The problem of evil is perhaps the most sensitive issue in theology and there is almost a taboo in modern society against discussing it properly. When tragedy strikes a person, the loved ones of that person avoid justifying the tragedy or minimizing it, and they try to show their sympathies. It is outrageous when someone offers a reason in poor taste to why a tragedy happened. When the last school shooting happened, Ted Cruz said the reason they keep increasing was that we abandoned God in our schools. Twitter was up in a storm against that comment and many were offended. It seems that offering any type of reasoning for why seemingly senseless tragedies happen, like floods, horrific crimes, or some other event, is considered offensive and despicable. It seems to show we’re minimizing the pain of the one who is suffering and we are accusing the victim.
A Theodicy - from the Greek, Theos, which means God, and Dike, which means Justice - is not at all like a Ted Cruz comment. It isn’t minimizing our tragedies or accusing the victim in poor taste. As the word suggests, a Theodicy tries to justify why God can allow evil in the world and still be considered perfectly good. Additionally, a Theodicy looks at the larger meaning behind why things which we dislike exist, and this meaning is what is the key. Going up to the parent of a victim of a school shooting and telling them it is there fault is false and in poor taste. It does nothing to comfort them. But assuring them to be patient and saying there is a greater meaning to their suffering is not offensive. In fact, such an explanation to evil and bad happenings is the very reason why all of us have patience and overcome our difficulties. It is one thing to suffer in a tragedy. It is another thing to suffer in a tragedy that one finds completely meaningless. The latter is many degrees harder to bear for a victim. Meaning behind our pain is what we as human beings seek. It’s when we find no meaning at all that we go to the extremes of nihilism, and might even take our own life.
So should we attempt to provide an answer to the problem of evil? Absolutely. How can we not? Belief systems themselves can be seen as an attempt to answer this problem and give us meaning to our lives. Offering an answer by a theodicy helps victims of suffering, rather than hurt them. They can find solace in God’s wisdom and find strength to continue through their lives and overcome their challenges. Or, they can understand their huge responsibility as a human being. A theodicy isn’t just conciliatory. When we get to the topic of sin and freewill, it demands of us a great responsibility of reforming ourselves and fighting the evil we encounter in society. A theodicy weaves theology into real life.
It is what gives us a transcendent meaning and a reason for our hard work. So we should definitely offer an answer to the problem of evil.