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Gnosticsm & the Proclamation of Christianity with special reference to John's Gospel (Cont)

Something Wrong at the Basis of Things
John 12: 27, 28 and John 16: 20, 22 (both NIV)

When we are faced with a devastating loss, we begin to see the deficiencies in our long held notions that rationalism is the basis of life and that things are in essence calculable. Such self satisfied beliefs crumble as we find that tragedy, not rationalism is the basis of life. (See Explanatory Note 1 at end of document.)

The danger, for Christians and non-Christians alike, is that withdrawal and 'most bitter lamentations' [43] - (a normal response) - are followed by an abnormal state, anomie [44] and sometimes lasting hatred [45] of things and people and also religion that are often wrongly thought to be the cause of that loss.

It is no use telling a woman who has lost her child in tragic circumstances [46], 'Cheer up and look on the bright side'. There is no bright side, it is absolute darkness, and if God cannot come to her help she is in a pitiable and terrible condition. It is better to remain reverent with what we don't understand than to rush in with our creeds and theology. There is suffering before which you cannot say a word; all you can do is to remain dumb, in silent intercession [47], and leave room for God to come in, as He likes. The 'bottom board' of rationalism is gone for her; there is nothing reasonable about what she is going through. We can refuse to face the facts; or close our minds and deny them; or we confess that in this particular we are agnostic. We cannot, on our own, think this through.

If all we can offer this woman is our doctrine, we do better to stay dumb, as it were on our knees, until God shows us how we can help. All one can do for another who is facing such deep problems is to remain kindly agnostic. This is a matter for God, not for us; our creed cannot begin to touch it. The biggest benediction one can give in such circumstances is not in our words but that we imply: 'I do not know the answer to your problem, all I can say is that God alone must know; let us go to Him.' [48]

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  1. Jeremiah 6: 26. "O daughter of my people ... make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us."
  2. Anomie: a state in an individual or society in which normative standards of conduct and belief disintegrate. Often precipitated , in an individual, by loss of his traditional moorings with proneness to disorientation, isolation, alienation, angst and despair. (Angst: the dread occasioned by man's realisation that his existence is open towards an undetermined future, the emptiness of which must be filled by his freely chosen actions. Often misused as a synonym for anxiety. Angst carries a more specific and greater meaning.)
  3. Hatred: We should remember, when using this word and its antonym (opposite meaning word), that the opposite of love is not hatred but indifference.
  4. Or in your illustration: loss of a son on the Belgrano.
  5. Intercession: The act of interceding or offering petitionary prayer to God on behalf of others.
  6. This section has been adapted from "Baffled to Fight Better" p. 32, 33.

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