Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Monday, February 21, 2011

Theodicy: The Question of Innocence

"It is in suffering that the whole human question about God arises; for incomprehensible suffering calls the God of men and women in question. ... For a God who lets the innocent suffer and who permits senseless death is not worthy to be called God at all ... The theism of the almighty and kindly God comes to an end on the rock of suffering..."

"The question of theodicy is not a speculative question; it is a critical one. It is the all-embracing eschatological question. It is not purely theoretical, for it cannot be answered with any new theory about the existing world."  

God is not the only reality. Humankind is also a reality, a different one created by God and loved by Him.
Sin, evil, sickness and death are real consequences of our willful disobedience to our Creator. This wilful disobedience ushers in broken relationships with God, each other and nature itself. These are tragic realities and certainly pitfalls in establishing a convincing and irrefutable doctrine of 'God as love'. Karl Barth stated that, "...sickness is real ... as an encroachment on the life which God has created."
What normally occurs in life via illness, accident or disease are accepted as malfunctions and maladies occurring as random events either as a consequence or manifestation of our interactions in life. Sickness, pain and suffering are elements of life as a result of living. The distinction between physical ailments and those of moral failure or the psychological are minor when viewed as the result of our acceptance and belief that there are consequences related to disobedience to God. In effect God has declared that none are innocent with regards to understanding life as having opportunity for pain and suffering. Romans 3:22a,23, "For there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." and Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death ..."
There are those who lay claim to a belief that fear and guilt are the creators and basis of all sickness and if
you remove fear and guilt "... at the same time you have also removed the soil on which sickness thrives."
I am not totally adverse to this line of thought, as I believe in a holistic view of life, interconnecting the physiological, psychological and therefore determining the pathological consequences. I do not believe that disease, illness or sickness are an absolute result of one's decisions. A predetermination of this magnitude would be contrary to my understanding and belief in the randomness of life. I will give weight to a person's decisions creating fear and guilt and subsequently causing apparent or real physical symptoms diagnosed as a sickness.
Pain and suffering viewed as the consequence of sin, as seen through the eyes of man, seek mitigation. We would like to reserve judgement on the pain suffered for those whom we deem are most deserving of said suffering. In God's reality those distinctions are non-existent. The equity of God's reality is that all sins and subsequently all grace are dispersed equally, without regard for entitlement or merit. Sin is sin and grace is therefore grace.
"Innocent suffering is the open wound of life." Some believe that the "... real task of faith and theology is "to make it possible for us to survive, to go on living, with this open wound." This statement declares suffering as an absolute disvalue. I am not saying that sickness is healthy or that suffering is intrinsically good, but, the Bible never declares it to be something from which a man cannot rise above or does not have redeeming value. Sin as with grace are the harbingers in life of future consequence. Weakness and limitations run hand-in-hand with freedom and opportunity, "where sin resides, grace abounds." Our sickness is not just the "forerunner and messenger of death and judgement" but is also the "forerunner and messenger of eternal life." These ailments are but for a time, and an inconsequential time when viewed in the light of eternity.
We are given a chance and a right to live a righteous life. God's reality predestines life with the possibilities for His redemptive purposes to be fulfilled in any and all persons. Redemption involves the healing or restoring of wholeness and sound functioning to every aspect of a person's life either in part or in whole including bodily integrity, emotional balance, mental well-being and spiritual sentience. All must be redeemed.
This is significant because the defining of  'innocence" and 'innocent suffering' suggests a limiting of God's ability or desire to mollify the circumstances and/or to be willing to redeem people from their pain. It is tragic to see the thousands of suffering men, women and children of the world, dying of disease, hunger and war. Let us beware in casting aspersions upon God's apparent apathy in His inaction, it may not be the victims in these situations being judged, but we who stand idly by unwilling to sacrifice of our wealth to aide those who are so less fortunate. Yes, they may be innocent, however God's grace is no less diminished by any condemnation of His apparent disinterest. God's grace is ever available and I do not for one moment believe that those people have not had opportunity to receive salvation. The misconception is that healing and redemption were not available and there suffering was purposeless.

A theism which ignores the question of theodicy or even worse attempts to change man's understanding of God as being sovereign, righteous and loving and with that being actively engaged in the welfare of the people of the world whether they are healthy or sick is a heresy.

To see positive value in pain and suffering is not to justify their presence in life, but to point out the possible redemptive purposes served. The world is unqualifiably evil, however, God is unqualifiably loving.

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