W Where does the blight come from? It is a question equivalent to the old one about whence evil comes. It is not an idle or mean question for any theology worth its salt must explain evil as well as good. I think the metaphor of the rose is strong enough to give an interesting answer: Blight like a rose is a creature -- a living thing created by God and as such necessarily just as good in God's eyes as a rose! In fact it would seem that the only difference between blight and a rose (apart from form and function) is the value we place on them. While the metaphor is intended to emphasize that something of intrinsic positive value remains in the creature even in a diseased state it cannot be denied that the disease is also a creation and therefore forces the question, Is it, too, equally valued? Could it be that goodness is not in the creation -- rose or blight -- but in the eye of the beholder? And certainly whatever we can say of goodness in this regard we are also forced to admit of its antithesis -- evil.
W Is it just that God values things differently than we do? If so what are we to make of the appellation "good" that Genesis applies to the creation?
W The story from Genesis which inspired
Pelagius as well
as modern "Original Blessing" theology is but one of several stories
meant to descibe why the world is the way it is. It is part of a
collection that has been handed down to us of stories of various origin
each answering different questions. It is important to understand
this structure of different stories, different questions and different
answers before attempting to mash any together, ignoring their unique
character to create another which exists nowhere in any separately.
W It is in the First
Creation Story that we learn of God's original blessing. And that
is just what it is -- an original blessing in which God is reported to
be pleased with God's own handiwork. The creation is not "good"
as juxtaposed to "evil": It is simply approved; it is God's.
W Evil comes in later -- in the Second Creation Story.
W With evil's appearance "good" takes on
which it does not have in the First Creation Story -- as the opposite
"evil". It is a different quality than that proclaimed in the
first story. It is no longer the unbridled expression of joy of
the creator God but now half of a problem with which humanity and
theology are burdened to struggle. So the second story proclaims
that the creation has been fundamentally changed from what God intended
by the free actions of that creation (as embodied in Adam and
Eve). God's living creation brings about
the binary paradox of its own existence -- the presence within it of
both good and evil.
W I do not believe
this is a story about distant ancestors who, through a single bad
choice once upon a time, condemned us all to inherit the consequences
of their actions. But I do believe it says something about our
God-given human nature: It is we who create good and evil -- both
value and object. What we value as good and evil becomes the
basis of categorizing actions and actors and dividing ourselves into
parties at war with themselves and the world. Whether the
division we create is internal to ourselves or amongst our fellow human
beings, the result is the same. This would explain why we
consider these values so important -- they are our creatures (not
God's) -- our children. And if the values we hold so dear and on
which we place such importance for organizing our lives are really just
echoes of our own being then we clearly must look elsewhere for
and what it thinks of us and the world.
W If good and evil are our creations then I think it follows that God has little to do with either and they with God.
W My friend is also fond of saying, "Who are we to know the mind of God?" Well, perhaps this applies to knowing what God values as well. If the mind of God is unknowable to us, it is because God is wholly other than us. I long ago stopped believing in a big guy in the sky with a beard and I have to think that many other ways of thinking about God are just as unbelievable, just as anthropomorphic. Maybe because God is "wholly other" God also does not evaluate in terms of good and evil as we do.
W Of course God created us and made us the kind of beings that divide the world into good and evil. If God has created us then why does it not follow that he has, albeit indirectly, created our values? In that sense it seems impossible to say that God is entirely disengaged from those values or even from the good and evil that we do. The orthodox view is that God should have, must have, forseen the consequences of creation. So logically it is God's fault not ours, if there is a fault. The orthodox response (which is oddly viewed as anti-orthodox) must be that there could be no such mistake. Accordingly there is no fault at all -- all really is good. This is orthodoxy resting upon and attempting to maintain the ulimited power and goodness of God.
only problem with
this maneuver is that it does not address the reality that we know good
and even worse that we are mixed up in it and it in us. It is a
nice theoretical (and
philosophical) argument but it is easy to rebut in reality -- just look
world around you. As any good theoretician should know,
ultimately it is
reality that is the true test of theory. Scientists know this and
should learn from them. When physical science reaches an absurd
an infinite value) a process called "renormalizaton" is performed to
values back in line with reality. Science is always concious of
science is really about describing reality. I think we can and
should do the same in
W If we seek to understand the God we encounter in the real world we must at least suspend any thoughts of the omnipotent power and goodness of God. To say that God is forced by his own omnipotent nature (which nature is certainly a mystery to us if anything is -- talk about reading the mind of God!) to know where the creation is going before it gets there is little more than our imaginations telling us what powers we would have if we were God. Imagining such superhuman capacities is not very helpful to us and seems to me to be more than a little anthopomorphic (in this case super-anthopomorphic). Better than to imagine what we would like God to be like would be to forget about omnipotence and try to figure out how God is really manifest. Maybe all is not good.
relationship to God is creator and creature.
But what a creation we are! We have free will and the ability
ourselves to create. By virtue of who we have been created as,
we can and do extend God's creation. We do so not just by virtue
of our inherited creativity but also by virtue of our free will.
We can and are completely free to alter our selves and our world -- and
not just for good. But can the evil we do stain the one who
created us? Not if it is in fact our responsibility! Free
will must include not just freedom for us, but also for our
creator. Freedom for us must also imply freedom from us for
God. Were it not otherwise how could we be truly free? And
how could we be consequently responsible?
W A helpful metaphor here for our relationship to God is that of parent and child. Do we hold the parents of adult children responsible for what their children do? Arguably in some cases we might wish to do so, but in fact the worst we can say is, "They must have been brought up wrong!" And we must even acknowledge that sometimes children just "go wrong", inspite of the best intentions of their parents. It is part of the freedom we enjoy both as children and parents. So too with the children of God. God is not on the hook for what we do ourselves as surely as we are not for our adult children.
W Then too If
we see things differently than God perhaps it
is just a matter of perspective. We should be familiar with the
fact that in judging without knowing all the facts we risk misjudging
actions and intentions -- even of those closest to us. So
investigation precedes justice. A face-to-face discussion can
provide us with information that radically changes our
preconceptions. Sometimes the passage of time or changes in
circumstance serve the same purpose. For instance as children we
often question the judgment of our parents only to realize when we are
older (and perhaps confronted by our own children) their true
wisdom. So too with God we may well see one way now but then when
we meet face to face we will also see eye-to-eye, just as we sometimes
now do with family and friends.
is a contradiction in the creation
stories we hold dear: One proclaims the creation is good.
Another proclaims the creation is good and evil. Whether we
reconcile these stories or hold them in the tension of their
contradiction is our problem. Perhaps that's why they were passed
down to us in the first place -- to give us something to think about --
someplace to look for God.
all is not good, but all is not
evil either. All is just God's.
W And maybe it would be good to stop using
word "good" as a divine adjective.