Impressions of the divine dilemma

Divine dilemma, first impression. The value of the dilemma is that theodicy is not something that comes to an axial religion after it is fully formed, as if it now has to deal with the objection of evil in the universe. The response of a benevolent and all-powerful being is structuring the question of the Incarnation from the beginning. It’s what (a) assures that the human race became evil by the malice of some human (b) what assures that God cannot simply let the human race be damned.

Divine dilemma, second impression. No, it’s not that theodicy is part of Christianity from the beginning, but that the problem of evil is a garbled Christianity. It takes the Christian view of a paternal, omnipotent divinity but cuts out the logical development that leads to the Incarnation and redemptive death of Christ. “Theodicy” is a sort of forgetfulness that Christian orthodoxy is the revelation of God’s fatherly love in the midst of our proclivity to evil.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer genius of evil. God’s most interior reality is what scripture calls hesed, or fidelity and mercy (as RSV puts it, hesed is steadfast love). But for God to do away with the consequences of the fall would violate his steadfastness or fidelity while to allow those consequences to stand would violate his love and mercy. An insoluble contradiction is introduced into the heart of divinity.


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