Reading Journal

What I'm reading

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Doors of the Sea, by David Bentley Hart

The subtitle is "Where was God in the tsunami?", referring to the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 200,000 or more people a couple years ago. Taking the reaction to this horrific event as a springboard, Hart discussed how evil and destruction can be consistent with belief in a good God. It's a short book, and by no means were the arguments fully drawn out, but it did a great job of sketching the outlines and explaining the main points.

I appreciate the way he tore down various Christian viewpoints that either trivialize pain or try to make it seem like everything, including death and suffering, are somehow part of God's master plan. He explained a more authentic Christian perspective, contrasting it at times with other religions, especially Hinduism. He also spent some time on God's providence, contrasting his view with that of some modern Calvinists. In order to maximize God's sovereignty, some make God responsible for every horrible thing in the world, a view of God that's contrary to what we know of Jesus.

Sidebar - He didn't bring this up, but if you've seen "The Invention of Lying", the religion the main character invented is eerily similar to what some people really do believe. It irritates me for the same reason when people thank God for getting a good parking space. To me it doesn't allow room for a truly free universe, but instead makes God into a puppetmaster.

I love these words about the "vacuous cant" one hears when tragedy strikes.

However - fortunately, I think - we Christians are not obliged (and perhaps are not even allowed) to look upon the devastation of that day - to look, that is, upon the entire littoral rim of the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal and upper Indian Ocean strewn with tens of thousands of corpses, a third of them children - and to attempt to console ourselves or others with vacuous cant about the ultimate meaning or purpose residing in all that misery. Ours is, after all, a religion of salvation. Our faith is in a God who has come to rescue his creation from the absurdity of sin, the emptiness and waste of death, the forces - whether calculating malevolence or imbecile chance - that shatter living souls; and so we are permitted to hate these things with a perfect hatred.

Jesus's resurrection was the beginning of God's revolt against the current "god of this world" and the misery that characterizes so much of human life.

Easter utterly confounds the "rulers of this age, and in fact reverses the verdict they have pronounced upon Christ, thereby revealing that the cosmic, sacred, political, and civic powers of all who condemn Christ have become tyranny, falsehood, and injustice. Easter is an act of "rebellion" against all false necessity and all illegitimate or misused authority, all cruelty and heartless chance. It liberates us from servitude to and terror before the "elements." It emancipates us from fate. It overcomes the "world." Eater should make rebels of us all.