Right of Reply: Derick Bingham

A Belfast pastor replies to remarks about God by Karen Armstrong, a former nun, in a recent interview

KAREN ARMSTRONG in her interview with Paul Vallely claimed that the God of history died for ever in Auschwitz. This theme of the death of God was raised by the Nobel prize-winning Jewish writer Elie Wiesel in his book Night, a hauntingly moving account of an experience he had as a 14-year-old boy in Auschwitz. The guards first tortured and then hanged a young boy. Just before the hanging Elie heard someone whisper "Where is God? Where is he?"

Thousands of prisoners had been forced to watch the hanging. Behind him Elie heard the same voice ask, "Where is God now?" Elie then states, "I heard a voice within me answer him: `Where is he? Here He is. He is hanging here on this gallows.'"

Elie spoke better than he knew. The whole Judaeo- Christian position has always been that God is not immune to pain. Is it not written that in the early days of Israel's frightening bondage in Egypt, "in all their distress he too was distressed"? The Christian position has always been that Christ is primarily known as the "Man of Sorrows".

Whatever view is taken of the Christian position, it cannot be denied that its historic and central message is God on a cross. In a world filled with suffering, how could we worship a God who is immune to it? The cross of Christ is God's only self-justification in a world such as ours. As Edward Shiletto wrote, when shattered by the carnage of the First World War, "But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak and not a god has wounds but Thou alone."

His suffering makes ours more manageable. This is the God of history and the Christian message is not that He died at Auschwitz but that He died at Calvary, and, at Easter, millions celebrate His Resurrection.

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