The Issue of Theodicy

Over the last few years I have done a lot of thinking, reading and researching on the issue of theodicy (in its simplest form: God can either be all-loving or all-powerful but not both at the same time). It has continually been the prophetic passages of Scripture that have been the hardest to wrap my head around. For instance, today I was reading Amos 3.6, which says: "Or if the horns are blown in the city will the people not tremble? Or if there is disaster in the city has the Lord not made it (or: acted)?" Clearly, here and at many junctures all throughout Amos, it is God who is involved in heaping disaster upon the people. And that is the issue: Yes, an all-powerful God can do this but how could an all-loving God do it? Doesn't God have to be one or the other?

There are a couple of ways that I have been dealing with this issue: 1. From a theological point-of-view, I have re-configured my definitions of the "omnis" (e.g. "all"-whatever). When I use this term now, I think of it in terms of "most." So, God is the "most-knowing," the "most-powerful," the "most-loving" being in the universe. This leaves room for God to choose, instead of us boxing Him in categories where He cannot act. For instance, with these definitions, God can choose not to know something or someone, He can choose not to use His power, He can choose not to be somewhere, etc. So, redefining these terms has helped me.

Another way that I've been dealing with this issue is to see the events such as the one described in Amos, in light of Israel's covenant with God. Early on they and God made a pact. They agreed that if certain stipualations or agreements were broken, then the failing party would recieve punishment. So, in a sense, when God brings about disaster, God is not really culpable because Israel agreed to it beforehand. If God was not the "most-loving" being, He would not uphold His end of the covenant.

Still, this leaves us to wonder about the other nations (those other than Israel, who did not enter a covenant); is it really okay, since they did not agree, for hardship to befall them? This is a bit tougher to answer. But I would say that if we recall God's interaction with Abraham early on in Genesis, where God desires to make His relationship with Abraham extend to all nations, that is, the entire world, then it makes a little more sense. Not only has God tried to speak to and woo these people, but these people have rejected His wooing and in turn, have rejected Him. God sends them warnings through His prophets and messengers but even then, God is still ignored. Because they have neglected covenant or better yet, rejected it, knowing full well what the consequences could be, then they have no room to complain.

While there are many philosophical ways to approach this issue, I wonder if a biblical exegetical way is not the best way to go? It makes the most sense to me!

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