What Shall We Say

Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith (Guest Blogger Mary Vanderplas)

I am very pleased to welcome back a wonderful guest blogger, Mary Vanderplas, a former Presbyterian Minister who is now the Chaplin at Florida Hospital in Leesburg, FL. Theodicy is a spiritual/philosophical attempt to reconcile the idea that God is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing with the very real presence of evil and suffering in the world. Mary’s vocation puts her in a unique position to give the very churchy word “theodicy” a gripping context in the human experience. Mary wrote the following introduction for a blog series I’ll be doing based on Thomas G. Long’s book, What Shall We Say?: Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith.

The Shaking of the Foundations

The first chapter is entitled, “The Shaking of the Foundations.” Long writes about the religious background of the city of Lisbon, Portugal, where prophets of doom said God would destroy the city: Some said by earthquake, others said by wind, some warned of fire, and still others presaged flood. As it turns out, they were much too modest. Lisbon’s day of hell included the catastrophe forces of all four.

The Impossible Chess Match

Chapter two of Long’s book is entitled “The Impossible Chess Match.” Long examines how Bart D. Ehrman, a biblical scholar, loses his faith: “As Ehrman grew older… and gained more education, the tight tethers of his fundamentalism began to fray and finally to break loose. First, there was a crisis over his belief about Scripture. Ehrman learned the inescapable truth that the texts of the Bible, which he had believed were ‘God-breathed’ and infallible, even inerrant, were actually composed by fallible human hands and heavily edited by others. The biblical texts, Ehrman discovered, contained contradictions and discrepancies…”

The Climax of All Misnomers

Since I’m in the middle of a blog series on Thomas G. Long’s book, What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith, the inclusion of Frederick Douglass’s crisis of faith is worthwhile. Douglass writes that he is “almost ready to ask” the hard questions, but in writing them, he does ask them, although he doesn’t seek answers to those questions in his writing. Oh what I wouldn’t give to borrow the pen of Frederick Douglass in this particular blog series! He was a brilliant man, and like Christ, acquainted with sorrows.

Road Hazards

“The illiterate peasant who comments on the death of a child by referring to the will of God is engaging in theodicy as much as the learned theologian who writes a treatise to demonstrate that the suffering of the innocent does not negate the conception of a God both all-good and all-powerful.” – Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy. In “Road Hazards,” chapter three of Thomas G. Long’s book, What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith, Long takes readers on a tour “down the pilgrim road” with the “best” thinkers of the last two centuries.

The Soul’s Complaint

Here is an excerpt of what is probably one of the most significant crossroads in Frederick Douglass’s life: “My master and myself had quite a number of differences. He found me unsuitable to his purpose. […] One of my greatest faults was that of letting his horse run away, and go down to his father-in-law’s farm […] I would then have to go after it. My reason for this kind of carelessness, or carefulness, was, that I could always get something to eat when I went there. Master William Hamilton, my master’s father-in-law, always gave his slaves enough to eat.”

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom

The narratives of both Douglass and Craft utilize personal testimony and scripture to expose the corrupt nature of the system of slavery by demonstrating how the professed religion of slaveholders differs from true religion. The former is practiced word only; the latter is practiced in both word and deed. Douglass and Craft differ in their personal interpretation and application of true religion.

David Will Live Again

I am very honored to welcome guest blogger, Louis Soto to www.whatgoddoes.com. David’s view on theodicy (a spiritual/philosophical attempt to reconcile the idea that God is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing with the very real presence of evil and suffering in the world) is simple, but profound, basically, “I don’t know.” He holds on to hope but admits, “I only see through a glass darkly.”

Fellow Pilgrims

Philosopher J. L. Mackey, in his essay, “Evil and Omnipotence,” argues that if God can choose to do anything He wants to do, then He could “have created a world in which human beings could be completely free in their choices but would freely choose the good on each and every occassion” (Long). Mackey writes, “Clearly, his failure to avail himself of this possibility is inconsistent with his being both omnipotent and wholly good.”