POTSDAM/COLTON — In his columns, Jerry Moore engages intelligently with matters not usually treated in newspapers.
Most recently, this has focused on God, creation, prayer, physical and moral evil, and the incompatibility of religious claims.
Like a courtroom lawyer, however, he sometimes asks questions to get the answers he wants.
He would get better answers if he would bring greater rigor and refinement to his questions.
For the sake of focus and brevity, just consider his June 10 column titled “The painful reality of life.”
In it, Mr. Moore asks, “Couldn’t an all-powerful deity have given us a world free of suffering?”
He answers his question with a dogmatism that might make a pope pause by saying:
“Suffering was inevitable precisely because there was no all-powerful, all-loving supreme being to create a perfect world for us.”
Try to think what such a question and answer can mean.
Why does God create?
Saying he does so out of goodness and love won’t satisfy Mr. Moore because of the suffering inherent in this world.
But would he think God “better” if God hadn’t created at all so there would then be no suffering or if God had created a universe of lifeless planets?
Suffering comes when there are sentient and/or intentional beings.
Having a world with snow leopards entails having a world where such creatures clamp their teeth into the necks of ibexes.
Maybe God should have made a world where water doesn’t freeze so no one would slip on a glazed sidewalk or slide off an icy road.
Some ice hockey fans might consider an iceless universe too high a price to pay.
But such musing doesn’t begin to try to fathom what such a change would mean to the foundations of what we know from chemistry, physics and biology about water and the laws of nature associated with it.
Also, to speak of “better” in relation to God is meaningless since there’s no obligation for God to do anything because obligations arise in a physical/social context, as pastors or newspaper columnists have obligations and can be evaluated on how well they fulfill them.
What obligations does God have?
“Why didn’t God create a perfect world for us?” Mr. Moore asks.
How does he know God didn’t?
“Perfect” means everything is in its proper place.
A bouquet of flowers could be perfect according to its form if there’s nothing out of place, and the same or other flowers might be arranged into another perfect bouquet.
Now, human beings are defective or disordered in their passions, and so they find it difficult to act as they should.
I would think this physical universe is perfect. But because of its scale, it’s harder to see that perfection than with a floral bouquet.
The problem (if that’s the word) with this universe is with the human beings who exhibit disordered passions, the misuse of free will, and longings and hopes that can’t be satisfied in this world.
Mr. Moore seems to think that if an infinitely good and powerful being exits, it has failed to create the world he thinks a supreme being should have created.
Any of us might try to imagine a different world but would quickly get lost in the forest of its complexity.
Some of us believe there is another world for which we were created after we die, and as such we see some sense in the challenges and sufferings we have here.
In any case, we can at least reason out from the world we have and, as card players, play the hands we’re dealt.
In general, I invite Mr. Moore to clarify his language and reasoning and to up his game.
Instead of reading Harold Kushner and Bart Ehrman, he might engage with some more formidable thinkers on these matters.
I would suggest C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft or Brian Davies, among others.
The Rev. Stephen Rocker is pastor of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Potsdam and St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Colton.