16 January 2008

Papal Theodicy

It can happen that someone is struck down with all sorts of illnesses and handicaps. Someone else’s life is made intolerably difficult by poverty. Yet another loses those on whose love his or her whole life depended. There can be all sorts of unhappiness. Then the danger is very great that the person concerned becomes embittered and says, ‘God just cannot be good, otherwise he wouldn’t be treating me like this. If God were to love me he would have created me differently and given me different qualities and made the circumstances of my life different.’

This kind of revolt against God is very understandable. Often assent to God seems almost impossible. But those who abandon themselves to this rebellion poison their lives. The poison of negation, of anger against God and against the world, eats them away from within. But God wants from us a down-payment of trust. He says to us, ‘I know you don’t understand me yet. But trust me: believe me when I tell you I am good and dare to live on the basis of this trust. Then you will discover that behind your suffering, behind the difficulties of your life, a love is hiding. Then you will know that precisely in this way I have done something good for you.’

Benedict XVI, The Yes of Jesus Christ


mags said...

Subjects like these always get me all in a muddle thinking about grace and predestination and things of that sort. The faithless can't exactly just up and choose to have faith. They require the grace to do so, and that (pardon my way of putting it, but..) just puts it back on God. And that gets me thinking, "heyy, why IS God treating them like this?? what the?" And in the end I have to just shake it off and go with what I know and trust: that He is just and good and merciful and all-loving.

But I have to say, that's probably not ideal of me. I just never seem to get anywhere on the issue. I even tried writing a thesis on why God allows the suffering of innocents, based on the Brothers K a couple years back. I don't think I got anywhere in terms of understanding the issue better, which was my goal.

On a side note, I've noticed something common in your posts that I like: the vast majority of them have a word in the title that I didn't know.

Who needs to subscribe to "A Word A Day"? I read blogs instead.

flatlander said...

The way I see it, your reaction is really the one Benedict is trying to encourage, or pointing out as the only one possible. It is not so much a fallback position to be taken up when others fail, but the very disposition of faith itself.
An interesting tack here is that the pope is clearly insisting this must be a process of growth with regard to one's own suffering, and not of another's, and for good reason: given that this is a deeply interior question, without the extraordinary gift of compassion, there is much that falls below our powers of apprehension in the suffering of others. While at times we may be as great a mystery to ourselves as others are to us, the possibilities of discovery seem to be richer in our own dialogue with God, rather than in the attempt to catch relevant or profound insights while eavesdropping on that of others.
I think he's on to something...