Why do terrible things happen?

The recent disasters in Japan raise again the old issue of theodicy: how could a God who is good and almighty allow such things as earthquakes, tsunamis, and leaks of radioactive material to happen? The notion that those who suffer are being punished for sin is sub-Christian: ‘Do you suppose that these Gallileans were worse sinners…?I tell you no…Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think they were worse sinners…? I tell you no.’ (Luke 13:2f) ‘”Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…”‘ (John 9:2f). Nor should we see such events as providing a context from which good can somehow eventuate, as though darkness were going to be part of a beautiful pattern that God’s mysterious purposes were weaving. This would be a cheap way of responding to grief.

Rather, such events are better seen as an extreme example of the reality that life here below is not what it was meant to be, that things on this side of the Garden are inherently out of sync, and that we live in a world in which principalities and powers operate. It is a tragic magnification of the disorder that the saints, perhaps more than others, perceive within themselves, and that can rise up to make a mess of our relationships with others. ‘And while we know that the victory over evil and death has been won, we also know that it is a victory yet to come, and that creation therefore, as Paul says, groans in expectation of the glory that will one day be revealed. Until then, the world remains a place of struggle between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death; and, in such a world, our portion is charity.’  (David Bentley Hart)

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