N T Wright recently had an article in Time magazine about how “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To.” You can find it at the following link. https://time.com/5808495/coronavirus-christianity/?fbclid=IwAR0k5gvtUX5EyKDPDB3nDc7baGAhA2YuUUnGpEYVNz3K6IHSAgXnv9tHYII
Here is the final paragraph – which sums up what Dr. Wright is saying.
“It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope. New wisdom for our leaders? Now there’s a thought.”
T J Oord suggests that “We Can Lament and Explain” indicating that, while he normally agrees with Dr Wright on these issues, he has a slightly different perspective. http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/we-can-lament-and-explain?fbclid=IwAR3gc1VU4iKZO-6Dc6UbUhV_D2e4SYhRKQcsubTTF2n6upcVCyZX93ohwJ4
Here is Oord’s final paragraph: “I think we should seek explanations for what God’s will is and what God’s doing. We ought to ask what God’s power must be like in light of God’s love. We should admit God cannot prevent evil singlehandedly. But God is working against the Coronavirus. And God calls you, me, and all creation to overcome evil with love.”
Here is my response to these articles. I think that Oord has picked up on a subtle aspect of the theodicy puzzle that NT Wright missed – i.e. the fact that “God is working against the Coronavirus. And God calls you, me, and all creation to overcome evil with love.” – also that “God empowers and inspires us to love during this crisis. Our decisions matter as we care for the hurting, maintain spatial distance, share with the needy, and help in whatever way necessary. We cannot win without God’s empowering love. But God needs our cooperation to overcome this evil.’
However, it does seem to me that the pathway to the kind of belief and action that NT Wright espouses (lament) is the pathway to discovering what Oord is talking about. We know from grief studies and theories that, unless we allow ourselves to experience grief we will have difficulty getting to the point where we experience ourselves empowered in relation to our losses.
John C Carr, ThM, PhD
Retired Pastoral Psychotherapist & Educator and
Minister-in-association, Dayspring Presbyterian Church, Edmonton