Divine Press Office: No Comment

In a discussion set off by certain recent comments on God’s role in the Holocaust, my  friends on a wonkish listserve strayed briefly from economic policy and election polls to The Big Issues. One comment was from Harold Pollack, a public health researcher and occasional columnist:

God, since I was twelve years old, I have wondered how Hitler could be one of your children. I’ve never received a satisfactory answer. Could you contact me offline to clear this up?

I couldn’t help but pass on this message:

God is busy for the next day (a thousand human years) trying to figure out how the crown of Her creation, human civilization, came to include such evil. She will respond to Her email afterwards.

Harold’s answer:

Darned press secretary. Given my age, doesn’t he know that I’m operating on a fifty-year deadline here?

Well, yes, it does seem that press secretaries are the same all over. But I suggest to my professorial friends that those three comments might be a good outline for a course on religious thought after the Holocaust. I welcome suggestions for which readings should be included in each of the three sections.

1 thought on “Divine Press Office: No Comment”

  1. Um, I’m not sure how to assign the following books to the above-mentioned quotes, but these are the two that have been most helpful to me regarding theodicy:

    Jon D. Levenson’s “Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence.”

    David Bentley Hart’s short, accessible book on the 2004 tsunami, “The Doors of the Sea,” while addressing the problem of “natural evil,” can also be food for thought when pondering man-made evil.

    In different ways, both describe God’s sovereignty in terms of divine victory over the powers of chaos and evil. This victory, while real, is provisional, and awaits final consumation. In the interim evil and chaos is chained, but strains at the chain and occasionally gets loose before it is brought to heel again.

    This is an attractive alternative to the almost deterministic idea of God’s sovereignty I was brought up in as a Presbyterian Christian.

    I think it makes more sense to say that Nazi Germany was a rupture in God’s good and orderly plan for the world, rather than say that the events of 1933-1945 were divinely ordained for some greater good. The latter can’t help but make God an agent of evil as well as good.

    But in the end, it does seem like the psalmist’s questions “Why?” and “How long?” continue to go unanswered, even in this age of lightning fast email.

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