Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Hammer and Anvil(c) NostrildamusI have been reading C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain as part of my research on theodicy. He has some things to say that might relate to the recent scandal involving Ted Haggard.

According to Lewis: Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us. We 'have all we want' is a terrible saying when 'all' does not include God.

We find God an interruption. As St. Augustine says somewhere, 'God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full - there's nowhere for Him to put it.' Or as a friend of mine said, 'We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it's there for emergencies but he hopes he'll never have to use it.' Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as he leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call 'our own life' remains agreeable we will surrender it to him. What then can God do in our interests but make 'our own life' less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness? It is just here, where God's providence seems at first to be most cruel, that the Divine humility, the stooping down of the Highest, most deserves praise.

Lewis says elsewhere that God 'whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.'

I had a professor of Spiritual formation say once in class three years ago that God had told her 'You will know me in one of two ways: through prayer or through suffering.'

I don't mean to sound like some self-righteous idiot about all this. The circumstances have to be devastating to Ted Haggard, his wife and his children. It is also devastating to his church. But at the same time, it can be redemptive. Like a father who brutishly snatches his child out of the path of an oncoming truck, perhaps this public scandal is evidence not of God's anger but of His love. He loves Ted Haggard - and the rest of us - too much to allow us to remain complacent with evil.

We would not hesitate to slap a child's hand if he were about to drink deadly poison. The slap might hurt, and the child might cry, but he would not die. Is the slap because we are angry with the child? Or is our anger aroused because of the threat to someone we love? And that anger motivates us to act, to remove the danger from the beloved.

But here again, I haven't finished the book. Or my learning.

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