Friday, March 01, 2019

Book Review: God Can't: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils by Thomas Oord

God Can't: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils
Author: Thomas Oord
Paperback, 212 pages
Published January 5, 2019 by SacraSage Press

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the outset, I should say that I mostly agree with Thomas Jay Oord, and I pretty much knew that before I started reading this book, so I was predisposed to like it. I don't believe that God is "up there" orchestrating every detail of our lives, causing or even "allowing" the pain and suffering and evil and death that we experience in our lives. I don't believe it works that way. And Oord does a good job of explaining why that is a really good conclusion to come to based upon Scripture as well as everything we experience in life and know to be true.

Oord pushes back on the common answers and cliches people use about how "everything happens for a reason" and "it's all part of God's plan", and "his ways are higher than our ways" so, mystery. And even though Thomas Oord has been a professor and theologian for many years, this book is at a popular level, which makes it easy to read.

Key quotes that set up the book:

"The big ideas in this book share two assumptions, and I want to mention them before going further. The first is that God loves us all, all the time. God loves everyone and everything, all creatures great and small. God never stops loving, even for one moment, because God’s nature is love. God listens, feels, and responds by acting for good. God wills our well-being, not our woe being."

"It doesn’t help to say God loves us if we have no idea what love is!"

"By contrast, I believe what God thinks is loving matches what we think is loving. Our intuitions of love fit God’s view of love. We best define this shared meaning when love is understood as acting intentionally, in response to God and others, to promote overall well-being. In short, love aims to do good. That view of love applies to Creator and creatures. God always loves, and God’s love is always good. Every idea I advocate in this book assumes God is loving."

The five chapters that make up his argument/solution to the problem of evil are the following:

1. God Can't Prevent Evil
2. God Feels Our Pain
3. God Works to Heal
4. God Squeezes Good from Bad
5. God Needs Our Cooperation

He says that together, these five ideas give us an actual solution to the problem of evil, but they aren't satisfying on their own. All five are essential to see the big picture.

I really love this part towards the end of the book:

"I no longer fear God. It took a while to arrive where I am today. I had to overcome fear-based theologies. I realized the Old Testament statement, “fear God,” is better phrased, “respect God.” I came to believe biblical stories portraying God as vengeful were inaccurate. I had to ignore voices in culture, the church, and history that preach this fear. The key to overcoming my fear was realizing God always loves me. God’s perfect love cast out my fear of God!"

From the official blurb on Amazon and Goodreads:
"Hurting people ask heartfelt questions about God and suffering. Some "answers" they receive appeal to mystery: “God’s ways are not our ways”. Some answers say God allows evil for a greater purpose. Some say evil is God's punishment.

The usual answers fail. They don't support the truth God loves everyone all the time. God Can't gives a believable answer to why a good and powerful God doesn't prevent evil.

Author Thomas Jay Oord says God’s love is inherently uncontrolling. God loves everyone and everything, so God can't control anyone or anything. This means God cannot prevent evil singlehandedly. God can’t stop evildoers, whether human, animal, organisms, or inanimate objects and forces.

In God Can't, Oord gives a plausible reason why some are healed but many others are not. God always works to heal everyone, but sometimes our bodies, organisms, or other creatures do not cooperate with God's healing work. Or the conditions of creation are not right for the healing God wants to do.

God Can't is for those who want answers to tragedy, abuse, and other evils that make sense."

God Can't Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle Edition, Audible Audiobook

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