I think a lot. Those who know me would say I think too much sometimes. True enough. Well, my overthinking brain’s tendencies got me thinking tonight when I read this blog post titled “Wrath,” by Larry Vaughan.
I can only use my imagination, but I have a pretty good imagination. And what my imagination colors in between the lines breaks my heart at the 14-year old girl’s trauma. As part of Larry’s blog post, she is said to have remarked “I don’t buy it,” at her friends’ stated belief that God has put us here on the earth, and her own belief that we all came from a big explosion in the sky.
I don’t buy it.
Consider this response by a reader of Larry’s post:
“I’ve always hated the free will argument, and the lemonade argument [if life hands you lemons, make lemonade] works fine if life hands you lemons. If life hands you a big pile of shit, though, it’s kind of hard to create something drinkable. Some things are never going to be turned into a sweet summertime beverage.”
Shit Happens. And an atheist might fairly ask, who hands you the pile of shit? And you claim to love and worship this God why exactly???
(warning: what follows is a personal theology in progress, and it totally subject to adjustment in the future as I grow and mature. I may look back on this one day in embarrassment and disbelief that I ever could have penned down such nonsense, but whatever it says about me now, this is where I am and who I am now.)
Theodicy is the theological branch that deals with the existence of evil in the world, generally reconciling the notions of omnipotence, omniscience, and omni-benevolence of God.
I don’t believe God is omnipotent. Not in the standard definition of the word, anyway. I don’t know why he chooses to throw in a miracle every now and again. All I know is we can’t count on it. (importantly, I’m not going so far as to whine that I DESERVE to be able to count on it, simply that I can’t, and that’s the way it is Indeed, shit DOES happen.)
Believing that God is not omnipotent allows me to reconcile my belief that God is all-benevolent and omniscient.
I’ve experienced that goodness in the form of love. I believe love is paradoxically weak and yet very strong. It is not omnipotent, however. It is heart-breakingly vulnerable and to leaving itself open to being stomped on and sullied and defiled by evil and “shit happening”. It is powerful and can overcome much – very very much. It never ends…I’ll lap up the whole 1 Corinthians poetry and even believe it in my deepest heart, too. But let’s be very clear. It is NOT omnipotent, and it can be violently and forcibly snubbed and laughed at in the Face by Bad People. And these Bad People and the things they do to Innocent People suck and lead you to justifiably rail, and, to my way of thinking, gives the atheist every good reason to look at people of faith and believe they are utterly clueless, insensitive, or both if they don’t wonder about it and wrestle with it a good deal.
You see, I return again and again to the notion that just because my own experience has been one of good fortune and blessing, I’m no more deserving of good fortune and blessing than that 14-year-old girl. A God that’s all powerful and loving would have to step in, wouldn’t he? But if he’s not all powerful, but loving, the power of love still has power for healing in the face of shit happening. So that’s my stake in it all. I don’t believe God is all powerful. I believe he’s weak and ineffectual at times. But I still want to draw closer and closer to him as much as is possible in this world. Call me adolescent and rebellious. There are worse things than that.
It is my belief in Love (and its undeniable, irresistible, and yet not omnipotent power) that propels me to return again, and again, in the face of horror in this world of ours, and spend time in prayer, coming closer to this God I believe to be the source of Love, the greatest miracle of all. That is the way I can square God as being good and all-knowing, simply NOT all powerful. I can believe that God is the creator and source of this powerful but highly vulnerable force for good and sustenance in the universe. Otherwise, honestly, I’m repelled by the notion of loving a God that allows such evil to take place in the world. Call this God, call it morality if you’re an atheist, but by whatever name you call it, we must love and hope, and hope and love. I think when love touches us we respond differently and imperfectly and incompletely, and who knows how it will all play out, and whether or not it will be “effective” but I can only believe that love never ends – and I think an atheist can believe in that, too. The way that I am renewed by the fount of Love is by prayer to the one I call God.
And with that hopefully not too pat sounding of an ending, I must stop one way or another. So I’m stopping. May you have peace in your heart.