- Evil and the Mystics’ God: Toward a Mystical Theodicy by Michael Stoeber, and: Theo-monistic Mysticism: A Hindu-Christian Comparison by Michael Stoeber (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 59, Number 4, October 1995
- pp. 662-666
- View Citation
- Additional Information
662 BOOK REVIEWS that risk what H. Richard Niebuhr called "utilitarian Christianity" in their focus on divine immanence rather than transcendence. Hence questions may and ought to emerge about whether the appeal to rights involves an unacceptable concession to contemporary individualism (Tanner denies that it does), whether the use of creation-talk is hopelessly abstract without a prior grasp of the divine work of redemption as realized within the practices of Christian community, and whether traditional belief in God's transcendence can really be rescued from its historical perils. Suffice it to say that these will be good questions to the extent that they will be asked following the inquirer 's most careful consideration of this fine book. Kathryn Tanner's argumentation sets a high 'standard for any critical response to it. If that standard is met, then so much the better for theology and theological ethics today. WILLIAM WERPEHOWSKI VdlallOIJa University Villanova, Pennsylvania Evil and the Mystics' God: Toward a Mystical Theodicy. By MICHAEL STOEBER. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992. Pp. ix + 225. $45.00 (cloth). Theo-monistic Mysticism: A Hindu-Christian Comparison. By MICHAEL STOEBER. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994. Pp. x + 135. $49.95 (cloth). These monographs deserve careful reading and wide use. They are thorough , drawing widely on the available literature in English; their essential points are important and well-argued; they are sensible and fair-minded accounts which state disagreements and criticisms without vituperation; Stoeber's goals-fashioning a more adequate response to the problem of evil and the development of more comprehensive models for understanding mysticism (in Evil and the Mystics' God and Theo-monistic Mysticism, respectively )-are important; his conclusions, that attention to mystical experience helps us to respond to the problem of evil and that monistic experiences have their place in a larger theistic framework, are generally persuasive and provide a heuristic framework with wide application; they are refreshing in their insistence that the issues of theodicy and mysticisms are best treated in a comparative perspective. Let us review salient features of each study, with particular attention to the comparative issues. Evil and the Mystics' God is imbued with an urgent sense of the problem of evil as it impacts life (with Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov setting the tone for the book). Stoeber attends to the most prominent participants in the long BOOK REVIEWS 663 conversation over evil and the goodness of God, and with their help seeks to propose a better theodicy: "the vindication of the beneficent care of God in the context of the existence of evil ... the reconciliation of the divine attributes and evil-what can be understood as its defensive aspect ... [but also] evidence illustrating the active beneficence of the Divine, while at the same time maintaining the negative reality of evil and the obligations of social morality" (Evil, 14). Part I reviews nonmystical theodical accounts, with respect to retribution, freedom, aesthetic considerations of the function of parts within the whole, and the teleological perspective "which attempts to explain or justify evil in terms of some future good to which it is ordered" (Evil, 2). He explores important versions of this model, as presented by Leibniz, Hume, and Hick, but concludes that the problems of dysteleological evil-the raw sorrows of innocent and large-scale suffering-cannot fit convincingly within even the most refined nonmystical teleology. He therefore goes on to develop a "teleological mysticism," wherein "the mystic purposely undergoes certain processes in order to achieve an encounter with or participation in a reality that is understood to be primary, the source of existent phenomena ... these processes involve negative methods intended to lessen and finally eliminate the debilitating influence of the senses and the will which hinders mystical realization, as well as more positive painful moral, physical and spiritual mortification activities" (Evil, 97-8). Though conceding that dysteleological problems persist-extreme suffering, natural disasters -he defends the superior merits of a mystical theodicy which "stresses the potential divinity of the human being, his or her possible participation in mystical union with an active and personal Divine.... Mystical theodicy does not merely point to a further spiritual eschaton that justifies teleology, but emphasises, on the authority...