Grieving, Comforting, Believing as Christians

As I write this, I am watching the convocation ceremony at Virginia Tech where everyone is saying the Lord’s Prayer, having followed an instrumental playing of “Amazing Grace.”  Having listened to this prayer being prayed by everyone in attendance (who apparently have memorized it) along with a moving and solemn rendition of “Amazing Grace,” one might think that the ceremony commemorating the lives of those lost yesterday was distinctively Christian.  However, while I was praying and grieving, I began thinking about what I was watching.  You see, just before this was a series of speakers from various religious backgrounds.  First was President Bush speaking on behalf of the United States of America, who was followed by a Muslim cleric, a Buddhist leader, and a Catholic priest.  Each appealed to the sources of authority–the Muslim to the Koran, the Buddhist to the Dali Lama, the Catholic priest to the Bible. 

The picture that was painted was that “Amazing Grace” was a fitting conclusion to all these speeches, that the Lord’s Prayer was the culmination of the expressed concerns and thoughts.  It is as though each religion doesn’t have anything distinctively different to offer than the other, that those grieving during this time can find as much hope from transcendental meditation as reading the Bible as clinging to the words of the Koran.  Yet behind each of these religions lies a worldview–a worldview that stands with deep and essential truth claims in contrast and contradiction to that of Christianity.  These worldviews, here presented as congruent and analogous to one another, present very different ways of understanding life and death, sin and evil, God and man. 

As a Christian with a biblically informed worldview, how then, do you help those who grieve in times like this?  What comfort can you provide that is any different than any other religion or those who have no religion at all?  Is there any real difference to believing as a Christian in moments of pain and grief, or should we conclude that indeed “Amazing Grace” is a consummate expression of all religions? 

Let me know what you think.  As I think about the nature of such evil and sorrow, with so many questions with so few answers, we must be able to think, grieve, comfort, hope, love, and believe that in a way that is distinctively Christian. 

Explore posts in the same categories: Religious Pluralism, Responses

9 Comments on “Grieving, Comforting, Believing as Christians”

  1. […] for Blacksburg“, my Southern Baptist friend Timmy Brewster’s post titled “Grieving, Comforting, Believing as Christians“, and Passion Conferences leader Louie Giglio’s post “Heavy Hearted, Yet Not […]

  2. Timmy,

    We are grieving here in Virginia. At the same time, we make every effort to extend hope to those in our community who are saddened by these events. We have several Tech students and alumni in our church, being only about an hour away from the campus. We held a community-wide prayer vigil at our church last night and invited the community through our local news station to attend. We directed our attention toward the one true God last night. We expressed through all that we said, prayed and sang that Jesus is our only hope, our only comfort. Our prayers conveyed our hope in a God who is not taken by surprise in the unfolding of these events.

    I watched the same convocation and agree with much of what you observed. I thought the person representing Christianity was introduced as being Luthern. But no matter, he was the most ecumenical of the four religions represented. While the others identified strongly with their beliefs and holy books, the man assigned to represent Christians didn’t seem to beleive in much of anything. He led the crowd in a moment of silence and the name of Jesus was never mentioned. Ironically, Governor Tim Kaine gave more distinct quotes from the Bible than the campus minister.

    In the midst of this misrepsentation, people need to see the distinctiveness of Christianity in a crisis like this. I am in communication with some VA Tech campus ministers and pastors in the Blacksburg area. They are telling me that students are reaching out to them. They are also telling me that some students are expressing a strong desire to share their faith. I am hoping that what we saw today is not the only exposure to Christianity that these students have.


  3. Travis,

    Thank you for sharing how you all are handling this tragic situation. Indeed, in moments like this, Christianity needs to be seen for its unique truth, its unique Savior, its unique hope of life beyond the grave. When people’s attention is drawn to such a terrible situation, the only fitting place to point greiving people is to the cross and to Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the Christian minister as you mentioned did not do this.

    It is really encouraging to hear the strong desire to communicate Christ among students at VT. I will not only be praying for this situation, but specifically that God will give these students compassion and courage, a comforting word and a gospel word that those without Christ can turn to Him and find a certain hope and a real Savior who is Lord of life and conqueror of death and hell.

    When huge moments in contemporary history like this happen (as was the tsunami, Katrina, or 9-11), people will be asking the big questions about life that somehow go ignored in the day-to-day frivolities. This is a perpetual pause that stops people from their next anxious thought and their next busy moment. It is in this pause that the weight of eternity lands most heavily, and it is in this moment Christian truth and grace must be clearly communicated from those who follow Christ in a spirit of love and compassion. May God give us wisdom and power by His Spirit to do just that.


    Timmy B.

  4. KK Says:

    I was saddened by everything I saw and heard and more saddened when they blurred the lines with a touch of Christian tradition. I was reminded how we never need to look at our leaders as those that we can fully see as one of us – President Bush becomes more pluralistic the longer he is in office but then I find that maybe it is what has been all along. He also said “they where in the wrong place at the wrong time” which I found strange when this was totally contrary from the facts that they were in the right place at the right time – In classes that they were required to attend as students.

    God is in his heaven and he does what pleases him even when it totally does make sense to man. It also reminds us who are reformed in our theology that the heart of man is evil and outside of Christ we are hopeless. We each should bend the knee in greatful praise our God saves and our God reigns.

  5. KK,

    Indeed, a biblical (high-view) of God is absolutley intolerable in our age. We want total autonomy and have the authority to reject all forms of authority, including God. God is a great utility but not an accepted metaphysical reality. Though reporters will mention (as I just heard on Fox News) that we are Judeo-Christian culture, we are functioning atheists who at times we deem appropriate make mention of a God who gets us what we want, when we want it.

    I know that sounds harsh, but it is true. The God whose sovereignty is meticulous and comphrehensive, including all the free acts of wicked men, makes no sense to unregenerate men and is seen contradicting to those who hold a lower view of God. Yet in his divine providence and governance, He is on His throne. Nothing has or ever will come as an accident or mistake to Him. His purposes, though often shrouded in mystery, are not capricious or arbitrary but are grounded in his eternal, divine decree.

    Though we are human beings with finite knowledge and image tainted by sin, we nevertheless know a God who can heal all hurts and comfort all afflicted. The cross, though distant in the minds of some Christian “professors” is not far from those who reach out to a dying Savior who gives life to all who believe. May we ever be true to the mission and message of our Savior Jesus Christ–Creator, Savior, and Sovereign.

  6. Tony Kummer Says:

    Suffering seems brings out what we should have seen all along. Good conversation.

  7. Dr. Mohler commentating today on the tragedy at VT:

    “A central tenet of the Christian faith is the claim that, on the cross, Jesus Christ willingly suffered the full force of evil, even unto death — and that in raising Christ from the dead, the Father vindicated Christ’s victory over sin, death, and evil.

    The Virginia Tech horror reminds us all what human beings can do to each other. The cross of Christ reminds us of what Jesus did for sinners in bearing the full punishment for this evil.

    Christianity does not deny the reality of evil or try to hide from its true horror. Christians dare not minimize evil nor take refuge in euphemisms. Beyond this, we cannot accept that evil will have the last word. The last word will be the perfect fulfillment of the grace and justice of God.”

    Amen Dr. Mohler. Good word.

  8. Don Says:

    Well spoken!
    Given your passion on all this, I’m here asking if you can reveal to me where the call to recitation of the Lord’s Prayer came from during the convocation. The video on the Va’Tech website [ ] doesn’t reveal where, except that it was NOT from the main speakers stage. Neither can I find any “order of services” or “program” in my investigating the political correctness of it all. I’ll go public here with my email address if anyone reading this can help me learn.

  9. Don,

    If I remember correctly, Bush spoke, followed by a Muslim cleric, Buddhist spokesperson (a lady), and later a Catholic priest or Lutheran rector. After these brief messages, there was an interlude that began by an instrumental version of Amazing Grace then followed by everyone reciting the Lord’s Prayer. That’s the best I can recall from the events that afternoon.

    What was most troubling is that during a time where the Christian message needs to be most clear and distinct, it was vague and nondescript other than to reiterate what others had already been saying. In fact, the governor and president had more to say from a Christian understanding of the events than did the ministers who claimed to speak in the name of Christ.

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