Sunday, January 22, 2006

Greg Boyd. Heard of him? Read him? Struggled with tough questions? He's the author of "Letters From a Skeptic" and "Is God to Blame: Moving beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Evil". A sharp defender of the faith. A graduate of ivy league schools. He's debated atheists, agnostics, doctrinaires.

We were priviledged to have him speak at our church this weekend. I actually heard him twice since I returned with my daughter as her schedule allowed this morning. Twice a treat.

The name of his talk was "Hurricanes, Tsunamis and the Wrath of a Ticked-Off God" He lamblasted the idea of the wrath of God causing destruction (Mayor Nagin, Pat Robertson, Holocaust, aids) on certain people or groups and picked that apart with a tolerant compassionate rational argument. He talked a lot about suffering and why (or how best we can know why) it happens.

His views were orthodox filtered through the view that original sin caused bondage, which causes decay -- 2nd law of thermodynamics, a natural law as well -- which causes suffering in some cases, which has been redeemed by a savior Jesus Christ in a positive ending for those who believe. But his views were tough and well delivered on the fact that to attribute evil to God is arrogant, wrong, intolerant and one of those common half-lies which cause disbelief in God's goodness.

He says if we belive that God caused these ill events to teach a lesson then we should consider this:

* Why is the punishment so arbitrary then? Why do schoolchildren get smothered by a mudslide or buried by an earthquake ... surely that isn't to teach anyone a lesson (and if so we should bow out of this belief system). Suffering happens. Christ promises suffering, in fact, to those who follow him. It's the law of the world.

* Is this a loving and effective pedagogy (way of teaching)? No -- God has a track record of at least telling or warning those of punishment-for-lesson sake in the OT. Prophets wailed on forever (it seems when you're reading them at least!) about repentance and change or else bad things would happen. God, Boyd says, wouldn't have blessing and disaster buttons nearby to arbitrarily push in order to teach a lesson that no one can figure out. This whole belief would undermine the character of God that is presented.

* What about Jesus? He never talks about disaster or illness as a punishment for sins. In Luke chapter 13, he tells about a tower that fell over and crushed some people and asks the question, "Were they greater sinners than anyone else ... " No, the thing just fell over without correlation to a person's sinfulness. Jesus explicitly negates the punishment theology, and he took care of the punishment of sins by love, by sarifice.

He ended by saying that God is good, evil has another source other than God. Freewill can bring about increased evil by choice. The hope of faith is that God wins in the end but right now the world is in bondage, constantly groaning for redemption which a loving only God provides.

The talk was wonderful and I just want to record it. I'm so grateful for Christian thinkers.

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