Exhumator Esoterics

Encyclopedia of Spiritual — Letter T - THEODICY: GOD AND EVIL

Exhumator Esoterics
Exhumator Esoterics

The weakness of this theodicy is that, although it does account for moral evil coming out of the context of the abuse of human freedom, it does not account for natural evil that occurs as a result of earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, epidemic diseases, hurricanes, and tidal waves. And further, it does not ultimately spare God responsibility, since, although God reduced or bracketed God's power in order to create space for human freedom, God could have intervened at any time, and in certain extreme cases of the abuse of human freedom, in order to make things right and set things straight. The Holocaust with its annihilation of 6 million Jews is one specific example.

Another response is to regard pain as a trial or a test. That is, suffering is a means to an end, an end being moral improvement or a demonstration of the strength of a person's faith. Just as fire can temper metal, making it more durable and improving its quality, so the heat of pain and suffering can temper a person's soul, strengthening it and raising its level of maturity. This theodicy is sometimes termed "soul strengthening" and applies to the figure Job, whose trials and tribulations are understood to be a test in which he demonstrates the power and perseverance of his faith.

The strength of this theodicy is that it takes evil and regards it as providing a potential for positive results. Thus, whether pain and suffering is either caused or allowed by God, it can have a good result. As people sometimes say, "Something good can come from something bad."

The weakness of this theodicy is that the amount of pain and suffering may be greater than the benefit to be derived. That is, the extent of evil may outweigh the positive results to be obtained. For example, if someone is tortured and dies at the hands of a barbaric oppressor, the good that comes from this evil may either not be obvious or commensurate with the amount of suffering endured.

A final response is to reconfigure the power that God possesses. According to this theodicy, God has tremendous power, but God does not have unlimited power. This does not mean that God does not influence the world, but it does mean that everything that happens in the world is not determined by God. This theodicy is called "God's limited power," and it appeals to the biblical record when God acts as an agent of persuasion to influence persons to do the right thing, but not as an agent of determination to make persons do the right thing. According to this theodicy, not everything that happens is in accord with God's will, for God's power is neither unlimited nor coercive. The strength of this theodicy is that it preserves God's goodness and love. The evil in the world is not something that God has the power to change but unfortunately does not have the disposition or will to do so. Rather, evil is something that happens in the world for whatever reason, and God is not in a position either to keep it from happening or to receive the blame for causing it to happen. The weakness of this theodicy is that it makes God's power limited rather than unlimited. Consequently, the traditional understanding of God's majesty and sovereignty is at stake.

Some creative thinkers have tried to combine two or more of these various theodicies in order to form new ones and better ones. But, as is the case with all theodicies, there are strengths in each that deserve to be noted and weaknesses that cannot be overlooked. In a final sense, it comes down to what the individual person finds most appealing or convincing, given that no theodicy is completely watertight.