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« Inconsistent Same-Sex Marriage Advocates | Main | Answering Objections »

June 06, 2012


I’ve never understood what is of such interest about these cloying, sanctimonious, superficial discussions of evil. There is nothing edifying or enlightening about any of this. Randy asks us to consider the various ills that befall us from the perspective of patience and cosmic justice. But what is this divine patience and cosmic justice, really? Is it the justice that many Christians tell us about euphemistically, the justice of a captious, vengeful God who is fulminating in heaven because, for instance, he saw you cheating at checkers? Is this the mendacious arithmetic of “justice” defended by Jonathan Edwards, according to which the heinousness of every crime, from stealing a pencil to stealing a child, is measured in direct proportion to the infinite dignity of the God against whom it is committed and punished with infinite severity? How adept many Christians are at speaking of horrors and obscenities in such precious ways!

It is an odious piety that surveys the contribution of John Newton to the slave-trade but then reassures itself that at least the ruin of masses of slaves purchased a religious conversion for John Newton and even a lovely hymn about it. Better by far to look upon the evils of the world in silence and horror, with our hands over our mouths and our pious formulas confounded, heading the dictum “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

You are certainly entitled to your own empty, hopeless, fatalistic views, Malebranche; a person without God cannot conceive of the meaning of this post. Yet here you are at this early hour, ready to pounce on things you know nothing about and don't care to know. You rail at God and all things concerning Him repeatedly on this site, and to what purpose? To garner support for your emptiness? To dissuade believers who cannot be pried from their relationship with God? To have a forum where you can shake your fist at God? Or maybe this post simply confirms that you are one of those God is delaying justice for. I couldn't help but notice the irony of the first three words of your post juxtaposed with the last phrase of the "dictum"...

Malebranche, either one sees a God who is trustworthy, is just, has a good purpose, has the power to carry out that purpose, and whose purpose and end, (and He, Himself) is more valuable than the pain is deep, or one doesn't.

Neither of us sees how this all is being worked out. What it comes down to is that I see Him as great, and you see Him as detestable.

I'll tell you when I did put my hands over my mouth: when I read the stories of the people in Alcorn's book who suffered beyond anything I'll ever imagine, and I heard how they view God today.

"Pious formulas"? That's not how they answered their questions. And that's not how Alcorn answers their questions. It's God Himself who answers the question by being God. It's a vision of Himself that God gives to Job at the end of his book. Seeing Him as He is is the answer.

Either He is worth all suffering and we can trust Him, or He isn't and we can't. You see one, I see the other--as have countless handicapped, raped, enslaved, bereaved, beaten, tortured, burned others, of which the book is filled with examples. I hope someday you'll see Him the way they do.

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

Would that you would heed your own advice.


I found both your original post and subsequent response very thoughtful and edifying.

I have not argued that we should not trust that God is conducting things for the best. Everything I have said is consistent with such bold optimism as Leibniz’s, according to which the actual world is the best of all possible worlds. My target concerns not God’s trustworthiness, but the merits and quality of the sorts of things Christian individuals have said in response to the horrors of the world. Unfortunately, it is easy to so closely equate trusting God with endorsing some peculiar theological system that some cannot help but see those who reject their theology as perfidious. My comments are targeted at humanly constructed theodicies and reflections on suffering, not the character of God. To regard much of the former as the shallow and carefully filtered product of those whose thoughts about theodicy and suffering are not sufficiently ripe does not commit one to any attack on the character of God. If it’s an assault on the character of God that one is looking for, there are plenty of those, committed in the name of fidelity to the Bible, in the writings and speech of Calvin, Edwards, and their myrmidons.

If it’s our hopes that are on the table, perhaps you wouldn’t take too much offense that my hope is that one day these Reformed conservative evangelical types would stop killing the goodness and justice of God on the altar of their theological systems and superannuated ideas about the Bible. It is no faith in God’s goodness worth having to say, “Yes, God is good, but inscrutably so; so don’t be surprised if the things I’m about to tell you about him make him appear to you thoroughly execrable.”

Your last post here, Malebranche, makes me think of a tangled ball of yarn all knotted up. One moment you seem to be arguing FOR a God of some sort and your own brand of "theology", and then you're full of fury for those who embrace God and hold to their theology about Him. You denigrate one theological system because it doesn't conform to your own brand of thinking and yet claim that, by holding to their brand of theological machinations, they reject the theology of others as perfidious. Isn't that what you yourself are doing? You bash those you perceive as holding concepts about suffering which are "shallow" and "not sufficiently ripe", as though no one else but Malebranche has the accurate understanding of such things. If you're pitting your thoughts against those of Calvin and Edwards, I'm sure we'd all be interested in reading the books you've written so we can educate ourselves with your own purportedly superior reflections. Surely you have written several which will explain your personal exhaustive contemplation of the nature of God, evil, justice, mercy and grace.

And, yes, it is our hope that is on the table, and our hope does not kill the goodness and justice of God on any theological altar. The fact is that there are mysteries in this world regarding good and evil and God's involvement with mankind and no one has the complete answers to these things. But our hope is not diminished or damaged because our thoughts are imperfect; indeed, it is grounded in the person of Christ who has convinced each believer that He is good, holy, just and gracious. That His ways are inscrutable at times merely indicates our as-yet inadequate, incomplete concept of Him, but we hold fast to that which we DO know of Him, confident that we will one day know the rest.

It is an odious piety that surveys the contribution of John Newton to the slave-trade but then reassures itself that at least the ruin of masses of slaves purchased a religious conversion for John Newton and even a lovely hymn about it.

Who here believes that? Come now, Malebranche, if you're going to critique someone else's point of view, isn't it best to portray that view accurately? John Newton's salvation was certainly not purchased by the slave trade. I don't even see how that follows from the OP, unless by 'religious conversion' you mean something entirely different (In that case, please pardon my misunderstanding). As it was written of Jesus:

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Good comments, Carolyn.

I very much agree.

This idea that we shouldn't even attempt a theodicy is covered in a response to Ehrman by Clay Jones.

"But what’s a skeptic to do when the logic isn’t on his side?"’s-problem-12-our-answer-too-“finely-reasoned”/

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