Suffering and Stupid Theological Explanations

"Suffering and Theology" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Suffering and Theology” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Maybe it goes something like this:

1. Stub toe: God’s too busy to bother with that.
2. Get the flu: God’s trying to get you to rest.
3. Get cancer: God’s testing you.
4. Spouse dies: You loved her more than God.
5. Tornado levels home: There’s sin in your life.
6. National disaster: Same-sex marriage allowed in your State, Province, Country.
7. Ice-cap melts: Jesus is coming back soon.

You get the idea.

Theodicy, as defined by Plantinga, is the “answer to the question of why God permits evil”.

It’s obviously not easy. Although there are “easy” options, like…

1. There is no God.
2. God and Satan are locked in a cosmic battle in a dualistic universe.
3. God doesn’t care.
4. We’re in the end times left to ourselves.
5. Denial: there is no suffering.
6. and so on and so on.

So I made this easy chart to show how the more severe is the suffering the more stupid are the theological explanations… because the more profoundly incomprehensible the evil is the more profoundly far does the explanation must reach. The darkness clouds our thoughts.

As we deconstruct… change our beliefs or lose our faith… as we evolve spiritually… we learn to embrace mystery. It doesn’t mean we stop thinking about it and trying to understand it. But we are okay with abandoning silly, stupid, concocted answers to profound questions. We are willing to take the risk of saying, “I don’t know”. We can even find peace of mind in the middle of confusion.

This is what it means to grow and become wise beyond belief.


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10 Responses

  1. Caryn LeMur says:

    Yes. December 26, 2004. The Tsunami.

    250,000 dead. Due to an earthquake in the sea.

    I have no answer. Oh, I am still a believer. I still trust Him and love Him. But I no longer adore Him.

    And… this was no fault of mankind. This was no human evil. This was no spiritual battle.

    It was something God could have allowed in small, 2.0 quakes over and over… until the tectonic plates were at rest once again.

  2. Jon Bectau says:

    @ Caryn LeMur

    There’s an entirely obvious answer to why God caused that tsunami: Female European tourists going topless on Thai beaches. It had just gotten out of hand and God had to do something about it. And, hey, he killed two birds with one stone by taking out all those Moslems in Indonesia at the same time. So, it was a very efficent use of earthquakes. There’s a little lesson for us all – God isn’t wastefull and neither should we be.

    As far as the 250,000 lost…well, look on the bright side: 1. Hell will not be as hot for them since they will have less time on Earth to indulge their wicked topless and Islamic ways. 2. God gave us a rainbow as a promise that he’ll never again drown all of us at the same time, like he did in the past when (I read this somewhere) women commonly went around topless. I think about how good God is not to drown me every time I see a rainbow.

  3. Jon: Either you are really good at sarcasm or you’re a major jerk. 😀

  4. Dave says:

    When the Indonesian tidal waves killed all those people, the prayers/comments by my worship leader ended with something like: “and the worst part is, most of them were not saved.”


  5. Caryn LeMur says:

    Jon: I laughed and laughed… you should write for the Colbert on the Late Late Show.

  6. Tanya marlow says:

    This is very true. I have an autoimmune illness that has stopped me doing my ministry job, stopped me leaving the house more than 20 times a year, and made parenting my young son extremely difficult. The worse it gets, the more vociferous the bad theology. That’s why I write about the reality of suffering and how it affects our relationship with God. This graph made me chuckle! You’re clearly a kindred spirit. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thanks Dave.

    Sorry for your struggles Tanya. It’s one thing to have the actual struggle. It’s another to have the crazy commentary.

  8. Grasshopper says:

    While on a personal level, to try an equate a sorrowful struggle with the wrong relationship with God is usually not helpful, there are some paths we take that do lead to personal destruction. How many times do we see pornography lead into infidelity and break ups of marriages and families. A lot! Or, the use of alcohol and drugs lead to deaths from the use of those items and also the killings in car crashes and murders using guns. 3/4 of all murders occur when the person doing the killing is intoxicated.

    With that said, there are times when it is pointless to try and equate sin with the reason of a tragedy. It serves no purpose and drives people away from their faith.

  9. i’d say it’s always pointless. thanks grasshopper 🙂