Re: Paper-tigers

Christopher Morbey (
Tue, 31 Mar 1998 20:58:59 -0800

Linda R. Barrett wrote:

> I have been lurking on the discussion for the past couple weeks. I want
> to thank you all for thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion. My
> only regret is that I cannot afford the time to thoroughly digest many
> of the posts!

snip snip

> If, on the other hand, God is intimately involved in our world, such
> that what occurs occurs somehow through him (though exactly _how_ , I
> don't understand), but he chooses to (almost always) work in a regular,
> consistent way, I don't see why that would be a negative. I find it
> very comfortiing to feel as though I can understand or predict in some
> small measure what will occur in my surroundings. Many things which
> occur in a predictable pattern are beautiful, and yet are carried out by
> someone's agency. I am thinking of, for example, a patchwork quilt or a
> knitted cloth. In these cases much of the beauty is there precisely
> _because_ of the pattern and predictable symmetry. In very great quilts
> or knitted textiles, the maker may see fit to introduce an occasional
> exception to the pattern, which may add to the beauty. But quilts or
> knits with NO pattern would just be a mess, not even comprehensible. I
> would not consider the maker of a beautiful, regular quilt to be a
> paper-tiger.


I too find it difficult to keep up with only a small fraction of what I read. You make
some interesting observations concerning the beauty of pattern and purpose. Colourful and
intricate quilts (as you probably know) can be as beautiful as a symphony with interwoven
melodies and moods etc.

I happen to live in extremely beautiful surroundings. At night I often wake up to the
hooting of owls. Right now our house is surrounded by thousands of Easter lilies and other
flowers. At times sea lions can be heard barking not too far away and the low sounds of
ships in the night have their own mystery. On the way to work I regularly see bald eagles,
great blue herons, frolicking lambs and beautiful green pastures. At work, out my window I
have a hundred mile view including snow capped mountains, the sea, and the city below.

It is truly uplifting and difficult not to sing personal symphonies constantly. A
wonderful God, an interesting job, a wonderful family, good kids, and better grandkids.
Life in very real abundance!

But. There is another side. Also on my way to work I travel through several areas of
horrible poverty. My forefathers or their generations helped extract the land and the
spirit out of these poor people so that now there is little hope for them. Even looking
out on the city I can realise that under at least one of the bridges down there street
people die, their only recent comfort, a cheap bottle of wine. Zero hope. Then there is
sickness, horrible sickness, terrible despair. Viruses propagating and mutating as if
there is some force that knows how to cripple to maximise pain and suffering. Even little
children, fond potentials of everlasting hope, eaten slowly away by devastating disease.
Unimaginable cruelty.

Docetism is a notion that can't deal with suffering and pain. Early Docetists found it
impossible to consider that Jesus really suffered and so they denied it. It's a rather
attractive notion and things can look quite rosy through rose coloured glasses. Sooner or
later, however, the crunch comes and the theory doesn't fit the equation. Strangely, real
peace is extinguished and God, the Good Shepherd, the Comforter, becomes distant, cold,
and more like a rabid tiger. But the Christian God is really quite different and has a
very important characteristic or property: his mercies endure forever unto ages of ages.

My point in this diversion (brought on by your description of that beautiful and
comforting quilt) is that the "intelligent design" senario of the universe would sometimes
(not always) miss the real realities of this world. Realities that make time stop and
anguish last. I think you would agree that we must be careful with labels. We don't have
an idea about the origin of pain and suffering but we know how it can be overcome!

Christopher Morbey