A Difficult Biblical Issue: Theodicies (Part II)

Religion

In the first of this two-part series, we talked about theodicies. A theodicy is an attempt to defend God’s goodness and justice in light of all the evil in the world. The question is how can a good God allow such horrible things to happen on planet earth when He ‘could’ stop them? This is one of life’s toughest questions to answer.

As I mentioned last week there is no one answer that will satisfy each person. Many souls throughout human history have wrestled with the problem of theodicy. I want to share a few of the ideas that have emerged over time.

To avoid getting too deep in the weeds, I will use the word “evil” only in general terms. Some theologians or philosophers break down evil into categories such as moral evil, natural evil, or metaphysical evil. For our purposes this won’t be necessary. Also, I won’t dig too deep. I don’t want anyone to fall of the truck before we get finished.

Theodicy is a massive subject. So, let’s keep it as simple as we can while we wrestle with this very difficult subject. There are many books on this topic if you want to invest more time investigating the issue.

One point for us to consider, and we have to admit, is that bad things do happen to everyone. This includes good people and bad people, Christians, Jews, and Muslims. No one is exempt. The Bible doesn’t give us reason to hope that we will escape the impact of evil in our lives. In fact, it promises that we will.

We must remember that most of God’s prophets, the disciples, and Jesus Himself suffered greatly from evil. Paul suffered all types of evil as he describes in II Corinthian 11: 23-28. He specifically mentions being beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked. Jesus went to the cross, suffered and died for our evil, yours and mine.

Let’s examine some possible explanations for the dilemma of theodicy. The ideas that I present from others are by no means the only approaches that have been formulated over the span of human history. I would dare guess that it wasn’t long after the fall in the Garden of Eden that men and women began to struggle with theodicy.

St. Augustine, one of the most influential men in the history of the Christian Church approached the issue of theodicy this way. He believed that human beings have free will and make their own choices thus relieving God of all responsibility of evil.

On the other hand, St.Irenaeus postulated another approach. He believed that God is ultimately responsible for evil in the world, but justified for it while not being at fault.

Job certainly had a large dose of evil and trouble in his life. In this rare look behind the scenes we witness the acting out of a theodicy as viewed from the viewpoint of Job, his wife, and his friends. Everyone wrestled with it in different ways.

Another concept of theodicy is labeled process theodicy. This view states that God, like us, is in process. Therefore, he could be limited in His knowledge or His ability to control things. This view flies in the face of most traditional Christians who hold that God is perfect and unlimited in all ways.

There is much more we could say about the problem of theodicies, but here I merely attempt to raise the issue and let the reader deal with it, investigate, seek answers for him or herself.

It is only after we reach heaven that we will finally escape the evil in the world, even the evil within our own selves. Our redemption from evil and all its stains is promised if we are in Christ.

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