On theodicy

My wife and I were talking last night. As everyone does, we have had our share of difficulties over the last few years, and, for us, they are big things. We were talking about them last night and the changes that have happened in the last few months that have reassured us overwhelmingly of God’s planning, presence, and purpose in and for our lives. We are both very thankful of the blessings we have been given, especially over the last couple of months, but we are both very curious about the way that we have arrived here and the necessity of the difficulties we have come through. We recognized that who we are is a result of the circumstances we have been through and the challenges that we have faced, and for that reason we don’t regret anything and I don’t think either of us would change anything. But it left me wondering.

I responded to a post in Al Mohler’s blog about my thoughts on God’s wrath, and I said that I thought that God’s wrath is as much a part of him and his responses as his love. I said that it is not possible to divide God into separate entities, with one being loving and the other being wrathful. Rather, both come from the same perfect God. And that means that God’s wrath is part of his love and his love is part of his wrath. Talk to me in a couple of lifetimes and I might have come up with more about that.

Anyway, we were talking last night about the work of Satan in our lives. And we both thought that for as much as we have gone through, there must be a reason that Satan wants to keep us a part and has worked to place such difficulties into our lives. It is fashionable in our traditions and families to think of Satan’s actions as completely evil and utterly opposed to God’s plans. But I was wondering last night and got to thinking about Job. I need to be exactly who I am to be effective where I am – a former pastor I worked with called this the economy of God, that he puts people where he needs them, and it is always a perfect match. Anyway, so that means that I am where I am because I who I am is a perfect match for this place. And who I am is a result of the difficulties we have faced. And the difficulties we have faced are the work of Satan. And God is using them. And, I would argue, in God’s perfect love and perfect plan, the “evil” of these difficulties and Satan’s working in our lives was necessary for the place we are.

I have struggled with the idea of Satan since we worked through the translation of Lord’s prayer in an advanced Greek class in my undergrad days (call me a geek, but I minored in biblical Greek in those days). I just could not bring myself to say “Deliver us from the evil one” in my translation. We hammered that back and forth as a group. The professor clearly was in favor of “the evil one”, but I strongly thought it should just be “deliver us from evil” or perhaps “deliver us from the evil.” But not “evil one.” I could not bring myself to personify evil. I’m still not sure why.

I guess because I have difficulty calling any of God’s creation evil incarnate. God is not evil, all theologians of any standing in Christian community would say that. That implies that none of God’s creation can be evil. Which implies that what we call evil, since it is part of God’s creation, must be a part of God’s good creation.

Hence theodicy.

Theologians don’t like attributing evil to God.

I can’t blame them. I don’t much like it, either.

But I don’t see much of a way around it. And in my mind evil leads to good. The difficulties in my life – the evil I have encountered, such as it is – has led to such good now where we are. Is it that God is just making the best of a bad situation? Or was the bad situation necessary to make possible the greater good that we now have? I mean, is it possible for us to really understand and comprehend how deep and awesome God’s love is apart from the cross? If sin had never entered and we had never tasted the despair of death, would God’s love be as amazing, full, and enjoyable? If you have never been without something, can you really appreciate having it? Is evil not a necessary part of God’s good creation?

I want to be insane, heretical, and off base here, so please comment.

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