a random quote: einstein & theodicy


I periodically pull a book from the shelves here at the library and just begin reading. Today, I pulled Albert Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions (New York: Random House / Modern Library: 1994), based on his Mein Weltbild. On page 49, he writes:

During the youthful period of mankind’s spiritual evolution human fantasy created gods in man’s own image, who, by the operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means [50] of magic and prayer. The idea of God in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old concept of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes.

Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?

Clearly, even the great mind given to Albert Einstein could not fathom the mysteries of God. We must certainly uphold the righteousness of God (which is not just ascribed, but claimed), as well as the justice of God. The dilemma of theodicy then resides in his mercy and grace, not in his righteousness. The question Einstein should be asking is, “why does God choose to have mercy on whom He has mercy?” Personally, I am content to rest in the mystery and be thankful that I have been counted among those that know the grace and mercy of God.

Your thoughts?

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