Theologians have sometimes reached too swiftly for aesthetic analogies which suggest that everything in creation contributes to an overall harmony. The danger here is of transposing moral and religious objections to suffering into artistic descriptions of the shadow in the painting or the discordant note in the music which comprise a richer and more poignant performance. The problem of evil resists such categorisation, for much the same reason as we hold that the end cannot always justify the means. Although an account of the rich tapestry of creation might accommodate a modicum of pain and discomfort to facilitate the emergence of greater goods, such considerations can cope neither with the intensity of some forms of suffering nor with the depravity of some of our actions. The distribution and depth of innocent suffering prevent the easy deployment of a theodicy oriented towards an aesthetic resolution.David Fergusson, The Providence of God: A Polyphonic Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), p. 315
The fact is that too many theologies of providence fail to take seriously what Fergusson refers to as ‘dysteleological suffering and failure’ (p. 314). There are some things that just cannot be explained or accounted for by an all-encompassing analogy.
That said, Fergusson goes on to say that ‘the musical analogy of a cantus firmus might serve a theology of providence’, insofar as this is ‘a steady and underlying melody to which the other contrapuntal tunes relate’ (p. 315). I can appreciate this in and of itself; but given Fergusson then goes on to connect this cantus firmus to ‘the story of Jesus’ (p. 315), I fail to see why he needs then to explicate this latter in terms of the former. Or perhaps I’m being too biblicist here!