Dancing on the Head of a Pin

There is a legend of St Thomas Aquinas asking "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" At this blog we ask all questions dealing with our faith and spirituality. Some are down to earth, rubber meets the road questions, while others are more lofty...like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Yesterday at our Anglican Days program we talked about theodicy; a term coined by Gottfried Liebniz that essentially means "justifying God." Theodicy seeks to justify the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God in the face of suffering, evil, and pain. In other words, how can a loving, powerful, and omniscient God allow a five year old to die of cancer, etc. There is no good answer and there are several approaches to reconcile God's love with evil, such as Divine Incomprehensibility (we can never know), Divine Punishment (we deserve it), Divine Pedagogy (we are learning a lesson), and Process Theology (God is still working it out), to name a few. But one of the most interesting theories comes from the man who coined the phrase himself - Liebniz.
A long time ago on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lt. Worf kept experiencing alternate realities. He kept shifting in and out of realities based upon actions taken or not taken. Think of "It's a Wonderful Life;" Jimmy Stewart seeing the alternate reality that existed in the event that he was never born. Well, Liebniz reconciles God's love, power, and knowledge with pain, evil, and suffering by saying that we all have alternate realities. God's loving providence selects the reality that is best for us. It's not predestination, we still make our choices, but in the vast (infinite - but how can that be?) number of realities, the one that is best for us is the one we experience. To Sci-Fi? It's interesting, nonetheless. At least i got to plug Lt. Work in the blog.
At the end of the day, I have no answer as to "Why Bad things happen to Good People." I am more prepared to say what God does not do than to explain why God does A, B, or C. Any thoughts?

Steve +


Blogger King of Peace said...

In his book, "The Problem of Pain," C.S. Lewis wrote, “If you choose to say ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,’ you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them two other words ‘God can.’”[1]

From that I get that God either gives us the ability to decide for ourselves what we are going to do or God does not. It cannot be both at the same time. To say that God could intervene remains true. But could God continually intervene in our lives? If God did so, would we still have a choice? Or would our lives turn into an endless series of decisions with no real consequences. No matter what we choose, God will make it work out all right in the end.

I have written out what I think on this issue, with reference to the movie Dogma rather than Star Trek. It's online at Why Does God Allow Suffering?


6:50 AM  
Blogger St Michael's Episcopal Church said...

Completely agree, but there is always that sticky scenario: what about the five-year-old girl dying from cancer? Who's free choice? I understand the fallen world in which we live where disease, etc. exists, but at the end of the day, I think we are all like Job - affirming the love, power, and knowledge of God while at the same time faithfully misunderstanding.

9:09 AM  
Blogger botheredparent said...

After reflecting on Wednesday evening's discussion I am increasingly uncomfortable with the 'alternate realities' idea. If God's providence selects the reality that is best for us, isn't that the same as saying that we are still in the same hyperCalvinist predestined groove, and that the alternate realities are not really options open to us anyway? C.S. Lewis tackles this issue allegorically in several places in the Narnia books - the opening chapters of "The Silver Chair" being an example that comes to mind.
If God has created us as individuals with free will (which is an aspect of being "in his image") then we have the freedom to mess up, and it's one of the things we are spectacularly good at. An aspect of God's omnipotence, I guess, is that he has an infinite number of alternate routes/realities to take his plan for redemption to its conclusion.
I'm still not sure how that answers the sticky scenario. Perhaps our ancestors had less trouble with this before the 'age of enlightenment' - because we have discovered antibiotics and chemotherapy we think we are in control, whereas our forebears could only acknowledge that these things were out of their hands, so they must be in God's.
Back to Divine Incomprehensibility, I guess!

10:18 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home