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July 10, 2011



I posted something to this effect on Streak's blog too, but the part that bothers me more than the vapidity of "God has a plan" (Tywin Lannister has a plan too, but we don't praise him for it) is that the utterance doesn't seem to be directed at the grieving person. It would be one thing if Hamilton went to church with the kid and knew he would be reassured by that comment. But it reads more as "God has a plan, so I don't have to think too terribly hard about how this event challenges the simplistic way in which I see the world."

There is no perfect way to respond to a grieving person, but I do think "I'm sorry and I'm here" is a lot better than "Don't worry, your pain isn't challenging my faith."

Arni Zachariassen

I'm a bit perplexed why you chose the theological category of redemption. Why not providence? Obviously, they're quite closely related, but I'm pretty sure that whatever people think about when they say that God has a plan (I agree with you on the master signifier thing - people probably don't think about it much at all), it's closer to providence than redemption. Am I making sense?

Also, you should have listed the Wesleyan/open theist option of God not controlling the course of history, but actively working within it. But no bother.

Did you see this book, by the way? Touches on some of the subjects that Fitch is touching on, but from a sociological perspective. Looks pretty hot. http://peterennsonline.com/2011/07/11/have-evangelicals-made-the-bible-impossible-a-sociologist-says-yes/

Greg Horton

Arni, I tend to think in terms of redemption over against providence, because I think providence is a far slippier term. Until Calvinists and Arminians can agree what the word means, I tend to avoid it, as it is usually taken to mean that God is somehow in charge. In the particular case of a man falling to his death, it's nearly impossible to talk in terms of providence without somehow implying that god was at least partly responsible. Far better to speak about redemption for the family, as in the sense of ad hoc salvation, rather than how god was involved. As a non-theist, this is easy for me; I don't think it is for theists.

I used to be a proponent of Open Theism, but I decided it didn't solve the problems I thought it solved, and for every one it solved, it created another, such that one might just as well be Process as Open Theist. It strikes me as an attempt to keep the terminology of orthodoxy while redefining every inconvenient term.

I'll have to check out that book. I've always appreciated Christian Smith and Brazos. Nice to see them working together.

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