This will be a tricky post. It’s some thoughts I’ve put together concerning faith, and it may be uncomfortable for some. I’d describe myself as agnostic. For context, a year ago, about two weeks after mmc 3, I attended Evensong at Kings College, Cambridge. Just as the service was a bout to begin, I looked at the order of service and suddenly felt overwhelmed with anger. I could not sit through it. I could not participate in it. So I walked out.
On my way out of the church, I met the vicar coming the other way. Noticing my obvious distress, he asked if I was OK. I told him that I had just had a miscarriage, and was not in the mood to pray today. He kindly told me that he was sorry to hear this, and that he wished that he could talk further with me about it, but he (obviously) had a service to give. I understood, and I left. My family later told me that prayers were offered in the service to ‘Family who are suffering at the moment’. I think some of those prayers were for me.
Anyway, here’s an attempt to articulate my feelings in matters theological and miscarriage.
The debt that must be paid.
I am significantly free. As such, it seems to me, from my limited perspective, that I can choose what I do. I also happen to live in a world like this one where there are laws of cause and effect. What I do goes out from me and what I have done comes back to me. It sounds like Karma, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that there exists a causal chain, in which I am a participant. I certainly don’t understand exactly how the system works, fully, but I have my ideas.
My grievance is that this has happened to me. Not once, but three times, and I don’t think I did anything to deserve it. Three times is excessive by most people’s standards. I humbly recognise that much worse things have happened, and continue to happen, to a great many people in the history of humanity. My voice is a tiny cry amongst the screaming agony of human and natural brutality. Nature; red in tooth and claw, JS Mill reminds me. Although there may be a medically discoverable reason, there’s no purpose; no moral reason. Recurrent miscarriage seems to me to provide excellent evidence for natural selection, and nothing more.
It is, therefore, with, I hope, some sensitivity and respect that I must ask ‘why?’. Like Job, I want some answers. Unlike Job, I’m not satisfied to trust that there is a greater purpose in my suffering.
Philosophers and theologians offer explanations to address the thorny problem of evil, and I will try a few of those on for size.
St Augustine denies that evil exists. In fact, what we perceive as evil is the lack of good. So, a perfectly good God has not created evil. There’s just some incomplete good. No point shaking my fist skywards, then. But why, then, does this absence of good cause me to suffer? The world is broken; fallen, comes the reply. I see. Original Sin. So, by virtue of my being human, I suffer? Perhaps Job thinks that this is fair enough, but I note, crossly, that a painful childbirth was the deal, and feel rather short changed. Further, what of the souls of the unborn? Are they punished, too?
Unsatisfied, I turn to St Irenaeus, and his later defender, John Hick. Can it be the case that I am not complete yet; made in the image, but not yet the likeness of my creator? The trials of my life are there to make my soul, elevate and strengthen me. Surely, God, just the once would have been sufficient to make the point? Job looks at me, pitying, and shakes his head. I’m clearly not getting it. Hick explains; I have not accounted for the gap between what I can know and what God knows. I will know, in Heaven, but, in the meantime, a great deal more patience will be required.
It’s not the suffering I object to, really. It’s just that it seems so pointless, and really rather excessive. Trust? Faith? I am more inclined to anger. For this to have happened to me is one thing, but to have had this done to me on purpose seems quite another, and I must say, it’s a suggestion that I find more than a little offensive. If there is a debt, surely I have now overpaid?
http://study.abingdon.org.uk/rs/AS%20Philosophy%20notes/teleological_criticisms.pdf (see point 2)
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