… either God is punitive and interventionist (the Robertson view), or as capricious as nature and so absent as to be effectively nonexistent (the Obama view). Unfortunately, the Bible, which frequently uses God’s power over earth and seas as the sign of his majesty and intervening power, supports the first view; and the history of humanity’s lonely suffering decisively suggests the second [Between God and a Hard Place, New York Times].
Wood is wrong; the Bible’s theodicy is much more nuanced. When Jesus’ disciples encounter a blind man, they assume he (or his parents) must have done something evil to deserve this fate. Jesus refutes this:
- Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. [John 9:3-4, NAB]
The Greek is the aorist passive – Jesus says the blindness is, but does not ascribe agency. In the 4th century, St. John Chrysostom explained that Jesus is not saying the man is sinless, but that his sin did not cause his illness [Homily 56]. I believe that God does not cause natural disasters or diseases, they are the sad reality of an imperfect world. Fortunately, God’s love and mercy can transform tragedy into triumph.