Reverend Tom Honey has been a priest in the Church of England for over 20 years. In 2004 he had to address his flock on a Sunday shortly after the tragic Indian Ocean tsunamis. Unspeakable suffering -- but how can you explain God's role? Countless tragedy and unimaginable suffering over eons.
How can an all-powerful God allow this to happen? It has long been a deep-seated theological and philosophical question in my mind. Is God a puppet-master, or some medieval tyrant? If so, then he is either not benevolent or not ominipotent.
Rev. Honey explains that perhaps this is the wrong frame. That maybe we're pretending to know God better than we possibly could know him. That he might not be an agent in the way we think of human beings as agents. That he does not, but is. The reverend goes on goes on:
To have faith in this God would be more like trusting an essential goodness and benevolence in the universe, and less like believing a system of doctrinal statements. Isn’t it ironic that Christians who claim to believe in an infinite, unknowable being, then tie God down in closed systems and rigid doctrines? Faith in God demands the huge step of saying, “despite all appearances to the contrary, I trust that there is a loving presence, but I will live without knowing.”
And that resonates with me. I accept that there is pain and suffering in this world. I would go further -- that we are called to recognize the divine within others and to serve and love and bring happiness to them.
I've been studying other traditions in my spare time of late, particularly the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Bhagavad Gita. And I'm struck by the common chord between them. Life is a tremendous gift, and it is so short. So we must try to live it in service to those of our tribe, be it our friends and family, our nation, humanity, or all life in the Universe.