This post is the third part of a series looking at The Third Peacock. If you have not already read it, I recommend starting with part 1.
The introduction of the Incarnation to theodicy in The Third Peacock is a great answer to the question how will God deal with the evil and badness found in creation as well as telling us how God will “make a good show of creation.” It is a rather odd answer to questions like why does God permit so much evil in the first place. But at this point in the book Capon and his readers have “hit the bottom” as there is no way to get “God off the hook for evil”. Nor, for Capon, was the risk God took with freedom worth all the evil and badness.
In light of the reality of evil, Capon pivots and attempts to pull all of the threads he has been exploring – a theology of delight, freedom, badness and a personal yet hands off God – together.
Throughout the book Capon’s style seems designed to shock the reader and he continues this trend with the Incarnation.
In the Christian scheme of things, the ultimate act by which God runs and rescues creation is the Incarnation. Sent by the Father and conceived by the Spirit, the eternal Word is born of the Virgin Mary and, in the mystery of that indwelling, lives, dies, rises and reigns. Unfortunately, however, we tend to look on the mystery mechanically. We view it as a fairly straight piece of repair work which became necessary because of sin.
Capon isn’t dismissing the fact that Jesus came in the flesh to deal with sin, but he is asking us to consider it as much more. In doing so Capon is drawing on a historical view of the Incarnation that is not widely held or discussed. Prior to reading this book I was not familiar with it. The view has been described as Unconditional Incarnation as well as Supralapsarian Christology.
This post is the second part of a series looking at The Third Peacock. If you have not already read it, I recommend starting with part 1.
The next step in the exploration of theodicy takes us to the concept of Providence. Millard Erickson (in Christian Theology) defines that as follows:
While creation is God’s originating work with respect to the universe, providence is his continuing relationship to it. By providence we mean the continuing action of God by which he preserves in existence the creation he has brought into being, and guides it to his intended purposes for it.
Most readers, if not all, could accept this definition. Capon does.
[This] takes us back to the act of creation and to ask the question of the precise relationship between God the Creator and all the comings and goings of the universe itself. It has already been said that God is not simply the initiator or beginning cause of creation; he is the present, intimate and immediate cause of the being of everything that is.
Where things start to get interesting is trying to understand how God preserves and guides creation. This involves complex and differing ideas about sovereignty, decrees, freedom and foreknowledge. Capon does not dive into the theological deep-end regarding these various topics but does raise an important question.
In The Third Peacock, Robert Farrar Capon presents the reader with an interesting exploration of the problem of evil in the face of a good God (theodicy).
Capon writes with an easy prose that sounds more like the conversation one would have while sitting and enjoying a beer together (or whatever your drink of choice might be). He dispenses with theological jargon, offering instead a plain spoken, no holds barred assessment of the rough and tumble world we live in. How can this world possibly align with a good God? The reader may not agree with everything that is written, I didn’t, but this book does offer some insights for anyone that asks questions – either silently or aloud – about why there is so much suffering, both moral and natural, in creation.
I should warn you that this post is part book review and part blogging through a book. It summarizes many of the main points made in the book and thus contains spoilers.
The book opens with the sentence – “Let me tell you why God made the world.” By the middle of the next page we find the Trinity drinking wine, telling jokes and throwing olives at each other. With this analogy, which even Capon admits is crass, the author seeks to present the reader with the theology of delight. This attempts to overturn ideas of God as a cosmic kill-joy or stern judge. Perhaps it could serve as a rebuttal to the servant in Matthew 25 who sees God as overly harsh. The theology of delight offers up creation as one big party in which God took, and continues to take, great delight in what He has created.