Tag Archives: Substitutionary Death

A view from the darkness

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Imagine at the age of 13, (you) can bury (your friends)—it was so difficult, so bad…

It was as if…maybe (it was) that day, the Last Day as people say in the Bible…(when) Jesus Christ will come and whatever on earth will be judged. That was my imagination.

I thought that God grew tired of people on earth here, got tired of bad deeds, the bad things we are doing; but God is watching over us. I thought God got tired of us and wanted to finish us.

When I think of it back…it was so bad anyway.  You can even think of—you can even regret why you were born.

Now I wonder… Now, I am again wearing clothes and feeling very happy, so everything has an end. Even if there is a problem in Sudan still, maybe one day, one time, one minute…it will come to an end…we really suffered.

—John Bul Dau, Sudanese refugee in God Grew Tired of Us

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

–Albert Camus

It seems to me that if God is the Light (of the world) many claim him to be, He would be most findable in the darkness. Perhaps he is; for the stories of many encounters with Him are borne from dark moments in the circumstances of those who claim to have found him. And yet, it’s as easy to find stories of those who stare into the darkness and find only unending darkness.

This week I came across the accounts of two men who stared into the darkness: Harold J. Berman and Charles Templeton. Berman was Jewish, taught law at Harvard for 37 years and at Emory University for two decades. He had an encounter with God on a train while fleeing Germany on the announcement of Hitler’s invasion into Poland (excellent account here). Templeton was a popular preacher in his early life, working along-side Billy Graham. Later, he struggled to reconcile pain and suffering with his notion of a loving God; and consequently abandoned his faith.

Berman believed Hitler’s invasion marked the end of civilization and in that darkness encountered Jesus Christ. But it was that very darkness that kept Templeton up at night. He was never able to reconcile it with the loving God of Judeo/Christian teaching.  He died in his unbelief, still asking questions, but not as if he expected they could be answered (Lee Stroebel, The Case for Faith).

Same darkness, two views.

Then, no matter where I seemed to look this week, I was confronted with the questions of brokenness, pain, loss, guilt and suffering. I heard from a dear friend whose marriage is failing and another who had a friend die in an unlikely accident. “The world still needed him,” he told me; “He was one of my best friends.”

I listened to the stories of a friend who recently went on a Christian mission to Africa—tales of witches, demon-possession, four-headed snakes and terminal illnesses—realities for these children that rivaled fears most of us face only in our nightmares. Yet, she expressed a remarkable sense of God’s power in the midst of evils she had not previously known existed.

On a personal note, it has been a difficult week as well—contemplating losses I have recently suffered and recognizing my failures in attempts to love those most dear to me. I will confess I get tired of myself sometimes; I just get sick of being me and of the mistakes I am so prone to repeat.

The brokenness of this world is expressed in many ways. There is much suffering.

In times of relative good, it’s possible to have a nice (congenial and interesting?) philosophical debate over the problem of suffering. Does all the good in the world (see here, here and here) argue more convincingly the case for a loving God than all the bad in the world argues against it?

There are certainly reasonable arguments against the notion of a loving God based on the world’s seemingly meaningless and arbitrary suffering (How can God be both all-loving and all-powerful and yet allow so much pain?). But there are also thoughtful responses (If we can agree that God knows infinitely more than we do, can we refute the possibility that all suffering will be righted in the end; that his promised redemptive purposes will be realized either through or in spite of such suffering?).

But in the darkest of times, when we feel the cold, dark shadow overtake us—of loneliness or loss or guilt or shame or hopelessness or unanswered questions that keep us up at night—philosophical discussions tend to offer little peace. In the darkest moments of the soul, it seems our intellect is of little use. It’s in those times when we seek comfort, not solutions—an ear, not an answer; a friend, not a theory.

Why does God (seem to?) do nothing? How can we see Him in the darkness?

Read more »

Appeasing the Deep Magic (Narnia part 2)


 “I’ve a most terrible feeling-as if something were hanging over us” said Lucy.

“Have you?  Because as a matter of fact, so have I,” replied Susan.

“Something about Aslan.  Either some dreadful thing is going to happen to him, or something dreadful that he’s going to do.”… “Susan!  Let’s go outside and have a look round.  We might see him.”

”Oh children, children, why are you following me?”

“We couldn’t sleep,” said Lucy—and then felt sure that she need say no more and that Aslan knew all they had been thinking.

“Please, may we come with you wherever you’ve going?” asked Susan.

“Well—” said Aslan and seemed to be thinking.  Then he said, “I shall be glad of company tonight.  Yes, you may come, if you will promise to stop when  I tell you, and after that leave me to go on alone.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you.  And we will,” said the two girls.

Forward they went again and one of the girls walked on each side of the Lion.

Aslan stopped and said, “Oh, children, children.  Here you must stop.  And whatever happens, do not let yourselves be seen.  Farewell.”

And both girls cried bitterly (though they hardly knew why) and clung to the Lion and kissed his mane and his nose and his paws and his great, sad eyes.   Then he turned from them and walked out on the top of the hill.  And Lucy and Susan, crouching in the bushes, looked after him and this is what they saw.

A great crowd of people were standing all round the Stone Table and though the moon was shining, many of them carried torches which burned with evil-looking red flames and black smoke.  But such people!  Ogres and monstrous teeth, and wolves and bull-headed men; spirits of evil trees and poisonous plant; and other creatures whom I won’t describe because if I did the grown-ups would probably not let you read this book—Cruels and Hags and Incubuses, Wraiths, Horrors, Efreets, Sprites, Orknies, Wooses, and Ettins.  In fact here were all those who were on the Witch’s side and whom Wolf had summoned at her command.  And right in the middle, standing by the Table, was the Witch herself. 

A howl and a gibber of dismay went up from the creatures when they first saw the great Lion pacing toward them, and for a moment even the Witch herself seemed to be struck with fear.  Then she recovered herself and gave a wild, fierce laugh.

“The fool!” she cried.  “The fool has come. Bind him fast.”

Lucy and Susan held their breaths waiting for Aslan’s roar and his spring upon his enemies.  But it never came.  Four hags, grinning and leering, yet also (at first) hanging back and half afraid of what they had to do, had approached him.  “Bind him, I say!” repeated the Witch.  The Hags made a dart at him and shrieked with triumph when they found that he made no resistance at all.  Then others—evil dwarves and apes—rushed in to help them, and in between them they rolled the huge Lion over on his back and tied all his four paws together, shouting and cheering as if they had done something brave, though the Lion chosen, one of those paws could have been the death of them all.  But he made no noise, even when the enemies, straining and tugging, pulled the cords so tight that they cut into his flesh.  Then they began to drag him toward the stone table.

“Stop!” said the Witch.  “Let him first be shaved.”

…snip-snip-snip went the shears and masses of curling gold began to fall to the ground…

“Why he’s only a great cat after all!” cried one.

“Is that what we were afraid of?” said another…

“Muzzle him!” said the Witch…[and now] those who had been afraid to come near him even after he was bound began to find their courage, and for a few minutes the girls could not even see him-so thickly was he surrounded by the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, spitting on him, jeering at him.  

At last the rabble had had enough of this.  They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone table, some pulling and some pushing.

When Aslan had been tied on the flat stone, a hush fell over the crowd…The Witch bared her arms as she had bared them the previous night when it had been Edmund instead of Aslan.  Then she began to whet her knife. 

…at last she drew near.  She stood by Aslan’s head.  Her face was working and twitching with passion, but his looked up at the sky, still quiet, neither angry no afraid, but a little sad. 

The children did not see the actual moment of the killing. 


From C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

A Witch Reigns, but a Lion Comes (Narnia part 1)

“Prepare the victim,” said the Witch.  And the Dwarf undid Edmund’s collar and folded back his shirt at the neck.  Then he took Edmund’s hair and pulled his head back to that he had to raise his chin.  After that Edmund heard a strange noise—whiz—whiz—whiz…

… it was the sound of a knife being sharpened.

At that very moment he heard loud shouts from every direction — a drumming of hoofs and beating of wings — a scream from the witch — confusion all around him.  And then he found he was being untied…

When the other children woke the next morning…the first thing they heard…was that their brother had been rescued…they all went out, and there they saw Aslan and Edmund walking together in the dewy grass, apart from the rest from the court.  There is no need to tell you (and no one ever could) what Aslan was saying, but it was a conversation which Edmund never forgot.  As the others drew nearer Aslan turned to meet them, bringing Edmund with him.

“Here is your brother,” he said, “and—there is no need to talk to him about what is past.”

…one of the leopards approached Aslan and said, “Sire, there is a messenger from the enemy who craves audience”

“Let him approach,” said Aslan…

… “What is your message, Son of Earth?” asked Aslan.

“The Queen of Narnia and Empress of the Lone Islands desires a safe conduct to come speak with you” said the dwarf “on a matter which is as much to your advantage as to hers.”

A few minutes later the Witch herself walked out on to the top of the hill and came straight across and stood before Aslan.  The three children who had not seen her before felt shudders running down their backs at the sight of her face; and there were low growls among all the animals at present.  Though it was bright sunshine everyone felt suddenly cold…

“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch…

“Well,” said Aslan. “His offense was not against you.

“Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?” asked the Witch.

“Let us say I have forgotten it,” answered Aslan gravely. “Tell us of this Deep Magic.”

“Tell you?” said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller.  “Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us?  Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones on the Secret Hill?  Tell you what is engraved on the scepter of the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea?  You at least know the magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning.  You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to kill.”

“And so,” continued the Witch, “that human creature is mine.  His life is forfeit to me.  His blood is my property.”

“Come and take it then,” said the Bull with the man’s head in a great bellowing voice.

“Fool,” said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, “Do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force?  He knows the Deep Magic better than that.  He know that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.”

“It is very true,” said Aslan, “I do not deny it.”


Taken from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe