Original Research

Divine presence and absence: A theodicy of narrative analytic theology

Aku S. Antombikums
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 45, No 1 | a3058 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v45i1.3058 | © 2024 Aku S. Antombikums | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 November 2023 | Published: 03 May 2024

About the author(s)

Aku S. Antombikums, Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

For centuries, philosophers and theologians debated how to reconcile the existence of an all-powerful, all-loving, and ever-present God with the problem of evil. However, the question of why the righteous suffer remains unanswered. Given the omnipresence of God, one wonders why the sufferers experience what seems like God’s absence in their adversity. This study presents a theodicy of narrative analytic theology because the experiences of the saints of old compel us to rethink our approach to the problem of evil from the ‘God’s-eye view’ to the experiential and existential worries of the sufferer. The study looks at the story of Job and Daniel and his friends in Babylon. The narrative theodicy approach helps us understand why the righteous never denounced God in the Old Testament. The New Testament, in line with the Old Testament, reveals a suffering motif of the saints, which includes participation in the atoning work of Christ and the purification of the souls of the sufferer. Nevertheless, it seems some evils are pointless. The sufferers do not see their suffering as a punishment or a weakness from God but as a distraction and a test to perfect their covenantal relationship with the Triune. Ultimately, the suffering of the righteous will be overcome at the eschaton.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article aligns with the scope of Verbum et Ecclesia. It contributes to the current discussion on the problem of suffering within the broad discipline of theology, philosophy of religion, and how narrative analytic theology can enhance our response to the problem of evil.


Keywords

divine presence; narrative theodicy; analytic theology; participation; soul-making

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

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