I have been reading the works of St. John Crysostom today. I am convinced of the value of learning from our fathers in the faith. Not just those who started the journey (the Apostles), and not just those who passed the baton to us (our spiritual fathers in the faith) - but all those who went between.
Solomon said "There is nothing new under the sun." If we do not learn from our history we are destined to repeat it. This is particularly true when it comes to doctrinal controversies. True - all that we need is in the Bible, but just as a wise lawyer will refer to past cases as well as the law itself when he argues his case, rather than reinvent the wheel; so we too should not despise the wisdom of our forefathers or think we are the first to face such issues.
Take the problem of suffering and sickness. There are some who have tried to do a P.R. job on God, and attribute all such activities to the devil. But what is the consequence? We no longer have a sovereign God, but a beleaguered candy-covered deity who looks on in despair, as through parted fingers, at what goes on in the world. Such a God may neatly fit into our small theological box, but is robbed of his divine majesty. Such a God would never have expelled man from paradise, would never have sent the flood to wipe out mankind, would never have taken away the gift of oneness of speech at Babel. Indeed such a God would never have endured to see his one and only son suffer so much on the cross. As such this theology is a form of idolatory, as it puts forward a God who is not the God revealed to us in the pages of scripture.
God is good - all the time. But we must be careful in our definition of what "good" means. God will never do anything that is morally corrupt, but he will sometimes use the "bitter medicine" to cure our ills.
John Crysostom had much to say on this issue. He lived in a time when many thought the world was over-run by the power of demons, rather than in the hands of a sovereign God.
Not only when he confers benefits but even when he chastises God is good and loving. For even his chastisements and his punishments are the greatest part of his beneficence, the greatest form of his providence. Whenever therefore thou seest that famines have taken place, and pestilences, and drought and immoderate rains, and irregularities in the atmosphere, or any other of the things which chasten human nature, be not distressed, nor be despondent, but worship Him who caused them, marvel at Him for His tender care. For He who does these things is such that He even chastens the body that the soul may become sound. Then does God these things saith one? God does these things, and even if the whole city, nay even if the whole universe were here I will not shrink from saying this. Would that my voice were clearer than a trumpet, and that it were possible to stand in a lofty place, and to cry aloud to all men, and to testify that God does these things.
For the physician is not only to be commended when he leads forth the patient into gardens and meadows, nor even into baths and pools of water, nor yet when he sets before him a well furnished table, but when he orders him to remain without food, when he oppresses him with hunger and lays him low with thirst, confines him to his bed, both making his house a prison, and depriving him of the very light, and shadowing his room on all sides with curtains, and when he cuts, and when he cauterizes, and when he brings his bitter medicines, he is equally a physician. How is it not then preposterous to call him a physician who does so many evil things, but to blaspheme God, if at any time He doeth one of these things, if He bring on either famine or death, and to reject his providence over all? And yet He is the only true physician both of souls and bodies. On this account He often seizes this nature of ours wantoning in prosperity, and travailing with a fever of sins, and by want, and hunger, and death and other calamities and the rest of the medicines of which He knows, frees us from diseases.