Is the God of the Old Testament Evil - Gary Anderson

hey friends let's let's find our seats

it's so wonderful to see all of you here

this evening let's just have a seat get

comfortable very comfortable so glad you

guys are here welcome everyone I'm

Carter Sneed I'm the director of the

Notre Dame Center for Ethics and culture

and I'm delighted that you've joined us

this evening for the Center for Ethics

and cultures 18th annual Fall Conference

our Center our conference can vote now

we're very excited about that

through every human heart on good and

evil now I see a lot of familiar faces

and friendship is an important part of

what we do here at the Center for Ethics

and culture but I also see some new

faces so I'm going to tell you a little

bit about the Center for those of you

who are joining us for the first time

the Center for Ethics and culture is

dedicated to sharing the richness of the

Catholic moral and intellectual

tradition through teaching research and

engagement at the highest level across a

range of disciplines we do this through

academic research and of course the Fall

Conference is the centerpiece of our

academic programming it's the greatest

manifestation of our of our conference

contributions academia and we also have

a relatively new robust publication

series several different series with the

University of Notre Dame press in

conjunction with our wonderful friend

and partner Steve Rin the director of

the Notre Dame press in addition to

academic research we have a program of

student formation we host a program

called the Sauron Fellows Program and

right now we have about 200

undergraduate and graduate students whom

we mentor provide advice to give special

access to our VIP speakers put on

special events and sponsor and fund a

variety of wide variety of summer

internships over the course of the

summer all over the world at the Vatican

and Congress in Hollywood all over the

world in addition to our academic

research and student formation we also

are quite committed to engagement in the

public square speaking in Notre Dame's

voice out and on behalf of the common

good and human dignity and of course a

culture of life and then finally and

most recently we've

a new program assisting the university

in its hiring for Catholic mission we

are now about to offer funding to

department so I'm a competitive basis

around the university to hire tenure and

tenure track faculty that the part that

those departments would like to hire

whose interests in commitments overlap

with that of the Center for Ethics and

culture so that is those are the sort of

the four ways in which we try to share

and embrace and transmit the richness of

the Catholic moral and intellectual

tradition both on campus as well as off

campus the fall conference has become

our largest annual event it's a truly

unique and exciting gathering of

scholars students and guests from around

the globe it's become a wonderful

opportunity to come together and grapple

with some of the most vital questions of

ethics culture and public policy today

more than 750 guests have registered for

this year's conference and we're looking

forward to spending time in conversation

and reflection with you in the days

ahead we have an extraordinary slate of

graduate students emerging scholars

colloquium and invited speakers joining

us this year

now on the theme of the conference many

of you no doubt recognized the illusion

in the title of this year's conference

through every human heart the great

Russian novelist historian and Nobel

Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn used

the phrase in the Gulag Archipelago in

which he writes quote gradually it was

disclosed to me that the lines

separating good and evil passes not

through States nor Bateen between

classes nor between political parties

either but right through every human

heart through all human hearts the this

line shifts inside us it oscillates with

the years and even within the hearts

overwhelmed with evil one small

bridgehead of good is retained and even

in the best of all hearts there remains

an uprooted small corner of evil we

wanted to explore this intractable

problem of good and evil residing within

each human heart and what it means for

human flourishing and the common good

the theme while of course timeless took

on special significance for the center

this year we are proud to announce this

year the launch of the center for ethics

and culture Sultan eats in Syria

here at the University of Notre Dame

press which will make available the

works of this essential author including

works not previously translated into

English bringing salts and Eaton's

prophetic voice to a new generation of

readers the first book in the series

will be released later this month March

1917 is the fifth installment insults

NEETs ins red wheel series which salts

neaten considered to be his greatest

work telling the story of the russian

revolution copies are available for

pre-order from Notre Dame press in the

publishers room across the hall our

thanks again to my good friend Steve Rin

the director of Notre Dame press who did

so much to make this collaboration with

the Sultanate's and family possible now

finally just to close with a note of

thanks as always we'd like to thank our

generous benefactors without whom none

of our work would be possible and in

particular we'd like to thank Tony and

Christi de Nicola as well as George Mays

to the fellows students and affiliated

faculty at the Center for ethics and

culture who helped make the life of the

center what it is today we'd like also

to offer our thanks and gratitude the

staff here at the conference center

particularly Lisa Verve inked and Eric

Francis as well as Kristen Garvey's

Podell in the Institute for scholarship

for the liberal arts and of course I am

blessed with the greatest staff not just

on campus here at Notre Dame but

anywhere in the world where staffs

assemble mine is the best


in particular I'd like to mention Tracy

Westlake Peter lob see Petra feral we

just hired Peter and Petra we call it

the pet shrine hiring Peter is running

our student programming and Petra is

running our culture of life initiatives

Kenneth John millenia SAR wonderful

communications specialist Laura Nash our

associate director for operations she's

the boss of everyone and then I would

like also to mention an extraordinary

person on our staff who did more for

this event than anyone else that I know

and that's Margaret cabinets

who runs our academic programming and

publications that give an anticipatory

round of supplies to Margaret cabinets

of course I'd like to thank all of our

student workers but I'd also like to

thank the people who make this event

possible we'd like to thanks the the

maintenance workers here at the

University of Notre Dame the janitorial

staff the food service folks everyone

who we don't whose names we might not

know who are working together with us to

make this event possible

so now I'd like to introduce this

evening speaker we could think of no one

better to open a conference on good and

evil than our dear friend professor Gary

Anderson Gary is the Hesburgh professor

of Catholic theology at the University

of Notre Dame where he specializes in

biblical studies with a focus on the Old

Testament and the history of its

interpretation particularly in early

Judaism one of the world's leading

scholars of Second Temple Judaism is one

of the few non Jewish scholars elected

to the prestigious Academy of Jewish

research his work addressing biblical

interpretation among early Jews and

Christians has won him grants from the

American philosophy Society the Lilly

Endowment and the Institute for Advanced

Study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem

where he served as a senior fellow last

academic year 2016-2017

prior to joining our faculty at Notre

Dame in 2003 Gary was the professor of

Old Testament and Hebrew Bible at

Harvard Divinity School

he received his Master of Divinity from

Duke University and his doctorate from


he's the awful author of a number of

books including sin history charity the

place of the poor in the biblical

tradition and most recently Christian

doctrine and the Old Testament theology

in the service of biblical exegesis

tonight he will address the question is

the god of the Old Testament evil please

join me in welcoming my friend Gary



thank you very much for that very kind

introduction I have to say it delighted

to be here

but there was maybe one small point of

disappointment with Carter and his staff

after hearing all of the good words

about them and that is generally when I

come to conferences and give a paper I'm

always asked to provide an abstract of

what my lecture is going to be about and

so one afternoon I spent the whole

afternoon kind of carved you know using

all the best prose I could assemble in

my mind for this abstract that was never

never requested from Carter so I thought

I would share it with you this evening

is the god of the old testament evil

here's the abstract


and with that we'll begin you should

have a handout in front of you if you

don't it won't be the end of the world

but the handout may make it easier to

follow what I will be doing this evening

every semester since my arrival at


I've taught our first required course in

theology to the incoming students my

habit has been to use the book of

Genesis as a window into the Old


no sooner however do we arrive at the

sixth chapter and the problems begin the

Lord as we read in the biblical text saw

that the wickedness of humankind was

great in the earth and that every intent

in yulie and the Lord was sorry that he

had made humankind on the earth and it

grieved him to his heart so the Lord

said I will blot out from the earth the

human beings I have created people

together with animals creeping things

and birds of the air for I am sorry that

I have made them but Noah found favor in

the sight of the Lord what kind of God

is this my students asked with one sweep

of his hand he wipes out every living

thing what could be more evil than that

and things don't get much easier as we

move forward

about a dozen chapters later we come to

the story of sodom and gomorrah and are

faced with another episode of wholesale

destruction then the Lord rained down on

Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire he

overthrew those cities and all the plain

and all the inhabitants of the cities

and what grew on the ground Abraham went

early in the morning to the place where

he had stood before the Lord and he

looked down towards Sodom and Gomorrah

and toward all the land of the plain and

saw the smoke of the land going up like

the smoke of a furnace and then if

things are not bad enough already well

there's always the book of Exodus

and the Lord said to Moses go down at

once your people whom you brought out on

the land of Egypt have acted perversely

they've been quick to turn aside from

the way that I commanded them they've

cast for themselves an image of a calf

and have worshiped it sacrificed to it

and said these are your God's o Israel

who brought you up out of the Land of

Israel the Lord said to Moses I've seen

this people how stiff necked they are

now let me alone that my wrath may burn

hot against them that I may consume them

and make of you a great nation the key

verse here is obviously that of verse 10

which I've highlighted God proposes to

destroy all of Israel and to rebuild a

new nation from the figure of Moses

formerly this is exactly what took place

during the flood though God had bound

himself by an oath never to repeat that

sort of destruction Exodus 32 escapes

the requirement of that oath by a legal

technicality and this instance God is

about to destroy only a single nation

rather than the whole world yet the

similarity is sufficient to shock the

sensitive reader the picture in short at

this point doesn't appear pretty at

least that's what my students certainly

take away it's not just that the flood

creates a challenge but the story of the

flood is repeated Genesis 6 is not some

rare and random act on the power of God

but it appears to be something we might

say baked into his character but to

anticipate where we're going it's

actually maybe paradoxically in this

repetition that we'll find at least part

of the solution to our problem but now

I'm getting ahead of myself we'll return

to that point but first I'd like to make

a few more general observations as the

German thinker

Hans got'em R once noted the

interpretation of texts is never

governed solely by the manifest content

of the text itself as though the text

were some kind of

objectively clear set of signs that

imprinted the same meeting on every

reader there is rather what he called a

fusion of horizons at play every time a

text is read that is the horizon of

meaning provided by the text engages

with the horizon of meaning brought by

the reader a challenge here is that

frequently the reader is not

sufficiently aware of what he or she

brings to a text an describes profundity

or barbarity to the text itself what I'd

like to suggest this evening is that

part of the reason we are so bothered by

these stories is that our understanding

of the relationship of Mercy to judgment

is somewhat naive we've been deeply

shaped by what Phillip briefed

Christopher lash and others have called

a therapeutic mindset and one of the

effects of this cultural demeanor has

been the weariness of making strong

moral claims about the nature of good

and evil

specifically the notion that good should

be rewarded and evil punished a world

shaped by the therapeutic process

recoils at the notion of moral absolutes

and the theological sphere this is

resulted in the soft-pedaling of stories

like the flood and scenting setting at

center stage stories such as the

prodigal son in short elevating the god

of the new testament here identified

with mercy over the god of the old here

identify with harsh moral judgments now

I have nothing against the story of the

prodigal son after all

it's in my Bible but I think we make a

big error if we set the God of that

story over against the god of the flood

what I'd like to suggest perhaps

somewhat daringly is that even judgment

can be merciful but in order to

appreciate this I think we need to

enlarge a bit our own horizon of meaning

and to do this this evening what I'd

like to do is to show you a brief clip

from the award-winning TV show

Breaking Bad Breaking Bad was created by

Vince Gilligan

a man raised in the Catholic Church and

who has said in several interviews that

the show deals explicitly with the

challenge of living the moral life by

persons who've rejected the reality of

God the scene we're going to watch could

not be more therapeutic it's set in the

context of a 12-step program for those

suffering from drug abuse but to

appreciate the dialogue that takes place

in this 12-step group we're going to

need to know its context and here I have

to give both metaphorically and

literally a trigger warning because

we're going to see a man pull the

trigger and we'll hear a bullet and it

is violent and I know there are people

that would prefer not to watch episodes

like this I only say in advance that you

won't see the individual who is shot

actually be shot but you will hear the

trigger so that is my trigger warning

leading up to this therapy session then

following on these thoughts is a very

disturbing scene in which one of the

main characters of the show Jesse

Pinkman fires a bullet into the head of

a completely innocent man this brutal

scene is filmed brilliantly Gilligan

will put you right in the center of the

action no doubt this is meant to show

how deeply troubled Jesse is about the

task he's about to perform and it is in

the wake of that profound disturbance

that he and feels that we will encounter

him later when he comes to the 12-step

group and that's the point of focus for

me this evening so listen carefully to

how he describes in that 12-step group

what he's done in the first episode from

this clip can you show the clip I was

warned not to use this clip from

Breaking Bad because to introduce a kind

of academic lecture after that

performance I'm going to pale in

comparison but

I'm gonna proceed in any event there are

a couple things that I would like to

flag in this little clip that you've

watched first of all I think it's

important to know that the drug world

truly is an underworld that is most of

us I think certainly speaking for myself

take the authority of our law

enforcement agencies for granted we

presume at the end of the day that bad

guys will get their comeuppance and

because we can presume that we can go

about our business without undue worries

but if we dip our heads below the

surface of this civilized frame of


we'll encounter a very different world

and this as Jesse attests is a

terrifying experience for Jesse killing

an innocent man and then walking away

without any consequence provokes not

simply a moral crisis but an existential

one he says the thing is if you just do

stuff and nothing happens what's it all

mean what's the point these are

questions about the very meaning of life

not just ethics the leader of the group

obviously not in sync with the type of

question that jesse is framing exhorts

him to let it go kicking the hell out of

yourself he says doesn't give meaning to

anything let me make an aside here

I don't think Gilligan here in this

episode is critiquing a 12-step program

on its own terms rather I think he's

using the occasion to criticize what

happens when a limited therapeutic

modality becomes a general worldview and

that is how I take Jesse's follow-up

comment so I should just stop judging

and accept myself no matter what I do

hooray for me because I'm a great guy

it's all good no matter how many dogs I

kill and if you watch Breaking Bad

you'll see

not just dogs but a lot of people die in

the underworld I just do an inventory

and except now I don't think anyone no

matter how committed they may be to the

therapeutic mindset could walk away from

this encounter not wishing for a display

of justice and even the group leader

breaks character after Jesse's

intervention and won't accept that his

condone his actions what we see in this

episode and I think this bear is

underscoring is that before Jesse can be

forgiven and I think certainly he wants

to be forgiven but before he can be

forgiven his actions must be condemned

that's what he wants he ought to pay the

price for what he's done now if we bear

these thoughts in mind I think the

horizon of meaning that we bring to the

flood story will be slightly altered for

after all what God sees when he surveys

the world at the beginning of chapter 6

is exactly what Jesse has sensed after

slaying Gayle bedecker that is a world

awash in violence and no judicial force

sufficient to stem the tide most of us I

think like Jesse would agree that such a

world would be unlivable and as a result

in Genesis six God hits the reset button

so to speak and creates a new world from

a better moral stock the loins of noah

but in Genesis all is still not well

just one story later human beings are

back to their mischief building the

Tower of Babel God sees the danger

looming but this time is unable to send

another flood so he does the next best

thing he mixes up the languages so that

no single nation can exercise

totalitarian power over the others he

creates we might say a system of checks

and balances so the human wickedness can

be controlled

even if it can't be eliminated but what

about the story of the golden calf this

story again raises its ugly head how

much can we do mess to domesticate the

wrath of God during the flood God's

return to such an overly wrought

emotional state about sigh and I would

seem to present an unsurmountable

obstacle especially given the fact that

the story is so clearly patterned at

least in part on the story of the flood

itself but there is a significant

difference between these two stories

Noah though a survivor of the flood

achieves this end by and large in a

passive fashion here you might want to

flip your handout over to page 2 yes of

course Noah built the ark he loaded the

animals into it but Noah took no stance

for or against what God proposed to do

not to put too fine a point on it but we

couldn't say that Noah was simply going

along for the ride whereas Noah was

remembered by God God being the active

agent of remembering here Moses simply

the beneficiary of the action Moses on

the other hand stridently demands that

God remember his prior commitments

remember Abraham Isaac Israel your

servants Moses has addressed the

impending Cataclysm very differently

than Noah and how do we account for this

well let's look a little bit closer at

our text and Exodus 32 Moses

unlike Noah is taken into God's

confidence and consulted about what is

going to transpire now had God simply

wished to execute judgment he would have

said this I see that this is a

stiff-necked people and so my anger

shall blaze forth against them and

destroy them

and I will make of you a great nation

this sentence describes a unilateral

action on the part of God but that's not

the book of Exodus what God actually

says is this I see that this is a

stiff-necked people now let me be that

my anger may blaze forth and so forth

oddly God is requesting Moses his

permission before he proceeds a Jewish

tradition captures I think quite

accidental excellently the tonality of

this sentence

now let me be quoting the burst mexica

that my anger may blaze forth against

them and destroy them - what can we

compare this to a king who being angry

at his son placed him in a small room

and is about to strike him but at the

same time the king cried out for someone

to stop him the son's tutor who was

standing outside said to himself the

king and his son are in the room why

does the king say stop me it must be

that the king wants me to go into the

room and bring about a reconciliation in

the similar way God says to Moses let me

be and Moses said because what God wants

me to defend Israel he says let me be

and Moses then immediately interceded

for them but is not solely that God

requested Moses his help in this manner

but God also signaled the manner by

which Moses could be most effective God

tells Moses that should he leave him

alone he will make of him a great nation

but this way of putting the matter

clearly calls to mind an earlier promise

God had made back in Genesis 12 to make

of Abraham and his successors a great

nation Moses ever the skilful

interlocutor recounts the nature in

which God bound himself to this people

when he first promised to make

a great nation he says just like went

too quickly let's keep our hand out


your servants Abraham Isaac and Israel

how you swore to them by yourself and

said to them I will make your offspring

as numerous as the stars of heaven and I

will give to your offspring this whole

land of which I spoke having been

reminded of his obligations God then in

verse 14 announces the punishment he had

planned to make he renounced the

punishment he had planned to bring upon

his people and of the verse a key

feature of this narrative is the

representational role that Moses plays

as the great Jewish biblical scholar

Yochanan muffs has argued Moses here is

not simply an exemplary human being

standing before God rather what muffs

argued is that Moses is representing

part of God to God he assumes a part of

the divine personality such that one

cannot properly pick out the full

identity of God by only attending to

what the subject identified by God in

the story says let's pause for a second

on this issue if we look at the chapter

as it literally presents itself we have

our two characters the Lord and Moses

each have speeches proper to each

character but what muffs is suggesting

is that what Moses says is what God

wants him to say in advance in essence

the figure of God not grammatically but

we might want to say semiotic lis is

represented by the two pieces of this

conversation such that one could gloss

it this way the Lord speaking in his own

voice that I have seen this people how

stiff-necked they are now let me alone

but then the Lord thought speaking in

Persona Moses why does your wrath burn

and God getting the better half of

himself renounces the punishment he had


buff's writes God allows the Prophet to

represent in his prayer his own

attribute of mercy the very element that

enables a calming of God's angry and

vindictive feelings because the Prophet

then is a necessary in non-negotiable

element in the rendering of the identity

of God

a Jewish Midrash can go so far as to say

that God wept when Moses was ready to

hand over his soul to death God said who

will who will stand against me on the

day of my wrath

this means who will protect Israel in

the hour of my anger who will speak up

for them when they sin against me Moses

on this understanding is a necessary

actor in the narrative that depicts

God's character the identity of God

would look very different where he not

on the scene one of the issues that this

story then establishes I would like to

argue basing myself on what Jochen on

muffs has already written is the

necessary role of intercessory prayer if

one thinks about it

intercessory prayer is an odd thing does

God really need me to remind him that my

aunt Myrtle for example is having

surgery tomorrow wouldn't he prefer that

I do something more useful in my life

than running over to the Blessed

Sacrament and kneeling in prayer Evelyn

Waugh captured this problem beautifully

in his Sword of Honour trilogy during

his father's funeral Mass guy Crouchback

reflects on the problem of his own

spiritual lethargy for many years now

the direction in the garden of the soul

put yourself in the presence of God head

frog I come to mean a mere act of

respect like the signing of the visitors

book at an embassy or government house

he reported for duty saying to God I

don't ask anything from you I'm here if

you want me I don't suppose I can be of

any use but if there is anything I can


send me a text I'm updating wha-at and

he left it at that

I don't ask anything from you

well that was the deadly the deadly core

of his apathy that emptiness had been

with him for years now even in his days

of enthusiasm and activity for the

halvah dears enthusiasm and activity

however were not enough God required

more than that here's the key sentence

he had commanded all men to ask God

commands us to ask in other words God

has inscribed into his handbook for

administering the providential order an

important role for human agents God

needs our prayers and that need is on

display in the most prominent way

imaginable in Exodus 32 with this in

mind I think we can cast new light on

the story of sodom and gomorrah in this

story abraham like moses is troubled by

what God is about to do

he asks whether fifty forty five thirty

even ten righteous persons will be

enough to spare the cities God assures

Abraham that ten will be enough but

later after God has destroyed the cities

we can assume that not even ten

righteous persons were to be found but

the story doesn't end there in Genesis

1929 we read and if you have it on your

handouts I'm not sure I have a slide No

Oh slide so it was that when God

destroyed the cities of the plain God

remembered there's our key word again

God remembered Abraham and sent lot out

of the midst of the overthrow when he

overthrew the cities in which law had

settled the fact that God remembered

Abraham recalls both God's remembering

of Noah but also Moses's prayer that God

remember his promises he made Israel

what here in this

text has God remembered well I believe

he was attentive to one matter which

Abraham didn't mention in his

supplication but must have been the

thing he thought about most deeply and

most profoundly and that would be the

safety of his own immediate kinsman lot

in his family in other words God

remembered the prayer Abraham was too

humble to utter out loud before closing

let's take a look at what Benedict the

sixteenth has said about Moses

intercessory prayer I think we'll see

that Benedict the sixteenth is exactly

on the same page with everything we've

drawn from Jewish sources and the Jewish

scholar you'll come on muffs he writes

this as with Abraham in regard to Sodom

and Gomorrah so also now God reveals to

Moses what he intends to do as though

not wanting to act without his agreement

he says quote let me alone that my wrath

may burn hot but in reality Benedict

says let me alone is said precisely so

that Moses will intervene and ask him

not to do it thereby revealing that

God's desire is always to save and then

going beyond simply Moses rolled

Benedict also sees the relationship of

this text to the phenomenon of

intercessory prayer more generally

intercessory prayer makes divine mercy

so active within the corrupted reality

of the sinful man that it finds a voice

in the supplication of one who prays and

through him becomes present where

salvation is needed but that Benedict

says a little bit more that I think will

bring us back to the episode we saw in

Breaking Bad as with the two cities in

the time of Abraham punishment and

destruction point to the gravity of the

sin committed at the same time the

intercessory squat request is meant to


fest the Lord's will to forgive this is

the salvation of God which involves

mercy but together with it exposes the

truth of sin of the evil that is present

so that the sinner aware of and

reflecting rejecting his own sin can

allow himself to be forgiven and

transformed by God in these words I

think we see the desires of Jesse

expressed in the episode from baking Bad

returning once more Benedict the

sixteenth sees the back and forth

between God and Moses as being ordered

to the structure of intercessory prayer

to be sure but he also sees the display

the threat of God's wrath is

underscoring the true character of the

evil that's been perpetrated it can't be

ignored God's grace as Dietrich

Bonhoeffer so profoundly knew is not

cheap it can only be offered once an

honest appraisal of the sin itself has

been made well let me conclude by

returning to the first page of your

handout and reviewing those three texts

with which I began first Genesis 6 the

story of the flood puts us back in an

era we might say of time before time

this is not a historical narrative in

the simple sense of that term rather in

this story has in many of the stories in

Genesis 1 to 11 we see how God puts in

place the conditions in which human life

can flourish one of those conditions

being the establishment of the rule of

law and the importance of that I think

was addressed quite well by the clip we

saw from Breaking Bad second we saw in

Exodus 32 that this text bore only a

superficial resemblance to Genesis 6

I say superficial because though it

looks like God wants to destroy Israel

in the same fashion in which he

destroyed the world in Genesis 6 in fact

on deeper inspection Exodus 32 is really

expressing how deeply God wants Moses to

intercede on behalf of the people he has

sworn such deep feel T and that

intercession i emphasized should not be

understood as an act of opposition to

god though we're pitting man against God

but rather the ability the gift the

grace as it were for a human being here

Moses to participate in the mystery of

God's own character or being we must

avoid the error of guy Crouchback and

think that our service of God consists

simply of signing the guestbook and then

being on our way

God wah was careful to note commands us

to ask and finally we saw that in

Genesis is not Genesis 19 though there

would be much more to say about that

text if I had time this evening but for

our purposes Genesis 19 is simply a

variation on the issues that we have

seen presented in Exodus 32 so in sum I

think we are able to answer the question

posed by my lecture title with the

abstract I was going to offer Carter

that is with the resounding no at least

with respect to the three examples I

have discussed this evening I thank you

for your time and your attention

friends now we have time for questions

and engagement with our speaker and I'm

going to exercise the moderators

privilege and ask the first question if

I could

Gary and I'm gonna be a little bit

unfair because I'm gonna ask about

something you didn't talk about how do

does this pattern repeat itself in other

contexts in the Old Testament when there

are other events God commands things

that are somewhat shocking to our

sensibilities I'm thinking of punishing

Saul for not fully executing his is his

command in terms of wiping out the

entirety of a city and similar kinds of

interventions involving what looks like

the killing of men women and children

and alike so you're addressing the

problem of in Hebrew the term is head

room the band that's another problem I

can't you know certainly while standing

on one foot you know address that this

evening that would take I mean I think

the problem is addressable perhaps not

in every instance or in every detail

made hospitable to morally sensitive

Souls but I think that it is it it's

it's not certainly as bad as it looks at

first blush but no and that story I

don't think that this particular dynamic

isn't evidence though this dynamic that

we see with Moses at Exodus 32 becomes

part and parcel of the definition of the

Prophet in ancient Israel and we could

point to many many texts and the Book of

Psalms as just laden with this

particular spiritual demeanor of

reminding God in the Psalter you know

all the time the Psalter reminds God of

of what he's done and those reminders

are never innocent they're meant to put

before God the striking lack of divine

action on the behalf of the person you

know who's suffering you know if you're

the God who has done X you know look at

my situation now and notice the the

contradiction between the two and that's

how this almost puts his appeal before

God it's a it's a deep pattern within

the Old Testament Hebrew Bible friends

come to the come

the microphones you have microphones up

top as well as down here and engage our

friend professor Anderson and also

introduce yourself before you speak

please Amaya

I'm in mufti but I'm father Bill Daley

of the congregation of Holy Cross I run

a little Center for Notre Dame in Dublin

and in that role I also preach every day

and sometimes I think I'm a halfway

decent preacher and then I listen to you

Gary I realize how inadequate are my

gifts and my question a bit like

Carter's goes a bit beyond the four

corners of your presentation which I

found persuasive but how besides reading

your books have the ball I'm reading

them I don't care people read my books I

just want them to just want to survive

in yet how has ordinary and in this

sense in comparison to you right though

I'm ordained I'm Malay reader of

scripture by comparison to yourself how

does a lay reader of Scripture wrestle

with these texts to find this because

you have a gift in teaching of sounding

both as a scholar but as a believer and

the dynamic isn't merely scholarly right

but it's a human being wrestling with

God and finding him alive do you have

any way to share with us how we might in

our own reading of these texts have that

freshness and that capacity for surprise

that you bring in in encountering them

oh that's it I wish I had an easy answer

to that I think the all I can should

suggest is finding the authors that you

believe are trust about and pursuing

them in the text about which you know

they're willing you know to comment I

wish there was one author one commentary

series one this set of resources I could

send you to for the entire Christian

Bible I can't I can't do that

unfortunately but I think of the figures

I mentioned tonight I think that

Jochen on muffs is an extraordinary

figure and having a profound theological


at the same time being you know a really

a Phil alow Jian historical critic

without match and I highly recommend

almost everything he's written Benedict

the sixteenth is amazing as well I

happen to I mean one of my anxieties

about posing the title I did for this

lecture especially you know Carter's

question is that there's umpteen number

of texts and the Old Testament and in

the new for that matter that are

problematic for you know a modern reader

and I feared that in question answer I

would simply get them all listed for me

and I would have to provide in five

seconds an answer for all of them I

can't do that but I picked these because

they come out of my experience of

teaching there are also texts that are

prominently you know for grounded by

Dawkins their standard and Marcy and

another you know heretics of the church

so they are they are representative

they're not certainly unrepresentative

but I think finding scholars that you

can trust and reading them one I

remember reading someone saying with

respect to the Talmud authoritative

Jewish source for law which is mammoth

you look at it and you think how could I

ever begin but well you just you begin

with this and pursue pursue this line

and see how far it takes you with

understanding I think you have to find

the authors you like trust them and and

go where they lead you hi I'm Dustin

Kermit I'm a post here at Notre Dame

so this line of questioning might also

be supporters but it is directly related

to these passages so I'm like all about

wrath and Punnett whatever so I don't

have a I don't have a problem with the

fact that God is like punishing bad

people in these passages but I guess

what's troubling to me is it seems like

God must also be inflicting bad fates on

a lot of innocents like the flood must

have care lots of babies and animal

and spend plenty of babies and Sodom and

Gomorrha and God could have like sent

the kids with Lawton Abraham but he

doesn't they get burned up too so I

wonder if the focus on like justifying

divine punishment I think I agree with

all of that but I wonder if that doesn't

paper over the most troubling aspect of

these stories which is that it looks

like God punishes a bunch of people who

could have done anything

so I remember once a good text that

would illustrate I think the problem

that you've just voiced is the line it's

in Exodus but one can find it elsewhere

of God punishing the father you know the

father is the children the grandchildren

three generations do things would need

to be said about that text and I'm going

to get through the specific nature of

your question in just a second but

everyone forgets the fact that within

the context of that verse it said God's

graciousness goes to a thousand

generations his punitive wrath we might

say goes to three so I think the context

of the verse of course is to display for

the reader that you know in commencer

ability between God's grace and his


but I think that the other error that's

often made by readers as we think of and

this this confounds one's reading of

many biblical passages we think of sin I

and narrowly individualistic terms I

remember talking about this text once

when I was at Princeton as a New York

University I'm sorry as a fellow and

Michael Walzer was there and he said you

know any political scientist knows the

utter truth of these lines because what

these texts are really about and what

the Old Testament is more concerned of

than with individual sins are societal

sins is that when rulers or cultures do

terrible things let's think of the

French and the British dividing up the

Middle East after the fall of the

Ottoman Empire in 1917 in a way that was

completely artificial with respect to

the people that lived there it will be

the seceding generations or if you want

to think of the Portuguese in the slave

trade from Africa to the new world these

were decisions made by singular you know

groups of people for whom the

after-effects of the sin rebounds over

generations and affects innocent people

people that didn't perpetrate them and

they suffer they suffer terribly I think

that's what these texts are about you

know when we do things wrong a lot of

people you know fall you know under the

bus as a result of these actions part of

the issue here - and this would address

the the way in which you frame the

question is the Bible unlike you know

Thomas Aquinas doesn't always

distinguish primary and secondary

causation so when it says God does this

or God does that I think frequently what

one has to understand is God has ordered

the world in such a way that you know if

you organize your society in such a way

that you're bringing you know slaves

from Africa to the new world and you

know treating them the way they were

treated the problems generated by that

societal sin are not going to go away

in the generation they're gonna last or

if you divide up you know an entire

people the air people the Middle East in

a completely phony fashion as the way

the French and the British did then

what's happening in Syria today Lebanon

these are not big surprises these

weren't countries you know under Ottoman

rule and one could multiply this you

know a hundred times one can look at you

know even the state of Germany today the

problem of integrating the East East

Germany which remains difficult and that

was you know only a generation of

communist rule but what had put in place

was you know a disaster and lots of

innocent people suffered from that

babies you know what you know so on and

so forth so I think that you know is is

a very important dimension to bring into

these materials and I guess I would you

know I agree with Michael Walzer that

there is more truth in these texts than

actually you know more moral problems

again given the sense that we recognize

that the Bible unlike Thomas Aquinas is

not interested in distinguishing

neatly at every point primary and

secondary causation so God is ultimately

the one that stands behind all of this

and the Bible is quite happy to say that

figures like Thomas and the rest would

not thank you

my name is Jacob horn occur I have an

undergraduate philosophy student from

the University of st. Thomas in st. Paul

Minnesota my question has to do with

first the Breaking Bad scene then I'll

follow up situation so we see that

Jessie underwent some sort of

existential crisis when his evil acts

are not judged as evil so that he could

then receive forgiveness is there a

similar process when good acts go

unacknowledged as good is there a

similar existential crisis and what

happens when those acts are acknowledged

as good what's the game dick yeah I'm

sure there is but I guess the way you

frame the question I don't think quite

captures what I wanted to say about

Breaking Bad and you know maybe what I

had to say about wringing bad wasn't

quite accurate but I think you know what

we see in that that episode and I think

it's actually part of the whole show I

mean one of the things that's

interesting about the show at least to

me is that Jesse's drug usage if you

compare them if you know the show Walter

White who's you know squeaky-clean with

respect to drug usage and you would

think oh well just you know Walter White

is the moral man because he doesn't

condescend to this but Jesse does but

Jesse actually is a deeply sensitive man

Walter is something of a sociopath and

Jesse senses the horror of the drug

world it's not just killing one man but

the whole world provides a kind of you

know moral ethos that is existentially

for him unbearable and one of the

reasons he keeps returning to crystal

meth and he does all of these other

things is he just can't bear to see I

mean he doesn't have the maturity to

overcome it but he doesn't have the

barbarity of Walter White to simply kind

of go home and kiss his wife and pretend

everything's okay he really sees what's

going on and that horrifies him so this

this singular I mean that for him this

is this the crisis of killing Gail

bedecker that we saw in this episode is

really just stay and of PARs Porto proto

for for Jessie of what he sees as a as a

it's he's like he's living in Genesis

six the world that he occupies is

literally an underworld is a world that

he just he would prefer not to be part

of and that I think is the profound

crisis and that I think is its tie I

mean yes good acts that aren't rewarded

is certainly problematic but I don't

think it's on the order of living in a

world in which evil of this nature is

simply condoned blinked on and you just

walk your own way hi my name is

Alexander Monson I'm Catholic I'm

freshman to Holy Cross and one of the

reoccurring themes in the Bible is that

God is all-powerful and all-knowing if

he's all knowing how would he I'm just

trying to see how I how he's getting

Moses to try and talk him out of it

would he have known that Moses would say

hey don't do this or of would he you

know not know and hope that Moses would

try to talk him out of it so the Bible

both has you know profound philosophical

and theological dimensions of which

you've just Illustrated but it's also a

narrative and one of the things that

wants to establish within the domain of

its narrativity is the miracle of human

freedom which given the fact that we are

in commensurate with God will never be

able to square that with God's

omniscience so I'll give you just

there's many classic instances of this

which theologians have worried about for

generations and for which they'll always

worry because there are no answers

let's give just two in patristic

homilies when the gauge our angel

Gabriel comes and asks you know Mary at

the Annunciation

will she be willing will she say Fiat me

he will she say yes to the proposal the

Angels all stand on the edge of the

balcony and bated breath dying to know

because they know the whole future of

creation depends on her answer and the

theological tradition wants to say she

makes a freely chosen ascent but think

about what that means that means you

have to concede that she could have said

no well what if she says no does God put

the whole of human history at risk well

you want to say no he hasn't but you

don't want to say he's forced his hand

and the same thing goes in the garden of

gethsemane is that just a is that just

like a puppet tree that you know God's

just playing with Jesus he's but he's

not really worrying well you know

there's tomes of ink you know spilled on

that one and they'll never be a solution

because what we're speaking about on

this issue is the impossibility of ever

squaring the miracle of human freedom

with God's providential ordering of the

human race the but I mean it's not a

solution but the best I might want to

say capture ization of the problem I

think is provided in an essay I always

have my undergraduates read by a great

Israeli military Simone on the Genesis

story that Joseph's story it's a

striking story because in its atmosphere

it's dramatically secular meaning unlike

the other stories in Genesis God doesn't

appear and tell any of the characters

what to do they make all their choices

on the basis of their own mental you

know calculations and many of those

choices are horrible the threat to kill

Joseph being a great example of one but

at the end of the tale in chapter 50 the

whole reconciliation scene the Holden

numel of the of the episode turns on

Joseph saying you at what you did you

intended for evil but God used it all to

achieve his good and what Ricci 1 says I

think it's exactly right is that free

will does not cancel out divine

providence but think of also the implica

does that mean that God willed that the

brothers try to slay Joseph no one would

want to say that that would be horrible

but God utilized the free choices of the

brothers to do everything they did and

all the horrible choices of Joseph and

all the horrible choices of Jacob and lo

and behold poof God's designs in the end

you know achieved their goals that human

freedom and divine predestination do not

cancel one another out how do they do so

metaphysically Bible has no answer for

that it can only put you in front of the

mystery but I can't explain it my name

is Andrew I live here in South Bend I'd

say I agree with the question are a few

ones back who found some aspects of this

talk unsatisfying and that the problem

of the evil of God in the Old Testament

has never been about whether or not God

judges people but the disproportionate

character of that judgment so for

instance the killing of the innocent and

the flood of Noah or the spoke about the

Haram earlier and an explanation about

the systematic or systemic character of

evil also seems inadequate because we

wouldn't say you can just commit

genocide because there are larger

cultural complexes at work than

particular individual actions and it

seems like the early Christian community

whom none of us I assume would accuse of

moral therapeutic deism also found these

passages to be extremely problematic in

origin as an aegis or even Augustine's

own conversion was impossible before

Ambrose introduced him to spiritual

readings of these very passages in the

Old Testament so what is your position

on the very typical response by both

eastern and western patristic sand

spiritualizing these passages because of

how horrific they are so I guess what

the flood story would depend on whether

you think you know it's a historical

episode I think I said in my talk that

it's a gender the stories in Genesis 1

to 11 and

I my mind are not you know historical

episodes the way in which the rest of

the hebrew bible is an origin says as

much as well he doesn't say that about

the flood but he does say with respect

to the garden of eden who would ever

believe that god was a gardener blah

blah blah so i don't think that's you

know that's outside the tradition to say

such but even if it was i think it's

clear to most readers at the flood story

whatever agustin might have thought

about its history city we'd be

hard-pressed to find modern readers

wanting to make that claim so that one

has to ask for what's it doing there and

I don't think the story I mean the way I

put it you have to die I often get this

from philosophers you have to have a

sense of genre if you're watching the

Lord of the Rings and they're attacking

the fortress of sovereign you're just

thinking you know destroy them because

you're thinking this is good versus evil

I mean there probably are little babies

on the other side of the of the wall but

the genre of the novel and it's movie

movie ization isn't you know that's not

the question the writer wants you to ask

there are different genres in which

that's a completely appropriate question

I'm not denying that that's an issue but

I think different genres raise different

you know issues for our consideration

and I think the flood story is I mean

you you can disagree with me I that's

not going to offend me if you do but I

think it is raising the questions of

what we saw in the episode of Breaking

Bad is who would want to live in a world

in which there is no you know there's no

judicial force that will reign in human

wickedness and I think that's that

that's one of the themes that's going on

in Genesis 1 or 11's how is God going to

make the world it's also part of ultra

fascist and the Mesopotamian traditions

about the flood as well as how is God

going to make the world a place in which

human beings can flourish and it takes

God a while to to achieve that that's

part of the anthropomorphic speech of

Genesis 1 to 11 the other stories again

sodom and gomorrah and the like again i

think a lot of the the father's the

reason why it's in that story and i

can't remember what they say about sodom


pretend the Gustin is bothered by it or

gregory of nyssa wouldn't be hard to

imagine but i think again the Bible says

God does it and they don't that they

take that more literally than I would i

think these stories are in the but in

the old testament the distinction

between primary and secondary causality

is not something that exercise the

writers so when they ascribe things to

divine action that's not necessarily the

only way in which they have to be

understood but the bible does want to

say that when peoples commit evils the

whole you know nazi germany the you know

the bombing of Germany by the Allies

lots of innocents suffered and and some

of them unjustly there were war crimes

committed by the Allies to be sure but

in a war lots of innocence even if you

do everything possible not to have

innocence of her innocence will suffer

because that's simply the nature of what

war is and in if we think of these

stories or we think of this dimension of

the old testament which is dealing with

peoples and civilizations again as

walter would say i just don't think the

problem has quite the same force as it's

often presented it doesn't completely

disappear but it doesn't have quite the

same force i think you're ascribing to

it I'm Teresa Brucker I'm a freshman at

Holy Cross College across the street and

I was wondering God it talks about how

he he regrets and it seems that he

changes his mind a lot but as I

understood and this might be incorrect

uh since God is infinite I thought that

he was he remained the same since he's

outside of time so how do you address

how that is written and put forth as

though God does change that's related to

the mystery of intercessory prayer I

mean why does he want me to pray for my

aunt Myrtle there's I mean according to

your logic I shouldn't you know

guy Crouchback I should just sign the

guestbook and let God take care of the

universe intercessory prayer is an


thank God want some how in God's own

being he wants us to ask and when he

when we ask he will quote change his

mind that is I mean what I tried to give

them an example again you don't have to

accept it but the story of the Bible the

Bible is speaking in the language of

human experience it has no other way to

frame it than to describe it this way it

is that who God is in say well you know

what we'd have to ask Thomas Aquinas if

that's how God is in say perhaps we want

to say no but in terms of the way in

which the narrative logic of the story

is going to flow the way in which we're

going to explain as limited finite human

beings how it can be that I can pray for

somebody God will hear it and then my

prayer will be answered one says well

what what if I didn't pray again these

are in mean their insoluble problems but

the Bible takes the risk of making it

would rather say God changed his mind or

to Abraham now I know that you fear God

what didn't God not know before know

that God knows now the Bible wants to

inscribe in the reader the importance of

Abraham's decision there's something

about human freedom that you know is

simply miraculous impossible to get

one's head around and the Bible is going

to take the risk of making you know God

a character not to erase that dimension

of human experience

okay my name is Kenny or lacus I'm

graduate philosophy major

rusty of st. Thomas in Minnesota you may

have just answered my question regarding

intercessory prayer who said that

it's our prayer I ever worried that this

might the potential phone connection I'm

hearing every other word okay is this

better yes okay my question earlier in

your lecture you said that God needs our

prayer uh-huh how does this not impinge

on God's omnipotence how does it not

impinge on what

omnipotence I have no idea good answer

what what do you want to say that God

then doesn't doesn't need our prayers I

mean that's your choice it's it's like

Mary and all the Angels what if she says

no well just because she's not gonna say

no she's the Blessed Mother

just to be she could but she didn't oh

there we go but the problem is that you

have to come if you're going to make it

a free decision you have to entertain

the idea the other possibility so what

when if we want to extol Mary for her

free choice then we have to reckon with

the possibility that she could have said

no so what does God put the whole

universe at risk well there's no

answering that question okay I think we

have time for one more question Jim you

want to donor Louisiana State University

I've been trying to think of a Cajun

joke which would be what he just would

have asked another girl but

but but the serious question are you

distinguishing between God's justice and

God's mercy so to go back to the

question is the god of the Old Testament

evil would it be two different questions

as the evil because unjust or evil

because unmerciful and it seems to me

that the intercessions of Abraham and

Moses are different on this score that

Abraham interceding is interceding for

the righteous man right and therefore is

calling into questions God's justice

whereas Moses isn't justifying what was

done in his absence and worshiping the

Gordon the golden calf but presumably is

pleading for God's mercy the difference

in my view between Abraham and Moses but

it's like going to a customer service

desk at Walmart and let's imagine you've

got a product you bought at Walmart that

failed but you don't have the receipt so

you have no legal hold on Walmart to

give you your money back so if that's

your situation when you walk into the

store with your toaster and you've lost

the receipt you meet the lady behind or

the man don't want to be sexist behind

the customer service desk and you're

going to be very polite you're going to

say you know well this is a great

company I know you want to stand by your

product wah blah blah and you know maybe

nine times out of ten you're gonna get

what you wish Moses has got the receipt

you know Moses God said that you know he

promised Abraham blah blah blah and

Moses can stand up there and you know he

says remember look it's written right

here and he can be much more direct and

demanding at least to me that's the

difference between the two stood the two

stories he is asking about the righteous

but I think the important element this

frequently forgotten by individuals I

don't read to the end of the story is

the element I mentioned is that as

Abraham is Abraham runs to look down at

Sodom Gomorrah when

smoke is rising not simply because he's

interested in a moral problem though he

is and that's what God wants to teach

and that's what God says at the

beginning of 18 but he's also concerned

about his family members right and

that's why the story ends God remembered

what did he remember he knew what

Abraham was really asking about and he

delivered that family at least for me

that's a key element that's come it's

frequently forgotten there and they

didn't rise to the number of ten but

they were individuals who run or

righteous that God you know wasn't going

to be unjust and to destroy that's how I

read it in any event please join me in

thanking professor Anderson once again




and friends as always we can continue

our conversation outside in the atrium

with some refreshments and wonderful

kickoff to the beginning thank you very