The Odyssey of Theodicy
by Alan Allegra 10/25/2010 / Holidays
Let's get that big word out of the way. Theodicy means "justifying God's character in the midst of evil." In question form, it means, "How can a good God allow evil?" or, more menacingly, "Since there is evil in the world, how can you say God is good?"
Tomorrow is a special day. Despite local government intervention, it remains the official day of Halloween. It happens to fall on Sunday, which is the Lord's Day. Interesting juxtaposition.
Halloween is a controversial "holiday" for the believer. There is no doubt as to its superstitious pagan origin and its attraction for society. Next to Christmas, more decorations and specialty stores spring up than at any other season. Churches do their best to Christianize Halloween with almost-Halloween celebrations and festivals that glance off the real celebration like bullets ricocheting off a dried pumpkin.
Halloween is the perfect time to address evil. Most of its traditions were instituted to ward off evil spirits. It was preparation to enter the darkness of winter and death. Nothing is more universal, because "death spread to all men because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). It's the fear of curse and death that gives Halloween its true meaning.
Since we have to admit the existence of evil, we try to control it by mocking it, explaining it away or even using it for religious purposes. Skeptics use it to prove the God of the Bible cannot possibly exist. Jesus told the false religionists of his time, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). The answers are too complex for a brief excursion in a family newspaper, but we can survey a few verses.
Evil is the result of sin, manifested as either punishment or consequences. God did not inject sin into the world - man did. "Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). As a result, creation was temporarily cursed (Genesis 3:14-19).
But if God is in charge, why is there so much evil in the world? One reason: "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19). Satan rules the world on a God-anchored leash (Ephesians 2:2), but that will end when Christ returns: "'You have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.' Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him" (Hebrews 2:7, 8). Not everything is yet subject to Christ's control; evil is allowed to grow for now.
But there is a sign of hope: Sunday, the Lord's Day, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Of his death, burial, and resurrection, the Bible says, "He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him" (Colossians 2:15). Once all rebellion is put down after the Second Coming, "then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death" (1 Corinthians 15:24-26). "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). That hasn't fully happened yet, but it will!
Evil exists so grace may abound: "just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:21). God gives beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Sacraments, spells, and scoffing cannot control or check evil. Only a good God can save sinners, right wrongs, and vanquish vice. It's part of His holy character, a treat with no trick.