THE whole crisis where we are in is not just scientific or medical. It is also one that puts into question our beliefs and above all our interpretation of the reality. We cannot blame people if they start rethinking their beliefs or at least ask questions about it. Basically, such is very human and thus natural.
We are once again awakened to the fact that the fundamental problem in Theodicy has not been fully answered: if there is God why is there evil? Theodicy is a branch of philosophy that tries to understand and justify the existence of God despite the enduring reality of evil.
I remember this same theme in one of my classes back in Graduate School. I tried to explain the problem of evil to my professor using what Pope John Paul II said on the “impotence of God vis-a-vis the freedom of man.” My professor said that such an argument is very limited because many evils have nothing to do with human freedom.
Evil, philosophically speaking, co-exists with the world. We are not just talking about moral evil or that which arise from the acts or doings of humanity.
Neither are we talking about the ontological personification of evil who is the devil. The devil may be evil but he is not what is meant as “evil.” What is problematized actually is the very reality that in various ways there is something that counters goodness, thus at some point in human existence something bad happens. Earthquakes for example happen without the agency of human freedom. Here we are speaking of evil as “privation.”
Looking back I’d say that my professor is correct. The doctors who died of covid did not choose their death. The virus is a self operating or self moving being (to use a technical term). Virii are a kingdom of their own. And unless one would argue that this is part of God’s plan then one cannot but somewhat admit that we’re facing a blank wall, that is the mystery of evil.
This is a perfect time to ask the question “where is God?” The most honest answer we can give is we don’t know. Pandemics like this are, for some people, an opportunity to validate their naturalist beliefs, that everything is material and there is nothing supernatural. On the contrary it is also an opportunity for many to affirm their belief in the providence of God.
Evil affects us deeply because of our fragility. We turn to God hoping for an answer. But the kind of answer we get largely depends on the breadth and depth of our faith.
Faith is what makes the difference. We can exhaust all efforts to answer the problems posed by philosophers and theologians. Without it however we may end up in a dead end. Precisely, faith is a matter of trust and conviction and its power moves one to make a choice. The choice to live a life of self-giving is what makes the difference.
Evil abounds in this world but with faith goodness abounds all the more.