"Some might say I would be wise to swallow my misgivings about such stuff, remain orthodox, and thereby secure my place with God in eternity. But that is precisely my point: If those things are true, then God might as well send me to hell. For better or worse, I simply am not interested in any God but a completely good, entirely loving, and perfectly forgiving One who is powerful enough to utterly triumph over evil."
The quote comes from Ivan Karamazov, the great skeptic of Fyodor Dostoevsky's masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov. No, actually, it just parrots Ivan's famous rejection of God. The quote appeared in The Journal of Student Ministries, written by the founder and chaplain of Mission Year and a national representative for Compassion International. That would be Bart Campolo, son of Tony, the activist/evangelist. Elsewhere Bart Campolo describes his "article of faith," saying, "I required no Bible to determine it, andhonestlyI will either interpret away or ignore altogether any Bible verse that suggest otherwise."
Campolo explains that he reached these views while processing the rape of a 9-year-old girl, whose Sunday school teacher said God must have allowed it for a reason. Again, the parallels with Ivan Karamazov stand out. Ivan denounces God, whose justice he refuses to trust. "And if the sufferings of children go to well the sum of sufferings that was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price." Campolo likewise favors his conscience over the biblical view of justice. "I am well aware that I don't get to decide who God is. What I do get to decide, however, is to whom I pledge my allegiance. I am a free agent, after all, and I have standards for my God, the first of which is this: I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am."
Dostoevsky knew Christians were ill-prepared to answer these questions about theodicy. That's why he created Ivan. What would you tell Ivan and Bart? Write to us and let us know.
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.