Theodicy on the radio

The Archbishop of Canterbury sat Saturday morning for an 11-minute interview (requires RealAudio) with John Humphrys of the BBC about the school massacre in Beslan, Russia. Humphrys asked tough questions the entire time (hat tip: Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans). Their conversation is an amazingly detailed dialogue about evil, the nature of free will and what it all means for a Christian's faith. A key excerpt:

In a world in which human decisions are free, even free for the most appalling evil like this, God does not dictate, intervene for outcomes.

Human decisions are free.

Human decisions are free.

Not for the children they weren't, were they?

The children were held captive. The decisions were being made by others. And that's how power works in the world, of course, that some are enslaved by the decisions of others.

So when Christianity talks about free will, what it actually means is power.

It means the ability to make a difference in a situation. Now that also means the difference -- the ability, tragically -- to use others in the way that these terrorists were attempting to use those children. I suppose the sense that we all have that some kind of line has been crossed here is the almost impossibility of imagining how people can not only calculate that the death of children will serve their purpose but actually to sit with suffering children for days, watching that in a calculating way. And that's the kind of decision that, yes, you have to call evil.

In condemning the terrorists' actions, Williams cites not only Jesus' words about the judgment that will come to those who harm children (Matt. 18:6), but also cites the Qur'an's warning that "Allah does not love people who overstep the limits" (Surat al-Ma'ida, 87).

The interview is a model of how a religious leader can, amid the most horrifying circumstances, speak on behalf of God's love and justice.

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