Part II: God Forsaken
Subject: Part 2: A Universal Conundrum
This chapter describes the arguments used by Christians against the traditional theodicies, of which there are seven.
A theodicy is a justification or explanation for the existence of evil given the assumption that God is omnipotent, omniscient, just, compassionate, and loving. Given this understanding of God, here are the six major theodicies: Evil…
- …is countered through redemptive suffering (Hegel)
- …is the result of Original Sin (Genesis 2)
- …doesn’t really exist, i.e., it is the absence of Good (St. Augustine, the City of God)
- …exists because God judges the fitness of the universe by its underlying harmonies (Leibniz)
- …exists because God’s power is limited (Kushner)
- …exists but is countered by retributive suffering (the Prophets)
Questions for Session II:
Bart Ehrman argues that an all powerful, good and gracious God would not have allowed the Holocaust since the Jews are God’s special people. He cites, as his main source, Deut 6:7 (NRS)
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
Consistent with the NRS translation, the NET, NIV, NLT, and NKJ characterize the Jews as God’s treasured or prized possession. If He values the Jews so highly, why did He allow 1/3 of them (6,000,000,000) to be murdered?
Christians (and Jews) hold as doctrine the principle that God is omnipotent and omniscient. But, beginning in the first two creation stories and beyond we read that God is often surprised (and less than pleased, usually) with what He created. With this in mind, reflect on one or two of the questions from the following list
- Why does God judge the outcome of each day of creation in Genesis 1?
- Why does God not know the location of Adam in Genesis 2?
- Can man truly have free will if God knows what is going to happen? Reflect on Genesis 2:17 in which God warns Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and bad.
- Later, in Genesis, God regrets having made mankind and subsequently destroys all of mankind but for Noah and his family.
- In Exodus 4:24-26, God tells Moses to go to Egypt and confront Pharoah. However, on the way there He attempts to murder Moses presumably because he had not yet been circumcised. Moses is saved by His wife when she circumcises their son and smears the blood on Moses’ feet. Didn’t God know Moses was NOT circumcised in the first place?
- In Numbers 14, God laments His inability to inspire the Israelites to believe in him, despite all the miracles He performs in their presence.
Part II: The Book of Job
Study the table below for Wednesday’s discussion.
Table 1: Summary of Job
The Prose Narratives. Wrote the prose sections of Job (the beginning and the epilog).
Describes Job as patient. In the prose epilog Job’s attitude is commended and richley rewarded. God deals with people according their faithfulness. In other words, suffering is a test of faith.
The Poetic Narratives: Wrote the middle poetic narrative describing Job’s friends who argue that Job is getting his just desserts.
Describes Job as defiant: at the end of the poetic section, when Job questions God, he is condemned, overpowered and ground into submission. Suffering remains a mystery that cannot be fathomed.
NOTE: This table recognizes that there were two separate authors of Job, each with a different message to convey. The first author wrote the beginning and ending chapters using prose and refers to God as Yahweh. The second author wrong the middle chapters as poetic and refers to God as El, Eloah, and Shaddai.
How are these two accounts harmonized? Can they be?