Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A failure in reckoning with theodicy

.... If one begins with the biblical drama, in which a broken covenant lies at the very center of a crime scene, the problem takes on deeply personal and historical overtones. According to this plot, God was in no way obligated to rescue the creature, ..

So when this drama is the context for theodicy, the tables are turned. Instead of God being on trial, it is the creature who is arraigned and questioned. ... And now the problem of evil, though not solved in our minds, is overwhelmed by the problem of good. (Michael S. Horton, Covenant and Eschatology: The Divine Drama, p. 93)

As per my effort to finish Horton's 4-volume dogmatics, I decided to go back and scan through the first book in the series which I had read earlier as part of my MDiv course requirement, in preparation for an upcoming blog post. In the process, I found this discussion on theodicy, which I would like to comment upon.

Horton's reply to the question of theodicy is to thrust it back unto the questioner as not a question concerning evil but a question concerning good. In rhetoric, it is similar to how the Apostle Paul argues in Romans 9. This of course is a valid answer, but it is a valid answer to the question as to "why bad things happen to good people." It is a valid answer to anyone who think they deserve anything good from God. Unfortunately, it is not a valid answer to the actual question of theodicy, which this section is supposed to tackle.

The question of theodicy deals with the character of God as being one that is wholly good and pure and righteous. Answering that we as fallen creatures have the problem of good does not however addresses why God is only good. It might be that humans deserve evil, but at the same time God could be evil also. In other words, the two issues, while related, are distinct and independent of each other. Solving the question for humans does not solve the problem for God.

Ultimately of course, the origin of evil is shrouded in mystery, yet mystery only implies that it is impossible for us to fully comprehend the issue, not that it is necessarily impossible to have a partial solution. Since God is supremely logical, there are no contradictions and the problem can have a plausible partial solution. It seems to me that such a solution can be seen in this: God is good, evil came through the creature's free agency, which in its free prelapsarian state have the potential to do right or to sin. Since evil is the absence of good, sin comes about by the absence of God's strength to do right. God is not culpable because He is under no obligation to positively aid any creature.

This of course is a plausible theodicy, to be held tentatively as all inferences from Scripture into the deeper things of God are to be held. Yet this is a better explanation compared with the non-explanation in Covenant and Eschatology, which sadly does not reckon properly with the problem of theodicy.

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