Thursday, March 17, 2011

God Like A Rapist?

From a letter in this morning's Christchurch Press (referring both to the trauma of the quake and to a national memorial service which will take place in Christchurch tomorrow):

' ... may remember whom they please in the quake service and perversely praise the omnipotent author of our troubles if they think it appropriate. But I'm with Epicurus. He said, "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

'Praising the purportedly loving Judaic God at a time like this is akin to thanking a rapist for leaving a victim beaten and in a coma rather than extinguishing their lives completely.'

Tough words!

Here is one response. There is a genuine puzzle about suffering. Epicurus neatly describes the puzzle and does so in a way which points to a solution: there is no omnipotent, benevolent God. There is at least one other solution which, as I understand it, is found in the Book of Job: the omnipotent, benevolent God exists in such a manner as to be only partially examinable through human wisdom. If we think we know God, or know that this God does not exist, then we do not know God whose purposes are beyond our comprehension. In the face of evil this God invites us to trust him, not to dismiss him.

But that is a tough call. If it is touch for a resident of Christchurch, it is even tougher for residents of north-eastern Japan.


Andy S said...

Suffering is part of life, a consequence of the fall.

In the modern world we think of it as an anomaly, we shield ourselves from it. You could tempted to think from the press releases that come from the Department of Health etc that we could live forever if only we didn't smoke, drink and eat McDonald's and for women to have regular pap smears. But that is a fantasy, we all die.

And despite all we do bad things happen to everyone without exception.

The scale of the disasters in Christchurch and more particularly in Japan make us take notice - but everyday we are surrounded by suffering even in the best of times. We try to ignore it usually. Eat drink and be merry and try not to think about it. But surely it is there, the stroke victim who has lost power of speech, the homeless schizophrenic, the parents who have lost their child to leukemia.......

And unless we are directly connected we pass by and pretend not to see. Perhaps the more spiritually mature of us offer up a silent prayer.

This is a reminder that nothing in this world is permanent and that we must prepare ourselves for the next one through prayer and repentance.

Lucy said...

'In the face of evil, this God invites us to trust him, not dismiss him'. I confess there have been times when I've thought, why would anyone want to trust him?

I guess there is an intrinsic problem with focussing on the 'why' ... what kind of answer could we ever hope to recieve that would make up for the loss or heal the devastation? It sounds so neat and tidy and clever of our Press correspondent to pose these questions and thereby to position him/herself in some kind of morally superior bubble, but what does it actually do? Whose pain does it lessen?

I can't find any help in the 'why did God / why didn't God' questions, they lead me to despair. But when I think about Jesus, it's different. He shows me a whole different idea of God, but not one that can be neatly boxed and presented unfortunately. In the incarnation, and throughout Scripture as well, God is revealed as leaping over every barrier to come to us and be with us. Our sin and suffering don't keep him away, they draw him to us like a magnet. He doesn't just stand with us, he takes the fall for us... and I'm forever grateful.