Theodicy in Outline

In light of the recent Boston Bombings, I thought I would publish the following notes on the problem of Theodicy. This is, admittedly, an academic rather than pastoral treatment of the problem of suffering. I figure many people will be doing pastoral works over the next few days and weeks. I thought I would instead publish something that is both academic and readable by the average person.

The following is a teaching outline for discussing the problem of suffering in the light of a God who is said to be both all-good (desiring the full flourishing of all persons made in God's image) and all-powerful (able to bring about the full flourishing of those he desires good for). Thus experiences of suffering and tragedy cause us to question the goodness, power, and existence of God. This is a skeletal outline intended mainly as lecture notes.

1. The Problem Stated
Theodicy is the justification (Greek: dikee) of God (Greek: theos) and God's ways in the light of the suffering and evil in Creation

Typically, the problem of Theodicy is stated in this way: An all-good and all-powerful God should not allow his creation to suffer, because God should not desire anyone's suffering (because of God's goodness) and God should be able to stop suffering (because of God's power).

Yet, suffering and evil does happen. Frequently. And often in horrifying amounts.

Therefore it seems:
- God is not all-good and desires some to suffer OR
- God is not all-powerful and cannot stop our suffering OR SIMPLY
- God does not exist

Yet, if we posit the non-existence of God (or any entity such as God) which is the eternal source and foundation of Goodness, then we have lost the very standard by which we can call anything "evil". If there is no transcendent Good, then all statements of "evil" are simply statements of person preference (i.e. "I don't like jello" becomes the same kind of statement as "I don't like infanticide").

Therefore, if we are going to call things objectively evil and wrong, that means they point implicitly to a transcendent standard of Good by which we judge them. And transcendent Good is one way of defining God.

A further, more problematic answer is often given about the existence of evil: That evil has to exist for good to exist. Examples are often given to back this up, such as "light requires darkness to be light" or "you can't have up without down". The problem is that this grants evil and suffering the same status of being as goodness and life. But evil is NOT a real, independently existing thing like goodness is. Rather, evil is the lack of goodness, or the abuse of goodness. Evil cannot exist without good, but good can exist without evil.

For instance, we can imagine a healthy body without sickness, but sickness cannot exist at all unless it is the lack of health in a previously healthy body. Likewise, even the smallest light can shine in the darkness and overcome darkness, but you cannot "shine" darkness into light and overcome light with darkness. This is because darkness only exists as a privation, or lack, of light. Evil is thus a parasite that cannot exist without something good as a host to abuse.

Thus, the existence of evil is both an abuse of the Good, and a signpost pointing to the existence of a transcendent Good, which is the reality of God.

Therefore, if it seems that the experience of evil actually points us to transcendent Good, we must ask what is the nature of this Good in light of evil and suffering. Is this Good limited in goodness, and desires some suffering, death and evil in Creation? In this case, the motive of "Good" does not seem very good at all. Or is this Good limited in power, not able to bring about the good result that is desired? If this is the case, the goodness of "Good" seems severely limited by lack of power. Or, is there a way out of the problem of Theodicy that does not limit either the motive or the ability of Goodness? This is what the rest of this outline will deal with.

2. Freedom and the Permission of Evil
The central thesis of why God allows evil and suffering can be stated this way: God created us from Love, for Love. Love cannot be coerced, but must be freely chosen. Thus, God gives us real freedom so that we may chose to share in God's Love, or deny Love. God allows evil and suffering as a consequence of giving us real freedom to deny Love. There are three types of evil resultant from this:

2.1. Moral Evil
This is evil caused by the mis-use of freedom by persons. This results in the self-caused suffering of people due to their own choices, as well as the suffering inflicted on others by these choices.

Objection: If God is all-powerful, God should be able to give us "un-free freedom" (i.e. freedom that will always choose good and never choose evil), either by deceiving us into thinking we are choosing good, or by protecting us from all negative consequences.

Answer: Un-free freedom is a self-contradiction, and God is not self-contradictory, thus God does not make a contradictory creation. Thus, we cannot be both pre-programmed "robots" and also be free. Giving us true freedom means giving us the ability to choose evil.

Likewise, God cannot give us freedom and the only give us the option of choosing good (perhaps by putting us in a closed box with the only option to choose good). Being free entails the possibility of choosing at least two options with different consequences.

Furthermore, God cannot allow us to truly choose good or evil, and then simply remove the consequence of choosing evil (perhaps by putting us in a force-field that only allows good choices to count). Giving true freedom logically entails the fruits or consequences of our choices.

Finally, even if we could be programmed or coerced into making good choices and still FEEL like they were freely chosen by us, it would not be convincing or satisfactory from God's perspective. For God would know, even if we didn't, that we were not choosing Love for the sake of Love. For instance, let's say you live in the world of "Stepford Wives", and were given the choice of one of two people as a mate for life. Person 1 is a pre-programmed clone, guaranteed to be 100% compatible with all of your desires, while Person 2 is a real human with variable compatibility depending on the day and mood. If you are sane and honest, you will pick Person 2 because they are truly real and free. The same is true for God.

A further, related answer is often put forward about God's "purpose" in allowing moral evil: That God allows us to make mistakes so that we learn from them and grow into better people, or at least that others may learn and grow from our mistakes. Evidence is often cited in the form of examples of personal growth, or examples of how we learn from the mistakes of other cultures in history.

While there is doubtless some truth to this, and a great many evil choices can be "redeemed" and transformed into learning experiences that lead to salvation, this answer is also highly problematic in regard to extreme examples of evil. It is extremely doubtful that horribly evil acts can be redeemed by becoming "learning experiences". How could the holocaust of 6-8 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis be seen as a learning experience, or the abuse and murder of a small child? While such evils have some intelligibility as the result of personal freedom, they are completely absurd as "object lessons".

2.2. Natural Evil
This is evil caused by the chance and chaos inherent in the world. This results in great amounts of suffering and death caused by natural disasters.

While seemingly unrelated to the issue of moral evil, it must be noted that personal freedom is rooted in creational freedom (i.e. the chaos, randomness, and indeterminacy of creation). Without the freedom of creation, from the smallest level of quantum indeterminacy, to the largest chaotic weather systems, it would impossible for persons to be free. Our personal freedom is part of the fabric of the free indeterminacy of the entire universe.

Thus, God allows natural evil, caused by creational freedom, because it is precisely this creational freedom that allows for personal freedom. And it is personal freedom that allows us to participate in God's Love. So, if there is no creational freedom, there is no possibility of persons who can love. But, this creational freedom comes at the cost of natural evil.

Objection: If God is all-powerful, God should be able to miraculously intervene to stop the worst natural evil from happening.

Answer: First, miraculous interruptions in the natural system can have even worse ramifications than we might first imagine. While this is hard to conceive without a bit of hard science, I will try to make the analogy with recent military interventions. On first thought, it seems like a good thing for a country with a very powerful military to intervene in a weaker country to get rid of an oppressive regime or evil dictator. However, recent international experience shows that such noble interventions can lead to the unintended release of even more hatred, oppression, resentment and violence on the part of the newly "liberated" population. On analogy, it is easy to see how miraculous intervention by God has the possibility of unleashing similar unintended consequences, bringing about even worse disasters.

Thus, miraculous intervention must be chosen by God in a limited way, to ensure that worse consequences do not ensue. This is one reason why I think that obvious miracles in history are relatively rare, and unpredictable.

Second, as a very weak argument from silence, I think it should be noted that we have no way of knowing how many times God has in fact intervened to stop natural disasters, or to mitigate their effects. It may in fact be that natural evil could be much, much worse if God had acted differently. But there is no way of telling this without definitive revelation.

Third, in some versions of quantum theory (such as the "Copenhagen Interpretation" of quantum events), every time an event could happen in more than one way, it in fact does happen by splitting reality into multiple timelines. What this means is that it is possible that we do not live in a "universe", but rather a "multiverse", in which every natural possibility is realized in some timeline. This means that any time natural evil could have happened in another way, it has in fact happened another way in some part of the multiverse.

Thus we could say this: God wants to maximize the amount of good that results in reality. Therefore God allows any universe to exist in the multiverse which possesses at least one good that is not present in other universes. Therefore, this universe, with its pain and suffering, must possess at least one unique good that would not be present if it was changed in any way. That is why God has allowed this universe to exist in this way.

2.3. Systemic Evil
This is evil caused by oppressive social systems that create structural injustice, lack of access to resources, exclusion, pollution, and industrial disasters. This is not caused by individual evil choices, but the collective logic and policies of social systems. Thus it occupies a place between moral and natural evil.

Objection: Why doesn't God raise up a systemic force in the world to fight systemic evil?

Answer: From a Christian perspective, God has in fact raised up at least one systemic force to fight systemic evil: The Body of Christ, the Church.

However, the social system of the Church possesses the same freedom every other entity in the universe has to obey or resist God's Love. Thus, the Church has all too often fallen into the very evils it was created to oppose. God constantly revives and reforms the Church, through reformers and prophets, in effort to overcome this.

In addition, from a Christian perspective, other communities may also be part of the solution in a derivative way. Any social system that is inspired by God's Love and Justice and that seeks after this Love and Justice, is also "working with God" to solve systemic evil. Thus, any philosophy, religion, or organization, insofar as it works in accordance with God's Love, can work with the Church to overcome evil.

2.4. Incomplete Solutions
While all of these answers may be more or less rational, and more or less persuasive, they are all incomplete. They all keep God fairly uninvolved in the problem of evil, removed into the position of merely "permitting" evil. They explain why God may allow evil, but they do not explain how God directly ACTS to participate in, and heal, the problem of evil. This is what we move to next.

3. Evil and the Trinity in the economy of salvation
For Christian theology, the solution to Theodicy is not complete until God acts in such a way as to deal with the problem of evil and suffering directly. This requires an understanding of how God has acted in history in a Trinitarian way, as Father, Son, and Spirit. Before we go on, let us make a distinction between the "Immanent Trinity", which is God as God exists in Godself for eternity apart from creation, and the "Economic Trinity", which is how God reveals Godself within creation, through the history of salvation. Here we will consider the "Economic Trinity":

3.1. The Father suffers for us
The first thing that must be said is God the Father suffers for us in our suffering. Numerous times in Scripture, God is said to be angry, deeply saddened, and even repentant, because of human wickedness on one hand, and the suffering caused by sin on the other hand. Indeed, even the title "Father", used by Jesus to describe God, tells us that God is deeply connected with our lives on an emotional basis as a good parent would be. The Father does not sit in heaven detached and objective. He is passionately engaged in our suffering.

In fact, the Father is so passionately engaged that he sends his "only unique Son" to Earth to reveal the nature of God as Love, and to open for us the way of salvation (cf. John 3.16-18, and many, many other places). In sending his unique eternal Son to Earth, God experiences the profound loss of the one who is nearest and dearest to Godself. First God looses his Son to become Incarnate on Earth, then God looses His Son to injustice, torture, and death on a cross.

God the Father knows what it is like to loose His Beloved, not only because He has lost so many of his children to suffering and death on Earth, but because He has also lost His beloved unique eternal Son as well. Thus, God empathizes with all who have lost loved ones, and joins with them in their grief.

3.2. The Son suffers because of us
The second thing that must be said is that in Jesus, God has suffered because of us, on our behalf, and in our place. God has substituted Godself in our place to take the full consequences of our sin and evil into Godself.

This is classically referred to as the "kenosis", or self-emptying, referred to in Philippians chapter 2 when St. Paul says that in Christ God has "emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, and being found in human likeness, he humbled himself to death, even death on a cross". The most extreme confession of this emptying comes from the lips of Jesus himself on the cross, when he cries out in the words of Psalm 22: "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?"

In Jesus, God emptied himself, and went through all the normal "suffering" that human life and growth entails. God went through the womb, birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, just as we all do, without exempting Godself from any part of the process. God thus identifies with humanity, and is in solidarity with all of us, in every phase of life.

But not only that, God surrendered Godself to the worst kinds of consequences that result from human sin: Even though he was completely innocent of any evil, he voluntarily underwent betrayal, hatred, abuse, injustice, torture, and eventually murder. And even beyond this life, Jesus "descended into hell" to fully drink down the consequences of estrangement from God to the last drop. There is not any form of suffering, in this life or the next, which God did not undergo in Jesus. This is why St. Paul says that God "made him who had no sin to be sin for us".

I must add that this "substitution" is not merely a judicial exchange, in which God takes some arbitrary penalty in our place as a kind of legal scapegoat. No, the consequences of sin are not arbitrary punishments ordered by God, but rather natural effects arising from the fabric of the universe itself. If you disconnect yourself from life, love, and purpose, the natural consequence is death, fear, and meaninglessness. It is not arbitrarily imposed by God, but implicit in the very structure of existence.

Thus, Christ's substitution is fuller and broader than merely "judicial" concepts of punishments for breaking a law. It touches on the very nature of forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as the fact of divine responsibility for Creation.

Forgiveness is by its very nature a substitution, so that reconciliation can occur. In the act of forgiving, the person who was hurt by the evil takes the pain and consequence of the evil into themselves, not visiting it back upon the guilty party. For instance, if I steal money from you and you forgive me, you take upon yourself the cost of the theft, in order to be reconciled to me. Or, if you betray me and I forgive you, I take upon myself the pain of your betrayal without trying to get vengeance or retribution upon you.

Likewise, when God forgives us, it means that God takes into Godself the consequences of our evil. And for God to take the suffering and death into Godself on behalf of us, God needs to take on a form in which God can genuinely experience these consequences, without exempting Godself from actually suffering in solidarity with us. This form is precisely a human form, found in Jesus of Nazareth. In Jesus, God faced God's own mortality, God's own impending death, just as we all must do.

Yet this substitution- a relational, not merely judicial substitution- is also God taking responsibility for what God has made. We all instinctively hold builders responsible for what they build. To the extent that what they build is beautiful and good, they are praiseworthy. To the extent that what they build is dangerous and destructive, they are blameworthy.

We all bear our blame for the evil acts we choose, and in Jesus God takes this blame in our place. But also, in creating a "good" creation that is capable of producing free persons who can love, God has created a system that necessarily allows for immense suffering and evil. So, in Jesus God takes the blame for the possibility of suffering that God Himself created, and allowed, as the necessary precondition for Love. Jesus' substitution for us is thus about God taking the blame for what God created as much as it is about God taking our blame for the evil we have chosen to do.

And yet, in Christian theology, this is not the end of the story, for a merely dead God is not a solution to Theodicy. For Theodicy to come to any kind of resolution, suffering and death cannot have the last word. Jesus cannot stay in the grave.

Thus the historic bodily resurrection of Jesus, as reported in the Gospels and Letters of the New Testament, is a necessary ingredient for the final resolution of the problem of evil. It is an objective demonstration that God's Love is stronger than death, and more powerful than any of the consequences of evil. In death, Jesus takes every consequence of sin and evil, so that he may heal and transform every consequence of sin and evil by his resurrection.

And just as Jesus is the epicenter, or "event", or central site, at which God's substitution for our sins is enacted, he is also the epicenter from which God's Victory over evil radiates into the rest of the cosmos. He is the Fount of the healing of all evil. As time and process go forward in the cosmos, the entire universe will be drawn into the healing found in him (cf. Colossians 1.15-20; Romans 8; 1Corinthians 15). The question is, what is the energy or power or "gravity" that draws us all to this healing? This is where the Holy Spirit comes in.

3.3. The Spirit suffers with us
The Spirit of God is the very power which is said to have given Jesus the victory over the grave (cf. Romans 1.4). And it is this very Spirit which is poured out upon those who are joined to Christ in faithfulness and Love. Those who are joined with Christ are thus referred to as a new type of social entity, that continues the Incarnation of God in the world, and spreads the healing found in Jesus.

That entity is the Church, which is called "The Body of Christ", and the Spirit is the lifeblood that nourishes and holds this Body together. As a result, the Spirit is a permanent guest dwelling within individual members of the Body of Christ, and also connecting those individual members together into a greater whole.

The upshot of this for the problem of Theodicy is that, in the Spirit, God suffers with us in everything we go through. God is not just the Father suffering for us in Heaven, nor just the Son suffering because of us in History. God is also the Spirit suffering with us right now, and empowering with God's Love and life to overcome and transform that suffering.

As St. Paul says in Romans 8: [18] I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. [19] For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; [20] for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope [21] that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [22] We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; [23] and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies… [26] Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

This does not preclude the Spirit's work in other communities and social systems outside of the Church. In fact, it implies just the opposite. The Spirit is at work in all the world, suffering with all who suffer, and leading all to ultimate healing, as the Spirit draws all to the epicenter of healing found in Jesus Christ. The normative route for this transformative pattern is to draw people through the continuing Body of Christ, the Church. However, there are parts of the cosmos where the Body is currently absent, or has been so weakened and sickened by sin, that the Spirit may be working through other temporary means, such as other social systems and even other religions. Wherever we find Christlike Love and justice being practiced, and people being healed, then surely Christ's Spirit is at work, even if the Name of Christ is as yet unknown.

3.4. Need to go further into the Divine Life
While it might be tempting for some Christians to declare the problem of Theodicy substantially answered at this point, I think we need to reach further, beyond history, and into the eternal nature of Godself, for the most complete answer possible. The reason for this is two-fold:

First, the question arises whether suffering and loss is something strictly "outside" of God, which is foreign to the very nature of God. Is Theodicy just a problem external to God, which God has to step outside of eternity and into history to solve? Or does Theodicy somehow draw us into the very depths of God's own life?

Second, the solution thus far has not given us an outline of how Theodicy might find an eternal resolution in the life of God. We can now see there is hope in history for the solution though Christ by the power of the Spirit. But, is there also a hope in eternity beyond history? Can we dare to hope for those who have already perished? Can we dare to have hope after our own earthly life is done?

4. Evil and the Trinity in eternity
Now that we have considered how God deals with suffering in History in the "Economic Trinity", let us now deal with how God deals with Theodicy in eternity as the "Immanent Trinity".

4.1. Suffering and Loss as Participation in Divine Life
The grounding of the "Economic Trinity" is ultimately found in the eternal nature of God as Love. God did not just "appear" as Father, Son, and Spirit in History, so that we conveniently link them together as the Trinity after the fact. Rather, the revelation of God in History as Father, Son, and Spirit point us to the eternal nature of God prior to time and space. To vastly over-simplify it, we can say this: God is eternal Love, shared forever between the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love that binds them together (i.e. Father, Son, Spirit). God is thus a Community that shares fully in one another, and gives themselves fully to each other, in an eternal "dance" of self-emptying participation in one another.

This implies that kenosis, or "self-emptying" is not just something done by the Son of God in History. Rather, this historic emptying reflects something that has always been happening from eternity. In Trinity, God has always been emptying Godself into each other in a kind of "super-kenosis". The Father has always been emptying Himself into the Son through the Spirit. And likewise, the Son has always emptied Himself back into the Father through the same Spirit. There is thus an eternal "loss" or "giving up" or "handing over" that makes up the very nature of God who is Love.

It turns out that the very nature of Love is self-gift and self-loss for the sake of the other. This is how the Bible describes both the nature of God's Love in Christ (again, see John 3.16), as well as the nature of the Love we should have for one another (see 1Corinthians 13). For God, and for us, in time and in eternity, true Love means the loss and giving up of the self. And while Love often leads to feelings of satisfaction and joy, it also necessarily entails suffering as we empty ourselves on behalf of the Other.

This has important ramifications on the very nature of suffering and loss. As long as suffering and loss is seen and felt as meaningless, disconnected from any participation in God's Life, it is in fact meaningless and absurd for those who are suffering. However, if suffering and loss is offered up to Christ, and realized as a participation in the Love of God that has existed for all eternity, it becomes the site of profound communion with God, through Christ, in the power of the Spirit.

When suffering is given over to the Triune God in this way, we begin to realize that our sufferings are a very real participation in the eternal Divine Life, and God is participating in our struggles in a very real way. This is not a quick fix, nor does it suddenly alleviate the very real consequences of moral, natural, and systemic evil. But this realization does do two important things for our struggle:

First, it gives us a historical hope that things can be made better in this world. If we are sure that God is working with us and through us, and that the Spiritual power of the resurrection is available right now, it gives us courage and strength to strive for justice and transformation in our society. It gives us the ability to give ourselves away in acts of charity and social justice, knowing "it is God who works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose" (cf. Philippians 1.13).

Second, it gives us an eternal hope that all things will be reconciled in God's good time. It is to this eternal hope that we turn now.

4.2. The Causes of Suffering finally judged and transformed
The Bible is replete with warnings and promises that at the end of time, God will judge and condemn all evil actions, and the actors that chose evil. Now, it is of course possible that we may not believe these promises or warnings. And if we do not believe them, they are a moot point. And on this view, at the end of the day, evil, death and suffering have the last laugh.

However, let us assume for a moment that these promises and warnings are actually true. This would have a profound effect on how we see the resolution of Theodicy.

For, if it were true, it would mean that after the free processes of the universe have been given their full scope of action in history, God will act to "harvest" what is good, true, and beautiful and remove all that is evil, false, and worthless after history.

Because of this, we could expect that God will recompense evil doers with the exact amount of remedial discipline they need to fully understand the scope of their evil choices, and turn away from evil. This recompense would take the form of the evil-doers experiencing the full consequences of their guilt, shame, and estrangement from God's Love, until they finally surrender their evil, and participate in the healing Love of God.

Of course, since we are still dealing with free persons, they will eternally have the choice to resist the Loving discipline of God, and cling to their evil forever. This would result in them experiencing the "hell" of self-chosen guilt, shame and estrangement for as long as they desire, into eternity. However, God's healing discipline always holds the doors open to his Love, if they will just surrender their evil and empty themselves to Christ.

If this is all true, it means that there is no injustice, no evil, no suffering that will not be dealt with by the Triune God in the most serious and fitting way. No one, from the most petty gossiper to the most horrific dictator, will be able to get away without facing up to the evil they have done, and the full consequences of that evil.

But it also means something more. It means that God's Love, revealed in Christ, will never give up on anyone, until all are brought to reconciliation in Christ. As it says in Colossians 1: [19] For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

4.3. The final vision of Cosmic Healing
This leads to the final hope of the Christian, the resurrection of the dead and the New Creation. The final hope is that, after the full consequences of evil have run their course in this life and the next, there will be a final transformation of the cosmos as all that is good, true, and beautiful is gathered together in Christ.

I do not know how to fully characterize or describe this, other than to say that it will be analogous to the historic resurrection of Christ, in which Jesus was transfigured and glorious, while also still bearing the scars of his life and being identifiable as himself (see 1Corinthians 15 and John 21-22). In the same way, who we will be then, will be in continuity with who we are now, but in a way that is glorious and transformed into the best possible version of who we can be.

This resurrected new creation is described in Revelation 21: [1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea… [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. [4] He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

It is almost as if the "new creation" will be the "old creation" turned inside out, to reveal the inner meaning that was always held within our experiences of suffering and joy, death and life. This "inside out" new creation, in which the life of the Triune God swallows up death forever, is the ultimate solution to Theodicy.

And this is should not be confused with a bland statement that "everything turns out fine in the end, so that justifies murder, rape, genocide, abuse, and natural disasters". This ultimate resolution and resurrection does not come that "cheap".

You can't hit fast forward to get there, as I have shown above. Rather, the experience of suffering and the judgment of evil are all necessary to fully participate in the Triune life of God. Each evil that is done, and every life destroyed and maimed by it, will be dealt with uniquely by God through Christ. Every consequence will be met in a way that is appropriate to the situation. And all will ultimately become a means for participation in the life of God through our experience of loss and suffering.

Since we are very quickly nearing the end of my ability to describe this mystical reconciliation in words, I will close with a final analogy. I think this "inside out" new creation is a lot like a complex needlepoint picture. When viewed from the bottom side, the picture is unintelligible. There is nothing but a tangle of loose threads, with very little discernible pattern, and no consistency. Yet, when one turns it over to the top side, you can see how the jumble of threads has been woven together into a beautiful picture.

In a similar way, I do not expect the jumbled threads of suffering and loss to make complete sense right now. I can see some edges and contours, but what the final resolution will be I can scarcely grasp. Yet I hope that as our suffering and loss is joined to Christ, we will find ourselves knit into the life of the Trinity, and one day the picture will make sense.

For more extensive treatments of the problem of theodicy, I would put forward the sources in order of complexity:

A great place to start would be part 3 of the "Handbook of Christian Apologetics" by Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft.

A very readable, emergent protestant view can be found in "Love Wins" by Rob Bell.

Writer and apologist CS Lewis deals with this question in several places, notably his books "The Problem of Pain" and "The Great Divorce". He also refers to it several times within his classic "Mere Christianity".

Finally, much of the analysis found here (especially part 4) has found it's origins in conversations with Dr. Jacob Friesenhahn. Friesenhahn has explored these issues in some depth and subtlety in his book "Trinity and Theodicy".
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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.