A New Theology: Divine Incompetence, an essay by Louis Gallo at Spillwords.com
Jonny Gios

A New Theology: Divine Incompetence

A New Theology

Divine Incompetence

written by: Louis Gallo


I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe in a merciful God given the condition of the world since its inception. The constant suffering and death, the ravages, the oft triumph of evil, the greed and malice, the natural disasters, et al. The doctrine of Original Sin seems to me utterly bogus, a mere rationalization for the ills already noted. No merciful God would have actualized such a mythic horror show.

And yet I find it equally preposterous NOT to believe is some kind of celestial force, some creator, some power beyond our human understanding. Pantheism attempted to address this issue by postulating that God IS the universe, in both each particular entity (even rocks) as well as the field as a whole. That theology is very impersonal; we are not beholden to a personal god—we share in the godhood. But I have never understood its advantage. We still stuffer and die and have no proof of an eternal beyond.

Logicians, of course, would dismiss the fallacy of misplaced causation, despite our yearning for an original cause. Scientists address the issue by postulating what they call a primal “fluctuation in the void,” that is, some random virtual particle “fluctuates” into the reality of a singularity which ensues thereafter in the Big Bang (voila, the creation of the universe—or multiverse). I fail to see the distinction between this quantum/relativistic explanation and the Biblical “Let there be light.” Save for the fact that the latter puts God in charge. God does not exist in quantum equations.

Then there is the Deism popularized early in this country by Benjamin Franklin. Yes, God creates the universe but then withdraws and leaves lowly mankind to fend for itself. Where is the solace in that paradigm? I prefer the existentialist charge to garner courage in the face of the inevitable odds. Christian existentialists, like Gabriel Marcel and Karl Jaspers, do attempt to merge this courage with traditional theology, but I find the synthesis unsustainable. At least Camus, an atheist, carried through with existential courage to the end—no God in sight, so bear the burden on your own and, if possible, seek what Proust called “privileged moments” of beauty and love and aesthetic pleasure. (Camus writes gorgeously of this doctrine in his Lyrical and Critical Essays.)

Buddhism, in its intellectual forms, is more a philosophy than a religion. Its popular versions, in which the Buddha becomes a kind of regular God adherents pray to, belongs to the litany of organized religions with their mythic ontologies. My problem with Buddhism is its emphasis on renunciation. Because all suffering stems from desire, the best we can do is to forsake desire—and with it ego-consciousness. Merge with Being, lose yourself, give up everything you love, prepare (practically) for the day of your death. I refuse to give up anything I love, much less everything, and while oceanic, impersonal consciousness seems attractive, it is not a condition I can ever achieve. So I am stuck with my personal consciousness and the privileged moments it affords as well as the usual aforementioned suffering and horror. One can only hope that the privileged moments come fast and furious and outweigh their antitheses.

No doubt “having faith” is one of the traditional religions can soothe and comfort true believers (and not the sham lip service prevailing today in this country—how many so-called “Christians” have actually read the Sermon on the Mount and heed its teachings?) Such faith I cannot manage, however. Faith to me means figuring that you will wake up in the morning, that the floors you walk upon won’t collapse, that light will flood the run when you flick on the switch, that you will survive your drive to the grocery store, given the maniacal drivers abounding today, that your cell phone and computer will function, at al. I have been dubbed a “pessimist” throughout the years though I prefer to think that I dabble in realism rather than pessimism. How can anyone aware of the constant wars, of crime, of illness, pandemics, murders, lies and greed remain optimistic? (Of course, psychiatric depression is also a possibility—but what if such depression originates from an accurate, honest assessment of the world and its problems. I hope I don’t ever become as dark as Mark Twain in the writings of his final years—or in the woeful poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins–, but who knows?)

Having searched for God my entire life and never found him, her or it except during rare privileged moments here and there, such as the shamanic vision quest I once experienced in the howling wilderness, which led to profound spiritual insights and visions I still rely upon today for soul nourishment, I nevertheless still seek a more traditional religion and faith. So I will propose a new, radical theology here (others like Thomas Altizer and Matthew Fox have also proposed ideas such as Christianity without God or the Cosmic Christ), but I have something more limited in mind and perhaps less radically contradictory.

Suppose God is evolving along with us as we evolve. That in his, her or its current stage, God is NOT omnipotent or omniscient and somewhat incompetent. That all the disasters and mayhem we witness can be attributed to a god in the toddler years. God is not evil but rather still a child who blunders along with all the rest of us. The child god takes a fall and Vesuvius erupts. God bumps into a wall and Katrina ensues. God throws a tantrum over a missing toy and Atlantis sinks into the sea. Creation itself it the easy part—managing creation is another story.

This too is a severe rationalization, but at least it explains the tragedies and horrors we endure. Perhaps as god matures and our own understanding expands, we might see the point of it all; we might accept illness and death while ushered into some sort of immortality, an eternity of the spirit yet with all of the blisses that our physical bodies enjoy, without the accompanying pain and agony. Perhaps. Wishful thinking? You bet.

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