The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?

The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?

Expanding on his Wall Street Journal piece, Tremors of Doubt, published the last day of 2004, David Bentley Hart here returns to this pressing question: How can the existence of a good and loving God be reconciled with such suffering?

Hart clarifies the biblical account of God's goodness, the nature of evil, and the shape of redemption, incisively revealing where both Christianity's champions and its critics misrepresent what is most essential to Christian belief.

Hart contends, however, that the history of suffering and death is not willed by God. Rather than appealing to a divine calculus that can account for every instance of suffering, Christians must recognize the ongoing struggle between the rebellious powers that enslave the world and the God who loves it.

Reviews of the The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?

While many of the classic approaches to the problem of evil are given their due, what is propounded here, at bottom, is an ectype of Augustinian theodicy circa 4th century, the idea that only good can come from God and evil is merely a privation of that goodness. 66) Concerns over biblical authority notwithstanding, what he has posited is that there exists a realm of disharmony completely sealed off from all human apprehension and sense experience, and the entirety of reality is characterized by this eternal conflict between mystical forces, evil and good. There seems to be a more fundamental and manifestly conspicuous problem here, however, with attributing the source of evil to entities which are not God. If God is the creator of all, then these entities must have been part of that creation (unless of course one wishes to subscribe to paganistic and animistic religious traditions where the powers of good and evil have always coexisted in a state of existential turmoil). It is supposed that the entities responsible for evil and the physical forces precipitating natural disasters were somehow necessary elements of a free creation. The Dilemma of Non-Intervention If you swallow this theology in gross and thus ground human suffering in St. Paul's mystical "forces", one burdensome question looms just around the corner. 2) The age-old dilemma continues to hold sway: either God is not omnipotent and is powerless at halting these atrocities or, if he is all-powerful, he is an inexplicably capricious being whose intervention in humanity is random, arbitrary or altogether absent. Instead of engaging this issue, Hart lambastes the impotent or evil dichotomy, saying it is a fallacious question to even ask, as it is premised upon an inane anthropomorphism. Hart writes: Unless one can see the beginning and end of all things, unless one possesses a divine, eternal vantage upon all of time, unless one knows the precise nature of the relation between divine and created freedom, unless indeed one can fathom infinite wisdom, one can draw no conclusions from finite experience regarding the coincidence in God of omnipotence and perfect goodness. According to Hart, it is the God of Christianity that will intervene in the end of days to execute a final and universal harmony among his creation and the powers beyond our purview. Hart then offers a silver lining stemming fromthe ubiquity of evil, but one that won't be fully realized until the end of the natural order. Hart seems to acknowledge this, midway through the book: "To put the matter starkly, nature is a cycle of sacrifice, and religion has often been no more than an attempt to reconcile us to this reality." (p. Closing Thoughts In closing, The Doors of the Sea is a provocatively written treatise on the problem of evil but one which ultimately fails to capture anything new that hasn't been propounded several times before. D.B. Hart is one of the more eloquent religious philosophers of our time, but a book of theology should do more than double as a pocket thesaurus. The Christian still subscribes to the idea of an omnipotent master, a personal deity intimately concerned with human affairs, yet the earth is still riven with evil and suffering of the highest order, with no apparent intervention of any kind.

Hart seeks to defend Christianity from its secular critics, but along the way he also argues against a divine determinism that makes God the author of suffering. In the face of all the evil and suffering though, why is God so slow in bringing it to an end.

The book is rich is philosophy, theology, and literary references, and will sometimes take a second or third reading of a passage to understand.

I appreciate it is a severe rebuke to some Reformed talkers who uphold a certain divine sovereignty and thus make God the author of evil for some alleged higher good.

  • English

  • Religion

  • Rating: 4.23
  • Pages: 109
  • Publish Date: July 1st 2005 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
  • Isbn10: 0802829767
  • Isbn13: 9780802829764