Security But No Certainty: Toward A Christian Theodicy -- By: Daniel B. Clendenin

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:3 (Sep 1988)
Article: Security But No Certainty: Toward A Christian Theodicy
Author: Daniel B. Clendenin

Security But No Certainty: Toward A Christian Theodicy

Daniel B. Clendenin*

Few things break the heart and boggle the mind like the problem of evil, that “universal theme that accompanies man at every point on earth.”1 Mark Twain observed that human beings “belong to a singular race. Every man is a suffering machine and a happiness machine combined.”2 For many, he went on to note, life is not a blessing but a disaster. For others evil poses an intractable obstacle to belief in an all-powerful and all-loving God.3

Gratuitous evil, both moral and natural, rampages through every level of our existence. On the cosmic level we see the unending growth and power of militarism, politics and statism, both east and west, left and right, which oppress the human spirit.4 Every year forty million to fifty million people created in God’s image for fellowship with him are aborted.5 The nightly news reminds us of millions starving to death, while the world’s abundant food supply piles up on borders. Thus Pope John Paul writes of the “incomparable accumulation of sufferings” in our world today.6 Beyond this cosmic level, though, there is the personal level, and each person and family, as Tolstoy observed, suffers despair in its unique and private way.7

What, exactly, is “the problem of evil”? First, we need to remind ourselves that there is no final agreement on the formulation of the problem, which means of course that there is no unanimity as to an answer. For some the

*Daniel Clendenin is assistant professor of theology at William Tyndale College in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

problem is the fact that God allows any evil in the world, while for others the problem is not simply that evil exists but that too much evil exists. For our purposes we can say that the problem concerns the apparent contradiction between the reality of evil and the affirmation, demanded by the Scriptures, that God is both all-powerful and all-good. Theodicy (theos/God plus dikē/ justice), then, becomes an attempt to reconcile this dilemma and to justify God’s ways. Boethius (c. 480 to c. 524) struggles with this “greatest of all mysteries, one which can hardly be fully explained,”8 and provi...

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