Tag Archives: theodicy

God, the Traffic Jammer

mad driver in a car

In two recent posts I suggested that we might think of the Creator as sort of like a “Traffic Engineer” who made a system that works for our maximum safety and minimum disasters. I qualified my remarks by admitting that God’s system doesn’t rule out traffic jams and accidents caused by freeway blowouts or wrecks at the hands of reckless drivers. You know I’m using this as a metaphor to describe a God who exercised his sovereign prerogative to invent us with the frightening freedom to choose. Right?

But to take it a little further, let me propose that sometimes he even sovereignly creates traffic jams ahead of us for any number of reasons. Maybe he wants to put us into an inconvenient delay that requires us to develop that dreaded quality called “patience.” (Personally, I’d rather learn it another way.) He might decide to “jam us up” so that we’ll be somewhere we wouldn’t otherwise have been in order to help someone else. I have a friend who got a flat on the highway and led the tow truck driver to Jesus!

I have no doubt that God plans certain gridlocks in order to protect us from accidents ahead or to transport us to certain divine appointments that we didn’t have on our calendars. But I am not at all convinced that he controls everything in his world in that same manner. Some things he “engineers” beforehand (as the Traffic Engineer) and at other times he does his after-the-fact providential thing where he “works in all things for the good of those who love him.”

But that’s not the same as saying he planned everything ahead of time. After we’ve been delayed by roadwork or were rear-ended by another car or experience engine trouble, he may – or may not – step in with a “Plan B” of sorts. His Plan B will at the very least tide us over until Plan Z when he takes us home. Continue reading


God, the Traffic Engineer

mad driver in a car

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” Job 38:4

I left off in a previous post on “Stuck in Traffic” with a description my near apoplectic plight while stuck in an interminable San Francisco traffic jam. If I’d been driving a Sherman tank I might have been able to clear a path and get to my appointment on time. As it was, in order to keep from getting out of my tiny economy car and leaping atop the cars like they do in the movies, I was forced to stay belted repeatedly reciting “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want!”

That sinking feeling of, “What the *&%$ is going on up there?!” gives way to the point when you don’t really care what’s causing the holdup. You just want it to clear up so you get where you’re going! Nevertheless, I’m the sort that requires, if not a solution, at least some kind of explanation for what’s holding my life up. Where is God when I’m trying to get someplace, especially a place he told me to go? Continue reading

What Jesus Thought About Universal Victim Blaming (Part 5 of 5)

As you can see this is one piece of a five-part essay. If you’d rather read it all at once, you can find it in barneywiget.com 

“I tell you, no!” said Jesus disagreeing in no uncertain terms with their premise that bad things happen exclusively to bad people. Spiritual blamers of all types might be well advised to take his word for it. He knows what we don’t.

Interestingly, in this case he didn’t actually posit an alternative explanation for the source of this man’s suffering. He didn’t lecture them about God’s sovereignty or about the devil’s role in human tragedies. The point he chose to make that day was that those who were so apt to assess the relative quality of others’ spirituality should do their own self-analysis. He used their opinion of other people against them and told them to do what they recommend for everyone else – repent. “Speaking of people whose behavior could very well lead to disaster, you guys should look at yourselves in the mirror and repent!”
Continue reading

What Jesus Thought About Universal Victim Blaming (Part 4 of 5)

As you can see this is one piece of a five-part essay. If you’d rather read it all at once, you can find it in barneywiget.com

Luke 13:1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” 

In the previous scene it was the disciples who presumed that bad behavior led to the man’s congenital blindness. In this one it was a number of unnamed moral critics who equated the suffering of fellow Jews with their sin. It seems they believed that the ones who were slain by sword or crushed by tower got what they deserved. They must have been “worse sinners” than everyone else who were exempt from these catastrophes. The ones who narrowly escaped Pilate’s blade or Siloam’s tower must have been more virtuous than they. That’s the way it works. Bad stuff happens to bad people and good to the good. Continue reading

Recommended reading #3

[Is God To Blame? by Boyd – Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Beecher Stowe – Speeches and Sermons of Martin Luther King Jr.]

Is God To Blame? By Gregory Boyd

I’ve read several of Boyd’s books, and this is the clearest and most concise of his on the subject of God and suffering. This might be the best book on why God allows so much pain in his world that I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a ton of them.

Though I’m not entirely convinced of the “Open View,” to which he ascribes, I love the way this guy thinks and writes. To a hyper-Calvinist, Boyd is a heretic. To me, he thinks outside the box and explains things in a biblical and intellectually provocative way.

Here’s taste of some of my favorite controversial quotes of his: Continue reading

Still more on forgiveness (forgiving God)

Heaven renders unanswerable “why” questions irrelevant and inspires us to live with them in hope. Gregory A. Boyd

Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many! Mother Teresa

 Back at the beginning of the bleakness, over Chinese food my friend Joe asked me if my faith in God was in tact since life had become so incomprehensibly dark for me. He was concerned for me and wanted to know how to best support me in my dark night of the soul. I told him that though I didn’t question God’s character, I wondered if he had very “good judgment.” Joe and I had been friends for many years, and he wasn’t used to hearing me talk quite that way, but since he asked, I thought it best to answer honestly. With flushed face he promised to pray for me, which I obviously needed and gratefully welcomed. Continue reading