“Let me start saying that I am not a theologian. I am a graduate level social worker. I am also a survivor of childhood physical, sexual and spiritual abuse.
I was raised in the evangelical church and the “stuff of faith” comes very hard for me. I left church for about two decades (I always say I didn’t stop loving God—I just couldn’t deal with His kids, the building and all that came with it). I got back in the proverbial “game” about seven years ago. I was fortunate to stumble upon a safe haven where I could “reboot” and begin the healing process. I was confronted with a Jesus looking God and the cruciform hermeneutic. I landed at a church that was okay with asking hard questions and living in a sea of spiritual ambiguity. While helpful–I still struggle with existential angst. There is often a chasm between “knowing what I believe” and “KNOWING what I believe”. I inevitably end up asking “So what now”?
As I have started dealing with my childhood trauma I have begun to realize that the struggles in my life and faith have much to do with the inability/unwillingness to trust.
I was raised to believe that God was in complete control of the world’s activity. This view later was replaced with Abba doesn’t CAUSE pain or evil BUT He allows it because folks have free will. That is—He had the power to stop all the abuse I endured—but He chose not to for what on the surface might seem like a noble reason. He loves us so much that has to allow His creation agency even when that results with someone ending up victimized, or starving. I have to say that never sat right with me. It kept me from truly embracing this Jesus looking Abba that I was learning about. I am an imperfect father and yet I could never stand by and allow my son to experience suffering or tragedy if I could prevent or stop it.
In God Can’t!–Dr. Oord addresses this very issue. His premise is that perfect love is not coercive and cannot unilaterally control. He uses scripture, philosophy, and plain old logic to make the following points:
God Can’t Prevent Evil.
God Feels Our Pain.
God Works to Heal.
God Squeezes Good From Bad.
God Needs Our Cooperation.
Oord is an astute theologian with a pastoral heart. Even when conveying a viewpoint with which disagrees he does so with kindness and humility. His writing is both engaging and accessible. He provides several examples of folks who have suffered and experienced great tragedy and trying to make sense of this as believers in God. He also demonstrates vulnerability by sharing some of his struggles.
This is controversial stuff. It challenges traditional ways of addressing this issue. I think the best thing about this book is for me it intuitively makes sense. Oord has provided a paradigm from which I can begin to deal with my painful past, but also help others process theirs. It can also provide fuel for many a spirited conversation.
Lastly – This view of an all-mighty but not all controlling God has led me to better understand the idea of being Abba’s hands and feet. The Creator of this universe needs me to work collaboratively alongside of Him to be a part of His bringing healing and wholeness to this world.
I unequivocally and without reservation recommend this book. I am convinced it is going to help a lot of people.
Kevin Thomas (MSW) has worked in various community-based social services for the past 30 years. His current position is advocating and empowering folks who struggle with serious and persistent mental illness.