Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Theodicy's Collapse into Solidarity

Fr. Robert Barron's homily for Sunday, February 8, 2015, "The Spirituality of Pain," reads the theodical element of the Book of Job through the lens of the Christ of Mark 1.

The lectionary provides 4 texts, but the homily speaks to the problem of suffering and pain through 2 of these texts:

Is not life on earth a drudgery,
its days like those of a hireling?

Like a slave who longs for the shade,

a hireling who waits for wages,
So I have been assigned months of futility,
and troubled nights have been counted off for me.
When I lie down I say, “When shall I arise?”
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
my skin cracks and festers;
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
my eye will not see happiness again. [Job 7:1-7 NAB]

On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her.He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door.He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving
out demons throughout the whole of Galilee. [Mark 1:29-39, NAB]

Dispensing quickly with the argument from finitude in the face of the infinite and omnipotent, that Job's perspective is not after all God's, and that Job just doesn't have the proper view of the 'big picture,' Barron moves into the very phenomenon of the Incarnation, and focuses on the healings of the Marcan Jesus who has brought the good news that the "where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth" response to the human condition might not hold in the coming of the Kingdom. Barron names this biblical transformation: God's response of 'solidarity' with the human creature. 

Though he doesn't state so explicitly, 'solidarity' is very fertile ground, and the idea brings into sharp relief a God who is affected by the human condition, a condition determined by the realities of living in this particular world God creates. Jesus's relation to the crowds that seek him, is very like his relation to the Logos in the hypostatic union (see "The Placental Turn in the Crucifixion" in this blog). As Barron suggests, "Jesus knows" that the where were you rhetoric will not do in a world where the Christ-event is unfolding. Solidarity kicks theodicy in the knees, where it collapses onto the horizon of love: God so loved the world that he worlded it and joined himself to it in union with the human body, which suffers.

Despite the many instances of rhetorical chiasmus in biblical texts, they do not coalesce into metaphor until the actualization of the chiasm of the hypostatic union whose finality brings history into an irrevocable moment. There are no Jobs after Jesus. The Christ is the instantiation of God's irrevocable solidarity with the human condition. The Logos does not share the divine person and remain aloof: it is involved in humankind. There is no solidarity with God on the horizon of transcendence, but on the horizon of agape. And none of this 'solidarity' is in a position to challenge God's simplicity or immutability; such analogical language has no place in the lexicon of the phenomenon that presents itself to human experience on this horizon of love. Those terms live and die on the horizon of Being and by the language of metaphysics, which cannot admit of the idea of God's solidarity with us.

Kudos to Robert Barron for loosening God from Being so that He might be with us.


  1. All of that is pure fantasy. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Reality.
    By contrast please find an Illuminated Understanding of the life & teaching of Saint Jesus of Galilee via these references:
    On the Kingdom of God + other essays

    The Secret Identity of the Holy Spirit of God

    A Birthday Message From Jesus & Me

    On the illusion/myth of the parental mommy-daddy "creator" God

    1. Frederick:

      I appreciate the references, but our enterprise here would be better served by your making the case for your assertions. How does the definition of reality you read in my post compare/contrast with that found in the arguments implicit in your remark and in your references?

      best regards,
      Joe C.