Wednesday 1 August 2012

Message from the President

I have come to the conclusion, after trying my hand at it for a while, that second-guessing God is an exhausting business. It is not that I've changed my mind on the state of the world. I have not decided in the meantime that things always occur in an order that intuitively makes sense; in which it is obvious that all is as it should be, in which it is clear that justice is being served. No, unfairness is everywhere; it is as ubiquitous as is the fairness it detracts from and perverts. In the world you and I inhabit, and for as far back as anyone has ever had it revealed to them, not everyone gets their due. Bad things happen to good people and the wicked prosper. Some are granted advantage because of the shape of their genome, or accidents of social and cultural position, or of the plenty or lack to be found within their environment, both human and natural. Who can figure out how it all ought to go together? In the face of a sorrow accumulated as one tragedy piles upon another it is ever so tempting to look over God's shoulder, to wonder silently or out loud what this or that is all about, why she had to suffer, how he could get away with that. Really, from our point of view the Master of the Universe has an impossible job. How could anyone provide justly in such a complex and ambiguous world: gloriously created but universally marred, if pregnant with re/new/al? It seems to me that the wisdom underlying that creakily Reformed theological summary T.U.L.I.P. is precisely the gut-deep recognition that the Master of the Universe has a humanly impossible job and we in faith and gratitude are happy enough to stop looking over his shoulder second-guessing, that we are quite prepared to let him get on with things, and to live out of the freedom inherent within that preparation. Of course, T.U.L.I.P. was focused upon what obsessed people of the sixteenth-century, the matter of personal salvation and how one was to account for its possibility and presence. One could and should bring it up to date to deal with social and cultural flourishing etc. That too comes under the pedagogy of the Master of the Universe; that too is an impossible thing to sort out and order justly, at least from a human point of view, that providence too we do well to leave in God's hands. O, I love the psalmist's chutzpah, the prophetic cheek that allows one of us mere mortals to call the Master of the Universe to account. I love the profligate expenditure of ethical energy, the moral pluck of it all. I love it because I know what that act costs. If one is to question God, one becomes co-responsible in a way for the ordering and providing. Some are happy to proclaim such co-responsibility; to see it as a glorious opportunity of faith. But, I am grateful not to shoulder that burden, or rather, having tried, to lay it down. No, I would much rather work hard to flourish as person, to live a life of service in this marvellous creation of our Lord, trusting in that Lord to use my life and effort as a small part of his providence. Questions like: Why cancer? Why such a fragile life for ICS? Why not a richer academic witness to God's reign in the world?—I am happy to offer them up in prayer and so hand them over to the One I serve so as to get on with the business of serving—or at least that is true on my better days. I think that in a way a grateful being willing to let things go in order to serve more wholeheartedly has been a hallmark of ICS's internal spirituality at its best. It is certainly something I have noted in the first generation of ICS Senior Members, especially, on their better days. It is something I would offer as a spiritual exercise for those of you who pray for ICS's well-being. Gather up the difficult concerns, those impossible conundrums that find a home in all our lives of faith and hand them over to the Master of the Universe. Let him get on with his job, so that you and ICS can get on with ours . . . in his Providence, of course.

For the President,

Bob Sweetman