The word theodicy means the justice of God. Theodicy questions God’s ways of working with the world. Some people think theodicy is a waste of time either because they don’t believe there is a God, or they think God is so problematic and mysterious that asking questions about the justice of God is absurd or some think theodicy is a sign of a lack of faith and an arrogant pride trying to investigate the glory of God.
While there may be some legitimacy to the above reservations concerning theodicy, I disagree with all of them. Theodicy is a human attempt to understand and question the ways of God in a world of so much underserved suffering. Theodicy is a faithful human attempt to trust God and stay sane at the same time. Theodicy wonders about the methodology and fairness of God in our world. And it does so as an outgrowth of faith and not against faith.
Asking questions about the moral character and intent of God is also Biblical. Abraham argues with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses confronts God regarding God’s attitude toward the Israelites and their long suffering under slavery in Egypt. Hagar laments to God as she lingers in the wilderness. Job challenges the morality of God and is vindicated by God. In the book of Ezekiel, God laments that there is so little faith among the Hebrews that no one is willing to challenge God to keep God’s promises. And of course, in the New Testament, Jesus ends his life by crying out a question about God’s abandonment.
Theodicy is an inherent part of a faith that refuses to let God off the hook by making excuses about what God is not doing to defeat suffering and evil. We are presently living through the Coronavirus which has already killed almost 60,000 people in the USA. What is God doing amidst all these deaths?
There is a fine book called, Pathways in Theodicy by Mark S. M. Scott. Scott reviews the different ways theodicy has been approached but does not favor one approach. He argues we need to keep the theodicy question open and on the table. And I agree.
Why do I care so much about theodicy? Because faith is a risky business.We are proclaiming our faith in an invisible and highly problematic God. Our faith should be honest and mature. We ought to be intellectually and spiritually truthful about where our faith works and where it does not work. In all my years of teaching I have tried to encourage and aggravate my students, particularly those who espouse faith, to tell the truth about the fragility and difficulty of faith. Such thinking may cause some to doubt but doubt and faith are two parts of the same coin. Theodicy is important!!!