Indeed, thank you @Jonathan_Burke. The pamphlet was an interesting read. I’d had similar thoughts/speculations myself about God’s use of titanic, if terrifying, means to govern and preserve a particular place (e.g., earth) for a multivalence of life and phenomena (convergent theological evolution?). Still, we do well to categorize them as “speculation”. Not to dismiss them but to appreciate them for the thought experiments that they are.
Going in a different direction, in this conversation about creation, suffering, redemption, and incarnation, we are having a conversation ABOUT God. Whereas, for example, Job, mixed conversations about God and conversations WITH God. Humans have attempted conversations with one another about god and gods and the questions of suffering and evil as far back as our cultural memories go. In many ways, it has been a Sisyphean task to attempt and get God off our backs; this talking with one another.
The God of the Christian faith, by contrast, invites us into a conversation with himself. He makes the claim that he is ultimately responsible for everything (Isa. 45:7) including those things which shatter our preconceptions of how a just and merciful God should act, and he makes another claim/promise that though he works all things - including those things which would either convince us God is evil and hates us or that there is no God - he nevertheless works all things “for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). When our experience (of ourselves, of one another, of the natural world, and of the God who mysteriously and in hidden ways works all these things) apparently contradicts the promise, we, like Job, go to God in prayer and lamentation. The answer/“solution”, or, more accurately, response to the questions of theodicy being the remaking of the ancient promise that someday, as @Jay313 puts it, all will be consummated in Christ, the creation shall be recreated (whatever that means), and God shall be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). In the now, we struggle with cognitive dissonances between our experience and God’s promises, sometimes making progressions, sometimes reneging and being humbled. In the not-yet, we trust that God and God’s promises for his people and creation will be vindicated, rectified, and justified in the face of his actions and the actions of his creations in history. (1 Cor. 13:12)
In my tradition, these three moments form something like a cyclical, monastic, Christian experience which shapes and molds the theologian. In Latin: oratio (prayer and conversation with God), meditatio (meditation on God’s words of promise in scripture, in the proclamation and sacraments, with the body of Christ, and on God’s self-identifications), and tentatio (the attacks and temptations [experiences, doubts, trespasses, apathies, etc.] which appear to kill us and our faith and ultimately drive us back to oratio).
I bring this up - oratio, meditation, tentatio - because I am curious if our laments and questions about God’s justice and mercy in the face of eons of pain and extinction (in the evolutionary schema for example) might be more holistically encountered in this cycle. I wonder if we are not attempting to justify God (and ourselves) by means of our reasonableness (in these questions of theodicy and elsewhere), rather than exploring the issues as people who live by faith in the promise that, for Christ’s sake, God is already and will be justified in the face of all questions, doubts, and experiences, and we along with him.
A next question would be: “How then does one explore the issues as one who lives by faith?”
I would answer in part with: “By doing exactly what we’re doing here.” I appreciate and applaud you all and your willingness to point out, for example, that earthquakes are apparently a necessary part of what keeps us alive, even if they have horrific ramifications and sometimes kill us. And to then hold this experience of God’s horrific action in tension with God’s self-identification with love, not letting go of either world, but trusting that God (and “those who love him”) will be vindicated if not now, then in the end.
End of tirade.