My Friends, We Have Seen History.

Photo by Christine Schmiederer on

But not in a good way.

Let’s all have a moment of silence for Notre Dame cathedral.

The reason there’s a picture of the Sphinx on this post is that watching Notre Dame burn feels similar to watching the Sphinx’s nose get knocked off.

And during Easter Week, too.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35

“God is our refuge and strength,/an ever-present help in trouble./Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way/and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Psalm 46:1 – 2

10 thoughts on “My Friends, We Have Seen History.

      1. BlackSheep

        I have been wondering, as many people (church-going or otherwise) are, why God would allow something like that to burn down.
        Not meant to be offensive – I’m just curious as to others’ thoughts on it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. OK, here’s my answer. Other commenters are welcome to join in.

          You have identified the #1 paradox in the universe: how to reconcile the idea of a good and sovereign God with events that are presumably outside His will. A.k.a. “the problem of evil.”

          I personally don’t think this is a paradox the human mind can solve. We have it on good evidence that God is good and sovereign. We have good evidence that evil and stupidity exist. You wouldn’t think both would be possible, but they are. How to live inside this paradox is the big task of our lives.

          Volumes have been written about this, including an entire book of the Bible (Job). Job says much more offensive things to God than you do in your comment here. The book is also a refutation of the idea of karma: that whenever anything bad happens to someone, it’s always and only because they deserved it. Since you are doing so much research, I encourage you to check it out.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. BlackSheep

            Thanks for taking a stab at it. It’s always comforting to hear I have uncovered another paradox.

            I wasn’t worried about offending God, I was worried I would offend you. I hope I have not.

            I have been exploring the Bible a little bit here and there (and finding some unexpected stuff), but maybe the book of Job is what I should zero in on next.
            Everytime I think of Job, I think of Mission Impossible I, where Tom Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt, communicates in coded emails using the book of Job.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Ha, I had forgotten that Job was used in Mission Impossible. Kind of appropriate, really.

            I am not offended, because you were not being dismissive or disrespectful. Everyone asks these questions. Especially the people of God, because we can’t just say “I guess He’s evil” and let it go. But, I don’t want to spoil Job for you …

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Benjamin Ledford

        Jen has gone straight to the bottom (or heart, if you prefer), which is wrestling with the problem of seemingly irredeemable evils and gratutious suffering. We all understand the concept of suffering that ultimately serves a greater good. The violence of a surgical operation, the pain and humiliation of repentance, discipline in order to shape good character.

        The challenge, then, is not so much suffering or loss as such (which we know can serve a good purpose in some instances) but suffering that seems to have no purpose. The suffering in the world seems far beyond what we can justify in our own minds. Hence the paradox that Jen refers to.

        But without dismissing the real problem of evil and suffering, in this case it does not seem difficult to imagine potential good purposes that could come out of this tragedy (and I say that as an architect, and one who loves the Gothic cathedrals more than even the typical architect).

        – At the lowest level, the cathedral was already crumbling (literally) and falling apart from neglect. They were hoping to raise 100 million Euros in the next 5-10 years for restoration work before the fire. Perhaps the fire is what will cause us to rise to the occasion and give the building the full restoration that it already needed.

        – More broadly, this is already reawakening interest in gothic architecture and causing people to realize the architectural and artistic treasures that we have that we could lose. The fire may well inspire the preservation of countless other sites before they succumb to tragedies of their own.

        – Going a bit deeper and more personal, it seems this is already touching the souls of many with a renewed recognition of beauty and of the cultural heritage we’ve received, stirring greater appreciation and wonder.

        – On a more spiritual note, a reawakened sense of beauty focused on a building built for the glory of God as an expression of worship may well draw some back to God (or begin to do so) and lead to the salvation of souls.

        – Seeing some of these redeeming outcomes (or others) may give greater assurance of the ability of God to use tragedy and pain to accomplish good purposes.

        – Assuming even that none of these lessons are learned, none of these goods materialize, and the cathedral sits ruined, decaying, and we all fall further into apathy and further from God, then the “good” may well be a clear and visible judgment on our blindness and carelessness. If we are not worthy of our inheritance, it may well be taken from us. If we will give no glory to God, why should we expect to bask in the beauty of the works He inspired?

        These are all speculations. I don’t know the purposes of God in bringing fire on Notre Dame. But I don’t think this is an irredeemable evil or an intellectual challenge.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for your input, Ben. It’s good to hear from an architect.

          You are right that a cathedral being destroyed isn’t the best example of senseless evil. For one thing, no human lives were lost. Also, the thing stood for almost 1000 years. (And is actually still standing.) I went to the problem of evil question that Black Sheep raised because he was really asking about why prayer didn’t (completely) avert this disaster. And of course that’s a valid question, and we could find many examples of far more tragic situations that also raise it.

          Speaking of those tragic situations, it might seem harsh that I posted about Notre Dame but I don’t post every time there is a massacre, a mass kidnap, or some other glaring injustice. All of which are, frankly, much worse than this. The reason is that those things are, sadly, the way of the world. They have happened throughout human history, and continue happening. They are legitimate fodder for a blog, but this isn’t meant to be a current events blog nor a blog dedicated solely to the problem of evil. The reason I posted about Notre Dame was that it struck me as extremely historic. When a beautiful building that has stood for 1,000 years gets destroyed, it’s literally a once-in-a-millennium event. I wasn’t trying to say that this is a worse disaster than the many human disasters that happen every day. Just that, let’s all note that “we were alive when.”


      3. Benjamin Ledford

        Oh, I sure didn’t mean to imply that you were wrong to highlight this event. Also not intending to imply that the problem of evil isn’t a real problem. Just saying that, in some cases, it’s not that hard to imagine how God could use suffering for greater purposes, and articulating some of those possibilies may help us trust God in the areas we really can’t understand.


        1. I didn’t think you were, but your comments gave me a good opportunity to clarify things for other blog readers.

          Trying to avoid the dreaded, “How can you mention this without saying anything about …”


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