Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Theological Problem of Worms

It was early in the afternoon the day I went for a walk around my neighbourhood. It had rained heavily during the night and early morning, but the sun was out and shining in its full force. The freshness after a good rainfall had now dried up and that scent of healthy moist earth along with it. Now all I came across was the shriveled bodies of hundreds of worms on the pavement; lifeless dried out husks.

As my eyes were drawn to their bodies I noticed they didn't count in the hundreds, but more like in the thousands. The road was absolutely covered with them.

What a horrible existence. What a horrible life.

Designed to live and thrive beneath the earth's surface, in the soil; warm and safe. But when the water comes; when the rain falls, they are faced with a terrible decision. Stay in their burrows and drown, or escape to the surface making themselves vulnerable to giant-sized predators. (Although a Red-breasted Robin isn't particularly threatening to us, to a worm they're a monstrosity). Then they must hope to time their entrance into their subterranean safety after the water's subsided but before the sun dries them to death.

Why would a loving God create worms? I can completely understand the need and function worms perform. They are a necessity. But why this horrific choice between drowning and monstrous hunters?

...but I guess this isn't really an important theological question, is it? After all, they're only worms, right?


I can remember the World Trade Center falling in 2001. we still struggle and reel with questions like why? How could so many innocent people, people just like you and me, fall victim to a crime like this?

I can remember when the Tsunami hit India in 2004.
We never really ever got an accurate body count but they estimated somewhere around 200,000 people were lost. Swept away. Whole and entire islands, simply gone.

...How can a loving God allow these things to happen? Most especially if we believe nothing in this world happens without God's permission or direction.

Please don't think I am making light of these horrific events. But they seem to put the blight of the common everyday worm to shame. But you see, the theological problem with worms is the exact same theological problem we face and question.

I partially believe the problem lies in the fact that we presume God plays favourites towards us humans. Not only that, but we presume God must absolutely be anthropomorphic. “He” is a god of us human beings.

I realize these thoughts and views are difficult. But this is the same God who has created worms as well as humans... the same God who loves us both.

The theological problem of worms is our theological problem.
I believe – at least in part – the answer to these problems lies within out anthropomorphic views (or maybe insistence) of God's nature. Maybe even our belief that God must be personal. Or even a 'person' as we understand the term. (Maybe God is significantly more akin to the idea of what the Tao is?)

To me, I have only come across 3 possible explanations. Atheism, Deism, or Gnosticism. Little else would seem to explain this theological problem of worms.

1 comment:

javalava said...

Interesting insight; and very true.  It also makes sense that the world hangs together as a whole and our fate and the worms' are not dissimilar.

[An aside: You mention the Tao.  For some Taoist thought at least (e.g. Cultivating Stillness, Eva Wong's translation of a 400 C.E. text) there is Wu-chi and Tai-chi before/above the Tao.  I don't understand this really, but I suspect a Taoist would identify the Tao as the Way (as in Jesus) – and God (whatever that means) being the source of the Perpetual Now that the Tao moves within.]

I agree with you that these questions reflect our tendency to anthropomorphize.  Perhaps even theorize?  We like to perceive general patterns that help us predict what is best to do.  One way of coping in a mystifying world that is too complex for our limited minds.

But what if God is essentially practical, concrete?  Each situation, every creature intimately known (being the universal "insider").  Generalizations would be an additional, quite unnecessary gloss on Reality.  Each expression of life within that is simply "taking care of business" until it can't any more.

Atheism, Deism, or Gnosticism are just alternative theoretical perspectives.  It seems to me that God and man (and worms) are in essence practical beings.