"Rape and the Will of God" was the title of yesterday's (10/24/12) blog by my favorite blogger, Rami Shapiro (rabbirami.blogspot.com) as he commented on Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's statement that if a rape victim became pregnant, "it is something that God intended."
Despite the outcry from all sides over Mourdock's remarks, Rami points our that if you believe (as many Americans do) that God "runs the universe," this is the logical conclusion: if God intended the pregnancy, then God intended the rape.
When I was in seminary, this kind of discussion fell under the rubric of "Theodicy"--the theological enterprise that seeks to address the "Problem of Evil." Simply stated, how can an all-powerful and all-loving God allow evil to exist? Either God has the power to to eliminate evil and chooses not to do so (where is the love?) or God does not have the power to eradicate evil.
During my pastoral days, the best discussion I came across was found in a little book by the great pastor/theologian Leslie Weatherhead entitled The Will of God. He sees God's will in 3 phases: from the beginning, God had an Intentional Will; but because Humans had free will and 'sinned', God developed a
Circumstantial Will; yet God would prevail in the end with God's Ultimate Will. This model was helpful in showing the complexity in the use of the term "God's Will," but it does not solve the problem of evil.
More recently, the esteemed New Testament scholar, Bart Erhman, and professor of religion at the University of North Carolina, published a book entitled God's Problem. I have not yet read the book, which discusses the problem why an all-powerful God allows human suffering. It is my understanding that after dealing with the contradictory biblical explanations, he arrives at atheism, which is, as Rami points out, one possible logical conclusion to the problem of evil.
In 1949, my sister Betsy was born with cystic fibrosis, and died in 1951 when I was 4 years old, The 'theology' of my parents' fundamentalist Baptist church, simply labelled her life and death as "God's will," and I was "comforted" with the pronouncement that she was "too good for this world!" and that Jesus took her to be in heaven. Years later, I realized that even at age 4, I was able to question this (to myself) and come to the conclusion that I was bad enough to stay around. I guess this was my introduction to what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. I want to believe that there is a cosmic life force and energy that is Light and Love, and that the "Holy Mystery" is stronger than evil. But so often it seems that evil is winning.