Theodicy

By now most everyone has probably heard about the devastating earthquake that has wrecked and ended the lives of many of the people of Haiti. If you’ve seen the pictures chances are you’ve had your world rocked with the rest of us. I think there is something that’s inside of most people that just instinctively knows that this is a taste of hell. This isn’t what God intends for the world that He said was good.

Everyone that is, but Pat Robertson.

Most scholars consider the book of Job to be the oldest book in the BIble. Which is an interesting point in itself. Here’s a book about a man suffering, and it is written before any other story. It’s almost as if the most ancient question we have is Why?

And there are never a shortage of people willing to answer it.

Job’s friend’s has plenty of theories. They were like the sin gestapo, pouring over Job’s life for every little sinful detail they could find…All so that they could find a way to justify God and condemn Job.

But the end of Job is interesting. One reason is because when God does show up, he doesn’t explain himself. The reader has been privileged to the purposes God had for this whole thing. We saw the curtain rolled back in the Heavens and eavesdropped on a conversation God had with Satan inciting Job’s loss.

But no one else did.

And God never told them.

Instead he talked about what good He had done, he revealed himself to Job in a way that made Job wet his britches, He let Job know that just because he didn’t understand God’s activity, didn’t mean this story wasn’t headed somewhere.

But then God turned his attention to Job’s friends. The ones who had shown up be a comfort, and had been anything but. And this is what God says to them:

I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of
me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven
rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves.
My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal
with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right,
as my servant Job has.”

They’ve been telling Job why God had taken so much away from him, and God responds by requiring them to give up quite a bit. Think about this, seven bulls and rams are quite a bit, not to mention the crow that are having to eat.

Because when you speak for God out of turn, you will dread it when God actually speaks.

And this is a lesson that all of us who speak for God must learn.

Because there is a real temptation to act as if we understand what God is up to, even when we have no idea. There is a temptation to pronounce judgement on others after the fact. But the book of Job is a warning against flippantly speaking on God’s behalf. Because you might not know what God is up too after all.

The story of Job is a caution against all those who would try to use religious posturing to make themselves look better at the expense of others.

Which brings me back to Haiti.

From Tsuanmi’s to Mudslides to earthquakes. Everytime there is a natural disaster followers of Jesus are faced with a choice. They can get airtime by saying controversial things, leveraging someone else’s pain for their own temporary glory, or they can choose to enter into the suffering of others. They can choose the hard work of partnering with God in the repair of this world.

Religious people have always had the uncanny ability to play the wrong characters in their own story. So this isn’t surprising. But it is sad. It’s sad because the news operate off of conflict, and now we have sides. People will posture on both sides, God hates Haitians, or God hates Pat Robertson, and the 24 hour news stations will have something to fill a few hours of time slots.

And silently but surely, followers of Jesus will be making their way to Haiti. Serving, giving, and caring for the “least of these.” Some will mud wrestle for charity. Some will give up their salary to get 100% of donations on the ground. Some will give up fast food or Starbucks for a season to donate more. It’s not always flashy, and it’s probably not going to garner attention (except the mud wrestling, that’ll get attention).

Job asks questions that God doesn’t answer.

Maybe his people should learn this lesson too.

Theodicy is a word given to us by Theologians. It means Why God allows suffering, and it’s a question Scripture doesn’t really answer. At least not with the kind of talking points that make the news. Instead it tells a story about Creation groaning, longing for a day when it is fully restored to the One who created her. Scriptures tell a story about a God who pursues his Creation, by entering into it.

And if the incarnation means anything, right now it means God cares about Haitians.

See what Job gets in the end is better than answers, it’s the presence of God.

Because when people suffer God always shows up.

The question is will His followers?

About jonathanstorment

My family and I love reading, traveling, daddy/daughter dates, playing hide and seek, good music, and long meals with friends. We still miss LOST, and all four of us have Superman uniforms. We are passionate about bringing Heaven to Earth and want to follow Jesus while repainting discipleship for those around us. We are followers of Jesus and I preach at the Highland Church of Christ. We participate in something called A Restoration Movement, and we've come to realize that might be larger than we thought.

40 thoughts on “Theodicy

  1. Excellent post Jonathan. Love the line: Because when you speak for God out of turn, you will dread it when God actually speaks.

    Good stuff.

  2. You’re right. Perhaps our most ancient question is, “why?”- Which would make our most ancient struggle with the sovereignty of God. What does that mean? What kinds of questions does it allow you to ask and what kinds of question will it give answers for? What a person understands about the sovereignty of God inevitably sheds light on their views about justice, good and evil and what it means to trust in the Lord, among other things.
    If you cannot makes peace with God because bad things happen to good people or if you strive to make your own way and be successful in the eyes of the world in the ways that the world says are necessary, then you have a problem with the sovereignty of God.
    I think Job shows us something else and that is that God is not passive. For one thing to happen, whether that be something we see as good or bad, it has to have the permission of God the Father. Is the earthquake an attack by God on people because of the evil they or their fathers committed? Certainly not. Did that earthquake have to have the permission of the Almighty to make its move? I think, yes.
    These are all things I have been grappling with lately. It is still hard for me sometimes to see how God could have allowed something like this to happen but I trust Him. Why didn’t he say ‘no’ to the earthquake? But, He is good. No matter what. His glory is first and foremost.
    One thing I do know for sure is that I don’t buy that whole “we-live-in-a-fallen-world-and-so-bad-things-just-happen-sometimes” nonsense anymore. I am beginning to see how that idea may just fly in the face of the sovereignty of God.
    So, however God would have one respond to this disaster-if you are one he is calling to do so at all (and there are a number of ways to enter into their suffering) whether that be by sending aid or money or getting on a place or interceding in prayer or something else, God says He is sovereign and He is good.
    We should trust Him.
    Thanks J. Love you guys

  3. Jonathan: There’s a great song by a Southern Gospel group called the Crabb Family that fits very well. “He never promised that the cross would not be heavy and the hill would not be hard to climb. He never offered our victories without fighting, but He said help would always come in time. So remember when you’re standing in the valley of decision, and the adversary says ‘give in.’ Just hold on! Our God will SHOW UP…and He will take you through the fire again.

    Praise Him that He is a God who can always be counted on to SHOW Up.

  4. Pat Robertson’s comments confuse me when hearing them right after I was reading Romans 11. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” I would suggest Pat is treading on dangerous ground.

    I’m going through the hardest thing I can imagine right now. I hope the bottom I have reached is the lowest bottom I will ever face because it has been painful and Go let it happen to me. Why? How do I know buy I will you what I know…the pain drew me close to God unlike any close I had ever experienced. It opened windows to my heart that helped me understand much of my past and it opened windows that let me see what life with God can be like. People are coming to talk to me because they want to know what my experience has taught me hoping it will help them through their pain. I’ve reached a place where I am trying my best to simply be a vessel God can use to help someone else. Why did he let it happen to me? I don’t know but it just might be so I can help him reach people I would never have been able to reach before.

    I can’t understand the mind of God and I don’t know that I want to. I do know I trust he is in control and he is sovereign as long as I will submit to his will. And I’m trying to do that.

  5. Aaron, thanks man.

    KO, Yeah I believe Go is sovereign as well, but I think of it differently now than the popular brand of Calvinism that is going around. I think a lot of times when people refer to God’s sovereignty they have in the back of their minds how they would exercise control if they were God. One of the paradoxes of Scripture is how a good God can be sovereign and the world be as deeply broken as it is. I’d love to have that conversation with you sometime. BTW, I’m in Colorado Springs right now…I just preached at a church where the main preacher just had the Gurley’s and Letz’s stay the night at their house a couple of weeks ago. Small world…

    Thanks Bro. Danny, and thanks for stopping by.

    John, thanks I’ll look that song up. Good thoughts.

    Jeff, that’s a great reference to Romans 11 for this situation. But there will never be a shortage of people who think they have God’s plans figured out. On another note, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such a struggle recently, but you’re right. It’s those moments of deep pain that God redeems to be a blessing for others. Thanks for sharing.

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