There’s a helpful piece up on Craig’s blog that sketches out an answer to the question that I think will be on the mind of many this weekend as they sit in Church. If God does not will evil upon us, then how can God abide such horror such as we see today in Haiti?
“Theologian David Bentley Hart offers the best answer I know in his book The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? He wrote it upon reflecting on the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004. Hart reminds us that ‘we are to be guided by the full character of what is revealed of God in Christ. For, after all, if it is from Christ that we are to learn how God relates himself to sin, suffering, evil, and death, it would seem that he provides us little evidence of anything other than a regal, relentless, and miraculous enmity: sin he forgives, suffering he heals, evil he casts out, and death he conquers. And absolutely nowhere does Christ act as if any of these things are part of the eternal work or purposes of God.’
As we participate vicariously in the tormented tears of young girls, lost and alone in the Haitian darkness, as our hearts pour out tears for the thousands of sons and daughters and mothers and fathers who have died so suddenly and shockingly, and as we turn to our task of being the loving and living hands of Christ in response to this tragedy, let us never forget the urgent truth about God that it is our vocation to proclaim: God does not will our sickness or our death; God does not will that evil be done; God has conquered evil and death through the Cross. This is the meaning of the empty tomb. This is our Easter faith. As Hart says so well, ‘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 perfect hatred.’
Where, then, is God in the earthquake? Hart puts it well: ‘As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child, I do not see the face of God but the face of his enemy…. for [ours] is a faith that set us free from optimism long ago and taught us hope instead….rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, [God] will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes – and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and he that sits upon the throne will say, ‘Behold, I make all things new.””
Read the full article here.
Just bought Hart’s book to pour over in advance of this weekend’s sermon. Thanks Craig for reminding me of it. Thanks be to God for Amazon and Kindle format purchases.
Hart is one of my favorite theologians, and really nails it on the head. It comes out of a short essay he wrote for the Wall Street Journal. Beautiful.
I will be curious to hear your thoughts about the larger work (before I invest my own limited book funds. I’m saving up to read Crossan’s The First Paul). I posted some of my own thoughts on your excerpted quote and the issue of God and natural disaster at my own blog today as well:
Hopefully I’ll have finished the book by Sat. and it will help inform the sermon on Sunday. I’ll let you know Jeffrey.