Will tomorrow night’s presidential debate be fair?

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Will tomorrow night’s presidential debate be fair?

June 26, 2024 -

In this combination of photos, President Joe Biden speaks on Aug. 10, 2023, in Salt Lake City, left, and former President Donald Trump speaks on July 8, 2023, in Las Vegas. The U.S. presidential campaign moves closer to a Donald Trump-Joe Biden rematch for tomorrow's presidential debate. (AP Photo)

In this combination of photos, President Joe Biden speaks on Aug. 10, 2023, in Salt Lake City, left, and former President Donald Trump speaks on July 8, 2023, in Las Vegas. The U.S. presidential campaign moves closer to a Donald Trump-Joe Biden rematch for tomorrow's presidential debate. (AP Photo)

In this combination of photos, President Joe Biden speaks on Aug. 10, 2023, in Salt Lake City, left, and former President Donald Trump speaks on July 8, 2023, in Las Vegas. The U.S. presidential campaign moves closer to a Donald Trump-Joe Biden rematch for tomorrow's presidential debate. (AP Photo)

Karoline Leavitt, a spokesperson for Donald Trump, was interviewed by CNN regarding Thursday night’s presidential debate on their network. She called moderators Dana Bash and Jake Tapper “biased” and said Mr. Trump is “knowingly going into a hostile environment.” When she persisted with her concerns, the interviewer cut off her microphone.

Mr. Trump’s campaign is warning of a “three against one” ambush that can only favor President Biden. Of course, if the debate were being hosted on a network and by moderators known for conservative bias, Mr. Biden’s campaign might be issuing similar statements.

As Peggy Noonan laments in her recent Wall Street Journal column, journalism has morphed from reporting the news to advancing personal ideologies. We cannot know in advance how the debate will be handled or how the candidates will perform, but as psychologists Albert Ellis and B. F. Skinner have noted, past behavior is an excellent predictor of future behavior. The same can be said of media reviews on both sides when the debate is concluded.

Disappointing our grandchildren

Let’s apply this discussion to our question this week: Why does God allow innocent suffering, especially at the hands of those who claim to represent him?

Consider a thought exercise.

Janet and I are keeping two of our four grandchildren this week. Even though they are nearly perfect (of course), on occasion we have had to say no to their requests. In the face of such setbacks, absent an explanation they find satisfactory, what are their interpretive options?

  1. We know the reason for disappointing them but refuse to say, making us capricious.
  2. We know our answer is indefensible, making us sinful.
  3. We don’t know the reason, making us ignorant.
  4. We know more than they do, given that we have lived six decades longer than they have, making them children.

They can choose how to assess the situation by examining our past behavior: Have we previously been capricious, sinful, or ignorant? But as parents and grandparents know, they will not ultimately understand why we do what we do until they become parents and grandparents themselves.

Now let’s apply this discussion to God. The next time you question his character, I encourage you to read Psalm 103. For example, David testified:

Bless the Lᴏʀᴅ, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (vv. 2–5).

And he promises that when we meet him “face to face,” we will “know fully” what we do not understand today (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Grandkids in the street

Obviously, I want to encourage us to choose the fourth option with regard to God’s omniscience and our finitude. And I want us to consider a fifth fact as well: why can be less urgent than what.

Imagine that our grandkids were standing in the street with traffic oncoming and we ordered them to the sidewalk. If they asked why, would we take time to explain?

Over the decades I have taught philosophy of religion, I have often said that the Bible is more practical than speculative. The reason: it deals with urgent issues for which explanations are less relevant than obedience.

This does not mean that we are asked to commit intellectual suicide. To the contrary, God wants us to love him with “all [our] mind” (Matthew 22:37) and invites us to “reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). If his sinless Son could question him from the cross (Matthew 27:46), we can ask him our questions today.

However, when no satisfactory explanation is forthcoming, we can decide that the fault is not with his character but with our capacities, not with his omniscient benevolence but with our finitude (cf. Isaiah 55:8–9). And we can choose to trust his perfect will (Romans 12:2) even if—and especially when—we do not understand it.

The darker the room, the more urgent the light.

“Creation’s secret force”

I was walking early one morning when a deer emerged from the woods at my side and crossed my path. Unless I am a solipsist who thinks reality exists only when I am experiencing it, I am forced to believe that the deer existed before I saw it. The fault was not with the deer but with me.

The brilliant fourth-century theologian St. Ambrose wrote some of the great hymns in Christian history, including one I invite us to pray slowly and intentionally:

O God, creation’s secret force,
Yourself unmoved, all motion’s source,
Who from the morn till evening ray
Through all its changes guide the day:

Grant us, when this short life is past,
The glorious evening that shall last;
That, by a holy death attained,
Eternal glory may be gained.

What if it were today?

Wednesday news to know:

*Denison Forum does not necessarily endorse the views expressed in these stories.

Quote for the day:

“The depths of our misery can never fall below the depths of mercy.” —Richard Sibbes

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