Pastoral theology is tested in a time of crisis. War, famine, natural disasters, and plagues are winds that sift the chaff from the wheat, or purifying fires revealing so much dross mixed with the precious gold of the gospel.
What do you do when you can’t meet? When you can’t take the Lord’s Supper together as a body? When you want to counsel the sick and the needy, but you’re unable to reach them? How should Christians respond? With repentance, fasting, and prayer? Jeremiads of judgment? Long-winded theodicies?
N.T. Wright has weighed in with a widely-shared bit of pastoral counsel over at TIME. Against rationalists who want either an easy explanation for everything (it’s God’s judgment, it’s a trial, it’s for the greater good), and Romanticists looking for a “sigh of relief”, he wisely reminds us that the Christian Scriptures offer the tradition of lament. In lament, Christians follow the Psalmist in crying out to God, giving full vent to our frustration, horror, and pain. We bring before him our confusion, our loneliness, our misery, our sins and our accusations We grieve before God’s face.
Of course, that raises the ultimate question: who is God in the middle of all this? What kind of God are we lamenting to?
You can read my examination of Wright’s answers over here at Mere Orthodoxy.
Soli Deo Gloria