Over the years of studying and dealing with both the practitioners and the practice of theodicy, I have developed a pretty accurate set of antennae for detecting when even people of undisputed integrity and good will have gone “a bridge too far” in their zeal to “justify the ways of God to man” by defending conduct that, in other contexts, would be assessed as unambiguously criminal. In such cases, God is allowed to breeze by despite conduct that would earn a human a war-crimes trial at The Hague. No devout monotheist is exempt from this risk, not even the most temperate, rational, and tolerant. Fr. Ron Rolheiser is a quintessentially temperate, rational, and tolerant man par excellence, both professionally and personally, as I can attest from having met him, spoken with him one-to-on
It will probably come as no great surprise to you if you have read even a few of my “Skeptics” columns over the years, but I have scant regard for theology. When it comes to the specific field, not of theology in general, but the sub-discipline of theodicy in particular, my “regard quotient” craters out all the way to zero. I admit to being perversely fascinated by theodicy, if only because theodicy has historically illustrated the tortuous twists and turns of which the human intellect is capable when the thinker desperately attempts to avoid concluding “4” from “2 plus 2”, the intellectual equivalent of watching a python swallow a full-grown goat whole. Maybe mildly perverse, like binge-ing out on Quentin Tarantino movies over a weekend. But mostly harmless. Except … one of the most
Back in late March, just before Easter, I published a “Skeptic’s Collection” column in which I posed the following question that generated quite a bit of (civil, moderate, thoughtful, and sophisticated) reaction on the part of my readers, to wit:
The Christian belief that Jesus Christ is the full Incarnation of the God of the Hebrew Bible (Col. 2:9) logically entails the consequence that, in addition to being a Baby in a manger and a Man Who loves playing with little kids, Jesus Christ, as God’s full Incarnation (Heb. 1:3), necessarily means that the Person of Jesus also incorporates the Hebrew God’s tendencies toward vindictiveness, violence, vanity, and abusiveness.
If we take the latter seriously as actual attributes of God qua God and not as mere human projections, then we al