Haiti and the Problem of Evil: Pathways in Theodicy

Photo by Matthew Marek/American Red Cross

On Tuesday, January 12, 2010, Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that leveled buildings and killed hundreds of thousands of people. In the coming months, as the death toll continues to rise from disease, violence, and deprivation, the people of Haiti and the watching world will continue to ask, Why? As I will suggest momentarily, the more imperative question in the immediate aftermath of tragedy is not why but whatthat is, what can we do to alleviate the suffering? And yet, we should not dismiss the problem of the plausibility of Gods existence and character in the face of horrendous evils. Christian responses to these questions are called theodicies. Here, I define theodicy not as a solution to the problem of evil (that would be a fools errand) but, rather, as a theologically sound and spiritually edifying response to situations of suffering. Theodicy, as a way of trying to make sense of the inexplicable, begins almost immediately after tragedies occur. Unfortunately, rather than illuminating the problem or providing comfort and hope, theodicy often degenerates into blaming the victim. On the same day as the earthquake in Haiti, Pat Robertson, a prominent American television evangelist and longtime host of The 700 Club, blamed the earthquake on the Haitians themselves, who, he claimed, swore a pact to the Devil in order to gain their independence from the French. Since then, he argued, they have been cursed. The reactions to Robertsons insensitive, irresponsible, and theologically pernicious comments were immediate and widespread. Even the White House felt compelled to comment, rightly denouncing Robertsons position as stupid. What do we make of Pat Robertsons theodicy? experiment We must realize that because many people listen to and value Pat Robertsons opinion, we cannot allow his theodicy to stand unchallenged. First, his factual claims are dubious, to say the least. How does he know that the Haitians made a pact with the Devil? How exactly did they consent to this diabolical agreement? Did experiment the Devil appear among them with a contract that they collectively ratified? It is, quite simply, utter and total nonsense. Second, even if we were to concede to possible shady spiritual dealings, why should present-day Haitians suffer punishment for the sins of their ancestors?

From -> http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/02/haiti-and-the-problem-of-evil-pathways-in-theodicy


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