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From our Canon Chaplain

May 7, 2019

Theodicy: What are we to say, or can we say about evil ?

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

There is hardly a week between Sundays, when we preach the Gospel of God, that does not present yet more evidence of the presence of evil of every kind. 

The questions of ' where is God in relation to evil ?' or 'where are we in response to evil within God's creation ?' or ' where are we in relation to God in the presence of evil ?' - are raised, if not overtly then by implication in many of the conversations we have with one another and with fellow members of the Body of Christ.

I thought I had a kind of answer by introducing to the discussion the awesome reality of human free-will.It sounds almost convincing to say that God's desire for our freely given response of love has to provide the option of refusal and rejection - which might somehow account for evil. But in the end that will not do. There are too many obvious exceptions to a simple denial of love becoming the source of evil.

Then there is the 'accidental' argument - that nature,including human nature, is prone to accidents. It can go wrong - with resulting evil and destruction. Not quite good enough if we are to continue to say 'Almighty God.'

At one stage in my theological development I embraced a kind of progressive approach to the notion of creation, believing that because it was incomplete it might also be imperfect. But I have to remember that 'God looked at what He had made and saw that it was VERY good.'

In the end we always have the 'war in Heaven' approach with its fallen angels and Michael defending the righteousness of God. Actually the Book of Revelation has the answer to this problem if we are brave enough to go there. But living in our present age, surrounded by manifestations of hatred and violence on a vast scale and human indecency and malignancy on a more local level these theological and somewhat mythical answers often will not do.

In the end, the 'Why does God let......' questions have to remain unanswered with a starkly direct honesty about it all - 'I don't know.'  On the other hand - and it's a very big hand - we are people of the resurrection,people who trust this often incomprehensible God and people who live in the context of new and redeemed life.

I guess we need to look deeply into the meaning of ascetic theology !                                                          

                                                           Easter Blessings,

                                                           JOHN

April 2, 2019

Only God loves me more than my dog

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am unashamedly going to use this Lenten opportunity to depart from issues and topics - given the contemplative and potentially peaceful character of the season - in order to talk about Ruby.

 Ruby is my little dog - a beautiful and 'diverse' combination of Yorkie, Chihuahua and a touch of Poodle. The poodle component contributes to a high level of canine intelligence. She is of uncertain origin and age, having been a rescue dog.

While obviously I am engaging in a fair amount of anthropomorphic projection (what's wrong with that ?) I find my relationship with Ruby to be profoundly spiritual and, for me, comforting and reassuring as to the ultimate meaning of life, love and relatedness.

In fact, in the simplicity and directness of this mutual affection, I experience wordlessly the presence and love of God in creation. The key ingredient of this connection is its being totally unconditional. Granted this has to do with food, walks outside, safety and a lot of sleep - but it is so eloquent in its simplicity and immediacy. It is also ultimately forgiving - absent of any hint of resentment when mistakes and unintentional hurts occur.

Some time ago, until his death, I spent twelve years of my life with a horse. His name was 'Upstate' (sire Secretary of State, grandsire Secretariat).

Our relationship was one that brought home to me the deepest meaning of trust. This half ton of powerful animal could easily have killed me with a single swipe of his hoof.

Despite my sitting astride him, signalling to him with leg pressure, rein pulling and tapping with a whip, State never objected - and when I had occasional 'involuntary dismounts' he simply waited patiently for me to get back in the saddle.

Horses don't merely endure our riding and training them because, as some say, they are too dumb to know better, they partner with us in a joyful expression of energy and shared movement. As Eric Liddell said: ' When I run I can feel God's pleasure.'

On one very memorable occasion, after we had ridden together and I was watering State at the pond we caught each other's gaze for a moment. In that eye contact there was a clear communication - 'we are both,although of completely different species, creatures of the same God. '

My friends, in this season of quiet reflection and deeper inner contemplation, let us thank God that the living creatures with whom we share this earth and this existence, can give us such awareness of the beauty and love of our creation and of our Creator.

Blessings,

JOHN