Crenshaw Turns to Psalms for Study of Theodicy

The topic? Theodicy. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines theodicy as “that part of natural theology which reject is concerned to defend the goodness and omnipotence of God against objections arising from the existence of evil in the world.” Or, as Kushner might put it, “when good things happen to bad people.” “In a proper universe, good deeds receive their just rewards and wicked conduct is promptly punished,” writes Crenshaw in his new book, The Psalms: An Introduction. “Such is the unreal world that persons of deep religious convictions have painted for millennia.” The book includes a scholarly analysis of Psalm 73, which is the story of an anguished believer who wonders why those who have fallen away from God are prospering, while he does not. In verses 3-4, the psalmist writes: “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the well-being of the wicked. For creation they have no pangs; their bodies are whole and well nourished. They do not experience trouble like ordinary people, and are not smitten along with other humans.” The theme continues in verse 12: “Lo, these are the sinners; ever at ease, they amass a fortune.” As have many contemporary Americans, the psalm’s author begins to question his creed in the face of such apparent unjustness. Then he enters the sanctuary of God and emerges with a completely changed perspective, said Crenshaw, who is the Robert L.

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Haiti and the Problem of Evil: Pathways in Theodicy

Photo by Matthew Marek/American Red Cross

On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that leveled buildings and killed hundreds of thousands of people. In the coming months, as the death toll continues to rise from disease, violence, and deprivation, the people of Haiti and the watching world will continue to ask, Why? As I will suggest momentarily, the more imperative question in the immediate aftermath of tragedy is not why but whatthat is, what can we do to alleviate the suffering? And yet, we should not dismiss the problem of the plausibility of Gods existence and character in the face of horrendous evils. Christian responses to these questions are called theodicies. Here, I define theodicy not as a solution to the problem of evil (that would be a fools errand) but, rather, as a theologically sound and spiritually edifying response to situations of suffering. Theodicy, as a way of trying to make sense of the inexplicable, begins almost immediately after tragedies occur. Unfortunately, rather than illuminating the problem or providing comfort and hope, theodicy often degenerates into blaming the victim. On the same day as the earthquake in Haiti, Pat Robertson, a prominent American television evangelist and longtime host of The 700 Club, blamed the earthquake on the Haitians themselves, who, he claimed, swore a pact to the Devil in order to gain their independence from the French. Since then, he argued, they have been cursed. The reactions to Robertsons insensitive, irresponsible, and theologically pernicious comments were immediate and widespread. Even the White House felt compelled to comment, rightly denouncing Robertsons position as stupid. What do we make of Pat Robertsons theodicy? experiment We must realize that because many people listen to and value Pat Robertsons opinion, we cannot allow his theodicy to stand unchallenged. First, his factual claims are dubious, to say the least. How does he know that the Haitians made a pact with the Devil? How exactly did they consent to this diabolical agreement? Did experiment the Devil appear among them with a contract that they collectively ratified? It is, quite simply, utter and total nonsense. Second, even if we were to concede to possible shady spiritual dealings, why should present-day Haitians suffer punishment for the sins of their ancestors?

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Political Theodicy

Im more here to talk about the theodicy that shows up in political debates.When you look at how the Green Lantern theory and the Care Bear theory overlap, its in one very particular way: The assumption that we know whatThe Good Is and the assumption that We Have The PowerTo Enact The Good leaving meaning us only withhow much *WILL* we haveor how much we *CARE*. In a nutshell: Do we *WANT* The Good? Nutshellier: Are we Good? We could have prevented the cleansing in Iraq following Saddam being deposed if only we had the will. We could have passed a Health Care Bill that would have made us more like Denmark if only we cared. Now, of course, we have to deal with the fact that, unlike in a Monothesistic Universe, we very much have to deal with the existence of The Opponent who will come in like a flood and we need to call upon our Will/how much we Care to lift a Standard against him. Or them, in this case. Now, maybe its the atheism in me talking, but this political theodicy seems to have a lot of unexamined assumptions at the bottom (and calling them such things as the Green Lantern Theory/Care Bear Stare brings the assumptions into stark relief). A conclusion about how we need to be more humble strikes me as one hell of a cop-out, of course. If we see a moral problem before us, its pretty much incumbent on us to try to solve it. Make it better.

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Mourdock, Conception, and Theodicy

As far as I can tell, he said that conception was a gift from God, not that rape was. Much of the commentary, including TNC’s, conflates the two, seemingly deliberately. To hang the latter around Mourdock’s neck seems to me to be blaming him for not having solved the problem of theodicy (reconciling an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God with the existence of evil). I’m all for having high standards for our elected representatives, but to demand that they solve a problem that has flummoxed theologians and philosophers throughout history seems to me excessive. A quick refresher on Mourdock’s words: I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen. It’s very important to be clear on this: Mourdockbelieves that life begins at conception. He also believes that whenever conception occurs, God intended it and it is a gift. He further believes that rape is one way in which conception sometimes occurs. Thus he believes that conception through rape is a gift from God and furthermore intended by God. The reader, andMourdock,share a belief system in which one can separate “conception” from “rape.” I also have a belief system. I believe cheap luxury goods to be a gift from God, even when limbs are mangled in the process. I believe that my McDonald’s is sanctioned by God, honest though I am sorry for the clipped chicken beaks.

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The theodicy of Sandy Hook and other tragedies

Mike Huckabee, said we should not be so surprised at events such as the Sandy Hook massacre when we have systematically removed God from our schools. Gay marriage in particular has been a source of blame. In 2012, pastors cited Gods anger over marriage equality as the source of hurricanes; the blind September attack on the United States embassy in Libya; and a variety of mass-shooting incidents, including the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Preview our Peace & Justice special section . You won’t find this content online, so subscribe today ! Statements like these are appalling on their face, as well they should be. Beyond that, however, their utter simplicity belies a conceptual problem that might be driving the public away from Christian life. The assumption that God uses tragedy to send a message is such poor theodicy that to routinely cite it is to invite parishioners and the public to believe religious folk just don’t understand the world in which we live. Perhaps we assert free will, the ability to choose to love, is a supreme value God chooses to protect even at the expense of destruction. Perhaps we accept the Augustinian view that evil is a corruption of God-created good, visited not on the world by God but directly by us. Perhaps even, like many Jewish scholars after the Holocaust, we adopt an “anti-theodicy,” a protest theodicy, and refuse to allow anyone or anything except God to stand blame for the suffering of the earth. Whatever course, we begin to appreciate the complexity of the problem when we refuse to accept a simple cause-and-effect relationship between a single event, even a series of events, and God’s favor or disfavor with us. Doing so is the province of myth, not spiritual growth. Graham Greene’s debut novel, Brighton Rock , is a thriller. A gang leader, Pinkie, kills a journalist and leaves a trail of crime and destruction in his path as he attempts to cover up the initial crime and protect his wife, Rose. As the novel concludes, Rose goes to confession, in part for absolution but primarily to seek an answer for this dramatic and dark turn in her life.

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Technology Is Science, Too

Now, I havent read McCloskeys book, or previously encountered this blog, so making too much of this is a dicey proposition. But at least on this particular line of argument, I vehemently disagree. I mean, you can argue that this is a true statement in support of the argument that science doesnt drive progress, but in order to do so you need to adopt a perverse and ahistorical definition of science. Because while its absolutely true that we didnt have a modern chemical understanding of steel-making until the twentieth century more or less by definition using that fact to claim that science was not involved in making iron and steel better and cheaper is utter garbage. Science is not a particular set of facts or institutions, science is a process.

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Obama administration backs prayer at local government meetings

Supreme Court retains affirmative action if needed for diversity

The case could lead to a major change in the law on religion that would go well beyond prayers at council meetings. Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the town of Greece, N.Y., near Rochester, had crossed the line and violated the 1st Amendment’s ban on an “establishment of religion.” For years, the town supervisor had invited a local minister to deliver an opening prayer at the council’s monthly meeting. Members of the audience were encouraged to join in the prayers. Two residents, one Jewish and one an atheist, had complained for several years that the prayers were offensive and inappropriate. Until they sued in 2008, only Christians had been invited to lead the prayers.

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