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Archive for the ‘Theodicy’ Category

“Idealism is the soul of philosophy; realism is the body. Only both together can constitute a living whole.” (Schelling, Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human freedom, 26).

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A televangelist, Pat Robertson’s response to the Haiti’s earthquake is awful. He said,
“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti … they were under the heel of the French, uh, you know, Napoleon the third and whatever … and they got together and swore a pact to the devil, they said, we will serve you, if you get us free from the French. True story.”

However, we have to remember that they are Christians. When we see some bad effects such as sufferings, earthquake, and death, some people consider them as God’s punishment, look for some causes (sin), and simply connect them each other. Their logic is that bad consequences result from bad causes. Then how can they interpret bad effects which happen to almost everybody everyday? How can they interpret Jesus’ death according to this logic? Was Jesus’ death the consequence of his sin?

In John 9, when Jesus’ disciples saw a man blind from birth, they ask Jesus, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Although this answer has some hermeneutical device to solve, this answer is totally different from Robertson’s.

Is Robertson’s response not a kind of shamanism? This kind of response of fundamentalists makes God a merciless God and forces Christianity to separate from the world. Is he really in a sense different from atheists who criticize Christianity and who deny God because of these sufferings?

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David Ray Griffin formalized a trilemma questioning the omnipotence and goodness of God based on the presence of evil.
A. If God is omnipotent, God could prevent all evil.
B. If God is perfectly good, God would want to prevent all evil.
C. There is evil.
D. Therefore [an omnipotent, perfectly good] God does not exist.

Based on the above syllogism, one could ask: On the one hand, if God is omnipotent, God at least is not good. Although God is omnipotent, the fact that there is evil means that God does not have good will. On the other hand, if God is good, God is not at least omnipotent. Although God wants to prevent evil, the fact that there is evil means that God is not omnipotent. In other words, if God is good, why did God let evil, suffering, and tears occur? If God is omnipotent, why does God not stop them? God’s omnipotence and goodness might not be consistent if there are real evils in the world. Thus, the problem of evil makes people doubt about God and forces theology to construct newly a theory of God.

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These actualities of tragedy (suffering) would be now a daily life: Collapse of World Trade Center (9/11), Tsunami, Katrina, and earthquake in Haiti. Is there one single day when there is no tragedy in our lives? Whenever I revisit these direct or indirect experiences, they cause me to ask existential and theological questions: Why might they live in such suffering? Why did I shed tears for such a tragedy? Could these suffering people not enjoy their lives with true peace, happiness, and beauty? These questions can be arranged around three theological issues: What is suffering (evil)? What are tears? What is beauty? The central question is how concrete suffering (evil), which stimulates tears of sorrow, will be overcome; and how it is transformed into tears of joy and into beauty at the end. In this sense, does God really wipe out the tears of the suffered people?

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There was an accident of collapse of Sungsu-Bridge in Korea in 1994. It was time for many students to go to school, so that the most of the dead were youth students. The parents who lost their sons and daughters had lived with despair, and some parents among them also died because they had caught diseases resulted from the death of their sons and daughters. What did God on that day of accident, why did God not protect the accident, and why did God not stop death of their parents? Is God still living and working for the world here and now?

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There was “KwangJu Democratic Movement” on May 1980 in Korea, so that almost two thousands people died by the military government under the permission of America. Nevertheless, most Korean people neither know the fact nor believe it until 1990 when the military dictatorship was over. When I saw a video tape about this in the first grade of university, although I heard about it before, I cannot help asking: “Where was God?” and “What did God do for KwangJu people?” This question made me leave church and participate in the student movement.

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Patripassionism, is this heresy? If the Son alone among three persons suffers in the cross, how does God the Father feel Jesus’ pain? If God only knows Son’s suffering and death, but not feels his suffering, how can we say God’s perichoresis between them? No matter how the Son talks about the suffering to the Father, can God the Father have sympathy for his Son Jesus? How can we defend communicatio idiomatum (communication of properties), which hypostatic union includes, if it is Jesus as human beings but not as divine who suffered? Then, in John 3: 16, “whoever believes in me shall not perish but have eternal life,” is Jesus here just a man? If Jesus is just a man, how can human Jesus save the world? Even in this world had Jesus two natures: humane and divine. When Jesus suffered and died in the cross, was he only a man? Wouldn’t it be more correct to say that God the Father feels and suffers the God the Son’s suffering? If somebody sees Jesus’ human nature alone suffer, s/he must deny the belief that “Jesus is the Christ, the eternal World of God in time.” Isn’t this seemingly a kind of evangelical docetism, which insists that Jesus only appeared to be a human being and suffer? Or are they not evangelical Arianism which insists homoiousios between Father and Son?

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