Continuing to read, and enjoy, Belden C. Lane's Ravished by Beauty, but today I reached that moment where I must part ways with this Reformed theology -- theodicy (the attempt to justify God in relation to the suffering of creation).
His wasn't a fully developed theodicy, just merely addressing it as part of his larger take on a Reformed theology of desire and its relation to ecology.
Here are parts I did like:
What we need is an awareness of God's rejuvenating presence filling the world with an amazement wild enough to capture the human heart.
I think I'll excerpt the rest of this very good paragraph in a subsequent post.
He writes about God:
A God of wild freedom is not exclusively solicitous of human concerns.
He uses a great phrase, "God's inaccessible wildness." I like that phrase and think I'll use it more. This next line I might agree with, but it begins to cause some worries,
God's governance of nature will not always appear beneficent from a human perspective.
I definitely couldn't agree with this:
Affliction serves an important purpose in the winnowing of desire, the "weaning of the affections."
I learned from Simone Weil and then Wendy Farley almost twenty years ago that affliction (or malheur) cannot be rational or have an explanation. Believing that affliction serves any purpose at all sounds downright evil to me.
Lane argues that suffering has meaning because God is present in it:
The Trinity's delight in nature's details, in the beauty of individuals as well as species, requires that God share in the frustrated desire of every sentient being kept from realizing its original intention in God's creation. [Nothing too bad in that sentence; a Whiteheadian could affirm it.] Its pain ultimately has meaning only if God somehow participates in the plight of every caterpillar injected by an ichneumon wasp, in the loss of every dying caribou calf.
Rather than sounding compassionate or comforting, that second sentence sounds sadistic to me. Why must pain have a meaning, especially and "ultimate" meaning? Why not be a fact of creation devoid of meaning but something that God participates in and struggles against? That second sentence, connected to one talking about Trinitarian delight, reaffirms all I feel must be rebelled against in the Reformed conception of God. I don't think this viewpoint of Lane's survives Dostoyevsky.
Now, Lane does want God participating in creation's pain in order to transform it. He does so, however, by going someplace I also cannot go, into the atonement. Having read Rebecca Parker and Rita Nakashima Brock, I can't take the steps take in this paragraph -- they open the door for abuse and do not empower us to find genuine salvation:
Hence, the Reformed tradition holds in tension God's power witnessed in a wild and wondrous world alongside God's utter vulnerability disclosed in the cross. It grapples with the paradox that God creates a world of terrifying splendor (where the timid tread lightly), while God simultaneously exposes God's self to its greatest threats, identifying with those at risk. It affirms a God of wild majesty working through the mystery of evolution to bring life and hope out of a system inescapably prone to suffering and death. God suffers in every painful part of the process. The giving and taking of life thus becomes a Eucharistic reality, understood only in God's remarkable choice of defenselessness in the Paschal mystery.
Yuck. If I believed that I could never take communion again.