Tag Archives: Dr. Karin Heller

Is it enough to confront evil with prayer?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller

Bonjour Dr. Heller,

I’ve been reflecting on our last lecture about overcoming evil in the world. This has prompted a new question I’m hoping you will answer for me. 

I realize there was evil back in biblical times, but I truly believe it is far worse today and so much more destructive — morally, spiritually, as well as literally with all the military advances. In your lecture you said Trinitarian life is the answer to whatever evil is generated by the world and prayer is an important part. I know perseverance through prayer is possible for me, but I am unsure what the expectations are beyond that, for me, and the congregation of Christians as a whole. If we persevere through prayer as Jesus did, is that enough; is there more we should be doing now? You said to confront evil and not to run away, but some of the evil in this world is very overwhelming and frightening. I am worried that prayer is not enough. In addition, and to be perfectly honest, I fear what will happen when I am confronted by evil. Please share your thoughts. Is prayer really enough, or am I missing something? 

Thank you so much,I truly value your insights and wisdom! 

Kind Regards,

Kirsten

Dear Kirsten,

Dr. Karin Heller

Thank you for your insightful question. If you look up your class notes your should see o I gave at least three ways to confront evil. You only retained prayer. It’s funny you don’t remember the other two. One can’t just confront evil with prayer. One has to add service and the ‘right meal’ taken within a fellowship. When evil is at work we also have to continue the service to which God called us. This reminds me of a Catholic priest who, on Sept. 11 entered one of the twin towers to assist the dying there. He did not simply pray outside of the tower for the dying. He continued to act as a priest just as the fire fighters continued to act as firefighters. Yes, evil was around them, but they went ahead with their missions. The mission preserves us from focusing all the time on evil and fear of that evil which has paralyzing effects. This, of course, means we have to figure out first what our mission is!

Then, in the face of evil, we desperately need to share in the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, in communion with all of the Lord’s faithful. That’s why I spent so much time in class on the Lord’s Supper. When you get into a deeper understanding of the Lord’s Supper you’ll be better equipped to resist evil and to endure. Every meal allows us to endure, to overcome loss of energy, psychological weakness, depression and so forth. There are meals and the memories of certain meals that stimulate us and allow us to endure. This can be a special meal with a particular friend, or with your kids, or after graduation, or on your birthday or on a vacation. Certain meals (or the memories of these meals) I took with friends in France during summer always help me to keep on going during my fall or spring semester! The Eucharist is doing this also in a special way because it’s during this meal that the Lord himself is the host and makes us share in his body and blood, the only thing capable of defeating whatever evil power!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Why would Jesus want to go through what we go through?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Karin,

After our discussion today I’m still stuck on the fact that Jesus was man first. Since he’s God, I get the picture that he was all-knowing, even at birth, and knew that he was God from the start. Did he became man because he wanted to feel like a person and experience temptations like we do and be like us to see what we go through? Why would he want to? Did he not always know his fate and his impact on the world, even at birth? I can’t seem to wrap my head around this.

Thank you, professor.

– Travis

Dear Travis,

Dr. Karin Heller

Thank you for your great question. Like many Christians, you struggle with the two natures of Jesus Christ. Jesus became truly human, which means that he was not all-knowing from his birth to his resurrection. The Gospel of Luke states, “Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature and in  favor with God and men.” Jesus had to grow in wisdom! He did not know everything from the beginning and didn’t know the impact he would make on the world. Jesus studied the Scriptures. God spoke to him through the Scriptures (just as God speaks to you and me through the Scriptures) and through Scriptures Jesus learned about who he was!

If he knew about everything beforehand  there would be no need for Jesus to go to John the Baptist, be baptized and receive through baptism the confirmation that he is the beloved Son of God! As a human being, Jesus had to believe that he is  the son of  God.  Jesus also experienced rejection. He was not always successful when he preached and healed. He tried out different ministry styles. This means that it was not always crystal clear to him how to carry on his mission. In the Gospel of Luke we see  he started his ministry without any help, then he associated disciples to his ministry. Jesus had to believe God, his father, and he had to pray to God, just like of all other human beings.

Your image of Jesus has to come down to earth, otherwise you put your faith in a Jesus of your dreams and not the real Jesus. This will heavily affect your faith. Your faith will not be faith in Jesus, but in your image of Jesus! Jesus shared in the human condition to the very end, which meant a death sentence, even though he was totally innocent. In this way even the most unfortunate of the human beings can say, “What I go through, Jesus went it through, too.” Such an experience can lead a human being to develop sentiments of gratitude and love for Jesus.   We are called to stop believing in Jesus the same way we believe in Santa Claus! All false gods or Santa Claus figures pretend to act in man’s favor in a supernatural way. Only the true God who is the living one, acts in our favor in a complete, human  way! That’s how we can distinguish the true God from all the false gods. The false gods would never save us in a human way.

– Karin

How can I preserve my children from bad things happening to them?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller

Karin,

I’m terrified that something bad is going to happen to my children.  I know that most parents have this feeling too, and feel the need to try to protect their children, but I also know that many things are out of my control and that I can’t keep my kids in a bubble. I have found comfort in the Bible before, but no matter how I try I can’t find a way to let go of this fear and have faith that my children are in God’s hands. How can I let this fear go? I want to have faith, but I can’t seem to detach my feeling for my children from trusting God with things that are out of my control. And when bad things do happen, how can I explain to my children, on a level they understand, why bad things happen to them or to other people?

– Allie

Dear Allie,

Dr. Karin Heller

Your problem can only be fixed if you let the attachment to your children go. A French proverb says, “Get detached from things before they get detached from you!” Your children, one day, will leave you, believe it or not, like it or not. If you learn to get detached from your children now, little by little, then you will not suffer, or at least you will suffer much less the day your children quit. Women in particular struggle with this problem. They want to control to the very end whatever they have given birth to! So, how can you progressively learn “to let go?”

As a Christian mom you did not give birth to your children to keep them, but to let them go so that they may become believers on their own and follow Christ! You could only give them human life while Christ can give them eternal life. If you don’t let them go, they may miss ETERNAL life! This would be really too bad!!! You cannot protect them from death, only Christ can bring them into LIFE! Therefore, do whatever you can to make them love Christ.

Don’t try to transform your kids in what you want them to be. Ask God for what he wants them to be and support in your kids whatever is according to God’s design. Give to God what belongs to God! If YOU and your children belong to God you’ll find them in God again! If you wish to keep your kids in the long run, then let them go to be what God wants them to be and make sure you, too, wholly belong to God! As you see, the big problem is to figure out what it means to belong to God. What did it mean for Jesus to belong to God? It meant for him to go through hardships for the love of his father and return to God by standing firm in faith that God had the power to guide him safely through the hardships of this life!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University.Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Does God predestine people for “bad”?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller

Hello Karin,

In our last session of class you mentioned the word “predestined.”  If people are not predestined and everyone has a chance to accept God into their lives, why does it seem as though some people are just destined for “bad”?  When a child is born does God know if they will or will not go to heaven or hell? Or will he only determine that at the final judgment?

I have a very close friend who has had a rough life, she has made some very bad decisions, and she believes that she is “doomed” to live a life of misery.  She believes her misery on earth will only end when she dies, she has contemplated suicide plenty of times but has never followed through with her plan.  I have talked her out of committing suicide three times.  At times I feel bad, I feel as though I simply talk her “into” living a life she does not want to live.

– Melinda

Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Melinda

You’ve already given an answer to your own question. As a Christian, you are called to do what Christ did, i.e. “talking people into living a life they did not want to live!” That’s what Christ did all the time! Most of them just wanted a better life or a new life here on earth, not THE LIFE Jesus is offering! And why was that so? Because one reaches THE LIFE Jesus is offering through HARDSHIPS in this world! In the case of people who do not want to live this life, the big question is always to know what they truly want. Some of them express in this way their need for help. Therefore, continue to hang in there. Perhaps your Christian vocation is not to give up on life in spite of darkness. God may simply ask you to be “light in the darkness”, like it or not. God never gives up and you should be in the image of God who never gives up on life, because God IS LIFE!

The biblical God, according to Catholic doctrine, does not issue a decree which states that this one goes to hell while that one goes to heaven. God created ALL MEN capable of living with God and sharing in HIS LIFE. He did not predestine some to go to hell and others to heaven. If some go to hell, it was their choice, not God’s choice! God does not force upon us either heaven or hell! Would heaven really be heaven, if it is forced upon us? There are parents who force upon their kids a Californian easy way of life style where kids have all that makes them happy and nevertheless, these kids are still longing for happiness! Happiness that is forced on us doesn’t work!

God wants ALL of us to become in his image and likeness by walking with him through thick and thin. Through this walk we have to figure out if we truly want to belong to God or not. Your friend has to figure this out, too! Does she want to walk with God in good times and in bad times or not? According to Christian belief death does not simply end all of our miseries. That’s what some people want to believe! And what if death is an even greater misery than this life here on earth? Death is not to say “it’s over!” As a Christian, you have to bear witness to this truth. Therefore, continue to talk her into life, which is a form of love! That’s the way God, too, loves … it is the only love that has the power to overcome death of ever. This love is the key to TRUE and EVERLASTING happiness. If one receives this kind of love on earth it will open for him/her a road to heaven, if one refuses it, he/she will walk on a road leading to hell.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University.Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Does God create new relationships when loved ones die?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller
Hello Karin,
We talked about “separation” a few weeks ago and how God “separates” to create new relationships.  In regards to death and “separation”, is death ever an injustice or is it always an attempt to create something new and fresh? Do you have any insight on why God wants to “create” new relationships?I lost my brother four years ago, he died a week after his 31st birthday of pneumonia.  He was a beautiful man, he was a husband, father, teacher, and coach but most of all he was loved.  I did not mourn his death because I actually chose not to believe it for about two years.  I could not grasp that he was actually gone.  I was upset with my mom because she would always say “it is God’s will” and “that’s how he wanted it.”  Eventually, I did begin the mourning process and have come a long way.  I must say that before your lecture on “separation”, I still had a little resentment towards God because he took my brother.  I understand this now and I thank you so very much.Thank you,
Monica
Dear Monica,

Dr. Karin Heller

The biblical God did not create death, but death entered into the world on account of the devil’s (the serpent’s) jealousy and man’s unwillingness to fix the problem of an animal that suddenly started behaving and talking in n inappropriate way. The biblical God is only LIFE. As such, when confronted with death, God does not give up! Death is not an obstacle for him, because he is capable of CREATING NEW RELATIONSHIPS in spite of death! God wants these new relationships because he is a God of LIFE and not of death! He alone is able to create something good out of a separation that is a disaster. Each death is a disaster … and, in addition, sometimes an injustice. There is no greater injustice than the death of innocent people. The biblical God always attempts to rescue man confronted with death! Therefore, the problem is not God, but man! Does man want to be rescued from death and meet his creator and redeemer when the hour has come to leave this world? You did not give up at your brother’s death.  I hope your brother had the same attitude! Women are very often stronger than men (males) in front of death. You want your brother to be ALIVE. Therefore, continue to look for your brother hidden in a God who is LIFE. So, if you want to find your brother, you’ve got to find God FIRST! You remind me of the two sisters of Lazarus in chapter 11 of the Gospel of John… You should read this text. This text speaks of you! The sisters of Lazarus ask Jesus to come and heal their brother, but Jesus arrives “too late” … it’s “too late” for them, because their brother had died, but Jesus pushes them to have FAITH in HIM who is the resurrection! Through your brother’s death, God calls you to grow in faith in a God who is the RESURRECTION and who IS LIFE! That’s perhaps your vocation, to bear witness to a God who is LIFE and not to run around like your mother saying “it’s God’s will” or “that’s how he wanted it”. For sure, God wanted your brother to live and more than that, God wanted him to BE ALIVE FOR GOD in a way we can never totally be in this world. That’s to what your faith should point!
– Karin
Dear Karin, 
Thank you so, so, much for you thoughtful response.  It made me emotional and your words truly helped me understand what I need to know.  I need to find God in order to find my brother, I now know that is what I need to do.  I did read John 11.  I had never read it before but I’m glad you suggested it, it’s content really shed light on not only death but life.  My brother was a Christian man, and I know he would be proud of me for trying to better understand God.  I took this class to find a better understanding of God, religion, life, and death, and I most definitely obtained that and much, much more.  Thank you so much, you have helped me in an indescribable way.Thank you,
– Monica
Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University.Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Did the Dinosaurs miss Noah’s Ark?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller

Karin,

I’ve got a couple of questions for you. If Noah took two of every kind of animal on the ark, what happened to the dinosaurs? Were they alive before Noah’s time or did Noah decide not to take them? Is the week that God took to create the earth actually a span of over thousands of years? If so, does that mean that the dinosaurs were all killed because of the flood instead of a meteorite like kids are taught in school?

Thanks,

Billy

Dear Billy,

Dr. Karin Heller

The Noah story has been handed down in two versions, one from the 5th century B.C. and the other much older (perhaps the 8th century B.C). At this time, people did not know about the dinosaurs and a meteorite killing them. This is a 20th century hypothesis. The biblical authors wrote with the knowledge of their time. Their purpose was not to cover such hypotheses. The Noah and the creation stories come from the writers’ imagination. They are similar to Walt Disney productions with one exception – the creation and the Noah stories contain a highly theological message. We are called to explore this theological message and embrace it with FAITH!

From Cartoonstock.com

The week spoken about in Genesis 1 is symbolic for ALL the time which exists between the beginning of this universe and the end of time. God creates EVERY WEEK and EVERY DAY and stars, plants, animals and human beings! Every day he has his lights overcome the darkness of the night. Even at the end of time God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Is 66:22; Rev 21:1).  The question if this week was 1,000 years long or something else is not a good question because the biblical authors think in other categories than we do today! The narratives of creation and Noah’s ark have THEOLOGICAL meanings. Therefore, if you want to dig deeper into the message convened in these narratives, you’ll have to change your reading method and come to the Bible with the RIGHT questions. Often in the gospels, Jesus corrects people when they do not come to him with the right questions! For example the young rich man comes to Jesus and asks, “Master what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?” Jesus does not give him an answer right away, because he is off track with his question! To put him on track, Jesus confronts him with another question and says, “Why do you ask me about what is good?” (Matt 19:16-17). Learn to come to the Bible with questions that are on track!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University.Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below!

Can Children Become Idols?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller

Karin,

I was really struck by one of the things you said in class Friday night and I have been going over it in my mind ever since.  I won’t be able to quote you exactly, but you made reference that to put the love of your husband, and even children before the love of Christ is considered idolatry. To me,  it feels wrong to put the love of anyone, thing, entity, God, Christ, before the love of my children.  My children were given to me by God, and as such it seems that he would want me to love them completely.  I’m feeling tremendously guilty for feeling that way as I never thought of the love I have for my children as idolatry.  Did I misunderstand the meaning in the lecture?  Am I committing one of the worst possible sins by loving my children in this way?  That seems wrong to me.

Kindest Regards,

– Amanda

Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Amanda,

No, you didn’t misunderstand me! But here is more about it. The event of Jesus of Nazareth consistently challenges family values, including Jewish values, which were very high. The gospels, in particular, convey to us some hard issues to ponder. These issues are the following ones. Jesus says, “Who prefers father or mother, son or daughter to me, is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38) and, “Who comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and his own life, too, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-26). The only person NOT mentioned in these lists is the “husband”, because in a patriarchal society where Jesus lived, it was simply NOT conceivable for a woman to leave her husband and follow Jesus, although a husband could!!! No gender equality at this time … But the text makes it clear that parents cannot put their children above Jesus.

In the Catholic tradition we have the case of Saint Joan of Chantal, widow and mother of four children. She founded a religious community, the Order of the Visitation, together with St. Francis of Sales in the 17th century. When she left her home to enter the convent, her youngest son who was 14 years old, is said to have thrown himself over the threshold. His mother stepped over his body. Well, there are situations like these … I had to love God and Christ more than my parents and had to choose between my parents and Jesus! It was very heart breaking, just as heart breaking, I  guess, would be the choice between one’s love for his/her children and Christ. Things may not always turn out as radical as these, especially in a Christian family, where parents and children are united by the same faith and where love is not the effort to transform the other in what “I” want him/her to be, but where love is to set the other free so that he/she can truly become whom God wants him/her to be.

However, marriage and a family always run the risk to end up in mutual idolatry, that’s what the gospels underline! So, if one wants to avoid this temptation, then it’s better to follow Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 7 and remain single for the sake of Christ! Only 20 years later, in 1 Timothy 5:14 Paul changes mind and becomes more in favor of marriage. Marriage lived out as a way to follow Jesus is a tough thing! I walked on a spiritual journey with a French countess for four years until her death. She struggled a lot over the love her already deceased husband and son. She all put them BEFORE Jesus. Only a dream in which Jesus appeared to her, delivered her from this idolatry and she was 90 at that time! She passed away very peacefully … I was with her eight hours before her death … she had learned to find her beloved ones IN Jesus alone!  Jesus had to be reached first, and then in him she had found her beloved ones, too!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below!