James Wood—Richard Mourdock’s Dilemma

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...religiously speaking, there are only three possible responses: you can continue to believe in a God who knows in advance the number of our days; you can sharply limit your conception of God’s power, by positing a deity who does not know in advance what we will do, or who cannot control what we will do; or you can scrap the whole idea of divinity. The problem with the first position is that most believers, as Richard Mourdock did not do, run away from the dread implications of their own beliefs; and the problem with the second position is that it is not clear why such a limited deity would be worth worshipping. So cut Richard Mourdock some slack. He’s more honest than most of his evangelical peers; and his naïve honesty at least helpfully illuminates a horrid abyss.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLife EthicsPhilosophyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyApologeticsTheodicy

5 Comments
Posted October 28, 2012 at 5:58 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Knapsack wrote:

What fascinating here is how slowly, paragraph by paragraph, line by line, the opening geniality and inclusiveness slips into caustic contempt and unveiled disgust with religion, theology, or God. The parenthetical (He is an evangelical Christian) is where the curve bends, and the rant really begins, but as a document I think it says more about the author than the subject he claims to treat.

October 28, 7:50 am | [comment link]
2. C. Wingate wrote:

I was unwilling to read past Wood’s statement as a “fact” what is clearly his competing interpretation of the reference of a pronoun.

October 28, 9:14 am | [comment link]
3. Terry Tee wrote:

I was left wondering about two things.  One, he never seems to consider the distinction between God being the author of all things, and God turning all things to good - which is surely crucial.  Second, his assertion that a God who could not know and foresee all things would not be worth worshipping.  We love, perhaps even adore people (parents, spouses, children) knowing perfectly well that they are not omniscient.  This article is rather like a not very good undergraduate essay, I am afraid.

October 28, 11:30 am | [comment link]
4. anglicanconvert wrote:

I thought Wood wrote a pretty good essay.  When I first heard Mourdoch’s statement, I also thought it was a pretty standard Christian response.  If I were to criticize Wood, it would be that he does not acknowledge the enormous contemporary literature on the topic of the problem of evil.  Anthony Kenny is an absolutely top-rate philosopher, but he certainly did not say the last word on the topic.  Because of its really sharp and clear statement of the issue, Wood’s essay could be used as a segue into a truly meaningful discussion of the problem of evil among believers and non-believers alike.

October 28, 12:26 pm | [comment link]
5. Formerly Marion R. wrote:

” The problem with the first position is that most believers, as Richard Mourdock did not do, run away from the dread implications of their own beliefs. . . .”


Note that whether believers run away from the logical consequences of their beliefs is a distinct “problem” from whether the things they believe are true or false.


“. . . . and the problem with the second position is that it is not clear why such a limited deity would be worth worshipping.”


Which, similarly, is a distinct “problem” from whether any diety is indeed limited as claimed. 

Whether any deities actually exist, what characteristics they have if they do exist, what our reactions should be to their absence/existence and to their real or preferred characteristics in either case, are all very distinct questions.  This sort of cocktail party atheism is sophomoric precisely because it vacillates wildly among each question without ever genuinely following any of them to a conclusion. At root is not a quest for Truth but a problem with Dad.

October 28, 4:43 pm | [comment link]
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