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.
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.
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.