More Thoughts on Theodicy


Process theology (grounded in Whitehead’s metaphysics) or open theology (a more conservative variant) in many ways seems to be a response to age-old theological conundrum of suffering. Both theologies challenge the idea of a sovereign God preferring to think of a God who remains open to the future and does not pull the strings controlling nature, history, etc. I have many objections to these theologies, but one of my chief complains is that both seem to be intent on making apologies for God. They make the necessary moves so people can no longer protest to God in the midst of their suffering. It’s not that God willed things to be this way, but rather he is caught up in the process and unfolding of history. I’ve been thinking about the historical contexts in which these theologies have emerged and have become convinced that their development is contingent on a world that has become increasingly technologized and explained scientifically. In the past a tribal, omnipotent God who took sides in war made sense when man did not have the technological capacity to fight wars the way we do now. Also, in the past man was utterly dependent on mother nature for rain, but now we’ve grown smart enough to manufacture food year round. We no longer need a God to occupy such a position of power so he’s been displaced in these theologies as a friendly, relational Being who has revoked that place in the cosmos. God as an explanatory hypothesis is no longer needed so these theologies have re-thought the Godhead to make space for him in our scientific world.

I’m still working through thinking theodicy, but I thought I’d included an excellent quote from J Kameron Carter on theodicy and Haiti (I’ve borrowed the quote from Halden’s blog here)

By coming at the issue of God and suffering, which this Haiti crisis compels us to do, from the vantage point of the God not above our pain but the God known in and who is identified from our pain, the classical theodicy question comes to an end. We step beyond theodicy and into a “Christ-odicy.” That is to say, we address suffering from Jesus Christ. And to approach suffering from him is to approach those who suffer, not as those merely needing our charity (which positions us above them), nor as those who trigger our intellectual and aesthetic capacities to glean the beautiful from the tragic (which also positions us as masters, above the fray), but as those who witness God to us, the God who is the Neighbor—the one and only Neighbor—who has come to us (cf. Luke 10:25–37). They are neighbors in whom God is known and is present to us. And thus, Haiti is the witness to our redemption. The script is Christologically flipped: they are the missionaries to us. To neglect them, to position ourselves above the fray and thus above them, to not work to change the social conditions that make natural disaster worse—these are all signs of the refusal of salvation.

Finally Bonhoeffer writes

“So our coming of age leads us to a true recognition of our situation before God. God would have us know that we must live as men who manage our lives without him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us (Mark 15.34). The God who lets us live in the world without the working hypothesis of God is the God before whom we stand continually. Before God and with God we live without God. God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matt. 8.17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering” (Letters and Papers from Prison, 360-361).


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