Accepting evil because God
moves in a most mysterious way
appears to me extremely odd.
More likely is: He’s gone away
and isn’t interested in us.
That’s why we haven’t got a prayer,
not even if we pray or fuss,
demanding that He be more fair
than He appears: condoning evil
would seem to be His major rule.
Do not blame Him or blame the devil;
to do so is to be uncool,
and blaming either of them misses
the point that even if they did
exist they don’t frequent abysses
to punish people who backslid.
Inspired by an article in The New Yorker by James Wood, “Holiday in Hellmouth: God may be dead, but the question why he permits suffering lives on” (June 9 and 16,2008) , discussing theodicy in general and Bart D. Ehrman’s “Accepting Jesus”:
Theologians and philosophers talk about “the problem of evil, ” and the hygienic phrase itself bespeaks a certain distance from extreme suffering, the view from a life inside the charmed circle. They mean the classic difficulty of how we justify the existence of suffering and iniquity with belief in a God who created us, who loves us, and who providentially manages the world. The term for this justification is “theodicy, ” which nowadays seems a very old-fashioned exercise in turning around and around the stripped screw of theological scholastics. Still, if polls are correct, about eighty per cent of Americans ought to be engaged in such antiquarianism. Union University, in Jackson, Tennessee, might profit from intense classes in theodicy. “God protected this campus, ” one of the students there said, because no one was killed in the tornadoes that devastated parts of Tennessee on February 5th. Since ordinary Tennesseans were killed elsewhere that night, the logic of such shamanism is that God either did not or could not protect those unfortunates from something that the state’s governor once likened to “the wrath of God.”…
Theodicy, or, rather, its failure, was the other major entry on my debit side. I was trapped within the age-old conundrum: the world is full of pain and wickedness; God may be jealous but is also merciful and all-loving (how much more so, if one believes that Christ incarnated him) . If he has the power to alleviate this suffering but does not, he is cruel; if he cannot, he is weak. I wasn’t consoled by the standard responses. Suffering is a mystery, I was told, as is God’s absence in the face of suffering. But this was what I was also told when prayers failed to make their mark: the old “incomprehensibility” routine. It seemed to me that the Gospels, central to my family life, made some fairly specific promises and laid on us some fairly specific obligations; yet that specificity could simply go on holiday whenever God himself seemed to have gone on holiday. (“God moves in mysterious ways.”)
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