Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The problem of the Problem of Evil

There is a philosophical problem known as the Problem of Evil. It includes three propositions that, if all are true, create a problem. They are:
1. God is omnipotent (totally powerful)
2. God is benevolent (totally good)
3. Evil exists
So the logic goes, if God is totally good and completely powerful, why are there tsunamis, earthquakes, plagues, famines, murder, and the like? Now here is my confession:

I have always been completely perplexed by the problem of evil.

It is meant to call into question either a) God's character or b) God's strength. Because the logic goes, either he is not powerful enough to do anything, or he doesn't care. What I find interesting is that people use The Problem to call into question whether or not God exists, but not whether evil exists. Why? Because nobody denies the existence of evil. It exists as a reality that we must face.

Here is where things get tricky. Who decides what is evil and good? People have an inbuilt system of justice. If there is no creator and no moral standard then nothing could be truly be unjust. Notions of morality become nothing more than the manner in which human society holds together. Nothing is truly unjust, simply distasteful.

I find that it makes much more sense to look at evil, not as a problem, but as a reality. How are you going to deal with this reality? The normal choices are to a) embrace relativism, in which no one but the individual can decide what is right or wrong. This cheapens the actual human awareness of something very real that we would call "evil." In this scenario, there is no such thing as evil, rather, there is only one individual competing with another for survival, and often the most violent or untrustworthy win. The second choice, which is not as often noted is b) embrace morality or religion. In this manner of dealing with evil we do certain things, often religious in order to manipulate God into doing what we want. We deem ourselves good people and so in this scenario God owes us. We can't become sick, or poor, or suffer injustice because we've held up our end of the bargain. If you hold this moralistic/religious worldview The Problem of Evil really messes with you. And what really gets you is when evil actually happens to you. "Jesus, Buddha, Zeus, Satan, whoever... you owe me!!!"

But the gospel offers a third way. The gospel says that God was not satisfied with the state of affairs in the world. He was deeply troubled by all the trouble people experience. And as a result God felt both love and anger. And don't they go together, really? The more you love someone, the angrier you get when they are hurt by someone else, or if they are destroying themselves. So God did the unthinkable. He entered into our hurt, broken world, himself. And took the penalty for all of that evil upon himself. Not so that we could act better. But so we can see, God has already accepted us and God is with us in our suffering.

That's not really a complete thought, but I have to take Robbie to the church.


kay said...

"The more you love someone, the angrier you get when they are hurt by someone else, or if they are destroying themselves."

this is awesome! makes you really aware of just how much we are loved by Him

thanks for sharing jared!

Unknown said...

Yeah thanks Kay. That was really enlightening for me. We get so angry when someone hurts the ones we love, and we expect God to be angry about that sort of injustice as well. But then when the table is turned and we are the ones who hurt and destroy we think, "Well, why doesn't God just forgive me?" We forget that forgiveness is costly (it costs the cross) and that we really desire for sin to anger God.