The Bible and Beyond Podcast Episode
Marcion Answers “Where Is God When Things Go Wrong?”
An Interview with Dr. Stephen A. Cooper
Marcion, a popular but controversial early Christian leader, tackles the question of how to believe in a good God in the face of evil things happening. Plato introduced the idea, and other first- and second-century thinkers drew on the idea, of a ‘demiurge’ – a creator god who deals with the world. The perfect and transcendent God would never create a world of bad stuff but lovingly dispatched a savior to offer a way out of the world of suffering.
Stephen A. Cooper is a professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, specializing in early Christianity, particularly the interpretation of the Pauline letters and philosophical theologies. Of his numerous books, his Augustine for Armchair Theologians is of special interest, because Augustine himself is an example of a figure who combines biblical exegesis and philosophical theology. Cooper’s interest in Neoplatonism as providing a doctrine of a transcendent god has also drawn him to the study of gnostic Christian authors as well as Marcion. His presentation on Marcion at the North American Patristics Society (NAPS) in May 2021 inspired the invitation to his participation in this podcast series on “Where is God When Things Go Wrong.”
More in the “Where Is God When Things Go Wrong” series:
“Where Is God When Things Go Wrong” by Shirley Paulson (blog post)
“Early Christians Answer ‘Where Is God When Things Go Wrong?‘” an interview with Dr. Jason BeDuhn (podcast)
“Ancient and Modern Thinkers Answer ‘Where is God When Things Go Wrong?‘” an interview with Dr. James McGrath (podcast)
Wonderful interview, and so thought-provoking. I was curious that Dr. Cooper said that the Book of Acts gives us an example of the creator god that Marcion rejected, even though it was only the Gospel of Luke that Marcion accepted as his ‘canon’ (along with Paul’s letters). Yet Luke and Acts are by the same author.
We, today, are still wrestling with whether God is totally transcendent or aware of and empathetic to our human condition. There are pluses and minuses to each of these. The Gospel of John begins with: in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. For me, this gospel author was trying to negotiate and understand the relationship between the human and the divine. I’ve come to think that having both of these in the equation is the most healthy place to be.