The Miracle in Abingdon, U. K.

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 5 November 2003 0 Comments
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If God is all loving why do we have disasters like earthquakes, famine and war?


Your question has been asked by religious people in every generation of human history and no one has answered it satisfactorily yet. The question points to a logical dilemma. If God is all-powerful then the existence of tragedy would demonstrate that God is immoral. If God is all loving, the existence of tragedy would demonstrate that God is impotent.

I think the problem is actually located in the operative definition of God that people use unconsciously. I call that definition 'Theism.' Theism says that God is a Being, perhaps the Supreme Being, who is supernatural in power, dwelling somewhere outside this world, usually thought of as "above the sky" and who periodically invades the world to accomplish the divine will. It is that definition of God that, I believe, creates the problem that elicits your question. It is also the definition of God that is universally dying today. Our expanded consciousness has rendered that God to be immoral since God has the power to stop tragedy but does not use it. Our expended knowledge has rendered that God to be unbelievable since natural laws are not given to miraculous interpretation in history.

Does this mean that God has become immoral and unbelievable? I do not think so. What it does mean is that the theistic definition of God that human beings created must now be seen as immoral and unbelievable. That drives us to seek new ways to conceptualize God, a God beyond theism.

I believe that this is the most important task facing the Christian Church in the 21st century. It is too bad that so little of the Church's energy is directed to this task. That lack of energy is a primary sign of the death of the Church. It is the Church fiddling while the Church burns.

-- John Shelby Spong




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