Amidst Mass Atrocity and the Rubble of Theology

by Peter Admirand Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.Profiles in Catholicism


The author has made a significant contribution to one of the most difficult topics for theologians and philosophers that is the problem of evil. The text is essential reading for anyone interested in exploring theodicy. What makes his book particularly important is his exploration of the testimony of survivors (as well as perpetrators). Admirand explains convincingly why it is essential to take seriously witness testimony and commends Christians in particular to immerse themselves in the writings of post-Shoah Jewish tinkers such as Elie Wiesel and Emil Fackenhelm.


“It is hubris to claim answers to unanswerable questions. Such questions, however as part of their burden and worth must still be asked, investigated and contemplated. How there can be a loving, all-powerful God and a world stymied by suffering and evil is one of the unanswerable questions we must all struggle to answer, even as our responses are closer to gasps, silences, and further questions. More importantly, how and whether one articulates a response will have deep, lasting repercussions for any belief in God and in or judgments upon one another. Throughout the wide-ranging interdisciplinary work, Peter Admirand draws upon his extensive research and background in theology and testimonial literature, trauma and genocide studies, cultural studies, philosophy of religion, interreligious studies, and systematic theology. As David Burrell writes in the Foreword:”…The work’s intricate structure, organization and development will lead us to appreciate that the best one can settle for is a fractured faith built on a fractured theodicy, expressed in a language explicitly fragmented, pluralist, and broken.”


With a fractured faith that must struggle and thrive amidst life’s swelter, confusion and desperation, a theodicist must work within this world’s fragile, fragmentary space, and ultimately must rust in or be open to the God he or she wants to justify and ultimately, love and serve. Navigating such dual, divergent aims necessarily leads to gaps and fragmentary assertions, also necessitating the requirement to incorporate or acknowledge grace and hope, two of the bedrocks of one’s faith, which steer one’s theodicy as much as one’s theodicy steers one’s faith.


Theodicy positions, therefore, remain fragile and fractured, but still illumine a horizon for connection, solidarity and intimacy with God. To repeat: a fractured theodicy can still be viable, especially if the postmortem embrace of God is desired and expected. Without this embrace, however, theodicy is not merely fractured, it is useless and immortal, deserving all the slanders that have been heaped upon it. The Incarnation, however, enfolding the life of Christ as a fellow sufferer and journeyer in this world, enfleshes an empathetic God who can respond in love, solidarity, and tenderness, with the prerequisite divine qualities to heal and redeem Those of us with a Christian faith, in the midst of such overbearing darkness, may turn to the gospel stories of healing, and so remain adamant that if Jesus did not assuage such victims in this life, he will surely do so in the next

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Sympathetic to the sway of doubt and the deadness of unanswerable questions, one can perhaps still speak of a fractured, but viable theodic faith. Such a faith clings to the hope that those children massacred and abused in our world today and all the victims of unjust suffering will finally encounter the living God who has promised so much, and they will be satisfied, will be healed, will finally, finally be at peace. It is this hope that may be all we have the only position, after sifting among the rubble, which ultimately seem viable, and the only one we can live and die with in any meaningful sense.