Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Theodicean Odyssey

'Theodicy is often presented as a logical contradiction of three foundational beliefs. 1. God is utterly omnipotent. 2. God is infinite love. 3. Enormous evil exists in this world. It is claimed by many that the first two statements are incompatible with the third, for an all-powerful, all-loving God would not allow so much evil.'

Ah, yes! The classic question on why God would allow such pain, suffering, and evil in the world. Honestly and pastorally, in times of actual suffering, there are no bromides that are adequate. So I pray for God the Holy Spirit to comfort. It oft seems that many are already looking for an excuse not to believe, as if the existence of evil and suffering is a vindication of unbelief. Yet the logical contradiction must be approached philosophically. That is, each of the three premises must be examined. I will do so in a way reminiscent of Aquinas.

1. God is utterly omnipotent. This cannot be absolutely true. Although God can do anything that he desires, he has chosen to limit himself according to his nature, the order of the created world, and especially through the person of His incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. God is fully and truly all-powerful within the order of creation. To intervene and avert every disaster and wicked act would upset the balance of the world. That is, it thus becomes a matter of which crimes deserve God's omnipotent intervention? In shock and horror of the evil of humanity's heart we either blame ourselves, others, or God. This is where God's omnipotence gets put on trial.

2. God is infinite love. Yes, this is true. Yet many times we demand our definition of love. A loving God wouldn't do that! (Fill in the blanks with the latest suffering or evil incarnate.) How quick we forget the incarnation where Christ emphathized with humanity, taking the form of humanity, laying aside the Godhead, suffered pain and death on the cross in order to rise again, defeating evil, sin, and death. It is only through God's infinite love whereby the suffering caused by evil in the world is redeemed. Thus, a better definition of infinite love incorporates the incarnate Christ. Thus, I believe love is the self-sacrificial giving of one's self for the highest and best good of another.

3. Enormous evil exists in the world. Yes, this is absolutely true. In addition, natural disasters take place and disease is rampant. Ultimately, God has created this wonderful world with the potential for good, love, justice, and holiness. However, people wrested control from God's hand, insisting on doing things according to their selfish-desires (original sin). While the explanation of free will is sometimes inadequate for those in tears and heartache, it is the dearth of response to the grace of God that has caused such. Blaming God for the sin and evil man commits is thus akin to blaming the wrong person and is a wish for loveless automatons.

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