L.B.: Driving to O’Hare

L.B.: Driving to O’Hare October 27, 2006

Left Behind, pp. 228-231

Now is the moment I've been waiting for. Here comes the much-anticipated, elaborately set up scene in which the Steeles attend the evening service for "the disenchanted and the skeptics," where the Rev. Bruce Barnes, speaking for the authors, will justify and defend the theology of Left Behind.

This is exciting. Here it comes:

Chloe had gone with [Rayford] to the church meeting for skeptics the night before, as she promised. But she had left a little over halfway through. She also fulfilled her promise to watch the video the former pastor had taped. They had discussed neither the meeting nor the video.

What the … ? That's it?

Pages of build up, redundant layers of phone calls establishing that Rayford, Chloe and Bruce would all be there, repeated passages of foreshadowing and scene-setting promising that the hard questions would be dealt with, soon, and at length, and then this is all we get? Two lousy, contentless, after-the-fact sentences explaining that the scene in question has already occurred, off-stage, and that we won't ever learn what happened there.

Yeesh.

Chloe left a little more than halfway through the meeting. Why? Did she storm out because Bruce Barnes was being as smugly evasive as the authors? Or was she just bored to tears? Did Rayford leave when she did, or did she have to hang out in the parking lot waiting for a ride home? Was she uncomfortable throughout the meeting, or was she reacting to something specific Bruce said that prompted her to leave just then? What of the others there? Were some persuaded to stay and join Bruce's mid-apocalyptic congregation? Or did they all, like Chloe, get up and leave with their skepticism unanswered and intact? And, in either case, what did Bruce say to make them respond however it was they responded?

We're not told.

Instead of all that, we get to ride along with the Steeles as they drive to the airport the next morning and discuss a few vague impressions of the meeting.

This is Rayford's first trip back to O'Hare since he fled it six days ago, threading his way across the tarmac through scattered charred bodies and the wreckage of multiple airliner crashes. It must have been a very busy week at the airport, as everything there has apparently been cleaned up and restored. Rayford is too distracted even to notice this Herculean achievement of post-disaster logistics. He's too busy trying to figure out how to talk to Chloe about her status as a sinner in need of salvation, and he's not sure how to do that. To his credit, I suppose, he realizes that the approach he plans to take with Hattie Durham — seducing her into heaven — would be inappropriate with his daughter.

On the drive to the airport:

They saw more than a dozen homes that had been gutted by fire. Rayford's theory was that families had disappeared, leaving something on the stove.

Rayford has been driving around for the past week — to the church and back three times, over to Arlington Heights for lunch — and this is the first time he has noticed anything like this, the first time since the day of the disappearances he has seen firsthand the slightest trace of the aftermath. I picture Jerry Jenkins typing away, trying to figure out how he can bring up the subject of the disappearances during the Steeles' conversation on their way to the airport. Hmm, maybe they could pass some burned-out houses? Perhaps, fleetingly, it occurred to Jenkins that this sort of detail ought to have been mentioned elsewhere as well. Maybe he should go back and rewrite some of the earlier …? No. No time for that. He promised Tim a first draft by the end of the month. And if that first draft is good enough for Tim, it ought to be good enough for everyone else.

Rayford's "something on the stove" theory for the fire-gutted houses seems plausible to me. Editing the police and fire briefs for a daily newspaper makes me acutely aware of the dangers of unattended cooking and improperly disposed of smoking materials. (I'd like to think that, somewhere, at least one house was gutted by fire after a couple disappeared and their post-coital cigarettes set the mattress ablaze, but that probably doesn't square too well with L&J's outlook, which only allows one kind of rapture per family.)

The sight of this relatively modest reminder of the global disaster sparks a conversation that serves as a kind of Cliff Notes summary of the meeting we missed the night before. Instead of several (Dozens? We have no idea how many attended the meeting) different skeptical perspectives, we will have only one, Chloe's. And instead of the Rev. Bruce Barnes responding with the knowledge he learned from his years in the ministry, we have only Rayford's uninformed gut reactions. But such as it is, the conversation affords our first glimpse of L&J's responses to the objections of the skeptics.

"And you think this was God's doing?" Chloe said, not disrespectfully.

"I do."

"I thought he was supposed to be a God of love and order," she said.

"I believe he is. This was his plan."

Ah, "It's all part of God's plan." That can mean several different things. It can be the bewildered submission of Job, "Though he slay me, I will serve him." Or be a kind of desperate, unpersuasive Panglossianism. A common variation on this latter response occurs at funerals, when some well-meaning soul hits the bereaved with something like Romans 8:28. That won't work here, in LB, because the reassurance that suffering will work out for the best in the end isn't terribly reassuring when you're already at The End and there's nothing but the suffering.

Chloe's real objection is a matter of theodicy, the fancy term for the problem of evil. That's a Big Question. For my money, it's the most important of the Big Questions. I didn't expect Rayford Steele to have a satisfactory answer, but I would have expected something better than his evasive, kick-the-can, turtles-all-the-way-down response:

"There were plenty of tragedies and senseless deaths before this."

"I don't understand all that either," Rayford said. …

If only he'd stopped there. Stop there and you can take your seat beside Job and join in the great call and response you can hear in any AME church: "God is Good." "All the time." And you can say it as a declaration of faith, one that suggests both that God is good and that that which is not good is not of God. That declaration, however, seems incompatible with the world of Left Behind, in which death and suffering rain down from God's own hand and God seems to delight in all manner of deeds that God's children, because they are God's children, regard as evil.

GeraldineSo Rayford doesn't stop there.

"I don't understand that either," Rayford said. "But like Bruce said last night, we live in a fallen world."

If only he'd stopped there. This is still salvageable. But he doesn't stop there either.

"I don't understand that either," Rayford said. "But like Bruce said last night, we live in a fallen world. God left control of it pretty much to Satan."

Ah, yes, the theodicy of that great theologian, St. Geraldine. If God is all powerful and all good, then why is there suffering and evil? "The devil made me do it."

The Big Questions, the meaning-of-life type questions, also matter in the day to day. If you believe that the world is "pretty much" in the control of Satan that's pretty much going to shape not just what you say in conversations like the one above, but also things like how you vote, how you treat your neighbors (the subjects of Satan), how you spend your time, your money, your life.

"God left control of it pretty much to Satan." Just kick that one around in your head for a while.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • the opoponax

    it must get very tiring spending all this time coming up with ways to explain to yourself that all of creation (including babies, of course, definitely babies) is evil, selfish, godless, and completely immoral.
    maybe i live in some sort of bizarro disneyworld alternate reality, but from where i sit, people in general (and especially living things, in general), seem more good or value-neutral than anything else. sure, there are evil individuals, and those individuals cause terrible things to happen with a certain degree of frequency. and our own banal self-centeredness often aids and abets that occasional evil. but it’s pretty fucked up to assume that cats hunt and toddlers fuss because they’re evil and we’re all living in a fallen world.
    housecats hunt because they’re predatory carnivores and they were designed that way. by God, if you believe in it/her/him/them. an infant honestly doesn’t have the cognitive ability to know that anything exists outside of herself. a toddler’s games of giving and taking away are a way of understanding boundaries between himself and others, and learning to understand that other people have different needs, desires, motives, and opinions from him. you have to be one sick fuck to honestly really and truly believe that all this behavior is because the world an inherently evil place.

  • hapax

    “Fallen” doesn’t mean the same thing as “evil”, which doesn’t mean the same thing as “malevolent” (which seems to be your usage, opoponax.) Nor do Christians believe the world is “inherently” evil — the very term “fallen” sort of implies that, doesn’t it? (Fallen from what, exactly?) If you believe in an omnibenevolent Creator, it usually follows that you believe that Creation is good (indeed, “very good”); it’s just not AS good as it could be, as good as it was meant to be. That cats or children could possibly be BETTER is kind of hard to imagine (I’m very fond of both myself), but faith requires all sorts of things that are hard to imagine.
    But I’ve always been puzzled by people who think it’s lazy or stupid or wrong to live by faith, instead of “proof”. Reason is a mighty powerful tool, but almost always stems from faith-based assumptions. Do these folks require their parents to furnish DNA tests? If so, why do they trust the folks at the lab to do competent work, and so forth? If I, or anyone, form my basic outlook on the universe is rooted on what seems to me to be a logically compelling and satisfying (if unprovable) conviction that there is an omni-omni Source behind it, why does that get up anyone’s nose?

  • Beth

    I doubt anyone would ever consider this theory unless they wanted to explain seeming contradictions in theology (as you do).
    No I don’t. And as I already stated explicitly, I do not hold a panglossian view. I was offended by all this criticism of ‘creation’ not as a theologian, but as a programmer. I’ve known the frustration of people saying, “Why can’t you just change this,” and having to try to explain to them why changing ‘this’ would have repercussions throughout the entire system and would require a major rewrite. Considering that even the most complex systems I work on are simplicity itself compared to a blade of grass, I can’t help sympathizing with the Great Programmer when someone says, “He should have just left out earthquakes,” or “He should have just made us fireproof.” I’m also reminded of the Army Corps of Engineers who used to go around saying things like, “This river is nice, but if we just straightened it out, it would be more navigable.” There are still areas in Florida that haven’t recovered from the ecological disasters brought on by such “improvements.”
    Whether there is a Creator or not, the world is certainly incredibly complex system. Maybe it could be better than it is; maybe it couldn’t. As someone who can’t possibly grasp the complexity of even a single living creature, much less all the interactions between the living and non-living pieces that make up the whole, I don’t see how I can make any definite judgements on its quality. And I don’t see how anyone else here can either.
    I also assume that if there is a Creator, he/she/it didn’t create the entire universe for me alone. There are certainly things I might wish were different, but without understanding the totality of the design or its purpose, I can’t really call them design flaws.
    If anything, my view is more along the lines of Job. I can’t catch the Leviathan (or program it). I don’t have a universal view or understanding. So while I can — and often do — bitch about the way things are, I have no business setting myself above the Creator and critiquing his/her/its work.

  • hf

    I have no problem with people saying they believe something on faith. Go right ahead. It annoys me when people then give logically flawed arguments for their position, since people often point to these arguments when atheism comes into the picture and say, ‘See, we act from reason after all!’ No. Those arguments make no sense unless we regard them as offering other Christians a way to preserve faith rather than proving a claim by logic and evidence.

  • hf

    To put it another way, if you don’t think non-believers have any place arguing theodicy, change the name. Just call it “faith aids”. In Greek that would give you dox- something or other.

  • Beth

    hf,
    You are either confusing me with somebody else or you have been paying much attention to what I’ve actually written. I’m not a Christian. I don’t know whether God exists in any sense. I think that if anything, ‘God’ is really just a metaphor for some universal something that I can’t possibly comprehend.
    I do find it interesting that the most obmoxious, “I know the truth, and if you disagree, you’re a loser” attitudes on this thread have come not from the theists but from the atheists.

  • hapax

    hf, what part of the “theo-” in “theodicy” don’t you understand?
    Theodicy ALWAYS assumes that there is a God, and that said God is perfectly just, good, loving, and potent. The arguments are about HOW this can be reconciled with the world we experience. The discussions may or may not logically flow from those premises, but saying they are not logical because you don’t accept the premises isn’t relying on “logic and evidence”, it’s being irrelevant. It’s like butting into an argument about how Captain Kirk’s actions in a certain episode can be reconciled with the Prime Directive with the announcement “Hey, you nerds, don’t you get that Star Trek is a fictional TV show?” What does that have to do with the matter at hand?
    If you don’t accept the faith assumptions, you’re not doing theodicy. You are, in effect, a “concern troll.” You want to find the Greek term for that?

  • hf

    Beth, I said you defended a certain view (rather than believing it) because you defended it several times, albeit in order to use it as a confusing metaphor for something else. You invoked the Bible to defend the theory of a loving Creator. I used the word Panglossian for your position solely because you wrote it here:
    At least someone understands my position. I’m not sure that theory is true (don’t want to get all Panglossian here), but it does seem like a possibility.

  • hapax

    Oh, Beth, to make myself clear, I did not mean to say that “non-believers [don’t] have any place arguing theodicy.” Your comments have been very thoughtful and provocative (in the best sense of the term). It’s just that any sensible discussion of theodicy must accept *for the purposes of the discussion* the premise of an omnipotent benevolent Creator. The question of whether such exists is a totally different argument, one that I have always conceded cannot be resolved on the basis of reason and evidence.

  • hf

    (That should read, ‘the position you defended for reasons I don’t fully grasp’, rather than “your position”.)
    hapax: And from my point of view, theodicy tries to answer the question, ‘If a loving God exists, why does all of this happen?’
    Like I said, I don’t say this out of concern for you, I say it because I don’t want apologists using faith aids for some other purpose.

  • hf

    (From my point of view, the field either defends the assumption of a Creator God, or provides aid to faith. God, if he exists, does not require your defense.)

  • hapax

    hf, Okay, I think we agree on two things:
    1. God does not require my defense. This is a good thing, I don’t think I have the chops to defend against anything that could conceivably threaten God.
    2. Theodicy is an argument about IF (faith statement) x, then why (apparently contradictory observable fact) z ?
    My contention is that “IF not x, then any discussion about “why z” is meaningless. THEREFORE, we must assume x if we wish to have a logical discussion.”
    You seem to be saying (forgive me if I’m missing something) “I cannot see any logical way that x can be reconciled with Z. THEREFORE, nobody can.
    Corollary a) anyone who says they can must be misusing logic.
    Corollary b) anyone who misuses logic in this way must not be allowed access to logic in case they misuse it in some unspecified nefarious way in the future.
    Corollary c) Corollaries a and b also apply to anyone who accepts faith premise x, even it’s just for the purposes of this or any other discussion.
    Is this a fair summation?

  • Beth

    I see, hf. So you interpreted my statement that I wasn’t being Panglossian to mean that I was. I see. Ok, I admit it, I’m totally Panglossian. (Now will you accept that I’m not?)
    Thanks, hapax. I actually didn’t take your previous post too personally because I’ve gotten the impression throughout this thread, that though we’re coming from very different starting points, our conclusions aren’t really that different.
    It’s just that any sensible discussion of theodicy must accept *for the purposes of the discussion* the premise of an omnipotent benevolent Creator.
    But is the Christian God really ‘omnipotent’ in a functional sense? If he gave us free will, doesn’t that mean he’s placed limitations on his own powers?
    To return for a moment to the original subject, I think Fred got it about right. Saying, “It’s all part of God’s plan,” as an answer to theodicy requires a Job attitude — “We can’t hope to understand God’s plan, so we can’t really judge,” — and/or a Panglossian one — “Once we know God’s plan, we see that everything really is for the best, even if it doesn’t appear so at first.” Rayford’s use of it doesn’t seem to fit into either category. He already knows exactly what God’s plan is (having seen the video), so he can’t be relying on unknowability. Yet it’s far from obvious how all those plane crashes, car crashes, fires, etc, could have helped anyone or been in any way necessary to the plan, and he makes no attempt to explain it, so Pangloss doesn’t seem to work either.

  • hapax

    I think you’re absolutely right, Beth. I suppose any Christian theodicy does require a voluntary limitation on God’s functional omnipotence — which is certainly different from essential, inherent omnipotence. I guess where most would see God as handing over this power to humans (and possibly other creatures)out of love via Free Will, La Haye/Jenkins and their stand-in Rayford sees God handing ultimate power over to Satan out of– I dunno — sadism? incompetence? a desire to avoid responsibility?

  • WereBear

    I’m glad to see people standing up for toddlers & cats!
    Since I wouldn’t want a world without either of them.
    My thinking is that life is a Force. It seeks to express itself in everything– cats, toddlers, e.coli, everything. I don’t have any qualms about wiping out whole civilizations of bacteria if they come into conflict with me, though I escort spiders out the door. But not houseflies at the end of fall, they are just annoying and now it’s a mercy killing.
    And that’s where morality comes in. Morality is always a choice, the essence of free will. If it wasn’t a choice, it wouldn’t be morality, would it?
    I think the biggest part of the dilemma is the inability for some people to realize that the world just IS and there isn’t a big paternal type fellow who has his hand on all the levers. The indifference! WE have to be the center of the Universe, because that’s the way we think.
    Without death, there would be no afterlife. What form that takes I don’t know. But if we think of LIFE as an ongoing force, death and destruction has to be a part of it. Or there would be no room for more life. Which is the point. Not that some live lives that are nasty, brutish, and short, but that they had a chance to live at all.
    Which is, literally, better than Nothing.

  • hf

    Not quite, hapax. On a practical level, “theodicy” seems to have two related goals: justifying the assumption of a loving Creator God to people who don’t share this premise, and aiding those who wish to maintain or develop faith. It invariably fails at the first goal. (You can paper over the apparent contradictions in the system, viewed from within, but you lack any evidence that would persuade skeptics to enter the system in the first place.) I’d like you to explicitly restrict it to the second goal in order to spare me the personal annoyance of people trying to use it for goal 1 (and also from an abstract love of truth.)
    Sometimes people also use theodicy (and theology in general) in a more vague way, to argue that Christians have rational reasons to believe. By my definition, this seems blatantly false. At most, theology can remove reasons to stop believing. It’s never given anyone a rational reason to believe in the first place. (Science therefore concludes, tentatively, that it never will.)
    Beth, I know I sometimes write imprecisely, but it helps if you read all of what I wrote: (That should read, ‘the position you defended for reasons I don’t fully grasp’, rather than “your position”.)

  • Sue W

    If Christians are suppose to be prepared to deal with the outside world, this isn’t going to work. What do they do when they come across smart people who think they’re full of shit?
    I’m wondering if the authors weren’t deliberately writing for an audience that isn’t too bright. They almost seem to regard anyone with any intelligence or indendent thinking as beyond salvation and not worth bothering with. When Chloe says she has to be intellectually honest with herself, they describe her as “pseudo-sophisticated” and go on a rant about “academic pretense”. Sheesh!
    Or maybe they’re just not too bright themselves, and decided to settle for preaching to the kiddie section of the choir, all the while dreaming of the day when they can say “I told you so!” to all those mean old Smart People who didn’t listen to them.

  • Kevin

    “it must get very tiring spending all this time coming up with ways to explain to yourself that all of creation (including babies, of course, definitely babies) is evil, selfish, godless, and completely immoral.”
    I think you miss my point. I would never say they were evil. My point is that there is no sin, there is no evil, to the extent that these terms are metaphysical. There is just behaving in a way that other humans approve of versus behaving in a way that they don’t approve of. To the extent that babies resemble “evil” in your way of looking at the world, it’s because they have absolutely no regard for the moral judgments of other people. That’s fine – they’re just babies – and they are frequently darned cute. But, if they aren’t taught how to behave, with MUCH effort, from parents & community, they would act like animals unless someone takes that effort. Unfortunately, this has been empirically verified.
    So, if you insist on using metaphysical paradigms, they aren’t born good only to be corrupted later. I contend that it is quite the opposite.
    But, my point is that the metaphysical paradigm is off base. God isn’t necessary for the behavioral expectations that define morality. If no God exists in any meaningful way as it relates to our short time on this earth, the human race would still certainly retain a moral code that served its best interests.

  • bulbul

    Nicole,
    If I’m not butchering it, CS Lewis (an evangelical favorite) wrote that there is no such thing as evil
    My main problem with this interpretation of Lewis is that he did in fact recognize that there IS such thing as evil and did not hesitate to name it as such (e.g. the sci-fi trilogy). If you were to present this statement to Lewis, I’d bet his reaction would be “Nonsense!” (or perhaps “Bollocks!”).
    I’m guessing that daniel is basing this statement on Lewis’ preface to “Screwtape letters” where Lewis wrote (quoting from memory, sorry) that the minions of hell do not do what they do because of a desire to do some abstract evil, but out of hunger.
    Then again, it is true that Lewis considered evil to be a corruption of the good. Even Satan is a fallen angel.
    “Hey, you nerds, don’t you get that Star Trek is a fictional TV show?”
    *GASP*
    WHAT? You mean it’s not REAL???

  • bulbul

    On a practical level, “theodicy” seems to have two related goals: justifying the assumption of a loving Creator God to people who don’t share this premise, and aiding those who wish to maintain or develop faith.
    No it doesn’t. The definition of theodicy {OED, but e.g. the Catholic Encyclopedia completely concurs) is ” The, or a, vindication of the divine attributes, esp. justice and holiness, in respect to the existence of evil;”. Nothing about unbelievers nor justification. What you describe seems more like the job of apologetics.
    rather than proving a claim by logic and evidence
    If I may say so, hf, you seem to mistake logic for common sense.
    if you don’t think non-believers have any place arguing theodicy, change the name
    Combine what I said about theodicy and what hapax said about Star Trek.

  • bulbul

    the human race would still certainly retain a moral code that served its best interests.
    a) Who is “human race”?
    b) What are those “best interests”?
    It was certainly in the best interest of the settlers in the American West to exterminate the Native Americans. What up with that?

  • bulbul

    My point is that there is no sin, there is no evil, to the extent that these terms are metaphysical.
    ‘Tis funny how often people insist that there is no sin or evil, that these categories are mere constructs.
    Rarely does one see someone claiming that love or good are metaphysical terms and nothing more (I know, Nietzsche does).

  • alexela

    It’s funny, I always saw the use of the problem of evil as exactly backwards to the apologetics. I always saw it as the back breaking argument that athiests bring out and fire at theists to prove that their whole system of belief just HAS to be wrong. “if God is who you say He is, and omniomni perfect” goes the argument “and the world is how we see it is (i.e., well endowed with suffering and evil), then something has to give – and it’s not the world.”
    Then there’s the beautiful middle ground that has been so well articulated by Beth, that the universe is such a complex system that it is impossible to say for sure that this is not the optimal arrangement. You can’t disprove God, because with theodicy, because you can’t prove this world ISN’T optimal… Which, let’s be totally honest, IS a form of panglossian thinking… If God is omnipotent (in the “constrained by logic” sense of the word) and benevolent, then s/he is obliged to have come up with the best of possible worlds, however flawed such a thing may be, and this has to be that world. Anything less than the best of possible worlds means God wasn’t giving it his/her all.
    Free will is a pretty good argument, but I think it still isn’t comprehensive. If you look hard enough, you can find evils that have nothing to do with any human action ever… a meteorite that crashes in from the outer reaches of the solar system at close to the speed of light, and crushes an innocent person – there’s just no way this was the result of human decision making gone awry. Maybe some weird aliens with free will somewhere else could have dislodged a rock from their planet and caused one of these, but I can’t see it being the explanation for everyone.
    But metoerites logically might have to crash, you migth argue. Yet your or I could easily imagine ways to avoid any of these events that would be achievable by human force – and so if human force, it MUST be achievable by divine force too… otherwise omnipotent truly means nothing. If a few synapses fired differently, a few steps landed on dirt differently, a hill wasn’t tilted quite the way it was, the victim could have stood 10 feet over, and not been hit.
    Of course (geez, this is getting long, sorry), one might THEN argue that if God can only use logically possible force, and logic tells us that force is one object physically moving another, then without having physical form himself, you might wonder how a bound-by-logic God can move anything? How can he shift a petal if he does not have a hand to move it with… If he shifts it by sheer will alone, then that is just as illogical as producing a weight that he cannot lift.
    But that is yet another side line.
    The other escape from the problem of evil that I’ve seen presented here by the theists, is that we just can’t know what evil is. If I suffer, I call that evil, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe higher things come from it. But surely it seems that this is the path th nihilism. If we are incapable of recognizing evil (we see an action and cannot condemn it as such), then what possible debate can we have? If I pull your eyeball out with hot tweazers, do we not have to agree that this is evil, or can we say “this is just some strange egocentric attachment to having eyeballs that I’ve developed because I’m not able to connect properly with a divine munificence? I don’t see that it washes.
    So really… In the final analysis, it’s believe or don’t believe, there’s not much anyone can prove one way or the other… but it does seem to me that theodicy still poses some big problems that theology has yet to fully wriggle out of.
    As a last side note (promise, honest to… Goodness), it’s also funny how both sides can feel so under attack by the other. The theists accuse the athiests of being snotily condescending (which they sometimes are, as can be seen above), and the athiests accuse the theists of being out on a predatory streak to try to convert them (which some of them are). .

  • Hagsrus

    Sorry for nitpicking but the word is
    “atheist” not “athiest” — it’s just “theist” with an “a” at the front.

  • spinetingler

    >So there’s this episode of Dr. Who…Some people in it want to retroactively wipe out a fair bit of history.
    Isn’t that the plot of a fair proportion of Dr Who episodes? :)
    Torchwood!

  • Kevin

    —-the human race would still certainly retain a moral code that served its best interests.
    a) Who is “human race”?
    b) What are those “best interests”?
    It was certainly in the best interest of the settlers in the American West to exterminate the Native Americans. What up with that?—-
    Sorry, I slightly mis-spoke. Ethical constructs frequently end at the edge of the community. For instance, all the “God-approved” murderous rampages of the neighboring tribes or of dissenting Israelites in the Old Testament, or, as you note here, the “God-approved” notions of early Americans who saw the Native Americans in the same way.
    These sorts of tragedies can happen with or without God. I guess it’s my hope that by taking God out of the equation, the community will be forced to take one step closer to admitting the real motivations that are informing their ethical constructs.
    As a side note, I just read 1491, which I thought was a great book. One of the points the author makes is that while early Americans thought that the frequent plagues that were killing off the Native Americans were a sign that God was against them, and modern observers frequently find this distasteful, what we forget is that the Native Americans at the time agreed that their constant battles with the diseases brought by European settlers were a sign of the gods’ displeasure with them.

  • alexela

    athiest, atheist… guess I need more edumacation. (and that was the least of the typos in my rampage you could have picked on, so… uh, thanks :)

  • cjmr’s husband

    >So there’s this episode of Dr. Who…Some people in it want to retroactively wipe out a fair bit of history.
    Isn’t that the plot of a fair proportion of Dr Who episodes? :)
    Actually, surprisingly few. It’s usually just a side effect.
    (eagerly awaiting Torchwood as well…)

  • daniel

    bulbul,
    Thanks for your clarification, and apologies for being imprecise regarding Lewis. Indeed, I was meaning to say “that Lewis considered evil to be a corruption of the good” – I should have said that he thought that there is no such thing as pure evil or original evil.
    I believe my source is somewhere in Mere Christianity, in his discussion about sex.

  • Beth

    The other escape from the problem of evil that I’ve seen presented here by the theists, is that we just can’t know what evil is. If I suffer, I call that evil, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe higher things come from it. But surely it seems that this is the path to nihilism.
    Not really. Most people would agree that surgeons do good, but we don’t go around taking scalpels to each other. We recognize that surgeons have knowledge, training and skill that we lack. When they cut people open — gross as that might be — it really does serve a higher good, but “don’t cut people” is still a good rule for the rest of us. It may be that an omniscient God can use suffering and even death for a higher purpose, but that doesn’t mean we limited humans should try this at home.

  • Jeff

    bulbul:
    [[I don’t like the “slay/serve” Job; I have no use for him]]
    “I have no use for him” is certainly an interesting approach to interpretation. Is it from the same school of thought as “Truth is irrelevant, pick one that works”?
    There are many here for whom the Bible is no more than an intriguing work of fiction, history, philosophy and poetry, but is not “The Word of God”. As such, we can find some parts useful for our own philosophy, some parts not so much. I don’t know if the original quoter is like that, but I have incorporated the loving books and verses, while rejecting ones like Job (who comes off useless no matter how he translated).

  • Jeff

    hapax:
    I dunno. Every time someone above seems to argue that this is not “the best of all possible worlds”, the unstated (or stated) subtext seems to be “it’s not the best for ME.” Even the concern for mice and grass, etc., is essentially egocentric — how do we know that mice don’t want to be eaten by cats, that grass doesn’t want to be trod underfoot — I know that I wouldn’t like it, but I think it’s best all around to not worry about justifying God’s ways to vegetation.
    My starting point was the Garden of Eden. Death did not exist there, and it was Paradise; therefore, a Christian should assume that mice don’t want to die in pain, and grass probably is having a rough go of it as well.
    …she … seems to just throw up her hands and let her dad have at her. Even when Chloe is getting in a few good licks…
    I wouldn’t mind reading this version of the books!
    Beth:
    I have no business setting myself above the Creator and critiquing his/her/its work.
    Isn’t that why we’re here? Why give us reason and free will if not to question the way things are? Otherwise, you’re just a robot.
    bulbul:
    ‘Tis funny how often people insist that there is no sin or evil, that these categories are mere constructs.
    I’d say there is no “sin”, but there is good, evil and love. My definition of “good” and “evil” may not be the same as yours (wherein lies the problem), but I do have one.
    Beth:
    Most people would agree that surgeons do good, but we don’t go around taking scalpels to each other.
    Is doing breast enhancement and face-lifts on teens good, evil or neutral? What about weight-loss surgery (where the long-term effects are far worse than not having the surrgery)? I’m sure there are a lot of other gray areas, just in regards to surgeons (should they train on animals, for example).

  • cjmr’s husband

    Does anyone have the chapter and verse for “the Garden of Eden. Death did not exist there, and it was Paradise”?
    (I will feel very foolish if it is in the first couple chapters of Genesis)

  • daniel

    cjmr’s husband:
    It is, indeed, an extrapolation from Genesis 2 and 3:
    2:8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

    2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

    3:22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side [r] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

  • cjmr’s husband

    I love it when they bring up that verse. If there was no death in the Garden, why is God worried about Adam eating from the Tree of Life?
    (Creationists always forget that bit)
    cjmr found the relevant verses: they’re in the Apocrypha. Wisdom 1:13-14 and 2:23-24.
    The cool thing about that is that Sola Scriptura creationists *can’t use that verse*, but non-creationist Catholics have it!
    Not that Daniel is a creationist (I don’t have my Slacktivist DB handy), but I keep seeing the argument put forward by anti-evil-utionists, and it’s good to know where it comes from.

  • daniel

    Ooh, I’m definitely not a creationist.

  • Jesurgislac

    Where is my Left Behind Friday?
    Quit slacking, Fred! More badfic!

  • bulbul

    Ooh, I’m definitely not a creationist.
    Sorry, buddy, we can’t just take your word for it. Duane, would you please check?

  • Duane

    Duane, would you please check?
    Certainly. In a post on what appears to be Daniel’s old blog (neotheologue.blogspot.com), he notes,
    “Somehow, in some way that’s beyond my capacity to understand, God is using the Cubs’ phenomenal run this year to advance all of creation toward His purpose for it, “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10).”
    Daniel appears to have a long history of referring to “God’s creation”. This doesn’t necessarily indicate one is a creationist as there are a those who think God created the universe using evolution. (Asimov comes to mind.) And there are a million microviews on the origin of the universe between hardcore creationism and godless evolution.
    There is also the possibility that Daniel’s views have evolved in the years since he wrote the above-mentioned passage.
    If I may be allowed to editorialize, it seems to me that a belief system that supports God waving His magic wand for the Cubs’ benefit isn’t so far removed from God waving His magic wand to create the universe.

  • cjmr’s husband

    Daniel – sorry I dragged you in to this.

  • Duane

    LMAO

  • daniel

    Sorry, buddy, we can’t just take your word for it. Duane, would you please check?
    You guys are hilarious.
    In a post on what appears to be Daniel’s old blog (neotheologue.blogspot.com)
    That’s not mine! I’ve only ever lived in the Western three states – promise (thus I really don’t care about the Cubs – no offense, of course)!
    My old blog is otterpop.blogspot.com, and I’ve recently began posting at radicalcongruency.com.
    As for creation – actually, my wife is a die-hard 6 day-er. But me – I just can’t buy it. I really can’t make myself believe that the first several chapters of Genesis are trying to answer that kind of question.
    Please update my entry in the DB accordingly. And if the other Daniel is still around, I suppose that I may need to change my handle. I make no claims to being the first with my name – I’m quite a newb here, actually (although I have read all the LB posts – couldn’t resist!).
    Speaking of which, what does one have to do to get a copy of said DB?

  • Duane

    If you aren’t a Cubs fan and wintermute isn’t out somewhere delivering a well-deserved spanking to a naughty trollop, then the database is CRAP!
    I shall consign it to the fire at once.

  • wintermute

    I’m trying to deliver a well-deserved spanking to a naughty LDAP structure, if that counts…