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

by David Bentley Hart

David Bentley Hart is a Greek Orthdox priest and theologian/philosopher who is widely respected and admired in scholarly evangelical theological circles. He wrote a brief Christian response to the tragic devastation caused by the 2004 tsunami. Afterward, he received so many requests for a more expanded version of his editorial, that he decided to write a book, and thus, Doors of the Sea was born. It is incredibly provocative and one of my all time favorite treatments of the problem of evil. It’s not an easy read, but it’s well worth it.

Here are my favorite excerpts:

Evil is born in the will:

Evil consists not in some other separate thing standing alongside the things of creation, but is only shadow, a turning of the hearts and minds of rational creatures away from the light of God back toward the nothingness from which all things are called. This is not to say that evil is then somehow illusory: it is only to say that evil, rather than being a discrete substance, is instead a kind of ontological wasting disease…..(p73)

God does not lack anything within Himself to make evil necessary:

Hence evil can have no proper role to play in God’s determination of himself or purpose for his creatures, even if  by economy God can bring good from evil; it can in no way supply any imagined deficiency in God’s or creation’s goodness; it has no “contribution” to make. Being infinitely sufficient in himself, God has no need of a passage through sin and death to manifest his glory in his creatures, or to join them perfectly to himself, or to elevate their minds to the highest possible vision of the riches of his nature. (p74)

The problem with the theory of secondary causality:

There is of course, some comfort to be derived from the [mistaken] thought that everything that occurs at the level of secondary causality – in nature or history – is governed not only by a transcendent providence but by a universal teleology that makes every instance of pain and loss an indispensable moment in a grand scheme whose ultimate synthesis will justify all things.  But one should consider the price at which that comfort is purchased: it requires us to believe in and love a God whose good ends will be realized not only in spite of – but entirely by way of – every cruelty, every fortuitous misery, every catastrophe, every betrayal, every sin the world has ever known; it requires us to believe in the eternal spiritual necessity of a child dying an agonizing death from diphtheria, of a young mother ravaged by cancer, of tens of thousands of Asians swallowed in an instant by the sea, of millions murdered in death camps and gulags and forced famines (and so on). It is a strange thing indeed to seek peace in a universe rendered morally intelligible at the cost of a God rendered morally loathsome. (p.99)

Two Kingdoms:

He closes with the following–

Until that final glory, however, the world remains divided between two kingdoms, where light and darkness, life and death grow up together and await the harvest. In such a world, our portion is charity, and our sustenance is faith, and so it will be until the end of days. As for the comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child, I do not see the face of God but the face of his enemy. Such faith might never seem credible to someone like Ivan Karamazov, or still the disquiet of his conscience, or give him peace in place of rebellion, but neither is it a faith that his arguments can defeat: for it is a faith that set us free from optimism long ago and taught us hope instead. Now we are able to rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history or nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history’s many strands into one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that he will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, he will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes – and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any pain, for the former things will have passed away, and he that sits upon the throne will say, “Behold, I make all things new.” (p.104)

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