Written By Bohdan Koval, PhD in Religion student/Sharnie Zamora
The 26th AIIAS Annual Theological Forum, “Theodicy: God’s Justice in an Unjust World,” drew participants from diverse corners of the globe, gathering to discuss the profound questions surrounding the existence of suffering and evil in a world under a just God.
The forum, held at AIIAS from November 9-11, 2023, explored the theological dilemma of theodicy, seeking to unravel why a just God allows the persistence of suffering. It aimed to foster discussions on the challenge of reconciling the existence of evil with the goodness of God. Keynote speakers and other participants presented various insights and perspectives spanning philosophical, theological, and pastoral views.
Among the distinguished keynote speakers was Dr. Eugene Zaitsev, associate director of the Biblical Research Institute for the Euro-Asia Division. Zaitsev’s address explored the historical landscape of theodicy problem-solving, ultimately characterizing it as the “Achilles heel” of Christian theology. Zaitsev advocated embracing the mystery of suffering and evil, emphasizing the need to coexist with these enigmas, even without complete understanding. His presentation was complemented by an exploration of Russian religious philosophers from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries, illustrating attempts to engage with these profound questions amid turbulent epochs.
Additional perspectives were offered by Dr. Alberto Timm, associate director of the Biblical Research Institute, and Dr. Mxolisi Michael Sokupa, AIIAS alumnus now serving as associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate of the SDA General Conference. Timm focused on the biblical perspective of the Great Controversy as the vindication of God’s character, while Sokupa delved into selected statements by Ellen G. White on humanity’s ultimate hope.
The forum showcased diverse presentations of academic papers in both plenary and section formats. Georghe Razmerita, associate professor of the AIIAS Theological-Historical Studies Department, expressed satisfaction at the active participation of students. He noted their academic maturation, appreciating their ability to approach theodicy from various theological and methodological angles.
The culminating events included a Sabbath worship service and a panel discussion on Saturday afternoon, providing a platform for speakers and participants to interact and share final thoughts on the topic. Donny Chrissutianto, associate professor of the AIIAS Theological-Historical Studies Department and the forum’s chair, noted the forum’s international success with nearly 700 participants contributing to its academic vibrancy. The event serves as a testament to the enduring importance of engaging with the profound questions of theodicy within theological discourse.