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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Redeeming the Past

"The past can never be put away because what it will have been is always yet to be determined."

One theological difficulty I've long had has been the problem of redemption. An event happens, an evil event, how can that event be redeemed? How can the evil be erased? It cannot be made not to have happened. It can't be defined away. What amount of "good" and of what type pays for it? It's not a question of a willingness to accept payment in lieu of justice--as happens endlessly in the courts. Nor is it the idea that "if we do this good thing than that bad thing will not have been in vain." It may be that it was not in vain. But was it ever paid for? Can you ever say "I'd rather have the good that came out of my child's death than the for the child not to have died." The good doesn't pay back the evil no matter how good it is. The whole economic metaphor breaks down because payment is made in an unconvertible currency. The bad thing was evil, the good that it was transformed into was good. But that legerdemot that allows us to substitute "evil" for the event doesn't fool anyone. Much more needs to be said here.

But the next step in thought is what I have quoted above. The event itself has never stopped happening, whatever it was. The past has never sat still. What it was is always changing. And in this lies the hope for the redemption of the past. In principle, if a tragedy can be ameliorated by a subsequent love, then is it possible for enough love to redeem it? The goal is not to make it to have been okay, but to make it no longer to have been evil. If any degree of evil can be erased, then the whole can be overcome. Much more needs to be said.

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