Summer 2016

Truth Must be Wedded to Grace

Faculty/Alumni Book Excerpt

By Sean McDowell

During a trip to Breckenridge, a beautiful ski town in the mountains of Colorado, a friend and I decided to get our hair cut at one of the little shops downtown. As we waited our turn, I read another chapter of the book I had brought along with me, a book whose title clearly indicated my interest in spiritual things.

When my turn came and I settled into the chair, the young hairstylist noted that I was reading a Christian book and wondered if it would be okay for her to ask me a question about God that had been on her mind. Of course I said yes, relishing the opportunity to talk about theology. After all, I had been studying apologetics and was ready with all the right answers. Bring it on, I thought, smiling to myself.

“Well,” she started, with just a hint of hesitation, “why does God allow so much evil and suffering in the world?”

Really, that’s all you got? Raced through my mind. Why is this such a big problem? It’s one of the most oft-asked questions in apologetics, and I was ready with the classical free-will defense — emphasizing that God desires a relationship with us, which is possible only if we have free will. I made the point that evil can exist only if there is first a standard of objective good and there can be good only if there is a God. In other words, her very question, I pointed out, presupposes the existence of God.

This led to more questions, and I found I could answer each one pretty easily. She’d ask a question, and I had an answer ready at hand.

Things were going extraordinarily well, I thought, until she paused for a long moment, lifted the scissors away from my head, and then began to cry. She stepped back from cutting my hair and said in a quavering voice, “This is a bunch of B.S.! You’ve got an answer for everything. It can’t be that easy. You just don’t understand.”

I was speechless (and a bit nervous, since she was clearly upset and had very sharp scissors poised not far from my head). What had just happened? It seemed like we were having a great conversation ... and now this. Well, I quickly changed the topic and made sure to give her a big tip on the way out. Outside the shop, I turned to my friend and asked him why he thought she had been so defensive. He took a deep breath and looked me in the eyes, probably trying to determine if I was ready to hear the truth.

“Well,” he said, as gently as he could manage, “do you have any idea how arrogant you were toward her?”

I was taken aback. But as we walked along the streets of Breckenridge, I thought about the encounter and realized he was absolutely right. Rather than really listening to her, asking questions, and trying to learn from her, I was more interested in scoring points and winning the argument. My replies had come across as prepackaged sound bites rather than compassionate and respectful responses. What I saw, maybe for the first time, is that truth must be wedded to grace, and that what we say is important ... but how we say it is equally critical.

Copyright © 2016 by Sean McDowell
Published by Harvest House Publishers
Eugene, Oregon 97402
Used by Permission.


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