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Biblical Realism vs. Evangelical Sugarcoating

            The Bible presents life’s evils without sugarcoating them.  We gloss over them.  Is it any wonder that our faith seems superficial to thinking and feeling unbelievers?  Nowhere is this contrast more apparent than in Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus.

            King Herod orders the death of every male child under two in Bethlehem and its environs.  We don’t preach many Christmas messages on what has traditionally been called “The Slaughter of the Innocents.”  It does not give us the warm fuzzies. 

            Christian apologists tend to make two serious errors when they discuss Herod’s slaughter.  First, they try to minimize it.  They say that probably only around 20 infants and toddlers would have been killed.  As if the relatively small number of murders somehow reduces or even eliminates the problem of such evil being done in a world over which a good God rules!    

            Second, they treat it as a problem to be solved.  It is difficult to reconcile rationally the biblical concepts of the sovereignty of God and his holiness with the existence of evil.  Matthew does distance Herod’s deed from God’s actions.  He often uses expressions such as this event happened “in order that” a prophet’s words would be fulfilled.  There are two exceptions—Herod’s slaughter of the children (2:15) and the suicide of Judas (27:9)—in which Matthew simply writes “then was fulfilled.”  This is his way of not ascribing evil to God.

            For the Bible Herod’s horrendous deed is not an embarrassing incident to be hurriedly passed over.  It is placed intentionally by God smack dab in the middle of the gospel story.  Neither is it a philosophical problem to be solved by human reason.  The gospel responds not with philosophy but with a story.         

            The Bible does not diminish evil, but stresses the evilness of evil and its impact on human lives.  Rachel weeps for her children and refuses to be consoled because they are no more (Mt 2:18).  In his word God gives voice to the weeping of suffering mankind.  He wants us to be heard.  He answers, not with a syllogism, but with his Son’s cry of dereliction on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mt 27:46)? 

            Evil cannot be explained.  It can be overcome.  Thus the Bible tells the story of a savior who conquers evil by dying on the cross and being raised from the dead. 

            The message of Christmas is, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).  If we ignore or explain away the darkness of the Biblical story, we diminish the light.

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