15 February 2005

Theodicy: Tsunamis, the problem of evil, the problem for God

There was a tsunami in the region almost two months ago. Yes, it's a little late to start reporting it, but it isn't too late to examine what - if any - lasting impact it has on people here.

The Straitened Times had its Senior Writer Dr Andy Ho, normally a medical doctor, write about the tsunami and the problem of evil in an editorial, which I believe misses the point and relevance of the issue.

What is the problem of evil? We take the tsunami, the lost lives, livelihoods and general devastation in the wake of its trail as an illustration of evil. If there exists a Divine Will (hereafter known as 'God'), and assuming that God is perfectly good, all-knowing and all-powerful, why was such evil permitted to exist?

The real issue isn't about a philosophical solution to the problem of evil and theodicy (the justification for the existence of God). It's about how we as humans adjust to the unexpected, the 'evil', the unjust. And about what historical changes have taken place over the centuries, to change our responses to 'evil'.

To understand all that, we must get to the root of Theodicy. Not the premisses behind the argument of evil (already stated in para. 2), but the operating social assumptions that the problem and the attributes of God both build on.

For a problem of evil and theodicy to exist, there are two corresponding novel social assumptions:
1. God (or his nature) is perfectly understandable to the human mind - hence we can abstract his attributes and intentions.
2. God is fully accountable for his action or inaction. If his mind, intent and nature are known to us, then he is called to account when reality (evil tsunamis) clashes with our conception of Him.

No comments: