The other day a friend asked me about theodicy. Not in so many words, of course, but the question was distinctly familiar: why would an all-good, all-powerful deity let good people suffer? My response, hurried as it had to be, coming as it did on a work day, was that this was the classic question that had led to the dismissal of much belief among those raised in the Christian tradition. It is, if you will, the Achilles heel of the non-biblical unofficial trinity of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. The answer typically given is that people have only a limited view and, given that we can’t see the whole picture we’re in no position to judge a being who can. That got me thinking about the whole picture itself, and whether there is such a thing already in place.
As a young person learning to think theologically, I had to spend hours discussing with peers and teachers what this might mean. Time, they would assure us, does not affect God. The Almighty stands (metaphorically) outside of time and therefore understands how all of this will come out. And the final result will be good. The orthodox would then chime in that an eternal Hell was necessary to punish sins that, in comparison, lasted only a short time, comparatively. This would raise the question of justice again, and whether or not we were all marionettes in a puppet-show that really excluded free will. You see, the other answer to the question of theodicy is that if humans have free will a deity can’t force us to do good. Humans, they reason are responsible for making the good suffer.
With the weather turning cooler, we caught a mouse the other day. Decades ago I opted for a humane trap since it seems unspeakably arrogant of me to kill another sentient being who’s simply trying to find food and stay warm. From the perspective of that mouse, I must seem terrifying. I’ve caught it in a metal trap. I’m a hundred times its size. It has no idea what I’m thinking. When I catch mice I try to talk to them reassuringly. It’s got to be disorienting to find yourself going from “o wow, peanut butter!” to “I can’t get out.” If that mouse is thinking of a higher power I know that I can’t see much of the larger picture. My view is local, compared to that of larger intellects than mine. Still, I don’t want that mouse to suffer for being what it is. I didn’t create it, but I do want to set it free to let it find its place in both space and time.