Tuesday, April 28, 2009


The whole concept of "spirituality" presumes the existence of a realm of reality that lies outside the boundaries of time and space, beyond the reach of scientific empirical proof and logical cause-and-effect. As moderns, however, we spend most of our everyday existence operating within the rational "scientific" approach: when you ask the pediatrician what's making your child ill you expect a scientific answer, not "God is testing your faith."


But it would be well for us to remember that this works the other way as well. If it's inappropriate to ask the pediatrician "What is God trying to teach me?" it seems equally inappropriate to ask God, "Okay, explain yourself! Give me a reasoned, logical explanation for your behavior: if you are all powerful and all loving, then how come little babies are born with birth defects? And how come you allow tsunamis and diseases to wipe out millions of innocent people?"
The "god" you are addressing in this way is not the God of the Bible who made the world, who brought Israel through the Red Sea, who became flesh and dwelt among us or who raised Jesus from the dead. No, when you ask these questions you're talking to the 18th Century rationalist's caricature of God, "the God of Explanation," who must operate inside the confines of time and space and play by the rules of our human logic and the laws of cause and effect. Far from helping us with our "spirituality for troubled times" this concept of "god" makes all spirituality impossible and limits us to rational explanations for everything.
Sure, you can always challenge God for an explanation about deformed babies and tsunamis, as long as you realize that you're not going to get a "reasonable" answer that will satisfy your intellect.

This is why our approach to a spirituality for troubled times has begun not with "the problem of evil" as a mystery to be resolved, but rather with scriptural insights about God and about the mysterious, paradoxical realm of the Kingdom, where life rises out of death, victory springs from defeat, and trees sprout from tiny mustard seeds.


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