God Can’t: A Review

“I am convinced that God is love, this thought has for me a primitive lyrical validity. When it is present to me, I am unspeakably blissful, when it is absent, I long for it more vehemently than does the lover for his object.”

― Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

     There’s a good chance Dr. Oord’s new book, God Can’t, may threaten the very foundations many believers hold dear. I do not want to imply this book is divisive, far from it. In fact, understood correctly, this book has the potential to join very disparate groups of people in the commonality of their human experience. Unfortunately, many people may not be ready for the challenges this book brings. However, for those who are ready to be challenged, this book offers a path of healing. On the other side of that path is a deeper, truer, and more authentic faith. If you are ready for the difficult call of authenticity offered here, then I would highly encourage you to pick up God Can’t. In this post, I’m going to give you a brief overview of the book from an existential perspective, explain why I believe the ideas are important, and discuss how some of these concepts may be applied in therapy, the Church, and in theology.


     The problem of evil goes like this: God is all powerful and all loving. An all loving being would want to prevent evil things from happening to those they love. And all powerful being would be able to prevent evil things from happening to those same people. Evil happens to us, the beings God claims to love. This means God is either not all powerful (unable to prevent evil from occurring), or not all loving (doesn’t care if evil happens). Therefore, God does not exist. This is a legitimate issue many people have struggled over. In addition, there’s the issue of freewill and foreknowledge: If God knows the future, and God is never wrong, how can we have freewill?
    Dr. Oord has answered these questions through multiple publications on love (The most recent of which are: The Uncontrolling Love of God, Uncontrolling Love, and God Can’t). For Oord, freewill is a necessary condition of God’s love for us; an “Essential Kenosis” (EK). What this book adds to the already published works is a teleological application of the theological concepts. It’s one thing to talk about a general “trauma” and to offer platitudes like, “God works in mysterious ways”. That may be, but that doesn’t mean God is illogical, chaotic, capricious, and flippant. If we take seriously the idea that God is love, we must also take seriously the pain and suffering in the world.
   God Can’t explores the idea of EK, the existence of trauma (evil), and how we can respond. If you read this book, you take a big risk. You may have to accept genuine responsibility. And that’s not something everyone is willing, or ready, to do.


     Many therapeutic conversations work to distinguish the difference between fault and responsibility. Fault is about blame; who did what to whom, and when. Responsibility is about response: our ability to respond to a situation. We are not always completely at fault. We are always 100% responsible for how we respond. I have written about this in the past, but Yalom defined responsibility like this:

“To be aware of responsibility is to be aware of creating one’s own self, destiny, life predicament, feelings and, if such be the case, one’s own suffering. For the patient who will not accept such responsibility, who persists in blaming others — either other individuals or other forces — for his or her dysphoria, no real therapy is possible”.

What does this mean for those who have experienced trauma? It means so many things, but I am going to break it down into 3 sections: Be, Do, Have. The BDH model has been around so long, I can’t find out where it came from, but there’s a great explanation here: Be Do Have. Briefly explained, BDH is the idea that we must first know who we are (Be), and allow that to inform our behaviors/decisions (Do), and commit to altering and changing our actions until we get what we are working for (Have). The problem happens when we start with what we think we want (Have), then work and stress (Do) to try and get it so that we feel validated/ “ok” (Be). This process makes the security of our personhood dependent on outcomes and what we own. That externalization of self turns small threats into massive, existential, threats about our very being!



Love: Part D of 4.

     Our lives are slipping away. In minutes and by seconds, our lives are taken from us. We have no say in this. We do, however, have a say on what we spend our time. Really, that is the only choice we can make. When you’re at the end of your time, and you look back, what will your receipts say? Were you robbed by passivity and procrastination? Did the anxiety of choosing lead you to choose anxiety by trying to choose nothing? Or did you cash in your days and spend them on others? On your self? On finding Love? On pushing yourself? We have been given lives and the ability ot spend that life on what we choose. I, for one, hope to spend as much of my life as possible on Love, and as little as possible on Fear.

(C) Nathan D. Croy


The Passing of the Present

     Walking into the room, I saw she was asleep. She looked peaceful in her bed, covered up to her neck with several sheets. Hesitation at the prospect of disturbing her rest competed against the desire to spend time with someone whose time was quickly running out. After a brief moment I decided to sit in the wheelchair beside her bed and simply be there. If she woke I would talk with her. If not, that was fine, too.
     As chance would have it, she did wake. I put my hand on her knee. For a time we were just there. No questions about how she felt, what medications she was taking, or idle chit-chat about the weather. We were just sitting. She started to smile.
     “What are you thinking about?”, I asked.
     With another smile she said, “Nothing. I try not to think too much.”
     The readings in existentialism flooded my brain and I needed to know more. “Why? Are you afraid?”
     “Are you worried?”
     “Then what are you trying to not think about?”
     “The future.”
I wondered if it was her own future she was trying not to think about, or if it was the future of her husband of 72 years she would soon be leaving behind.
     I pushed on. “So what do you think about?”
     “The past. I’m remembering a high school teacher.”
     “Really? Do you remember the teacher?”
     “His name was James Frances. He really helped me with things.”
I couldn’t believe she could remember his name. She was 92. High school had been more than 70 years ago. What could he have taught her to endear his name in her mind this long? My curiosity got the better of me.
     “You remember his name? What did he help you with that you can remember him after all this time?”
     “He taught me how to balance a check-book.”

     It would be easy to dismiss this as a

Procrastination and Priorities

     It seems essential, in relationships and all tasks, that we concentrate only on what is most significant and important.

–Soren Kierkegaard

     During my freshman year of college, I fell behind in my studies. The amount of anxiety (A) I felt could be described using a very simple formula comparing the amount of work (W) I had to do, divided by the time I had to complete my work (T): A=W/T. As A gets further from zero, the higher my anxiety was. For instance: I currently had 6939 days worth of work to do and probably 10 days to do it in. Meaning A (my anxiety) was a gigantic 693.9. There was so much anxiety that I decided it was impossible to do anything that day, so I left it off until tomorrow. That meant I now had one less day to get the same amount of work done. For those of you keeping track at home, my A was now 771. As T approaches 0, A grows even larger until T becomes negative. At that point, the deadline has passed and anxiety tends to slip right into depression.
     About this time in my frustrated and anxiety stricken life a friend pops up and says he knows the secret to living with procrastination. He explains to me that what’s important is prioritizing. Figure out what’s worth spending the limited amount of time available only on what is the most important. After figuring out what is important, then I would know what to let go and what to actually do. Essentially, I was able to reduce T and just accept my bad/mediocre grades.

Kierkegaard’s Dash

       “I have just now come from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away — yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earth’s orbit ——————————— and wanted to shoot myself.”

     Upon first reading of this quote, most people notice the incongruence Kierkegaard illustrates in his personal journal.