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All is of God: Joy, Suffering, and the Interplay of Contrasts

Issue: Vol 2 No. 1 (2018)

Journal: Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/isit.32682


This essay elaborates a constructive, comparative, nondual theodicy for the Christian tradition based on the Hindu Vaiṣṇava tradition. According to the Indologist Henrich Zimmer, in Vaiṣṇavism everything is an emanation of Viṣṇu, therefore everything is of Viṣṇu. All apparent opposites are inherently divine and implicitly complementary. Good and bad, joy and suffering, pain and pleasure are not conflicting dualities; they are interdependent qualities that increase one another’s being. The Hindu myth of Samudra Manthan, or the Churning of the Ocean, exemplifies Vaiṣṇava nondualism. In that story, gods and demons—seeming opposites—cooperate in order to extract the nectar of immortality from an ocean of milk. If “opposites” are interdependent, hence complementary, then they are not “opposites” but mutually amplifying contrasts. Given this phenomenology, and applying it to the Christian tradition, a benevolent God who desires full vitality for her creatures would have to create pain, suffering, darkness, and death in order to intensify their correlates. Love would demand their creation, because love would want abundant life for all. In this aesthetic theodicy, the interplay of all contrasts results from the love of a life-giving God.

Author: Jon Paul Sydnor

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