Many people are overwhelmed by what is going on in our times: the rise of fundamentalism, deceitful populism, malicious majoritarianism, violent right-wing politics with their jingoistic policies, the abject poverty of the masses, forced displacement of people, misery unleashed by the COVID pandemic, the “almighty” corporates building their empires on the skeletons of the exploited, the expanding ecological disasters. Above all, people are dumbfounded by the oft-perceived and dreadfully deadening “silence” of God, and a resulting human cry of anguish that finds a resonance with the cry of the prophet Habakkuk: “Oh Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear? Why are you silent when the wicked man swallows up the one more righteous than he?” (Hab 1:2, 13). One wonders what all this means.
In this article, I do not strictly intend to address the typical, traditional question of theodicy that rather fruitlessly shuttles among three poles: 1) God is good, but not all-powerful; therefore, evil exists; 2) God is all-powerful, but not good; therefore, evil exists; 3) objective evil does not exist; it is either the privation of good or only a subjective perception.
A fourth position would be to hold that God allows the misuse of human freedom, which causes evil and suffering. There could be even a fifth position, based on texts such as Deut 11:13-17, and interpreting evil and suffering as retributive actions of God against human disobedience. However, John 9:2-3 decisively argues against such interpretations. Keeping all of these in mind, I intend to reflect on the felt “silence of God” in our times, not so much as to speculate regarding it, as to suggest some fruitful ways of responding to it.