Call me Theodicyus.
I’m on an Odyssean journey, like many others, to comprehend why God permits evil, suffering and pain.
Most of the time, I’m on board with the direction God wants that journey to take. I may not like that direction, but I’m willing to pursue it at least for a while, to see if it comes to a logical conclusion … or at least a depot or a way station that makes some kind of sense to my pathetic wounded heart.
But this morning I literally awakened, as I often do from a restless sleep, with a “What if?” that knocked the horsepower right out from beneath me. I didn’t know if I could go and teach my church family this morning. I didn’t know if I could even crawl out of bed.
This was the “What if?” in my soul when I woke up:
“What if God has been trying all along to communicate to us that the obliteration of evil is good, whether it is in one’s own soul or annihilating those who have sold their souls out to evil?”
Oh, it didn’t come all in a rush and it didn’t come in those exact words. I’d been dreaming about trees and limbs falling — probably because I’d had two huge limbs fall off one of my front yard trees to the sidewalk below a month before, and falling trees had been in the national news last night. No, probably my first thoughts as I surfaced from the ocean of dreams were probably more along the lines of “It cost a lot to have my whole tree removed and thank God no one was hit or injured and I didn’t get sued and I hate to have a living tree cut down just because it’s so overbalanced the rest of it will eventually fall across the street and why do tree limbs have to fall on people and hurt or kill them anyway?”
Followed soon after by the very mature pondering of “Why can’t trees just fall on evil people like ISIS terrorists who kidnap and capture and torture and rape and behead people?”
(I’m sure it didn’t help that I awakened with a colossal headache besides.)
Then came those sleepy musings about why God did or didn’t act in certain ways, expected ways, my ways in the Old Testament and even other places. Why a flood? Why utterly destroy two cities? Why strike people dead for worshiping another? Why the order to “dedicate/give over to God/often by utter destruction”? Why a cross, a dishonorable instrument of pain and death?
Okay, I can understand that is the way that Father and Son agreed that is how sin deserved to die, and that the Son was willing to bear sin to that ignominious death for us.
No, not really, not in my heart “understand” it; but in my mind at least I can comprehend the words and they make a kind of sense in the way that any concept of divine justice-and-mercy can make sense to a human being of fallible judgment using three pounds of sweetbreads for a logic processor.
But what if — in the flood-genocide and the Sodom-and-Gomorrah genocide and the worshiping-golden-calf-genocide and the order to Israel to give-over-whole-cities-of-baby-sacrificing-pagans-to-God-by-completely-destroying-them — what if those and all the other seemingly violent/callous/inconsistent acts of the Creator aren’t intended to cause terror/doubt/criticism of Him?
What if they are His way to communicate what His sovereignty defends: an ultimate good, a perfect comprehension of good that is so far beyond ours that He must use the most crude ways imaginable to get them across to us so that we can understand in our limited way?
What if His justice and mercy are one in the same thing (not in conflict with each other, as we so often perceive them to be)?
What if the total eradication of evil is the only way that good can triumph (and it MUST triumph)?
What if evil must be permitted to show how heinous and selfish and rebellious is truly is, in order for good to be illuminated for how glorious, selfless, and loyal to God that it is?
What if God expects us to grow to a point where we stop judging Him by our own ethic, our human standards, our selfish arrogant Eden-based value system (“I think I know better about this fruit than God does …”) and judge His goodness, rightness, and holiness by His own standard?
We’d have to understand it first.
So what if He’s given us the clues all along in scripture, and we created theodicy because we don’t want to see them for what they are?
I don’t like this possibility.
I want my old god back.
I want my pacifist god who, like me, hates to cut down a living tree; who couldn’t possibly cut down a human being, or allow a good human being to be cut down in mid-life, especially a wonderful human being like my beloved Angi. I want a god for whom those character traits are just unthinkable anomalies, “ways that are above my ways,” ways that I will never understand or be expected to understand.
I want back my old god; the one I can easily find strolling in the corporate hallway in the cool of the day in his cool business suit and take him by the lapels and shake him and shout “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” like Job did and feel justified about doing so.
I don’t want to understand God this deeply if it goes this deep.
It hurts too much.
It doesn’t fit my paradigm.
The journey doesn’t take a turn in my direction.
I don’t get to have my way.
8 thoughts on “Theodicyus”
The idea that god’s mercy and justice doesn’t work because it negates the fundamental precept of christianity: god’s justice (punishment) taken on by jesus in order that he might show mercy to mankind. but of course, jesus didn’t really take on the punishment for sin reserved for mankind. Had he actually done so, he’d have been eternally damned to hell.
I think Isaiah 53:5 disagrees with you, Larry.
But what do I know?
I should have written “…god’s mercy and justice are the same…” in my first sentence.
Mr. Brenton, Isaiah got it wrong. Jesus got off way light compared to the punishment reserved for humankind in “darkness”.
That’s the first time I’ve heard that Jesus “got off way light.” He did leave a perfect place to come to earth and be mocked, tortured, and killed, after all.
There is a penalty for sin, yes? What is it for humankind? Eternal damnation. Jesus supposedly paid the penalty for our sin, yes? What was his penalty? It was as you stated. No eternal damnation for the scapegoat.
Another thing. Does punishing a scapegoat instead of the guilty party constitute real justice? Of course not. Therefore was god’s infinite justice and infinite mercy reconciled in the death of the scapegoat Jesus? No. The whole scheme is bogus.
Or, Larry, it could be — as I’ve implied above — that God’s ways are above our ways, including ways of looking at sin, punishment, forgiveness, justice and mercy.
You’ve got your definition for those concepts. Yours may be different from God’s.
I’m dealing with that right now.
Plus the fact that we all believe what we want to believe.
Why do you want to believe that God’s solution to the problem of sin is bogus?
Do you have a better one?
Are you sure it’s better, even if you have one, than His?
Mr. Davis, I guess you don’t understand that Jesus loved us enough, that He went to the cross in our place, and paid the price. A price we could never pay. Jesus wasn’t a scapegoat, He was the perfect sacrifice, a lamb without blemish. We live in a sinful world, where disease and death reigns. We will not escape either unless Christ returns first. And when He does both will be defeated. Paul prayed that the thorn in his flesh would be removed, remember God’s answer? “My grace is sufficient”. Paul sought justice as he saw it, but God never promised that this life would be a bed of roses, actually he promised the opposite, that we would suffer and be persecuted as follower’s of His. All men suffer physically in this world and will one day die. For those “in Christ” we have a promise of living forever with Him. Those who reject Him, will inherit damnation. “God’s grace has appeared before all men” We have to accept it. There will be a day of judgment and God’s justice will be handed out.
From the Sadducean perspective killing the bad guys with no mercy just mskes sense. You neither have to worry that you’re damning them to wternal torment nor possibly damning yourself to eternal torment by executing justice. A Sadducee can live in the real world because its the only one the OT teaches aside from the Pharisee-forged fiction-book of Daniel they rejected, whereas the Pharisee (Rabbinical Jews, Christians, Muslims) cannot live in the real world but must torture themselves snd their brains with nonsense and pointless guilt trips to avoid a fantasy Hitlerian eternal furnace and make it to a fantasy world of candy rainbows snd chocolate unicorns.