My experience of Prof Paul S. Fiddes is primarily as Principal of Regent's Park College during my ministerial training. Although there was, rightly, immense pride in the College for all Paul's theological achievements, what has always struck me has been his humanity - his kindness, his compassion, and his grace. In his dealings with us as students, he managed to communicate an enthusiasm for theology and ministry. Or to put it another way, an inspiring enthusiasm for God and his people. The book which combines these for me is Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity (DLT, 2000) which seeks to answer so many of the questions which most of us, as ministers, shy away from, but which truly get to the heart of the relationship between God, his people, and his world. One quotation is never enough, but the following seems to me characteristic of Paul as pastor, preacher, reader, and creative theologian, who, out of the reality of life, still finds God through faith.
But I must end with the same word of caution with which I began this chapter. There can be no complete theodicy. There can be no completely rational defence of God in a world of pain. If there could be, it would justify suffering on the one hand, and destroy faith on the other. In argument we may talk of the risk that God took in creation, and the way God shares that risk in suffering. Rational theodicy is thus not divorced from practical theodicy: they are both connected with a suffering that 'befalls' God or 'happens' to God. But it still remains open to decide whether God's creative decision that set all this off is worth the cost.
In Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov, one of the characters (Ivan) ask the question: 'Is the whole universe worth the tears of one tortured child?' He has in mind the story of a rich landowner who threw a peasant child to his hunting dogs to be torn apart because the child had thrown a stone and broken a dog's leg. Is it all worth the tears of one child, let alone the millions in Auschwitz? Even if God suffers, is it worth it? Ivan thinks not, and says that he is 'returning his entrance ticket to God with the polite observation that the price was too steep'.
The belief that God suffers with us may help us to say that the making of persons is worth all the tears. But only faith can answer the question, 'is it worth it?' after all reasonable arguments have fallen silent. (pp.186-7)
Ed Kaneen is a Baptist minister, who is currently completing a PhD in New Testament at Durham University, and will become the Tutor in the Biblical Studies at South Wales Baptist College in September 2012.