Sunday, February 06, 2005

Correspondent Frank Roberts has these interesting comments to make on the discission about God and natural evil:

I am concerned that much of the theodicy arising from the tsunami is not
really Christian at all. Most conventional theodicies are essentially Stoic
meditations on how best to preserve equanimity in the face of death in
association with belief in Benevolence. Christ did not offer generalised
justifications when faced with tragedy. It is worth comparing His attitude to
that recorded of Buddha. A mother asked him to raise her dead child, so he
replied that he would if she brought him a cup of water from a house where no
child had died. The rest follows as might be expected. This story could
just as easily be told of any Greek or Roman sage. Its essential message is
"People die, lady. Deal with it."

Such a response from Jesus is unimaginable and that is precisely why
pagans like Celsus despised Jesus. Pagans quoted the verse "Jesus wept" from
John`s gospel as proof positive that Christianity was fit only for women and
slaves. And "Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted" inverts
the entire Stoic and Epicurean value systems. The tsunami raises no issues
that an individual death does not raise and when faced with individual death
Jesus never spoke or acted as a sage, but always as one who saw death as an
ourage deserving compassion not Stoic apathy.

Jesus did not deal in theodicies. They are an invention of the revived paganism of the Enlightenment and have no place in traditional theology. Our answer as Christians to tsunamis, as to our own deaths as individuals, is and can only ever be resurrection. Christ offered no other and who are we to improve on Him?

I would certainly describe myself as an occasional victim of enlightenment mentality. Frank's words are probably more true than anything I have been able to offer, but at the same time, I am not sure I find them adequate in dealing with the issues. Perhaps that is my problem.


jack perry said...

Didn't Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas deal with these questions? Aquinas certainly did, and I just checked in my Summa of the Summa.

I can predate Christianity, too: didn't the author of the book of Job deal with this question?

That doesn't sound to me like an invention of a revived paganism of the Enlightenment; it sounds more to me like a decision that, since the question is too hard (and it is!), then it shouldn't be asked. Yet God praises Job and rebukes the very ones who were telling Job that he shouldn't be asking such things (Job 42.7): I am angry with you and with your two friends, for you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job.Mind you, Job was the one protesting his suffering, because he had always walked justly, and done (as far as he could tell) no wrong. He was demanding that God give him an account.

I do agree that the Christian response should flow from the starting point of resurrection, but I want to be sure that we don't lay "blame" for this question at the feet of some bogeyman. The problem of pain doesn't deserve "blame"; it is IMHO a natural question to ask.

Anonymous said...

The Bible itself, not just Job, declares Job to be a righteous man.

the reason for Job's suffering was easy to understand. God did not want to lose face.

Prospect magazine has a debate between keith Ward and Grayling about God and the tsunami.

It appears God has designed a world where we could all be killed at once by a natural disaster....

boon said...

God created us to all die someday. The question is not how we die but how we live. As Christians we should weep for those who die in the tsunami and help as much as we can those who are suffering.

It is interesting that those who survive the tsunami are often seen praising God, the prime example being the Indonesian who was washed out to sea and survived for 2 weeks before being found.

The lesson in Job is that all theological arguments are pointless. When we lose all reason to hope, what hope have we left if not God? A tragedy like the tsunami should bring out the humanity in us. I don't see Indonesia, India, Thailand and Malaysia questioning their god/s and their religion. Why do we who are not directly affected? Are we not hypocritically hiding our lack of compassion in questioning God when our attention should be to the needs of our fellowmen?

Anonymous said...

Of course we should attend to the needs of our fellow-men, because God will pass by on the other side.

Anonymous said... is a reflection on the Ward-Grayling debate.

God caused the tsunami, according to Christians.

The arrogance of the “Christian theologians” is most clearly revealed in their attitude to the victims of the tsunami: all of them, they agree, are “innocent”. This “truth” is reeled out by almost every commentator as if it were a dogma. As if they could see and weigh up the thoughts of all of the 150,000 victims, and declare them all: “not guilty!”

But on what basis can they acquit the pagans and Muslims who died? And on what basis can they acquit the Christian victims, most of whom were sunning themselves on the day after Western Christmas far from a Christian church? It was left to some Muslims who know the region better than the Christian theologians, and who also appear to believe more in the justice of God than they, to point out that immoral practices such as child kidnapping and paedophilia are rife in the region

Such is the inhumanity of Christianity, which believes in a God who kills babies because sex tourists visit an area.