Against Theodicy on the Road to Jericho

September 1, 2005 | 41 comments
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Natural disasters often lead people to think about the problem of evil and theodicy. This is, I think, probably a bad idea. The problem of evil can be neatly summed up thus:

1. God is loving.
2. God is all powerful.
3. Bad things happen to undeserving people.

The assumption is that all three of these statements cannot be true without some modification to at least one of them. Over the centuries, this has been a fun intellectual parlor game and the various solutions have been proposed. One might argue that suffering makes you a better person, which amounts to a negation (or at least a modification) of 3. One might suggest that God doesn’t really care about particular human suffering, which amounts to a negation of 1. One might argue that God is limited in his ability by either human freedom or the nature of reality in intervening in human events, which, of course, amounts to a negation or modification of 2.

Interestingly, the scriptures don’t seem to have a great deal of patience with this particular parlor game. When Christ talked about human suffering, rather than offering a theodicy, he told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Job poses the question with wonderful eloquence, but resolutely refuses to provide any answer other than to affirm the power and reality of God. Even the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants to which Mormons most often turn in search of theodicy — those given to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail — are not ultimately “solutions” to the intellectual problem but rather examples of divine comfort.

I am inclined by culture and training to assume that ultimately the world is made manageable by thinking about it. I tend to assume that the proper response to a challenge is to understand it. There is — it goes without saying — an enormous amount of merit to these instincts. However, when faced with actual tragedy, I am convinced that understanding is far less important that help and succor. Rather than explaining to those that mourn that ultimately there is nothing to worry about, we are to mourn with them, pick them up, and take them to the inn on the road to Jericho.

Abandoning theodicy in the immediate face of disaster and suffering is not an abandonment of God or even of our attempts to understand him. Rather it is a realization that God often has projects for us other than understanding.

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41 Responses to Against Theodicy on the Road to Jericho

  1. Eric S. on September 1, 2005 at 3:38 pm

    Best. Post. Ever.

  2. J. Stapley on September 1, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    I agree, Nate. I think the question of theodicy is important and engaging it is substantially more than a parlor trick. However, you’re abandonment of it in the face of exigence is the christian action. I know that as I look back on my life, it is those moments forged when when someone mourned with me that I understood God…or at least approached an understanding.

  3. Nate Oman on September 1, 2005 at 4:03 pm

    J.: I think that theodicy is important, particularly if it provides strategies that allow people to make a bit more sense of the world and maintain hope and faith in God and thus draw closer to Him. I have done a fair amount of reading on theodicy and I came to the realization that I wasn’t really interested in the problem because the philosophical arguments were ameliorating some spiritual problem for me. I realized that I was interested for the sheer fun of seeing the concepts moved about over the chess board of the problem. I enjoyed seeing the interplay of abstractions and the way that theodicy provided a way for exploring the idea of God in general and Mormon theology in particular. However, with this realization came the knowledge that theodicy ultimately had very little to do with my emotional, spiritual, or practical response to evil in the world. It isn’t that I think that the question is unimportant, but it is not important in the way that I at first thought that it was.

  4. J. Stapley on September 1, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    Well said.

  5. Ronan on September 1, 2005 at 4:20 pm

    Nice post, Nate.

    I spent some of last year reading Job in Hebrew. Theodicy (if that is what Job even is), I soon learned, is not something that I find satisfying.

  6. Nate Oman on September 1, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    Ronan: I don’t think that Job really provides a theodicy. Rather, I see Job as posing the question and then insisting that most of our answers are fatuous. Also, I think that you can offer a virtue-centered reading of Job. Job doesn’t answer the question for us. Rather, he provides us with a model of the sort of character we ought to have while asking it.

  7. Lisa B on September 1, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    I think Job is more about agency than the problem of evil.

  8. Nate Oman on September 1, 2005 at 5:09 pm

    How is that? It seems to me that the whole point of the book is that Job’s suffering has nothing to do with his exercise of agency. That is why the suffering is a puzzle…

  9. a random John on September 1, 2005 at 5:43 pm

    Job’s reaction to his suffering is all about agency, isn’t it?

  10. Geoff Johnston on September 1, 2005 at 6:45 pm

    Nate,

    So it sounds like your point is that studying theodicy is largely useless to us when it comes to motivating proper responses to the reality of evil in the world. I agree.

    However, it seems to me that working out personal answers to the problem of evil more provide important underpinnings for us in our practical efforts to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. What I mean is that if we can learn somehow to make sense of the existence of evil we can then avoid the personal despondency that might be generated by an utter lack of answers to the problem. Such personal answers keep us from throwing in the towel on our responsibilities to be angels here and now. They help us understand the “why” as we knuckle down and deal with the “what”.

    As an aside — I much prefer the term Blake Ostler uses for God’s power – “maximal power”. That opens some new avenues for me with theodicy. Plus the Mormon idea that we have been progressing for eons prior to this earth and the idea that many of us believe that we may continue to progress for eons after this earth open even more important doors in my understanding of the problem of evil.

  11. manaen on September 1, 2005 at 7:07 pm

    Nate, thank you for this.

    Your comment, “Abandoning theodicy in the immediate face of disaster and suffering is not an abandonment of God or even of our attempts to understand him. Rather it is a realization that God often has projects for us other than understanding” seems to apply even to Jesus:

    “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind […] and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:12).

    “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears […] and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;” (Heb 5:7-8)

    In Alma Jesus came to know how to succor and in Hebrews he learned obedience from his suffering, but he didn’t come to know the meaning of his suffering — unless the meaning was to develop these abilities.

    Maybe it’s the same with us in that seemingly random evils and disasters come upon us so that we already will have developed the ability 1) to get through pain and suffering when we’re needed to help other people get through theirs (the time of crisis is not the time to prepare) and 2) to obey God when it’s difficult. Our two greatest commandments are to love God and to love *other people*. Obedience to God and succoring God’s children are good ways to do so and these experiences, if we so use them, are the practice that develop our abilities to serve God and our brothers and sisters. We put ourselves ahead of both God and others when we say we should not have the experiences that God uses to enable us to serve.

    This leads to another way that tragedy and pain can prepare us: humility. After a year and a half of convalescence from cancer, Robert D. Hales spoke in General Conference about the purpose of pain in ‘Healing Soul and Body.” He said, “I discovered that if I dwelt only upon my pain, it inhibited the healing process. I found that pondering was a very important element in the healing process for both soul and body. *Pain brings you to a humility that allows you to ponder*. It is an experience I am grateful to have endured.” (GenCon 3 Oct, ’98). Humility is necessary for us truly to serve; charity seeketh not her own.

    Elder Hales also quoted Elder Orson F. Whitney, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God, … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire”

    This is not to say that we deny our pain or fail to mourn our losses. The verses cited show that even Jesus felt his (and our) pain. We must feel our pains to heal from them. But pain also can open our hearts to others. I know people who after suffering tragedy, speak of their increased understanding of the pains of others. These people also seem unable to abide others’ suffering without trying to help. This is my experience also. “Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.” Thus is deep charity gained.

  12. Dennis Woodford on September 1, 2005 at 7:51 pm

    Why leave man out of the equation? What is so frustrating to me is that many tradgedies and disasters could have been ameliorated or avoided if mankind had undertaken what it often identified it could do, but didn’t. New Orleans is certainly a case in point. Conseqently from my simple point of view, to justify the New Orleans disaster as a theodicy is an abomination, when mankind knew there was a risk that it could have eliminated, or at least significantly limited.

  13. matt brice on September 1, 2005 at 8:47 pm

    Nate,
    The question that still confronts Christians, even with your action oriented perspective, is why, after having taken the person to Jericho, does one have to believe in God. If it is the case that man can/should act in helping other people–why is there any reason for a theodicy–why not just leave God out of the equation entirely?

  14. Larry on September 1, 2005 at 9:51 pm

    That is why the typical phrase of those not in the experience, “get over it”, has to be the most Pharisaical approach to comforting those that mourn under almost any circumstance.
    Your understanding of the way things work is a light to all that read this article. Thanks Nate.

  15. anon on September 2, 2005 at 1:51 am

    The best story I’ve come across in response to suffering came from a man of extreme value to me who told me about a close family member who passed on in a screwy hospital accident. In response, the man felt an excess of bitterness at how unfair, absurd it all was. Still believing, he understood of all those things about trials and experience and how his response probably was “wrong,” yet still this knowledge (the guilt that stemmed from it too) didn’t help an iota in overcoming the difficulties of grief and pain of loss.
    One day, meeting Boyd K. Packer by chance, the man knew that Packer was a high school acquaintance of the family member who died, and when Packer after some initial niceties asked about the recently deceased, my friend, surprising himself, wept bittery and mentioned the passing and all its exigencies. Packer said nothing, embraced the man and wept along. That was the most instrumental moment for my friend in overcoming the greatest moment of grief he’d ever experienced.
    Theodicy in that case would be useless. Actions toward others should in moments of mourning should be probably 99.9% compassionate. Theodicy is better left to later reflection or in considering the context-free abstract.

  16. D-Train on September 2, 2005 at 3:15 am

    Agree 100%. May this be the last mention of what happened in Louisiana as some sort of theological football.

  17. Soyde River on September 2, 2005 at 8:07 am

    “For now we see through a glass, darkly…”

    This helps me when facing the incomprehensible. We are but children, struggling to understand why we are put to bed when we cry, why the man in white stabbed us with a needle, why we are denied what we want, why our mother went away, why we are hungry, why our head aches, why we fell down the stairs, why we have to go to school, why the medicine tastes to bad, why someone stole our favorite toy….

    Imagine if someone stepped in to right every wrong, to supply every need, to cushion every bump…

    For a gentle but chilling science fiction horror story read “With Folded Hands” by Jack Williamson.

  18. Adam Greenwood on September 2, 2005 at 10:59 am

    “However, when faced with actual tragedy, I am convinced that understanding is far less important that help and succor. Rather than explaining to those that mourn that ultimately there is nothing to worry about, we are to mourn with them, pick them up, and take them to the inn on the road to Jericho.”

    Amen. It’s instructive to read, for example, C.S. Lewis’ ‘the Problem of Pain’–his attempt at theodicy–and ‘A Grief Observed’–his experience of theodicy. They have hardly anything in common.

    C.S. Lewis’ best book, far and away, is his novel ‘Until We Have Faces’, where the heroine brings a bill of indictment against the Gods and is ‘answered’ by being shown her own sins and recieving forgiveness and by being offered love.

    When our daughter died we got lots of priesthood brothers saying things like, ‘often in situations like this people ask ‘why me? why us? why my daughter?’ That’s a hard question to answer but one possible way of thinking of it is etc.” But Sara and I weren’t asking why. We were too grief-stricken.

    Really an excellent post.

  19. Edward A. Erdtsieck on September 2, 2005 at 11:41 am

    Nate:

    You brought a problematic subject, when you addressed the problem of evil, by trying to make a connection between the murder of god [theodicy] and bad things happening to undeserving people. What is problematic is that theodicy and bad things happening to undeserving people is mostly annecdotal and not doctrinal.

    Evil is the outcome of the natural man’s imaginations in a mortal world. This natural man tendencies to provide alternatives to the way of god does not go away easily. We need to restate this discussion in BofM concepts.

    The first concept is “condescension of the Son of God”, that is the deference God shows for His prophets in their attempt to dissuade His children from the pursuits of the natural man. God does it by postponing His Judgment over the outcomes of the works by natural man.

    The second concept is “consecration”, that is the reverence that His children have for Him. The story of Job is an excellent example of the meaning of consecration. Here was an undisputed righteous person, who was seemingly purposely chosen to become the object of Satan ire. Job’s faith in God endured and he was rewarded.

    Between [God’s] condescension and [His children’s] consecration exists a faith building communication system, we call the Holy Ghost. It is an eternal communication system, which was the direct result of the judgment of the Jewish authorities over the Son of God.

    The answer to “bad things happening to undeserving people” is: When does judgment come? And who is the judge? Misfortunately, we still operate under the judgments the pretenders listed in the 12th article of faith. The last time I noticed their justice is still unreliable.

  20. Nate Oman on September 2, 2005 at 1:19 pm

    A note: I think that a couple of commenters are a bit confused by the term “theodicy.” Theodicy is simply a fancy name for an argument showing that the problem of evil is not really such a problem after all. I believe (and a real scholar can correct me if I am wrong) that it comes from two Greek words: theo (god) and dike (justice). Any way, in my post when I say “theodicy” I am referring to a particular sort of argument (argument in this case meaning a set of propositions made in support of a conclusion, rather than a dispute or a disagreement).

  21. greenfrog on September 2, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    While theodicy can certainly assemble itself into a parlor game, I tend to think of the term (perhaps entirely incorrectly) as referring to the endeavor to rationalize one of the instinctual responses to great suffering: despair. Whether my view of theodicy is correct or not, I agree that the best way to address such despair when I’m in the depths of it is to turn my eye to seeing what I can do for others.

    I’m still not sure what that fact teaches me about God, but the practice works when I can manage it.

  22. Rosalynde Welch on September 2, 2005 at 4:33 pm

    Hmmm, I just looked up “theodicy” on wikipedia, and gives your etymology, Nate. But I always understood it to mean “justification (or explaining) of God” rather than “justice of God”: theo (God) + decir (to say, explain).

    Looks like I might be wrong. I blame it all on Griggs and Keele, who, I’m positive, taught me this.

  23. Heather Bigley on September 2, 2005 at 5:09 pm

    Here in Houston we’re experiencing the “help and succor” aspect of this discussion, with varying degrees of success. [If you would like to contribute in anyway to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, you can visit the Houston Red Cross. ]

    This morning I answered phones at the Houston Red Cross Disaster Relief phone bank. I was impressed by all the people who called wanting to help, from MD and MI and NY and in Houston. What was more distressing was how none of us had the skills to help. At the Astrodome, FEMA needs doctors, nurses, and Spanish speakers. In other places they need folks with CDLs and other kinds of certifications. I talked to five willing people out of 200+ calls who could have possibly been of use. I felt like we were the five virgins with no oil; we have good intentions but no skills or abilities, no preparation. Perhaps when we as church members talk about food storage and emergency preparedness, we should also emphasize gaining a skill set that will be of use in these types of situations.

  24. Nate Oman on September 2, 2005 at 6:03 pm

    R.: For what it is worth, the etymology provided by the OED goes with dike rather than decir. Also, decir is a little wierd, since argument and reason is (as I understand it) usually refered to with logos rather than decir.

  25. JWL on September 2, 2005 at 7:05 pm

    It is certainly true that the last thing suffering people want is an abstract philosophical discussion about the apparent conflict between the reality of evil and the omnipotence and omnibenevolence of deity. However, I think Nate goes too far in dismissing the subject of theodicy as a “parlor game.” The problem of evil is the main argument against religious belief in our increasingly secular and agnostic world, and we fail in our responsiblity to present God’s word convincingly if we ignore the issue or its real power on the modern mind.

    LDS are particularly remiss since the Restored Gospel offers new light unavailable to other Christians in creating a very potent theodicy. See, for example, Dave Paulsen’s excellent paper on “Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil”

    http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=1644&x=98&y=6

    (I still don’t know how to insert links here)

  26. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 2, 2005 at 11:54 pm

    God often has projects for us other than understanding

    Indeed. He keeps telling us that too. I really believe this is where so many “intellectual” groups go wrong, they think that God’s only project for us is understanding.

    I see Job as posing the question and then insisting that most of our answers are fatuous which should make us all the more embarassed when we repeat one of the failed answers.

    Christ tells us to “mourn with those that mourn” not preace to them, after all.

  27. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 2, 2005 at 11:56 pm

    Oops, preach.

    BTW, http://adrr.com/living/ss_1.htm might be worth a look for a different perspective.

  28. Robert C. on September 3, 2005 at 12:45 am

    I second JWL’s comment (#25), I think Nate goes too far. And someone else mentioned despair–that’s the problem, without addressing the problem of evil, people may see suffering and despair and give up desires to serve or mourn with those that mourn. I agree that serving is more important than intellectualizing, but for some people, the problem of evil is an intellectual stumbling block to service. Ourselves, we should not let the problem of evil be a stumbling block to service, but addressing the problem of evil may very well help others battle despair and hence find the desire to serve….

  29. Seth Rogers on September 3, 2005 at 10:55 am

    Responding to the original post (having not read the stuff after):

    The theodicy is just what Nate called it: a cheap intellectual parlor game. It is only important to us because we are ultimately children of the enlightenment and European Renaissance. That movement had a lot of good things about it and a lot of not so good things about it.

    Among the not so good results is the contempt heaped upon motivations based in human intuition, the annoying desire to artificially classify EVERYTHING, and an insufferable mortal conceit that God can be explained away or justified by science (and the correllary for religious people: that God must be explainable via logic and science).

    I reject Plato’s concept of deity as the be-all, end-all of what God must be. Plato had some neat ideas, but I think we will eventually discover that his idea of perfection was far too artificial and limiting. Unfortunately, modern Christianity has accepted his parameters for God and perfection almost wholesale.

  30. Seth Rogers on September 3, 2005 at 10:57 am

    Christ was entirely correct to completely ingore such philisophical self-indulgence and point to the Good Samaritan as what religion is all about.

  31. Harold B. Curtis on September 3, 2005 at 1:17 pm

    To God, who with such scalar reach
    Can magnify the tempests breach
    Conusming all the oceans beach
    Laying bare what He must teach.

    To man who by unwholesome power
    In brazen stance before the hour
    Stand afront the whirling shower
    Is left a heap in trembling cower.

    Such magnus stands he puny before the wave
    Such helpless pitance tp stave
    Such bitter fruit for him to crave
    Unconcerned about the grave.

    Realities, beyond the reach of reason
    And sophistries compiled in legion
    Do not negate the time and season
    To bind ourselves To Christ’s adhesion

    Moreover less man misunderstand
    He is left to care the homeless band
    With outreached hand
    And by the fallen, stand.

    Your brother
    Harold B. Curtis

  32. Nate Oman on September 3, 2005 at 2:30 pm

    In response to both Robert C. and JWL: You will note that in my first comment on this thread in response to J. Stapley, I disavowed the claim that theodicy was unimportant. This is not my point. My point is that generally speaking argument is a wholelly inadequate response to suffering. Now it may be that some argument is necessary so that people do not give up hope in God and still turn to him. However, it will be the turn toward God and comfort from Him (and from we His servants) that matters, not the argument.

    I have read Paulsen’s work, as well as the work of B.H. Roberts on which it is based, and the work of Ostler and others. Mormon theology offers us all sorts of ways of thinking about this problem that are unavailable to traditional Christian theology. However, we kid ourselves if we believe that even the finitist arguments presented by Mormon theologians are an adequate intellectual response to the problem of evil. Don’t get me wrong: I find these arguments more persuasive than any others that I have read. However, when faced with actual suffering, my soul still recoils. I take that it is supposed to. After all, Christ himself asked the Father “Why hast thou foresaken me?” (I would note that the answers to that question given in various Mormon speculations are more than God himself did. If the Gospels are to be trusted there was no answer.)

    So by all means, I think that we should have arguments that allow people to avoid despair. However, I think that it will take far, far more than argument to help those in despair. An argument about evil is simply not the same thing as a response to it, and we should stay clear about which is most important.

  33. El Jefe on September 4, 2005 at 12:09 am

    I think to mention theodicy in light of the road to Jericho is entirely appropriate.

    But to go to the root of the evil, you really have to go to The Illiad.

  34. Rosalynde on September 4, 2005 at 11:38 am

    *threadjack*

    Nate, I can’t get beyond the OED paywall, but I take your word for it and I would never DREAM of gainsaying the OED! My etymology is false, I’m sure—but the meaning I suggest, “justification of God,” rather than “justice of God,” seems to have some support. I nosed around a bit on the web, and lots of pretty reputable sources–like, for instance, the Catholic encyclopedia at New Advent–go with “justification of God.” To me it seems like there’s a nontrivial difference between the two—although it doesn’t affect the points you’re making here, hence the threadjack.

    *which ends now*

  35. Nate Oman on September 4, 2005 at 8:30 pm

    Rosalynde: The Greek for justice is “dike.” The Greek for justification is “dikaiousis.” I am assuming that dike is the root for dikaiousis. Furthermore, if you look at the final syllables of theodicy, it seems more likely that they come from dike rather than dikaiousis, since a derivation from the longer word would require the loss of several vowel sounds. Dike, in contrast has both the same number of vowels as -dicy but the same vowel sounds as well. The only shift comes from changing the k in dike (which I understand should be vocalized like the k in “kept”) to the s sound that you get in English. (All of this is subject to quick retraction in the face of anyone who actually knows anything about ancient Greek or linguistics.)

  36. Nate Oman on September 4, 2005 at 8:31 pm

    BTW, here is the scanned page from Woodhouse’s Dictionary that has both terms.

  37. Rosalynde Welch on September 4, 2005 at 11:04 pm

    Nate, I’m not strongly arguing my point; it could very well be wrong, but it seems to be a reasonably common misreading, and an interesting one. Who knows, maybe Leibniz himself originally fudged the Greek a little.

  38. Soyde River on September 5, 2005 at 2:52 am

    El Jefe:

    It may have slipped by the intellectual hoity toitys, but I loved it!

    Shakespeare would have, too.

  39. Edward A. Erdtsieck on September 5, 2005 at 9:59 am

    An informative discussion.

    Whatever theodicy means, it originated in the late 17th century as a concept that vindicates God for the lack of influence over the existence of evil and still be God. It was their way of accepting God and still live with the evils of their time.

    Approximately 35 years ago, Time or Newsweek magazine started a big national debate with an article on a book from the pen of Theologian [Claremont University, CA] Harvey Cox, which he titled “God is Dead”, writing on the divine attributes of God, holiness and justice, which have lost influence in our time.

    I recall that period very well, since I was a graduate student at a California university. In my classes we called it the “god is dead” theory and it was a period of academic intolerance. I could not expressed the idea that God is alive. My advisor told me not to bring it up in my papers, if I wanted to graduate. I had the last laugh, because it started a revival of sorts, as the Campus Crusade for Christ began invading the campuses with their own kind of oppression.

    The BofM is a great place to begin exploring God’s place on the way to Jericho. Lehi and Nephi are very plain spoken about this subject and Pres. Hinckley’s call to read the BofM is an expression of divine wisdom. Again, we live in perilous times and again “the mist of darkness enshrouds” our prosperity. How do we work this out?

    Is the answer “theodicy” or “god is dead?” It really does not matter, because both ideas are, what WE THINK about what God is doing for us. When Galileo presented his ideas about the earth and the sun, the generations following him started thinking from a different perspective and upended the Roman Church and the Reformation blazed through Europe.

    Joseph Smith restored the perspective of looking at the world through God’s viewpoint, that is the prophet’s point of view. What it brought me is HOPE and not immediate satisfaction for the justice that I think I deserve. I will not rehash what’s in BofM, but consider this:

    The Jews were led from Egypt to Jerusalem [a Promised Land]. They entered Jerusalem under Gideon. Generations later as the Jews ceased being a righteous and God fearing people. Lehi was told the Jerusalem would be facing destruction and the Jews captivity in Babylon. He received visions and instructions that will lead him to another Promised Land [the American continent].

    Both Lehi and Nephi were shown in visions the future of their own posterity in this new Promised Land. Again it included the unrighteousness of descendants and the prediction of the coming of the kingdoms of the Gentile [our time]. This is significant, because Jesus Christ is now a resurrected being of flesh and blood.

    Up to now it seem that God prefers to scatter and gather His people with a purpose in mind; the coming of the Redeemer Jesus Christ. Nephi likened this to an olive tree, which is pruned and fed to provide continuity over time and good fruit. He further said, that his writings should persuade mankind to turn back to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    God allows for imperfect justice at the hands the authorities in the 12th Article of Faith to happen and the suffering that is associated with it. Things haven’t changed much for Mormons today and like the righteous Israelites and the righteous Nephites of their day, we are awaiting a future day of judgment.

  40. Jim F on September 5, 2005 at 10:56 am

    For those interested, here’s a short piece regarding an LDS perspective on the problem of theodicy: http://jamesfaulconer.byu.edu/theodicy.pdf

  41. Edward A. Erdtsieck on September 7, 2005 at 5:51 pm

    Nate Oman, it was a pleasure unraveling your enigma!

    Who, with the Spirit of God, would be FOR “Theodicy on the Road to Jericho?” I thought yours was a splendid posting, especially in the days of 911 and Katrina, the Hurricane.

    Certainly not the man named Job from the land of Uz. The story of Job has fascinated me all my life. I prefer to call it, “The temptations of a Virtuous and Upright Man.” There is no greater opponent AGAINST theodicy, than Job.

    The mystery for me, is not what is IN that story, but what has been left out. I am waiting for the pre-quel, which I am sure was in the part of the BofM, which remained under seal. If the human conditions remain as they are today, it won’t be anytime soon.

    Imagine that day, far in the nebulous past, when the children of God met in council with the Lord and Satan was also among them. The impact of this council was great on Job, this virtuous and upright man.

    Job encounters with the Lord were of a personal nature and cathartic. The story shows that his reverence for God did not diminished one iota. It reminded me of the fears of a small child, I once saw at a kindergarten round-up, who was unwilling to be separated from his mother. Of course, Job did not show childlike tantrums.

    Job sought to understand why his wife and three best friends did not feel that bond with God, that he felt. He definitely experienced the injustices, but did not fear to approach the Lord vocally and point out his predicament.

    I believe Jesus felt similarly in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He asked His Father to let the cup pass Him. Comforted by angels and not hearing from His Father, He concluded “not as I will, but as Thou wilt” was the way to go.

    The reasons Job’s wife and his three friends gave are a basis for theodicy. An unwillingness to make the seven rounds around the City of Jericho in order to take possession of it.

    Job’s story is not about knowledge alone, as Jim F. may have suggested in his posting #40. Job’s wife and friends expressed all the knowledge they had, but did not come to the conviction that Job had, “in the flesh shall I see God.” They returned to dust awaiting His mercy rather than seeking to understand God’s strange ways.

    I have not yet visited James Faulconer website at BYU. Therefore do not want to cast aspersions on anyone in this matter. If it indeed contain the short LDS perspective on theodicy is it sufficient? If I carry it to Peter at the Pearly Gates at my death would I be admitted?

    Pres. Hinckley’s call to read the BofM is the best start in understanding God’s way. Even, Patriarch Jacob anciently struggled with an angel all night, when neither prevailed. Jacob did not want to let go until he received a blessing. He was given a new name and was included in His celestial heritage.

    The earth is one big knowledge laboratory. What I need is not more of the same, but to get hold of an angel and because I lack the knowledge in the pre-quel, I will not prevail against him, but I can extract a blessing, as did Job and as did Jacob.

    So far, an angel has yet to challenge me for a wrestling match or a debate. However, I am working on finding him at the Temple of the Lord every chance I get.