Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thoughts on Theodicy and Newtown

I am fascinated with the subject of theodicy - the vindication of the presence of evil, given the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God.  The search for reasons for the world's ongoing parade of horrors, has kept a plethora of philosophers and theologians busy theorizing ways in which such absolute evil can obtain in God's world.

God is usually vindicated in one of the following ways:
  • God's plans defy human understanding, and his actions should not be questioned
  • Humans, or some humans, have behaved immorally and God is exacting retribution
  • It is not God, but the Devil who has gained control
  • God is no longer involved in human behavior - he is merely an observer, exacting punishment for the wicked and granting rewards for the righteous in the world to come.
  • Some other explanation which would be equally difficult to comprehend
Some musings:

Bringing the existence of God into the discussion of such profound evil acts as demonstrated by the horror of the recent annihilation of 20 elementary school children in Newtown, CT is, to say the least, daunting.  We are a compassionate people.  We refuse to hold a God responsible for such evil, but have no issue invoking him when things go well.  Though, according to some beliefs, God may have had a hand in the tragedy,  people continue to pray to him for his guidance,  for his protection, and for his continued love and understanding.  

People believe God understands what mere mortals cannot understand, and we mortals ask him to help us understand the incomprehensible.  Some may argue that perhaps God wanted these little children and their teachers to join him; and who are we to question his actions.   However, the reasoning of mere mortals cannot escape the fact that this argument must then consider the killer an agent of God.  This concept must be very difficult, if not impossible to accept.

If there were a God,  is it possible that he was unaware of what was to transpire on Dec. 14, 2012 in Newtown, CT?  If he were unaware, what does that say about his "omnipresence." Alternatively, if he were aware of the killer's intent, yet did not stop him, then either God decided to remain a simple bystander (for reasons known only to him) or was powerless to control the act.

Nevertheless, people still feel the need to "believe."

God (either as a reality or as a concept) serves a purpose here - but only, unfortunately, after the fact.  People seek him out for solace in their grief - he fills that need somehow.  People pray to help them understand the incomprehensible - and often, if not most often, some peace may be found.  God is there for the grieving survivors - but was, apparently, not there to protect the victims.

People seek God for answers to "How could this happen?"  They should also seek answers to "How could God allow this to happen?"  If the reasons cited at the very beginning of this piece provide that answer for you, I believe you to be very fortunate.

Evil in the world is far more easily understood by non-believers.  Not requiring divine explanations allows human reasoning to draw human conclusions.   

Life - its tragedies and its wonders alike - is a manifestation of our natural world and, God or no God.  We can look only at ourselves to understand it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very good