Writes David Bentley Hart:
The Christian understanding of evil has always been more radical and fantastic than that of any theodicist; for it denies from the outset that suffering, death, and evil have any ultimate meaning at all. Perhaps no doctrine is more insufferably fabulous to non-Christians than the claim that we exist in the long melancholy aftermath of a primordial catstrophe, that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is the shadow of true time, and that the universe languishes in bondage to "powers" and "principalities" -- spiritual and terrestial -- alien to God.
Hart is surely right to add:
When confronted by the sheer savage immensity of worldly suffering . . . no Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God's inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God's good ends.
But the alternative to this sort of cold-blooded theological optimism is not dumbfoundedness in the face of suffering, but rather something like what the British mystic and poet, Caryll Houselander, offers:
That which in our eyes seems unjust is often the extreme logic of love which is justice. It seems unjust to to us, when young men in the Maytime of their lives, and often the gentlest of them, must go to war and be slain, when the poet must die with the poem still in his heart, the lover with his love still unconsummated.
But it is Christ on the cross who dies all their deaths. In him, in the Word of God's love, all poetry is uttered; in him, the Incarnate Love, all love is consummated. On the field of Calvary, the battle between love and death is fought which restores the kingdom of heaven to the children whom Satan has despoiled.
The mystery to which the Christian bears witness may well leave non-Christians thunderstruck, but the spiritual value of being thunderstuck is undeniable.
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