There are of course other, better versions of this. Actually, most of the devout Haitians I know think this way, even after the earthquake. The friends I talked with about these questions were still in worship, still devout, seeing the earthquake as a problem of nature and not a problem of God.

2. The Guilty-till-Proven-Innocent God

This approach says God is on trial for the sufferings of this world—and the verdict is not promising. Goodness and beauty do not balance out the horrors. Or at the very least it's a draw. Those who view God this way consider benefit-of-the-doubt believers naive. What kind of good Creator could possibly survive when 230,001 people don't survive under the created order (and human-created conditions) that just crashed on them?

One of novelist dostoyevsky's characters in The Brothers Karamazov doesn't shy away from putting God on trial. He famously details the suffering of a boy and girl and concludes that he will respectfully return his ticket (to life) back to God—because even all the goodness of the world cannot be justified by the horrific suffering of one innocent child.

These two options aren't a rubric for understanding how every-one approaches the problem of evil-good. But when I vacillate, it's often between these two stances, which are both related to uncertainty. We have to (by faith, one way or another) try to make sense of so much good and so much evil—and what this says about God.

All the cloud and dust of witnesses, the beauty and the cruelty of our world, the screaming and the singing, the glory and the horror of human experience must be called forth to testify.

While I was watching a basketball game the other night, an ad came on during a timeout. A montage of women's faces, one after the other, concluded with the statement, "A woman is sexually assaulted every two-and-a-half minutes." Then back to the game.

How do you go back to the game? Confronted with evil—an evil that will be repeated within two-and-a-half minutes, and then two-and-a-half minutes after that, multiple times before the next time-out. With any number of other evil acts and senseless suffering filling the seconds between assaults. Every moment, if we have eyes to see, presents another tangible reason for a crisis of faith.

At times, pain shapes us in good ways. We can't deny that. C. S. Lewis called it God's megaphone for getting our attention for our own good. But it can also crucify. And uncertainty in the face of it can leave us feeling paralyzed or stranded. It can make the leap of faith seem like a leap off the balcony of reality.


Taken from After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World Is Shaken by Kent Annan. Copyright(c) 2011 by Kent Annan. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press PO Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515.

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