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Posts tagged "Theodicy"


Hopelessly Devoted: Joel Chapter Two Verses Twenty Five through Twenty Seven

This morning’s devotion comes from the preacher himself, Paul N. Walker. 

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter, my great army which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25-27, ESV)

Everything, ultimately, comes from the hand of God: the good, the bad, and the ugly. God is sovereign, which means that He is in control of everything. The bad things in your life have not escaped God’s notice, nor do they fall outside of His sphere of influence. This means that hurt and disease and disaster and death are all under His command and authority.

ewMost of us want to shy away from this biblical view of God. We are loath to attribute anything bad to our good God. We are more likely to say that bad things happen because of sin and the devil. God then swoops into the mess to make things right. It is true that the devil is real and threatens to undo us. It is also true that we reap our own misery because of our sin.

God, however, is not a God on the sidelines, watching our lives unfold and rushing in to help fix what is broken. If God is omnipotent, as we say He is, then He could stop our hands from sinning and save us from our own misery. Satan, like everything and everyone else, is subject to His command. Affirming God’s sovereignty means concluding that God wields both healing and woe for His own good, yet often inscrutable, purpose.

God’s sovereignty is clear to Joel. God refers to the devastating plague of locusts as His “great army which I sent among you.” The destroyers did real and severe damage in Israel, His chosen people; they brought years of loss built on more years of sorrow. Perhaps you have experienced what feels like years wasted in loss or sickness or suffering, or years spent idly or in vain—years you wish you could have back. The good and comforting news is that those years, and all years, come from the hand of God. And the better news is that God does not waste time—neither His time nor yours.

He doesn’t always provide an explanation of why He does what He does. The bad in the world will remain a mystery until the end of the world as we know it. But He does give us a promise we can trust: “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten… You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied.” It is His goodness and love that allows us to say in both the triumphs and trials of our lives that God “has dealt wondrously with me” and to thank Him for everything that comes from His hand.

It's Funny 'Cause It's True: Tig Notaro Has Breast Cancer

It’s Funny ‘Cause It’s True: Tig Notaro Has Breast Cancer

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we can learn from stand-up comedians. I recently came across an amazing, tragic, deeply personal, and therefore hilarious stand-up set by Tig Notaro, which aired on This American Life last October (you really should listen to it here). I am approaching this from my perspective as a preacher and […]

Previously on <i>Parenthood</i>, Pt. 4: It’s Scary, It’s Really Scary

Previously on Parenthood, Pt. 4: It’s Scary, It’s Really Scary

This is the fourth installment of a look at the theological (and pastoral) wisdom found in the current season of NBC’s Parenthood, mostly regarding the intersection of undeserved love and human suffering. This time I take a look at Adam Braverman (played by Peter Krause), who has been attempting to keep it together all season long […]

The Theology of Suffering, Part III: Bottom-Up

The Theology of Suffering, Part III: Bottom-Up

Having introduced the concept of theodicy, and addressed the ineluctability of our emotions, I move, with fear and trembling, on to the main question of suffering raised by James Wood in his recent New Yorker article. Here goes: If anyone ever sits you down and starts explaining how they’ve finally figured out God’s machinations in […]

The Theology of Suffering Part II: Heart Over Mind

The Theology of Suffering Part II: Heart Over Mind

The second installment in our series on suffering. For part one, go here. According to Ashley Null, the wonderful scholar of the English Reformation, Thomas Cranmer said something close to the following: “What the heart desires, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” And according to the Prophet Jeremiah “The heart is deceitful above all […]

The Theology of Suffering, Part I: Whoa, boy...

The Theology of Suffering, Part I: Whoa, boy…

I was sitting at home the other day, minding my own business, when I received an e-mail about a recent New Yorker article called “Holiday in Hellmouth: God May Be Dead, But The Question Of Why He Permits Suffering Lives On”. Catchy title. After clicking on the link, I was disheartened to discover a long, […]