Tuesday, August 27, 2013
The problem of theodicy must not be much of a problem to God because He never bothers to address it in Scripture.
That’s where our discussion left off after Fred, Wes, and I enjoyed breakfast yesterday.
The science of Theodicy examines the question of how and why a perfectly good, almighty, and all-knowing God permits evil to exist in the world. The Greek term literally means “justifying God”.
As I recall, in his Pulitzer Prize winning play J.B., poet Archibald MacLeish summed up the problem of a loving God and the existence of pain and evil in lines spoken by the devil:
If God is God, He is not good;
If God is good, He is not God.
Take the even, take the odd.
Yes, even the devil knows, great indeed is the mystery of godliness.
Why is there evil in the world if a good God created our universe?
Wes pointed out the Scripture uses the word evil in three senses:
One meaning refers to common troubles visited upon all men in the daily course of our lives. Like when you leave late for work and your car won’t start.
Another meaning refers to calamities such as tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes and disease—disasters like the Great Fire of Jacksonville in 1901 which burned brothels and orphanages, bars and churches with indiscriminate scorching flames.
The third meaning of evil Wes proposed is moral iniquity—the wrong things we do to each other in rebellion against God.
I cited a cartoon of a man praying, “Lord, there are starving children and abused women and war and cheating and corruption—so much evil in the world—Why don’t You do something about it”?
A Voice from a cloud answers, “Funny, I was about to ask you that same question”.
Fred observed that we are irrational creatures. We first do something then afterwards think of a reason to justify our action. He said that latent in humanity is the potential for any and every sort of stupid, bullying, cruel, sorry, and sinful act. Then we justify our actions almost as an afterthought and we convince ourselves that we are in the right all along. We look after Number One and ask “What’s in my best interest?” and devil take the hinemost.
I rehashed an old idea from Wes about accusing and excusing. When someone breaks in line ahead of me, I accuse him of transgression saying, “But I was here first”. Thus I appeal to a moral standard which I expect the other guy to acknowledge. But, he excuses his action saying, “I’m in a hurry because I have a dental appointment.” Thus, he unwittingly acknowledges that same moral standard but claims an overriding justification for his boorishness.
Whether I accuse someone else, or excuse myself, either way I admit that there exists some standard of behavior that is being broken.
Such things ought not to be.
The Lord doesn’t play that game; He said, “Be ye holy for I am holy”.
My living room grew thick with cigar smoke as the three of us talked for three hours about the problem of evil in the world and why a good God permits it.
Actually, the thing that springboarded us into this subject was Wes’s account of his experience with an insurance company’s telephone tree in the customer service—HA!–department.
Yes, what more proof of the prevailing existence of evil does anyone need than phoning a company or government agency for service?
And what are we Christians to do when caught in the web of this world’s system?
We must be kind to each other and not make life harder for other people than it needs to be. Ginny used to say, “We are to do what we can, where we are, with what we have”.
The Lord’s love and His ways can be trusted without understanding.
If I understood the answer to the problem of theodicy, how would that understanding make me a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better employee?
I already know everything I need to know to do my plain duty today.
Am I willing to do it?
Ah, there’s the rub. I’d rather question and muse and discuss obscure theological terms with my friends than be willing to obey and act on the light I already have.
God need not explain Himself to me; I wouldn’t understand it if He did.
Besides, Wes said, the problem of theodicy must not be much of a problem to God because He hardly bothers to address it in Scripture.
After the guys left, I spent the afternoon driving my eldest daughter on four hours of errands, As we drove downtown to drop him off, Fred asked, “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?–Just one, but the bulb has to really want to change”.