Theology of  Suffering 


The Trinity of relentless pursuit moved throughout a garden like an evening breeze, calling out, "where are you?"[1] Each attempt to escape stirred up fear or flight tensions. "Who told you that you were naked?"[2] Internal conflict pushed the human to absolve themselves of any responsibility for their actions. The man then blamed God, for placing the woman in the garden, holding both others responsible for deteriorating relations. The woman accused the serpent of trickery, and the divinely constructed unit became tarnished. God deals with the snake first, then the woman, and lastly, the man. Suffering, hostility, and toil will characterize the degraded conditions that humankind must continue to endure. Does God bearer some amount of culpability for misery and, by extension, the COVID-19 pandemic?

Italian writer C. Collodi (1883) created several fictional characters for his famous novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio. In the children's story, a kindly old soul named Geppetto carved a wooden puppet named Pinocchio, who aspired to be a real boy. A colorful cast of characters joined Pinocchio, and a heartwarming story developed with spiritual overtones. In 1927, G. Lamaitre, a Belgian physicist and Roman Catholic priest, brought a less childlike approach to creation beliefs. Lamaitre independently derived the same results as Friedman's equations, hypothesizing that the galaxies' recession, was due to the universe's expansion. In 1931, Lamaitre took his ideas further, suggesting that the universe's current evolution means that the farther back in time one imagines, the smaller becomes the universe. At some point in the past, the physicist argued, the entire mass of the universe concentrated on a single point, from which the very fabric of space and time originated.[3]

C. Darwin's (1809-1882) famous work, 'Origins of the Species,' directed humankind primarily to the natural world of plants and animals. The conclusion Darwin reached stops short of dismissing connection with the Divine. Darwin (1859), saying,


          "To my mind, it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the                         Creator that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world                     should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the                 individual."[4]


The naturalist seemed to argue that wonder and awe legitimately attest to an ongoing creation script. Darwin even seems willing to acknowledge life could be authored by a Superior Being. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "To human beings, God grants an ability to cooperate freely with his plans." [5] In a world that appears teetering on the verge of becoming unhinged, secularists wonder why God affords humanity any ability to make choices. St. Augustine (393 AD) brought a literal interpretation to the Genesis narratives in his work entitled, De Genesi ad Litteram liber Imperfectus, that is until finally succumbing to the enormity of the challenge at Chapter 1:26. Moreover, God said, 'Let us make man in our image and likeness.' At this point, Augustine elects to glance over the original relationship construct and redirect his thoughts towards the fall of humankind. The philosopher's influence grew widespread and remains deeply embedded in various streams of Christianity.  Augustine described the human/divine relationship in terms of "the city of the flesh versus the city of the spirit"[6] Augustine's hypotheses lean into an undeniable sinful nature. Still, the bishop implants a lingering theology that requires temperance in modernity. According to several Patristic period writers, humanity is not much more than a wretched piece of work, condemned to disobedience caused by its prototypes.[7] Would God really hold successive generations perpetually responsible for the failings of their ancestors? Can initiating global pandemics be God's chastisement and revenge as a consequence of rebellion?

People should less imagine that the reciprocity of sin is good, adopting more an antonym, such as, faithful. Correction toward a faith orientation steers person's nearer to God's original design, where inexhaustible love abounds, even when faithfulness wavers. S.Tennant, (1906) and S. Keirkgaard (1848) acknowledged aspects of sin contamination embedded in the human condition, but quite correctly challenge the dominant narrative that sin and separation are destiny.[8]  Roman Catholicism understands original sin, but also frailty, it observes in modernity's tendency to replace God with the worship of images and self. Global pandemics vividly remind society, of humankind's infidelity, weaknesses, and disobedience. Still, humankind is sacramentally endowed to make the journey into eternal life. 





[1] From Gen. 3:8. We apprehend that the Trinitarian person of the Holy Spirit in full divinity intervenes to collect the man and woman. Charity and mercy seem the natural extension of God.  

[2] From Gen. 3:11. Humankind inherently feels naked, exposed, and out of synchronization with sacramentality interrupted. 

[3] From G. Lamaitre, (1923) Annales de La Societe Scientifique de Bruxelles, Volume 32.

[4] From C. Darwin, (1859) Origins of the Species, Ch. 14.

[5] From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 323.

[6] From St. Augustine, (413-426) The City of God, Book.14.

[7] From Tertullian, Clement, and Origen in the tradition of Platonism,

[8] From A. Thiselton, (2018) Approaching the Study of Theology: An Introduction to Key Thinkers Concepts.

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