Wednesday, December 12, 2007




As regular readers of the Insightful Pontificator know, I am a big fan of Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg. While we disagree on many issues, we share a generally cynical (many would say dark, I would say realistic) view of life and, if I can say so myself, an entertaining and effective writing style.

One of the larger points on which Neil and I disagree is religion. While I am a practicing and rather serious Catholic (though, unfortunately, at times my faith has a hard time penetrating my often hard and cynical veneer), Neil leans toward agnosticism, though recently I have detected some search for his childhood faith, or at least the traditions of that faith, in his columns. That is a very hopeful sign.

In today’s column, however, Neil’s agnosticism was highlighted when he wrote of the Colorado church shootings and related them to his concepts of a Malevolent, Insecure, or Bumbling God.

Here is the reply I sent to Neil:

Neil Steinberg
Chicago Sun-Times



God couldn’t have arrived in time to prevent those horrible shootings in Colorado. God, unfortunately, has to work through people, and people have the option of saying “No” to God, which they do on an all too regular basis. This is the concept of free will that permeates Roman Catholic, and much other Christian and non-Christian, theology.

Your concepts of the Malevolent God, the Insecure God, or the Bumbling God, while advanced tongue-in-cheek, are not necessary to explain at least some of the world’s suffering. The concept of the non-omnipotent God is far more effective. God is not, as many suppose, omnipotent because He is forced to work through people who have the power to refuse Him. Certainly, God did not will those shootings; it was the shooter who defied God’s will that we all love each other as brothers and sisters in Him. The shooter said no to God and massive suffering resulted.

Explaining the suffering wrought by others, such as the Colorado shootings, is made easier once one accepts the concept of free will, though this concept does little or nothing to lessen the pain. (One might question God’s granting us free will, but then one must ask himself if he would rather God had made him an automaton. The answer should be self-evident.) What is far harder to explain is suffering brought on by natural tragedies, disease, etc. Believers eventually learn that all things cannot be explained, but must be accepted until we are imbued with greater knowledge when we do meet with our Creator face to face. Such a concept is understandably harder for non-believers to accept.

Thanks, Neil.

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