In “God Can’t” Dr. Thomas Oord finally says what many have wanted to say for a long time. God is not ‘arbitrary.” God does not have “favorites.” God does not play games with his children. God loves, period. This book will come as genuine good news to many, and as a source of great discomfort to others. Many other books that attempt to wrestle with the problem of evil, simply close by making the assertion that there really isn’t an answer. “God Can’t” isn’t one of those books. Tom offers an answer, maybe the answer. I highly recommend “God Can’t” for persons dealing with pain, whether their own or that of someone they love.
One night while we were watching the news about a tornado that hit a small town and killed several people, a woman being interviewed told the reporter, “God’s glory was in the midst of that storm. You could just see how awesome he was.” It was shocking, and knowing how people pray, it was apparent to us that the church people of that town had probably already asked God to bring comfort to those who had lost loved ones – the loved ones that the same God who brought the storm had caused to die.
“Apparently, God needed your dad in heaven.” Years ago, some well meaning folk said this to Lisa’s young sons after their father had died of cancer at the age of 44. That statement hurt the children and it did not make God look very good. It was, and remains, a shallow view of God and his relationships with us. Those people were talking about the same God who had walked right beside Lisa during that entire ordeal and for the months to follow. During those days, Lisa had felt God’s presence closer than her breath, and she knew that God was working to bring some good out of it. And God did. A few months prior, Mike’s wife had also died at an early age of a rare form of lung cancer. Though the survival rate for that cancer is minimal, Mike asked God for more time; they had five more years together. There was no rhyme or reason as to how sickness worked and we were filled with questions, but God brought us together as a couple and we are both happy and grateful.
Did God give us answers? No. We both came to realize that God didn’t have to. Neither of us believes that God caused or allowed our spouses’ cancer so God didn’t have to explain anything. Indeed, God may not have been able to stop each sickness in the first place. We have rejected the common explanations for misery in this world – ‘God’s works are a mystery;’ ‘God will heal if you have enough faith;’ ‘There’s another angel in heaven;’ ‘God was punishing them for their sins;’ and a dozen more platitudes. These words are not only meaningless and thoughtless, but they are also extremely damaging both to suffering souls and to God himself. Such statements make God look like some kind of rampaging bi-polar lunatic, “off his meds”, vicious, vindictive, manipulative, filled with anger, painting with a broad brush of misery and reprisal.
If you have the same or similar thoughts as ours and would like an explanation that does not follow popular Christian thinking, then you will want to read Dr. Thomas’ Oord’s book “God Can’t”.
Dr. Oord’s theological perspectives – open/relational theology – are controversial. He is nonetheless an accomplished theologian and biblical scholar; he presents new ways of looking at how God functions in our lives, how we relate to him and how he relates to us. Dr. Oord does not claim to be irrevocably right, but he does offer new avenues of thought and reflection that are better than meaningless platitudes.
Lisa, who is a former student of Dr. Oord, says that nothing he writes is easy to digest at first. You have to mull it over and think about it. However, if you remain open and prayerful, you will be rewarded with an idea or truth that may have not occurred to you previously, or you may recognize something that you’ve known all along but couldn’t quite put it into words. That is the beauty of “God Can’t.” Don’t judge the book by its cover. The title is alarming, but we encourage you to give it a chance. “God Can’t” deserves careful consideration and attention alongside popular theologies of our day that say God is behind everything and that God really doesn’t need us to participate in kingdom work. “God Can’t” also gives good explanation to why is is not possible to have a God who wreaks havoc one minute and then comforts the next; it brings cohesiveness to God’s personality and shows God as ultimately loving. What could be better than that?
Mike and Lisa Steeves