Why did you turn away from atheism?

The question of theodicy

The theodicy (Justification of God in the face of suffering) is a classic theological problem that deals with the question of how the omnipotence, all-goodness, and omniscience of God are compatible with the existence of evil and suffering in the world. It was probably the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), who coined the term theodicy. The problem is already with Epicurus (341-270 BC) thoughtfully. The following text, which was edited by the theologian Laktanz (250-317), has come down to us: "Either God wants to eliminate evils and cannot: then God is weak, which does not apply to him, or he can and does not want it: then God is disapproving of what is alien to him, or he does not want it and cannot: then he is weak and disapproving at the same time, i.e. not God, or he wants it and can do it, which is only befitting God : Then where do the evils come from and why doesn't he take them away? " In these reflections the whole drama of the question of theodicy is evident.
First of all: There is no generally valid and convincing answer to this question, which is not only of a philosophical nature, but can ultimately also be quite existential, namely when one is affected by suffering and doubts God about it or even rejects God. "The pain"This is what Georg Büchner tells us in his drama "Dantons Tod", "is the rock of atheism".

Controversy in literature
In literature, the "good God" is repeatedly questioned very clearly. Representatives include Wolfgang Borchert (1921-1947) with his radio play "Outside in front of the door", where he accuses God of not having been there during World War II. The protagonist of the radio play, the soldier Beckmann, meets God in a dream as an old man. Beckmann asks God provocatively: "When are you actually dear, dear God? Were you dear when you were my boy, who was just one year old when you let my little boy tear apart with a roaring bomb!" ... "Were you dear in Stalingrad, dear God, were you dear there, eh? Yes? When were you actually dear, God, when? When did you ever take care of us, God?" In this scene, God defends himself to the effect that people have turned away from him, not he from people. Borchert does not accept this, however. He says of him that he is "an old man who no one believes in" or even: "You are dead, God. Be alive with us, at night when it's cold, lonely and when your stomach growls in the silence - then be alive with us, God ".
In Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) novel "The Karamazov Brothers", the question of theodicy is also discussed on the basis of a story that tells of the suffering of a child who is chased and killed by the dogs of a domineering and brutal general because the boy shuts his foot while playing of the general's favorite dog. Ivan Karamazov explains to his brother Aljoscha Karamazov, a novice, his attitude towards the unspeakable suffering, especially of children. He philosophizes that in the "harmony of God", perhaps once tormented and tormented, embrace and reconcile, that suffering may be necessary to restore this harmony one day. But it is precisely this that Ivan is resisting. "Oh, Aljoscha, I don't want to blaspheme God!" exclaims Ivan, because the harmony in heaven makes everyone rejoice: "You are righteous, O Lord, for your ways are now clearly". But Ivan does not want to accept this harmony. He does not want the children's sufferings to have to happen in order for the truth to ultimately be revealed. He doesn't want harmony, "out of love for humanity I don't want it". Ivan does not reject God, but he does not want anything to do with this God and the harmony of God that occurs in forgiveness. It seems to him to be a question of honesty to move away from this harmony. "It is not God I refuse, Aljoscha, I am just giving him back the ticket with the utmost devotion." The deeply angry Ivan Karamazov refuses to have anything to do with God, who ultimately brings all the evils of the world to harmony. In the novel, Iwan deals with an explanatory model of theodicy, which was probably to the effect that the suffering of the world is not real, but ultimately merges with good, with harmony. In paradise, injustice, greed and the evil of people are transformed into forgiveness and forgiveness, into harmony between perpetrators and victims. And that is exactly what Iwan does not want to accept.
Another who deals with the good God and suffering is Albert Camus (1913-1960) in his novel "The Plague", where the priest Paneloux and the doctor Rieux have a dispute about the role of God. Rieux simply does not want to see how God can allow innocent children to suffer. "And I will refuse until my death to love the creation in which children are tortured" The Jesuit priest Paneloux, who originally still defends God, draws for himself the most logical consequence of the Christian in the face of suffering. He helps wherever he can. He is silent, holds back with pious sayings and tries with his good deed to meet the misery. For Camus (as in his "Myth of Sisyphus"): "Either we are not free and Almighty God is responsible for evil. Or we are free and responsible, but God is not all-powerful. All scholastic subtleties have the sharpness of this Paradoxes nothing added and nothing taken. "
Also Elie Wiesel (born 1928) deals intensively with the question of suffering, especially in view of the Holocaust. In this context, his trilogy of novels "Die Nacht zubureb, Elischa" should be considered. In the first and most haunting novel "Die Nacht", Elie Wiesel describes his experiences in Auschwitz. The question about God is explicitly asked in this novel at a point when three prisoners are hanged. Two men with weapons found and Pipel, a boy who did not reveal the perpetrators of an attack. When those condemned to death were put on the chairs, Elie Wiesel heard the question: "Where is God, where is he". There is initially no answer. When the boy, because he was lighter than the adults, was still hanging on the gallows for more than half an hour, the question rang out again: "Where is God?" In the novel "Die Nacht" Elie Wiesel writes: "And I heard a voice inside me answer: 'Where is he? There - there he hangs on the gallows ..." Elie Wiesel admits that after the experience in Auschwitz he was in between Belief and doubt wavered. The idea of ​​man was destroyed in Auschwitz, said Wiesel elsewhere. And further: "You cannot understand Auschwitz with God, but you also cannot understand Auschwitz without God." For Wiesel it is clear. After Auschwitz, one can no longer make valid statements about God (theology), but one can and should continue to speak to him, even if one directs one's anger towards him. With regard to Christianity, Wiesel criticizes the exaggeration of suffering through Christ's death on the cross. The redeeming effect of the suffering and death of Jesus ideologizes the suffering instead of fighting it, so the criticism of Wiesel.

"Classic" Attempts to answer
The question of theodicy after Auschwitz, where more than 1 million people were murdered by the Nazis, became particularly urgent. Hans Jonas (1903 to 1993), a Jewish philosopher who became famous with his book "The Responsibility Principle", excludes in this context that God could be both all-powerful and all-good. Ultimately he decides that he will question the omnipotence of God, but postulate the omnipotence by referring to the Judeo-Christian image of God.
Ultimately, however, there is no all-round satisfactory and convincing answer to this question, at most attempted answers, approximations, assumptions. These are - depending on the attitude of the person trying to answer - either radically rejecting God or at most provisional. Nevertheless, people are always excited to give answers. These are indicated below. It must always be borne in mind that there are suffering and evil in different ways as physical suffering, which includes diseases or natural disasters that are not caused by humans, or as moral evil that arise from the will and wrongdoing of humans . Certainly the atrocities of Auschwitz are part of the moral evil for which people are responsible.
According to the considerations of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (Picture, see above) God has those of a myriad of possible worlds "best of all possible worlds" created in which the evil takes up the smallest space. In addition to the physical and moral evil, he also speaks of a metaphysical evil. He means that what is created is necessarily imperfect, otherwise it would be identical with God. For him, evil and evil are necessary prerequisites for knowing good.
Another attempt to answer points to the freedom given to man by God. This freedom also allows freedom to do evil. With this, the moral evil can perhaps be explained, perhaps even understood, but the existence of the physical evil and suffering, which is ultimately not caused by humans, cannot be remotely understood. Sometimes the story of paradise is also used in this context. God did not want and create the earth as it presents itself to us. He didn't want suffering, death, injustice, violence or lies. The image of paradise and its harmony wants to make this clear to us. The fact that the world has become the way it is is due to the will of man if we want to interpret the message of the paradise tale. It was and is he who renounced communion with God on his own initiative because he has exceeded the limit set for him by God, which is symbolically represented by the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. Because man ultimately wanted to be like God (this is called "hubris" of man), he must face the consequences. In this context theology speaks of that which came into the world through Adam Original Sin or Hereditary Debt.
More - however rather religious-fundamentalist - attempted answers are that suffering serve to punish sinners, for conversion or improvement of people (cf. Proverbs 3:12: "Whom the Lord loves, he chastises"), for testing and proving faith and the love of God (e.g. Gen 22.1-19 Abraham's sacrifice or the book of Job, which has already been interpreted in this direction).
Other interpretations are that the Human suffering as the highest form of solidarity was understood with the suffering and dying Jesus (Mk 8,34f: "Whoever wants to be my disciple, take up his cross and follow me ...") or serve as a consolation and example for other suffering people or even as an appeal was understood to the people for social action.
Even the attempt to make sense of suffering to the extent that it purifies people and contributes to personal maturity cannot simply be defended in an uninvolved and explanatory manner. People can still have this experience for themselves personally.
All of these explanatory models are not really convincing. Rather, they arouse the suspicion that God ultimately wants suffering and even wants to instrumentalize people through suffering.
For a long time - and still today in Judaism, but not alien to Christianity either - the so-called "Do-Do-Scheme"as an explanatory model for human suffering. According to this, people suffer because they ultimately have to ascribe it to themselves. What happens to them is what they have done. And if they have sinned, they are punished accordingly was understood in such a way that it can also be effective across generations, ie that descendants are held responsible for the atrocities, misconduct or even just the foolish behavior of their ancestors lies in the conviction of an orderly creation. The disturbance of this order has corresponding consequences. At the same time God is also taken into account in this creation order. An offense against order and thus the possibility of chaos always affects God, who then intervenes and accordingly With this "declaration" of the suffering, Job, who is suffering in the worst way, must also face himself deal with it. His friends hold this explanation in front of him. Job, however, steadfastly defends himself against the fact that he has done no wrong that would justify such a degree of suffering as it was inflicted on him.
In addition, there is a very problematic image of God behind this explanatory pattern of the "doing-it-going scheme". The righteousness of God is (mis) interpreted as accountant righteousness. The image of God must be described as a very underdeveloped one. In addition, this explanatory pattern contradicts various experiences that show that especially people who behave less godly are nonetheless successful and are obviously largely spared from suffering. Thus, today the doing-doing-scheme can be used as an explanatory model neither in the case of personal suffering nor diseases such as AIDS. Nevertheless, AIDS or other "strokes of fate" was and is attributed to the fact that people had sinned and therefore God's punishment would take place. This thought, as strange as it may seem to us, is ultimately the basis of the historical understanding of the people of Israel. The whole of the Old Testament can be interpreted as the history of the people of Israel with their God Yahweh. Political crisis situations were always understood as God's turning away from people who had previously turned away from Yahweh or worshiped other gods (such as Baal).

The figure of job (or job)
Structure and genre
The book of Job or Job or Job (there are different spellings) is the only biblical text that deals with the problem of theodicy.
The frame narrative (Job 1,1-2,10 and 42,7-17) goes back to an old folk tradition of an exemplary and just man. The main part is inserted into this framework narrative in poetic form. The frame story itself is in prose. This can be described as a (wisdom) novella. The frame story itself was probably written as early as the 6th century BC, the actual main part of the book with the disputes of Job with his friends and the complaints against God was written in the 4th century BC. Chr. Inserted. In terms of content, the main part deals with the theology represented in the framework narrative, where Job proves to be the patient sufferer who almost unquestionably accepts the classic do-and-go scheme. In the more recent main part of the book, on the other hand, an accusing, sometimes even rebellious Job is presented, who seeks a new image of the world and God and develops this in dialogues with his friends and with God. According to the literary genre of the book, this is to be assigned to the wisdom literature.
Job, a just, righteous and also successful man, is - after it is reported in the frame story that Satan attributes Job's faith only to his well-being - as it were handed over to the will of Satan (Job 1:12: "The Lord said to Satan: Good , all his possessions are in your hand, just don't reach out your hand to himself "). Then Job is confronted with all kinds of plagues. He loses his wealth, his flocks, his sons and daughters "(cf. Job 1, 13-19).
Job responds to this situation with great devotion. Although he mourns, he prays: "The Lord gave, the Lord took; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1: 21b).
Thereupon - as shown in the book of Job - the health of Job is also placed in the hands of Satan. He just has to spare his life. Job is then "beaten" with ulcers.
In the main part of the book of Job, the disputes (Job 2,11-31,40), the tormented person then deals with his fate and the reproaches of his friends. These hold him against the fact that his situation was the result of wrongdoing (e.g. Job 4, 7f: "Think about it! Who perishes without guilt? Where are the upright abandoned. Wherever I look: Who plows injustice, who does mischief sows, he reaps it too. ") In these disputes, Job also becomes the great complainant and accusatory of God (cf. e.g. Job 30, 20f:" I scream to you, and you do not answer me; I stand there, yes you do not pay attention to me. You turn into a cruel enemy against me, with your strong hand you feud me "). He quarrels with God, repeatedly affirms his innocence and righteousness (including Job 31). The end of the book of Job is formed by two speeches of God and finally by repentance, insight into the greatness of God and submission of Job (chapters 38 to 42). God shows Job that he is the omniscient cause of all being and that man, and thus also Job, has only a very limited insight.Job realizes that he ultimately cannot understand the ways of God and thus also his own suffering. (Job 42, 1-6: "I have recognized that you are capable of everything; no project is denied you. Who is it who obscures the advice without understanding? So I have spoken in ignorance about things that are too wonderful for me and are incomprehensible. ... I only heard about you from hearsay, but now my eye has seen you. That is why I withdraw and breathe a sigh of relief, in dust and ashes. ")
The book concludes with an account of the fact that Job's later life was more blessed by God than his earlier life. Finally it says: "Then Job died, old and fed up with the days of life" (Job 42:17).
So although God does not justify Job, a new perspective emerges for him (he breathes a sigh of relief, even if in dust and ashes). God, who was blasphemed and challenged by Job, leans towards him, lets him feel his closeness, speaks to him. He is there for Job even in suffering. Job's life and suffering are thus placed on a new foundation, namely on the foundation of fellowship with God. This allows him to endure his fate, although he is also denied insight into God's actions. The divine speeches in the Book of Job show another approach that is formulated in connection with the question of theodicy. It is not essential to understand the reasons for the calamity and suffering. This and God remain incomprehensible. God reveals himself to man but also in suffering, takes care of man, does not abandon him, yes, is perhaps even a fellow sufferer (as the cross of Jesus can also be interpreted).
In this way Job becomes the model of the believer, even in the face of suffering. He accuses, he quarrels, he doubts. Ultimately, however, he retains the basic trust and belief in God, who does not allow him to understand suffering, but allows him to endure it.
Different interpretations of Job
In the Middle Ages, Job was seen primarily as the great and humble sufferer. The patience of job became almost proverbial. Later, the rebellious and rebellious Job was emphasized - also in the more recent reception of Job (i.e. the history of its impact). Ernst Bloch, an important philosopher who saw himself as an atheist, sees the book of Job as a book of "human revolt" because Job questions or even denies God's justice.
The book of Job is seen as one of the most important books in world literature and has provoked philosophers, theologians and writers to debate. Even Goethe adopted the motif of God's challenge in his "Faust".
The best-known reception of the Book of Job is the novel by Joseph Roth "Job. Novel of a Simple Man" from 1930.
For others, Job became a symbol of the suffering of the Jewish people.
The consequences of dealing with the Book of Job are, however, quite different. For some, the insight of Job became a model, while others became atheists through the symbol of Job.
On the wall of a Cologne cellar, in which some Jews hid from the Nazis during the entire war, was the following sentence: "I believe in the sun, even when it isn't shining. I believe in love, even when I am do not feel. I believe in God, even when he is silent. "

Philosophical Approaches
On the question of theodicy, two statements collide in contradiction. On the one hand, God is defined as all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful (this is the philosophical concept of God, which, however, does not always correspond to the biblical idea), on the other hand there is the experience of suffering, evil and calamity. The philosophical approaches now try to resolve this contradiction in such a way that they cancel or at least invalidate one of the two postulates.
So saw Augustine and Thomas Aquinas in Suffer only the lack of good or a perversion of the good. They did not allow evil to exist in its own right, because God is absolutely good and everything that he created is essentially good. So, according to Augustine, there is nothing that is completely evil.
For Leibniz, suffering and evil are part of the "world as a total work of art". God created the best of all possible worlds, but not a perfect one, because this would then be more or less equal to God.
For Hegel, suffering is a transitory stage in history. According to his philosophy of history, which is based on the basic principle of dialectics (thesis - antithesis - synthesis), history develops from the opposition of thesis and antithesis to synthesis and thus to progress. This dichotomy includes the possibility of evil and calamity.
Other approaches question the omnipotence of God. So again and again a more or less open one emerges dualism in the discussion. Accordingly, there would be a good (God) and an evil principle (Satan, adversary ...) in conflict with each other. Luther even assumed something like an "inner-divine dualism". He speaks of the Deus absconditus (hidden God who knows anger and vengeance) and the Deus relevatus (God revealed, God of love and mercy).
And the reference to the appears again and again in the philosophical discussion Freedom given to man by God that also enables freedom to do evil. Since this world is not the highest goal, but the view of God in a different way of being should be this highest goal of man, the preliminary, imperfect and evil is just possible and conceivable.

Current approaches to dealing with the question of theodicy
For the important Protestant theologian Karl Barth, evil is the "impossible possibility". He thinks that there is ultimately no answer or solution to the question of theodicy. Yet man is not entitled to accuse God. Rather, he speaks of a paradox in the world.
For Immanuel Kant, when it comes to metaphysical speculations about God's justification in the face of suffering, the possibilities of the human spirit are limited. Reason, according to Kant, reaches its limits in this question. Martin Luther advocated this idea before him. In 1791 he also wrote a book "On the Failure of All Philosophical Attempts in Theodicy". Often, with the limitation of human understanding, reference is made to the fact that suffering in a larger context may not be meaningless after all, but just appears to the people concerned.
God as the fellow sufferer and the one who helps to cope with suffering
In Christian theology today hardly anyone will seriously want to give a convincing answer to the question of theodicy. Mostly it is pointed out that speculation about this (philosophical) question is idle. Rather, the gaze must be directed towards the fact that God also stands by people in suffering, that he helps to overcome suffering. Perhaps the sentence is correct that suffering means the greatest questioning of God, but at the same time suffering is hardly manageable without God. What is there to comfort someone who does not believe in God when they are in pain? Without hoping that the suffering of the world will be overcome, it hits people even more mercilessly (in the best sense of the word). So as much as strife, anger, doubt and accusation in the face of suffering are understandable, consolation and hope at the same time are perhaps - if at all - only possible in belief in God and in belief in survival after death.
In view of the terrible flood disaster in Asia in December 2004, the question is being discussed again. Bernd Jochen Hilberath, professor of dogmatics from Tübingen, gives the following information in an interview in the Catholic Sunday newspaper. He says there is ultimately no answer to the question of how God can allow such a catastrophe. He defends himself against attempts to connect the horrors of the world with the fact that God wants to punish people. As a "legitimate attitude" in connection with the unspeakable suffering, he says that this is "the attitude of the complaint, including the complaint against God" and refers in this context to Job. Finally he recommends: "Despite all the nonsense, all the nonsense that I experience, I rely on this God, I hold fast to this God as Job did, and I complain and try to behave in solidarity with people as far as possible Just as I believe that God is in solidarity with his creation in spite of everything. " He then names the call for solidarity among people as a way of making clear God's solidarity with people.
(cf. Katholisches Sonntagsblatt, No. 2, January 9, 2005, page 7).
With this answer, the dogmatics professor is on the line of the Old Testament prophets. These too have repeatedly urged solidarity, solidarity with the weak, the orphans and widows, the disenfranchised and the poor. In fact, perhaps the only answer is the honest co-suffering, sympathy and active solidarity of people with those affected by the suffering. Jewish theology has also repeatedly focused on the motif of Shekhina pointed out. This Shekhina means the "indwelling of God" in the world; H. that God himself suffers in the world. At times this personified presence of Yahweh in the world was thought of as feminine. In earlier times the symbol for the Shechina was the Ark of the Covenant, the central shrine of the Israelites, which was kept in the temple. In the Christian understanding, the Shechina, i.e. the presence of God in the world, has become a reality with Jesus Christ in an unsurpassable way. He, who was venerated as the Son of God, himself experienced human life in all its facets, with suffering and joy, and so showed himself in solidarity. Jesus' death on the cross, the most shameful form of execution, is an expression of God's compassion in solidarity for and with people. So the words of Jesus on the cross became: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" also repeatedly interpreted as expressing the impossibility of understanding suffering. Even Jesus on the cross doubted, regretted, wanted "that this cup should pass him by". And yet - trusting in God - he accepted the suffering. So perhaps the consolation remains that - like Jesus' death on the cross - all suffering often has and can have a deeply hidden meaning. That hope for meaning can bring comfort in the desperation of suffering.

The discussion about the theodicy of God came up again in connection with the tsunami catastrophe and the more than 270,000 deaths in Asia. The unanimous opinion of all the theologians questioned was that there could be no satisfactory and conciliatory answer to this question. Theologians agreed that silence might be the most appropriate answer. In addition to the reluctance to use explanatory models, it was repeatedly emphasized that the only reaction to the incomprehensible is the suffering, the solidarity, the commitment to alleviate the suffering.

Norbert Scholl, The great themes of the Christian faith, Darmstadt 2002, pages 294 to 297
wikipedia - Internet lexicon, keyword theodicy
Kath. Sonntagsblatt, No. 2, January 9, 2005, p. 7
Peter Kliemann, Faith is Human, Arguments for the Folly of the Crucified God, Stuttgart, 10th edition 2001, page 23f
Johannes Kaiser, Abitur training Catholic Religion 1, Freising 1997, page 5
Hans Küng, Does God Exist? - Answer to the question of God in modern times, dtv Munich, 1st edition 1981, p. 681ff; 757ff
Günter Brutscher, The Question of God, unpublished manuscript, 1999

As of March 30, 2005
Günter Brutscher