What struck me most about this particular reflection was how refreshing it was to hear a priest actually ponder, question, and acknowledge his “limited viewpoint” and thus his willingness to simply “bow before the mystery” of God. It makes a welcome change from the pontificating we so often hear from clerics, and their insistence that they or the Church itself has all possible answers to the complexities of life.
Dear People Whom God Loves,
I don’t pretend to solve a problem that has vexed philosophers and theologians for centuries. These are just my personal thoughts that are helpful to me. The following is the way the issue is usually framed:
1. Evil exists.
2. God is benevolent (loving).
3. God is omnipotent (all powerful).
Is it possible to rationally hold all three statements as true?
1. That evil exists is common (maybe universal) experience.
2. If God is benevolent, then God will want to eliminate evil. If God wants to eliminate all evil but does not, it means that God is not omnipotent.
3. If God is omnipotent, he can eliminate all evils. If he doesn’t, it means that God is not benevolent.
Some philosophers have held to belief in God and given explanations about why evil can exist with a God who is benevolent and omnipotent.
Some philosophers hold that reason compels us to deny that there is a God. Better to have no God than one that is either a monster or a weakling.
From my limited viewpoint, it seems to me that they are all thinking of God as a being. An infinite Being. A being as we are beings, but infinitely greater. With that starting point, I doubt that there can be a satisfactory solution. When we think of God as an infinite Being, we are presupposing that God acts like other beings but on a much larger scale. This makes God the biggest being in the universe but still one of its beings.
When we image God not as a being but as the source of being – the non-being – the emptiness (i.e., the non-being) from which all beings come, we will not be trapped into the box of thinking that God acts by cause and effect as we do. Then we can bow before the mystery.
To put this in traditional theological language, God is being, God is not being, God is more than being.
If you have read this far, you may think that this is just a bunch of nonsense. That’s okay. Just throw it away. I throw it away, too, when I am with God.
I believe that God is. I believe that God loves us. I believe that God helps us. I believe in the power of prayer. I don’t pretend to believe that I know how God works.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Elizabeth Johnson and Images of God (Part 1)
Elizabeth Johnson and Images of God (Part 2)
In the Garden of Spirituality: Paul Collins
In the Garden of Spirituality: Uta Ranke-Heinemann
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)