God Can’t: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils
By Christopher Fisher
When God Can’t was announced, I was excited for a new volume in provocative theology by the scholar Thomas Oord. His ideas seem to resonate with those trying to make sense of a broken world. His focus on God’s love characterizes his ministry to those who are in pain. And Oord’s knowledge of models of the Problem of Evil make him a force with which to be reckoned.
Oord begins his latest work with profiles in suffering. I too have had this suffering. My oldest son is in remission for a strong form of childhood Leukemia. I understand what it is to see innocents suffer. I too have seen good Christians die of these diseases. How does the Christian, who prays fervently to God, cope? After all, doesn’t the Bible say that “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” and “hat father among you if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?”
Oord correctly identifies a major problem in Christian circles, the half-hearted prayer. Even in my own life I have heard people pray “if it is YOUR will, heal this child”. This type of prayer is a mechanism to explain failure. Those saying the prayer don’t believe God will act, they don’t believe the child will be saved, and they create a before-the-fact explanation of a future failure. Granted, this is likely a coping mechanism for their own faith. If they pray, and God does not listen, how can they go on worshiping God? Unfulfilled prayer creates a crisis of faith.
Oord offers a new way to understand failed prayer. Oord offers a new way to see suffering throughout the world. Instead of a cold, inactive, and uncaring God, God instead is deeply invested in the world around us. The issue is not that God is absent, but that His commitment to love prevents certain acts. God is good, and as Oord writes: Perfect love prevents preventable evil. But not everything is preventable evil when perfect love is at stake.
Theologians and laymen alike will find God Can’t an accessible work on relational theology. Even those not accepting Oord’s conclusions will find a lot to digest. Everyone must deal with the Problem of Evil, and Oords work is a valuable contribution to the discussion that invites consideration.