Theodicy In The Apocalypse -- By: Grant R. Osborne

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 14:1 (Spring 1993)
Article: Theodicy In The Apocalypse
Author: Grant R. Osborne


Theodicy In The Apocalypse

Grant R. Osborne*

Theodicy comes from two Greek words meaning “to justify/defend God.” The premise is that an omnipotent yet benevolent God must create a world in which these attributes are manifest. In that light, how does one account for the presence of evil and suffering? Theodicy in the Bible refers to the justification of God in two directions: the seeming triumph of the wicked and the suffering of the innocent. If God is sovereign and good, how can he allow evil to predominate unchecked? The presence of evil, suffering, and death was a threat to the divine order that controlled this cosmos. Ancient societies answered this problem in quite different ways: some, like the Greeks, portrayed gods with the same foibles and faults as human beings; others, like the Persians, developed a dualistic world in which good and evil are virtually equal forces.

The OT provides a multiplex answer. J. Crenshaw finds seven different views of suffering in Jewish thinking: suffering as retributive, disciplinary, revelational, probative, illusory, transitory, or mysterious.1 The solution begins with Genesis 3, which says the presence of evil and death was due to human choice. God throughout the OT is characterized by justice and love, wrath and mercy, and these coexist in a divine tension. Divine wrath2 is portrayed as just, linked as it is to human depravity; e.g. Gen 6:5: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time [NIV used throughout].” In v. 6 God’s response is first grief and pain, and then comes the wrath that leads to the flood.

Yet this does not explain the suffering of the innocent and of the righteous. Many have noted that in wisdom tradition a major crisis developed with regard to the challenge posed by the twin problems

*Grant R. Osborne is Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

of evil and the suffering of the innocent. Wisdom at its heart may be defined as a creation theology: God has created this world and continues to control it; therefore wisdom is accepting one’s proper place in his created order and living by his rules. Yet this was challenged by common experience, namely the prosperity of the wicked and the indiscriminate nature of suffering that imposes itself on the just and the unjust alike. Wisdom answered this problem in two ...

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