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Theodicy and Trauma: Reconciling Belief with Experience

NOTE: This is not an ICISF-certified couse but we highly recommend it.


As chaplains and pastoral care providers, we are inevitably asked why God would allow some terrible thing to happen. It is Job’s, “Why?” We are often asked this question as we respond to disasters, accidents, and health crises. We often ask ourselves the same questions as we bear witness to the injuries and suffering of others. As chaplains and volunteers, we are expected to know the answer to these questions, even as we wrestle with them ourselves.

Theodicy is the attempt to reconcile our faith and beliefs with our personal experience of pain, suffering, and evil. This course conceptualizes theodicy as a process using a seven-factor model that people commonly employ to reconcile the incongruities between their faith and personal experience. It will enable caregivers to listen for keywords and phrases that indicate where individuals are in this process and to assess its potential to contribute to posttraumatic stress or posttraumatic growth.

Participants can expect to be able to identify each of the seven factors; attributions, attachment, identity, moral violation, religious coping, social support, and view of evil that contribute to creating a theodicy and identify helpful ways to respond to them. Participants will also be given opportunities to reflect and develop their personal theodicies, to assist them in using their own faith resources in response to their constant exposure to the suffering and questions of others.

Course Objectives:

  • Understand key terms related to theodicy, trauma, post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic growth.

  • Understand the seven factors involved in constructing a theodicy.

  • Be able to identify each factor and how it is expressed in the course of a conversation and possible interventions.

  • Be able to evaluate and assess the risks and strengths created by theodicy 

  • disruption and a persons ability to reconcile beliefs with actual experience.

  • Be able to address these issues within the SAFER intervention model

  • Understand how failure to progress through the theodicy process can contribute or exacerbate post-traumatic stress

  • Understand how continued progress through the theodicy process can contribute to behaviors identified with post-traumatic growth

  • Understand the unique challenges presented by recurrent and multiple traumatic events.

  • Understand the challenges and risks associated with vicarious traumatization and repeated exposure the theodicy process.

  • Have tools to reflect upon your own theodic thinking and journey as you aid others in the process.

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