Hawaii 2010

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Doors of the Sea

I am reading the above titled book in conjunction with an upcoming emphasis on Job, an interest in the ongoing debate on the web about God using weather to punish bad people, and after spending a summer studying the resurgence of natural theology books.

The author is an orthodox theologian who throws 20 dollars words around like penny candy, but he is worth persevering through, and he also reminds me that I am not really intellectual or philosophically well read.

Listen to this beautiful paragraph, and be impressed, very impressed.

"The natural world overwhelms us with its splendor, its beauty, its immensities and fragilities, its incalculable diversity, its endless combinations of the colossal and the delicate, sweetness and glory, minute intricacies, and immeasurable grandeur. It is easy and one of the most spontaneous movements of the soul,to revere the God glimpsed in the iridescence of the flowered meadows, the emerald light of the deep forest, the soft immaculate blue of the distant mountains, the shining volubility of the sunlit sea, the pale cold glitter of the stars. This is a perfectly wise and even holy impulse.

But at the same time all the splendid loveliness of the natural world is attended by and preserved by death. All life feeds on life, and each creature yields its place in time to another, and at the heart of nature is the struggle to survive and increase at the expense of other creatures. It is as if the entire cosmos was somehow predatory, a single great organism nourishing itself upon the death of everything to which it gives birth, creating and devouring all things with a terrible and impassive Majesty."

This is powerful prose, and as the 5th anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami approaches I want to get this man's theology of evil, and natural calamity in my head and heart. Thanks to Marc V. for having this on his syllabus in Seminary, I have been looking for this book for a while and did not know it existed.


Marc Vandersluys said...

I finished the book this morning. The man certainly has an impressive vocabulary. Our professor warned us several times that we should read this book with a good dictionary in hand. Whatever happened to that old writing rule about using a simpler/smaller word if there is one available?

One of my assignments is to write a short response to the book (it doesn't matter if I agree or disagree) in the form of a "Letter to the Editor". I've taken note of some themes in the book and plan on reading it again with a view to really understanding what he's getting at in certain passages.

It seems, in the end, that he holds to the "God has given the world freedom" explanation for evil and suffering--but I haven't quite grasped his explanation as to why complete and total freedom is necessary.

The author gave a convincing argument as to why we cannot attribute natural disasters and suffering to the will of God. And yet he argues that God still permits it, which kind of leaves me, the reader baffled. If God does not will it, but still permits it, God is not quite "off the hook", is he?

Is our future hope and our belief that something is being done about it (i.e. beginning with the death and resurrection of Christ) comfort enough in the face of current suffering?

Etc. I'm using you as a sounding board for the things I'll be grappling with in the paper. :)

(Confusingly, a previous text--Narratives of a Vulnerable God--for this same class presented a convincing case for a "passable" God, whereas Hart insists on the necessity of an impassible God. That's another issue in Hart I have to wrestle with.)

Don Hendricks said...

I like your take, and since I have not reached the meaty answer yet I will have to reflect on your observation. As a former deeply educated Calvinist we did not want God off the hook, for us it was a Psalm 2 Why do the heathen rage and God laughs scenario. Now that I have embrace the face of God in the face of Christ we are right back to the hair trigger power and balance, and as he said earlier, the second causes involved in volcanic eruptions that create beauty and mask the power until it erupts again. I am convince that orthodoxy missed the platonic dualism that created our need to see vengance in all that happens. The permission issue means he does not stop car crashes, stepping off the Grand Canyon edge, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.