Thursday, December 30, 2004
My friend Harold Ernst, a theologian studying at Notre Dame, passes on these comments, regarding our discussion on "Tsunamis and Moral Anthropology":
Rob's concluding challenge, "What do we have to say for God?", draws to mind anessay of the English Dominican Herbert McCabe, titled simply "Evil," thatappears in God Matters (Templegate, 1987). It is a philosophical defense,broadly Thomistic in character, to the kind of "God in the dock" perspectiveRob assumes. The essay is useful, I think, for bringing some intellectualclarity to which aspects require, and which do not require, recourse to whatRob terms the mystery of God "cop-out." What is more, the tenor of the essayis methodologically instructive, for it only attempts to answer rationalattacks on the legitimacy of religious belief by rebutting those arguments ontheir own terms. This approach concedes (as Susan does) that suchargumentation cannot rationally prove faith convictions to unbelievers, butonly demonstrate that those convictions are not philosophically incoherent orirrational (faith is above reason, but not against reason). As Newman said,"it is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing."Two other brief comments, each of which may be a mere quibble given the contextof their overall remarks. Rob notes the particular poignancy of this naturaldisaster occurring at Christmas, for relative to its scale "the divine concernfor humanity promised by the Incarnation seems relatively meaningless." Whilethis remark no doubt reflects an understandable degree of immediate despairover the present enormity of human suffering, it nonetheless suggests a whollyinadequate appreciation of what God has accomplished by means of theIncarnation. We live, after all, in the "in between times" where the kingdomof God is both "already" and "not yet." The promise of the Incarnation isprimarily of an eschatological reality, and those who seek to live in imitatioChristi cannot reasonably expect that our earthly existence will be, as itwere, all beer and skittles.Susan makes a similar point at the conclusion of her response to Rob, then adds:"And God weeps along with us at their deaths and at the suffering of those leftbehind." In making this addition she touches on a highly controversialquestion in contemporary theology, whether and how God (qua God) might sufferin solidarity with suffering humanity. A book length treatment that exploresthe historical tradition on this point, and highlights how the contemporarypredisposition for affirming God's suffering is theologically problematic, isThomas Weinandy's Does God Suffer? (T&T Clark, 2000).