As anyone knows who has read any of these “Skeptics” columns, I have very little patience, and even less respect, for that sub-discipline of theology known as theodicy: the systematic process whereby a theologian attempts to “justify the ways of God to man,” in John Milton’s immortal phrase. But there is one particular theodical tactic that puzzles me by virtue of its sheer persistence: the resort to mystery. The “mystery response” is typically elicited when, in a theological conversation or debate, one cites radically different outcomes that, despite their incompatibility, a believer, Christian or otherwise, seeks to place on an equal footing in terms of supporting the goodness of God. A plane crashes. A hundred people are killed. A hundred survive. If during the conversation one a
I realize now -- when it's 'way too late -- that I could never get the hang of Christianity.
Full disclosure: I was a practicing, observant, believing Christian for the first 55-plus years of my life: the guy who never missed church, could be relied on to lead a Bible study, teach a class, chair (or just be a member of) a committee, etc. You know the drill. Bottom line: as a Christian, I’ve made my chops. Probably many times over. But I stopped perhaps a dozen years ago. Now … to clarify … the following is not intended to assert that every practice and every belief that follows is an essential part of Christianity. They’re not. Some are essential; others, subcultural. But they are of a piece with every part of the Christian subculture I’ve ever been personally involved with. S
Of all the things that impressed me about the late Elie Wiesel – how strange the prefix “the late” now sounds before his name! -- what always impressed me the most was his utter, unflinching, and uncompromising honesty. There was apparently no question– about God or about human beings, about good or about evil, about war or about peace – which he considered unaskable. Likewise, and for essentially the same reason, there was seemingly no chain of reasoning, no argument, no concatenation of inference that he shied away from following to its uttermost conclusion. This moral and intellectual stamina even included such fraught issues as those impinging on the Problem of Evil, understandably a subject of more than more than merely academic importance to Elie Wiesel, given his status as a