Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Theodicy: Why Is There Evil And Suffering?

The Reason for God-Why Evil and Suffering


Where is God in the midst of our pain? Why doesn’t He do something about the evil and suffering in this world?

David Hume: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is cruel. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?

This serious objection against the existence of God is sometimes called the Archilles’ heel of the Christian faith. How would you answer? It becomes a profoundly difficult question (both intellectually and emotionally) if you believe in a biblical vision of God as holy, loving and all-powerful. For people who experienced terrible tragedy, this is a personal issue not just philosophical. Empathy and pastoral care are more appropriate. Remember Job’s friends.

The first thing to note is this: The Bible recognizes, allows, and even invites such questions. If you are troubled by the reality of sin and suffering in the world, you are not alone. Listen to the wailings of suffering Job, the laments of prophet Jeremiah, the angry complaints of Habakkuk or Psalm 22; leading to the climax of Jesus’ cry on the cross: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” You can hardly find any faithful saint who does not wrestle with the why questions. The Bible recognizes, allows, and even invites such questions.


While we cannot explain the detailed purpose behind every specific case of suffering, the Bible gives us clear answers on two other important questions that help us to trust in God’s goodness and power:


1) “Does God care? Where is He in our pain?” 
God is with us when it hurts: He is not far away, looking indifferently at our struggles. Rather he has come in the person of Jesus and suffered personally on the cross on our behalf. The answer cannot be that God doesn’t care. Only the Christian faith shows us a God who suffers injustice, rejection and pain with us and for us.

Albert Camus, the existential philosopher: “The god-man (Jesus) suffers too, with patience. Evil and death can no longer be entirely imputed to him since he suffers and dies. The night on Golgotha is so important in the history of man only because, in its shadows, the divinity ostensibly abandoned its traditional privilege, and lived through to the end, despair included, the agony of death”


“Jesus of the Scars” (a poem by Edward Schiltoff) 


The other gods were strong. But Thou wast weak.
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to Thy throne.
And to our wounds, only God's wounds can speak,
and not a god has wounds but Thou alone.

2) Will evil and suffering be resolved one day?” 


God will renew the heaven and earth: We despair with the question of whether evil will eventually be overcome because it appears so powerful and pervasive. But Jesus promised that God will intervene and stop evil one day. He will wipe the tears from our eyes and turn weapons of war into instruments of peace. There will be future resolution when relationships will be restored, all creation restored and healing justice in society.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the ultimate sign that God’s righteous rule will eventually prevail over sin and death. Evil shall not have the last word. 

What God has done in Christ on Easter morning, He would do on a cosmic scale for the entire creation, including us! In the meantime, we are to live today as if the future is already present. The way we live should point forward to what God’s kingdom in its future fullness would look like (like a movie preview). Therefore we have every reason and motivation to be His agents of healing justice in a sinful and suffering world.

Perhaps our need is not to have evil explained. A more urgent question is:

What are we doing about the evil and suffering in our world? It’s a call to action, not just reflection. Are we actively working as individuals and church to alleviate suffering of the poor and marginalized?

Read on for further details on some possible Christian theodicy approaches and non-Christian views on evil and suffering 

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