As news reports of the horrific tsunami in Asia reached the rest of the world, commentators were quick to seize upon the disaster as proof of either God’s power or God’s nonexistence. Expanding on his Wall Street Journal piece, “Tremors of Doubt,” published the last day of 2004, David Bentley Hart here returns to this pressing question: How can the existence of a good and loving God be reconciled with such suffering? Hart clarifies the biblical account of God’s goodness, the nature of evil, and the shape of redemption, incisively revealing where both Christianity’s champions and its critics misrepresent what is most essential to Christian belief.
Though he responds to those skeptical of Christian faith, Hart is at his most perceptive and provocative as he examines Christian attempts to rationalize the tsunami disaster. Many people want a divine plan that will make sense of evil. Hart contends, however, that the history of suffering and death is not willed by God. Rather than appealing to a divine calculus that can account for every instance of suffering, Christians must recognize the ongoing struggle between the rebellious powers that enslave the world and the God who loves it.
This meditation by a brilliant young theologian will deeply challenge serious readers grappling with God’s ways in a suffering world.
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David Bentley Hart is an Eastern Orthodox theologian who has taught theology at the University of Virginia, the University of St. Thomas, Duke Divinity School, and Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland.From Publishers Weekly:
Soon after the Indian Ocean tsunami in December, Hart penned two essays, one for the Wall Street Journal and another for First Things, concerning the question of theodicy-how a powerful, loving God co-exists with evil and natural disaster. This book expands on the essay's theological thesis that "what God permits, rather than violate the autonomy of the created world, may be in itself contrary to what he wills." Hart, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, wants to rescue God from predestination. The book begins with an elegant description of the geological factors leading to the earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Hart then admits that, upon learning of this devastation, "we should probably all have remained silent for awhile." But since few did, he joined the chorus in an effort to counter some upsetting arguments given to help people understand God's role in the disaster. Writing in a sophisticated, academic style-highlighting the philosophical and theological writings of Voltaire, Aquinas, Dostoyevsky and Calvin-Hart asks Christians to allow themselves to be moved and horrified by violence, natural or human-made, and, at the same time, to acknowledge that God can and someday will bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. It's an eloquent and persuasive stance.
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