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The problem of Theodicy again












The first, to my knowledge, reference-simultaneously-and-answer to the problem of Theodicy, occurs in Homer, in the first lines of the Iliad, where all the calamities of war are recognized to fulfill the transcendent divine will, without creating a scandal in human consciousness.

Theodicy is prevented by the incomprehensibility of the divine will, a Justice the terms of which are not accessible to man, so that trust becomes the proper space of human action. This conclusion is possible because already in Homer, though clearly later on Plato, everything that happens in human life, pleasant or unpleasant to any degree, is considered as a manifestation of the divine care for man.

Basil the Great writes that “it is often God’s will for people to die from hunger, illness, war or something similar, but this doesn’t mean that we should support such a will, because for these things God has also evil servants to use” (Note that the Papal church condemned Meister Eckhart for saying this! [See articles 4-6: Good and Evil]).

The repetition of Plato is absolute, even if not conscious. The fact remains that in the Greek antiquity as in the Christian times this explanation is the clearest and most complete answer to the question about whatever appears as evil, an evil one accepts with thankfulness when it happens, but does not cause to himself or to others, keeping an awareness of the transcendence of the divine will, letting God take such decisions.

I think it is difficult for us to understand the validity of this view when we think about suffering in general. By contrast, its validity is evident immediately and clearly when we think on this problem in the terms of the personal life of each of us. In any case, the necessary condition that lets us approach the question of Theodicy is to live a conscious life, to be interested in our progress, therefore to have also the criteria to recognise it, and these criteria to be valid, ie to have a true perception of the meaning of progress. Without them we don’t have any prospect to understand the problem, in personal or impersonal terms.

If the problem of Theodicy was solved so decidedly already in Homer, and then in equal immediacy and resolve in (at least) the Orthodox Christian thought, that is because the people of those traditions lived a real interest in their progress, so that they watched and followed through what streets and what revolutions their progress happened – no matter how painful. Similarly, if we today or people of other traditions are scandalized by what appears to us as ‘barbarity’ of God’s, often to the extent that we deny Him, that means we are not really interested in our progress, whatever we might say or believe, but only to satisfy our appetites, so that one would not wrong us by saying that we lead the life of an animal.

Who does not live like animals, but has a real interest in spiritual progress, only he meets also the condition to solve the paradoxes of Theodicy, by thinking of the hardships he had suffered in his own life, whence he discovers, if he has not already discovered and realized, that there is no ‘disaster’ or ‘adversity’ that did not brought him to the most favorable point toward his spiritual progress. One by one all the ills of his life will be revealed without any doubt benefactions. If this won’t happen, he can be sure that he has not yet really started to be interested in himself. Therefore, let him have this as a criterion: he will have begun to leave the life of an animal, when he will have ceased to judge God, discerning everywhere clearly, in what looks like a terrible tragedy as well as in the smallest setback, His goodness and benevolence absolutely certain. As St Sophrony Sakharov writes, “During the course of years devoted to exercise in order for us to live according to God’s will, many times we will be amazed by the mathematical accuracy of God’s Providence for us” (from Sakharov, We Shall See Him As He Is).

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2 Comments

  1. Jack

    Thank you for taking the time to provide these insights. I will take what you have written to heart. I was prompted in large part to ask you about this because the dispensationalist “talk radio” crowd, in their hyper-literal simplicity, uses out of context the OT “god of war” as justification for war, no matter how unjust. I tried to imagine myself debating someone with that viewpoint, & knew I wouldn’t do a very good job.

  2. Searching for justification of war in the Bible means that we decided to declare ourselves Gods – unless President X confessed that God appeared to him and ordered him to make war… During its one thousand years of life Byzantium never used the Bible as excuse of war – and only very cautiously accepted as fair the concept of a purely defensive war. On the contrary in the West we saw the Crusades, we saw the burning of millions of people because they were ‘heretics’, even the attack against Constantinople… There are obviously other reasons for all of this, not the Bible.

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Three Millennia of Greek Literature