By David L. Cummins
This article first appeared in FrontLine • July/August 2000. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.
Through the years, saints of God have struggled with the two-fold conundrum as to why the heathen prosper and why the righteous suffer. The Psalmist dealt with adversity’s unequal balance in Psalm 73. In verses 1 through 9 he meditated upon the triumph of the sinful, and in verses 10 through 14 he pondered the trials of saints. In verses 3 and 12 he ruminated over the “prosperity of the wicked.” The second part of the enigma is one of the many questions that plagued Job. That righteous man faced the question head on: “Why do the righteous suffer?” Thank God, both Job and David were given Divine insight and came to rest in the Lord’s goodness.
Modern self-help specialists have dabbled in humanistic answers to these dilemmas. Titles such as When Bad Things Happen to Good People, They’re All in It Together: When Good Things Happen to Bad People, and What Happens to Good People When Bad Things Happen? reveal an effort to assuage disillusioned religionists who live without reality.
What a contrast is found in the classic by Sir Robert Anderson, The Silence of God (newly reprinted by Kregel, 1999). Here one finds the soothing spiritual balm of Gilead. Before contemplating this masterpiece, consider this brief résumé of Sir Robert Anderson (1841–1918). Trained as a lawyer at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, Anderson became famed in Great Britain as an adviser on Irish affairs in matters relating to political crime. In 1888 he was appointed head of the Criminal Investigation Department (Scotland Yard).
Anderson, however, was first and foremost a child of God, and with all his duties he found time to study theology, author many volumes, and preach with great conviction and authority. He has given the Christian public a number of outstanding books of merit. (This writer possesses seventeen of his titles.) His choice works include: The Gospel and Its Ministry, The Coming Prince or the Seventy Weeks of Daniel, The Hebrew Epistle, and Daniel in the Critic’s Den. But if forced to select only one of Anderson’s books to include in my five-foot book shelf, I would surely choose The Silence of God.
How is it that our omnipotent, omniscient Creator, in whom resides all power and knowledge, does not intervene in the affairs of His creatures and, more precisely, in the concerns of His children? We know that in ages past Jehovah God revealed Himself through miracles to His earthly people, Israel. His power was unleashed upon the earth in the days of Elijah and Elisha. In the days of His flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ exhibited God’s power in healing the sick and raising the dead. And what of the apostles? Peter was miraculously released from prison. His very shadow passing over the sick brought healing.
Were the reports of such miracles merely embellished myths? Leaders of the modern-day charismatic movement would decry such a position. They have concluded that a silent heaven is caused only by a lack of faith on the part of current disciples. They demand the miraculous, and when such is not forthcoming, there is consternation in their camp. Tragically, because of the silence of God in this day, some have questioned the validity of the divine record and have repudiated the faith.
Sir Robert Anderson wrote:
The mystery remains that “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers,” never speaks to His people now! The Divine history of the favoured race for thousands of years teems with miracles by which God gave proof of His power with men, and yet we are confronted by the astounding fact that from the days of the apostles to the present hour the history of Christendom will be searched in vain for the record of a single public event to compel belief that there is a God at all!
Arguing that in the plan of God we are living in the day of man, Anderson summarized his findings:
A Silent Heaven! Yes, but it is not the silence of callous indifference or helpless weakness; it is the silence of a great sabbatic rest, the silence of a peace which is absolute and profound—a silence which is the public pledge and proof that the way is open for the guiltiest of mankind to draw near to God. When faith murmurs, and unbelief revolts, and men challenge the Supreme to break that silence and declare Himself, how little do they realise what the challenge means! It means the withdrawal of the amnesty; it means the end of the reign of grace; it means the closing of the day of mercy and the dawning of the day of wrath.
If God is silent now it is because Heaven has come down to earth, the climax of Divine revelation has been reached, there is no reserve of mercy yet to be unfolded. He has spoken His last word of love and grace, and when next He breaks the silence it will be to let loose the judgments which shall yet engulf a world that has rejected Christ. For “our God shall come and shall not keep silence.”
This valuable volume will strengthen and settle the heart of God’s children in the assurance that the Heavenly Father has given.
The latte Dr. David L. Cummins was Deputation Director of Baptist World Mission in Decatur, Alabama when this article was originally published.