Editor’s note: Rob Brendle is the founding pastor of Denver United Church, a former associate pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and the author of "In the Meantime: The Practice of Proactive Waiting."
By Rob Brendle, Special to CNN
I held her hand as she died.
Her family had come to a church where I was pastoring that morning, a routine Sunday. A thousand things would never have crossed their minds as they drove through Colorado Springs toward New Life Church’s enormous concrete worship center - including the prospect of being assaulted in their minivan by a young man with a high-powered rifle.
Later that day, we were all at a local hospital. The girl whose hand I held, Rachel, had already lost a sister at the scene. Her father was down the hall in critical condition and her mother was coming undone in the waiting room, but she didn’t know any of it. Rachel lay unconscious for a couple of hours more in the ICU.
And then she died. Her family had come to church together that morning, and by nightfall they were shattered.
That was almost five years ago.
The movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado shook me and the rest of the nation. Reading about the young and unsuspecting victims took me back to the dying girl in the ICU who had come to my church that day in 2007, in a an incident that left the two girls dead and injured several others. Back to the Columbine massacre a decade earlier that horrified the world and traumatized Colorado. And back to the aching questions that accompanied those previous incidents: Why did this happen? Where was God in all of it? How could a loving God allow this?
Where was God in Aurora? 7 responses
We pastors face the unenviable task of being asked to answer for God. Most people ask the big questions in times of irresolution, times when satisfying answers are scarce.
Let’s be clear: there are no easy answers to the deepest questions of suffering. Libraries overflow with the volumes that have been written to address these questions. Centuries of philosophers, pundits and preachers have reflected on the existence of evil, the meaning of pain and the role of God in suffering.
I won’t begin to recount all of their ruminations here. But here’s what I think.
God is the author of life and the originator of good. He distinguished humankind from among his creation with faculties like reason, emotion, dexterity and choice. Scripture teaches that God made people in his image. Set apart from all the rest of his creatures, we were endowed with the capacity to know our Creator and ennobled with the ability to choose him. So singularly did God love humans that he gave us this ultimate gift.
Aurora survivor to alleged shooter: ‘I forgive you’
The capacity to choose God and goodness came with the commensurate ability to choose evil. Is it loving to force his creation to follow his order, or to teach it and leave the creature to choose? It would seem that God came to the same conclusion that America’s founders did many millennia later: compulsory virtue is no virtue at all.
But Scripture also teaches that God is totally in control. He is all-powerful and all-knowing and he is willing and able to intervene in human events. So there is a gap between human choice and divine foreknowledge, a gap that transcends understanding and that helps define God in my mind.
The debate over this theological tension has persisted for centuries, and I don’t aim to settle it here. Let me suggest simply that God, in his sovereignty, has chosen to make our decisions meaningful. Consequently, much of what happens on earth neither conforms to nor results from his preference. There are at least four influences on human events: God’s will, to be sure; but also the will of Satan, our adversary; peoples’ choices, for better or for worse; and natural law (gravity, collision, combustion, and the like).
It is difficult to know which force causes the circumstances that devastate us. But it is enough to know that God need not be responsible for them.
The man who made the Aurora crosses
Much of the internal gridlock around tragedy is because suffering is foreign to us. This foreignness is peculiarly Western and modern. Most of the world, for most of the world’s history, has known tragedy and trauma in abundance.
You don’t get nearly the same consternation in Burundi or Burma, because suffering is normal to them. God and hard times coexist intuitively there. For us, though, God has become Anesthetist-in-Chief. To believe in him is to be excused from bad things. He is our panacea for the woes of life.
The God of the Bible promises no exemption from suffering. In fact, he all but promises suffering. He does not suggest that his followers won’t go through fire, but rather that we won’t burn up. Mostly he promises to be there with us, to comfort and encourage us and renew our strength. God grieves with us, and he grows us into good people in the process.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
Where was God in Aurora? He was on the lawn in front of the Civic Building as thousands gathered in solidarity, hope, and love at a packed prayer vigil last Sunday. He was in University Hospital as neurosurgeons groped for synonyms for miraculous.
He was in the outpouring of compassion at a victim’s funeral and in the passionate call for unity from a resolute councilwoman and at the bedside vigil of a wounded victim’s church community. Redemption has only begun in Aurora, and already God is everywhere. Their will be beauty once this story is written that overshadows and transcends the ashes.
Jesus started his ministry by declaring, “I am the light of the world,” and ended it with “you are the light of the world.”
What God our cities will see is what we show them. From the beginning, light has shone in the darkness - he ordered it that way. And the deeper the darkness, the brighter the light will appear. Where is God in Aurora? He is shining brightly from the hearts of his people.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rob Brendle.
Want to know the truth?
Want to be on the straight path?
Just read the Quran.
You are just asking for it. You guys have your own nut jobs. Suicide bombers.
Same BS story book with a different cover.
I disagree. I say: want to be on the straight path? Do good toward mother earth, your fellow man, your earthly cousins in the animal kingdom, then you'll be on the right path. How else are we to know what is the right path? Turn toward religion? No. Religion is a creation of the human mind, meant to provide answers for questions we're not meant to answer. In general, religion pits people against one another, who might otherwise be allies in life.
The typical church, and people who call themselves "pastor don't even supply the answers to this question even though it is found in the Bible. This article will discuss the Bible's answers :
You can believe in GOD with out believing in a Church. The issue people have is because they think religion is GOD and its not..its only a path one chooses to support their believe in GOD..
You can find GOD quite easily in life...
the birth of a child –
a blowing wind
what miracle lets a deer know when its time for rutt? not even science can really prove that yet..only theorize..
and the infinite capacity for life..that science can not even explain yet..
GOD is smart...and people are created with free will...and i love this article this pastor speaks from the heart and makes a lot of sense..
GOOD WORK Pastor Rob Brendle
Well then 'god' can also be found in,
Well said Love. You don't need church to find God.
God wasn't in Aurora because God is a fictional being made up by humans. There is no "God". The sooner you Bible thumpers realize you're just desperately following a fairy tale that's no more real than the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, the better off we'll all be.
Well, maybe. I say, be careful. The only correct answer in any of these questions is: "I don't know." Anyone who answers definitively on either side, is not necessarily correct.
I know u must believe in something.... I mean beside yourself. you like all of us know that humans are not perfect, they let each other down, and they certainly do not live forever.. I do not know what it is you made YOUR God, but you have a GOD, everyone places something in that place. it is human nature. Maybe you believe in your job, or money, those can all be taken or you can lose. I just do not understand how you want to place God in the same category as the Easter Bunny, etc. Christians, you seem to think, all have the cognition of a two or three year old. which is not true. We have at least the IQ of you, so that is not a viable argument. As far as it being better "for all of us" or whatever, you had better wish someone pray for this country and this world and for you, as you obviously do not believe in the Creator who created you, who loves you even if you do not love Him, and there is an eternity. I pray that you change your way of thinking, and loving, before eternity comes to meet you, so that your eternity can be a terrific eternity like God planned for it to be. But, He did give us human choice. So you get to pick how you spend this life and the next one which last a long long time (eternity.) I will pray that God gives you a receptive heart.
As always, God was in the loving response of those that were ministering to the wounded and providing consoling comfort – regardless of faith and belief.
Mindless, naive, unprovable, unfathomable garbage. Your opinions are hurtful to society. Please keep to yourself.
A little late, don't you think?
Chill out atheist – no one is coming for you. As far as unprovable – to the narcissist that thinks they know everything – you would be correct. God Bless you mean spirited CNN forum troll.
And you can prove that how TC?
Oh yeah, just cause you said it right?
@TC It isn't about knowing all. It's about knowing what you see. You can't have G-od appear magically when you want to. psychiatrists have a word for those that believe their seeing things that are not there. NUTS
For all those people who dont get it..really just dont get GOD, their knee-jerk answer will always be from anger or hatred...because GOD IS LOVE...a true atheist will have no ill will against GOD...because an atheist wouldn't believe it existed..
there are very very few true atheists out there...lol...
Wow, so you think that you are able to
1) Know the reasons for reactions of people on a forum
2) Define what "true atheism" is. (Which makes absolutely no sense)
Perhaps you should fully define your god for everyone. If it is merely "love", then congrats, I'm now a theist, unless there are more characteristics. If that is the case though, then why label god as love, and diminish the meaning of both words at the same time?
So, if we are all on our own because of free will and God "doesn't work that way" then what is the point in prayer? I'm sure at least one of these victims had a family member wo prayed for God to keep their loved ones safe that night. If there is a God, and this is the best "plan" he could come up with. Then he sucks at his job and you can keep him. I refuse to fear anything that operates with this sort of reasoning.
Prayer is a human response to engage in a relationship with God/spiritual world. It is not for submitting ones wishes to be fulfilled.
LOL your own bible would seem to contradict your views.
I do that with my wife TC, and the results are the same.
@ hawaii – you should go beach brah and talk story with God. But quit eating all that kahlua pork you glutton and get a job you lazy island moocher. Shaka!
It's safe to say that as the killing spree transpired, people were praying to god to save them.
Little did they know that according to the "free will" doctrine, god would not interfere with the killer's free will.
Therefore, praying to god for help, even by devout believers, would have been pointless.
Even a child, with a little honest reflection, could see this doctrine is non-sense.
Prayer is focused love...that is the point of prayer...
when you pray for someone and something you send love to it..and then GOD can too..
LOVE CREATES and one day, Science will prove that..if it has not already
Ohhh you hurt me feelings how sad for me. Oh but wait, considering that you couldn't even bring yourself to address such a simple point, then I guess it's not that bad. Poor little religious moron, can't even do something so miniscule as that.
There is either no such thing as a God or there is one but He doesn't participate in controlling stuff (there was a mysterious burst of "creation" a few billion years ago and this "God" has been silent ever since). It's rather evident there is no loving God answering our prayers. Horrors occur every second of every day whether you pray or not.
Let's see. God is totally in control, all-powerful, all-knowing, and can intercede in human events. Sounds like Kim Jong Il
He was busy making sure an athlete wins something, an entertainer wins something, saving the people that didn't get killed, negative pregnancy tests, and making more Fridays. You know, taking care of the important stuff.
your own narrow minded, uninformed, perhaps having lived a life a terrible choices you choose to decide that these places are where God was that day.. It would be great for you to read a Holy Bible, attend a Christian Church, listen and learn about God without so much bias.... one day we all end up in the same place, facing the same Great Creator, who loves each of us because He does love us, and this life is not all there is, there is something after this. It is your choice.
Nice try. Raised catholic, read the bible (doubt you have), and living comfortably thank you. Just never bought into the fairy tales and hypocrisy of it all. Shame your so narrow minded to think otherwise.
Who was the hypocrite, mendacity? And why blame God for this hypocrite's actions?
Have you really read the Bible? What does it say about where God is?
God is not everywhere, nor is God all-powerful. We are the vehicle by which God is present in the world. To the extent we are willing and able to be the active presence of God, that is the only way God can act in the world. In that explanation lies an understanding of evil and of our purpose. To be this presence of God is to put yourself on the path to acquiring a soul, something quite rare. Most humans never acquire one because it requires tremendous effort and dedication.
Just a tad bit gullible there little one?
Then why call him god?
Where was the Easter Bunny during the shooting? He is just as relevant as god.
I make a flawed robot and the robot chooses to kill. Who is ultimately responsible? Me
God makes a flawed human and the human chooses to kill. Who is ultimately responsible? God
This is my experience... Thank you.
MY personal testimony.
A thought to consider without an ego response
I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
The world denounces truth....
Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.
Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.
The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.
Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.
We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .
Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
See the truth...
do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..
Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .
Trancsend the temporal world.
Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .
Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.
Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.
Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....
Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.
You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.
Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.
I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .
Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?
Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.
once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it
You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus
"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
When did they release you from the asylum? We were happy to see your lazy, gullible ass gone!! You still have no point!
To dismiss the theory of Jesus being a savior we must think like God. If I would like to give all creatures the same information and continue throughout eternity I would encode that information into the genetics make up of the creature. Sending a “Savior” to a remote country to give humanity a message two thousand years ago when there was no global communication means had been proven to be very ineffective.
Maybe God was busy that day with the 100 billion galaxies each of which has 100 billion stars to keep track of every life on Earth and missed the 6 year old girl in Aurora as well as another about the same age a couple of years back who died by having an aggressive dog attack her face. Fortunately, one of the adults did thank God for not missing him.
By definition God has to be infinite, timeless, all knowing, and all mighty; so he would have had to be even in the bullets fired. If religious people would think for themselves about God they would come to the conclusion that they are being duped by the religious organizations.
God is not almighty. It's a logical impossibility. It's also a moral impossibility.
All the atheists are here evangelizing, attempting to covert the masses of idiotic believers with their favorite insults. 99% of atheists on this thread and pretty much any message board....YOU believe in God. IM GONNA CALL YOU A NAMEEEEEE. YOURE AN IDIOT. BIG DUMMYYYYYYY.
Thanks to you all for taking me back to sixth grade. And please read some atheists other than the "new" ones. You're not making the world a better place by spewing vitriol. Whatever your opinion of this world and its origins you should agree, BASE ON COMMON SENSE, that calling people idiots endlessly is not very effective. I understand you're all angry at people for believing. Try not to let that turn you into a 6th grader who can only result to name calling.
If the concept of the Abrahamic god was reasonable it could stand up to scrutiny...
Well thanks for setting an example, Barry, by refraining from spewing vitriol. Your post was generous, humble, and considerate.
I wish I was more like you. Where do I sign up for your religion?
Barry, if you read many of the comments, the criticism is not that they believe, but what they believe. This pastor offered an explanation which is open to criticism. Freedom of religion implies freedom to criticize what a religion, any religion, says, just as different religions and denominations frequently criticize each other's beliefs. Some religions go as far to say that people of other faiths are actually worshipping demons, which seems a worse disrespect than a non-believer simply saying "wait a minute, what you say about God doesn't seem to add up."
Barry, if there is a heaven, are you going to be there? Because that perfectly proves that there is no way it could be paradise.
No one wants to convert you Barry, we don't care what you believe in.
But we don't want what you believe in forced on us as "fact."
Until you have some fact to back up your claim that god exists, then to us it doesn't exist.
If you want to keep believing in fairly tales, then go ahead. I could care less.
Everything is open to criticism. And I do think my response is reasonable. I am not calling atheists names, however I am stereotyping. Its exhausting reading any response to anything about God on the internet these days. Its the exact same pattern over and over. Atheists proclaim Gods absence and the stupidity of believers. Some believer chimes in. Atheists proceed with the name calling and insults. If you are an objective observer it appears that atheism primarily makes you love the word idiot. Im sure most atheists here would not be so insulting in person. Ive interacted with many atheists in person who are never this way. But on the internet, its always this way. Doesn't make for a better world (our only world, right?)
What might help you understand us Barry, is that we're on the leading edge of an emergence. Finally in modern history, it's allowable for non-believers to speak up. For so many hundreds of years, we have been persecuted, marginalized, despised, burned at the stake, and now it's our chance to express our disdain for the world order which holds the faithful in such high regard, and the skeptical in such low regard.
Emotions will flare. The challenge is to express one's views calmly, and you're right, the dialog will be more pleasant, and the world will be a better place.
I did not insult you once Berry.
I just said again, where is your proof of your god?
The fact is, you have no facts. Just a theory based on a stone age book written and rewritten over thousands of years by mostly illiterate goat herders.
Yet you want us us all to respect your belief as it was fact.
It is not, no matter how much you believe it to be true.
There are atheists that name call just as there are theists who do the same.
Too often though I see christians equate atheists criticizing beliefs and dogma as "hate". I am more than happy to strongly discuss subjects without name calling. Opposition to belief is not hate.
Pastor Rob and Readers: I have read so many explanations of where was God during times of trial. This was the most eloquent and convincing I have read. I am not a Christian (any longer) because I have been so offended by the uncharitable remarks and actions of America's clergy (Cathollics and all Prostestants included). Anyone who ever read the words of the Christian gospels and imbedded them to their hearts know that the last 1/2 century belongs to to bigots, fearmongerers, and so many criminals who hid behind a church to transfigurate their sins are abhorant to me. I cannot claim another faith, because I lack courage to proclaim a right to exist of a spider over my fears, so I am a-religous. I am profoundly glad that there are pastors, priests, imans, and monks who can rise above the
God has a lot in common with the Aurora suspect, both are mass murderers. Just read all the lovely genocides and murders in the bible, especially old testament. There is a website that adds up all the counted deaths, where god either murdered the person or otherwise caused them to die by forcing another person to do it and it includes a number, it came to over 2,200,000 deaths (and this does not count the flood or any part that does not offer a count). Satan only had 10, which were the children of Job that God told Satan he could kill in order to test Job. Awesome God that, he might have your children murdered to see if it will cause you to lose "faith". Hallelujah!!!
Maybe god took off the training wheels for the past few thousand years and we are just failing.
People! Jesus christ! He can only handle one theater at a time, those places get pack!
You all just wait til the annunaki (nephilim) come back and make you r@pe your kids while I'm floating in the rapture.
God's ship in the rapture will only hold at most 144,000 people.
Your are a sadist or a Poe.
Does your Mommy/Sister know you're using her computer or is she out with your new Daddy and too busy to care?
Sorry Jessup but unless you can back your claims with factual evidence, you will end up getting called out and made fun of by more than just me on here. You sound like a redneck hillbilly without more than a 2nd grade education. Don't come here and call us hateful and threaten us with hell if you don't expect the same in return....especially when we have science to back us.
Message from god to Jessup;
He just told me you are in fact NOT going to heaven.
Sorry dude, but it was god and he said it. No rapture for you.
Must be true, comming from god and all.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.