God and suffering belong together, just as in this life the cry for God and the suffering experienced in pain belong together. The question about God and the question about suffering are a joint, a common question. And they only find a common answer. Either that, or neither of them finds a satisfactory answer at all. No one can answer the theodicy question in this world, and no one can get rid of it. Life in this world means living with this open question, and seeking the future in which the desire for God will be fulfilled, suffering will be overcome, and what has been lost will be restored.Moltmann's underpinning panentheistic doctrine of God notwithstanding, let's focus on two themes that arise as he writes of theodicy and the so-called "problem of evil":
The question of theodicy is not a speculative question; it is a critical one. It is the all-embracing eschatological question. It is not purely theoretical, for it cannot be answered with any new theory about the existing world. It is a practical question which will only be answered through experience of the new world in which ‘God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’. It is not really a question at all, in the sense of something we can ask or not ask, like other questions. It is the open wound of life in this world. It is the real task of faith and theology to make it possible for us to survive, to go on living, with this open wound.
The person who believes will not rest content with any slickly explanatory answer to the theodicy question. And he will also resist any attempts to soften the question down. The more a person believes, the more deeply he experiences pain over the suffering in the world, and the more passionately he asks about God and the new creation.
- The question of God and suffering is an "all-embracing eschatological question," because it can "only be answered through experience" of the new heavens and earth. Right now, it is, in fact, not really question at all. It just is; it simply hangs here all heavy and stifling, just like an . . .
- . . . "open wound." Theodicy is the open wound of life in this world. It can't be answered sufficiently this side of the eschaton: "Life in this world means living with this open question."
Just a few short centuries ago, we Protestants were, of course, Roman Catholic. And our forebears—of the first generation, at least—from the start had their eyes on reforming their Mother, the church of Rome. In this, I'm reminded of Stanley Hauerwas' 1995 Reformation Sunday homily:
Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.To put it as Trueman did in the hyperlinked article above, "Protestants need a positive reason not to be Catholic."
At any rate, my Roman Catholic friends would deny the possibly of real body fragmentation, that is, of members of the body being severed from the body. No doubt, they do think people can be separated from the body, but they're not taking a part of the body, so to speak, with them.
I, along with everybody who isn't Roman Catholic (and perhaps Eastern Orthodox), demur.
The notion of a "perpetual divine protection of the unity and orthodoxy of the church through the apostolic succession of the bishops, by virtue of its being a continuation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, in his mystical body" makes little sense in light of the realities of the church's history, which continue to surround us ("St. Ignatius of Antioch on the Church"). It's not the latter points with which I have problems (apostolic succession; the church being a continuation of the life and ministry of Christ); it's the former—the "perpetual divine protection of the unity and orthodoxy of the Church." That conflates the truth with the proclamation, or participation in, the truth (ousia vs. metousia). Scripture, tradition, and reason demand otherwise. And "the person who believes will not rest content with any slickly explanatory answer" that attempts to justify God's ways in this matter.
Thus, the disunity of the church catholic is an open wound. Put another way, I think Roman Catholics (helped by none other than John Calvin, who took his cue from Cyprian & Cyril!) are right to demand that the ontological connection between Christ and his church by the power of the Spirit be upheld, but I think they're wrong that her being necessarily leads to an infallible act. Again: the church's union and communion with Christ in ontological relation doesn't by its very nature procure infallibility. The words of Jesus and his apostles regarding the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, like the prophetic utterances of old, are to be construed as goadings toward righteousness—toward that oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity—not as absolute promises or blueprints of infallibility that will simply unfurl throughout the course of history.
Let me try to put it more plainly: I think that the church is to be one in this time between the times. One, not just in will and purpose, but one physically and ontologically—in a collegial episcopate (in contradistinction to the universal jurisdictional claims of the Roman pontiff). I think this is what God wants. But I also think that we have failed miserably in this regard, that the body has indeed fragmented, that toes have left their feet, that wrists have left their arms and have caused whole hands to suffer the same.
In other words, the church—both catholic and local, invisible and visible, one and many—suffers from an open wound. I therefore think God would have us continually aching for reattachment, of having broken hearts at the church's division, or else we're left with being an end in ourselves, that is, anathema.
But whence the credo? How can we pray, "I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church," if it doesn't quite exist?
It may be that this open-wound ecclesiology can only be resolved in "the future in which the desire for God will be fulfilled, suffering will be overcome, and what has been lost will be restored," but ignoring the charge to be one (or worse, to theologically justify fragmentations) is fatalistic at best and heresy at worst.