Category : Theodicy

Archbp Justin Welby–Reflections from Auschwitz

Here are three things that will stay with me:

First is the way that the perpetrators at Auschwitz tried to dehumanise their victims ”“ in a way that actually cost the humanity of both. It worked to some extent. Prisoners killed others in order to live ”“ and were then killed themselves. Others gave their lives, like St Maximilian Kolbe and St Edith Stein.

Second, these atrocities were committed by ordinary people. When one of the priests leading our retreat was asked who was to blame, he said: “People did it to people.”

Third, it was idolatrous and demonic.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Death / Burial / Funerals, Europe, Germany, History, Parish Ministry, Poland, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology

Tom Wright on the Meanings of Christmas: In the new world there will be no more sea

When the early Christians wrote about Jesus, this was the story they believed themselves to be telling. They didn’t see him as simply a teacher, a moral example, or even as one who saved people from a doomed world. They told his story as the point where the dark forces of chaos converged, in the cynical politics of Herod and Pilate, the bitter fanaticism of the Pharisees, the wild shrieks of diseased souls, the sudden storms on the lake. They invite us to see his death on the analogy of Jonah’s being thrown into the sea, there to be swallowed by the monster called Death. They insist that in this death God has taken upon Himself the full force of the world’s evil. As a sign of that, the final book of the Bible declares that in the new world, now already begun with his resurrection, there will be no more sea.

Saying this precisely does not give Christian theology an easy explanation (“Oh, that’s all right then”) for the continuing presence of evil in the world. On the contrary, it tells a story about Jesus’s own sense of abandonment, and thereby encourages us to embrace the same sense of helpless involvement in the sorrow of the world, as the means by which the world is to be healed. Those who work for justice, reconciliation and peace will know that sense, and perhaps, occasionally, that healing.

This isn’t the kind of answer that the Enlightenment wanted. But maybe, as we launch into the deep waters of another new year, it is the kind of vocation we ought to embrace in place of shallow analysis and shrill reaction.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Christmas, Christology, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, CoE Bishops, Theodicy, Theology

(CEN) Lord Harries discusses his latest book at Burgh House

“The Beauty and The Horror ”“ searching for God in a Suffering World” spawned an interview by Piers Plowright and in deep discussion with an attentive audience Lord Harries noted on the holocaust at Auschwitz, the question was not “where is or where was God?” but “where was man?” in those very dark days of history.

Oscar Schindler was not a man of faith but he did help to save Jews. God is the source of all goodness, Lord Harries believes, and we are not in a post-religious world, with more believers in Christ, especially growing in China.

On science and medical ethics and religion:- is there a clash? He said that while science gives us results we feel confident in, people can’t feel confident in religion in the same way. Camus and the Karamazov brothers are both sources of allusions to the human condition ”“ much of suffering is debatably made from making the wrong choices.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Books, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Theodicy, Theology

(A Cranmer blog) Archbp Welby ponders problem of suffering: “I’m not a good enough theologian”

“I don’t think there’s a good answer..”

He realises what he’s just said, and, respectful of God and Aquinas, hastily moves to qualify, mindful that his previous spontaneous musings have been broadcast around the world and unhelpfully interpreted by a largely unsympathetic media.

“..in an intellectual sense..”

Phew.

The media won’t do Thomistic philosophy.

“I don’t think there’s an answer which says, ”˜That’s it.’”

That’s neat.

“I’m not a good enough theologian,” he justifies, before going on to expound the Book of Job…

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodicy, Theology

(1st Things) Peter Leithart–Macbeth: Surprised by Evil

Audiences recoil from Macbeth, but he recoils from himself too. After Macbeth murders King Duncan, a knocking at the gate startles him, and Macbeth wonders, “How is’t with me, when every noise appals me?” He stares at his bloody hands as if they belonged to someone else’s body: “What hands are here?” He knows that the “multitudinous seas” can’t wash away the stain of Duncan’s blood, and later he is haunted by the ghost of Banquo. Macbeth “murder[s] sleep” and so deprives himself of that nightly “balm of hurt minds.” Almost no one hears “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” and thinks, “Well, Macbeth, you deserve it.” He does deserve it, but Shakespeare has shown us enough of Macbeth’s shocked soul and tortured conscience to convince us that he’s human.

Shakespeare is no liberal sentimentalist. He knows that evil is evil, and knows that Macbeth chooses evil. A. C. Bradley saw the play as evidence of Shakespeare’s feel for the “incalculability of evil””that in meddling with it human beings do they know not what.” We don’t know where evil will lead; we can only be sure that the result “will not be what you expected.” Macbeth dramatizes what Colin McGinn has described as the surprising character of evil.

Shakespeare humanizes Macbeth to hold him up as a mirror to nature, our nature. We pity, and fear, because we recognize that the evil that surprises us in Macbeth is our own.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theodicy, Theology

(WSJ) Victor Lee Austin–The God Who Took Away My Wife

In the years that I was the principal caregiver for my wife, I did things I never imagined I’d have to do: caring for her body, thinking for her, arranging her days. My shortcomings often humbled me. But what if it had gotten even harder before she died? I do not know for sure that I could have gone on. For all of us, there are always untested limits.

But not for Jesus. All the way down, he screamed from the cross something strange: a prayer. He no longer felt any intimacy with God, so he didn’t pray to his father. Instead, he questioned God as any human could. A human being can still pray to God, even in the absence of any sign that he has a divine father, even there at the bottom. Someone can still ask, if nothing else, why this God has forsaken him. God gives, and God takes away. But he is still there.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Tim Keller's "Sermon of Remembrance and Peace for 9-11 Victim's Families" in 2006

One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in – suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.

But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.

And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection….

Read it carefully (noting especially the original setting as described) and read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Christology, History, Office of the President, Politics in General, Terrorism, Theodicy, Theology

(CT) Christopher Wright on Lamentations: A Bottle for the Tears of the World

What does Lamentations offer us today?

There are people who are, at this moment, seeing murder, rape, the loss of homes and loved ones, and the destruction of holy places. For them, Lamentations describes reality. We can and should lament with them.

Lamentations, as O’Connor says, provides a bottle for the tears of the world. We cry out to God for those who suffer so terribly from the effects of sin and evil and sheer folly: in wars, racial conflicts, and all manner of injustice and oppression. Lamentations holds up to God the sheer horror of what this suffering feels like, and appeals to him to act justly, to demonstrate his faithfulness. The book affirms God’s sovereignty””his throne is still in heaven even as the devastation of his temple happens on earth””in its closing verses.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(W Post) Richard Gallagher–How I as a scientist learned to work with exorcists

The Vatican does not track global or countrywide exorcism, but in my experience and according to the priests I meet, demand is rising. The United States is home to about 50 “stable” exorcists ”” those who have been designated by bishops to combat demonic activity on a semi-regular basis ”” up from just 12 a decade ago, according to the Rev. Vincent Lampert, an Indianapolis-based priest-exorcist who is active in the International Association of Exorcists. (He receives about 20 inquiries per week, double the number from when his bishop appointed him in 2005.) The Catholic Church has responded by offering greater resources for clergy members who wish to address the problem. In 2010, for instance, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops organized a meeting in Baltimore for interested clergy. In 2014, Pope Francis formally recognized the IAE, 400 of whom are to convene in Rome this October. Members believe in such strange cases because they are constantly called upon to help. (I served for a time as a scientific adviser on the group’s governing board.)”

Unfortunately, not all clergy involved in this complex field are as cautious as the priest who first approached me. In some circles there is a tendency to become overly preoccupied with putative demonic explanations and to see the devil everywhere. Fundamentalist misdiagnoses and absurd or even dangerous “treatments,” such as beating victims, have sometimes occurred, especially in developing countries. This is perhaps why exorcism has a negative connotation in some quarters. People with psychological problems should receive psychological treatment.

But I believe I’ve seen the real thing….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theodicy, Theology

(ABC Aus) Luke Bretherington–Brexit as Theodicy and Idolatry

The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, rather than economic prosperity, political sovereignty or national greatness, are the condition and possibility of movement into new kinds of relationship with God and neighbour. Yet this conversion demands that as humans we orientate ourselves in a particular way to living in time and the experience of flux and transition that is constitutive of being temporal creatures. Such an orientation rules out a nostalgic division that poses the past as good and the present as intrinsically bad, as well as making judgments about who is and who is not on the “right side of history.”

Rather, ways must be found to identify with Christ and thereby dis-identify with the historical idols and cultural systems of domination within which human life is always and already entangled. Politics, understood as action in time through which forms of peaceable common life are cultivated, is a necessary part of any such process of discovery. However, the tragic dimensions of social and political life cannot be avoided and failure is often the result. Yet faith, hope and love demands the risk still be taken.

Some will judge what I am saying as merely swapping one kind of dangerous sentimentalism for another. Nevertheless, I beg those who consider themselves Christians to take up forms of politics orientated to faith, hope and love, yet alive to the fragility of ourselves, others and the world around us and to ignore the siren calls of the politics of nostalgia.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology

(ABC Aus) Christopher Craig Brittain–Branding Atrocity: From Orlando to West Yorkshire

So while it is true that, in the wake of Orlando, or of Jo Cox’s murder, or of some future atrocity that lies before us, talk is not enough, we won’t be in position to act in some life-giving or productive way until we learn to do two things. First, we must interrupt the simplistic branding of the atrocities that confront us, which only personify both victims and perpetrators in unhelpful ways, while fuelling our own sense of self-righteous rage. Second, we need to learn again what to do with the justified anger that erupts within us as we face the injustices and violence that surround us. Such powerful emotions have to be directed somewhere outwards, yet without merely being vented at targets of convenience. Doing that only expands the dominant cycles of mythic violence.

As we struggle to learn such difficult lessons, we need to find a way to regain confidence that another’s wrath trumps our own, so that the concept of justice can be defined according to something beyond our own immediate personal preference.

We might not all be able to imagine this in the traditional imagery of the Psalms, or through the concept of the divine, but we all nonetheless must find a way to imagine it. Any other response to Orlando or to the murder in West Yorkshire falls short of what these victims demand of us.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., England / UK, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture, Violence

(LJ) 5 Dumb Things Christians Must Stop Saying When Evil Strikes

5. “Everything happens for a reason”
No. It just doesn’t.
Evil has no reason. It is anti-reason. And anti-love.

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Theodicy, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ABC Aus) Michael Jensen–The Orlando Tragedy: What Can be Said?

But what we need most is not declarations of the undoubted meaning of the catastrophe, but lament. We need not commentary, but poetry.

The causes of this kind of calamity lie not simply with a lack of the adequate laws, or with the blaming or this or that group. What hidden rage could possibly cause an individual to murder without compassion or sorrow fifty of his fellow creatures? It cannot be reduced to one simple strand. It is, like most evil, absurd.
We want to generalise – to read the event in the light of cultural themes that are familiar to us – when what happened is filled with hideous and strange particularities.

What the word “tragedy” allows us to do is to sit in the dust bewildered at what has happened; to recognise that others are in agony, and that as human beings, we have been spared that agony not because we are virtuous, but because – this time – our group wasn’t in the frame.

The sixteenth century poet Sir Phillip Sidney wrote of tragedy that it

teacheth the uncertainety of this world, and upon how weake foundations guilden roofes are builded.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theodicy, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

Prayer for all those Impacted by the Horrible Events in Orlando and those Closest to them

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Sexuality, Spirituality/Prayer, Theodicy, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(W Post) What happens when the military chaplain is shaken by war

The pre-war Pastor Matthew Williams had gone to seminary, was ordained and thought he understood why people suffer. “God allows suffering because this world is temporary,” is how he would have put it.

Then came two deployments as an Army chaplain, one to Afghanistan and one to Iraq. Williams spent a year in an Afghanistan morgue unzipping body bags and “seeing your friends’ faces all blown apart.” He watched as most of the marriages he officiated for fellow soldiers fell apart. He felt the terror of being the only soldier who wasn’t armed when the mortars dropped and bullets flew.

This Memorial Day weekend, Williams is no longer an active-duty military chaplain nor a United Church of Christ minister. He is a guitar player on disability whose outlook on God, religion and suffering was transformed by post-traumatic stress.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq War, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theodicy, Theology, War in Afghanistan