When a person murders another person, there is outrage. Many ask, “How could God allow this?” Yet there remains an implicit understanding that humans have free will. When a murderer kills another human, we blame the murderer.
But what about natural evils? Natural disasters?
A tornado that kills children does not have free will. A tsunami does not have free will. A virus or cancer does not have free will. All these forces kill people. Why?
Why would a good God allow this?
A doctor friend of mine, Ben Olsson, DO, recently said, “Someone needs to come up with a theology of viruses. How do we account for the creation of these “non-living” things that destroy human bodies?”
These problems point to the final frontier of theology and philosophy. They are the perennial unanswered questions…
Today our hearts go out to those who have died and suffered in the tornado of Oklahoma. God is all-loving and all-powerful. So why didn’t He stop the storm?
In philosophy, this is the problem of theodicy. The word “theodicy comes from two Greek works theos meaning “God” and dike meaning “justice.”
When dear little children die in a violent tornado, humans begin to question the “justice of God.”
Just a few days ago, I wrote a blog post on how to speak with atheists. You can find it by clicking here. I mentioned in this post that atheists are not usually atheists because of the cosmological arguments. They are atheists because of evil. They reject God in the face of moral, but especially natural, evils.
The atheists points to the TV screen and says, “Aha, all those children died in a tornado. You’re God did that. Is that your God?” For these atheists, it is better to deny God’s existence than it is admit that God is evil or ambivalent.
The atheistic critique of theists is the thread running through Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. (A great novel that you should read. You can get here.) Ivan the atheist brother asks Aloysha the Christian brother about the cruelty children receive. He refers to God as the “architect” of the arrangement when he asks:
“Would you consent to be the architect under those conditions? Tell me honestly!”
“No, I wouldn’t agree,” said Alyosha quietly.
Even the innocent and faithful Alyosha seems confused and ashamed about the problem of evil.
The human heart, like Alyosha, knows that if there is a God, and that God should be good. The heart cannot make sense of it all. It hurts. It requires a quiet response and a lowering of the eyes.
Enough philosophy. Why did a tornado kill innocent children? What’s the answer?
The answer is not one that you will like…
The answer is silence. Sit down and read the book of Job in your own silence. It is without a doubt the most powerful treatise on theodicy. It involves terrible moral and natural evils happening to one man.
When the evils happen, Job remains silent.
Job’s “friends” Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come and they remain silent until Job finally speaks.
Next, the friends try to provide Job with a cogent account of theodicy – an account of why God allowed these evils to befall Job. Their speeches are unsatisfying. The young man Elihu defends Job and God. Finally God speaks. God does not condemn the men for asking the question and trying to seek answers. But God does not give an answer.
No answers are provided. Rather faith and silence are implied. The Eastern theologian Alexander Schmemann notes that “Job, the sufferer, is the Old Testament icon of Christ. This reading announces the great mystery of Christ’s sufferings, obedience and sacrifice.” (from his A Liturgical Explanation for the Days of Holy Week)
Silence. This is the posture of Jesus Christ in the face of evil – all evil.
“He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
So we must remain silent. Have faith. Pray. The answer will not be given to us. A compassionate and trustful silence is all we have.
Please pray for the injured, suffering, and dead of Oklahoma. Kyrie eleison 40x. Ave Maria.
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