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God, Suffering, and Evil


Program Masters
Field of Study Theology
Class# T 430
Instructor Case-Winters, Anna
Location MTS room 320
Start Date 9.7.2010
End Date 12.10.2010
Time 9:00-11:50a.
Day Wed

Course Description Masters Level

McCormick Theological Seminary


Course Number and Title:  T 430  God, Suffering, and Evil


Faculty:  Anna Case-Winters


Term:  Fall 2010


Course Description:


If God is good and all-powerful, why is there so much suffering and evil in the world?  Various theological attempts to respond to this question and the theological problems it raises will be considered and evaluated. The class will explore approaches to raising and addressing this difficult question in congregational life.

Prerequisite:  T-300


Course Objectives:


Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:


  • Articulate the theological problems that arise from the question, “If God is good and all-powerful, why is there so much suffering and evil in the world?”
  • Identify and describe various theological attempts to respond to the theodicy question that are found in Christian tradition.
  • Engage in critical and constructive theological reflection on the question and its alternative responses.
  • Articulate and argue for their own constructive response to the question.
  • Be more informed and effective in teaching, preaching, and pastoral care in connection with this central theological question.




Masters Program Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes established for each degree program are below. The ones that are underlined are those addressed by the course above. Because a course may be taken by students in any masters degree program, outcomes in more than one degree program may be addressed by this course.


M.Div. Learning Outcomes            

  1. Lead communities of faith with integrity, imagination and compassion.
  2. Perform the skills related to nurturing the life of faith (for self and others) including preaching, teaching, care-giving, leading public worship and public ministries.
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of the Bible and Christian traditions and the ability to interpret texts and practices.
  4. Work and worship with people from diverse backgrounds (racial, ethnic, religious) informed by knowledge from cross-cultural and anti-racist perspectives.
  5. Analyze social locations and cultural contexts in order to develop contextual forms of Christian ministry.
  6. Be proficient in the theological and ethical reflection related to situations and decisions in local, national and global contexts.
  7. Practice appropriate habits of spiritual formation and self-care and possess a growing, healthy sense of vocational identity.

MTS Learning Outcomes

  1. Exhibit the ability to interpret and teach Christian traditions, texts, and practices that nurture the life of faith and scholarship in themselves and the communities they serve.
  2. Articulate a point of view effectively and coherently in spoken and written communication.
  3. Engage in theological research and analysis based upon an argument and construct a theological essay or thesis article.



MA in Discipleship Development Learning Outcomes

  1. Teach basic concepts of Christian belief, traditions and practices.
  2. Equip others to engage in a variety of spiritual practices (such as prayer, hospitality, or worship).
  3. Plan and lead programs of Christian formation in a variety of settings.
  4. Analyze and evaluate resources and practices for Christian formation.


MA in Urban Ministry Learning Outcomes

  1. Examine and analyze urban contexts using Chicago as a laboratory / case study.
  2. Draw on biblical and theological resources to reflect ethically on issues of church and society.
  3. Demonstrate capacity to engage in cross-cultural ministries.
  4. Evaluate skills and strategies to organize communities and access political power in urban settings.


Primary Texts

Required for all students:

Case-Winters, Anna.  God's Power:  Traditional Understandings and Contemporary Challenges

            Louisville:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990.

Farley, Wendy.  Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion.  Louisville:  Westminster/John Knox

            Press, 1990.

Hall, Douglas John.  God and Human Suffering:  An Exercise in the Theology of the Cross. 

            Philadelphia:  Augsburg, 2004.

Hick, John.  Evil and the God of Love.  New York:  Harper & Row, 1978  (Out of print.)

Wiesel, Elie.  Night.  New York:  Bantam Books, 1960.

Additional articles posted on Moodle site.

Supplementary Texts:  (Each student will chose one of these)

Park, Andrew Sung.   The Wounded Heart of God Nashville:  Abingdon, 1993. 

Southgate, Christopher.  The Groaning of Creation:  God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil.  Louisville: 

Westminster John Knox, 2008.

Swinton, John.  Raging With Compassion:  Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil.  Grand Rapids: 

Eerdmans, 2007.

Townes, Emilie M., ed.  A Troubling in My Soul:  Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering.

Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis, 1993.


Approximate amount of work per week students can expect (reading, writing, etc.)

6 hours

Course Assignments and Projects

1.  Attendance and informed participation in all class sessions. 

2.  Occasional leadership of discussion of the readings for the class session.

3.  Participation in a Field Trip to the Holocaust Museum in Skokie and completion of the related writing assignment.

4. Preparation of one of the following as an approach to engaging a congregation in reflection upon the problem of evil: a sermon (outlined); an order of worship (including prayers, hymns, etc); a 4-week lesson plan for adult education (outlined); a schedule of events for a weekend retreat.

5.  Participation in one disputation session responding to an assigned question from the standpoint of one of the approaches to the theodicy question discussed in class.

6.  Participation in group presentation to the class of one of the supplementary texts.

7.  A 10-15 page paper on the following question:  "In what sense (if any) can God's unlimited power and goodness be affirmed given the pervasive presence of evil in world process and world history?"