By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the quote from Senate candidate Richard Mourdock. He opposes abortion in the case of rape partially on the grounds that even this is part of God’s plan.
I was struck by this. Not by the abortion part. I was struck by the God’s plan part.
I think partially because of where I am in life right now.
I’m going through some struggles. These struggles don’t feel like they are all the way deserved. I’m not comparing my struggles with the unimaginable misery and confusion of ending up being a pregnant rape victim.
I am saying that there is a broader and dangerous theological principle running around underneath Mourdok’s words.
It’s rooted, I suppose in a desire to pay honor to God’s omnipotence. I think it’s a good thing to take His omnipotence seriously. But there comes a point where honoring his omnipotence, taken too far, pays disrespect to his unfailing love.
Certainly God is powerful enough to determine and manipulate and control every event that ever happens. But does he unroll his power in this way?
There is a view that was prominent in the 1800s. Lots of people happen upon this view today, often with out even being aware that they’ve rediscovered the beliefs held by our forefathers, many of whome were important founding fathers of the U.S.
Usually it’s called Deism. Deism is the belief that God wound up the universe and then let it go. The Deist God isn’t emotionally involved with what’s going on in the Earth. This kind-of God could easily plan in advance to bring about a life through the horrendousness of rape.
This chess-master God controls everything and therefore it seems must be the one responsible for all our suffering. He was behind Adam’s and Eve’s fall, behind Judas’s betrayal, behind even the fall of Lucifer in the first place.
A god who unrolls all his power on the universe and leaves no room for the errors of creations is a god who was willing to use as mercilessly for reasons that seem wierd: if God wanted to make things himself, if that was his end game, why didn’t he just create them directly, out of nothingness.
But the God I worship? No, never.
It is possible to go to the opposite extreme. It is possible to honor God’s love for us at the expense of his omnipotence. It is possible to try and worship a God who is like the friend who passed you tissues and ate ice cream out of the carton but never actually engaged in changing the circumstances of your life. (Wow, did I sound like a girl! I feel it necessary to say that was a bit of poetic hyperbole: I never actually ate ice cream out of a carton when depressed.)
The way I know to balance God’s love and God’s power pops up over and over again in scripture. Joseph tells his brother what was intended for evil God turned to good. The life of Jesus testifies to the fact that God does not exert power over, like a puppet master: instead he wields power from beneath; he is a God of last minute reversals, or transforming glory from apparent misery.
It seems small, maybe. But the Senator? What he should have said, I think, is this.
God can use an event as horrendous as rape. He can take what was meant for evil and cause something good.