Theodicy, Front And Center

A reader writes:

You confused me with your dismissal of the theodicy argument.  Here are my two biggest objections to what you had to say:


First, I have never looked at the theodicy argument as an argument against faith, or I should say, all faith.  Rather, I have looked at it as an argument against an omnipotent, wholly good God.  It does not necessarily deny God; it denies a particular God and, at most, the supposed rational portions of a faith associated with that particular God. Second, the snippet of Blackford’s argument that you presented noted suffering that “took place long before human beings even existed.”  Yet your dismissal of the argument rested on your belief that “suffering is part of a fallen creation.”  My understanding of the Judeo-Christian “fallen creation” is that it did not occur until – and it occurred only with – the presence of human beings.  Therefore, your rejoinder had nothing to do with Blackford’s argument that you presented your readers.

It seems to me that the theodicy argument is an argument from reason.  Your argument is an argument from faith.  Therein lies the paradox: you cannot counter reason with faith.  As I learned this summer from reading Unamuno, the irresolvable conclusions arrived at through reason and through faith lead us to what he calls the tragic sense of life.

I take the first point. But I do not adhere to the Rick Warren God, intervening like some massive finger coming down from Heaven to push us through every decision we have to make. The idea of everyone's life as divinely "purpose-driven" is horrifying to me.

My notion of a fallen world is related to the fact of mortality, which embraces almost everything on our planet, and causes terrible suffering to animals as well as humans. The difference is that, so far as we know, only humans experience this suffering as a form of alienation; we feel somehow as if we belong elsewhere, as if this mortal coil is not something we simply accept, as if our home was from somewhere else.

This, in my view, is our intimation of God, nascent in the long march of human existence only in the last couple thousand years, and unleashed most amazingly in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Ni ange, ni bete. And from that disjuncture between what we sense of as our actual home and this vale of tears we perforce inhabit, comes our search for God. No reason can end that sense of dislocation because it is some kind of deep sense that is prior to reason.

That's why I do not experience faith as some kind of rational choice or as some kind of irrational leap. I experience it merely as a condition of being human.

(Anonymous portrait of Blaise Pascal.)