We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Monday, May 20, 2013

God is a Choice We Can Make

In a piece entitled, "Biblical Scholarship and the Right to Know," biblical scholar Bart Ehrman describes his personal journey from a fundamentalist Christian faith through liberal Christianity to a humanistic faith.   He concludes,
"I ended up leaving Christianity and becoming an agnostic not because of my scholarship but because I simply couldn’t understand how there could be a good and powerful God who’s in control of this world given all the pain and misery in it. We live in a world in which a child starves to death every five seconds, a world where almost 300 people die every hour of malaria. We live in a world ravaged by earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes and drought and famine and epidemics, and I just got to a point where my previous solutions no longer made sense."
One does not argue with a person who thoughtfully and in good conscience comes to the conclusion that evil is so prevalent in our world that believing in a loving God makes no sense.  Rather than believe that such a God could tolerate evil, Ehrman chooses not to believe.  This is a faith choice, and it is one others make.  It deserves respect.

It is not, however, the only choice thoughtful persons of good conscience make.  Faith in a loving God is also a choice.  It requires only a shift in perspective and in the set of questions we ask.  If, that is, there is no God at all, then how did life come to be on Earth against astronomical odds—and not just "be" but evolve in amazing and intricate ways?  If there be no loving God, then how does one account for the good that so often accompanies evil?  And for each child that starves, how many experience a nurturing love that is so much more than a biological mechanism for preserving the species?  This is not to make little of the suffering but to understand that there is much more to life than suffering even in the midst of suffering.  Ehrman is entirely correct in his assessment of our world, but it is a world also "ravaged" by vast amounts of good, small and large, which surely rivals the evil we see in the world and in many quiet corners of the planet outweighs it.

We have to choose.  Listening to a heart struck by awe at the grandeur of the universe and the beauty of  a lake, struck by the kindness of another, inspired by the story of a Galilean carpenter or an Indian prince, and inspired by the Spirit—listening to a heart touched by these things is another choice.  It makes sense, too.  No choice should be made lightly, and those who still pursue goodness and truth whatever their choice should be respected.  We choose best when we understand that whatever choice we make is a matter of faith and there are real choices we can make.  Amen.