28 April 2008

God: Theology's Whipping Boy


In case you haven't been appalled yet today, check out the comments in this article, a brief on the church floor collapse in British Columbia which injured at least forty people. In fact, I'll just copy the four extant as of the writing of this post:


"Perhaps God is lifting His protective hand from Canada for their acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. He sure works in mysterious ways!"


"Why do I get the feeling that there was more involved than just simple design flaws? The church truly needs to get away from the world, yet everyone seems to love it. Sad."


"Glad to see that people were enjoying the music and using the music to praise the Lord, but sorry to hear of the injury to so many. But, the Lord must have had His hand on His children, and it wasn't time for any of those kids to go home to Father."


"Our lord works in mysterious ways. Praise him."


That's right. Mysteriously, God protected those kids from dying while punishing them for loving the world which is as bad as it is because Canada accepts the homosexual lifestyle. Hallelujah.


I'm sure I come across as being pretty harsh on Christians. I am a Christian, and I have a bit of a checkered past with it. By that, I mean that I used to be an asshat acting like I was a decent guy, and now I'm an asshat acting likely slightly more of an asshat. That's not the point though.


The point is, I'm not sure any of these comments have all that much to do with God. Theological language is easy to throw around. Whether or not God was involved at all is one issue; how God was involved if God was is another.


The fourth comment, for example, denies knowing how God was involved and declines questioning God's involvement. In short, it's a theological cop-out. The speaker appears humble by refusing to know how God was involved, and promotes their own self-righteousness by praising God nonetheless.


The first and second comments are, I believe, more or less similar to each other. Though the second doesn't directly implicate God, both statements indicate that some flaw— whether in Canadian culture at large, or of the Christian community— incited God to allow the tragic event. It's the problem with the advice of Job's friends, who assume that because Job undergoes tragedy, he is guilty of sin. Is all tragedy punishment? If so, then what evil exists to be punished, since the victims are always the guilty?


The third comment is probably the most sincere of the four, but only, I contend, the first sentence. The second sentence, however, seems to me to retract what sincerity existed in the first. Although God is portrayed as involved, not in the punishment, but in the protection, the manner in which God is involved is fatalistic. Each person has a "time to go home to Father." The injuries, the entire tragedy, is grievous, but inevitable. In a way, the third comment is nothing more than an heartfelt version of the fourth.


But, dear readers, I do not wish to leave you out in the coldness of cynicism for too long. I won't offer you a comprehensive theodicy (the traditional attempt to reconcile the problem of evil, which is the very thing I've written about all along without naming it directly— in short, how a good God and evil both exist simultaneously).


Instead, I offer you the example of the aforementioned Job. When a tragedy struck, he called God to court— literally— the entire book is in the form of an ancient judicial proceeding. And I make no promises as to the simplicity of that action nor the length of time it will consume, though I might suggest it is endlessly complex and will consume your entire life. But that is only a suggestion.

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