The Risks of Love and Life's Big Questions
by Thomas Jay Oord*
A few weeks ago, I was asked to give a public lecture on a complex set of subjects: evolution, evil, and Christian theology. As I prepared for my address, I thought about the importance of seeking plausible answers to life’s biggest questions. And I pondered the risks involved.
Northwest Nazarene University’s science and religion club sponsored the event, and I felt honored to be asked to speak. A professor from a nearby university addressed evolution and evil from a Hindu perspective. It was my task to lay out possible Christian responses.
I began by saying that Christians believe Jesus Christ is central to understanding God, living life well, and to understanding something about creation. This kind of beginning may seem strange and perhaps a bit off topic, given that I was supposed to be talking about evolution and evil.
I think it important, however, to keep Christ central in a Christian response to evolution and evil. After all, Christians cannot claim to follow Jesus’ first commandment – which involves loving with their minds/intelligence – if they ignore intellectually challenging issues. Issues of evolution and evil are among the most challenging of our day.
As I prepared for my presentation, I realized that engaging intellectually challenging questions requires courage and humility. Too often, Christians shrink from asking the hard questions and dealing with the realities of their possible answers. So they need the Spirit and community of faith to in-courage them. But Christians can be sometimes tempted to think their own particular answers are obviously the correct ones. So they need the humility exemplified best in Christ.
Mature Christians are humble and courageous enough to allow diverse opinions on how best to answer life’s most challenging questions. Smart and loving Christians can responsibly disagree. We must learn to live well amidst our different Christian perspectives.
In my presentation, I laid out several Christian responses to issues of evil and evolution. I talked about advantages and disadvantages of each, because I respect each. I also proposed my own answer, one I find most attractive given all of the various factors in this complex set of questions. My answer relies upon a view I call Essential Kenosis. (Those interested in knowing more about Essential Kenosis can read other blogs I’ve written or several of my published books. My forthcoming book, The Uncontrolling Love of God, explains Essential Kenosis more fully than any I’ve written previously.)
After offering my own proposals about how to address evil and evolution from a Christian perspective, I reminded my audience that I don’t have all of life’s answers. Like everyone else, I see through a darkened glass, to use the Apostle Paul’s analogy (1 Cor. 13). Despite only knowing in part, however, I feel called to seek answers that I find most plausible in light of God’s love and life’s most challenging questions.
In the midst of difficult days in my personal life and in our world more broadly, I pray that we are both courageous and humble. Above all, I pray that we put on love, which can bind us together in unity, despite our real and genuine differences (Col. 3:14).
- See more at: http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/the-risks-of-love-and-lifes-big-questions#sthash.KJzzjFo5.dpuf
Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multi-disciplinary studies. He is the author or editor of a dozen books and professor at Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, Idaho. Oord is known for his contributions to research on love, relational theology, science and religion, Wesleyan/Holiness/Church of the Nazarene thought, Evangelical theology, and postmodernism.
*This essay is reprinted with permission from his blog at www.thomasjayoord.com.