A local meteorologist described the recent F-4 tornado in Alabama. We know a thing or two about tornadoes in Oklahoma. The scene of the 24-mile swath cut by the massive tornado brought back memories of what we simply refer to in our area as, The May 3rd Tornado. It was hard to imagine the area described by a resident who lost her home as something like a forest. One of our local meteorologist looked it up and the affected area had never experienced a tornado before.
I am waiting on Pat Robertson, or even John Piper, to declare what sin was being judged in rural Alabama. Like everyone else, those who rush to explain the why of these events represent our human need, at least our tendency, to look for the cause that produced the effect. Given our lack of omniscience, human beings often raise more questions in pursuit of the one answer.
For Christians, the available possibilities seem to have been explored and refined but often still leave us short on comfort. On the extremes we either submit to randomness or determinism. Honestly, neither of those two extremes requires Divine agency. When we add Divine agency to the equation, we get the picture of a God with no power or all-power. Most prefer the latter to the former. Even then, the consequent questions raised either leave us with deep mystery should we refuse to make God the culprit for it all.
Thomas J. Oord provides a different response to the issue. At once the title of his book provokes a startling possibility, God Can’t. Before you dismiss Oord’s proposal out of hand, consider that the matter for Tom is not centered on the normal depictions of power. Taking the more academic ideas from his earlier work, The Uncontrolling Love of God, Oord locates his proposal squarely within the framework of our lived experience. Rather than leave God with no power or with all-power, Tom invites the reader to consider the complexity of Theodicy through a hermeneutics of love. That is my interpretation.
When I learned that Tom’s new book would be coming out, I was looking forward to how he would present his ideas. The nagging question I had was what prompted Tom to look at something other than the available possibilities to the problem of suffering. It is not as if the subject has lain dormant and Oord resurrected it for us. Instead, Tom’s own experiences of life have made this an ongoing interest. You could say he is fully vested.
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Pastors, counselors, lay leaders, if you are like me, you will find lots to chew on in God Can’t. Even more, I suspect you will want a copy of your own. Whether or not you arrive where Tom has, you will not be able to escape his deep commitment to the self-giving, other-directed love of God and its implications for how we understand, and maybe as importantly how we talk about, suffering.
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