Sunday, 16 November 2014

On Lucifer

The planet Lucifer is inhospitable but might be marginally habitable and has mineral wealth. Both days and nights are long, storms are frequent, there is no green vegetation and the violent blue sun continually disrupts electronics. A uranium-concentrating root causes a unique ecological cycle in one area.

While on Lucifer, Peter Berg, a Christian, wonders not for the first time whether the Ythrian New Faith of God the Hunter offers a better answer to the theological problem of undeserved pain:

"'Our noblest moment is when we, knowing He is irresistible, give Him a good chase, a good fight.
"'Then he wins honor.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 133.

This story, "The Problem of Pain," ends when Berg's unbelieving colleague responds:

"'Maybe you can find a text in Job. I don't know, I tell you, I don't know.'" (p. 134)

Would "'...I don't know...'" have made a satisfactory conclusion to the story? As it happens, Anderson follows the colleague's response, and ends the story, with one more sentence:

"The sun lifted higher above the burning horizon." (ibid.)

I would have called this "a burning image" but that is obvious. And I do think that it is a more satisfactory ending. But what does it tell us? It seems to be a pathetic fallacy. Nature, in this case the inhospitable environment of Lucifer, confirms that there is no answer? Or, by its deadliness, it confirms the Ythrian concept of God as the Hunter Who will strike us down?

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