The past two weeks have brought a steady drumbeat of tragic news: Devastating floods in Brazil and Australia, the massacre of a Congresswoman’s shopping mall meet-and-greet, a surge of terrorist bombings in Afghanistan, and more.

Again we’re confronted with the nagging question of theodicy: Why would a loving, all-powerful God allow us to live in a world where such evil things happen?

I’m reading John Buehrens’ 2003 book, Understanding the Bible, which has the captivating subtitle: “An Introduction for Skeptics, Seekers, and Religious Liberals.” Buehrens is former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association and an unabashed religious liberal, so his chapter on the book of Job (today’s reading) offers some unorthodox answers to the theodicy question. He writes:

Simply put, the patient Job is ultimately wrong. God’s purposes can be thwarted; we do it all the time.

…It is a mistake to define God only in terms of absolute control over history, or absolute power. Discussion of God in terms of absolutes has more to do with Greek philosophy than with the Bible (105).

So Buehrens cites three biblical reasons why bad things happen, none of which mitigate the love of God or his active involvement in our world:

  1. Because there is randomness;
  2. Because there are sins of others and those we ourselves are implicated in; 
  3. Because there are costs in overcoming evil with good (107).

He makes the point that Scripture gives a more realistic portrayal of this world, of the God who made it, and of us culpable human beings than we are apt to give in our sermons or Sunday School lessons. Point well taken.