Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Interventionist History And Theodicy

A key aspect of the Theology of Hope is their theory of history. In many of the Pentecostal/Charismatic communities I've been part of, an interventionist view of history prevails. That is a view where God intervenes in history from another place, often bending the natural order. This view of God as miracle worker is often questioned by those who wrestle with theodicy, specifically why does God seemingly intervene in some situations and not in others? While this denotes an underlying karmic expectation of God, it is a legitimate complaint. If God is so fickle as to pander to the cause of just those who (especially in affluent countries) pray the "right" way, then is that a God worth worshipping? I think not. Fortunately, Theology of Hope offers a different, and I think more satisfactory, approach.

It is important to note that Theology of Hope has its roots in WWII. It is theology after Auschwitz and Hiroshima. And it is theology that is convinced that hope for the world has to be hope for the victims of these tragedies. These events can lead one to think that God is distant from and unconcerned with the follies of humans. But neither the deist clockmaker or the fickle interventionist will do as God - both should die.

Theology of Hope places history as the main place of God's activity. But not as a puppeteer pulling strings from the outside, rather as an actor who has entered into our history with us. This theology takes a distinctly incarnational view of God's relationship with history. But it also takes very seriously an idea the aforementioned views of God reject - God is a passable participant in history. God doesn't enter history to eradicate the mess carte blanche, God enters into history to live our suffering with us. This notion of historical solidarity is not passive. It comes as a response of God to the cries of God's people - just as in the story of the Exodus. But also like the Exodus we learn that God's people undergo the journey of hope, even though they may never see the final destination (and like the Exodus the journey continues to unfold).

History is not some preview to the "real" show. At the heart of interventionist notions (and its only response to theodicy) of history is the idea that ultimately this world does not matter. Theology of Hope rejects this view of history. History is where God meets us. God's action in history opens up possibilities for the future of this world. It is hope that says all the deaths and suffering of this world is not in vane, it is not just to be endured until the real show begins. It means our lives count - or should count! It calls us to act and gives us the resources to act beyond our assumed capacities, simply because we act with God. (Implicit in Theology of Hope are theologies of Grace and Christology, I will turn to those in further posts.)

This view of history is also the proof against a reason controlled deistic world of laws. If God works outside of laws then God is guilty of failing to intervene in the most horrific situations. If God is restricted by the laws then God is simply a functionary and probably no more than a construct of our minds. But God who meets us in the midst of life, where life is a dynamic range of possibilities (grace) opens a place for God's activity in history. An activity that does not violate our freedom, yet calls us to a deeper freedom that involves our conscious participation in God's project of undoing the ravages of what might easily be called our sinful acts of freedom in this world.

5 comments:

steven hamilton said...

that's beautiful...

hope is a beautiful thing...

God as a passable participant, enduring in suffering love with us is a beautiful thing...

thanks!

peace

Michael Samson said...

Interesting stuff Frank. I recently had a conversation with a friend about the tragic events of WWII. His ideas about the "absence of God" struck me as odd coming from a Christian.

I have been exploring over the last little while the Mystery of the Incarnation, and trying to grasp, even if just a glimpse of the implications. God is certainly not removed form our sufferings. In the person of Christ God not only suffers for us, but with us.

In answer to my friends question about the whereabouts of God during the horrors of Nazi Germany, I answered simply that He was hanging there in the gallows. He was gasping for air in the gas chamber, and today is starving to death in Africa.

Keep it up bro! I am looking forward to these posts! :-)

One of Freedom said...

Mike Hope Theology came as a response to and counter to the Death of God theologies. You might really enjoy a foray into Hope Theology - have you read any Metz at all?

Michael Samson said...

Can't say that I have. Any recommendations???

disa said...
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