Theologians Embrace "Theodicy"

( [email protected] ) Jul 05, 2004 02:06 PM EDT

Summer can be an exciting season for many people but it can also be a season vulnerable to tragic accidents as more people leave home on trips.

As various summer outings such as church retreats take place across the nation, the chance of experiencing unfortunate moments increases, imposing great challenges in faith in God.

In effort to find an answer to why God allows evil incidents to happen to the believers, theologians rely on ‘theodicy,’ the notion that explains the vindication of God's goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil.

"God is an unusual God," said the Rev. Melvin Wade, who is the president of the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America and denomination’s leaders at the Sunday school convention, during a prayer vigil for the drowning victims of Fort Worth, Texas. "During a time together of supreme bliss, he also allows a time of supreme pain."

"Why does he do it?" he asked about God. "So that we might be able to comfort others. God sends certain people through certain things so they might experience his awesome goodness, so they might be equipped to help others."

As he was citing a passage from Second Corinthians that describes the “God of all comfort,” he added, “"It would be irrelevant for him to be the God of all comfort if he had nothing to comfort.”

John G. Stackhouse Jr., a theology professor at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia who wrote "Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil,” said that Christianity says more about suffering than simply to trust in God.

"Jesus promised his disciples that if they wanted to follow him that they would be taking up the cross and suffering as he did," he said. "And he offered the promise that this is all worthwhile in the life to come."

He added that there's no special protection in this world for the faithful, so people should not be surprised when bad incidents happen during religious events.

"Health and wealth are promised to Christians, but not necessarily here and now," he said.

William Chen, minister of adult Christian education at Dallas Chinese Bible Church, recalled the incident of June 1992, when five students were killed during the church trip.

At the time, some people asked questions of God, he said. "But some of us didn't even have time to ask why. So much needed to be done."

According to Chen, the "why" was answered at least partly by what happened after the crash: church members grew closer and many became more active in the church.

"It's God's will or God allowed it, one or the other," he said. "We won't have the answer until we see the Lord. But we saw how some good could come out of it."

He added, however, "I don't want to minimize the grief. The impact is long-lasting on the families."