*This is a book review for Dr Thomas Jay Oord’s newest book titled: God Can’t: How to believe in God and love after tragedy, abuse, and other evils
Where was God during the mass killing and why didn’t God intervene?
Why did this person get healed from cancer but the other person didn’t? Did they pray more? Have more faith? Does God favor those who are healed more than those who aren’t?
Where was God during the hurricane that destroyed so many lives?
Was the natural disaster God’s judgment for our evil ways?
If God is love and God can stop evil then why doesn’t God intervene?
Isn’t God ultimately in control of all things, good and evil or does God simply sit back and allow evil to happen?
These are questions that go back to the beginning of humanity. Theologians, scholars and layman alike have tried to answer these daunting and seemingly unanswerable questions for as long as we have roamed the earth.
In his compelling book, “God Can’t: How to believe in God and love after tragedy, abuse, and other evils”, Thomas Jay Oord not only dares to enter this age old conversation but boldly claims his ideas “solve the problem of evil”(page 11). What a statement!
Thomas’s last book “The uncontrolling love of God” introduced an idea on theodicy he calls “essential kenosis”. In this view God’s sovereignty is described as “self-giving, others-empowering, uncontrolling love”. In other words God isn’t sovereign through any form of coercion, manipulation or manipulative control but through God’s very essence of Love. As Oord says “God loves necessarily”. Since love is inherently uncontrolling (1 Corinthians 13:5), love comes before other attributes that many place as equal attributes to God, such as justice, wrath etc. To say this book made an impact on me personally would be an understatement. The book itself uses a lot of scholarly language, and although accessible, can be daunting to those not used to reading highly theological laden material.
In “God Can’t”, Oord takes the ideas of his last book and makes them more accessible by using less theological language and using personal stories to make the view more relatable and relevant to the average Joe.
The book lays out 5 ideas about God, creation and evil that build off each other and give what Oord feels is the framework to live a better life. The 5 ideas are as follows:
- God can’t singlehandedly prevent genuine evil.
- God feels and is a fellow sufferer in all our pain.
- God is working at all times to heal.
- God works with creation to squeeze good from evil God didn’t want in the first place.
- God needs our cooperation.
Throughout this book, Oord touches many issues that will surley challenge, trigger and intrigue Christians and non Christians alike that have ever experienced pain and suffering of any kind. From issues of the afterlife, to divine punishment, to classical views of omnipotence, sacred cows are burned to the ground and re-thought through a God that is first and foremost love by nature and necessity. Just the title of the book is challenging to many but as Oord points out there are many things in scripture that say God just can’t do. God can’t lie (Titus 1:2), God can’t be tempted (James 1:3), God can’t grow tired(Isaiah 40:28)and God can’t deny himself(2 Timothy 2:13).
After reading this book, whether you agree with his conclusions fully or not, I think one will come away with a richer and wider view of God’s love and have more tools to comfort those who have endured suffering while being able to implement some of them in your personal, church and community life.
To close, I think everyone will agree with a line from the book. I hope this book blesses you as it has me.
When we cooperate with the possibilities of love, no matter how big or small, we partner with the God of the entire universe. Everyone, in fact every creature, makes a difference to God. (page 176)