Wednesday, January 27, 2010

theological speculating on Haiti

Reading my daily Ross Douthat prompted me to dig up a comment I had at first opted to file away.

I don't think we can talk well about Haiti. I don't mean that, as someone suggested to me, to do so is "taboo" - i.e. we *may* talk about it if we so wish, and for better or worse we *do* - but rather just that there are some things we can't know (and thus can't talk well about). We believe that each of the dead or dying are created in God's image. There's necessarily 200,000+ purposes (200,000 things to say), all of which are done some degree of injustice if given lesser or no weight, honor, or respect. And on each purpose we'd be speculating apart from evidence. So that makes an account of Haiti's troubles in light of theology to be, not a "mystery," but humanly impossible.

This is not to imply that it is humanly impossible to consider why or how God could let natural evils happen (and here its sad that in many religious circles those questions still ARE taboo). But for precisely the above reasons, its inappropriate if we try to use the big questions as a means of commenting on Haiti's bitter present. The order needs to be reversed - any specific tragedy, can lead us to reflect about such tough questions, ones which require no personal opinions about the cosmic-spiritual-moral effects of voodoo, for example. Maybe this will strike people as too "abstract" or "philosophical." To which I submit that speculation of the dry, reflective kind is still preferable to the callous, disrespectful kind, even if neither "feel right" in light of the present need to care, act, and respond.  

(Many of Ross' comments concern also the issue of authority in biblical interpretation, ideas to which I hope to return.)

For more: Via Eric Chabot, a Messianic believer who works with college students at Ohio State, here is one such article addressing the question of natural evil. I also recommend, if you can find it and handle the hardcore philosophical reflection stemming from thoughtful Tanakh-exegesis, the Veritas Lecture by Eleonore Stump on "Job and the Problem of Evil." Now, two suggestions alone is a bit too piecemeal for such a weighty topic. More is forthcoming.

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