Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My Thoughts On Theodicy And Mosquitoes

In April, 1915, a mosquito bit poet Rupert Brooke.

Brooke—widely acclaimed as the handsomest man in the world—died of septicemia when that mosquito bite became infected.

Mosquitoes will also bite the ugliest man you’ve ever seen, the most beautiful woman, the babe in the cradle, Mother Teresa, Adolph Hitler, Billy Graham, President Obama, Attila the Hun, and they’d bite Bart Simpson if he were not a cartoon character.

A mosquito buzzed around my own head Sunday as I vacuumed out pool thinking about theodicy. Of course I didn’t know that’s what I was thinking about; I had to look the word up.

Theodicy refers to that branch of theology attempting to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with belief in an all-powerful, loving God.

How can a God who loves us, let terrible things happen to us?

Can’t He do something about it? Have I misread His nature? Is He sadistic tormenting people and watching them squirm? Is He powerless to stop the pain? Does He just not give a damn?

Just what’s going on here?

The mosquito gave me a clue.

Not an answer, just a clue.

I have two friends who feel comfortable with their own answers to this problem.

One quotes Scripture saying, that all humanity rebels against God and all of us are under sin “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one… All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”.

According to his view every last one of us deserves misery in this world and eternal damnation in the next.

He feels that the grace of God is shown in that God selects some people through no merit of their own to save Although God is under no obligation to save anybody.

Therefore to the question “How can a God who loves us, let terrible things happen to us?”, my friend replies, “Why not?”.

God is love but there are no good people.

Hence, no problem to reconcile.

Another friend also quotes Scripture, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”.

According to her view, nothing really bad happens; it all turns out to be good—eventually.

Of course it may seem bad while it’s happening—like when you break your arm and it’s healing wrong and the doctor has to re-break it to set it right. No fun at the time it’s going on ,but it’s part of the healing process. It’s all part of God’s plan to bring us eternal joy.

Therefore to the question “How can a God who loves us, let terrible things happen to us?”, my friend replies, “There are no bad things—not really bad, permanently bad things.”.

So, both friends let God off the hook. If there are no good people, or if there are no bad things, then what’s the problem?

The problem is that I smell a skunk.

I believe in a loving God. I see a world full of suffering. I would not treat an enemy as bad as God sometimes appear to treat His friends. Surely God is better than I am. If not---Head for the hills!

Then there’s the matter of consequences.

Actions have consequences. It seems reasonable that good actions should have good consequences and bad actions have bad consequences. Looks like it ought to work that way.

But it doesn’t.

Not all bank robbers get shot by the security guard. Some murderers never get caught. Some CEOs make off with the pension fund and live in luxury the rest of their lives.

On the other hand, consider Joseph in the Book of Genesis. Accused of rape by a shunned woman, Joseph spent years in prison although he had never touched her.

Fall-guys take the consequences for things they never did. Secretaries go to jail for money the boss embezzled. Professors take the credit when they publish a paper a grad student wrote.

Consequences do not necessarily match actions. It’s easy reasoning to blame someone’s trouble on some sin they committed—but that’s not always true.

My e-friend Pete reminded me of the time when Jesus mentioned a terrible construction accident:

“Those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” Jesus said.

In our sinful world, while a lot of aggravation is self-generated, not all our troubles are a consequence of our sin.

Later in Joseph’s story it turned out that God had put him in prison so he could save the tribe of Israel from a famine. And he told his wicked brothers who initiated his slavery in Egypt, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive”.

That’s another reason I’ve heard advanced for “How can a God who loves us, let terrible things happen to us?” Perhaps God let it happen to you, so you can minister to others who also suffer.

Paul seems to say something like that:

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Does Paul really say that disasters befall us because God is training us to help somebody else.

Does my home have to burn down just so I can console those folks in California wildfires today? Are all those people losing their homes because they are vile nasty sinners? Is God training them to be comforters?

Or, do they just happen to be in the path of disaster?

They suffer what they suffer because they are where they are.

Remember the mosquito that bit Rupert Brooke?

Rupert got bit because mosquitoes bite.

St. Peter warned his readers to sober and to be vigilant because the devil, like a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour. The evil one spreads trouble, anxiety, pain, misery, war, famine, sickness and credit card debt to all and sundry.

God’s mosquitoes teach us that no one is immune from bites and troubles. It’s not because we are bad or because God hates us or because we sinned or our parents did—although all those factors may enter into why we suffer bad stuff.

We live in a fallen and wounded world.

Believer and non believer alike live in the same physical world. Both get bit by mosquitoes. Either may become parents of a retarded baby.

Like God’s good rain fertilizes the fields of the righteous and the wicked alike, so troubles fall on righteous and godless people. In speaking of troubles Peter reminds us “knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world”.

I mean if Rupert Brooke, the handsomest man in the world, got bit, is it any surprise that I do?

Of course, he was only the handsomest man in the world back in 1915.

I hadn’t been born yet.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:09 AM


At 8:33 AM, Blogger sherri said...

Good thoughts here John. I totally agree... And I hate mosquitos.

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Felisol said...

DEar John C,
I have a question, passed to me yesterday, by my girl friend for 55 years.
"How come we have to pray lead us not into temptation. Can GOd willfully do that to his beloved children. Why do we have to pray it over and over again in Our Lord's Prayer?"
I think it kind of touches your mosquito answer, but not entirely.
Problem is, my friend she's in great pain, she's lived a life of a tormented saint, by just now I feel I have to come up with an answer, I do not posses.

I'm turning to you, and will return, to see if you can help me.
From Felisol

At 2:49 AM, Blogger John Cowart said...

Dear Felisol,

I'm so sorry your friend lives in such pain. Blessings on her in such torment.

I don't want to be flippant, so please give me a day to think about her deep question before I try to answer.

Let Christ love her through you.

John, on Wednesday, Sept 2nd.

At 2:58 AM, Blogger Felisol said...

Dear John C,
Thank you for caring to dive deeper in the unpleasant.
I'll be back.
Hugs from Felisol

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Billy Coffey said...

Great post, John. Much food for thought, and I'll be pleased to digest it nice and slow...


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