The Third Peacock was written by Robert Capon. Just as in Hunting the Divine Fox, Capon uses unusual analogies or metaphors to make the reader think differently about theological topics. In the Third Peacock, Capon focuses on the question of God and evil. If God is loving, why do bad things happen to good people? Does God allow evil?
Robert Capon was born in 1925 and died in 2013. Capon served as a priest in an Episcopalian church in Long Island, New York until 1977. He is the author of twenty books about religion and cooking. Capon retired from the church to focus on his writing. Besides his books, Capon was also a columnist for the New York Times and Newsday. His writing is remembered for challenging common beliefs or ideas about God and religion, and for encouraging the reader to think about those things differently. In the Third Peacock, Capon presents his ideas on God and evil.
Capon says that to study God and evil one must start at the very beginning with creation. God created the world because He delights in being, as Capon says He, “had this thing about being” (Capon 180). God made humans in His image and He is still involved in creation. Many Christians, according to Capon, say that God allows evil because it can teach lessons. This does not “wash” with Capon (Capon 179). Some evil can be blamed on sin, but “sin is only possible because God puts up with sinners” (Capon 180). Capon concludes the first chapter, “Only one things is clear: there will never be a clear solution until we stop faking the facts. The world is a very rough place. If it exists because God likes it, the only possible conclusion is that God is inordinately fond of rough places” (Capon 182).
Next Capon argues that God’s policy is mostly hands off. “God may be the cause of its being, but He is, for the most part, only the spectator of its actions. He confers upon it the several styles of its freedom; it is creation itself, however, that struts its own stuff” (Capon 188). Using the example of the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, Capon says that God was only responsible because of how He created the world. The world is not “stage-managed” by God (Capon 190). So then what is God’s relationship with the world? According to Capon, the world is unexplainably attracted to God. “He doesn’t just make the world; He makes out with it. He just stands there, flaunting what He’s got and romancing creation around His little finger without moving a muscle” (Capon 202). Creation is in love with God because He thinks it up, broods over it, and calls it. The world is “run by desire for the overwhelming attractiveness of God” (Capon 216).
How does this answer the question of God and evil? Capon accuses God of being “guilty of irresponsible and indiscriminate flattery. He romances the chicken hawk and the chicken at the same time; He sings the praises not only of the beloved child but of the tumor that slowly destroys her sanity” (Capon 216-217). God does not suffer the consequences of badness because He has an eternal knowledge of the goodness. Humans do not have this luxury, because they remember both the good and the bad. Capon proposes that God’s solution to badness is not to fix it, but to suffer through it with humanity. “Given the circumstances – given the kind of free world He has chosen to make – He will do the best He can by you… What He has a principle about is you. Like Martha, He loves you; His chief concern is to be Himself for you… Love is as strong as death; there may be waters God does not overcome, but there are no waters that can drown the loving of the Word” (Capon 222).
Capon, as much as he was able, explained his theory on God and evil. What happens when Capon’s theory is tested against a real event? On December 14, 2012, the nation was in shock as it heard about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Adam Lanza had shot his way into an elementary school and killed twenty-six people, twenty of them being students aged six to seven, before killing himself. How would Capon respond to this? His theory states that God delights in all creation, so did God delight in in Lanza? Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart the devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” Lanza shed innocent blood, his heart devised wicked schemes, his feel rushed to evil, and he stirred up conflict in the community. Can it truly be said that God delights in that? Perhaps God does delight in all creation, but He does not delight in sin. If God, as Capon says, is truly going to be with humanity in its pain, then He cannot delight in that pain. God loves all His creation, but loving someone does not mean one delights in everything they do. Galatians 2:17 says, “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!” God does not promote sin, which means God cannot delight in sin. God delights in beings, but He cannot delight in everything they do. God cannot delight in evil. God may delight in the chicken hawk that eats the chicken, but He does not delight in humans killing others humans. That is not how God created the world, that is how sin messed up the world. While God still loves the world, He does not love everything about the world.
In the Third Peacock, Capon has once again challenged ideas held by Christians and forced them to think differently. He presents a compelling argument for the debate about God and evil, but when applied to an actual situation, Capon’s theory does not line up, or as he would say, it does not “wash”.
Barron, James. “Nation Reels After Gunman Massacres 20 Children at School in Connecticut.” 14 December 2012. The New York Times. Web. 17 Nobember 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/nyregion/shooting-reported-at-connecticut-elementary-school.html>.
Capon, Robert Farrar. “The Third Peacock.” The Romance of the Word. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995. 167-238. Print.
Conger, George. “Pastoral theologian and food writer Rober Farrar Capon dead at 88.” 6 September 2013. Anglican Ink. Web. 16 November 2016. <http://www.anglican.ink/article/pastoral-theologian-and-food-writer-robert-farrar-capon-dead-88>.
Holy Bible. Grand Rapids: Interational Bible Society, 1984. Print.