Friday, December 31, 2004
In our continuing discussion of the tsunamis, a reader forwarded me some apt words from Bishop Robinson:
"God is in the cancer as he is in the sunset, and is to be met and responded to in each. Both are among the faces of God, the one terrible, the other beautiful. The problem of evil is not how God can will it (that is not even touched on in Romans 8) but its power to threaten meaninglessness and separation, to sever and to sour, to darken our capacity to make the response of Thou.
If this is the case, the first task for theology is to restate the problem rather than to look for a solution. So much of the conventional presentation of the problem of evil, both from the Christian and the anti-Christian side, assumes a Being who is 'personally responsible' for directing the course of events. Such a being is declared by the atheist to be morally intolerable, and I find myself concurring. I have no wish to defend such a conception of God. One senses the genuine agony that lies behind, say, the innocent suffering of a child, but to define the problem in terms of how this can be 'meant' in terms of an almighty Being who permits it, is to distort the issue from the beginning.
We have to start from the other end. The concatenation of events that produces earthquakes and accidents....are not to be seen in terms of prevenient intention. That is to introduce categories of interpretation as foreign as those of the old teleologists who argued that fleas were made black so that men could see to swat them against white sheets. In the dense world of subpersonal relationships, the purposiveness of love works itself out through 'blinder' categories. There is no intention in an earthquake or an accident. But in and through it it is still possible to respond to the Thou that claims even this for meaning and personal purpose."