The Third Peacock Review

Introduction

The Third Peacock is Robert Capon’s attempt to represent the mystery of theodicy. He addresses what he believes to be the reason for evil, and what God does(or doesn’t do) about it. His views allow for a fresh window to peer through when looking at this mystery. He conveys his thoughts without pressing to say that his views are the absolute answer. This allows the reader to implement some critical thinking and to develop theories of their own.

Framing

Robert Farrar Capon is a self-proclaimed dogmatic theologian who has had approximately thirty years of experience. In The Third Peacock, Capon explores theodicy and presents his views of how the subject should be framed. Drawing from his many years of experience, Capon suggests new ways to go about pondering this mystery of evil. His innovative metaphors and analogies keep the reader engaged throughout the many twists and turns to get to the truth.

Content and Methodology

Capon begins with creation to address theodicy. He explains why God created the world and everything in it. It is because God delights in being. This is how Capon begins reframing the question of “Why isn’t God doing anything?” God created beings because he delights in them. He continues to sustain creation because he continues to delight in it. Part of God’s delight in being is freedom. With freedom, creation has the ability to do evil. This is Capon’s first point he stressed as to why “God is still firmly on the hook”(180).

Since this is the beginning to Capon’s wild theodicy ride, the middle portion consists of him trying to get to “the heart of the problem”(192). Capon uses the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert to show that some things are not inherently evil.  Capon reasoned that all of the offers that Satan tempted Jesus with made sense at that point in time. Jesus didn’t do any of them to show that God is a God of being, not doing. “The great, even well-meaning challenge to the hands-off policy comes and goes, and God still insists on playing the invisible man, on running the world without running it at all”(194). Capon insists that God is not a God of doing, which means humans should stop expecting to see him do a marvelous show of power. This is how Capon continues to reframe how people view theodicy. Capon suggests that humans “simply assume his power and then try and see its relationship to the radical freedom of the things God holds in being”(197).

Finally Capon suggests God prefers to just be there for his creation. Often times, when a person is going through a rough time in their life, it helps to just have someone be there. The person can’t do anything to lessen the pain, but their presence helps. That is how Capon frames God’s interactions with his creation. In a world full of bad things, “his(God’s) help consists in his continuous presence in all victims”(221). God’s presence is not a thing to be scoffed at. His presence can offer comfort in the times of mourning and in times of stress. “Love is as strong as death…there are no waters that can drown the loving of the Word”(222). God understands human feelings. Jesus was fully human and fully God and he had to suffer through the grief of losing a friend and he had to suffer through his crucifixion. God meets us in our suffering; he meets us on the cross.

Analysis in context to Sandy Hook

The Newtown shooting, which took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, resulted in the death of 26 people. Shootings are an evil in the world that can happen anywhere for any reason. The freedom the shooter had to control his actions is evident because he was created by God with that freedom. However, as Capon stated, “God may be the cause of its being, but he is, for the most part, only the spectator of its actions”(188). Adam Lanza(the shooter) was God’s creation, but he was responsible for what he did with the freedom gifted to him. He chose to abuse that freedom. God, following the “hands-off policy”(194) as Capon put it, did not do anything to stop the violent act.

What God did in the aftermath, though, showed his dedication to being. His presence was there for the victims and their families to take comfort in. 20 elementary school children were killed that day. The community has held interfaith ceremonies for the community to remember the victims. This turn towards God and allowing his presence to be a comfort is an example of how just knowing that God is present can be helpful. Capon describe God as saying, “You will meet me in the Passion – in the heart of badness where I have always been”(224). God inhabits the darkest of dark places, and that includes a community that loses 26 people in a mass shooting. He draws the broken and hurting into his embrace and stays with them through the darkness.

Conclusion

Capon addresses theodicy in The Third Peacock with very good insights into the character of God. He shifts the normal perceptions of God to a frame that shows God’s love for creation and the freedom that beings have. This intense love for creation allows freedom, but freedom allows evil into the mix. God’s love means that he will continually be there for his creation, but he will not interfere with the freedom it has. And sometimes, that presence is more meaningful than a huge act of grandeur.

Martin Luther Convocation

Today’s convocation was centered around the Martin Luther exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The presenter had a slideshow containing pictures of the different pieces on display. He gave interesting stories about the various pieces, which would have been very mundane, old accessories without the history attached. An example of such a piece is the golden ring found on the site of Martin Luther’s house in Wittenberg. The ring was found where the toilet of the house would have been. The story that was attached to this piece was that Luther threw it in the toilet, because it was a gift to his wife from another man. When Luther threw the ring away, he sent a letter to the other man saying that his wife had lost the ring and that the man should not send such expensive gifts. This story, and others like it allow for insights into the character of Martin Luther.

Part of today’s lecture included a history on the ninety-five theses and how they affected the society of Luther’s time. Since Luther proclaimed that a person can not buy their way into heaven, or in any way earn it, people stopped buying indulgences. However, the people used this reasoning to stop caring for the poor, since it wouldn’t get them any closer to heaven. This sudden lack of charity created cause for one of the first forms of welfare to be formed. In this way, people used logic as a way of knowing and a way to get out of being generous.

I found today’s lecture to be very interesting. I am excited to go to this exhibit in a couple weeks and to be able to see some of these historic pieces in person. For me, I would not have been interested in many of the pieces, simply because I am not a huge fan of studying history. However, knowing the quirky little stories behind things, such as the ring, allows me to look through a window into Luther’s world. It makes Luther seem more human, rather than super-Christian, which is neat.

Hunting the Divine Fox Book Review

 

Introduction

Robert Capon creates a multitude of new perspectives and frames to view the Word of God through in Hunting the Divine Fox. He approaches topics such as the the will of God for humans and how people try to comprehend God. These new perspectives create interesting topics for Christians to ponder and apply to their lives.

Framing

Hunting the Divine Fox, by Robert Farrar Capon, explores how Christians interpret the word of God and how they live in the Mystery it creates. Capon was a Christian author who served as an American Episcopal Priest for about 30 years. He wrote a variety of theological books throughout his lifetime, totaling twenty books. His style of writing in Hunting the Divine Fox is very casual, making it easy to read for people who have not studied theology before. Capon’s experience in writing and in church-work gave him a firm foundation to base his thoughts on in this book.

Content and Methodology

Capon attempts to address several key theological topics, including how humans try to comprehend God, how the Bible describes God, God’s will for humans, and what the purpose of the church is. Capon uses many analogies in his writing to get his point across in an understandable way. He begins his book with a story concerning an oyster trying to figure out what a ballerina is using its universe of knowledge. This little oyster can never truly comprehend the complexities of a ballerina because the only comparison it has is that ballerinas and starfish move. This illustrates how limited human knowledge is and how inadequate any comparisons to God are. He continues in his quest for clarity by examining how best to interpret the Bible. He compares straight language and images to bent language and images. Straight language describes an object in a literal way. Bent language is when metaphors and comparisons are made to describe an object. Capon states that “The Bible, at its deepest levels, is actually a tissue of images. The Word of God, when God most reveals himself, speaks with a bent tongue” (267).  Capon recognizes that we mostly learn of God through bent language because there are no human ways to accurately, literally describe the being of God. Capon uses a plaza in the middle of several streets to describe how an analogy or bent image can be interpreted in different ways. He also applies the plaza scenario to the meaning of the word “will.” Capon shows the ways “will” can be interpreted. These interpretations range from desire to request to command. Capon chose to frame the will of God within the context of desire, passion, and choice. He compares it to the “longing of a lover for what the beloved is” (273). Capon next reveals his views of the church and its purpose on earth. Capon argues that the church has turned from being a place for sinners to being a place where only the elite can worship. He believes religion has become focused on transactions and that it has lost the fact that the Mystery is non-transactional and constant.

Analysis

Capon uses an abundance of allegories and metaphors to create a rich reading experience for the audience. His first chapter is based entirely on an analogy concerning an oyster, rock, starfish, and ballerina. However silly this fable is, it truly encapsulates the human experience of trying to figure out God. “The way you think about things will never be exactly the same as the way they are” (245). As humans experience life, their brains try to create a logical way to perceive the environment. As humans explore the mystery of God, their brains try to use logical, human terms to describe God. This can lead to very vague descriptions and inadequate understanding. This is because humans have never actually experienced God face-to-face. There is no way for an oyster to understand a ballerina and no way for humans to understand God.

As Capon used an analogy to explain the human experience of trying to understand God, he goes on to explain that the majority of how we describe God is through bent language. God is an incomprehensible deity and to even begin to touch the essence of what he is is an enormous task. Humans use metaphors such as describing parts of the Trinity as the Father and the Son. This phrasing should not be misunderstood to mean that one part of the Trinity is superior to another. Capon chooses to view it as an example of how “Love between persons can be equal without having to be the same” (268). This is an example of how the metaphors used to describe God can be viewed in different ways and that the person examining the language should be careful with which path they take.

God’s will is often viewed as a singular list of things God has assigned a person to do. It is viewed as commanding instead of loving. Capon chooses to shift the commanding view of God’s will to the loving, passionate view of it. “It is a desire not for a performance but for a person; a wish not that the beloved will be obedient but that she will be herself” (273). This loving, personal view of God is not often pictured when hearing “Thy will be done.” Capon describes this will of God to be encouraging of a person’s individuality. God uses each person’s unique talents, interests, and gifts to do His purpose.

Finally, Capon emphasizes how the church has gone down a road that values transactions more than the free grace of God. These transactions can lead to people feeling inadequate to be a part of the church because they feel they have nothing to offer. However, this is not a feeling that the church should be perpetuating. The church is made up of sinners and people should not be able to tell other people that their sin is worse because it’s different. “My thesis is that transactional views of Christianity have caused more problems than we suspect, and that if we can manage to correct them, a lot of heretofore unresolvable conflicts may well just disappear” (327). One of these problems is the feeling of exclusion some people feel when they try to join the church. The church can fix this problem by shifting its focus from morals and transactions to grace and accepting sinners with open arms.

Conclusion

In Hunting the Divine Fox, Capon attempts to address several weighty theological issues. Some are more successfully addressed, while others are left on questionable terms. Either way, it can be concluded that Capon creates thoughtful arguments that leave impressions on its readers. Capon created new perspectives on traditional views that many Christians hold and that is worth exploring more.