theodicies: a pond scum view

August 26, 2006

Seen from the pond theologians appear to me like a lot of very clever people who have devised incredibly sophisticated keys to open a door that’s not locked. i can’t help but admire the intricate arguments they have devised to explain how a loving God allows nasty things to happen. Here are a few.
1. Evil is there for a greater good
— God uses evil and suffering to punish humanity. Since sin is in all of us, no one who has the right to freedom from God’s wrath on the basis of his own innocence. “As far as babies are concerned, and others who may be incompetent mentally to distinguish right and wrong, it is clear from both Scripture and universal experience that they are sinners by nature and thus will inevitably become sinners by choice as soon as they are able to do so.”
— Suffering exists because we need to experience or have knowledge of it. “God allows evil to exist so that we will appreciate goodness. Without suffering the world would become some sort of toy world where nothing has moral weight.”
— Evil and suffering are part of God’s plan. God allows evil to draw his creatures to him. C. S. Lewis called pain “God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world”.

2. Evil is the consequence of God permitting humans to have free will.
Without the possibility to choose to do good or evil acts humanity would be nothing but robots.

3. God allows the laws of nature. God’s allowing natural evils is justified because the existence of natural evils is entailed by natural laws, and a world without natural laws would be a much worse world.

4. Evil is illusory. Suffering and evil will disappear in the next world. Eighty years in the face of eternity is not such a big deal.

5. Whatever God decrees is right

6. Evil is necessary for God to be glorified. “It is logically consistent that the Fall of mankind had to occur if God is to be ultimately glorified through the glorification of His Son. If Adam had not fallen, all mankind would have gratefully looked to him, not Christ, as Savior. For all eternity, God would then share His glory with His creature: Adam.”

7. God is not benevolent to individuals
All things work together for good, not for all God’s creatures, but only for those who are called according to his purpose. There may be historical/national forces that are affecting me as an individual and which explain my suffering for a greater good.

8. God allows evil temporarily to teach mankind a lesson
God allows evil temporarily to show that his creations can not be happy if they separate themselves from Him. As a governor of Florida said after a hurricane, “This is God’s way of telling us he’s almighty and we’re mortal.”

9. God may intend evil and suffering as a test for humanity, or a rather sinister GCSE. The way people deal with them enable God to judge humanity.

Not surprisingly, many clerics are a little uneasy with these explanations. As the Archbishop of Canterbury put it ” If some religious genius did come up with an explanation of exactly why all these deaths made sense, would we feel happier or safer or more confident in God? Wouldn’t we feel something of a chill at the prospect of a God who deliberately plans a programme that involves a certain level of casualties?” The message seems to be ‘don’t bother thinking about it, just hope for the best and pray.’ I think that until God reveals Himself in some really clear and unambiguous way (like leaving a comment on this blog) I’ll stay where I am in the pond. Unless anyone knows of a better one.

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