check my site japan videos

The Folly of Theodicy

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE DETAILS.

I’ve been writing a lot about myself lately. I feel quite awkward about it really. It’s not that I have suddenly become fixated with myself, it’s just that, through my recent experiences, I have realized that there are some questions that are worth asking. These questions are not easy ones to ask because they have to do with pain, suffering and why God allows these thing to happen.

This issue of who God is, and why He allows suffering is not as simple as it may first appear. There are good questions that arise out of suffering. Chief among them is the question of God’s very nature. If God is loving, then He must not want anybody to suffer. If He is omnipotent, then He has the power to end suffering. However, if He doesn’t want anyone to suffer (being a loving God) and has the power to end it (being an omnipotent God) then we must ask ourselves why there is suffering? Why doesn’t He just end it? These questions, when put together in a cohesive apology, are called theodicy. There have been many proposed answers to this problem,  but the most common are:

1.  God is not loving- He is evil (The Malevolent God).

2.  God is not omnipotent- He may be loving but doesn’t have the power to end suffering. In other words, He wants to end our suffering but cannot. (The powerless God).

3.  Our understanding of  God’s love is wrong. He has a greater purpose in our suffering which will ultimately work out to our benefit. He allows us to suffer because He loves us.

4.  Our understanding of God’s omnipotence is wrong. He is still omnipotent but has chosen to limit His omnipotence for the sake of human freedom (Open theism/ Panentheism)

5.       God does not exist. Suffering is a natural part of evolution (Atheism/ Naturalism).

6.       God is perfect and has created the best possible world that could exist. It is not perfect because only God is perfect. (Leibniz/ Leibnizian Optimism)

I don’t think that any of these responses adequately satisfy the  the one who is suffering. In fact, I think the problem is not with a lack of an adequate response, but with the very nature of the question itself. Theodicy is doomed from the beginning because we simply cannot know the mind of God and He has not obliged Himself to simply give us the answer. The scriptures do not directly address this issue. Try as we may, we will never know why God does the things He does.

Instead, what is needed is an existential response to the problem. We argue these four points back and forth until the end of time and we will never come to a satisfactory conclusion. What matters is not that we understand why God allows this, but how we respond to God and relate to Him and our suffering on an existential level.

This is why I am so attracted to the works of Moltmann. He does not attempt to justify God, as if God needs defending or explaining. Instead, Moltmann leads us to discover the God who suffers along side of us. Moltmann understands that our obligation is not to understand God, but to worship Him because he does not merely observe our suffering from afar, He came down to us and suffered along with us. I realize that an existential approach to the problem does very little to satisfy the intellect, but the satisfaction that it gives to the soul far surpasses any joy that could be obtained through intellectual exercises. For even if we did receive the answer to why God allows suffering it would not end our suffering. We are still left here in our anguish and are still left to reconcile ourselves existentially to the problem.

5 thoughts on “The Folly of Theodicy

  1. Ryan

    This makes sense from a Christian perspective. I can take comfort in this idea too. But what about people who are not Christian, who either do not believe in God or do not believe that Jesus is God? How does this help them?

    On another note, How are you doing with the meds? Did you decide to take them?

  2. Thank you for defining those words for me! It makes me feel smart. The only thing I don’t understand is existential. I remember studying it a few years ago but that was like Sarte and Camu.

  3. Todd

    Aaron it has been cool reading this stuff and getting a glimpse of your life apart from the couple of times a year I get to see you in a professional environment. You seem to have the same deep and thought provoking questions here as you do with business strategy. I wish I had that type of creative thinking. I’d probably be paid a lot higher!

    What I really wanted to comment on was the same thing that Ryan said. Only I am Christian just not sure what I believe. I’m Catholic so I guess I believe these same things but I don’t really know what I believe. I go to mass a few times a year but besides confirmation I don’t ever remember learning things in church. So I guess as Catholic I believe these things. Kind of like a windows default setting. I believe it because I’m Catholic and that’s what Catholics are programed to believe. But when I really think about it I don’t know what I believe about Jesus besides him being god and dying and suffering and rising.

    So I guess I’m asking how you make it real like something that controls your life?

  4. I’ve been away for a while but have been keeping up to date on this. I’m glad that you addresses this because as you know this is the biggest issue that keeps me from being Christian again. My thoughts? Who the hell is god to inflict pain on anyone? I agree with your arguments about his character. If he can stop it and wants to then why not just do it? I’m not comforted by him coming down and suffering with us when he could have just put an end to it all a long time ago. The bible is full of stories of Jesus healing so we know he has the power to do it. My only conclusion is that he doesn’t want to and that sucks. I know why he wouldn’t want to end my suffering if I were sick. I suck as a person. I do bad things. You don’t. You do good things for people. I’m beginning to think that god is on the other team or that the other team is in charge and not god.

  5. As usual, I’m behind in responding. Here we go…

    Ryan: I agree that this isn’t very comforting to someone who does not place their faith in Christ. My hope is that, in some way, this will give hope to my suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. I am taking the Neurontin. It’s best for my family. I still hold to my conviction that we should not be so quick to shun pain all the while neglecting God’s voice in our pain… but this doesn’t work so well on a practical level. Reality is, I have a family and an employer who need me to be functional as long as possible.

    Serena: You’re welcome.

    Todd: Thanks for the kind words. I’m not sure how to answer your question. I believe that your true beliefs will determine how you live your life. I’m not talking about a professed belief, but a kinetic one. That is, I don’t believe that faith is expressed in giving intellectual assent to a doctrine. It is expressed through your actions. Faith is not an intellectual phenomenon, it is a volitional one.

    Anthro: Read Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. It may not answer any of your questions, but it will give you some food for thought. Then again, it may lead you completely in the wrong direction. On second thought, lets have coffee this week.

Share your thoughts!