Convocation 9/11/2017: Ed Hindson, Theodicy, and the nature of tragedy

Today’s convocation was quite heavy. Most people have experienced tragedy and loss at some point in their lives, so today’s subject is one of personal importance to many people. In light of this, I will try to be as respectful as possible in my assessment and hope that I do not cause any offense. As a result, today’s post may be a little light on humor (if you can call what I do in my other posts humor).

Monday’s convo was in my opinion the first this semester to deal with Christianity and theology in any depth. When we deal with theology, it is important to note that there are very rarely any single answers. If you want an obvious example of this diversity of belief, look at the plethora of Christian denominations that exist. How one answers these difficult questions is often dependent upon ones most basic beliefs. Two Christians can look at the same theological question and come up with two completely different answers. This does not mean that one of the two is not a Christian, it simply means that they have different underlying beliefs. Therefore, when dealing with these question I feel Dr. Hindson said it best, “God is God and I am not”. The only one who can definitively answer many of these theological talking points is God himself, we can only ponder and theorize.

The main topic of Dr. Hindson’s speech was theodicy, the question of why evil exists in the world if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good. This question is often asked in a more simplified form, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”. For a quick and rather humorous introduction to the concept of theodicy, I recommend this comic (warning non-Liberty way language): Several answers have been proposed to answer this question, however they all result in weakening one of God’s essential properties. Dr. Hindson used the book of Job to argue that evil occurs because it is how God tests our faith and enables us to grow as Christians. The problem with this answer is that it cripples God’s omni-benevolence. Why would a perfectly-good God use evil to accomplish his goals?

I hold to a different answer to the problem of evil. My answer to the question of why evil exists and why bad things happen to good people is free-will. I have expounded on my beliefs on free-will in the past, so I will hesitate from doing so here (if interested: Biases and Beliefs: Free-will). The existence of Evil in the world can be traced back to the very first humans: Adam and Eve. They were given free-will by God and chose to use it to sin, hence why we live in a fallen world. Because we live in a fallen world, we experience pain, tragedy, and death and because we live in a fallen world, bad things happen to good people. These tragedies can either be attributed to our world’s fallenness (i.e. Joe’s house is destroyed by a tornado) or to human free-will (I.E. Joe is mugged on his way to his car). This is not to say that God cannot or does not influence and act in the world, however it is often impossible to differentiate between the actions of God and what is simply a natural occurrence without taking a leap of faith (I can’t say leap of faith without thinking about Assassin’s Creed). Now my view is not without its criticisms. The primary criticism of Free-Will Theodicies is that it weakens God’s omniscience, the property of God that he is all-knowing. This is a criticism leveled against the idea of free-will as a whole, however I do not believe that humans having free-will precludes God’s omniscience. Ultimately, it is a matter of belief.

Another topic that Dr. Hindson briefly touched on was the nature of tragedy. The word tragedy originates from the Greek language and originally meant a specific form of Greek drama. Tragedies were complex plays that involved the downfall of the main character as a result of his tragic flaw or hamartia, a negative character trait. This theme can be seen in many greek dramas. In Agamemnon, Agamemnon is slain by his wife because of his hubris (pride) and irreverence for the gods. In its sequel, the Libation Bearers, Agamemnon’s wife is killed by her son because she, you know, killed her husband (The son gets to live due to a subplot about justice). Oedipus is blinded and exiled because he tries to defy the prophecy of the gods. In all these examples, the individual’s tragedy is due to their own failings. In modern times, we no longer use the word tragedy in the same manner, however I believe the Greek definition still applies. The tragedies that we experience today are due to our own hamartia: Our sin nature. No one is perfect and no one is truly 100% good. Romans 3:10 reiterates this, “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;” (NIV).


Today: 1, but he basically summarized the entire book of Job.

Bible verses quoted all semester: 4

Lightning Round:

  • That story from Dr. Ed Hindson about Frank nearly drove me to tears. That was one of the strongest anecdotes I have ever heard in convocation.
  • Good to hear that Jonathon Falwell is doing alright. He is doing more good in Saint Martin than he would have done speaking at Convo.

If you like what I do, I recommend following me on twitter at @skepticalpyrrho. If you don’t have a twitter, you can follow me on the website and recieve an email when I post. I would love to hear what you guys thought about this post. Leave a comment below or send a message through the contact page.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Liberty University leadership or administration in any way. The opinions expressed here are solely my own and should be not be taken as the opinion of the University, its staff, the student body or the school of divinity.

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