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God Can't: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils Kindle Edition
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The usual answers fail. They don't support the truth that 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, organism, 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.
Some people think God causes or allows suffering to teach us lessons or build our character. God Can't disagrees. Oord says God squeezes good from the evil God didn’t want in the first place. God uses pain and suffering without willing or even allowing it.
Most people think God can overcome evil singlehandedly. In God Can't, Oord says God needs cooperation for love to reign now and later. This leads to a better view of the afterlife called “relentless love.” It rejects traditional ideas of heaven, hell, and annihilation. Relentless love holds to the possibility all creatures and all creation will respond to God’s love.
God Can't is written in understandable language. Thomas Jay Oord's status as a world-renown theologian brings credibility to the book’s radical ideas. He explains these ideas through true stories, illustrations, and scripture.
God Can't is for those who want answers to tragedy, abuse, and other evils that make sense!
What They're Saying...
“If conventional notions of God make less and less sense to you, you’ll find Thomas Jay Oord’s new book a breath of fresh air. Simply put, “God Can’t” presents an understanding of God that thoughtful, ethical people can believe in.”
-- Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
"I did not want this book to end. I wish Dr. Oord had written it 100 years ago, or 1000 years ago... To find your understanding of life and your love for God renewed, read this book."
-- Dr. Karen Strand Winslow, Ph.D., Biblical and Jewish Studies Professor of Bible, Azusa Pacific University
“As a clinical psychologist working with people in trauma, I owe Thomas Jay Oord an enormous debt of gratitude for recasting the so-called problem of evil in terms that are conceptually satisfying, theologically consistent, and pastorally liberating.”
-- Dr Roger Bretherton- Principal Lecturer at the University of Lincoln (UK), Chair of the British Association of Christians in Psychology
“Victims of trauma sometimes hear theological responses that imply their suffering is somehow “God’s will." A more careful theological reflection on the nature of the power of a God who is love can help. Oord gives us a clear and compelling alternative in this profoundly insightful and admirably concrete and accessible book.”
-- Dr. Anna Case-Winters, Professor of Theology at McCormick Theological Seminary
“I know of no book that speaks to suffering with the depth of theological sophistication and psychological sensitivity as God Can’t. This book is a rare combination of depth and accessibility, truly written for the wounded. I recommend it to my students, parishioners, and therapy clients.”
-- Dr. Brad D. Strawn, Professor of the Integration of Psychology and Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary
"So much blood, sweat, and tears have been caused by confusing teaching about God's power. Oord clears away the idea that God could set aside all other factors and just make anything at all happen at any time. Thanks, Tom, for guiding us so wisely."
- John B. Cobb, Jr., Professor Emeritus Claremont School of Theology
"So many people have given up on faith because the version of God that was presented to them was, frankly unbelievable ... unworthy of belief by thinking, ethical people. "God Can't" presents an understanding of God that thoughtful, ethical people can believe in."
- Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
"Many people grapple with the problem of a loving God coexisting with pain and suffering. But I know of no book that speaks to the issue with the depth of theological sophistication and psychological sensitivity as "God Can't." This book is a rare combination of depth and accessibility, truly written for the wounded. I recommend it to my students, parishioners, and therapy clients."
- Brad D. Strawn, Evelyn and Frank Freed Professor of the Integration of Psychology and Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B07MP93F1W
- Publisher : SacraSage Press (January 5, 2019)
- Publication date : January 5, 2019
- Language : English
- File size : 1215 KB
- Simultaneous device usage : Unlimited
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 214 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #110,161 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on February 6, 2020
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This was a 1 in difficulty: an easy read which nonetheless introduces some theological terms and concepts to the reader. I am very stream of consciousness when I take notes, and usually when I talk too, sorry about that.
This book's prologue starts off by setting the bar high: where was God during the Las Vegas shooting? Since that is the first two pages I believe Oord seeks to answer the long troubling question of Theodicy (justifying God): "if God is all powerful and all loving why do bad things happen?" (to roughly summarize the argument by Epicurus).
After reading Oord's four real life stories of when horrible things happened to people he knows, and the "theological" reasoning these families were given, it makes me cringe.
The ground for the whole book and everything Oord says, or claims he makes, is upon "God is loving." And it is this love which corresponds to how we see love, though Gods holy love is perfect while ours is not [last sentence is assumed based on the text].
"Ultimately evil is evil...from God's perspective and ours."
Oord doesnt hide from his books title: "God cant prevent abuse, tragedy, and evil." Before you raise a stake and stoke the embers give it a moment. I believe I know where he is heading.
"It makes no sense to say God allows genuine evil."
In keeping with the above quote's concept, I absolutely applaud Oord grounding the "who," or the action, of God in the person of Jesus. Would Jesus allow someone's rape, or would He stop it?--there you go, that is your image of the eternal God; dont deviate from it. (Heb. 1:3; cant beat that drum loud enough.)
"If Jesus wouldnt allow evil, neither would God."
He goes on to state some of the things that scripture and some theologians say God can not do. He finished up by stating: "God can not oppose God's own nature."
This leads to Oord introducing how one should view God through scripture. This is shown above with "God 'looks' like Jesus," but he digs in even more by speaking to the majority witness of scripture being "God is love," and deviation from that, that which doesnt look like Jesus, reveals something that doesnt have God's blessing, like the slaying of the Canaanites [my paraphrase and analysis on the subject].
While speaking to the self-limitation of God Oord says that God is not externally controlled and lists external powers, natural laws and Satan as three examples of that which does not control God. I may have been misusing "self-limitation," as he goes on to say that "...God's nature of love directs what God does."
Oord introduces the beautiful concept of Kenosis, and as a good teacher lays out this scriptural concept in a simple way.
When speaking to our freedom as we are created by God with, its limitations and its extents, Oord says "Automations are predetermined machines not capable of real relationships nor able to love freely." Agreed: sans the freedom to do otherwise what does "love" even mean?
"In fact, believing God loves us, others, and all creation is the most important idea of our lives," [my insert: Jn. 3:16; world = Kosmos].
Oord speaks to our working with God to make things happen. God is always lovingly inviting us or calling to us, He never fails to. We, on the other hand arent as reliable. Be it salvation, sanctification or listening and obeying to hand the bag lady a $20.
He finished Ch 1 on a really good note. I'm not going to lay it all out there--read the book--but for Oord to passionately affirm that your pain is not a part of some divine blueprint...amen, amen, amen. If it were I may worship that god but I could not love him.
This Ch begins speaking to compassion (suffering with) using the story of the good samaritan as a great example of the kind of Christlike compassion we should have. Though as things work, while people can empathize with us, our experiences (and pain) are unique to each of us and while one may be able to understand a lot of it no one "gets" it all perfectly as we endured it. "What if someone existed who always felt what we felt?" He does. God gets it. (I believe where Oord goes in this ch will remind me of Moltmann's "Crucified God" where he tells the story of Auschwitz prisoners. [Edit: he did. Amazing story.]
"An empathetic God not only feels our suffering but also prompts others to love in specific ways."
Pay attention to this. God may be placing you in just the place to love someone like and for Him.
"...God always feels our pain...we can sometimes feel God's love," is a walk aways from ch 2, but just a small slice out of the total chapter. Another of the major take aways is practically why we should be cautious and always nuance certain concepts like immutable and impassive when we speak about God, if we even speak about them.
Oord finishes off this chapter by listing six ways one can more greatly experience the presence of God. Great suggestions; practical suggestions.
"To be Transformed we must transform our beliefs."
This chapter is where Oord speaks to divine healing. Rightly, he makes the point that divine healing must make sense of those who are and arent healed: the "why" must reflect a loving God. "God is omnipresent and omniloving." With that in mind it is antithetical to ask God to come help us (or, might I add, to "invite God in" via prayer during a time of study or to ask him to be with us...hes already there, he already is). So what does an omnipresent, omniloving God look like?
"God is always at work everywhere healing to the utmost possible, given the circumstances."
Also revelant to this topic, God works alongside people and creation.
"All healing--no matter how it occurs--has God as its source."
This was an interesting chapter because as I lean on the spiritual side heavier when dealing with this topic (the battle of God against evil personified), while Oord leans on the physical. Not that he is discounting God but that God is battling physical roadblocks, so to say, all the way down to a cellular or possibly subatomic level. While I still personally throw my weight behind the battle being in the spiritual realm I have no doubt that this, like much of theology may end up being a situation where we are both right: God battles the physical and the evil spiritual to achieve our healing. God doesnt always get what He wants (God would have it that none perish).
Oord begins the next chapter with a deep question, "if good comes from suffering and God wants what's good, is suffering Gods will?"
After speaking about Joni Tada's life, what she overcame, and how, against what she says, God wasnt punishing her with a broken neck, we get the following: "...God squeezes good out of the evil He didnt want in the first place. To reconstruct, we should believe God responds to evil by working with creation for good." This to highlight that in spite of the horrible injury she got so long ago, an injury God did not cause, He worked [synergeo: being a partner in labor] it for the good of those who love Him.
"Believing everything happens for a (divinely ordained) reason makes no sense." As an amen to this: if everything happened for a divine reason then God is the origin of good and evil and we have no need for Satan, nor have we ever had a need for him. That is saying that the God who is holy love is a kind of love that we cant understand, and the word love means something much more evil and sinister when attributed to God than it does when attributed to man. This would mean that human conception of love is kinder and more pure than Gods. If that is the case then what does "love" even mean, are we to love God and neighbor in the same way this picture of God has loved us?
"Evil is not part of a divine conspiracy."
Oord ends this chapter speaking to sin and evil bring their own horrible outcomes; God doesnt bring the pain.
Oord begins this chapter with a wonderful concept.
"Creatures play a necessary part in God's goals to restore creation and help us flourish. Let's call this radical belief 'indispensable love synergy.'"
Synergy indicates that this is a working together of, for instance, two forces, and in this case they are working together for a mutuality desired outcome: the restoration of creation.
"Believing God's love is relational and uncontrolling gives life meaning, because it implies that our lives matter."
The main point behind Oord's indispensable love synergy is that if we are creatures working synergistically with God then we should be about our Fathers business in this world. He makes a point to properly translate the ground for "synergy:" Rm 8:28 from the RSV shows that God is not playing favorites, He "works for good with those who love Him." I imagine those who dont love Him arent looking to work with Him.
In addressing the afterlife I believe Oord does justice to a loving God. The relentless love view is a view of God who never stops loving and seeking a relationship with us. Never. I'm reminded here of how the gates of the New Jerusalem never shut.
This was a very good and accessable book. Oord laid out a theodicy which should help people heal; a healed people is what God wants.
I think the world of you, Doc. I disagree with you in one area which I mentioned above: I dont discount at all that free people are using their freewill to do that which God doesnt want, and this could possibly work down to the subatomic level (you introduced me to this concept in The Uncontrolling Love of God). But I believe theodicy takes on more dimensions when one involves evil personified. I also dont believe you make a theological sacrifice by seeing Satan involved. I know that you may disagree for other reasons and that's cool. You have a gift, Doc, keep writing. [Oord commented to this post on FB that this theodicy model does not necessarily remove the demonic, one need just add them to additional negative influences.]
In God Can’t, Oord offers a solution to the problem of evil. God’s essential nature is love, which Oord defines as acting intentionally to promote overall well-being. He defines evil as useless and pointless pain and suffering. Because a loving God could never allow abuse and evil, Oord concludes God simply cannot stop evil by acting alone. God can use suffering to bring about good but God does not cause or allow it. Rather, God is continually working to heal to the utmost in every moment, given the circumstances of life, the past, and our free will choices. A radical shift from the concept of God we have been taught in many Christian circles, this is a god with whom we can give and receive love without fear, a god worthy of our devotion.
Oord makes his case using real-life stories, explaining scripture, challenging problematic dogma touted by the well-meaning, and correcting misconceptions about God which inflict more harm than help. Oord’s concept of God calls us to listen for the divine aim and respond by participating with the divine in works of grace. If you are looking for a bible study book, God Can’t is not it. However, Oord addresses some of the bible passages often used to portray God as a vengeful judge, a detached creator, or a controlling parent. He shows us a very different God of compassion and empathy relentlessly working for our best, and demonstrates the consistency of this image with the Bible and its overarching message of love.
While this book includes a clear message comprehensible to anyone, if you seek a more in-depth approach, I encourage you to next read Oord’s earlier book, The Uncontrolling Love of God. His other publications offer nuance to his central theme of God as love, affectionately earning him the title of “Dr. Love” among his university students and colleagues. This seminal text should not be confused with Uncontrolling Love: Essays Exploring the Love of God. The book of essays demonstrate the application of Oord’s views by others with varying degrees of success and show us the journey to revising our ideas about God is anything but a simple straight line.
Be advised, truly absorbing the meaning of Oord’s message in God Can’t will cause some dissonance. You may experience guilt from having expressed unhelpful opinions, such as “Everything happens for a reason” and “It’s all part of God’s plan” to yourself and others who have lived through abuse and tragedy. You may have to take responsibility for your role in creating a better world. More than anything, though, you will feel healing begin in your soul and in your life and you will find encouragement and hope. You will see God and the world more coherently. You will find your ideas about God becoming more emotionally and intellectually rational and you will be able to feel and experience God’s grace in a new way.
Top reviews from other countries
Each chapter is detailed and engaging yet avoids becoming tedious. There are useful questions at the end of each section which help during times of reflection and there is much to reflect on here!
It's important to finish the book before jumping to conclusions as most of the inevitable questions are dealt with by the end of the book. It's also important to remember throughout that though God "can't" it certainly doesn't mean that God is inactive and uncaring!
I felt this book may be particularly helpful for Christians who liked "The Shack" (along with it's theology) but were left with the question of "why?" still unanswered.
Overall a great book that avoids appeals to mystery that often plague this subject.