The issue of theodicy is a major difficulty for the Christian tradition. Theodicy asks the question: If God is just why does evil exist; if God is good why do bad things happen to innocent people? For example, why does a good God allow innocent people to suffer and die as a result of hurricanes and tsunamis? Why does a just God allow child abuse to exist? Why doesn’t this God, we worship through Christ, intervene? The issue of theodicy is in fact the reason some people cannot believe there is a God.
I acknowledge that it is sometimes difficult to believe in a good and just God in light of the tragedies that are a part of this life. However, I have often been comforted in relation to this theological quagmire with the interactions I have shared with animals – of a four-legged kind – through the years.
My current theologian in residence is our cat, Tabby. Her favorite place to lounge is on top of the Jeep, until recently that is. A month ago I purchased a soft top for the Jeep. I decided this would make life easier for me, as well as friends that I call upon to help me take the hard top off, when the weather is just right. With the soft top, I need no assistance taking down the top. It simply folds back.
The addition of the soft top, however, has made life more difficult, not easier, for Tabby. While she used to lay, sleep, roll over on her back in peace on top of the hard top, I do not allow her to lay, sleep, roll over on the soft top because I do not want her to cause it any damage. Therefore, after a lengthy conversation with her about why she can no longer hang out on top of the Jeep, I now have to squirt water on her when she gets on top of the Jeep. The other day when I did this she hurried off of the Jeep and gave me a “Go to Heaven” look, if you know what I mean! She was not only mad; she was confused. And I understand why. For the past year she has had a peaceful resting place on top of the Jeep. Now, she is not allowed on top of the Jeep at all. From her perspective I am sure this recent development makes no sense. And though it pains me, I am confident she views me as unjust.
Though the analogy may lack sophistication, it works for me. Perhaps it will for you too. Just as there is an enormous gap between my understanding of the world and Tabby’s, so is there an enormous gap between our understanding of the world and God’s. Just as my comprehension of events is far superior to Tabby’s comprehension, so is God’s comprehension of what transpires far superior to our comprehension.
I can so identify with Tabby’s look of anger and confusion when I spray her with water. Can’t you?