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Pastor’s Newsletter Article for April 2019 + Pastor Bob Friese
Theodicy is an area of study and debate around the question, “If God is good, how can God allow such evil to take place?” To put it another way, “If God is good, why does God let bad things happen?” Perhaps you’ve never intentionally said, “Let’s discuss theodicy!”. But I’m rather certain you have wondered, “If God is good, why does God let bad things happen?”
Theodicy always comes knocking on my brain during the season of Lent. As we follow Jesus’ journey to the cross, we revisit the stories that reveal how he was ridiculed, rejected, reviled, and finally, murdered as a common, low-life criminal. So, I continue to ruminate on why Jesus had to endure such things to complete his ministry of bringing the Gospel to the world. Yes, I can give you good, well-reasoned answers, but that’s from my head. Jesus’s crucifixion still troubles my heart.
Some good points from an article on theodicy are below. The italicized words are chosen by me.
If a person is asked, “Does cold exist?” the answer would likely be “yes.” However, this is incorrect. Cold does not exist. Cold is the absence of heat. Similarly, darkness does not exist; it is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of good, or better, evil is the absence of God. God did not have to create evil, but rather only allow for the absence of good.1
God did not create evil, but He does allow evil. If God had not allowed for the possibility of evil, both humans and angels would be serving God out of obligation, not choice. He did not want “robots” that simply did what He wanted them to do because of their programming.” God allowed for the possibility of evil so that we could genuinely have a free will and choose whether or not we wanted to serve Him.2
Discussions about theodicy always leave us wanting more. That’s because we assume we know a good deal about God (some think they know everything about God – that’s impossible!) and everything about being human. On both points we fall far short. What encourages me is an approach attributed to Martin Luther, and here I will clumsily interpret this idea of his: God is virtually hidden from us, but God’s supreme moment of revelation is found in Christ on the cross.
This idea doesn’t cover all the bases for me, but it helps. The Crucified Christ was part of God’s plan. It was the highlight of God’s disclosure. Through Christ, we learn that our God comes down and loves the unlovely and the unrighteous, even before we had the slightest inclination to love him or serve in his Name. Truth is that to be human is to suffer. The cross shows that God identifies with those who suffer, and remember that the cross was the highlight of God’s revelation to us. Christ’s suffering and death tore down all boundaries between us and God. Through Christ, God is revealed with amazing and unexpected tenderness and beauty in the ugly and violent drama of the cross.
If God is good, why does God let bad things happen? In this world, and with our human limitations, this question will never truly be answered. But if God had not allowed the “badness” of Christ’s suffering and death, we’d know nothing at all about God or his desire to offer us the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life.
Theodicy can confuse and discourage us. But we are called to look to Christ alone, and put trust in his promises. If we want solid answers, we turn to science. If we want unconditional acceptance and affirmation that will transform our lives, we embrace faith in Christ.
Wishing you an enlightening Lent and a Blessed Easter!
Pastor Bob Friese
1 "Did God Create Evil?" GotQuestions.org. https://www.gotquestions.org/did-god-create-evil.html.
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