POE is short for the Problem Of Evil, a frequent discussion within faith and within atheism, too. If God is good, why does He allow evil? If God is omnipotent, capable of intervening, than why does He let bad things happen?
My friend Tiribulus has written a post about “THE PROBLEM WITH THE “THE PROBLEM OF EVIL.” and I promised to respond. I don’t write about POE very often and Tiribulus does a good job of explaining why here, “Let’s start with the fact that God has no problems.”
Precisely. God doesn’t have a problem with evil, we do. God said, here be evil, don’t eat it. But we did anyway, so Jesus Christ, our Kinsman Redeemer, comes to rescue us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” There we are, given a path to freedom, a bail out, a chance to be restored into right relationship with our Father, but what do so many of us continue to do anyway? Eat evil! Go figure.
A more romantic notion is that we are now spiritually back in that perfect garden, walking hand in hand with the Father in the cool of the evenings, free to live in something more akin to paradise, and yet for some reason many of us chose not to. There are wars, and rumors of war, defiance, rebellion, addiction, poverty, starvation, abuse, all man-made “evils,” choices, cause and effect, created by human decisions. It doesn’t have to be like that, there is a better way. In fact Christianity was once called exactly that, The Way. The path forward to help us with our POE, and that path is to be found in Jesus Christ.
God doesn’t have problems, we do.
God has given us freewill, at least within the aquarium walls, or the padded ones if you prefer a madhouse analogy. I never ask why God gave us free will and I must thank Rosemary Kennedy for that. Rosemary was a daughter who had mood swings, perhaps defiance, so her father decided to send her in for a lobotomy and things went awry. It’s a tragic tale, horrific in its implications, but coldly rational, because the “problem with evil,” so to speak, was instantly cured for Rosemary Kennedy.
God is good to us, merciful, respectful of our humanity. I sometimes quip about Adam, God caused him to fall into a deep sleep before taking out his rib. Thousands of years before we even thought to invent anesthesia, God was already treating us gently, being kind to our psyches.
We see through the glass darkly in this world, so we must also keep in mind that we have a limited ability to truly define good and evil. In the grand scheme of things, in those ripples in the pond, we can’t always see what impact our actions are having. We simply do not have the whole picture, an understanding of how one thing is going to play off another. It’s like a giant game of billiards or chess out in the world, where one can see how each move is going to go down, one building upon another, but we often lack that ability to see so clearly and into the distance. Some of the things I have labeled “bad” in my life have turned out to be the best things that ever happened to me. Some things I once thought were “good,”turned out to have not been so good at all.
So, not only do we ourselves have a problem with evil, we have a great deal of trouble even understanding the full breadth and depth of morality in the first place. In the absence of God, in the absence of the bible, where does our perception of good and evil even come from? Can you rebuke me for lying for example, without calling on biblical truth? Why is it wrong if it would serve me well? Can we not just as easily justify lying given the right circumstances, lying to the Nazis to save people for example?
Someone far smarter than me once said, “rationalize,” it means rational lies. The human capacity to rationalize just about anything is quite unprecedented.
As Tiribulus says, “God also is Himself the singularly perfect moral standard and supra-human Judge beyond which there is no appeal. That is moral, or right, which conforms to His being, nature and will as He has Himself revealed them in the ancient Christian scriptures and explicitly proclaimed in His law.”
Given our issues and struggles with good judgment and trouble even recognizing the nature of good and evil when we see it, a bit of intellectual humility is called for. We are not even qualified to be the judge here. As Tiribulus says, “God is not on trial. We are.”
Now we can get to the heat of the matter. Ha! I mean the heart of the matter. Tiribulus goes on to say, “Now we come to the heart of the matter. Right here is where sub-biblical non-reformed apologists are simply operating consistently with their view of God, and many reformed ones are operating quite inconsistently with what is supposed to be theirs.”
Bit harsh, wouldn’t you say? Just who are you calling a, “sub-biblical, non reformed, apologist operating inconsistently with the view that is supposed to be theirs?” All in good humor however, we shall forgive Tiribulus for his outright hostility and perpetual insults. Besides, if I haven’t made it quite clear in more than a dozens posts, I am actually an unapologetic, so clearly he is not speaking of me.
Here is the only place I actually begin to diverge from what he is saying, where I launch my objection and attempt to show him something he cannot see clearly. He says, “The problem with the problem of evil lies in the very fact that it’s seen by the church as an actual serious problem in the first place.”
This is true in a theological sense, it is true in a logical sense, it is true in a rational sense. It is true in the sense that God is not on trial here, that the “heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” It is true in the sense that it asks the wrong question.
It is NOT true however, in a rhetorical, spiritual, or emotional sense. The church is right to address the issue, because it is a deeply ingrained heart matter, a huge stumbling block for those who have suffered tragedies, for those who have been abused, for people living in circumstances where it feels as if God has left them behind and forgotten them.
It is true in the sense that you cannot provide enough evidence to a non believer to make “belief in this God credible.” However, that is not really the question being asked at all. People are not really asking if belief in God is a credible belief, they are asking, is God good?
If someone is asking, is God good, that begs the question, what has happened to you that has led you to conclude the Creator of the universe either doesn’t exist or He hates you? Sadly, there is often some form of spiritual abuse lurking there too, abuse caused by Christ’s people.
We are flat-out called to testify to the goodness of God, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” We are to be salt and light in the world. We are called to spread the good news. We are to be a light house on a rock, proclaiming the goodness of God. We are to be offering hope.
You theology can be flawless, but if it does not testify to the goodness of God, give a reason for the hope that is in you, and demonstrate to people the love of Jesus Christ, it is like a tool you have not yet taken out of the package. Or worse, a sword that serves only to confirm a bias.
You simply cannot address a heart matter by pulling out the sword of truth, slaying the patient, and declaring yep, my job here is done. I’ll sleep better tonight! Your patient is not a logical being just needing access to your superior salesmanship, he is a person needing to see the love of Jesus Christ in a world that does everything it can to snuff that Truth out.