Program for Lenten Soup Supper (Tuesdays at 5:30 PM, followed by Compline at 7 PM)
The Theodical Spirituality of the Gospel of John
In this Lenten study, we will see how the Gospel of John offers a potentially transformative response to the question of suffering and the human compulsion to blame. The disciples’ question in John 9:2 (“Who sinned, this or his parents, that he was born blind?”) invites the reader to bring his or her own question of suffering to the Johannine Jesus, whose response continues into the healing narrative (9:3-7), the interrogation narrative (9:8-41), and the Good Shepherd discourse (10:1-21). The Gospel does not offer a theodicy but rather a theodical spirituality, an experience of praying the question of suffering and remaining open to a divine response. Jesus’s response consists of three sets of symbols that each include two supporting dichotomous symbols (day/night, vision/blindness, sheep/wolf) and a core symbol (light, judge, shepherd) that subverts the dichotomy. Jesus’s response reveals the scapegoat mechanism in which an innocent victim is blamed by violent victimizers. However, rather than blaming the victimizers, Jesus continues to engage with the characters who appear to be villains. In the Good Shepherd discourse, I argue that the reader is invited to identify with the symbol of the wolf and thus bring his or her compulsion to blame to the Good Shepherd. By responding to the human compulsion to blame with self-giving love and forgiveness, the Good Shepherd potentially disarms and transforms the reader. Just as the light of the world subverts the dichotomy of day and night by transforming them into one continuous day so too does the Good Shepherd subvert the dichotomy of the sheep and wolf by welcoming them both as members of his beloved flock. In this way, the reader is invited to bring to the Johannine Jesus his or her own violence, resentment and wolfish rage regarding the question of suffering and to experience the theodical spirituality of the Fourth Gospel.
Feb 20th: Introduction: What is Theodicy and Theodical Spirituality?
Feb 27th: Fruitful Ways of Reading the Gospel of John
March 6th: Blaming the Victim: Day, Night and Light (John 9:1-5)
March 13th: Blaming the Victimizer: Vision, Blindness, and the Judge (John 9:6-41)
March 20th: Blaming God: The Sheep, the Wolf, and the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21)
March 27th: Conclusion: Claiming and Reclaiming Christian Theodical Prayer