Last week, in my discussion of what evangelicals can learn about themselves from T.M. Luhrmann’sÂ When God Talks Back, I mentioned our approach to suffering. Originally, I wasn’t going to write another post on the book, but I wanted to come back to this important topic. Luhrmann discusses suffering in a chapter titled, “Darkness,” along with the related issue of feeling distant from God. Early in the chapter, Luhrmann describes the Vineyard’s approach in this way:
Churches like the Vineyard handle the problem of suffering [in a different way than traditional theodicy]:Â they ignore it.Â Then they turn the pain into a learning opportunity. When it hurts, you are supposed to draw closer to God. In fact, the church even seems to push its congregants to experience prayers that fail [due to their boldness]. (268, emphasis added)
Luhrmann observes that Vineyard churches and other evangelicals face twoÂ challenges that aren’t faced by certain other branches of Christianity or Judaism:
- Evangelicals expect an intimate relationship with God. Unlike traditions that few God more distantly, evangelicals want daily closeness with him.
- Evangelicals, particular of the Vineyard variety, expect God to answer big prayers. Luhrmann goes so far as to say that the Vineyard practically sets up its members for disappointment through its encouragement to prayer for healing and success (e.g. being accepted into certain college).
Times of suffering and spiritual dryness are inevitable. How, then, does Luhrmann see evangelicals addressing them? [Read more…] about Evangelicals and Suffering (When God Talks Back)