Sunday, April 3, 2011

Theological Classroom Contemplation

At last Monday’s class, we ostensibly looked at the conflict between the scientific theory of evolution and the Biblical account of creation.  But the real meat of the discussion was about tragedy.  (Usually when I am in a discussion with meat in it, it involves deciding what to have for dinner.  Not this time.)

The seminary professor did not fling around theologians’ names, and I could follow what he was saying better than last time.  That doesn’t mean that it was easy to listen to.  Even though no one in the class was visibly suffering at that moment, we all had in our minds personal tragedies, plus recent tragedies in the news. The discussion raised more questions than it answered.  Here’s just a sampling:

Last week (the class I missed), they talked about the discovery that the earth is not at the center of the universe.  The physicist asked, “How many of you found your faith threatened by that?”  No one – we have abandoned the Biblical-Hebrew notion of space. 

We find it more difficult to abandon the notion of “Adam and Eve in paradise.”  The theory of evolution does not allow for the existence of a “golden age” (paradise) when there was no tragedy, no sorrow, no evil. 

In the face of tragedy, we (humans) are helpless, and the best we can do is be brave.  Is God present in adversity?  How do we understand tragedy?

Our theologian posited that, encountering someone suffering a tragedy, Christians can only answer, “We don’t know why you are suffering, but we can endure with you because we experience tragedy too.”  He also concluded that God is with us in the tragedy.  We cannot understand evil, but can only endure.  God endures with us.

Nearly all theologians argue that there is a reason for evil, but we don’t know what the reason is.  But is it possible that there is no reason for evil?  We live with the conflict between views that God is good versus the existence of evil.  The very notion that we could explain evil is part of the problem. 

A classmate found a way to end the session on a positive note.  He said,  “I think we have a greater goal than to contemplate the origin of evil, and that is to contemplate “whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing...”  (Phil 4:8).   

So I leave you to do just that, and encourage you to leave a note here as to what you are contemplating.  Or just leave me an idea of what to make for dinner.


Angie Kay Dilmore said...

Great stuff for discussion. If you can keep your head from swimming! And I thought deciding what's for dinner was a challenge.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Sloppy Joes.
I like how your classmate ended things--sometimes I think we can skew theology merely because we look at it from a human perspective, flawed at the outset, and don't consider the divine perspective.
Whew. Now my brain is fried!