A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
I'd love to say that I am really widely read but I'm not. Mostly I read pretty mainstream fiction, some poetry, some hobby based stuff and a sprinkling of other types of non-fiction. I haven't read many profound books, but I have read some that have affected me profoundly.
"The Problem of Pain" by CS Lewis really is a profound piece of writing. At the time of my first reading of it I was seeking answers to questions that threatened to undermine my already faltering belief in a loving God. I remember being hugely frustrated at being continually told to "just have faith" by men and women much more experienced in matters of faith and wisdom than I.
"In what?" I wanted to yell. "In a god that allows all this?" I remember that confusion and anger. I carry it with me still, although perhaps not with nearly the same intensity.
I have a deep longing for a faith that is sustainable ... that withstands scrutiny. I want to believe in "more". I accept that what I'm talking about may not be faith at all. It seems to me that at it's core faith is a complete surrender of will ... an acceptance of things unknown and unknowable. This kind of faith is beyond me.
What I loved about this book is that it engages in an intellectually rigorous argument. It starts with the premise that there is a creator god, but from that point on there is a scientific-like exploration and analysis of the issues. The author attempts to reconcile the apparent dichotomy of a divine, omnipotent and loving God who yet permits the pain and suffering we see in the world around us.
In his response he argues that even God must act within the confines of natural law. To do otherwise would be contradictory to God's own nature. Thus intervening to eradicate pain and suffering risks changing the fundamental order of things ... an action that might have far reaching consequences ... certainly beyond our limited capacity to predict.
So it seems that God is inherently unable to reverse that which is caused by nature itself.
It appears then that there's no divine omnipotence, or at least not as I'd come to understand it. Not in the space time continuum in which we currently exist anyway. There is a strong inference running through this argument that once we move into the spiritual realm the laws of nature become an irrelevance. Quite a thought in itself.
I suppose I'd always thought that a Creator God worth his/her/it's salt should by their very nature have had the foresight to design in an ability to intervene to reverse pain, suffering, injustice ... to basically right the wrongs that happen and redress the balance.
If anything persuades me of the level of my own ignorance it is this. That I think myself in any way capable of judging such matters when it is so apparent that I am unable to see anything except this miniscule portion of the overall picture. To balance anything one must first see the whole, have the capacity to comprehend it, and have the wisdom, compassion and capability to act on a truly universal plane for the greater good.
Even so, it made me think about the joy and sorrow that I feel must exist at the heart of this decision to allow suffering and pain in order to protect the natural order of things.
I suppose the thing was that I'd never tried to think anything through in quite this way before. It changed my views on the nature of certainty, faith, and of what divinity itself might actually mean. We have such limited ways of thinking don't you find? I still find that. It frustrates me to catch such fleeting glimpses of a wisdom that lies so very far beyond my grasp.
On a lighter note I have also been re-reading "The Cloudspotters Guide" by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. Some books are just a joy to browse through and read. If you get the chance, have a look. There's a lot more to clouds than I ever imagined. I will never look at skyscapes in quite the same way ever again.
If you have read this far then you and I both deserve a break! Will be back with more "30 Days" posts in a few days. xx Jos
Thursday 13 on Saturday: Gratitude
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