Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No, Really, It's ALL Good

I recently wrote about my boy Caleb’s interesting spin on Christian doctrine. Last night he threw out another one that made me say, “O-Kaaaay…?”

Here’s how our conversation went:

Caleb: Hey Dad!

Me: What?

Caleb: Guess what!

Me: What?

Caleb: A long time ago, Jesus made asteroids come down and kill all the dinosaurs.

Me: Jesus did that, huh?

Caleb: Yeah.

Me: O-kaaaay…?

I don’t know how we got onto the topic. It just came up out of the blue. Something else I’m not sure of: whether he’s totally confused, or he’s found a brilliant way to reconcile creationist and scientific views.

Presumably, Caleb’s unfaltering belief in Jesus (the “greatest superhero ever”) as a destroyer would be matched by faith in Him as the creator of all things, including dinosaurs. So his asteroids-as-a-divine-dispensation theory suggests the almighty creator did what—made a mistake? Hmm, these giant lizards were a bad idea. No problem, just kill ‘em all and start over. This opens up a big, messy paradox. (God would cease to be God if he were not perfect, all-knowing, and all-powerful. But this is a topic for another discussion.)

Copyright © 1991 by W.W. Norton & Co.
I noted examples of similar views in a paper I wrote a few years ago for a literature class, on Voltaire’s Candide. This picaresque novella (Yeah, I just used that phrase. It’s okay—I’m an English major.) satirizes the “deterministic optimism” of Enlightenment thinkers, whose philosophy, greatly simplified, held that everything comes from God and therefore everything is good. (Try to refute either of these tenets, and you get caught in the paradox I mentioned above.)

Cunegonde, a beautiful, innocent young lady in Candide who buys into deterministic optimism, describes the invasion of her castle. She begins with the following statement:

“I was in my bed and fast asleep when heaven chose to send the Bulgars into our castle…”

She then explains how the invaders raped and kidnapped her and chopped her family to pieces. But it’s okay, because this was all “a mere matter of routine.” Cunegonde doesn’t question the justice of anything in this world—even rape and murder—because she’d been taught that everything comes from God. The possibility that the Bulgars acted on their own free will does not even occur to her, and she cannot differentiate between God's allowing something to happen and His causing it to happen.

Caleb holds some beliefs comparable to Cunegonde's, but he applies them to much less personal situations. And he does not think deeply about these things; he just believes in dinosaurs and in Jesus, as do I.


In hopes of stimulating some reader involvement, I'd like to throw out a challenge. Let's see who can be the first to correctly identify a line from Rod or Todd Flanders (I'm not sure which) on The Simpsons that reflects a belief like Cunegonde's. Hint: Study the episode "My Sister, My Sitter."

You may comment below or send email to me at I would offer a prize for the winner, but I don't have anything that seems appropriate to this game, so you'll have to settle for praise and recognition in a future update here. Go to it, Simpsons fans and online research wizards!


  1. "No problem, just kill ‘em all and start over"

    *cough* great flood *cough*

  2. Well, yeah... there was that whole flood thing.

    That was an entirely different situation.

  3. No idea what the line is (and haven't read Candide in decades). But a google of the phrase "Cunegonde the simpsoms my sister my sitter" gives a hit for your blog.
    On the other hand, I'm impressed by the parallel you've drawn between classic literature, and a quick comment from your son. Based on this and the St Johns post, it will be interesting to see how his faith develops...