

    A helpful comment from Pastor Cwirla’s blog of a few years ago:
    http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/article/528.html

  • Steve Billingsley

    Tom H.,

    Well stated.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Tom H.,

    Well stated.

  • DonS

    Michael B. — why is it wrong for people to celebrate a life that is spared, seemingly miraculously?

  • DonS

    Michael B. — why is it wrong for people to celebrate a life that is spared, seemingly miraculously?

  • Stephen

    Tom,

    No, I have to disagree. I find the idea that we deserve a bullet to the brain “because we are sinners” to be at least hyperbole and at worst cruel and absurd. No one deserves execution while they are out with friends and family watching a movie. God’s mercy amounts to not getting executed unexpectedly? Really? I’m not sure that is what you wanted to say. And by what you have also stated, it would be just as easy to say also that God did, in fact, withdraw, for a few moments at least, when that man opened fire. “Let the chips fall where they may. Not my business.” Or something like that.

    Death comes for everyone of us. Cruel enough. We still get what we deserve, and there is nothing particularly meaningful about having it inflicted in this way.

    And I think you miss the finer point of what Michael is saying as well DonS. It isn’t about “celebrating life” when one’s life is spared. That’s fine as it is. I think his point is that we try to see in the events of our lives a direct reflection of “God’s will” happening for our benefit when the same benefit is not extended to others in the same circumstance. This is a case of trying to wrap our little brains around the events of our life and make them have a reason. It’s called theodicy, and it is also cruel because, as I think Micheal was trying to say, it trivializes the very real misery of others.

    So, thanking God that something good has befallen you is one thing. Nothing wrong with that and I do it all the time and we should. But turning it into a sign or symbol of something special or miraculous for our sakes takes it to another level, as if our very existence itself is not miraculous enough, or more, as if salvation isn’t enough already. An evil generation seeks a sign. Only one is given. Which one is that?

    I’ll tell you where God is to be seen in sharp focus, close up, real – in those who are suffering the most from this great crime, those who have had their loved ones torn from them, in contemplating the lives that could have been. That is where Christ has chosen to reveal himself, right at the very bottom of it all. That is why ministers go into those dark places (or should) with prayer and words of hope and don’t spend their time (or shouldn’t) bloviating about miracles and “God’s will.” Suffering or its opposite, escaping near death like this, in themselves are completely meaningless. That is probably why they are so confounding and why we grope for meaning in the midst of them.

  • Stephen

    Tom,

    No, I have to disagree. I find the idea that we deserve a bullet to the brain “because we are sinners” to be at least hyperbole and at worst cruel and absurd. No one deserves execution while they are out with friends and family watching a movie. God’s mercy amounts to not getting executed unexpectedly? Really? I’m not sure that is what you wanted to say. And by what you have also stated, it would be just as easy to say also that God did, in fact, withdraw, for a few moments at least, when that man opened fire. “Let the chips fall where they may. Not my business.” Or something like that.

    Death comes for everyone of us. Cruel enough. We still get what we deserve, and there is nothing particularly meaningful about having it inflicted in this way.

    And I think you miss the finer point of what Michael is saying as well DonS. It isn’t about “celebrating life” when one’s life is spared. That’s fine as it is. I think his point is that we try to see in the events of our lives a direct reflection of “God’s will” happening for our benefit when the same benefit is not extended to others in the same circumstance. This is a case of trying to wrap our little brains around the events of our life and make them have a reason. It’s called theodicy, and it is also cruel because, as I think Micheal was trying to say, it trivializes the very real misery of others.

    So, thanking God that something good has befallen you is one thing. Nothing wrong with that and I do it all the time and we should. But turning it into a sign or symbol of something special or miraculous for our sakes takes it to another level, as if our very existence itself is not miraculous enough, or more, as if salvation isn’t enough already. An evil generation seeks a sign. Only one is given. Which one is that?

    I’ll tell you where God is to be seen in sharp focus, close up, real – in those who are suffering the most from this great crime, those who have had their loved ones torn from them, in contemplating the lives that could have been. That is where Christ has chosen to reveal himself, right at the very bottom of it all. That is why ministers go into those dark places (or should) with prayer and words of hope and don’t spend their time (or shouldn’t) bloviating about miracles and “God’s will.” Suffering or its opposite, escaping near death like this, in themselves are completely meaningless. That is probably why they are so confounding and why we grope for meaning in the midst of them.

  • helen

    God was “looking out” for all of them.
    If a believer died, his family is grieving but he is enjoying the presence of God. Nobody knows what sorrow he may have been spared by death here and now. (It does take some time, if you are family, to arrive at this assurance.)
    If a believer lived, we may appropriately thank God for their having been spared to us, for the time being. I don’t think anyone need apologize for being grateful!

  • helen

    God was “looking out” for all of them.
    If a believer died, his family is grieving but he is enjoying the presence of God. Nobody knows what sorrow he may have been spared by death here and now. (It does take some time, if you are family, to arrive at this assurance.)
    If a believer lived, we may appropriately thank God for their having been spared to us, for the time being. I don’t think anyone need apologize for being grateful!

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    Providential ‘miracle’ indeed’!!
    and I agree w/ Tom # 2 –
    as HUMANS!- geeeeez- we all are in need of our Savior – Jesus the Christ – and His SAVING GRACE–

    “Here I stand- I can do no other–”
    someone bold said that once! –BTW- I know who it was! no need to tell me!
    Carol-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    Providential ‘miracle’ indeed’!!
    and I agree w/ Tom # 2 –
    as HUMANS!- geeeeez- we all are in need of our Savior – Jesus the Christ – and His SAVING GRACE–

    “Here I stand- I can do no other–”
    someone bold said that once! –BTW- I know who it was! no need to tell me!
    Carol-CS

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    That’s the grace of our wonderful God right there. Thank and Praise God for this news!

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    That’s the grace of our wonderful God right there. Thank and Praise God for this news!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think we might be abusing the term “miraculous” here, although that seems to be the thing these days. I suppose it’s a reaction to doctrinaire atheism — if people deny actual, biblical miracles, then up the ante by insisting that everyday occurences (e.g., babies being born) are now miracles!

    Should she (and we) praise God for the blessing of a bullet that did not do more damage? Of course. Just as we should for rain, food, and, for most of us, year after year in which nobody even tries to shoot us in the first place, much less hits us. All of these are blessings from God. But they all involve the normal working of the world — as did the path of this bullet.

    The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. Unless you repent, you too will all perish.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I think we might be abusing the term “miraculous” here, although that seems to be the thing these days. I suppose it’s a reaction to doctrinaire atheism — if people deny actual, biblical miracles, then up the ante by insisting that everyday occurences (e.g., babies being born) are now miracles!

    Should she (and we) praise God for the blessing of a bullet that did not do more damage? Of course. Just as we should for rain, food, and, for most of us, year after year in which nobody even tries to shoot us in the first place, much less hits us. All of these are blessings from God. But they all involve the normal working of the world — as did the path of this bullet.

    The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. Unless you repent, you too will all perish.

  • Michael B.

    @Tom Hering
    @Steve Billingsley

    I think you’re just reiterating Calvinist doctrine, and don’t really believe what you’re saying, or at least have never thought it through. Let’s play your doctrine though. Veronica Moser-Sullivan was 6-years old and shot in the head in the Aurora shootings. Let me hear you actually admit that she deserved to have that happen to her. And if she did deserve to die, isn’t the result good? It’s justice, right? I suppose the only wrong part for you would be the vigilantism of the act. She deserves death, but only God has the right to inflict the punishment?

  • Michael B.

    @Tom Hering
    @Steve Billingsley

    I think you’re just reiterating Calvinist doctrine, and don’t really believe what you’re saying, or at least have never thought it through. Let’s play your doctrine though. Veronica Moser-Sullivan was 6-years old and shot in the head in the Aurora shootings. Let me hear you actually admit that she deserved to have that happen to her. And if she did deserve to die, isn’t the result good? It’s justice, right? I suppose the only wrong part for you would be the vigilantism of the act. She deserves death, but only God has the right to inflict the punishment?

  • Tom Hering

    Stephen and Michael B., I stand by what I said @ 2. There are three possibilities: all of us deserve every sort of suffering; none of us deserve any sort of suffering; some of us deserve to suffer and some of us don’t. Now, in which case would you say God is merciful – because mercy is shown to us? I’ll help you out. If the second case is true (none of us deserve any sort of suffering), then God must be cruel or a weakling or both. If the third case is true (some of us deserve to suffer and some of us don’t), none of us could be sure which category we fit into, so none of us could be sure that God is merciful to us, personally.

  • Tom Hering

    Stephen and Michael B., I stand by what I said @ 2. There are three possibilities: all of us deserve every sort of suffering; none of us deserve any sort of suffering; some of us deserve to suffer and some of us don’t. Now, in which case would you say God is merciful – because mercy is shown to us? I’ll help you out. If the second case is true (none of us deserve any sort of suffering), then God must be cruel or a weakling or both. If the third case is true (some of us deserve to suffer and some of us don’t), none of us could be sure which category we fit into, so none of us could be sure that God is merciful to us, personally.

  • Michael B.

    @Tom Hering
    Let us just imagine that through some warped kind of thinking, you actually come to the conclusion that this child did deserve to be shot in the face. (And by the way, this type of thinking belongs to sociopaths.) The child is criminally evil, you reason, therefore, the child deserved the punishment.
    Even now, you still have a huge logic problem on your hands. How then can God spare the other (evil) children without being evil? A judge who suspends judgement of an evil person is evil himself. Imagine the following situation: Someone breaks into your house and murders your entire family. He is caught by police and dragged before the judge. The judge says, “I’m a very merciful judge. I’m going to give you a second chance. You’re free to go”. What would you say about that judge?

  • Michael B.

    @Tom Hering
    Let us just imagine that through some warped kind of thinking, you actually come to the conclusion that this child did deserve to be shot in the face. (And by the way, this type of thinking belongs to sociopaths.) The child is criminally evil, you reason, therefore, the child deserved the punishment.
    Even now, you still have a huge logic problem on your hands. How then can God spare the other (evil) children without being evil? A judge who suspends judgement of an evil person is evil himself. Imagine the following situation: Someone breaks into your house and murders your entire family. He is caught by police and dragged before the judge. The judge says, “I’m a very merciful judge. I’m going to give you a second chance. You’re free to go”. What would you say about that judge?

  • Tom Hering

    Michael B., try starting with the Scriptural testimony that God is merciful, and work backwards. How can this be true if little children suffer horrible things? What’s your answer? I’d like to know.

  • Tom Hering

    Michael B., try starting with the Scriptural testimony that God is merciful, and work backwards. How can this be true if little children suffer horrible things? What’s your answer? I’d like to know.

  • Stephen

    Tom,

    There’s a couple problems with your reasoning. You are working, first of all, with false premises me thinks. We are talking about a particular kind of suffering which you say we all deserve and not whether we all deserve all kinds of suffering. So the question is: do we all deserve this particular kind of suffering? You also assume that suffering itself has some kind intrinsic meaning. By attaching the idea of things being “deserved” you give suffering a value. My contention is that our suffering is void of value in itself.

    Dealing with this second problem first, I think you are confusing earthly suffering with eternal punishment. This is, as Michael suggests, a Calvinist error that confuses law and gospel. The sovereign must have some particular reason for this happening that we can discern through rational means. If things go well, God is merciful. If not, he has withdrawn. That is flat wrong and unbiblical. there is no cross in this kind of reasoning. Instead, the Lutheran (and biblical) response is to proclaim into darkness the God who was crucified for our sakes, not so that suffering makes sense, but in fact so that we see that this is most certainly NOT our punishment. The punishment for us all was laid upon him, not us.

    “In this world you will have troubles” says Jesus. This is the fact of our existence and as such, it is law. He goes on “,but take heart! for I have overcome the world.” That is gospel, and it is as far removed from our earthly life and its misery as the earth is from the furthest star. “Take heart!” means to have faith. The world, even though it kills the body, cannot conquer the soul of the one who believes (to paraphrase Jesus elsewhere, as I’m sure you can recognize).

    Puzzling out the meaning of this particular crime is to look for God other than where he has placed himself – in His word, which is most specifically seen and heard in the crucified Christ.

    And as to your syllogisms, you are working from a particular (bullets to the brain) and giving it universal status. I reject the idea that in this world, we all deserve THAT, which is what I hear you saying. We do not all deserve a firing squad. That’s different than saying that the wages of sin is death. We all die. And in this world suffering happens because of sin, sin that effects us sometimes out of no earthly fault of our own. And yet God is just. He has put the law in our minds so that we punish those who commit crimes like this.

    Beyond this, faith and the preaching of the gospel tell us that though we die, we will live. Jesus wept because death saddened him. He did not say “well, that’s tough, but really, Lazarus deserved it, as do we all” and the went on his way. And by raising Lazarus he was not saying that some will get mercy done to them and some will not. He was showing that God IS merciful. And through faith, we receive the promised mercy – “He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

    God does not will suffering. He wills life.

  • Stephen

    Tom,

    There’s a couple problems with your reasoning. You are working, first of all, with false premises me thinks. We are talking about a particular kind of suffering which you say we all deserve and not whether we all deserve all kinds of suffering. So the question is: do we all deserve this particular kind of suffering? You also assume that suffering itself has some kind intrinsic meaning. By attaching the idea of things being “deserved” you give suffering a value. My contention is that our suffering is void of value in itself.

    Dealing with this second problem first, I think you are confusing earthly suffering with eternal punishment. This is, as Michael suggests, a Calvinist error that confuses law and gospel. The sovereign must have some particular reason for this happening that we can discern through rational means. If things go well, God is merciful. If not, he has withdrawn. That is flat wrong and unbiblical. there is no cross in this kind of reasoning. Instead, the Lutheran (and biblical) response is to proclaim into darkness the God who was crucified for our sakes, not so that suffering makes sense, but in fact so that we see that this is most certainly NOT our punishment. The punishment for us all was laid upon him, not us.

    “In this world you will have troubles” says Jesus. This is the fact of our existence and as such, it is law. He goes on “,but take heart! for I have overcome the world.” That is gospel, and it is as far removed from our earthly life and its misery as the earth is from the furthest star. “Take heart!” means to have faith. The world, even though it kills the body, cannot conquer the soul of the one who believes (to paraphrase Jesus elsewhere, as I’m sure you can recognize).

    Puzzling out the meaning of this particular crime is to look for God other than where he has placed himself – in His word, which is most specifically seen and heard in the crucified Christ.

    And as to your syllogisms, you are working from a particular (bullets to the brain) and giving it universal status. I reject the idea that in this world, we all deserve THAT, which is what I hear you saying. We do not all deserve a firing squad. That’s different than saying that the wages of sin is death. We all die. And in this world suffering happens because of sin, sin that effects us sometimes out of no earthly fault of our own. And yet God is just. He has put the law in our minds so that we punish those who commit crimes like this.

    Beyond this, faith and the preaching of the gospel tell us that though we die, we will live. Jesus wept because death saddened him. He did not say “well, that’s tough, but really, Lazarus deserved it, as do we all” and the went on his way. And by raising Lazarus he was not saying that some will get mercy done to them and some will not. He was showing that God IS merciful. And through faith, we receive the promised mercy – “He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

    God does not will suffering. He wills life.

  • Michael B.

    @Stephen
    @Tom

    It seems there are only 2 possibilities when we consider the Aurora tragedy:
    1) God could have prevented it
    2) God could not have prevented it

    Whichever you pick, you are going to have numerous problems. To be fair to Tom, he understands very well the pitfalls of the the second statement. If God couldn’t have prevented this, why are we worshiping him? We’d be better off worshiping a competent FBI agent who could have prevented it.

    And yet, Tom makes an assumption that denies God full power: that God had to have an evil universe. Why couldn’t God have created a perfect universe from the get-go? Perfectly-created humans would never have rejected God. We are left with the whole “created imperfectly, but commanded to be perfect” problem.

  • Michael B.

    @Stephen
    @Tom

    It seems there are only 2 possibilities when we consider the Aurora tragedy:
    1) God could have prevented it
    2) God could not have prevented it

    Whichever you pick, you are going to have numerous problems. To be fair to Tom, he understands very well the pitfalls of the the second statement. If God couldn’t have prevented this, why are we worshiping him? We’d be better off worshiping a competent FBI agent who could have prevented it.

    And yet, Tom makes an assumption that denies God full power: that God had to have an evil universe. Why couldn’t God have created a perfect universe from the get-go? Perfectly-created humans would never have rejected God. We are left with the whole “created imperfectly, but commanded to be perfect” problem.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michael B (@16), what, exactly, are the “numerous problems” if one asserts that “God could have prevented it”?

    Why couldn’t God have created a perfect universe from the get-go? Perfectly-created humans would never have rejected God.

    God did create a perfect universe from the get-go, as Scripture tells us. And Scripture also tells us that humans were, in fact, both perfectly created, and also created perfect. It also tells us that they did, in fact, reject God by sinning. It does not explain this. I’m sure that frustrates you. It frustrates many people, who see it as a reason to reject Scripture as a whole, in spite of the point that Scripture intends to convey (which point is obvious to all, anyhow): that, regardless of how sin came to be in a perfect world made by a holy God, we are personally without excuse, anyhow, as we have contributed to the problem ourselves, so that we are without excuse.

    We are left with the whole “created imperfectly, but commanded to be perfect” problem.

    Only if you choose to ignore Scripture and make up your own facts. That is your problem to solve, however.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Michael B (@16), what, exactly, are the “numerous problems” if one asserts that “God could have prevented it”?

    Why couldn’t God have created a perfect universe from the get-go? Perfectly-created humans would never have rejected God.

    God did create a perfect universe from the get-go, as Scripture tells us. And Scripture also tells us that humans were, in fact, both perfectly created, and also created perfect. It also tells us that they did, in fact, reject God by sinning. It does not explain this. I’m sure that frustrates you. It frustrates many people, who see it as a reason to reject Scripture as a whole, in spite of the point that Scripture intends to convey (which point is obvious to all, anyhow): that, regardless of how sin came to be in a perfect world made by a holy God, we are personally without excuse, anyhow, as we have contributed to the problem ourselves, so that we are without excuse.

    We are left with the whole “created imperfectly, but commanded to be perfect” problem.

    Only if you choose to ignore Scripture and make up your own facts. That is your problem to solve, however.

  • Michael B.

    Where is the Bible does it say man was created perfectly? And also, how do you explain how a perfectly created being doesn’t stay perfect? Furthermore, doesn’t Calvinist doctrine say that even babies are born evil? At most, the only subject we were debating was ever perfect was Adam. Certainly we would agree that all of us are created imperfectly.

  • Michael B.

    Where is the Bible does it say man was created perfectly? And also, how do you explain how a perfectly created being doesn’t stay perfect? Furthermore, doesn’t Calvinist doctrine say that even babies are born evil? At most, the only subject we were debating was ever perfect was Adam. Certainly we would agree that all of us are created imperfectly.

  • Stephen

    Michael @ 16

    The two possibilities you offer are philosophical arguments. I think you are trying to shoehorn our experience of the world into an image of divine providence. This is the rationalist project – expecting God to fit into our Reason. That’s a losing proposition and removes the need for saving faith in Christ. For one thing, underneath the effort to “figure it out” logically assumes a couple things – that we can reach above the heavens and figure out God, and also that we can problem-solve the situation. The second of those two is a godly work that we do for our neighbor, like having laws and law enforcement, but it in no way means we will achieve eternal solutions and remove sin. Everything in this world is corrupted by sin and is passing away. Maybe that is confusing.

    The question of “why?” will never go away. Ask yourself if having a “reason” for such things happening makes them anymore acceptable. Would it help the grieving person to have a reason? I think it does the opposite and diminishes the very real experience of pain.

    But, if you want to go that direction, perhaps a more theological way to say it might be that God is self-limiting. This is expressed in Philippians 2:5-11 where Christ gives up his power and empties himself for the sake of humankind. So that self-limiting is actually the point where we see the mercy of God in high relief against all the suffering of this life – in the crucified Christ over to death for us.

    But again, my point about God being present when we perceive things are going in our favor and God withdrawing when they aren’t. Essentially Calvinist and not biblical. The scriptures say to rejoice in the Lord always and to give thanks in ALL things. That means thanking God for FBI agents and courts and the goodwill of our neighbor as well as rejoicing that no matter what happens to us in this world, we have been promised a new life beyond it. For this promise a Christian looks nowhere else but to the cross.

    And @ 18. No, we are not created imperfect. It is important to be precise with terminology. We are created in the image of Adam, which means we have inherited this corruption and as such, enter the world sinners. Now, I will pull an fws on you and encourage you to read this from the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord on Original Sin to answer your question on our created situation in regards to sin:

    1] And, to begin with, a controversy has occurred among some theologians of the Augsburg Confession concerning Original Sin, what it properly [and really] is. For one side contended that, since through the fall of Adam man’s nature, and essence are entirely corrupt, the nature, substance, and essence of the corrupt, man, now, since the Fall, or, at any rate, the principal, highest part of his essence, namely, the rational soul in its highest state or principal powers is original sin itself, which has been called nature-sin or person-sin, for the reason that it is not a thought, word, or work, but the nature itself whence, as from a root, spring all other sins, and that on this account there is now, since the Fall, because the nature is corrupt through sin, no difference whatever between the nature and essence of man and original sin.

    2] But the other side taught, in opposition, that original sin is not properly the nature, substance, or essence of man, that is, man’s body or soul, which even now, since the Fall, are and remain the creation and creatures of God in us, but that it is something in the nature, body, and soul of man, and in all his powers, namely, a horrible, deep, inexpressible corruption of the same, so that man is destitute of the righteousness wherein he was originally created, and in spiritual things is dead to good and perverted to all evil; and that, because of this corruption and inborn sin, which inheres in the nature, all actual sins flow forth from the heart; and that hence a distinction must be maintained between the nature and essence of the corrupt man, or his body and soul, which are the creation and creatures of God in us even since the Fall, and original sin, which is a work of the devil, by which the nature has become corrupt.

    3] Now this controversy concerning original sin is not unnecessary wrangling, but if this doctrine is rightly presented from, and according to, God’s Word, and separated from all Pelagian and Manichean errors, then (as the Apology says) the benefits of the Lord Christ and His precious merit, also the gracious operation of the Holy Ghost, are the better known and the more extolled; moreover, due honor is rendered to God, if His work and creation in man is rightly distinguished from the work of the devil, by which the nature has been corrupted. 4] In order, therefore, to explain this controversy in the Christian way and according to God’s Word, and to maintain the correct, pure doctrine of original sin, we shall collect from the above-mentioned writings the thesis and antithesis, that is, the correct doctrine and its opposite, into brief chapters.

    5] 1. And first, it is true that Christians should regard and recognize as sin not only the actual transgression of God’s commandments; but also that the horrible, dreadful hereditary malady by which the entire nature is corrupted should above all things be regarded and recognized as sin indeed, yea, as the chief sin, which is a root and fountain-head of all actual sins. 6] And by Dr. Luther it is called a nature-sin or person-sin, thereby to indicate that, even though a person would think, speak, or do nothing evil (which, however, is impossible in this life, since the fall of our first parents), his nature and person are nevertheless sinful, that is, thoroughly and utterly infected and corrupted before God by original sin, as by a spiritual leprosy; and on account of this corruption and because of the fall of the first man the nature or person is accused or condemned by God’s Law, so that we are by nature the children of wrath, death, and damnation, unless we are delivered therefrom by the merit of Christ.

    7] 2. In the second place, this, too, is clear and true, as the Nineteenth Article of the Augsburg Confession teaches, that God is not a creator, author, or cause of sin, but by the instigation of the devil through one man sin (which is a work of the devil) has entered the world, Rom. 5, 12; 1 John 3, 7. And even at the present day, in this corruption [in this corruption of nature], God does not create and make sin in us, but with the nature which God at the present day still creates and makes in men original sin is propagated from sinful seed, through carnal conception and birth from father and mother.

    8] 3. In the third place, what [and how great] this hereditary evil is no reason knows and understands, but, as the Smalcald Articles say, it must be learned and believed from the revelation of Scripture. And in the Apology this is briefly comprehended under the following main heads:

    9] 1. That this hereditary evil is the guilt [by which it comes to pass] that, by reason of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we are all in God’s displeasure, and by nature children of wrath, as the apostle shows Rom. 5:12ff ; Eph. 2:3.

    10] 2. Secondly, that it is an entire want or lack of the concreated hereditary righteousness in Paradise, or of God’s image, according to which man was originally created in truth, holiness, and righteousness; and at the same time an inability and unfitness for all the things of God, or, as the Latin words read: Desciptio peccati originalis detrahit naturae non renovatae et dona et vim seu facultatem et actus inchoandi et efficiendi spiritualia; that is: The definition of original sin takes away from the unrenewed nature the gifts, the power, and all activity for beginning and effecting anything in spiritual things.

    11] 3. That original sin (in human nature) is not only this entire absence of all good in spiritual, divine things, but that, instead of the lost image of God in man, it is at the same time also a deep, wicked, horrible, fathomless, inscrutable, and unspeakable corruption of the entire nature and all its powers, especially of the highest, principal powers of the soul in the understanding, heart, and will, so that now, since the Fall, man inherits an inborn wicked disposition and inward impurity of heart, evil lust and propensity; 12] that we all by disposition and nature inherit from Adam such a heart, feeling, and thought as are, according to their highest powers and the light of reason, naturally inclined and disposed directly contrary to God and His chief commandments, yea, that they are enmity against God, especially as regards divine and spiritual things. For in other respects, as regards natural, external things which are subject to reason, man still has to a certain degree understanding, power, and ability, although very much weakened, all of which, however, has been so infected and contaminated by original sin that before God it is of no use.

    13] 4. The punishment and penalty of original sin, which God has imposed upon the children of Adam and upon original sin, are death, eternal damnation, and also other bodily and spiritual, temporal and eternal miseries, and the tyranny and dominion of the devil, so that human nature is subject to the kingdom of the devil and has been surrendered to the power of the devil, and is held captive under his sway, who stupefies [fascinates] and leads astray many a great, learned man in the world by means of dreadful error, heresy, and other blindness, and otherwise rushes men into all sorts of crime.

    14] 5. Fifthly, this hereditary evil is so great and horrible that only for the sake of the Lord Christ it can be covered and forgiven before God in the baptized and believing. Moreover, human nature, which is perverted and corrupted thereby, must and can be healed only by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost, which, however, is only begun in this life, but will not be perfect until in the life to come.

  • Stephen

    Michael @ 16

    The two possibilities you offer are philosophical arguments. I think you are trying to shoehorn our experience of the world into an image of divine providence. This is the rationalist project – expecting God to fit into our Reason. That’s a losing proposition and removes the need for saving faith in Christ. For one thing, underneath the effort to “figure it out” logically assumes a couple things – that we can reach above the heavens and figure out God, and also that we can problem-solve the situation. The second of those two is a godly work that we do for our neighbor, like having laws and law enforcement, but it in no way means we will achieve eternal solutions and remove sin. Everything in this world is corrupted by sin and is passing away. Maybe that is confusing.

    The question of “why?” will never go away. Ask yourself if having a “reason” for such things happening makes them anymore acceptable. Would it help the grieving person to have a reason? I think it does the opposite and diminishes the very real experience of pain.

    But, if you want to go that direction, perhaps a more theological way to say it might be that God is self-limiting. This is expressed in Philippians 2:5-11 where Christ gives up his power and empties himself for the sake of humankind. So that self-limiting is actually the point where we see the mercy of God in high relief against all the suffering of this life – in the crucified Christ over to death for us.

    But again, my point about God being present when we perceive things are going in our favor and God withdrawing when they aren’t. Essentially Calvinist and not biblical. The scriptures say to rejoice in the Lord always and to give thanks in ALL things. That means thanking God for FBI agents and courts and the goodwill of our neighbor as well as rejoicing that no matter what happens to us in this world, we have been promised a new life beyond it. For this promise a Christian looks nowhere else but to the cross.

    And @ 18. No, we are not created imperfect. It is important to be precise with terminology. We are created in the image of Adam, which means we have inherited this corruption and as such, enter the world sinners. Now, I will pull an fws on you and encourage you to read this from the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord on Original Sin to answer your question on our created situation in regards to sin:

    1] And, to begin with, a controversy has occurred among some theologians of the Augsburg Confession concerning Original Sin, what it properly [and really] is. For one side contended that, since through the fall of Adam man’s nature, and essence are entirely corrupt, the nature, substance, and essence of the corrupt, man, now, since the Fall, or, at any rate, the principal, highest part of his essence, namely, the rational soul in its highest state or principal powers is original sin itself, which has been called nature-sin or person-sin, for the reason that it is not a thought, word, or work, but the nature itself whence, as from a root, spring all other sins, and that on this account there is now, since the Fall, because the nature is corrupt through sin, no difference whatever between the nature and essence of man and original sin.

    2] But the other side taught, in opposition, that original sin is not properly the nature, substance, or essence of man, that is, man’s body or soul, which even now, since the Fall, are and remain the creation and creatures of God in us, but that it is something in the nature, body, and soul of man, and in all his powers, namely, a horrible, deep, inexpressible corruption of the same, so that man is destitute of the righteousness wherein he was originally created, and in spiritual things is dead to good and perverted to all evil; and that, because of this corruption and inborn sin, which inheres in the nature, all actual sins flow forth from the heart; and that hence a distinction must be maintained between the nature and essence of the corrupt man, or his body and soul, which are the creation and creatures of God in us even since the Fall, and original sin, which is a work of the devil, by which the nature has become corrupt.

    3] Now this controversy concerning original sin is not unnecessary wrangling, but if this doctrine is rightly presented from, and according to, God’s Word, and separated from all Pelagian and Manichean errors, then (as the Apology says) the benefits of the Lord Christ and His precious merit, also the gracious operation of the Holy Ghost, are the better known and the more extolled; moreover, due honor is rendered to God, if His work and creation in man is rightly distinguished from the work of the devil, by which the nature has been corrupted. 4] In order, therefore, to explain this controversy in the Christian way and according to God’s Word, and to maintain the correct, pure doctrine of original sin, we shall collect from the above-mentioned writings the thesis and antithesis, that is, the correct doctrine and its opposite, into brief chapters.

    5] 1. And first, it is true that Christians should regard and recognize as sin not only the actual transgression of God’s commandments; but also that the horrible, dreadful hereditary malady by which the entire nature is corrupted should above all things be regarded and recognized as sin indeed, yea, as the chief sin, which is a root and fountain-head of all actual sins. 6] And by Dr. Luther it is called a nature-sin or person-sin, thereby to indicate that, even though a person would think, speak, or do nothing evil (which, however, is impossible in this life, since the fall of our first parents), his nature and person are nevertheless sinful, that is, thoroughly and utterly infected and corrupted before God by original sin, as by a spiritual leprosy; and on account of this corruption and because of the fall of the first man the nature or person is accused or condemned by God’s Law, so that we are by nature the children of wrath, death, and damnation, unless we are delivered therefrom by the merit of Christ.

    7] 2. In the second place, this, too, is clear and true, as the Nineteenth Article of the Augsburg Confession teaches, that God is not a creator, author, or cause of sin, but by the instigation of the devil through one man sin (which is a work of the devil) has entered the world, Rom. 5, 12; 1 John 3, 7. And even at the present day, in this corruption [in this corruption of nature], God does not create and make sin in us, but with the nature which God at the present day still creates and makes in men original sin is propagated from sinful seed, through carnal conception and birth from father and mother.

    8] 3. In the third place, what [and how great] this hereditary evil is no reason knows and understands, but, as the Smalcald Articles say, it must be learned and believed from the revelation of Scripture. And in the Apology this is briefly comprehended under the following main heads:

    9] 1. That this hereditary evil is the guilt [by which it comes to pass] that, by reason of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, we are all in God’s displeasure, and by nature children of wrath, as the apostle shows Rom. 5:12ff ; Eph. 2:3.

    10] 2. Secondly, that it is an entire want or lack of the concreated hereditary righteousness in Paradise, or of God’s image, according to which man was originally created in truth, holiness, and righteousness; and at the same time an inability and unfitness for all the things of God, or, as the Latin words read: Desciptio peccati originalis detrahit naturae non renovatae et dona et vim seu facultatem et actus inchoandi et efficiendi spiritualia; that is: The definition of original sin takes away from the unrenewed nature the gifts, the power, and all activity for beginning and effecting anything in spiritual things.

    11] 3. That original sin (in human nature) is not only this entire absence of all good in spiritual, divine things, but that, instead of the lost image of God in man, it is at the same time also a deep, wicked, horrible, fathomless, inscrutable, and unspeakable corruption of the entire nature and all its powers, especially of the highest, principal powers of the soul in the understanding, heart, and will, so that now, since the Fall, man inherits an inborn wicked disposition and inward impurity of heart, evil lust and propensity; 12] that we all by disposition and nature inherit from Adam such a heart, feeling, and thought as are, according to their highest powers and the light of reason, naturally inclined and disposed directly contrary to God and His chief commandments, yea, that they are enmity against God, especially as regards divine and spiritual things. For in other respects, as regards natural, external things which are subject to reason, man still has to a certain degree understanding, power, and ability, although very much weakened, all of which, however, has been so infected and contaminated by original sin that before God it is of no use.

    13] 4. The punishment and penalty of original sin, which God has imposed upon the children of Adam and upon original sin, are death, eternal damnation, and also other bodily and spiritual, temporal and eternal miseries, and the tyranny and dominion of the devil, so that human nature is subject to the kingdom of the devil and has been surrendered to the power of the devil, and is held captive under his sway, who stupefies [fascinates] and leads astray many a great, learned man in the world by means of dreadful error, heresy, and other blindness, and otherwise rushes men into all sorts of crime.

    14] 5. Fifthly, this hereditary evil is so great and horrible that only for the sake of the Lord Christ it can be covered and forgiven before God in the baptized and believing. Moreover, human nature, which is perverted and corrupted thereby, must and can be healed only by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost, which, however, is only begun in this life, but will not be perfect until in the life to come.

  • Tom Hering

    The question of “why?” will never go away. Ask yourself if having a “reason” for such things happening makes them anymore acceptable. Would it help the grieving person to have a reason? I think it does the opposite and diminishes the very real experience of pain.

    Stephen, I can’t agree. I lost my best buddy in the whole world last night – my oldest cat, Thomas, who’d been with me for twelve years. It really does help to know the reason: all of creation is in a fallen state, where death is the rule without a single exception. Knowing this doesn’t diminish the experience of pain at all. Pain will have its way with us no matter what we think or believe.

    By the way, Thomas suffered horribly at the end of his life – the vet and I guess it was a brain lesion or tumor. I prayed to the Lord to end his suffering quickly, and the Lord heard my prayer. Thomas only suffered for an hour before he died. The Lord is good and merciful. Praise the Lord our God, amen.

  • Tom Hering

    The question of “why?” will never go away. Ask yourself if having a “reason” for such things happening makes them anymore acceptable. Would it help the grieving person to have a reason? I think it does the opposite and diminishes the very real experience of pain.

    Stephen, I can’t agree. I lost my best buddy in the whole world last night – my oldest cat, Thomas, who’d been with me for twelve years. It really does help to know the reason: all of creation is in a fallen state, where death is the rule without a single exception. Knowing this doesn’t diminish the experience of pain at all. Pain will have its way with us no matter what we think or believe.

    By the way, Thomas suffered horribly at the end of his life – the vet and I guess it was a brain lesion or tumor. I prayed to the Lord to end his suffering quickly, and the Lord heard my prayer. Thomas only suffered for an hour before he died. The Lord is good and merciful. Praise the Lord our God, amen.

  • Stephen

    Hey Tom,

    I’m sorry about Thomas. I’m glad to hear your prayer was answered. My condolences. There’s a lot of people who don’t get the love people can have for animals, even some who own animals.

    We have two German Shepherds that turned 12 this year (they’re sisters). They were our babies before we had babies. They’ve been getting creaky the last couple years. One has about lost her hearing completely and doesn’t come to the door anymore when we come home.We took them in for their yearly check ups and our great vet gave me the signal that they may be going this year. My wife can’t discuss it and I know that it will be me who is with them at the end and will have to deal with things because she can’t.

    I get what you are saying. What I meant was that rationalizing death as “God’s plan” probably isn’t helpful. I don’t think it is the truth either. His plan was never and still isn’t death. His plan is and always will be life. I think what I was talking about is different than what you are saying, but maybe not. What you describe is a reason that only faith can know.

    One of the first conversations I had with my daughter about death had to do with our dogs (“the girls” as we call them). Imagine trying to explain to a three year old why God would let something you love die. Talk about fumbling around for reasons that make sense! And then imagine someone telling someone who’s lost a loved one in a tragedy like the one we’ve been discussing and the answer comes back “it must have been God’s plan.” That, to me, is an empty rationalization that makes God cruel and indifferent.

    I think the only thing that does make any sense, if there is any to be found, is like the way you say it. The world as it is isn’t right. “But take heart! For I have overcome the world.” Or like my dad would say right up until he couldn’t remember who he was “Jesus loves you and he is always with you no matter what.”

    Maybe that is more clear. Again, sorry about Thomas. Be well and take heart.

  • Stephen

    Hey Tom,

    I’m sorry about Thomas. I’m glad to hear your prayer was answered. My condolences. There’s a lot of people who don’t get the love people can have for animals, even some who own animals.

    We have two German Shepherds that turned 12 this year (they’re sisters). They were our babies before we had babies. They’ve been getting creaky the last couple years. One has about lost her hearing completely and doesn’t come to the door anymore when we come home.We took them in for their yearly check ups and our great vet gave me the signal that they may be going this year. My wife can’t discuss it and I know that it will be me who is with them at the end and will have to deal with things because she can’t.

    I get what you are saying. What I meant was that rationalizing death as “God’s plan” probably isn’t helpful. I don’t think it is the truth either. His plan was never and still isn’t death. His plan is and always will be life. I think what I was talking about is different than what you are saying, but maybe not. What you describe is a reason that only faith can know.

    One of the first conversations I had with my daughter about death had to do with our dogs (“the girls” as we call them). Imagine trying to explain to a three year old why God would let something you love die. Talk about fumbling around for reasons that make sense! And then imagine someone telling someone who’s lost a loved one in a tragedy like the one we’ve been discussing and the answer comes back “it must have been God’s plan.” That, to me, is an empty rationalization that makes God cruel and indifferent.

    I think the only thing that does make any sense, if there is any to be found, is like the way you say it. The world as it is isn’t right. “But take heart! For I have overcome the world.” Or like my dad would say right up until he couldn’t remember who he was “Jesus loves you and he is always with you no matter what.”

    Maybe that is more clear. Again, sorry about Thomas. Be well and take heart.

  • Tom Hering

    Thank you Stephen. Your response was very kind.

    There’s a lot of people who don’t get the love people can have for animals …

    That’s another measure of how fallen we are. We were created to care for the creation. It’s our original purpose. Adam was made in the image of God, and in naming the animals, he came to know them – as God knows each of us by name. (Adam wasn’t a scientist naming species.) Noah, in building the ark, was faithful in saving all that God loved. All that God had fashioned with His hands. All that had “the breath of the spirit of life” – a soul. (It’s not like we needed all those species to start over.) We know what the ark is a picture of, and the picture is filled with animals.

    They were our babies before we had babies.

    So, your love for your dogs hasn’t been a substitute for anything – something that fills in for a lack of human love. You have children to love now, but you still love your dogs. You loved them then, and you love them now, for their own sake.

    Funny that some think we waste our love on animals. (For example, by giving to animal charities instead of human charities.) But love isn’t something that shrinks when it’s active. It’s something that expands, extends, explodes. Loving animals gives us a greater capacity to love people. Animal lovers know this, even if others don’t get it.

    His plan was never and still isn’t death. His plan is and always will be life …

    Yes. Thomas’s last day was a mix of good and bad. His last hour was horrible beyond imagining. But you know, he had a wonderful life filled with love for twelve years, and only because God made it possible for me to love him and care for him. Only because God was actively enabling, providing for, and sustaining that life and that love from one second to the next. From one hour, one day, and one year to the next. (“God is love.”)

    This is kind of what I was trying to say @ 2. In a fallen world, the norm is death, horror, and suffering. That’s the default state. (Buddhists get this much right.) Insofar as we or the animals know love, peace, or security, it’s because of the active intervention of God in the world. We’d already be experiencing non-stop hell if it wasn’t for God’s mercy. So the question becomes: which facts reveal God? Which realities do we choose we ascribe to Him? I blame Eve, Adam, mankind, myself, and Satan for evil. That’s where the blame belongs.

  • Tom Hering

    Thank you Stephen. Your response was very kind.

    There’s a lot of people who don’t get the love people can have for animals …

    That’s another measure of how fallen we are. We were created to care for the creation. It’s our original purpose. Adam was made in the image of God, and in naming the animals, he came to know them – as God knows each of us by name. (Adam wasn’t a scientist naming species.) Noah, in building the ark, was faithful in saving all that God loved. All that God had fashioned with His hands. All that had “the breath of the spirit of life” – a soul. (It’s not like we needed all those species to start over.) We know what the ark is a picture of, and the picture is filled with animals.

    They were our babies before we had babies.

    So, your love for your dogs hasn’t been a substitute for anything – something that fills in for a lack of human love. You have children to love now, but you still love your dogs. You loved them then, and you love them now, for their own sake.

    Funny that some think we waste our love on animals. (For example, by giving to animal charities instead of human charities.) But love isn’t something that shrinks when it’s active. It’s something that expands, extends, explodes. Loving animals gives us a greater capacity to love people. Animal lovers know this, even if others don’t get it.

    His plan was never and still isn’t death. His plan is and always will be life …

    Yes. Thomas’s last day was a mix of good and bad. His last hour was horrible beyond imagining. But you know, he had a wonderful life filled with love for twelve years, and only because God made it possible for me to love him and care for him. Only because God was actively enabling, providing for, and sustaining that life and that love from one second to the next. From one hour, one day, and one year to the next. (“God is love.”)

    This is kind of what I was trying to say @ 2. In a fallen world, the norm is death, horror, and suffering. That’s the default state. (Buddhists get this much right.) Insofar as we or the animals know love, peace, or security, it’s because of the active intervention of God in the world. We’d already be experiencing non-stop hell if it wasn’t for God’s mercy. So the question becomes: which facts reveal God? Which realities do we choose we ascribe to Him? I blame Eve, Adam, mankind, myself, and Satan for evil. That’s where the blame belongs.


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