On this bonus episode of our “Missional Leadership in a Time of Uncertainty” series, Bishop Todd talks to the Rev. Canon Dr. Emily McGowin of Wheaton College about theodicy—rational attempts to justify belief in God in the face of suffering and evil. As our world endures deep suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Emily provides timely reflections and practical responses for leaders.

On the first half of the podcast, Emily and Bishop Todd discuss:

  • A layman’s overview of theodicy
  • What is evil?
  • Do human beings really want answers to suffering?
  • How Augustine approached the problem of evil
We have natural evils, like tsunamis, that are not inherently evil but have consequences.

On the second half of the podcast, the conversation turns to:

  • What we should avoid when considering evil
  • What we can affirm when considering evil
  • God’s relationship to suffering
  • What happens spiritually and in our faith communities when we turn God into an answer man
We must avoid speculation as to why this particular pandemic has struck at this particular time.

Resources Mentioned

Voltaire, Poem on the Lisbon Disaster

Augustinian Theodicy

Leading Peacefully While Surrounded By Anxiety blog post by Bishop Todd

Emily’s book recommendations for pastors:

Books and articles Emily uses in her class at Wheaton, Topics in Christian Thought: God & Evil 

1. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

2. Gustavo Gutierrez, On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent

3. Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited

4. John Swinton, Raging with Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil

5. Michael Peterson, Ed., The Problem of Evil: Selected Readings

6. David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? 


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