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Home » Theology » “Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology 2nd Ed.” by Daniel L. Migliore » Chapter 6: “The Providence of God and the Mystery of Evil”

Chapter 6: “The Providence of God and the Mystery of Evil”

  1. In your own personal life and faith, how do you deal with evil and suffering?  If you’ve gone through a tragic moment in your life, how did it have an impact on your view of God?  Was it for better or for worse?

  2. Page 119: “In seeking to cope with experiences of natural evil, we may be tempted to view vulnerability, finitude, and mortality as evil in themselves.  But this would be a mistake.  [S]ome limits and vulnerabilities belong to the goodness of life as created by God.  Human beings are part of the natural order established by God and, like other creatures, are subject to its laws.  Being a finite creature includes the possibility of pain, illness, grief, failure, incapacity, and the certainty of aging and eventual death.  Creaturely life is transient; it has a beginning and an end (Ps. 90:10).  God has created a world of both birth and death, both rationality and contingency, both order and freedom, both risk and vulnerability.  In such a world, challenge, struggle, and some forms of suffering belong to the very structure of life.  To wish the world were immune from every single form of struggle and every form of suffering would be to wish not to have been created at all.  To insist that believers should be immune from the limits and risks of all creaturely existence would be petty and self-indulgent.  Thus while finitude and mortality constitute the “shadow side” of life as created by God, they cannot be called inherently evil.”
    1. Any thoughts?
    2. I find it very interesting that Migliore never once mentions Satan or demonic influences in relation to evil in this entire chapter.  What are your thoughts?  Is there a supernatural element to evil?

  3. On page 122, Migliore writes about Augustine’s and Calvin’s doctrines on God’s providence.  He writes that Augustine believed that “God permits [evil] events to occur and uses them to accomplish the divine purpose.  God exercises sovereignty over evil by bringing good our of what by itself is only negative and destructive.”  With Calvin, “God governs the course of nature and history down to the smallest details.”
    1. I’m sure you’ve heard this said by friends, pastors, other authors, and the like, what do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of these positions?  Just how much control does God have over all of existence?
    2. Then on pages 123 – 125, Migliore writes about three prominent answers to the theodicy question: 1) the incompressibility of God 2) divine punishment of the wicked or chastisement of the people of God 3) divine pedagogy that makes use of earthly sufferings to turn us to God and to cultivate hope for eternal life (i.e. to view suffering as an opportunity for spiritual growth).
      1.  Let the eye-rolling begin…

  4. On page 127, Migliore mentions Barth’s understanding of evil as being this “alien power of ‘nothingness’ that arises mysteriously from what God does not will in the act of creation… While neither willed by God nor an equal of God, it has its own formidable and threatening power.  It is that which contradicts the will of God manifested in Jesus Christ.  God alone is able to conquer the power of nothingness.”
    1. Do you agree with some critics of Barth’s view of evil as being “a lapse into metaphysical speculation”?  Is it too abstract and transcendental for our own good? Is evil something alien and foreign and that only God will overcome and not us being involved since evil is too powerful for us?

  5. On pages 128 – 131, Migliore goes over 4 modern views of theodicy: 1) Protest theodicy 2) Process theodicy 3) Person-making theodicy and 4) Liberation theodicy.
    1. Which, if any, model of theodicy do you think works best?
    2. What are your thoughts on process theodicy where God’s power is essentially limited and it is persuasive rather than coercive.  In other words, God is powerless or unable to prevent evil – so he’s responsible for evil in an indirect way, but he’s not blameworthy since he always intends for the good and persuades people to do good, but leaves it up to that person’s own free will to make a decision?

  6. On pages 132 – 133, he mentions the ideas of Jurgen Moltmann and his thoughts about Christ’s passion and death on the cross out of love for the world.  “And from this event of shared suffering love comes the Spirit of new life and world transformation.  All of the suffering of the world is encompassed in the affliction of the Son, the grief of the Father, and the comfort of the Spirit, who inspires courage and hope to pray and work for the renewal of all things.”
    1. Does a suffering God or the fact that Jesus (who is God incarnate) suffered and died on the cross provide any solace in real life?  Why or why not?  Or does it ring shallow once again?

  7. Page 134, he writes about God lovingly accompanying you in your sufferings.  He seems to say that this is our best hope in an answer to the problem of evil.  Have you really felt God in times of great affliction?  But don’t we want God to free us from affliction?  Who cares about character formation?  A starving kid in Africa doesn’t need character formation!  I don’t care of about God’s presence if I’m suffering from cancer or an illness – I want him to heal me.

  8. At the end of the day, I think how we respond to God in times of great suffering really reveals to us what we really believe about God.  Whether we see God as a cosmic genie, as a security blanket, or just God.  Why do we really worship or believe in God?  Do we really understand the gospel?  Perhaps that is the central message of Job.  As Migliore writes on page 137, “The biblical witness is far less interested in speculation on the origin of evil than in resistance to it in the confidence of the superiority and ultimate victory of God’s love in Jesus Christ.  A Christian response to the reality of evil will always be first of all practical.”

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