Thursday, June 09, 2005


Natalee Holloway’s disappearance in Aruba continues to mystify and trouble all who are keeping up with the story (I am writing on Thursday). For obvious reasons (she’s blonde, high school age, a good kid, etc.) this has hit close to home for me and I have read or watched the news each day with a sense of increasing dread. The longer she is missing the more likely it is that she will be found dead. I cringe even writing that, thinking of her parents, siblings, and friends from Alabama clinging prayerfully to a hope that she will be found alive. But I am speaking with a fatal realism nurtured by dozens of similar news stories over the years (Chandra Levy, in Washington, comes to mind).

I will not be sharing happy thoughts or stories with you this week because sometimes it behooves us to remind ourselves (or to be jarringly reminded) that we live in a sin-riddled world and that people are capable of unspeakable atrocities against one another. I know you know that, and I know that, intellectually, but I am talking about living daily with that difficult realization.

Are people basically good but capable of bad things, or basically bad but capable of good things? The Judeo-Christian worldview answers this question with a simple but sometimes unsatisfying “yes.” We are created in the image of God and thus capable of great good. And we are marred by a sinful nature that is capable of great evil. When the scriptures talk about “putting to death the sinful nature” through repentance, baptism, and growth in Christ (see Romans 7 & 8), they are not speaking figuratively; this is serious business. There is in each of us the possibility to do bad things and to become bad people and this does not cease with our baptism into Christ. In the words of John Stott, renowned preacher and scholar, we have to continually put our sinful nature on the cross and, if I recall his arresting image accurately, let it hang there and die slowly over our lifetime.

And when there is no restraining religious and/or moral value system, or only a casual one, to check peoples’ sinful nature, they will often do terrible things and we should not be surprised or naïve about that.

I have been blessed, though painfully sobered, to be married to a woman who has often specialized in counseling victims of trauma and abuse. I tend to have an innocent and often naïve view of people, and I have sometimes sighed and rolled my eyes when I hear her outline safety precautions for our daughters, but I know she is right.

There is an additional and especially troubling element to this story that is also all too common: the element of violence against women. When Angela worked at the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica and told me about some of the acts that men had perpetrated against women, I lost much of my naiveté. I developed a much stronger doctrine of sin, to put it mildly.

Here’s one way of looking at the importance of God’s redemptive mission to the world. Let’s call it the “glass half-empty view,” and that is: We don’t even want to consider what the world, or we, might be like without it. But maybe we need to.
– Matt Soper


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