Quote for the Day: On the Tsunami and God's Providence

medium_8973425646 Several people recommended that I read David Bentley Hart's The Doors of the Sea, which is a theological reaction to the 2004 tsunami. The book has been rich as I contemplate an improvising God. It's also violated my no-church-books-in-summer rule. It's hard to read serious theology, however engagingly written, when it's 97 degrees. But I digress.

Here's a choice bit that critiques what you might call a "high doctrine of providence" which is woven into the Reformed Tradition (of which Presbyterians are a part).

There is, of course, some comfort to be derived from the thought that everything that occurs at the level of what Aquinas calls secondary causality—in nature or history—is governed not only by a transcendent providence, but by a universal teleology that makes every instance of pain and loss an indispensable moment in a grand scheme whose ultimate synthesis will justify all things. But consider the price at which that comfort is purchased: it requires us to believe in and love a God whose good ends will be realized not only in spite of—but entirely by way of—every cruelty, every fortuitous misery, every catastrophe, every betrayal, every sin the world has ever known; it requires us to believe in the eternal spiritual necessity of a child dying an agonizing death from diphtheria, of a young mother ravaged by cancer, of tens of thousands of Asians swallowed in an instant by the sea, of millions murdered in death camps and gulags and forced famines. It seems a strange thing to find peace in a universe rendered morally intelligible at the cost of a God rendered morally loathsome.


photo: A temporary school on the sandy beach on the Tamil Nadu side of Pulicat, one of the largest lagoons in India. When islands here were partly submerged by the the 2004 tsunami and families lived in temporary shelters, this school was a hub of education and social activities. Credit: climatalk via photopin cc