Religious Studies Review

January 2, 2022

On the basis of experience, Thiel argues, one sees that there are forms of suffering, which are totally undeserved. Classical philosophical and theological efforts to reconcile divine goodness with human misfortune have been either legal (all are guilty and thus deserving of punishment) or providential (suffering serves a divine purpose). A process view resolves the tension between divine goodness and human suffering by deconstructing the notion of omnipotence. But if one takes seriously the Bible’s conviction that God never wills death or any of the evils that kill the human spirit, then one is in a position to appreciate the category of “innocent suffering” and God’s relation to it. Death is not what God wants for humanity; the resurrection of Jesus is the primary scriptural evidence of this fact. Because it has been linked so closely with human reproduction, Thiel shows why it is important to reconceptualize original sin in social and historical categories, although the correlative christology he offers could stand more development. The book would draw serious undergraduates into a splendid thought experiment, introducing them to major thinkers (Augustine, Anselm, Leibniz, Hick) and inviting them to wrestle with the dualism that lurks, perhaps unavoidably, in many Christian minds.

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