Safer than with a Volcano?

Today’s Bizarro comic addresses an interesting theological point. As human beings have found themselves seemingly under assault from forces of nature – volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, storms, etc. – they have sought ways to appease those forces. The idea that they might act mindlessly, that there might be no justice or injustice involved in the destruction they wreak, only blind apathetic processes, seems not to have occurred to anyone until relatively recently, presumably because the very fact of our existence and the natural forces that allow us to eat and survive seemed to call for an explanation in terms of some benevolent force at work.

But moving from the volcano to the possibility that something invisible might be behind it – and more like a person – was just a first step in our reflection and exploration. The scientific discoveries and theological reflections that have been offered in more recent history suggest that there is no theological approach to nature that will allow humans to simply make a volcano not erupt, whether by appeasing the volcano itself or some anthropomorphic invisible entity thought to control it.

Any reflection on our place in the cosmos, or on the forces of nature, which only gets as far as trying to feel safer by shifting the focus away from volcanoes to one or more invisible magic persons in the sky, has not gone far enough. We have so much more information now at our disposal, that to remain with ancient reflections on these matters, and nothing more, is downright foolhardy.

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  • Lothar Lorraine

    Hello James.
    “We have so much more information now at our disposal, that to remain with ancient reflections on these matters, and nothing more, is downright foolhardy.”

    As a progressive Christian I wholeheartedly agree with that statement and reject the concept of a supernaturally inspired Canon. Why the Gospels are very valuable because of their proximity to the life of Christ, I believe that the books of C.S. Lewis are in many ways superior to those attributed to John or Peter.
    It makes me sad to see many Evangelicals sticking with primitive values because they think they were divinely inspired.

    What you describe at the beginning is a popular evolutionary explanation of religion. Amusingly, it parallels a bit the one C.S. Lewis offered in his ground-breaking book “The Problem Of Pain”.

    I’m sure that the disciplines theology, atheology and philosophy will never prevent a volcano from erupting :=)

    But I am open to the possibility that somewhere in the world, God did it, perhaps even after a prayer.
    The laws of physics are completely compatible with the existence of purposefulness within the universe.

    But this raises the problem of evil, if God can intervene, why does he allow such horrors and tragedies to happen everywhere and at any moment?

    I’ve launched a conversation between atheists and me on my blog on the very topic of evil and the improbability of God’s existence.

    I have to learn more about pantentheism and the thoughts of Phillip Clayton. Maybe this offers us the best solution to believe in a good and (somewhat) personal God.

    To my mind, there can only be justice and true consolation if there is a wonderful endless afterlife for everyone desiring God.
    But this does not keep my heart from being broken.

    Lovely greetings from Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son