God Can't by Thomas Jay Oord - Introduction, Chapters 1-4

Pinga

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Please find attached the introduction to this book (or chapter 0).

Thread rules are cc'd below:
  • This study is designed as a book study. Participants should have read the chapter. If the chapter dialogue creates thoughts for those who have not read the chapter, then, the recommendation is for that individual to start a separate thread. An example of that is the thread on the definition of "evil" made open to the full wondercafe2 community. At some point, the thread may be moved to the general population to allow for more free-roaming dialogue.
  • Posts must be able to be read by the leader.
  • Currently, I am thinking one chapter every two weeks. Will see how that goes for people and adjust accordingly.
  • All discussion must be directly relevant to the book. Tangents, as determined by the study leader, will be moved to their own thread.
  • Please do not "read ahead" or at least do not bring in topics from a future chapter until we are up to that chapter.
  • Citing other sources is welcome as long as they shed light on the material being discussed. Irrelevant citations are not.
  • Due to the nature of a study, failure to follow the rules are more likely to result in a thread ban.

It is currently not open so that the moderators can approve it to be moved.
 

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Pinga

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You are recommended to journal making private notes, or public notes here.

There are questions as you see in the book. Let's have your general response to the introduction, and after a few days, I will add the questions.
That basically mirrors how a study group works in my life: check in with general response, then, questions the author has posed.

Hope that works for you.
 

Pinga

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I have read the introduction. Glanced over it when I first got the book, which made me propose this study.
For those who are reading along, you will see where the "evil" thread arose. In his descriptions he includes such items as cancer, miscarriages as well as those items caused by individuals intentionally to do harm, such as shooting. (How do you define "evil"). It will be interesting to see if this shifts as we explore further chapters, ie are they included only for the reader.

I have just re-read it, with a bit more focus.

A minor note for me was the reference to God as "He". It may be wonder a bit about Oord's background and writing. Just something that I am noting for future exploration.

He made me laugh out loud a few times as I was reading. An example was his response of "Really" on page 2 to the Russell Moore's response .

Enjoy his style of writing the introduction at least. I like the use of individuals and story to help explore points. I think that is part of what makes wondercafe2 good for me, is that people bring their life story, and their own learnings to this place. I am expecting, based on the questions, that we will continue to do that, and thereby enhance our learnings and deepen our understandings.

One interesting bit was that the concept of an all powerful God, including the existence of evil being the cited by atheists re their non-belief (page 10). I wonder about citations for this point? It seems logical to me and I seem to remember it being part of points from wondercafe.

Two basic presumptions are set: "God Always Loves" and "Genuine Evil Occurs". What do you think?
 

Mendalla

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Oddly, I don't think that the pat answers to the problem of evil are what drove me away from a traditional understanding of God. I have heard them before, to be sure, but not in a context of dealing with immediate tragedy.

One thing I note, is that he doesn't seem to mention whether he has ever met any survivors who bought the pat answers, who found comfort in them. My guess is that such exist, but either he hasn't encountered them or they don't fit his thesis.

In the end, I didn't find anything special or mind-blowing here. He's setting the stage and it's a well-trodden one on my experience. The question is where he goes next. Is it as life changing as he says?

Just some first thoughts after reading the intro.
 

paradox3

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When my mom died a year and a half ago, I did find comfort in the notion that she was in a "better place". At her memorial service we sang the hymn containing the line, "Their suffering is over, their spirits are set free." This, too, brought me comfort. However, her death did not involve evil or even tragedy so I am not really in the cohort Oord is addressing with his thesis.

Like @Mendalla, I found most of the material in the introduction to be familiar territory & wondered where the author is going next. There are some clues in the titles of the upcoming chapters. I am also reminded of Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People

To answer Pinga's question, yes, I believe genuine evil exists. And yes, I would say that God always loves.

Does God also judge? This is more of a conundrum for me (with my universalist leanings) but I suspect this is not within the scope of the book.
 

BetteTheRed

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I am eternally confused by the divorce between Godde and evil (and at present, I need to differentiate "my" vision of "god" with the author's). I know that evil can be defined as "that which grievously hurts several or more people". If Godde is a panentheistic "everything", then how is evil not a necessary part of god, as right needs left. Why do we exist in dualism?
 

Waterfall

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And you would think if God was all loving and sent his son to speak on his behalf he would have told him to be more clear with his information in order to keep Christianity unified.....instead we have 3 million interpretations and 2000 years of murderous behaviour in the name of God.
 

Ritafee

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A minor note for me was the reference to God as "He". It may be wonder a bit about Oord's background and writing. Just something that I am noting for future exploration.
A minor note for me was the absence of the word 'alleged' in reference to the actions of Stephen Paddock (why use his real name) as the instrument of evil. It made me wonder a bit about Stephen Paddock's motivation which as far as I know is not yet understood. Something I noted for further exploration (Final records released by police in Las Vegas mass shooting Associated Press Published 2:48 p.m. PT Jan. 3, 2019) "The FBI is expected to soon release a report including a behavioral analysis of Paddock."

One interesting bit was that the concept of an all powerful God, including the existence of evil being the cited by atheists re their non-belief (page 10). I wonder about citations for this point?
This? ...
  • "In fact, polls indicate the existence of evil is the number-one reason atheists cite for rejecting belief in God."
This line gave me a bit of a giggle ...
  • "If you want to believe in God — this book is for you." p.14
Prepare to Reconstruct!


 

Pinga

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That part "prepare to reconstruct" also made me smile.

Thanks for your notes re Paddock. Great point.
 

Pinga

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And you would think if God was all loving and sent his son to speak on his behalf he would have told him to be more clear with his information in order to keep Christianity unified.....instead we have 3 million interpretations and 2000 years of murderous behaviour in the name of God.
Anything you would like to add re Oord's writing?
 

Ritafee

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7. What question do you hope this book will answer?
How can we learn to stop blaming God and take responsibility for the evil that we do in God's name?
"And yet it is not violence, but good, that overcomes evil."
 

Pinga

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I am going to put the questions here to make it easy for folks to quote & reply. (Thanks to RitaFee for doing that for question 7!)

Questions from the book:
1. What answers have you heard for why God causes or allows evil? What do you think of them?
2. What experiences of evil — personal or public — have shaped your view of God?
3. Why do some people think all evil is necessary for some greater good?
4. Why does it matter that what God considers loving matches what we consider loving?
6. Why should we think some pain and suffering is unnecessary or pointless?
6. Is it easy for you to believe God is always good? Why or why not?
7/ What question do you hope this book will answer?

What other questions would you have asked?

EDITED: Changed from numbered list, to a series of questions with a number preceding. This aids those who wish to quote it.
 
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Nancy

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I once saw something I thought as pure evil, juxtaposed with the complete opposite, and it was in a church setting. A really good person was being harassed by someone, and it was tipping him into becoming unbalanced. I've seen lots of unsavoury things, but this one felt evil. I wonder if it felt evil because of the contrast?
 

Luce NDs

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I once saw something I thought as pure evil, juxtaposed with the complete opposite, and it was in a church setting. A really good person was being harassed by someone, and it was tipping him into becoming unbalanced. I've seen lots of unsavoury things, but this one felt evil. I wonder if it felt evil because of the contrast?
I was told that i'd never experience such things in church .... phhhhhew ...
 

Nancy

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I guess I should correct myself: I was witness to the effects of what was going on, although it happened outside of church, but it involved two church people. I don't see people as completely good or completely evil...That would be simplistic. But I remember the strong sense that something evil was going on and I didn't know how to deal with it, because my everyday world doesn't experience evil. And I believe God is always good. Eager to read the book.
 

Pinga

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1. What answers have you heard for why God causes or allows evil? What do you think of them?
Oh so many. After the twins "God needed them." "It's God's way". "God only gives you what you can handle" I am sure there were others. I remember dialogues on wondercafe with RevJohn and DaisyJane on these responses.
2. What experiences of evil — personal or public — have shaped your view of God?
This question plays on my definition of evil.
I consider hackers evil -- especially those who are in the "mob" type category.
I consider cancer evil (though I recognize others do not).
I am ready to consider other words for evil.
Funny, I do not consider someone who is mentally ill who performs an act, evil.
I do think a sociopath is evil -- but a sociapath may also be defined as mentally ill - and hence get a buy.

In the current news, I would say that the man who murdered the gay men in Toronto and has pleaded guilty - is a sociopath, maybe mental ill, and his actions were evil.
3. Why do some people think all evil is necessary for some greater good?
I have no clue.
4. Why does it matter that what God considers loving matches what we consider loving?
It probably helps us to justify the existence of God - makes it easier
5. Why should we think some pain and suffering is unnecessary or pointless?
Interesting question & phrasing.
Pain and suffering are unnecessary in my mind when they can be treated or avoided.
Yet, as children, we learn that doing some things result in pain which in turn mean we don't do them. Logical consequences. Not experiencing pain can be deadly.
Ditto for suffering. We learn if we treat people badly, we are likely to be treated badly ourselves.
So pain and suffering do have purpose. Yet, we shouldn't want to stay there, nor should we wish to inflict it on others. Some might argue that grounding a child, stopping them from attending an event is inflicting suffering; however, if it was done as a result of an action they did (or didn't ) do, then it falls under logical consequences. Hopefully this makes sense.
6. Is it easy for you to believe God is always good? Why or why not?
Well, I don't see God as making changes in life, so yes, I can presume that God is always desiring to be good.
7. What question do you hope this book will answer?
I hope it helps me to have conversations and answer questions such as these better!
What other questions would you have asked?
I would have asked "How do you define evil?" as I feel that is part of the input to the questions.

*edit** apologize for the weird spacing here. can't seem to make it "right"
 
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Redbaron

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I do have a few thoughts, but still unorganized at this point. In response to # 1, especially at funerals, I've heard a lot of 'comforting' comments which, frankly, were likely anything but. Especially the 'better place' one, and the 'God needed an angel' one. #5, I also wonder about the necessity and the purpose (if any) of unavoidable suffering (especially concerning, but not limited to, my spouse). That is one of my big motivators to reading the book and dialogueing about it.
 

Pinga

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I feel that @DaisyJane could probably give us the litany of answers to #1. I wonder if the comments are different as shard to ministers?
 
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