I’m currently preparing to give four talks on the problem of evil (theodicy) this weekend and have been spending some more time in one of my favorite books on the issue, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? by David Bentley Hart. Here is a sampling of the many great quotes to be found:
“It is a strange thing to find peace in a universe rendered morally intelligible at the cost of a God rendered morally loathsome.”
“One is confronted with only this bare choice: either one embraces the mystery of created freedom and accepts that the union of free spiritual creatures with the God of love is a thing so wonderful that the power of creation to enslave itself to death must be permitted by God; or one judges that not even such rational freedom is worth the risk of a cosmic fall and the terrible injustice of the consequences that follow from it.”
“If it is from Christ that we are to learn how God relates himself to sin, suffering, evil, and death, it would seem that he provides us little evidence of anything other than a regal, relentless, and miraculous enmity: sin he forgives, suffering he heals, evil he casts out, and death he conquers. And absolutely nowhere does Christ act as if any of these things are part of the eternal work or purposes of God.”
“As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child I do not see the face of God, but the face of his enemy.”
“I honestly don’t know (how to respond to moral evil). I haven’t a pastoral bone in my body. But I would implore pastors never to utter banal consolations concerning God’s ‘greater plan’ or the mystery of his will. The first proclamation of the gospel is that death is God’s ancient enemy, whom God has defeated and will ultimately destroy. I would hope that no Christian pastor would fail to recognize that that completely shameless triumphalism – and with it an utterly sincere and unrestrained hatred of suffering and death – is the surest foundation of Christian hope, and the proper Christian response to grief.”
3 thoughts on “David Bentley Hart on the Problem of Evil (Theodicy)”
Excellent! This has been on my list, but I have not yet read it. These quotes capture so much that I wish more Christians would take to heart.
Like the author, I can’t fully or adequately explain how a good God can coexist with moral evil. But I know how we’re supposed to respond…we repay evil with good. That’s God’s strategy as revealed in Christ. Go and do likewise.
I think evil and suffering in this world provides the necessary knowledge that will help ensure a future world where free will can exist without sin: negative re-enforcement, if you will. Positive aspects will also be necessary: the environment of heaven, God’s presence, the Spirit of God within, etc.